AuthorTopic: Puppet/Modular Animation: how when and why?  (Read 22567 times)

Offline Conzeit

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Puppet/Modular Animation: how when and why?

on: February 05, 2014, 02:57:44 am
First of all PxPd I was surprised to find subdivisions to the forum with the amount of activity we've had lately, but I was glad to find that you were watching over this =) I hope to learn and discuss with you lots..=O

So, puppet animation. taking several still parts and rotating them in engine. Not very pixelly a topic but it is the bread and butter if you're doing 2D animation now-a-days. Honestly, I think we need to flexibilize and learn to use pixels with other things in ways that look good for pixels to stay alive and learning more tools can only aid in doing that

So, what is your take Pixelation? what is proper use of it and what isnt?

Coming from redrawing obsession in pixelart (seriously I avoid copy pasting parts as much as possible) I must admit to be extremely queasy about it. I feel it should be used for tweening exclusively: make all the keyframes by hand and then break up in pieces and rotate/stretch/warp for tweening. Obviously this is anti-economic and kinda goes against the production reasons to use puppet at all, which is to avoid drawing new frames for every action. But my kneejerk reaction is to hide puppet as much as possible and I've refused to learn it till now.

Also, what is the best tool for this in games? is it just flash/toonboom or is Spriter (or something I havent even heard of) shaping up to be pretty important?

I guess I leave you with an example of good use of puppet, this is not true puppet since it's done with actual paper rotated by hand, but the trembling motions are remarkable and worth watching

Paperplane Music Video

EDIT: made the post a little clearer after Atnas'es reply =)
EDIT2: corrected some wording....=O
« Last Edit: February 05, 2014, 08:27:53 pm by Conceit »

Offline Atnas

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Re: Puppet Animation: how when and why?

Reply #1 on: February 05, 2014, 03:56:22 am
Vanillaware has been at the forefront of this in the gaming field for quite some time. They use their own software developed in-house, but Spriter is very similar if not maybe? more powerful now than what they used for Odin Sphere and Dragons Crown. You've probably seen it in motion but just in case:



I really appreciate how they do it. Maybe more in Odin Sphere than Dragon's Crown (I've found the latter to be too visually busy sometimes) As long as you make several different frames for each limb for depth or rotation, I think it's really smart to automate the tweening in 2d space.

I think there is a good argument for using a tool like Spriter initially for 2d, and redrawing over the generated frames, if you're very invested in it being hand drawn. And for backgrounds and stuff it's invaluable, check out the foliage in the intro to Odin Sphere:



In fact this would have likely impossible on the PS2 to have so many frames for such subtle animation with such big 2d pieces. It's a huge memory saver to manipulate the sprites onscreen like that. I often place the blame on the novelty of 3d contributing to the lack of a good 2DHD era of gaming, but honestly 3D was cheaper than 2D, to produce and to display. Puppet animation makes more ambitious goals more possible. I wonder the last few generations would have done more 2d if tools for this were widely available. I also hope that now that devices have more video ram more HD titles will come out in 2d.

Also no need to worry about being pixel related, this forum covers animation in general.

Edit: Also I just remembered Broken Age:





In Double Fine's case they used puppet animation to squeeze the most emotion out of the least amount of resources. The animation would have cost a lot more manhours if the nuances had another dimension, or were hand drawn, and I don't think the game suffers for this technique at all.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2014, 04:15:37 am by Atnas »

Offline Probo

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Re: Puppet Animation: how when and why?

Reply #2 on: February 05, 2014, 04:42:54 am
interesting post atnas! I have always liked the look of vanillaware's stuff but never had the console to play it. The music on that odin Sphere video is fantastic too.

The Rumble Fish used this technique in a lot of its animation, with quite impressive results:



this may be a better example, Rumble Fish 2, and it involves that character i used, Lud. great music



t was japan-only i think, but i had the good fortune to play it around the time it came out and my younger self almost fell off his seat
« Last Edit: February 05, 2014, 04:59:49 am by Probo »

Offline Conzeit

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Re: Puppet Animation: how when and why?

Reply #3 on: February 05, 2014, 05:45:53 am
Wow thank you Atnas I DID NOT expect to get such a prompt response at all :p so much so that I only adressed PxPiledriver in the original post...fixed that now :p

Your post made me realize something, what I'm really trying to find here is the aesthetical advantages of this technique, I know I like redrawing everything and how it looks, but  I want to know if there's posibly an inherent beauty to rotating stuff that I'm missing.

