Back to Blog

Newer Software for 2D Character Animation - Danni Fisher-Shin

By Adam Korenman

Want to know the future for 2D animation?

Have you ever wondered what comes next for 2D animation? It's a style that never goes out of fashion, no matter how the trendy tides ebb and flow. From hit television shows to iconic video games and—of course—the best MoGraph around, the second dimension has a lot to offer. But where is it headed next?
mkt162-danni fisher-shin-article thumbnail-20210901.jpg
Danni Fisher-Shin has a bit of experience working in 2D animation. She is an Art Director at Scholar, and graduated from Otis College of Art and Design in 2015. Her freelance career earned her a lot of clout before she finally settled into studio life full-time. She's worked with some enormous clients, putting out work that is absolutely jaw-dropping. You might recognize this video from Netflix's Love, Death, and Robots.
Danni isn't just an awesome artist and driven director. She is tuned into the industry, noting the changes tides so she can always stay ahead of trends. This helps her deliver unmatched work for her clients, and allows her the freedom to explore untapped styles before they get overcooked. She's here to share her experiences, her advice, and maybe drop a recommendation for some expensive coffee.
So press yourself between some heavy books and slide into the second dimension. We're chatting it up with Danni Fisher-Shin!

Newer Software for 2D Character Animation - Danni Fisher-Shin

Show Notes

Artists

Studios

Indie Publishers

Pieces

Resources

Tools

Transcript

Ryan Summers:
Motioneers, if there's one thing you need to know about me, is that more than anything, more than any tool, more than anything in the industry that I love, it's 2D cel animation. That's what got me started and what keeps me going. I'm always looking for new artists and today I'm so excited to introduce Danni Fisher-Shin to you. Danni, thank you so much for coming on and nerding out about 2D animation.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Thank you so much for having me. That's my favorite thing to do so I'm happy to be here doing it.
Ryan Summers:
Well, this is one of the questions is we get probably more than any at School of Motion, is 2D animation. How do I get started? How do we get better? What's the state of the game with motion design with 2D animation? So from your perspective, let's just lean right into it. Where is 2D animation right now in motion design? Where is it going? Has it peaked? Is it a fad? Is it something that everybody should learn? Where is it right now in the industry?
Danni Fisher-Shin:
That's a really interesting question and kind of always has been for me. I remember when I was in school and I was really fascinated by cel animation and 2D animation, I had a couple of teachers who were like, "You're never going to be able to make a career out of that because it's just not in right now. It's just a trend, it's going to go away." But I haven't really found that to be an issue which I love. I do feel like most things in MoGraph, it's pretty cyclical. Ebbs and flows with what's popular at the moment.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
But honestly, I think it's going to continue to have that cycle and coming back and keep kind of evolving with the times. And honestly, a lot of the projects that I've worked on, haven't been just straight sell. There's a lot of melding of After Effects in 3D, as well as traditional 2D animation. And I think that's a really interesting way to use it and I kind of hope that that continues to happen even though I do love doing the straight sell projects as well.
Ryan Summers:
And that's something I'd love to dive more into, because I think for some reason, cel animation and motion design is still kind of, to a lot of people, a black box. And people may know what it takes for cel animation to happen on features. The few that still happen or more than likely TV animation, where there's a really tight pipeline and really interesting positions.
Ryan Summers:
I don't think people really understand how specific, when you're going to TV animation, your role is. It's not just you sit down at your desk and draw all day. You might just be a layout person. You might just be doing timing. You might be working from boards to figure out how many poses there are, but could you just talk a little bit about what cel animation is like in our world in motion design? What's your day to day as a 2D cel animator?
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Yeah, I think it's really interesting because I do have some friends who've worked in TV animation and motion graphics animation, and it's two very different worlds. For me, usually when I'm working on a cel project, I'll be getting whatever, storyboards and everything from the storyboard artists or whatever, who's already kind of set up for the team to work off of. And then I'll also be getting designs from somebody else, but usually it ends up just being, I will take an entire shot or sequence of shots and I'll just end up doing the entire thing, all of the animation, every step of the way.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
from rough to filling in, depending on schedule. And I'll just take the entire sequence through the entire process. And then by the end I'm like, "Okay, I've kind of owned the shots." So instead of in TV where it's like, "Oh, I did this one step and then it goes through a billion different people in the pipeline." It's kind of like, "Oh, I did this entire thing. And that's kind of cool."
Ryan Summers:
Yeah. I feel like that's one thing I'd love telling my friends, that working feature or in TV that, you know what? If you have some downtime between projects, take a look at motion design students that might need you because it's a totally different... You get to own so much, your shot is actually your shot. You get to kind of conceive it and see it through. And when you finally do see it on screen, that's yours. That's pretty amazing.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Yeah. I love that about it. I remember when I was in school, I was kind of waffling about what area I wanted to go into. And I originally was interested in concept art and more feature animation stuff. And I eventually ended up gravitating more towards MoGraph, just because I was so able to be hands-on and have control creatively as well as having a faster turnaround and more instant gratification for me, which was nice. so yeah, I love that about it.
Ryan Summers:
You said when you were in school, you were kind of exploring this. Where did you go to school? And can you tell me a little bit about what learning 2D was like? Because that's the other big thing, is that it really almost depends on where you go to school, how you learn the process of 2D animation. There's some schools where they really set you up for that feature or TV pipeline. And there's other places where it kind of schools let you be a little bit more kind of self-determined and you get to explore and find, which I think you have, a really unique style, but what was your time at the school that you went to like?
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Thank you. I went to Otis College of Art and Design, which is interesting because I originally thought that I was going to go there for fashion, which is just a completely different world, but I ended up kind of falling into the digital media department. And that is kind of the whole setup they have there for motion graphics, is very much a pipeline to the industry, which I didn't even know about going in, but ended up working out really well for me.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
It is very much a build your own program type of thing. I remember they start out with a foundation year, it's all traditional media. And then from there you kind of pick your major and within the department that you pick, you can kind of jump around and take classes from any of the specializations within that department, which is interesting.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
So my sophomore year I ended up taking up a bunch of concept art classes, and then I had a bunch of friends who were in MoGraph and they were like, "Hey, you should check this out because you clearly don't like concept art." And animation kind of appealed to me, from just seeing what they were doing. So I kind of just wandered into that and ended up staying.
