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Check out this cool Shockwave. I know…you’ve seen stuff like this before, but this one is an especially good exploit of Flash’s animation characteristics. Style, as the man say, is based on limitations.

See, in Flash, little chunks of animation are wrapped into packages called symbols. Symbols can be nested (so you could have an eye-blink animation inside a larger head animation as part of a larger character animation) and can include sound. Symbols only have to be downloaded once and can then be used multiple times in the larger animation — a whole lot of shaking for a very small download.

By using symbols in different sizes, with different starting points, flipped in different directions, apparent crowd scenes can be built out of a few components. You can zoom in and pan around and move characters and it’s all, in bandwidth terms, free. It’s a technique you’ll see used a lot in animated banner ads, which are almost always Flash these days.

This is also an obvious use of rotoscoping — animation derived from tracing live action film footage. Rotoscoping was invented by Max Fleischer (later the father of Betty Boop) in the teens. It’s been in use ever since — most recently in A Scanner Darkly, a 2006 animated film made from a Philip K. Dick novel. It’s supposed to be really impressive…ummm…so I’ve just ordered a copy, because I totally meant to see it in the theaters.

Rotoscoping is easy to spot. It always has a certain look to it. It’s fun to watch, but there’s a stiffness about the animation that conventionally-drawn characters don’t have. Disney often used rotoscope characters for the humans in his films. Contrast the rotoscoped Snow White with the conventionally animated Seven Dwarves to see what I’m getting at.

It works very well in this example. He’s thrown a fat vector line around (presumably) himself. It takes half a dozen of these clips to build an effective percussion set out of himself. The intro and outro movements of each character are separate animations.

Not to take anything away from this guy — he’s done quite a bit of animation — but one of the neatest things about this piece is that it didn’t take insane art or animation or programming skillz. Just a good idea. I’m really enjoying this whole interwotzit democratization of content thing.

Anyhoo, the artist is Dustin McClean, aka Dustball. And now I’d better get back to my desk before somebody realizes I’ve nipped over to the lobby of the building next door.


Comment from mesablue
Time: June 5, 2007, 3:56 pm

Hey, I’m a really good tracer. Never knew it would be good for anything.

Where can I buy me one of these roty-scope thingys?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 5, 2007, 4:22 pm

Tracing is like playing guitar: really easy to do, really hard to do well.

Unlike, say, playing the oboe. Which seems pretty pointless all around.

Comment from Enas Yorl
Time: June 5, 2007, 4:47 pm

Ah! A Scanner Darkly was one of the movies I wanted to see last year and didn’t get around to it. Added to queue.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: June 5, 2007, 5:12 pm

What if you can’t trace at all? What instrument is that like?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 5, 2007, 5:13 pm

The triangle.

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