Painting a bigger picture

Flash is now making the big leap to film and television

For a time last year, Richard Bazley, the lead animator on “Hercules” and the supervising animator on “The Iron Giant,” was leading two lives.

By day, he would be part of the studio machine by working on “Osmosis Jones,” a huge animated undertaking starring the voice work of Chris Rock for Warner Bros. By night, he would come home, sit in front of his computer, and do some solitary work on his very own animated short film, “The Journal of Edwin Carp.”

Working by himself and with two other producers, “Edwin Carp” was finished in 10 months. How is it possible? Bazley used Flash, the animation software developed by Macromedia.

Long considered the stalwart of animation on the Web, Flash is moving into traditional media. Favored for its simplicity to learn and ease of use, Hollywood is starting to view Flash as a way to drastically reduce the amount of time and expense it takes to get an animated feature released to the public, either as a film or on television.

“If I had done this traditionally it would have taken me 10 times as long and cost ten times as much,” Bazley said of “Edwin Carp”, which uses the voice work of Hugh Laurie (“Stuart Little.”) “You can get the computer to do a lot of the movement for you. Instead of having to do hundreds of drawings you can do just ten and get the same effect.”

Besides film, Flash is also popping up on television. The animated introduction to “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” was created by Bullseye Art in Gotham using the software. It’s also become a popular technique for music videos: Duran Duran’s “Someone Else, Not Me,” Dice Raw’s “Thin Line (Between Raw & Jiggy,)” and Beck’s “Nicotine and Gravy” were all animated using Flash.

A number of animated TV shows are currently in development for the broadcast network that are using Flash as the primary production tool.

Courtney Holt, spokesman for Universal Music Group, said Flash was originally supposed to create one part of the video — but once the animators got rolling, they decided to complete the piece using the software. “We concluded that this was too good to be short,” he said.

While the Beck video was “more expensive,” Holt said there’s no reason why a piece the length of a typical music video couldn’t be totally animated for between $2,000 to $3,000.

The cost savings comes from the computer taking over the steps that are done by animators in traditional studio settings, said Jeremy Clark, a product manager for Flash at Macromedia.

“For a long time Hollywood didn’t realize that there was a tool out there that was created so that one person could use it to draw directly into a computer,” he said. “Using Flash with a mouse or a pen and tablet, they could draw and animate with it all by themselves and wouldn’t have to rely on a whole team of animators.”

Using Flash, an artist can draw the figure once and click on the place where he wants the character to wind up and the computer will process the rest of the work.

Bazley, whose “Edwin Carp” is currently being transferred to film for a limited run in Los Angeles to qualify it for the Academy Awards, said such streamlining is a Godsend.

“You don’t have to do the rough animation, then clean it up, then scan it into the computer, then add all these special effects,” he said. “I could do a scene with all those elements in an evening, where in traditional animation it would take at least a month.”