Sinbad Ruffs

I got a lot of requests to see some animation roughs after the posts on Spacing and the Baxter Sinbad tests, so here are a couple from the Sinbad test scene I previously posted:

Baxter Sinbad preliminary rough

Baxter Sinbad test scene key

The top image is a preliminary rough, the second image is the final rough. You can click on them to see them larger. As you can see, James delivered very tight roughs to the clean-up department. This is the way animators at DreamWorks tended to work. The animation roughs I’ve seen from other studios were often more like the top drawing. Here’s another pair:

Baxter Sinbad preliminary rough

Baxter Sinbad test scene key

And remember the clips I posted in the Spacing discussion of Sinbad carrying Marina across the deck? Well, here’s a drawingthat’s NOT a rough from that scene, though I wish it were:

Pres Romanillos Sinbad gag drawing

Yeah, that’s a gag drawing, done by Pres Romanillos, loosely imitating James’s style. I was away from my desk for a bit when Pres came by, and I came back to find this drawing on the pegs. Hmm, you think the movie might have done a little better if we’d have done this version?

Baxter Sinbad key

Baxter Sinbad key

Above are a couple of actual roughs from that scene, the first from the section I was working on when Pres did the gag drawing, the second just a nice rough. Sorry that the photocopy-machine scuzziness is so prominent — if I was better with scanner settings I could probably fix that, but I’m lazy.

After I posted the Sinbad pencil tests I got a lot of questions (mostly from those learning CG animation) about how an animator would approach these kinds of shots. Where does one even start? One method is to do thumbnails, carefully planning the key poses and main action, and develop those thumbnails as a first pass. I’ve seen some animators who would enlarge their thumbnails on a photocopy machine, tape them onto animation paper, and work out their timing under the pencil test machine. Based on that they’d go ahead with their first pass.

As James Baxter describes in the latest podcast, he rarely thumb-nails, but instead usually starts with a ‘scribble test.’ These would be extremely loose gestural drawings, drawn very quickly and somewhat intuitively. No stopping to work out charts, no noodling to get the face and hands right, just rapid-fire, in-the-moment right-brained kind of drawing and animating. This, unfortunately, isn’t possible in CG (at least yet). I’ve seen some of James’s scribble drawings, and as individual drawings they don’t look like anything. It’s frankly hard to tell which character he’s even animating. But the movement and force and timing is all there, and out of those scribble tests come the kinds of drawings I’ve posted above.

11 Responses to “Sinbad Ruffs”

  1. DJ Says:

    Cool stuff! i would love to learn to draw like that!

  2. Chris Palmer Says:

    So many times you see the final product and it’s hard to imagine how it all starts out. Thanks for posting these, Kevin!

  3. Micha Herold Says:

    Thanks for this great post.
    Once more your blog delivered an Ah-ha moment. I think it was Ah-ha moment #134, but I am losing count.

    It was an eye-opener to see how brutally rough those first passes are. I knew they´d be far from the cleanups.. but I wouldn’t have expected them to be that “rough”. It would interesting to see James Baxter’s scribble drawings you mention in the last paragraph. Would he shoot line-tests with these, or would he just flip them before he´d turn them into a more solid form?


  4. Kevin Says:

    Micha, I think the scribble tests were usually shot with the pencil-test machine, and the timing and basic action worked out before the next pass was started. That was the whole purpose of the scribble test. I think James relied on the pencil-test machine a lot less than most animators, but you’re never going to be able to flip or roll your scenes at a perfect 24 fps, so shooting a test before starting to tie things down is the way most animators would proceed (at least in modern times — in the old days, when pencil tests were shot on film and wouldn’t come back for a few days, many studios rarely did them because they couldn’t afford the time and expense).

  5. alonso Says:

    really interesting, I didn’t realize how much movement pulled things together, how much you could get away with in each individual frame, gives me hope that one day I’ll be able to do 2d.

    thanks for the post Kevin,


  6. Bobby Pontillas Says:

    Thanks for posting those scribble poses, the likes of which I’ve never seen from him. Everything I’ve seen of his so far has been extremely tight (which was overwhelming).

    Its nice to see that hes working posing and timing out on a different pass than clarifying masses.

  7. Victor Ens Says:

    Really love to see the first pass roughs. Like them even more than the tiedown stuff, because it really shows you the scene at its simplest stage. Thank you very much for giving this to us !!

    -Victor Ens-

  8. Morris Says:

    The character animation in this film was some of the best I’ve seen, and Baxter is a force of nature. It was so weird and rather “shocking” listening to him explain how many obstacles he faced when he started animating on the podcast, compared to what he has become today. He should be proud, but seems quite modest:) Thanks for your insights on animation and its technicalities, these posts are inspiring. Keep up the great work.

    Do you have any work from Spirit, or any of Baxter’s work? I think it is one of his (and DreamWorks) greatest achievements!


  9. Kevin Says:

    Hey Morris. Yes, James is extremely level-headed and modest. That’s a big part of the reason he was such a pleasure to work with. And thanks for the good words about the blog.

    Do I have work from Spirit, or Baxter’s work? Oh, yeah. Whenever Randy or I would finish assisting on a particularly nice scene of James’s, we would usually go by the Xerox machine before dropping the scene off to production. I have a couple of boxes of photocopies of Baxter scenes from Sinbad and Spirit, as well as some nice scenes from a few other animators.

    Unfortunately, that’s what they are – photocopies of scenes. Photocopies on huge 14″ by 17″ sheets. They’re great to hold and roll, but it would take me all day just to scan just one scene (assuming I could get access to a scanner big enough for that long). Then the individual drawings would have to be registered and turned into a quicktime. I know it could be done, but I doubt I’ll ever have that kind of time. I wish I had actual pencil tests, but alas . . .

  10. David Nethery Says:

    Hey, Kevin,

    I know this post is almost a month old, but I just thought of something .

    You wrote:

    “just rapid-fire, in-the-moment right-brained kind of drawing and animating. This, unfortunately, isn’t possible in CG (at least yet). ”

    But isn’t this sort of the method that Jason Ryan advocates , using Digicel Flipbook to rough out a scribble test , then import it as an image sequence into Maya as a guide to doing the final animation ?

    I’m curious how many people are doing this ? It seems to work great for Jason Ryan.

  11. Kevin Says:

    Hey David,

    Sorry to take so long to respond — sometimes blogging and living life aren’t fully compatible!

    I’d say that until the workflow that Jason Ryan is using becomes widespread, my statement remains true. I’m very curious about Jason’s technique, and I’m interesting in trying it, just as soon as I can justify buying either a table PC or a Cintique!

    I hope what Jason is doing catches on, but I suspect that the majority of CG animators will never draw well enough for it to be a particularly widespread practice.

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The animation and animation-related musings of Kevin Koch