Ryan Summers:
Well, I love the look of your work. And if anybody's listening, you definitely need to take a look at Danni's pieces, because it's something that I think is desperately needed in motion design, because for the last, maybe two or three years, where we have seen a lot more character work kind of come into play, we've also kind of seen it coalesce around the same kind of two or three, what I call motion design house styles.
Ryan Summers:
Before I try to do this and just completely botched it, how would you describe kind of at least for your preferred or personal look, how would you describe your style? Because it does stand out so much. When I go to your site and look at the bonus content. I'm like, "This all looks like it's from the hand of one person." It doesn't feel you're trying to make your style fit into other people's work.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
That's awesome. I love that. That's one of the greatest compliments ever that you could give me. Let's see, I guess I would describe it as colorful and I've heard people call it bold a lot, which I guess is something to do with the colors and the shape language and stuff like that. What's interesting is, I don't know, I feel like the evolution of a person's style kind of just happens and I don't feel like I had a ton of control over.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
I definitely did have a lot of different influences over different times. So it definitely fluctuated, but I feel like even now I've been working on designing a lot at work, and every time I make something, all of my coworkers are like, "Oh, I can tell that this was you," which I totally don't consciously do it, but I think it just happens to come out naturally now, which is kind of cool.
Ryan Summers:
Well, that's awesome. I mean, I want to dive into it. So I want to get to the juicy stuff. You said that you have a lot of interests. And to me, this is what's so exciting about when 2D animation and more just illustration and drawing starts flooding into motion design because you get all these varieties of inspirations and different people that you kind of mixed together, to where you probably see your own influences, in your work.
Ryan Summers:
But someone else from the outside, who's just looking at the kind of emotion is an echo chamber. It looks wholly unique. So give me a couple of those inspirations. Did you have somebody that, when you were in school you were trying to emulate or bring stuff in, and now you've kind of worked past that. I'm always interested in the journey from the start to where you're at now.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Oh yeah. And I feel like I had so many over the years. I mean, especially in school, you're just constantly absorbing the industry and everything. It's really fascinating to see how that kind of coalesces into the newer style as people continue to start working in the field and everything.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
It's hard to say because it was a while ago now, which makes me feel kind of old, but I definitely looked a lot at Rafael Mayani's character work. I always really liked his shapes and how he kind of messes with the anatomy and everything, in a way that doesn't always totally make sense, but it's super fun, shape language wise. Forgive me if I butcher his name, but Henrique Barone, I'm probably saying that horribly. I hope that's all right.
Ryan Summers:
No, I think you nailed it.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Perfect. If I didn't, then forgive me. but I always really, really liked his style work. It's very fluid and the camera's always super dynamic. I remember watching a lot of [inaudible 00:10:15] stuff when I was in school and it just blew my mind every time.
Ryan Summers:
Yeah. I feel like there's a whole generation of people working in cel that the combo of Oddfellows and Giant Ant from a certain era, you can trace their work through... I think it's really interesting because I love Rafael's work. Actually. I think I have an Iron Giant poster sitting off to the side of me that he designed.
Ryan Summers:
But I can see in your face shapes and the chin, the soft but kind of still angular, rounded chins in some of the characters, has an echo to Rafael's work. But what I always think of when I think of his work is he does these really great, muted, gray tone palettes with just a hint of gold or a hint of a warm color. And that's a signature. But the same way, I think your very warm but bold color palettes has that same... It feels totally your own.
Ryan Summers:
And I was going to ask you about fashion because I think, one of the things that really kind of is, I don't know the best way to say it, lacking with a lot of character work and character designs is that there's very little sense of kind of just clothing and fashion and the way kind of things fold and sit on top of each other.
Ryan Summers:
And I really feel even just going through the first couple of shots on your Instagram page, there's a really strong sense of that. You have just the right amount of detail without having too much pencil mileage to where it's impossible to actually get footage done. But I really, really think that it's so strong. I can't imagine how you figure that out. How much is too much and how much is just enough to still be readable and unique, but not be so overly detailed.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Yeah. I mean, I feel like I'm constantly just fiddling with my pieces at the end anyways, so at a certain point, it's kind of just me telling myself to please God stop. But I don't know, I think that the whole interest in fashion that he's having that... Obviously I still have, especially fashion illustration, it was a big influence at the beginning for me, but I don't know. I find it super inspiring. I think there's just so many different mediums of creativity around and fashion is such a fun one because you get to wear it all the time and just make a statement just by being seen and existing in the world, which is kind of cool.
Ryan Summers:
I totally agree. I mean, whenever people ask me how do I make my work look different or how do I get out of just kind of the echo chamber? I always point people to two things. I always say, really, even if you're totally uncomfortable with it, I am not somebody you'd look at and say is fashionable, but I love looking at fashion blogs and Instagram, just for an industry that's so based around new and unique color palettes and new and unique textures, I'm really surprised by how few people take time to even just even if it's not going to affect your day-to-day life or your wardrobe, but just even look at either fashion.
Ryan Summers:
And the other thing is just diving into science papers. I love diving into just seeing what weird kind of molecular biology or something weird with physics. Those things can affect the way we move and the way we design so much. And I really feel on this fashion side, it's as you scroll through your Instagram, it feels like it's becoming more and more apparent throughout stuff as you become more confident.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Definitely. I mean, thank you. That's actually super funny that you brought up both fashion and then also molecular biology papers. Because it is really interesting. I've always kind of gravitated towards fashion stuff, which I think, I mean, just as a medium is really fascinating and I definitely draw a lot of influence from models and fashion that I see on Instagram as well. I follow several people who just have the coolest look, which I think is super fun to feel inspired by it.
Ryan Summers:
Do you have any names off the top of your head you could share for people to then follow?