Yep, I've seen Vanillaware's work and honestly I dont see much there in the puppet animation aspect.
DragonCrown specifically has both a lot of redrawn frames and very high tech for this technique, they make frequent use of warping/distorting and redrawing parts constantly to make for a very 3D feeling look and I think that's what makes it so impressive...so I end up just kinda envying their toys when I look at DragonCrown :p

With Odin Sphere and Broken Age I feel like it's the art that is pretty, not the animation....and I agree about the leaf thing, practically it makes a lot more sense to do it...but that just makes my redrawing obsessed mind feel left out :p

I feel like expanding on what I think of Paperplane the video I posted =)  (misslinked in original post but fixed it now) I feel it has pretty good storyboarding and the movements have a very hand crafted feel, partly because so much moves (man's pant leg) and there are many parts (the hands playing instruments,) but also because of how much trembling and hesitation there is in the movements, that's something I dont often see in digital puppet animation...I guess because hand crafting the position every frame kinda beats the tweening purpose of the whole thing.

I also remembered two games I love

Machinarium

and Botanicula


I feel like these mine the innocent quality in the inherent crappyness of just rotating parts to animate. The fact we're looking at faulty robots in machinarium and inherently flat designs in Botanicula also helps sell that innocent look

Probos: WOW another fast as fuck reply! haha.
YEAH! forgot about rumblefish when making the topic...but I do know it....largely it's surprisingly good (for puppet :P)
I imagine it has a lot of basic poses broken up in parts because it's pretty seamless looking even though it has lots of outlines and other pixelart staples that complicate the puppet animation. I'd love to have a clearer idea of how it works actually.
Still, the purist part of me feels like it's a stiffer version of KOF, there is better tweening but it doesnt have the same characters of the better animated special moves  in the later year numbered KOF entries.....but I would be very very happy to come out of the topic feeling like I know how to do something like Rumblefish....I secretely hope I could make this look like Street Fighter3, Earthworm Jim, MetalSlug or something :p

I notice we're kinda developing a trend of mentioning all outstanding examples so I guess I better say something about Rayman Origins? :p

much like Vanillaware does Ubisoft made another fancy ass inhouse engine we dont get to play with =( so there's THAT when I look at it :p.
Their use of the warp/distort/stetch tools is obviously not attempting depth like Vanillaware, there is more squash and stretch like a cartoon should do, but I think I do find a good takeaway from it....a lot of it is just making  following the logical phisical motions of things, for example the jaws in the title at the end wobble like you imagine a jenga tower would.

So I guess my takeaway is
1
2 recognizing the inherent crappyness of animation can lend an air of innocence, an animation of a character screaming while rotating  an arm can have the same charm as swapping between two crappy frames.
3
 thanks guys! although I fear I might've spread the conversation too much a bit alreayd.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2014, 08:30:10 pm by Conceit »

Offline Ryumaru

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Re: Puppet Animation: how when and why?

Reply #4 on: February 05, 2014, 05:51:31 am
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N59tLIvQeJE

I believe Xion stated that his animations for Catacomb kids were done in spriter, and allows him to have skeleton animations for all his characters. The result isn't my personal favorite, but I can certainly see it being an aesthetic that people are in to. The possibility of adding layers and such on top of skeletal animation that allows for multiple characters with the same movements is enticing, especially for games that have character creation as a main feature- something pixel art rarely ever goes to because of the headache that would ensue for the animators.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2014, 05:55:12 am by Ryumaru »

Offline NaCl

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Re: Puppet Animation: how when and why?

Reply #5 on: February 05, 2014, 11:02:30 am
I personally do not care for this type of animation, at all. The benefits as I see them are purely logistical. Traditional frame-by-frame animation, when done well, captures the illusion of movement and becomes inherently entertaining to look at. With puppet animation, the shapes that compose a thing don't really change. This kills the squashing and stretching and deformation that are so important to the illusion. Also, it really locks the form into two dimensions. Even with a fixed camera in a game, the frame-by-frame animations can play in the 3rd dimension all they want by rotating, foreshortening, and so on.

Offline Probo

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Re: Puppet Animation: how when and why?

