The Animating Apothecary Links to Cartoons


The following primitive examples of animation are my forays into using Flash.  Having experimented with this software as an animation tool for about four years, I have found it to be relatively useful, especially if you ignore the programming and concentrate on the dozen or so functions it has that have a direct effect on creating a cartoon.  These are all in *.swf format, meaning, in order to play them, you'll need a Flash player, which I believe is still free and available from Macromedia (click here for download access).  I have listed the file size and play time for each piece, so you can estimate download times for looking at them.  My comments are provided to be of possible use to other Flash users, or inspire notes back to me on how I'm screwing things up. 

These films do not have "loading" or "play again" brackets associated with them.  They'll start up once loaded and play until done.  And then repeat.  Over and over.  And over.  Aieee.  You may wish to "right click" on the title and download for easier viewing.


NOTE! I have loaded a bunch of films onto youtube as well!

1. "West Bank" (2004) 257KB, 45 seconds-- this silent clip was tossed together to show misconceptions of the West in regards to Palestine, Israeli settlements, and the Middle East for a  documentary called "Such a Simple Thing" by Rebecca Glotfelty.  It's very basic stuff, with a weekend to toss together the images and send it all off an an email.  I was still struggling to make symbols fade in and out, fought with the software to create a decent *.mov file (forget that--I have to take the Flash-created *.mov file and import it into Adobe Premiere and export it as a new *.mov file to get things to work), but the camel (a rip-off from Popeye's "Ali Baba" cartoon from 1937)  is cool.  Here I learned that using "movie clips" to define an animated symbol in Flash is a big mistake--one, you can't see it animated unless you render a *.swf file first, and two, it won't export correctly in *.avi format.  I henceforth created only symbols defined as "graphic."  Saves a boatload of headaches.

2. "Brains" (2005) 731KB, 45 seconds-- very early attempt at lip synch, the use of Flash symbols, and the "motion tween" function in Flash.  It's ok for the intended gag, but some of the animated symbols used here are still clumsy and need to be tweaked by a frame or two.  I made use of my ubiquitious 4 x 5 Wacom Graphire  tablet for drawing the images.  The sound was otherwise recorded directly to the computer, manipulated by Adobe's Audition, and broken into about a dozen bits for each of the animated clips.  These *.wav files were then imported to Flash, brought into the Flash timeline piece-by-piece, and the animation layered atop them.  Total production time, start-to-finish, was about 12 hours scattered over a two-week period.

3. "Final Pharmacology Quiz" (2005) 649KB, 90 seconds-- as an instructor of pharmacology for the dental hygiene program at Kellogg Community College, I am occasionally invited to say a few boring words during the program's "pinning ceremony" each spring.  I was on holiday during the 2005 ceremony and provided this in my place.  The graduating class appreciated it (or so I was told; I'm presuming it was short enough not to delay the ceremony), while the upcoming freshmen in attendance were somewhat concerned about what sort of pharmacology program they were to expect during their final year at KCC.  The music is from a 1917 Victor recording, a selection from the Bizet opera, "Carmen."  The piece was imported as a *.wav file, layered into the Flash timeline, and the animation added atop it.  There are actually very few drawings in this piece, since I was hurrying to finish it up.  Everything is a Flash symbol, including each section of text.  Total production time, start-to finish, was about 6 hours over a three-day period.

4. "Countdown" (2005) 463KB, 30 seconds-- for the animation course at KCC, I worked up an evening of international examples that also served to promote the Kalamazoo Animation Festival International (KAFI) in 2005.  This brief interlude served as the introduction for those bits.  The sound of a tuning orchestra is from a disk that I can no longer track down in my office (drat), and the test pattern was adapted from an internet download from a site devoted to test patterns (really! check it out by clicking here), then imported to Flash, then following MODIFY>BITMAP>TRACE BITMAP and an 80/4 pixel setting for conversion to a passable vector graphic.  The hand is a symbol, moved about frame-by-frame on its own layer.  The appearance of the test pattern was actually done in reverse, with the complete graphic being erased frame-by-frame, then the sequence reversed MODIFY>TIMELINE>REVERSE FRAMES.  Pretty simple stuff.  Total production time, start-to-finish, was about 4 hours.

5. Closing Credits (2005)  542KB, approximately 3 minutes -- This piece was the closing of a multimedia production documenting the vaudeville performers who came to Battle Creek during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The entire show ran over two hours, and it included film clips of Weber and Fields, W.C. Fields, the Marx Brothers, Sarah Bernhardt, Billy Murray, Charlie Chaplin, and this performer, Raymond Hitchcock, who appeared in this Surreal City in 1910 in "Hitchy-Koo."  There isn't much here besides his routine and the closing credits, but I include it here to show how a basic backdrop, a soundtrack, and some random typing can do a more-than-passable set of credits, using Flash.  Total production time here was about two hours.  Eventually all of these clips will play a part in the ever-so-slowly evolving documentary, "The Historic Parking Lots of Battle Creek."

6. "Avian Flu" (2006) 1237KB, 1 minute, 49 seconds-- this piece served double duty, both as part of the 2006 edition of the KCC animation evening and as my contribution to the pinning ceremony (if you do something once, you're condemned to repeat it) for the dental hygiene class.  The music is from a 1930s recording by the Four Viennese Sisters doing their version of  Hungarian Rhapsody #2, a staple in animation soundtracks even before it was written by Franz Lizst.  The recording was imported into Adobe's Audition, trimmed to about 90 seconds, and then imported to Flash.  The cackling of the women lent itself to the topic of avian flu, and this time the production was somewhat longer, since I was out to employ vigorous use of animated symbols in Flash.  Sequences like the bird throwing eggs from the car represent about five layers of animation going on (car jittering, wheels turning, eggs throwing, etc.), and there is some use of the Flash "masking" function in the globe spinning bit at the end.  I had just seen Norman McLaren's Hen Hop and wanted to experiment with chickens and other birds, animals I have not had the opportunity to sketch in the past.  Again, I used and re-used animated symbols ad nauseam here, especially the rolling egg, and the bird in the plane.  This is about the time where I broke out of my self-imposed restriction about backgrounds, since they represented so much extra work in my filmed animation (the layers, the plastic cels, the time, oh the time).  This bit of fluff represents about 20-30 hours of total time, smeared over a two-month period.  However, for this production, I made my first major use of the Wacom's CINTIQ tablet, a 15-incher picked up by Ebay, where, joy-of-joys, I got to draw directly upon the screen, making this the first time ever animating with a computer where I had the feel of doing things with paper and pencil with some degree of control over the final image...something long promised by digital technology but never delivered since my first experiments with it 20 years ago.  I apologize for the rather large file size...I wanted to use some old map graphics from my collection and they were in GIF format.

7. "Jabberwocky" (2006) 353KB, 70 seconds -- this is a student piece from my animation class.  I first searched for a download recitation of Lewis Carroll's poem, and couldn't find anything I really liked, so I sat down and recorded it into Adobe Audition, made it sound like I was a breathless ogre, and broke it into 14 sections, one for each of my 14 students that semester.  Students being students, three of them failed to turn in their assignment.  So I filled in the blanks.  The music is from Greig's "Peer Gynt," recorded for Columbia records in 1917.  The music track was imported as a *.wav file to the Flash timeline, and this time I used the meagre audio editing functions in Flash to create a fade in and fade out, with the entire music track volume being cut to a 50% level. 

More stuff coming as time permits.
The Animating Apothecary
PO Box 1325, Battle Creek MI 49016
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Email Jim Middleton (jimmiddleton@juno.com)