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Yeah. Okay. I mean, I'm currently following, I don't know how to pronounce it, Meicrosoft, it's like Microsoft, but M-E-I.
Ryan Summers:
Oh, that's cool. That's cool.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
And she has symmetrical tattoos on both sides of her body and she has the coolest makeup looks and has a really cool style. So she's kind of really cool. Just off the top of my head. I was just scrolling through this morning and saw some stuff that she was doing.
Ryan Summers:
That's also another place that's ripe for inspiration is just the stuff people are doing in tattooing right now is mind blowing, that I don't see reflected in our world hardly at all either. That's super cool. Well, I wonder, before you dive in, I want to get super nerdy about a couple of your projects, but I wanted to ask you this. Are you familiar with Doctor Who? Do you know who Doctor Who is?
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Yeah.
Ryan Summers:
Just the general concept?
Danni Fisher-Shin:
I actually binged it so much when I was [inaudible 00:14:31].
Ryan Summers:
Well, I'm not going to ask you who your favorite doctor is, but I do want to ask you the question, let's say you're sitting outside and doctor who comes down in his phone box and he can take you to go to work at any animated studio, anytime, any era, any project. And you could sit down and either learn with just put down pencils for any one movie, what movie or studio or director, animator, would you be like, "Oh man, if I could just spend a week working with this person." What would you pick? I'm putting you on the spot here.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
That is the hardest question anyone's ever asked me. That's really hard because I feel like there's so many different types of animation and stuff that I would just love to... My first thought if we were still talking MoGraph would be Golden Wolf in 2013-ish. Because they're just making such cool stuff. I think that's about the year. I don't know what time. Time is weird now.
Ryan Summers:
Is there a project in your head?
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Dang. I don't think I would know by name. So I would definitely say the wrong thing, but they had a bunch of stuff that was kind of just black and white and really graphic, but had a lot of really cool camera moves and stuff. I feel like just everything coming out of there, when I was in school, was just so goals for me at the time. That was really exciting. But then there was also Studio Ghibli and that entire plethora of films and animation. That's just a completely different world, but would be so cool to just be a fly on the wall for.
Ryan Summers:
Oh my gosh, I know, I am on a hardcore, almost I feel like I'm doing a paper in school. I'm deep diving on just [inaudible 00:16:16]. Just as a person and how he got to where he got and how he works and it is a little bit frightening because he seems to be very demanding, but also is more than anyone I've ever read about, has imposter syndrome even now. Even probably more so now. It's both humbling and also frightening at the same time reading up about him.
Ryan Summers:
But I I'm so glad you said Ghibli, because I feel like motion design has not reached the point where there is even a studio we can call Hayao Miyazaki as a director or a Ghibli because just the world creation and I don't know how much of his movies you've watched, but I kind of like how he just does not play by any rules in terms of storytelling. He just wants to have 12 shots of the wind blowing through a forest. He'll do it and doesn't care.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
And I'll eat up every minute of that. I'm here for it.
Ryan Summers:
Oh my gosh. Yeah, It's probably harder in our industry because we have to answer to clients so much, but I'm still waiting for someone who does that for clients with products, whatever, Google or Coke, but just creates, animates an emotion or creates a world. Because I feel like it would feel so different than everything else, but the amount of confidence it would have to take to tell a client, "Nope, we're going to do this."
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Yeah. I feel that's the struggle, right?
Ryan Summers:
Yeah.I wanted to ask you too, before we really dive into all the details, it seems you do quite a bit of design and animation. Do you design differently, especially when we're talking characters, when you know it's going to go, a character is going to be designed or animated by another team versus when you design, when you know you're going to animate yourself. Do you have a different approach at all or a different mindset?
Danni Fisher-Shin:
I wouldn't say as much of a difference between when I know I'm going to animate it and when I know somebody else's going to animate it, because in both of those scenarios, I'm just like, "I don't want the person animating this to hate me." That's pretty universal. I've definitely designed stuff where I get into animation and I'm like, "This was a real bad idea. I don't know why I did that." And I wish the past me just thought a little bit more about it.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
But definitely in terms of doing my own personal illustration and then creating stuff for work or for myself that I'm going to have to animate or somebody else is going to have to, very different. I allow myself a lot more room to just get into the details and just finesse tiny angles and tangents and stuff that in my design work, whereas for animation, I'm just like, "Okay, how can I make this the easiest and most efficient design for somebody to put into motion that they're not going to want to scoop their eyes out while trying to do it?"
Ryan Summers:
So I have a good idea of how you approach better, do you have any tenants or any things that you think of when you do that in terms of just making sure that, it's true to the spirit of whatever the client needs, but also is mindful of the team that you have to hand this character over to. Do you have any top two or three things you think of when you're doing that?
Danni Fisher-Shin:
It's kind of hard to say, because I feel like it does vary a lot per project. There's definitely stuff that, the brief is super, super cool and the design cel's amazing, but I'm just like, "I don't know how we're going to animate this when it gets to that." And sometimes in pitches like that, I'm just like, "Well, I'm just going to design to make it look really cool and then we'll figure it out later," which has actually worked out okay a couple of times.
Ryan Summers:
That's great. I feel like that's the story of motion design though, right? How many times are you like, "This looks great and we have to animate it."
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Yeah. I mean, I've been on both sides, the design and the animation side. So I know how it feels when you get a design and you're just like, "Okay. Time to figure this one out."
Ryan Summers:
I mean, that is kind of the exciting thing about motion design is that unlike probably like we talked about, feature TV, everything is set up so tightly to be kind of be an assembly line and be repeatable, even between shows or between movies or between characters. It is kind of the wild west, all emotions are. And you're kind of starting from scratch every time.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Yeah. That's super true. I mean, I do definitely have stuff that I keep in mind like, "Okay, I'm going to keep the characters." If it's cel animation, I'm going to keep them flat colors and not put too many gradients on them, we'd have to redraw every reframe. Maybe at the maximum that we can just overlay over the whole thing so it's not a nightmare, just keeping details to a minimum and being more economical and concise with any marks that I'm making. Just because I know that we're going to have to redraw it or with After Effects characters, making sure the angles are rounded, on the limbs so that you can just build pieces and break it, stuff like that.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Yeah. Definitely, those things, trying to figure out if I were going to animate this, what would I hate about this or what would I do to set this up for animation? Then I can just do in the design phase so that whatever poor animator gets it doesn't have to remake everything.
