Automatic Inbetweens?

Burbank-based Tim Pyle Animation claims to have created a new method of using CG technology to automatically animate traditional 2D characters. The company’s founder and namesake, a former Jimmy Neutron and SpongeBob Squarepants animator, says the system for creating automatic inbetween frames can cut production time and costs, potentially keeping more 2D animation work in the U.S.

Traditionally, lead animators draw key character poses and inbetweeners fill in the gaps by drawing each intervening frame by hand. The labor-intensive process is one of the main reasons animation goes overseas to countries like Japan, Korea and Canada, where labor is cheaper and government subsidies help cover costs.

Automated animation is not a new idea. A number of companies have been developing similar systems for CG animation. Last year’s much-panned animated holiday special The Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa, from J. Rose Prods. and Wolf Tracer Studios, employed automated animation cycles.

Prior to working for Nickelodeon on such shows as Max Steel and Invader Zim, Tim Pyle served as an animator on Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles. Recently, he helped the SCI FI Channel’s miniseries event Children of Dune win a 2003 Emmy for Best Visual Effects. His latest work can be seen in the upcoming Warner Bros. big-screen feature Looney Tunes: Back in Action.

To showcase the new technology, the company has begun production on Space Bees, a 75-minute animated feature that combines the automated 2D animation system with cel-shaded CG environments. The budget is said to be "dramatically under $1 million."

Pyle is currently looking for investors to help expand his company. ‘We’re at the dawn of a new era in animation," he says. "Overseas companies may try to lure animation from the United States, but there’s one thing they’ll never be able to duplicate: our innovation."

For more information on Tim Pyle, Space Bees or the technology associated with it, see the Space Bees web site at www.spacebees.com.