Shorts #1: Thoughts About Flash Tweening

There’s a recent trend in animation of using flash based programs to create inbetweens. In other words, programs like Adobe Flash are being used to automatically generate frames that go inbetween key frames. They can digitally squash, stretch and move parts of the shot to avoid having to make more animation drawings.

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Key Animator: Kiyotaka Oshiyama

A shot from Devilman Crybaby that uses Flash Inbetweening. Original key frames are shown in the upper left. It seems like flash tweening can be done in different ways but works like this one convert the original pencil sketches into digital vector lines so the camera pans smoothly.

Flash tweening seems to be becoming more popular. It can be seen in anything from Masaaki Yuasa’s recent works all the way to shows like Bob’s Burgers. It’s a great time and cost saving tool as inbetweens can be tedious and costly to draw. It’s also controversial in some animation circles as some see it as a way of doing less work.

But a few thoughts on that. Reading the Illusion of Life, it’s clear that a lot of Disney animation techniques came about as a way of making things easier. Walk cycles were created to make easily repeatable movements. From 101 Dalmatians onward only black outlines were drawn on characters (as opposed to the many different outline colours that were used in the past) so they could be xeroxed and therefore inked more easily. Budget saving tricks can be used to produce something artistic.

There’s definitely a particular feel to flash tweened animation. It feels buttery smooth and CGI-like. But I can’t say I think this is better or worse than what traditional inbetweening gives us- it’s just different.

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Key Animator: Shinya Ohira

A shot from Lu Over the Wall that uses flash tweening.

There’s something controlled about traditional inbetweening that makes me prefer how it feels. But I think this is just my taste. As more animated works use flash tweening it’ll stop standing out as much. Like how digital compositing slowly overtook the old process of cel photography.

But I don’t think traditional inbetweening is going anywhere in the near future. There’s too many purists in the animation industry for that to happen. I think flash tweening does give us an insight into what the future of animation could look like though.

Question:

I wonder how hard is it to make inbetweens using flash?

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