Not every course needs the following equipment. However, for the complete Foundational Certificate in Animation courses each student will require access to the following equipment at certain stages of their studies...
It has to be acknowledged from the outset that today’s traditional animators do require some kind of computer technology to do their work. Although a significant amount of these traditionalists still prefer to use only pencils and paper to create their animation, other '2D-ers' are going paperless by choice - meaning they draw straight into the computer via a ‘Wacom’ tablet or a ‘Cintiq’ using digital pens. Paperless approaches certainly do speed up the entire animation production process. But for certain forms its not as accurate and sympathetic to a character animation process - and it is far more expensive for course!
A traditional pencil and paper approach is less technologically demanding and definitely does provide a greater chance of accuracy and finesse with the work - that is, if that work is of a high-quality, character animation nature. For the traditional purest we will be approaching this course with primarily a pencil and paper philosophy. However, at the end of this course I will provide vector-based alternatives to some of this course material for the more technologically driven student. This will primarily involve using "ToonBoom Studio" software.
For a greater insight into a mixed traditional and digital process, please check out the video at the end of this particular lecture. It is a promotional teaser for an animated movie project I'm currently developing - "Spirit of the Game" - which is still being worked upon as I write this course material. The video starts with a short introduction to the project by me. What then follows is a broad overview of the traditional/digital processes I used to create the teaser material that can be seen afterwards. Please realize that this teaser is still only work-in-progress at this point in time. Further up-to-date information on 'Spirit of the Game' can be found via the link at the end of the video.
Returning to the subject in question, a traditionally-based 2D animator's equipment list will include... ‘pencils’, ‘punched paper’, ‘peg bar’, ‘eraser’, ‘electric pencil sharpener’, ‘lightbox’, ‘field guide’ and‘capture device’ or ‘scanner’. Other software will be required to render animation capture to a movie format and film editing software will be required to make a film project.
Pretty much any pencil that makes an accurate mark on a piece of paper can be used for animation. However most professional 2D animators tend to go for either a blue or red ‘Col-erase’ pencil. The old Disney traditional animation studio would use either the blue (NOT the non-photographic blue by the way, as that is too light to work with) or the red for different production line purposes.
Most non-studio traditional animators tend to choose the blue Col-erase pencil for their work, as it has a superb drawing quality and yet when used lightly, with a much darker line cleaned-up drawing on top of it, will not show up on most scanners. Col-rase pencils even have an eraser on the end which are convenient to use when changes to a drawing are necessary. However, the eraser does often wear down quite quickly and therefore you'll probably have to buy a supplementary eraser to use when it does so.
Animators work on paper that is punched with an industry-standard registration hole system which prevents the drawings from sliding around when they’re drawn and shot on film or video. Most online animation suppliers will offer all kinds of paper based on the traditional ‘Acme’ peg system.
However, there is now a more accessible and inexpensive route for students and beginners. Lightfoot Ltd. now takes advantage of the regular 3-hole office punch system found in offices everywhere. To increase your cost savings, you only need to buy regular photocopying paper and a standard 3-hole punch from the local office store. Then you're ready to go! However, this system will only work for home based animators, as schools and studios everywhere will almost certainly use the Acme system.
(Note: The 3-hole punch system is primarily used in the USA. So if you are in another part of the world you may have to adapt your paper registration holes to a different system near to you - or alternatively you can always get Lightfoot to ship either Acme or 3-hole materials to you internationally.)
Clearly whatever registration system you choose for your punched paper you’ll need its corresponding version for the peg bar you use. Without a doubt its virtually impossible to do 2D animation without some consistent peg registration process in place. In terms of actual peg bars, budget will determine the route to go. Plastic pegbars are very attractively available for just a few dollars. However these are prone to break if you’re careless with them. So perhaps a preferable route will be metal peg bars, which are far more durable of course but more expensive.
Erasers are just erasers, so there’s no special one that you’ll need for 2D animation. The only thing I would advise is that you don't only rely on the eraser at the end of your Cole-erase pencil alone, as they do tend to wear down pretty quickly. To adjust for that you can get very inexpensive eraser caps to put over the top of your worn-down pencil erasers - which will give you the same ease and convenience that the built-in eraser gives you. Alternatively, there are battery-powered electric erasers that some professionals prefer - or a kneadable eraser that can come in very handy at the 'clean-up' stage of your animation process.
Electric pencil sharpener:
It perhaps sounds excessive to suggest a student should have an electric pencil sharpener but if you intend to take 2D hand-drawn animation seriously you’ll really wish you had one. The reason is that you’ll get through a lot of drawings very quickly and that suggests there will always be the need for a great deal of pencil sharpening along the way. A manual pencil sharpener can always do that of course but when you’re in the throws of drawing so many animation drawings the convenience of having the ability to quickly sharpen your pencil will pretty much make the electric pencil sharpener a necessity, rather than a luxury.
One of the absolute essential things any student needs for the creation of traditional hand-drawn animation is a ‘lightbox’. Lightboxes can be cheap or they can be very expensive. One of the beautiful, wooden, ex-Disney studio desks - effectively the Rolls Royce of lightboxes - was sold on eBay in 2011 for a mere $8,000+!
At the other end of the cost spectrum a simple craftworker’s lightbox - such as the ‘Lighttracer II’ - is probably a more practical proposition - often costing under $100 online. Despite its cost economies, it is perfectly adequate for most people’s needs one a peg bar is attached.
Capture device & Software:
Animation drawings mean nothing if you cannot capture them and somehow play them back as a video for others to see. This is particularly true in a big production where an animator needs the director to view their work for a final approval. Similarly for students creating pencil test assignments for critique and grading. The camera/lightbox combination is a perfect set-up for the 2D animator but capturing can also be achieve through scanning each drawing too.
Of course a capture device alone is not sufficient to get your work on the screen. You will need image capture software too that can render your captured work to a movie format. There are currently two software packages that can link to a video camera and record the images to a video playback format. These are DigiCel’s ‘Flipbook’ and ToonBoom Technology’s ‘Pencil Test’. Students will definitely need to obtain one of these, or something similar, to see their animation moving - although I have seen animation captured on a simple iPhone with a suitable frame capture app installed.