Ryan Summers:
I love it. I mean, I think the key thing I'm hearing from you is just having empathy, being able to imagine, because you have the experience of doing it. I think there are quite a few creative directors on our side of the game, where if they have an animated, they just know what looks cool and they know they want to fulfill what the client asks for.
Ryan Summers:
So they don't have the ability to sympathize or empathize for that team right outside the door having to make it. I mean, I love what you said about thinking about being careful so that an animator doesn't want to tear their eyes out. Because the problem is every animator in the world wants to make the shot look as good as possible and as close to the assignment that they've been given, right?
Ryan Summers:
But there's a project you have that I looked at it and I saw it when it came out, but I was looking through your site again and I'm really at a loss for how you even achieved it. And I'd love to ask you, we can get into the details, but the Procreate - Roar animation that you did. And if you haven't seen this, you've got to go to Danni's site and look for it. Because her work was literally the face of Procreate bringing animation assist to all of us, which is kind of in the world of 2D animation for motion design, it was probably one of the biggest things in the last couple of years that's actually happened. I just have to ask you before we get into how in the world did you animate this? What was that process like? Did you just get a call or a knock on the door and Procreate's like, "Hey, we like you. You want to make something?"
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Kind of, not for that one specifically, but I remember a while back, I've been using Procreate since, I want to say early 2016, because I used to work at Elastic a lot. And Max Ulichney... I feel like I always mess up his name, so I hopefully that's okay.
Ryan Summers:
I know, I do too. We apologize Max.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
I was working with him... Sorry, Max. And I remember he had just gotten one pretty early on and he was using Procreate and that was the first I'd ever heard about it. And he just could not stop talking about it. He was like, "There's a strong program. It's amazing." He literally was like, "I just checked stock at the Santa Monica Apple Store and there's an iPad you can go pick up during lunch, right now. I'm here. Just do it. Let's go." And I was like, "I don't know, maybe there's something to this," because he was so excited about it and it sounded amazing to be able to draw on the go.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
So I bought one in early 2016 and had been using it to work on personal illustration for a bit. And then I think I was always posting stuff on Instagram and tagging Procreate or whatever. And I think either through that or through Max dropping a hint to them, they ended up reaching out to me to just feature my procreate artwork on their Instagram and Georgie, who does a lot of the social media, I don't know, she coordinates it. She's crazy good at all of the many, many things that she does.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
She reached out to me for that. And then she ended up checking my profile and realizing that I was also an animator. And she was like "Hey, so I loved all of your designs, but apparently you also animate? Would you be interested in trying out our beta and everything for animation?" And I was like, "Oh my gosh, procreate is going to have animation. This is the best day ever." I was so excited about it.
Ryan Summers:
It had to be the most asked about question for Procreate social media team for years. When we can you do this? Please do this.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
I mean, I was one of them.
Ryan Summers:
Will you please do it? Yeah.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
I'm sure it was horribly annoying. Yeah. But it was great. I was so excited that they actually did that. I remember I got that email and I was like, "Oh my God." So that's kind of how that ended up happening. We had been in contact a little bit before then, and then she happened to see that.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
And I think actually we were messaging each other on Instagram. And I think we both happened to be at San Diego Comic Con. And I think actually that that's when I mentioned that I was an animator to her because we met up, luckily not on one of the days that I was in full cosplay because that would have been weird for everyone.
Ryan Summers:
You were awesome.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
And I think I said something to her. Yeah. And then we started chatting after that and I think that's when that conversation happened.
Ryan Summers:
That's so cool. I mean, the piece is obviously beautiful and it makes sense why they chose you and it makes sense why this is the kind of thing that kind of helped launch it because what you see looks like an illustration that shouldn't be able to be animated when I first see it, right? The amount of texture, the amount of very graphic bold shapes. But then when you see it move, what's so cool about it is that for one, I mean, you picked kind of one of the most loaded in terms of expectations, characters you could possibly pick, right?
Ryan Summers:
Shere Khan in Jungle Book is literally the gold standard. And then you just chose to get a tighter. That makes you think about it at least. But what I love about it is it has that vibe of an illustration where there's way more pencil mileage and way more detail, especially textual detail. Then you should probably hope to get out of animation, which I think Procreate really helps you do so well because of the brushes, because of just the engine that they have is great.
Ryan Summers:
But I think there's so much cool stuff going on here because there's stuff that's on twos or threes and there's things that are kind of popping back and forth. You can see the textures in the hills, but then this tiger, it's not all on ones all the time, but it's so smooth in terms of its animation. When the tail whips back and the roar, but at the same time, there's so much detail on here that I wouldn't even want to try to figure out how to make it feel coherent and make it feel like it's actually part of the tiger.
Ryan Summers:
So just take me through a little bit, did they commission you and ask you for something like this specifically? Or did you pitch them multiple ideas? And then what the heck were you thinking taking on something like this? Because it's such a big challenge.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Yeah. I mean, what's great about working with them is that they're always super, super open to concepting, wherever you're coming from as an artist, whatever you want to try, they're pretty much there for it. Every time that I've worked with them, they'll be like, "Okay, we want to do an animation of [inaudible 00:26:28], a looping animation for this. And that's all. Just tell us your ideas." And then I'll come up with two to three sketches, if it's an animation, it will be a storyboard sequence. And it's pretty much just whatever I happen to think of that I thought would be cool, which was the dream.
