Thursday, May 7, 2009

Image Capture for Animation - Scanning

Video capture is typically used to make fast frame captures for pencil tests. Video has the advantage of speed .

However, when image quality needs to be very high (for instance when scanning drawings which will be colored) a scanner should be used, with the resolution set at least 300 dpi or higher.

A scanner may also be used for making pencil line tests as well , although it will typically take longer to scan a set of drawings than to shoot the pencil test with a video downshooter.

If you do use a scanner for pencil tests you will find that the scans go faster and create smaller file sizes if you scan in B&W mode or Greyscale mode. For rough-rough pencil tests the resolution of the scans can be lower, such as 72 - 96 DPI , especially if the intended output for the pencil test is a simple 640 x 480 Quicktime movie file.
(but for final scans which will be colored use at least 300 DPI resolution.)

The scanner will produce much cleaner images with less "grey" or "yellow" picked up from the paper, especially if you are careful to adjust the brightness and contrast (threshold) settings on the scanner before scanning your drawings.

Use a thin metal peg bar taped-down securely along the edge of the scanner , outside of the glass area.

(click image to see it larger)

A typical scanner only allows you to scan an area of 8.5" x 11" or 8.5" x 14" at most. Some brands of these flatbed scanners , such as the Canon LIDE 90 pictured above will allow you to capture up to about 10.5 or 11 field area of a standard 12 Field piece of paper , or if you are using smaller 10 Field paper you can capture the entire piece of paper from edge to edge.

Here's an article on  "Scanning 12 Field Size paper using a regular Letter-size (11" x 8.5") Scanner"  which shows how up to 11 Field can be scanned using certain models of scanner , such as the Canon LiDE series.  

If you are using full-size 12 field or larger 16 field paper you will need a large-format "tabloid" scanner which will capture a maximum image of about 12" x 17".

Examples of large format flatbed scanners are the Epson Expression 10000XL or the Microtek 9800XL scanner. Other brands include Richoh and Fujitsu.

The large-format flatbed scanners are MUCH more expensive than the standard office size scanners.

Even more expensive are the 11" x 17" tabloid size Auto-Document Feed (ADF) scanners. Usually the large format ADF scanners cost between $4,000 - $8,000 and are built for industrial level production. These are beyond the level that most individual animators or students would need or be able to afford.

However , there is now a relatively inexpensive ADF 11" x 17" scanner on the market, the Brother MFC-6490 CW scanner. I cover this in more detail in the next post after this one.

(Fujitsu ADF scanner for high speed, high volume scanning)

The advantage of Auto-Doc Feed scanners is SPEED , so if you are scanning a large number of drawings and time is of the essence then an Auto-Doc Feed scanner can be worth it . Be aware that your software must have the ability to recognize and automatically register peg hole shapes on the scanned drawings, since the drawings are scanned through on rollers , off-pegs. The drawings will jitter and shake unless the software is able to automatically recognize the peg holes and line them up . (The "2-Point Stabilization Pixel Tracker" in TVP Animation v.9.0 will align peg holes and the soon-to-be-released TVP Animation v. 9.5 has an improved automatic Peg Hole Registration feature which makes this process even faster. Digicel Flipbook's "Auto-Scan" plug-in also performs this function. Some (not all) versions of ToonBoom will auto-align peg holes on drawings scanned with auto-feed scanners.)

If you work on smaller 10 Field paper you may use a regular 8.5" x 11" size Auto-Document Feed scanner to speed scan your drawings. The regular size ADF scanners are much less expensive than the tabloid size 11" x 17" ADF scanners. The same conditions apply when using any ADF scanner: the animation software you use must be able to recognize and auto-align the scanned peg-hole shapes. Otherwise you must use a regular flatbed scanner and scan ON PEGS.

There is also a third-party plug in called SCAN-FIX written by Duane Palyka at RIT , which will re-align drawings scanned through an ADF scanner.

"When animators scan using an ADF bulk scanner, the scanned drawings lose their alignment due to being scanned off-pegs . Their digitized frames are offset relative to each other by the scanning process. SCAN-FIX will realign peg holes on ADF bulk-scanned animation frames so they match the original pre-scanned alignment."
If you use SCAN-FIX you will scan and save all your drawings to a folder, run the SCAN-FIX program on the batch of scanned drawings and then Import the Scan-Fixed drawings into your animation application .

Again, refer to the downloadable PDF booklet "Image Capture Techniques for Hand-Drawn Animation".