Bear Spots adds computer capability

Bear Spots producer Peter Hudecki has concluded a five-year research odyssey in search of a system to bring his shop's traditional cel animation projects into the computer world....

Bear Spots producer Peter Hudecki has concluded a five-year research odyssey in search of a system to bring his shop’s traditional cel animation projects into the computer world.

But rather than seeing the arrival of this custom-made computer system as the new driving force in the creation of animation for commercial and long-format clients, Hudecki is careful to explain that access to the computer only allows animators a means to enhance what they create outside the binary universe.

The combination Macintosh/ Silicon Graphics system, which Hudecki developed with consultant Fred Luchetti, ‘opens up the back door on effects and styles to enhance what we (Bear Spots) do very, very well – that is, character animation – in the front door,’ says Hudecki.

Says Bear Spots president Clive Smith: ‘It’s a tool. It’s like a different shaped pencil.’

Both Smith and Hudecki are keen to point out that Bear Spots is using the computer in aid of traditional animation projects and not animating models created with 3D software packages such as those created by Softimage or Alias Research or Side Effects Software.

On the other hand, the system is capable of a wide array of functions. ‘It can,’ says Hudecki, ‘do everything necessary in production of 2D animated commercials.’

That includes combining 2D and 3D animation, compositing animation and live action and what Hudecki calls ‘wacky, left-of-centre effects on live action.’ The list also includes rotoscoping, animatics, 3D modelling and animation and all the steps in the animation process including cel painting, backgrounds, in-betweens, and even pencil tests.

The case of the pencil test is interesting. Normally, a client would see a stack of three or four pages in order to see the way a character was going to move or move a body part. Viewed on a light table, the uninitiated client would perhaps be confused by the fact that you can see all the drawings on the bottom shining through to the top layer. But the computer can ease the confusion by deleting unneeded or confusing layers of the test so the client can see what the black-and-white version will look like when painted. All of this is done without altering the actual artwork.

Sometimes, Hudecki says, clients are concerned that doing work on the computer will change the look of the animation. Not true. In a pack of recent commercials shown to this reporter, it was impossible to tell which included sequences generated by or involving the computer.

Besides, Hudecki says, Bear Spots animators need know nothing about the computer; they keep right on drawing their drawings as of old.

But the speed and convenience of working on the computer are useful, especially as Bear Spots is expanding its roster of u.s. and other foreign clients. The shop has done several Fido Dido spots for 7UP and is expecting to make further forays south of the border with rep Hilary Herbst in place for the Chicago-Midwest market.