Ryan Summers:
That's awesome.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Yeah. I remember for the first one that I ever did for them was the fighter girl with the big sword. And that's literally just what I would do for fun. That's all I want to draw, is girls with huge swords and stuff. So I was really psyched about that. I was like, "This is the best. This is the dream job right here." So that was pretty great.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
For the tiger one, it started very differently from how it ended up. I think I pitched them two to three ideas and they were all really crazy, intense cel stuff. Because I knew that I could use this project to do one of those cool things and they'd probably be down. So I think the place that this one started was I had one set of storyboards that was a girl riding a tiger. And the tiger was coming super close to camera and then swerving far away. And it was just a loop.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
And I remember being super excited about that one. And I think partway through, they decided to make it kind of the hero piece. So I think it ended up changing conceptually to something that they could use in their spot, a little more static and just singularly focused on the tiger.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
So it kind of evolved from there. And then they were like, "Oh yeah, we want to make it a landscape with a tiger. Just do the tiger and then focus on that. And then you can build out whatever else." So then I think I sent them a design frame of basically what it looks now. And they were like, "Yeah, let's do it." And then I animated for a very long time, a lot of late nights just because I was also working full-time at the time I think. And yeah, that's kind of how it started.
Ryan Summers:
Well, I mean, you can see if you go to Danni's site there. I think you have the storyboards for the original, the looping version.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Oh yeah. I do.
Ryan Summers:
It does feel very Golden Wolf, 2013 kind of, you have kind of a character coming to frame and then the crazy smear frame and pushing in really fast and pulling back out. It's super cool. But I really love seeing, for one, just the way you put your process on your site is great. People always struggle to figure out how to show this stuff. And there's a great balance of frames and boards and in-progress animation.
Ryan Summers:
And you did a cool transition in and out of it as well. But I want to ask more questions about the tiger itself. Definitely, when you're watching this, motioneers, for anybody who's listening, just take a look at, the foot kind of stumps, they're not just the foot kind of pushing down. It feels like you've spent time, whether it's on YouTube or out in person, watching this animal actually move.
Ryan Summers:
The shoulder blades have the same kind of slikiness, and then the snap into the roar with the tail. The tail snapping is almost as important as the actual roar up. How did you approach the actual animation? I can see here there's a rough, but once you get that rough down and you start going into kind of trying to finalize it, the texture under the bottom of the stomach, the tail itself, and then those stripes, how in the world did you approach your stripes?
Ryan Summers:
Because I'm sitting here watching this on loop the whole time we're talking, I'm looking for anything that's like, "Oh, that feels off." It's really, really tight without feeling too clean. Sometimes animation can get final lined and just feel too antiseptic, but this still has vitality and energy. How did you approach all that? And did you ever get freaked out while you're doing it and be like, "Oh man, I set myself up for failure."
Danni Fisher-Shin:
I was freaked out the entire time. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, past the rough stage, I remember I watched so many videos of tigers on YouTube during this time that all of my recommended things were just more videos of tigers, nothing good. I have more than one interest, but this makes sense, I guess. Yeah, honestly, a lot of my animation process, especially when I have the time to just focus on one subject like that, I definitely got way deep. I think my brain turned inside out in trying to animate that in a way that I was going to be happy with.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
But I went from the rough and from that stage to kind of getting the main motion of what I wanted. I am super into secondary animation whenever anything has a tail or there's a jacket or anything that, I just want to animate the crap out of those waves. I love it. So of course the tail was going to be a part of the main animation that I sketched out.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
But after that point I kind of just went through the in-betweens and then the point between just getting all the frames kind of laid out and actually finalizing it, was I think the longest, just because the rough part tends to go kind of quicker, because you're like, "Okay, I have the base," but making it super smooth and just kind of toggling between frames and looking at my onion skins and just being like, "Okay, this moves slightly differently here. Do I want it to do that?" Being super, super deliberate and honestly kind of too intense about it sometimes, is kind of how it ended up that.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
I think that is part of my process. So again, I kind of had a hard time cutting myself off at, so eventually I'll just be like "Okay, I got to stop." But until then I would just fiddle with it and kind of just look really, almost mathematically. I definitely had my rough in there to get the mood of it, but I know when I want a tiny pause here or a slight faster movement there, I need to actually just look at the spaces between the key frames and everything. So just kind of keeping conscious of that and just going back in through, running through it several times and just smoothing them out, I think is how that finally got there. The stripes though, oh my gosh.
Ryan Summers:
The stripes are just brute force.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
I think for the stripes, I had a main stripe layer or different sections of the stripes and I would just duplicate that stripe layer on the body and then drag it over to where it needed to be. And then I think sometimes I would warp it until it looked right and then draw over it. So it still had the change in texture on the edges and everything.
Ryan Summers:
See that's the key, that's the hidden gem, is that I think a lot of people would try maybe warping, but that's why I think the vitality is there. Because you're not just taking a previously drawn shape and just trying to fit it. The redraw over the top is I think the magic.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Yeah, definitely. I feel redrawing over the top of any type of guides that I ended up doing that with. If there is something super detailed, that it would be stupid to just completely redraw it from my brain every time. And it would get really jumpy and be too difficult to make look good.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
I'll definitely always duplicate that and then draw over it just because the draw over part isn't super necessary, but I personally really love the look in cel animation of just being super hand-drawn, where you can see the very, very tiny differences between the frames. I think that that's one of my favorite things about it. So I wanted to keep that for sure.
Ryan Summers:
That's awesome. I got really lucky to talk to the team behind Wolfwalkers from Cartoon Saloon. I don't know if you've seen it, but that was one of the moments that just took my breath away watching it, was that everything, very early on, one of the first three shots, and this shot actually reminded me of that.
Ryan Summers:
In the first three or four shots, you see the man-made world and you go to the natural world. And then there's a moment where you see the first living creature and it's, I think an elk with just these huge antlers. And you could see the draw through lines.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Ooh, I live that.
Ryan Summers:
They kept anything that was natural. You could still see the through lines of the construction and it wasn't distracting. They vibrate a little bit because they're being drawn back and forth, but it was never distracting, but it just brought this whole life that if you know their style, everything else is super tight. It feels almost machine made because the drawings themselves are very volumetric, but also graphic. But the in-betweens feels there's no jumping, it feels almost impossible for a human to draw it.
