How To Animate When You Can't Animate

Videos are becoming increasingly popular and effective when compared to print publications which seem to be declining in number. Certainly there are fewer markets for cartoonists who create single panel gag cartoons. If you are a cartoonist and would like to do animation but are overwhelmed by the skills required, take heart. You can create cartoon videos using still images and without too much effort can even create the effect of an animated video. In this article I will suggest some ways to do this.

The down side is you need programs which tend to be expensive. I create my animations in Adobe Flash. Others use programs such as Toon Boom and I believe you can even create animations using the newer versions of Adobe Photoshop. Then to convert the videos to a format which can be used by most online video players you need a good editing program such as Adobe Premiere Pro. When I bought these programs you could buy them outright from Adobe and you own them for as long as they are compatible with your computer. Now Adobe sells these programs by a monthly subscription, which is more comfortable in the short run, but more expensive in the long run. Windows used to provide a program called Windows Movie Maker which was a good solution, but they have discontinued it. If you decide to add a soundtrack such as voices reading the lines or background music, you can do with with Audacity, which is a free sound editing program you can download.

There are some less expensive programs out there such as Sony Studio Pro. I have never used it but it seems to work on the same principles as other animation programs I have used. Here is a video which demonstrates its use:

At some point I plan to do more articles explaining how to use some of these programs, but that is beyond the scope of this article. In this article I am going to suggest how you can create the illusion of animation using mostly still drawings. This works best when you are dealing with very fast action.

For example, if you want to create the illusion of an animation showing one man slugging another, you can do it in two drawings. In the first drawing you show the first man winding up to deliver the punch while the second man stands in front of him. In the second drawing you show the first man leaning into the second man with his fist connecting to the second man's chin, and the second man is leaning backward from the punch. Since this would be a fast action, if you play them together you can time them so it looks like an animated punch.

When you create your still drawings I suggest you make them 1280 pixels wide by 720 pixels high (4.267 inches wide by 2.4 inches high). You should save them at a resolution of 300 dpi.

Using this same technique you could insert an occasional eye blink into your video by showing one drawing with the character's eyes fully opened and in the next drawing fully closed. Repeat this a couple of times and you have an eye blink (a fairly fast one, which would be good if the character is startled or surprised).

Here are a couple of videos I have created which demonstrate some of these techniques. In the first video on global warming, I added a music soundtrack, but you will notice the video consists entirely of still drawings. In the second video about baseball caps, I added just a limited amount of animation plus my own voice as a voiceover narration.

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