Pop and Cushion is a technique that was introduced to my class by guest speaker Anthony Wong my senior year of Cal Arts 1997. Up till then, I struggled with even timing. I was so obsessed with drawing the character on model and checking volumes, I shirked the importance of squash and stretch save in the most conservative of efforts.
Then dear, brilliant Andy told us a about pop and cushion which is a technique where the character has either no or an extremely loosely drawn stretched drawing that shows or a subliminal second on the screen countered my a soft settle with like a million in-betweens. The end results being a snapped movement.
Mr. Wong used Eric Goldberg’s animation in Phil’ from Hercules as an example. Mr. Wong was obviously a big fan of Goldberg’s work, for he gushed and gushed through this section of the lecture.
Note: my memory of the exact scene, Mr. Wong used for an example is fuzzy in my memory, but I do remember exactly how the technique worked as I’ve described before:, but to drive it home:
- pop to the extreme poses with or without a smear for the inbetween
- and cushion the action with enough inbetweens in the settle to compensate for the lack of inbetweens in the “pop” from the antic to the extreme.
In regards to the scene Mr. Wong used for reference in his lecture, I remember that it was either a medium shot or close up of Phil’. However, when I gleaned my dvd of Hercules for that very scene, I found that pop and cushion was used on Phil’ for his tantrums on a number of occasions so it was a judgement call to single out the exact reference. Furthermore, dvd’s are not as suited for frame by frame slow playback as a VHS, so the extreme that Anthony highlighted is not shown here. I simply could not manipulate VLC or After Effects to advance frame by frame as closely as an analog source, so use your imagination when you reverse engineer the following screen captures.
You still need an antic between these two poses. Advancing the dvd didn’t display the frames. This shows you how few drawings were used and they were heavily favored so the audience would not notice them. This is the antitheses of the Dover Boys smears.
In Flash, you would still have to produce these drawings by hand. However, for the frames that weren’t captured, there were more inbetweens involved than what is shown, you can use shape tweens, especially on the cushion in which the character is pulled back on model and given very subtle changes as it progresses toward the settle-but you stil have to draw!
Just because actions have different terminology between traditional and digital does not mean they don’t do the same thing, which brings me to my next topic. Terminology between mediums.
In hand drawn character animation, their is a set vocabulary that was develop from animation’s infancy which peaked in the late 60’s that hasn’t changed. The terminology in Preston Blair and the Illusion of Life is as relevant in today as it was when the two books were published by the master writers. However, animation has still been built upon since the 60’s and now that the digital world has infiltrated the animation industry, and adjacent vocabulary has been developed to accommodate the new mediums. Flash, Maya and After Effects have their own terminology for their respective pipelines: Animation/Motion Graphics, CG Animation, and compositing which often involves integrating live-action with animation, therefore live-action terms are part of the compositing vocabulary of After Effects. You will be using all three programs in addition to your hand drawn skills eventually, so be prepared hear two different terms that mean the same thing. Think of it, as being an American conversing with someone from Great Britain. Same language, yet different.
An inbetween in hand drawn is not the same as a tween in Flash despite the face that they perform the same purpose. In hand drawn, you’re brilliant brain and ability to apply proper construction to a character and manipulate the shaped in a unique way using perspective, volume and and any kind of whisky that comes to mind.
Flash can’t do that. It can distort, but never “inbetween” in the same way that you, the human being with magic drawing skills to produce a unique drawing for your action.
Solid drawing, for which I use the mnemonic 40’s construction to evoke Preston Blair of your first and second year level traditional animation course in your minds. His teachings are essential to producing assets and animating them in Flash. Solid drawing, is one of the fundamentals that encompasses the theme of the entire animation curriculum. It should never leave your psyche, it should not be shirked. To do so, is to render your ability to compete in the industry moot. You can’t afford to ignore basic skills in an impacted industry. Impacted, yet growing. Your chances of being hired in the industry is not hopeless–for as neophytes, you’re cheaper than the journeymen, but studios still want you to draw like them. Here’s a list of exactly who you will be competing with in the animation industry in Flash, preproduction ( television) and feature animation.
These graduates are from the AAU, Cal Arts, Sheridan, Otis and Art Center.
No one on this list works without solid drawing in mind and practice. They may work in hand-drawn, Flash or 3D—and the AAU grads on the list work in all three mediums. They are your contemporaries and competition in an impacted industry, so please don’t be content to aim for the bare minimum in your homework or any art that you produce.
I can tell a mile away when solid drawing is not applied to your assets. A head that isn’t properly attached to the spine and the lack of a pelvis is a dead give away. The lack of construction may seem a tempting cheat when the character is merely standing in place, but it will be obvious to all the world that the legs have no proper structure to attach to when it walks, runs, or sits down. Anatomy, character look awfully funny in a bad way with proper attention to it. Even the little white man in the Pink Panther cartoons had a pelvis.
This is a sophomore year course, so Preston Blair is the exemplar for your level. Rubber hose, 40’s, it’s “easier”. You don’t have to draw a feature animation action-adventure character like Hercules to earn an “A” here, but you do have to be functional for hand held game characters and sugary cereal sponsored weekday afternoon cartoons. Both of which have solid construction under their S-curve and D-shape designs.
Disney, Freddie Moore S-curve
Hanna Babara D-Shape
I hope now that everyone is clear on what is expected of them in this class. Good luck with the homework that will prepare you for your upcoming films.
In Pop and Cushion part 2, I’ll attempt to use shape tweens to pop and cushion one of my scenes. It’s a good chance to see if your teacher stumble around a bit 🙂