Ryan Summers:
And this had that same vibe to me. It's one of the first times I've seen that where it feels vital. It feels like it has life, but at the same time it's so consistent. It doesn't feel jumpy at all. It seems almost impossible to figure out how to do that. It's a beautiful piece. I think it's great. I was going to ask you, now that you've used Procreate here, I think I saw somewhere else in your site that you use Photoshop. What do you feel the state of the game is just in terms of tools right now? Are there any other animation tools that you're kind of playing around with that you think would be interesting for people to know about or is it just kind of Photoshop and Procreate?
Danni Fisher-Shin:
I mean, I love to say that I know all of these crazy tools and all of these cool workarounds, but I don't really. I think most of the time at work now, I'm art directing or designing, which I sometimes do on Procreate since we're all working from home now. I can work from anywhere, which is kind of nice. I would say it's definitely more for me about just using my principles rather than whatever program I'm doing it in.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
I definitely have wanted to learn Flash or Animate, I guess, because I started cel animation using Photoshop in school and then I kind of just evolved from that into Procreate as well. But I feel like I would love to learn other programs. And definitely if I'm going to be doing some really intense animation, Photoshop is not the most amazing for that, but I haven't really dug in and learned other programs as much, because I feel like my career has kind of moved more into the direction area. Although I would love to just sit down one day and learn any of these things. Because I feel there's so many cool new plugins and stuff that, but yeah.
Ryan Summers:
I always feel like there's that pressure, right? That's the one rough thing about motion design that I never hear from my friends in feature TV animation, especially 2D cel. There's not a lot of pressure to learn. Once you learn Toon Boom Harmony or TV Paint, in those worlds, you got it, but then they're always trying to brush up on either the fundamentals or they're trying to break through and focus on their acting and their performance.
Ryan Summers:
But I love the fact that you actually said fundamentals because that's what everybody here and everybody listening, that's the questions we always get is, "Oh man, what can I do to get really good at 2D animation? Should I learn X, Y or Z?" And we said Animator or Procreate. It really doesn't matter the tool because if you can draw and you can frame through and you can onion skin, you have 90% of what you really need, but in terms of fundamentals, what do you feel like, for someone listening right now, that maybe they've done some stuff in After Effects. They know shape animation, they know key framing, they understand easing, maybe posing, time and space.
Ryan Summers:
They get that basic kind of idea, but they want to apply that knowledge to cel animation. In terms of fundamentals for cel, what could you direct someone to like, "Oh, you know what? You should do this exercise," or maybe there's a book or maybe there's a principle that you found as you've gotten further in your career when you started focusing on it. What would you share with someone on the fundamentals or the foundational side that you think would be a good thing to kind of just double down on?
Danni Fisher-Shin:
I mean, I feel like my own education in cel animation, it wasn't too structured. I kind of just learned from one teacher who happened to be really good at it and loved it, but we kind of just did some basic exercises at the beginning. I remember we had a bouncing ball obviously and a box dropping type of thing. And there's always the flour sack animation exercise that I see going around.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
So I wouldn't say I have any super specific exercises or methods for learning those. I just think that if you already know how to animate a little bit, maybe just framing through stuff, because I feel like with After Effects animation or any other information that isn't a frame by frame, you kind of set your key frames, you know your curves, you kind of get that, but one of the great and awful things about cel animation is that you have so much control over every single aspect of it.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
So just being able to control frame by frame, the exact difference between where each drawing is and the squash and stretches. So you can literally control it however you want. You can make the weirdest stuff and if you drew it, that's what it is. I don't know. I think that it's really interesting to kind of go in and see how much detail you can notice in the movement and in the difference between the frames and in the animation that you do really, and kind of analyzing how that affects it. Because a lot of times with After Effects or other 2D animation, we kind of just set our keys and we're like, "Okay, cool. It's going to do the rest by itself."
Ryan Summers:
Yeah. Exactly.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Which is great, but yeah.
Ryan Summers:
That's always the [inaudible 00:38:27] part for me, having learned 3D and then After Effects and then 2D kind of doing the reverse order in my career is that it's maddening. It's almost like it's strange to me how I can keep what feels thousands of splines straight in my head. Sending spline for these different individual controls and turning [inaudible 00:38:46] on and off.
Ryan Summers:
But then when I have to actually sit down and draw, it's just a drawing and it's just another drawing after that drawing. But the control and focus you have to have to maintain form and to maintain volume, but also have the vitality and the squash and stretch and then performance on top of that. You feel you're almost three different people operating at the same time. You have three right hands or three left hands. You're LIKE, "Okay, well, I got to think about this."
Ryan Summers:
But I think you kind of gave a little bit of a key away earlier without thinking about it. One thing that's really helped me is realizing that the rough stage can be really rough and it can be the loose and it can be fun and it can be quick and it can almost not look anything the final product.
Ryan Summers:
And then the tie-down stage. The tie-down stage is where you can stop thinking about the eases and the general performance and kind of put your technical brain on. And once I've learned to not make each individual drawing perfect and then play it back and be like, "Oh my God, those drawings kind of look okay." Once I started separating that, that helps me a lot. And I feel that's basically what you were saying earlier.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
That's super true. Yeah. I feel like a lot of times the rough animation is the most fun because you can kind of just get really weird and loose with it and not worry too much and just worry about the motion itself, which for me is one of the most fun parts. It's definitely within the tie-down phase that the difference between being an aftereffect animator or an illustrator or something like that, can really mess with your brain's process.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Because at the beginning, I remember when I was first learning, I would just focus on making the drawings really nice. Just like you were saying, because that's your instinct. You're like, "Oh, if I make the drawings nice, it's just going to look nice." But that is not the case always. So just being able to go in and be like, "Okay, I'm going to keep it loose. I'm going to make shapes that are messy, but as long as the motion is kind of working, I know that I'll be okay because I can always go back from this rough thing and kind of go through and clean it up after and just make sure it's still following what it already is now motion-wise and I'll be okay."
Ryan Summers:
That's awesome. Yeah. You're building an armature that you can layer up and add anything on top of it. And whether it's tiger, tiger stripes or folds in pieces of cloth or a flag, once you have that core kind of performance and the pose and time and space and down, you can build on that base anytime you want. That's awesome.
