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Cel Animation Workflow

LEGEND ,
Sep 28, 2022 Sep 28, 2022

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Animate and Photoshop are great tools for cel animation but both lack the usability for modern motion design workflows that After Effects would provide. Adding support for photoshop-style raster animation in After Effects would bring this powerful technique into the right environment, and add features useful for unrelated workflows.

To solve this, I propose the addition of a new Frame Paint Effect, which would would enable a fast, non-parametric way to paint into an effect. It would work like this:

Photoshop brush engine
- Painting pixels not strokes.
- Focus on speed, quality and tablet pressure/tilt support, NOT editability.
- Ideally you'd be able to paint into both the layer viewer and the comp viewer if you want, so you animate in context of other layers.

Onion Skin!
- This should be done on the effect level like 3D Camera Tracker points, so it's there when you need it (when you have the effect selected) but doesn't get rendered.
- Options for duration, opacity, and incoming/outgoing colors.

Frame Animation Property Type
- The current paint effect adds a new property group for each stroke. Instead, the "Frame Paint" effect would work entirely in one property, whose "keyframes" are actually image sources. In the timeline and in the layer viewer, these keyframes would be presented as cel frames (similar to the photoshop timeline) with adjustable duration. The interface would also allow for draggable reordering of frames without risk of overwriting an existing frame, but other than that, they're basically hold keys under the hood. The image data could be held as raster images inside the AEP or even in a sidecar PSD file.

Additionally:

Assignable shortcuts for:
- add split
- duplicate split
- move frame forward/backward (⌥+PgUp / ⌥+PgDn)
- increase/decrease frame duration (⌥⇧+PgUp / ⌥⇧+PgDn)
(extend shortcuts to top row numbers 1 and 2 when layer viewer is active)

Finally, and vitally... the Brushes panel should accept tool presets with access to cloud presets. Because who doesn't want Kyle Brushes in After Effects?
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8 Comments
LEGEND ,
Sep 28, 2022 Sep 28, 2022

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You can do all of this now with Paint & Stick 🙂 https://aescripts.com/paint-and-stick/

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LEGEND ,
Sep 28, 2022 Sep 28, 2022

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Per Paint & Stick: I admire After Effects' extendibility, and the After Effects team's desire to not compete with it's developing community.

However, I believe there are a couple things here that I think are important to be native, in the best interest of Adobe and its users:

Photoshop tool preset compatibility would reveal the incredibly powerful features and intellectual property (ie Kyle Brushes) available in Photoshop.

A proper frame animation property type would best represent this workflow (and potentially others). There is currently not a good native way to have image data as a property, and building this would involve fixing that in a way that makes sense for images.

These and some other things just can't be done with a plugin, in my understanding of the SDK. I would also argue that on their own, they deserve to be core functionalities of an animation program with the comprehensiveness of AE. Specifically I personally believe this core functionality of a Cel workflow should be available in AE, which can then be built on and improved by third parties like aescripts. Give us the functionality, and we'll add features to it.

All that said, if you need something *similar* to this workflow now, definitely go buy paint & stick. This is a powerful workflow and the guys at aescripts deserve more credit than I alone can give them for actually building something close.

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LEGEND ,
Sep 28, 2022 Sep 28, 2022

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> A proper frame animation property type would best represent this workflow

P&S offers this as well by the way 😉

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Adobe Employee ,
Sep 28, 2022 Sep 28, 2022

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You probably already know that, but if not and for the others reading this post, 2 Photoshop extensions exist:
– AnimDessin2: https://github.com/sbaril/Photoshop-Animation
– Animator’s Toobar Pro: https://www.adobeexchange.com/creativecloud.details.17281.html

And you can import the PSD as a Composition (without render) in After Effects.
+1 on Paint & Stick

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Explorer ,
Sep 28, 2022 Sep 28, 2022

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As a lover of cel animation myself I've wrackted my brain about how to best go about it...

The best solution would be to have aphotoshop as the base applicatoon since it's already a world leader in handling pixel based art creation. But the timeline workflows in there have been like trying to decipher klingon algebra for me. I have no idea how anyone gers anything useable out of it.

My current solution is to use Adobe Animate for frame animation. And with the latest version I should be able to import .fla files as svg layers, though that has been unreliable at best. Most of the time it just freezes during import. So instead most of my work has been done by either exporting the frames as PNG files (a waste of space since there is no way to ignore repeated frames during export) or rendering them as movies, which usually ignores layer visibility so I have to manually remove guide and rough layers before export. And Animate is for some reason still focused on coding so there is just a lot of unwanted bloat in there for people who just want to draw animation. And the brushes are limited to only rectangles and elipses so it's kind of needlessly old fashioned...

There are other software like Krita that looks promising, but I would love it if adobe would just break the animation portion of Animate out into its own software and modernised the brush engine with tools from photoshop and make the integration to AE and PPro reliable.

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LEGEND ,
Sep 28, 2022 Sep 28, 2022

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My general workflow thus far has been to drag and drop a folder of frames into the timeline and then sequence them. However not having something like a Rolling Edit tool like in Premiere makes adjusting how long frames hold on take longer to edit.

I can get a sort of similar effect if I just use Opacity frame holds on layers that span the whole timeline, but then the timeline looks quite messy, and performance wise since the layers are still technically active it can get a bit heavy.

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Community Beginner ,
Sep 28, 2022 Sep 28, 2022

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Just saw this.
The BattleAxe TimeLord plugin is a great Cel Workflow for encorporating After Effects with Photoshop / Animate.

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Contributor ,
Sep 28, 2022 Sep 28, 2022

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When after effects removed the ability to paint directly in the composition window many, MANY years ago, I hoped it would make a comeback, but alas, it hasn't. I'm not really sure why this can't be implemented again since it has already been in the program before.

I've done Cel Animation (Scanned paper) in After Effects since 2001. It's pretty tedious but the results can be good. One tried and true method involves painting everything in Photoshop where each Cel is one layer in the PSD file. scanning and painting this way is rather tedious, but the results look good. best practices involve creating an actions pallet to perform repetitive tasks like removing the white paper and filling areas of color. Once it's painted (and each layer named properly to the corresponding cel name/number) you import that psd into AE and sequence the animation by opacity Hold Keyframes.

I have a copy of BattleAxe, but haven't been able to fully dive into it yet. It looks fantastic, but i can't full vouch for it yet.

Check out Animation paper. it may have what you're looking for: https://animationpaper.com/

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