3.11 Flick-books & animated gifs

The purpose of this exercise was to create a simple animation. My objective was to use this to learn how to use Adobe Animate to see if this is a area of interest for me going forward.

Key words from the brief:

  • Within the genre of action movies, create some basic flick-book, QuickTime or animated gif animations that involve chases, shoot-outs, or any other staple of the action film
  • 10 seconds or less


I did the following:

  • Download, install and complete the Adobe Animate application from Creative Cloud
  • Complete the Adobe Beginners tutorials to get a quick overview and understanding of what the software can do easily and where the constraints are
  • Some quick internet research to see how experienced creatives are using the package and how they approach tackling creative projects
  • Some research across different animation techniques and genres to understand tricks and techniques that can be used i.e. what works and what doesn’t given the constraints of 2D animation
  • Storyboard and analyse some of these noting how different effects have been achieved and use this to inform this exercise

I remember reading a quote, I think attributed to John Lassiter the Director of Juxo Jnr., the innovative 3D animation produced for Pixar in 1986, where he advised animators to ‘cheat like crazy’.

With this solid advice in mind I decided that whatever sequence I designed had to be very simple using basic animation techniques and the capabilities of the software to maximum effect.

I started by downloading and installing Adobe Animate and completing the beginners tutorials. This introduced me to the basic concepts of the application, much of it familiar; timeline, keyframes, in-betweens, basic drawing tools etc.

It was also instructive to watch Youtube videos of how different animators had used the tool.


My next piece of research was to breakdown and storyboard a short animated action sequence to see what tricks I could learn.

I chose South Park because it is the best example I could think of where an apparently simple visual style (characters made from simple shapes) is brilliantly combined with biting satirical storylines. The visual style and tone of voice are instantly recognisable and unique.

I chose a couple of scene from a longer sequence.

I drew up a quick storyboard and added notes.

South Park storyboard – A3 size

It was interesting to breakdown how the animation is created, how many moving parts there are, and of these, how many are reusable ‘objects’ or familar design patterns that can be reused. For example, in the storyboard above, scenes 2, 4 and 6 use the same approach with slight variations in character animation and different scrolling backgrounds.


Storyboarding the sequence

I storyboarded the sequence. What was interesting about this is that it was the sound that was the driving force behind the final sequence, and although the scenes were broadly similar, the overall narrative was completely different.

Sketchbook thumbnails thinking about different animation effects
A simple storyboard starting to think about scene timing and sound effects

Visual style

3.3 Illustrative drawings was an exercise in Illustration Sketchbooks that explored the link between visual style and narrative. I really like the feel of the slightly dystopian cityscapes and the way they were painted and portrayed that I created in response to the brief.

I also like the work of  Laura Oldfield Ford (3.7 Narrative & visual style) that portrays different areas of London and urban decay in a distinctive visual style.

I decided to try and combine the two things to provide a backdrop to the animation sequence.

Quick mockup to test composition
Scene 1 being painted
Scene 1 background being painted – 2 x A2 joined to give a wide panorama aspect ratio
Scene 1 background INSTAGRAM copy
Scene 1 – The final background painted with black Indian Ink and liquid watercolour using a print roller and lollipop sticks
Scene 2 background
Scene 2 – Painted in the same way as Scene 1. A2 sized
Scene 1 background with character
Scene 1 with character and wire fence layers added to check visual style and composition

Creating the animation

Creating the animation was largely a technical exercise in me using Adobe Animate to create a fairly simple sequence made up of three scenes with one soundtrack.

I had to draw up the different foreground elements:

  • Two versions of the red car; front and side on
  • The animating facial features

Each scene was then animated separately and the whole sequence and sound were edited together using Premiere Rush (a lightweight version of Adobe Premier).

Scene 1 – establishing shot

  • Pan and zoom out to reveal road and underpass with a car speeding towards the camera

Scene 2 – Pan right

  • Pan across the panoramic background scene with car speeding through the frame against the movement of the camera pan

Scene 3 – Reaction shot

  • Zoom and twist into close-up of the reaction on the character’s face to the crash using ‘traditional’ keyframe animation

I did numerous tests to prove how to achieve all of these results and then put in the time to make the final sequence.

The sound came from the excellent BBC Sound Effects Library and is fee to use for educational purposes.


What went well

  • Thinking about what ‘keeping it simple’ meant in terms of design and animated effects really paid off and was the right way to think about the exercise
  • Building on previous narrative illustration exercises resulted in a visual style that I think works well in describing the characters and place. It would have been easy to work within the constraints of the drawing tools provided by the software which would have resulted in a very ‘digital’ look rather than combining this with more ‘traditional’ analogue techniques
  • The BBC Sound Effects Library is a fantastic resource that is free to use for educational purposes
  • Using Adobe Premier Rush to edit the scenes together was so much more flexible than trying to use Animate to sync sound and work out timings
  • I was pleased with the motion blur that I applied to the speeding car to give more of a sense of speed

What I’d do differently/better

  • It takes time and experience to get proficient at using a new software application and understanding/discovering the tricks to get the most out of what it can do
  • Adobe Premier Rush is excellent for simple editing but has quite a few limitations if you want to achieve precision cuts and editing to sound. I think I’d probably use the full Adobe Premier application if I was to do anything more complicated in the future
  • I think the sequence could be tighter and some of the framing could be better


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