Ryan Summers:
I want to ask you one more question because this is one of my favorite pieces and I'm so excited that this studio actually somehow got this on air, and I just love anthologies in general. And we can argue forever about which ones are good and which ones are bad and which ones are questionable. But Suits from the first season of Love Death + Robots stylistically at least was probably one of my top two or three pieces because it combined just what felt like really cool 3D, but everything had this almost vis dev look. It didn't look or move like anything else that I've really seen.
Ryan Summers:
And on top of that, there were some really, really cool 2D effects animation on top of it. And going through your site, I saw you worked on that. What was that like? Because Blur is one of my favorite studios. I've worked there a couple of times, the people that are crazy, but you also worked with, I think, VisualCreatures on that?
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Yeah, that's right.
Ryan Summers:
How did they find you or how did you find this project and what was it like building this? It feels very different than the other project we talked about.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Yeah. That one was really interesting because I usually don't do a ton of effects work, but that was an FX bootcamp for me, which was kind of fun actually. I had worked with VisualCreatures several times before on other projects that were more MoGraphy. I think I started working there kind of quickly out of school, maybe in the Winter after I graduated.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
So I was kind of there every now and then anyway as a cel animator. And I remember they got this project and they were like, "Oh, do you want to come in and do months and months of effects cel animation?" And I was like, "Yeah, what is this?"
Ryan Summers:
It's like a dream.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
We never have projects as long, this is crazy. But I feel like there is this trend happening now kind of having that more 3D, really stylized, a little more concept art or illustrative-looking 3D style, mixed with cel animated effects specifically, which I think is really cool. I think it's really fun.
Ryan Summers:
I agree.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Because you get so much control over the effects and then you don't have to... I don't know. It was a really interesting process because we basically, we tried to work smart and not hard by making a library of effects that we could kind of repurpose and reuse and reposition for a lot of dusts and stuff that. That was going to be crazy to try to animate 300 individual dust puffs just for each [inaudible 00:43:21].
Danni Fisher-Shin:
But there were some really cool, obviously specialized, specific, we had to basically just draw and hand track while we were drawing all these different explosions and stuff like that. And that was super fun and also extremely difficult.
Ryan Summers:
I can only imagine. And there's a great example I think of what you're talking about is that obviously you built the tool kit and that helps, but there are some, what I call hero effect shots. If you go to Danni's site and look for this, the final one at the bottom, you do a great breakdown of this giant creature getting obliterated, but the [crosstalk 00:43:56] kind of affects coming off it, oh my God, it's awesome.
Ryan Summers:
There's the initial explosion and then when he kind of pulls his head up, it kind of pulls the rest of the smoke with it. It had to be built bespoke for this. But Danni does a great job of showing the initial pass, which is already pretty complicated, but then the layers and layers and layers of shadow and highlight and all that stuff on top of it that it makes you want to ask, this doesn't look a lot of other 2D effects animation.
Ryan Summers:
So I'm wondering, was there anyone you studied or any projects? Because it has a very unique feel. Even if it's smoke, it feels very blobby. Everything feels really connected and then it takes a long time to dissipate. That isn't what people normally do. They normally have an explosion and then smoke happens and it goes away as quickly as possible because there's way less drawings. There's tons of drawings on this.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Yeah. I mean, we definitely picked and chose our hero moments that we wanted to spend time on and we were lucky enough to have some time to spend on it. So definitely having the luxury of being able to just make these very slow dissipating, more blobby, kind of viscous smoke, which is kind of my favorite. I don't think we studied anyone specifically. Definitely a lot of anime smoke affects because they just go freaking nuts with all of the effects in those. There's just so much smoke and explosions everywhere. I love it.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
The lead on that actually was Oliver Wee, and he actually was one of the people that in school kind of helped me get into cel animation. So he ended up setting the look for most of the effects at the beginning. And since our styles are kind of similar in effects because we kind of were learning that together. And he was helping me along that when I was first starting, it kind of worked perfectly because it kind of melded together to create the style because we were on it for so long. And then I think we only had three other artists who started on later. So it was just us for a few months on that project.
Ryan Summers:
That's awesome. I mean, you definitely need to go and look at it, because like I said, at the very bottom, there's the process, but there's some amazing stuff, even on the very first one. And what I love about it is like you said, I feel like this is really the knock on effect of Into the Spider-Verse, is this mixing of 3D and 2D, not just in effects or look, but even just timing, mixing stuff from ones and twos and threes with a super smooth camera move. But this top explosion has just all this really awesome timing. It feels almost like molten lava, but there's all this cool bubbling up. But then there's these really graphic, it almost feels a 10% square brush that has dynamics on the thickness of it, that you would never see a 3D animator ever make something like this.
Ryan Summers:
But the fact that it's coming from somebody with a 2D inclination, it looks so different from everything else. In a world where to be honest, most people either just get a 2D effects pack from something off a website or they just watch Michel Gagne's stuff. There's an amazing effect seminar that did work on Iron Giant and the 2D Clone War stuff, Michel Gagne, but everybody kind of mimics his work. So the impact is a little less, this doesn't feel anything like that.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
That's awesome. I love that. Because I didn't even really notice that because I feel like we were just drawing it and we're like, "Yeah, that's good." And then we [inaudible 00:47:00].
Ryan Summers:
You just move on. Yeah.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Yeah. But, I don't know. I do think it's interesting. I feel like maybe being in our own kind of effects bubble maybe kind of did have a cool effect on it. I feel like we definitely did reference more anime than anything else. So I feel like that might've helped us get out of the American effects animation type of world visually, but I wouldn't even have noticed the difference if you didn't say anything. So that's super interesting to hear, just looking back on it now.
Ryan Summers:
Yeah. I mean, it feels different, just in terms of the amount of articulation, the number of passes, that last one, [crosstalk 00:47:39] there's glint, passes rolling over the top of it to make it feel kind of like has volume even though it's graphic. There's a ton of great stuff. I could talk about it forever. I would love to know though, now that you spent seven or eight months just straight on this, do you ever want to do effects animation again or you feel you've had your fill?