Reply #6 on: February 05, 2014, 11:08:14 am
@Conceit

I think it works so well in Rumblefish because its mainly used as little flourishes, follow throughs and tweens and there are still a lot of poses each with their own redrawn puppet limbs. which is what i think youve been getting at as the best application of it. when theres an animation in TRF that is just about entirely puppetry, (like luds bodyslam throw thing) it really stands out and looks like floaty cardboard puppets. I dont think this method cuts down on the dev's overall workload that much either! considering theres still so many poses and the programmers will have to code the animations I assume.

id love to know more about the engine too, all i do know is it was made with this kind of animation in mind so it probably has some pretty cool tech to keep rotating limbs looking good! id like to see some animated sprite rips but i cant really find any, probably because youd have to actually assemble and rotate the puppet limbs yourself. and even then it might not look right without the game engine doing all the rotating etc

also afaik there are clothes sprites following some of the characters around so that they can be torn off and stuff. which reminds me of the headache Ryumaru just mentioned!

Offline Mathias

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Re: Puppet Animation: how when and why?

Reply #7 on: February 05, 2014, 01:27:53 pm
Awesome thread.

Yeah, Conceit, I think "puppet" animation is becoming very valid for 2D games.
Often called modular animation - one animated object consisting of multiple parts intelligently moving together.
Hand-drawn frame-by-frame animation is rigid and inflexible. Modular uses on the fly positioning and allows for fast, easy revisions to spacing and timing.
Not to mention bone systems. With bones, a single animation can be used for multiple characters - the pieces attached to each bone is simply swapped. Re-skinned by simply referencing different spritesheets.


As an alternative to Spriter, there is also:
SPINE   |   creator youtubes
"Spine replaces traditional raster animation in games, providing smoother animations that are easier to produce.
Animations can be created without needing more art and are so tiny that games can make extensive use of them."
bonus vid - Spine + SpriteLamp


That Rayman Origins vid above doesn't work for me ("An error occurred. Please try again later."), but why study Origins when you can take a look at Rayman Legends, the latest Rayman game.
Legends uses an incredibly advanced engine.
Including modular animation tools all developed in-house at Ubisoft.
I found this just yesterday:   (first part has a character animation demo, showing spritesheets, too)


Notice the use of mesh deformations, or
Morph Target Animation
which is something Spine is just about to officially add.
This adds a ton of more organic, lifelike movement, etc. The benefits (when used well) are obvious.


I personally do not care for this type of animation, at all. The benefits as I see them are purely logistical. Traditional frame-by-frame animation, when done well, captures the illusion of movement and becomes inherently entertaining to look at. With puppet animation, the shapes that compose a thing don't really change. This kills the squashing and stretching and deformation that are so important to the illusion. Also, it really locks the form into two dimensions. Even with a fixed camera in a game, the frame-by-frame animations can play in the 3rd dimension all they want by rotating, foreshortening, and so on.
Good counterargument. And I largely agree with you, but like you say - logistics. Not everyone is a Disney animator and the pipeline for modular animation is so much friendlier for developers than traditional frame-by-frame.
The Skullgirls creator claims each Skullgirls character required 2000 man hours:

Ouch. All drawn from scratch, frame-by-frame.


I prefer a hybrid - modular animation enhanced with some frame-by-frame tactics mixed in.
Like Rayman Legends - objects/character pieces can be switched out during the animation for change of shape/perspective, while using bones to keep everything connected.
There's still plenty of room for squash/stretch because the scale of pieces can be skewed/stretched. In addition, with mesh deformation, non-rigid parts are infused with extra life-like movement.


If all game animation was pro frame-by-frame, that'd be great, but what happens when the animation needs to change? All those frames need to be redrawn. Sketched, cleaned up, re-colored, etc.
With modular, you just edit your timeline. Modular animation is also subject to code. Code can't alter a set-in-stone frame-by-frame animation in the same way.


It's all balance. I think, if done well, modular can be nice.
Raw modular animation without deformation and intelligent scaling of pieces can look awful.
But frame-by-frame can look awful as well, if done poorly.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2014, 02:25:31 pm by Crow »

Offline Probo

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Re: Puppet Animation: how when and why?

Reply #8 on: February 05, 2014, 02:07:32 pm
your videos dont work either, mathias.  i think you just need the code at the end of the youtube link, not the whole address.

this bit -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v= N59tLIvQeJE

edit: also remembered this blog post from the dude who made the indie game Bleed

http://www.bootdiskrevolution.com/blog/2012/06/30/animating-wryn/

he talks about his modular animation there. the arts not amazing but the animation works well i think





« Last Edit: February 05, 2014, 02:19:52 pm by Probo »

Offline Crow

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Re: Puppet Animation: how when and why?

Reply #9 on: February 05, 2014, 02:26:05 pm
your videos dont work either, mathias.  i think you just need the code at the end of the youtube link, not the whole address.

Correct. The YouTube button also has a tooltip with an example.