Making 2D Cut-Out Animations with Blender's Grease Pencil

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BLOWN APART! Is an independent animated comedy created by Nick Alberelli and Youp Zondag. Featuring Gianni Sallese as Beethoven and Napoleon, plus music/sound by Michael Ferguson. This is a passion project, that is both an exploration of interesting workflows, and a creative outlet for us. At Tiny Media, we pride ourselves, in finding ways to work smarter, not harder. Our latest episode BLOWN APART! Bonaparte vs Beethoven in B flat is out now!

Animation and Characters!

We rig every new character in the show to add them to a growing list of characters. Blender currently doesn’t have a simple cut out animation system, but using several time offset modifiers in combination with a 3D rig it is achievable. We have an internal addon we use to control these rigs, we may release a rig addon in the future. But as cut-out workflows are unique to their art styles, there is a lot of work to be done.

We love the new Pose Library system and have been utilizing it to speed up our animation, so we can focus on the story of our episodes. As Blender’s internal tools get better and better, the need for writing custom addons to do specific production level tasks is quickly diminishing.

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Line Art & 3D Environments

Because we are a small team doing this work in our spare time, 3D backgrounds and NPR techniques really benefit us. Using Line Art allows us to achieve a very specific look. Line Art is great feature instantly transforming our environments.
Grease Pencil’s anti-aliasing has really been a challenge, especially when doing camera moves. https://developer.blender.org/T90321 We are really looking forward to see grease pencil integrated into “Eevee next”. https://developer.blender.org/T93220

Art Direction on the Fly
Using tools like Geometry nodes we are able to quickly generate different buildings to populate our backdrops.

These are full 3D Buildings which allows us to re-use them in many episodes into the future. We use geometry nodes a lot to populate hallways, bookshelves and other easily repeatable assets.

Sequencer Workflow

Because in our process we prioritize creativity, we have adopted a sequencer workflow. Blender already contains 90% of the the features we need, so including a sequencer in Blender allows Blender to be the only program we need to make majority of the series. This workflow allows us to quickly navigate between shots, in the same blender file. A custom python addon had to be written to adapt the sequencer workflow onto our system of 2D Characters & Line Art. If there is interest we may share the full add-on eventually.

Some challenges we have with Line Art in the sequencer is https://developer.blender.org/T100596. Our workaround is to bake all of our sequencer cameras down to a single camera using python and assigning that as the custom camera for Line Art.

Why we love Blender

There is no such thing as a perfect software, and Blender is just like any piece of software in that way. But it is the direction of the Blender Foundation, and their values that keeps us using Blender. As you can see above Blender allows us to create faster, it’s robust data structures and common GUI elements make it easy to scale. When I learn something in blender I can be confident that I can re-use that knowledge in other parts of the program. There is a sheer consistency that is unmatched by any other software, open source or paid.

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Super cool breakdown !

It’s really an interesting project and it’s really great to see a small team pulling out a series on their own ! Congrats and I hope that post will get the attention it deserves !

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Generous of you to share. Great work. Keep it up!

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Wow, super-interesting breakdown, so much information about innovative ways to do things!

“What? Deaf? Who?” :wink:

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As I was watching this I wasn’t even thinking about Blender. So I guess the point I’m making is that it’s a good enough story line and animation sequence to lose one’s self inside of for the duration. In fact, the only thing that came to mind was that the German accent wasn’t German enough. :slight_smile:

You guys might want to think about creating a course/tutorial for the Blender foundation and let people view it as part of their monthly subscription. This kind of work is something that I am also doing, to an extent, but in another program. If I could understand how to do it in Blender, I would.

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Hey thank you so much! Such kind words :slight_smile:

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Thank you for saying that and I hope to post more breakdowns in the future!

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Very nice of you to say! And of course always room for improvement :slight_smile:

Will be posting some more tutorials in the future on our youtube channel!

We are just two independent artists working in Blender. i think all the tutorials on the Blender cloud are from their studio artists? But i could be wrong about that.

Also i’m curious what program are you working in?

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They released a few courses made by people outside the studio who didn’t work on open movies :

Since what you’re doing is different from what blender studio is doing they might be interested,
A lot of people are trying to do their own short or series, what you did is really a successful attempt at that. I"m sure a lot of people could be interested to know more about how you managed to do it. Furthermore setting up character rigs in grease pencil is probably something a lot of people might be also interested in !

Anyway, being through the blendercloud or not, there is a ton of knowledge worth sharing here I think !

Keep up the good work !

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You’re on the #featured row! :+1:

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It looks great , I hope you guys receive more attention. Your works is amazing :grin:
VidMate Download NOW

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A fantastic showcase for Blender 2D+3D animation!
Congratulations!

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Thank you!!!

Very kind of you to say! Thank you :slight_smile:

I featured you on BlenderNation, have a great weekend!

What! :o Thank so much!!!

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Awesome breakdown! Thanks for that :slight_smile:

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Congratulations, this work has been nominated for the ‘Best of Blender Artists 2022’ award in the #npr category! You can vote for it here.

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