Danni Fisher-Shin:
I don't know. I never thought of myself as an effects animator just because my brain doesn't naturally skew towards that as much as it does characters, but it was actually super fun. I definitely struggled, but I learned so much doing it and yeah, even just going through and seeing, "Okay, we have this huge hero moment of this explosion. What can we add to it?" And we did a lot of stuff of looked [inaudible 00:48:21], what different stuff can we put on in the After Effects? What different passes can we add? The past that I think you're talking about, that was almost our lightning pass, even though it's not really lightening.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
It's the bolts of energy that are kind of traveling up through the cloud still. We looked at so many different explosion references just to see what we could add to it. Especially in those hero moments where we had the time to kind of really finesse it and be like, "Okay, what more can we add? What different layers do we have? Do we want to add more depth gradients?" Anything like that. It was really fun to just kind of figure that out. So I guess yes is my answer.
Ryan Summers:
Awesome.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
But time is imperative.
Ryan Summers:
Right. Yeah. I mean, that's such a luxury. I mean, I'm sure at times it was kind of maddening to just doing the same thing over, but any project in motion design, being able to work on the same project for more than a handful of weeks, let alone months, as emotions are, being able to dive that deep into it. You come back out for air and it probably feels like you're almost a totally different artist because it's like going to school again.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Definitely. It was actually really fun. And I do love getting the time to really just... I don't know. I feel like my brain loves to hyper-focus on things and when I have the time and mental space to do that, it's pretty fun.
Ryan Summers:
That's awesome. Well, I mean, like I said, Danni, before we got on this recording, I could talk to you forever about 2D animation, because it's so much fun. And there's such a dearth of this kind of conversation, get into all the nitty-gritty. But before we go, I saw one thing that I have to ask you on your about page, it said that you love reading Indie comics and I would love for you to give our audience... Because that's another area that I'm so surprised by. And I'm not talking about Marvel and DC, but Indie comics is such a ripe place to look for styles and color combinations and poses even. What books are out there that you dig that you think our listeners would appreciate?
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Oh, this is the million dollar question. I feel I could go on forever, but simultaneously forget everything I've ever read when I get asked [crosstalk 00:50:15].
Ryan Summers:
I know. Exactly.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
I mean, I was just pulling together some recommendations for somebody else. So you have me on a good day. There's just so many amazing artists in Indie comics. And I feel like there's such a cool female and queer-led movement happening in that world right now that's so amazing to see. Most recently, one that I read that I really really loved was On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden. I don't know if that counts as Indie anymore, because now it's a lot of first, second publishing. But that one and then Rosemary Valero-O'Connell made this really amazing anthology of her own shorter comics called Don't Go Without Me that's amazing.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
And the art styles in both of these are just so cool. And the composition, the way that they lay out the panels is really amazing. Also special mentioned to Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, which was Rosemary Valero-O'Connell and, oh my gosh, I can't remember the person who actually wrote the story, but she did the art for it. And it's just so good. I'm obsessed with all of those.
Ryan Summers:
I mean, there's so much stuff out there that it's almost you just have to tell someone, "Okay, look at this publisher or look at this imprint and just pick up three or four things before you go mental."
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Absolutely. I definitely follow a lot of different comics publishing. Silver Sprocket is always great for more [zene 00:51:33] content. First Second is amazing. I follow Shortbox, which is [crosstalk 00:51:37]-
Ryan Summers:
I'm so glad you said Shortbox.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Yeah. All of the cool ones that I can only find at [inaudible 00:51:41] but can't get now because there aren't [inaudible 00:51:43]. Just, yeah, there's a lot of material and I definitely follow a lot of people on Instagram that put out books, and I love it so much.
Ryan Summers:
I'm so I'm glad you said that. Because I think one thing I struggled with in our industry is that so many people make so much time for making things for other people, for stuff that they may not really have that much of an emotional connection with. You can only care so much about the next Alexa product or whatever, a can of Coke.
Ryan Summers:
But I think comics, whether they're web comics or zenes, especially now that you can actually get outside and meet people, I feel like it's a world that's ripe for motion designers, especially illustrators that have an interest in character to exercise or make something for themselves. So I have to ask the question, are you interested? Are you ever going to make your own web comic or comic?
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Oh, I would love to. honestly, that's one of the things that I would love to do as a personal project. It's kind of been a lofty goal of mine, sometime in the abstract future when I am not burnt out from working from home in a room for a year and a half. But absolutely I would be so interested in that. That's the dream.
Ryan Summers:
If you do it, let us know because we'll have you back on. Because I would love to help get more people thinking that way. Because I think it's an untapped side hustle, which I hate that word, but it's an untapped kind of opportunity to make other stuff.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Yeah. I think it's such a great expression.
Ryan Summers:
Yeah, exactly. It's such a great way to just feel like you can express yourself with your creativity in a way that also helps you level up in your day-to-day work too. The more you draw for yourself, the more I think it will help expose what your interests are. So Danni, thank you a thousand times over, this was an awesome conversation. I think people have heard a lot about different tools and different ways to approach things, but just I think people should really take a look at your work, because you're missing out if you haven't seen her work yet.
Danni Fisher-Shin:
Thank you. Thanks for allowing me to just nerd out about a bunch of stuff for an hour. It was great.
Ryan Summers:
Well, there you go, motioneers. If you've got an iPad, grab a copy of Procreate and start drawing. Like Danni said, it really is all about honing in on those fundamentals. There's no quick and easy silver bullet on how to get magical with 2D animation. But the good thing is, if you can draw at all, you can get better. You can start with lines, with boxes and circles, and test out your timing, test out your posing, test out your easing and every inch that you draw, you'll get better.
Ryan Summers:
And it's going to open up a whole world of inspiration for you to discover and explore. And as always, that's the whole point of the School of Motion Podcast. To introduce you to great new people, to get you inspired and to get you up and running, getting better at the skills you want to learn. Until next time, peace.