Thursday, April 2, 2009

Pencil Testing with your iPhone or Android Smartphone - an alternative to scanning

A faster alternative to scanning is to capture your animation drawings with your iPhone or Android Smartphone. Modern phone cameras are quite high resolution , so the images captured can be very sharp. (the iPhone 7 has a 12MP camera for example , and similar Android phones have 12 MP or 8 MP cameras).   Use good lighting for optimum image quality.   See the document:

Image Capture Techniques for Hand Drawn Animation

(this is a booklet I put together several years ago, so the capture technology shown is dated  -- mini-dv cameras , video surveillance ccd cameras  -- but the camera stands and lighting set-ups shown are still valid if you're using an iPhone , digital camera, or webcam for capturing your drawings)

The best lighting arrangement is use 2 - to - 4 lamps arranged as shown in the diagram above , at about at 45-degree angle from the surface of the drawings. You want to adjust the lighting so you get totally flat, even illumination over the surface of the drawings, without any hotspots or shadow areas. Some plain white paper or translucent vellum (tracing paper) taped over the mouth of the lamps will provide diffusion of the light , so the light is evenly spread over the surface.

(this shows a video camera on a copy stand, but with an adapter this could also be a smartphone mounted on the copy stand, pointing straight down at the drawings  ... you can also use an HD Webcam such as the Logitech C-930 or C-920 to make your image captures directly into TVPaint using the Video Input panel,  but the iPhone camera can make captures that are as good or better than captures made with a webcam.)

See this  blog post by Jim Richardson on his blog Animateducate ,  which covers the topic thoroughly: 

For line drawings , set the iPhone camera to Monochrome (B & W) mode.  Adjust the exposure and then lock the exposure if possible and set the focus manually, then lock it.    Again, it is important that you use good lighting to provide even, flat illumination .  You'll need to get a REMOTE CONTROL for the phone so you can fire off the shutter without physically touching the phone. (to avoid the jarring the camera).  There are many different models available. Here are a couple you could use:

 You'll also need to securely mount the iPhone/iPad or Android phone/tablet on a tripod or a copy stand with a tripod mount adapter . There are various models of tripod mounts you can use, such as this one:

  (check on Amazon for others : ) .

Or this:

Each drawing is placed onto a taped-down ACME pegbar and illuminated by two lights at 45% angles on either side of the stand.  Use the ultra-thin metal peg bar so it sits flush with the shooting surface .

(don't be tempted to use the cheaper white plastic peg bars, because those are 1/8" thick and will tend to make the paper buckle , instead of laying completely flat when you put it down on the peg bar.   If you have one of these 1/8" thick white plastic peg bars and can't afford to buy one of the thin metal peg bars , see further down below on how to adapt it so it will sit flush [flat] with the shooting surface) .
The iPhone's (or Android' phone's)  camera must be adjusted to make sure the focus and exposure are locked before shooting so you don't get fluctuations in the focus or exposure , which will cause flickering.  Use the remote control to capture each image, so you don't physically touch the camera when capturing.

After you have captured all the drawings, transfer the image sequence from your phone to a folder on your computer (name the folder(s) by Scene Number , so you can keep track of your original image captures )  and then import the image sequence into your animation program such as TVPaint Animation or AfterEffects or what have you ,  to arrange the drawings in layers and to time the drawings on the timeline.

Scanning will still give you the very best image quality if you are scanning final clean-up drawings for coloring , but for pencil testing purposes it is much faster to capture your drawings with your iPhone or Android phone camera  (or you can use a digital still camera mounted on a tripod or copy stand ... follow the same procedure , capturing each drawing one at a time , using a remote control shutter release , and after the entire image sequence is captured, transfer the image sequence to your computer and then import the image sequence into TVPaint or whatever animation program you are using.


A useful accessory is a hinged glass platen , to press down your drawings absolutely flat .
Plans to make one are here :

Although a simple hinge made from gaffer's tape/duct tape will work fine . Or the platen can be free-floating sheet of glass that you place on and lift off each time you make a frame capture.  In that case super-glue or tape a drawer handle to the right and left side edges of the glass to make it easy to place on and off the shooting platform to press the drawings down flat.  Make sure the sheet of glass is wide enough that the handles will get outside of the shooting area, so you don't capture the edges of the glass or the handles on your frame captures.  For example , let's say you are shooting 12 Field animation paper , which is 12.5" wide x 10.5" high . Your platen would need to be something like
16" wide x 12" high so you have enough safe area round the edges that you won't capture the edges of the glass .

Using a white plastic peg bar  -

Many students purchase one of these inexpensive white plastic peg bars .  The advantage is they are inexpensive , but the disadvantage is that the white plastic peg bar is 1/8" thick and will tend to make the lower edges of the  paper buckle ,  instead of letting the drawing lay completely flat when you put it down on the peg bar.  You want to try to have the paper lay as flat as possible when capturing the drawings.

Here is how to make a shooting surface that allows the 1/8" thick white plastic peg bar to sit flush with the surface .  You'll need some 1/8" thick chipboard or matte board or 1/8" thick birch plywood (although the plywood is more expensive)

Use glue or double-sided tape to keep the peg bar from coming lose from the slot.

Tape down or clamp down the shooting platform to a table top under your tripod/copy stand/downshooter arm so it doesn't shift around under the camera when you are putting the drawings on and off the pegs.