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Creative Slush by Chris Dunmire

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Nit Wits Comic #44: Fall Tree September-4-2008

Nit Wits #44: Fall Tree © 2008 Chris Dunmire

If a tree falls in a forest ... (or how I animated my first Nit Wits comic)

By Chris Dunmire, Animated Humorist

Welcome to my first animated Nit Wits comic ever! Whew — what a lot of work that was. Even with cutting-edge graphics software technology and user-friendly animation plotters, crafting this baby still took a lot of skill, planning, and time!

I don't know how many more zany comics I'll be inclined to animate like this, so I reckon we should enjoy and celebrate this one like a vintage collector's item snagged for a steal off of eBay — it might be the one and only!

How I did it

I created this tree art years ago using Adobe Illustrator. At the time I didn't have a specific use in mind for it other than as a drawing exercise. I was also playing around with tree leaf shapes and ended up plucking, scanning, and tracing genuine leave off trees to produce my printable fall leaf templates for parents, teachers, and home schoolers (you'll see these leaves used a lot in the fall themes around here).

Then about a month ago as summer began to wind down, the "fall tree" play on words inspired within me this delightful collapsing concept. An autumn delight of falling leaves, and falling trees! So I dug up my tree, toyed with nature by artificially changing its leaf colors, and began my animating quest.

True, the 'copy and paste' function was my friend 14 times in reproducing my original tree art (notice its beautifully crafted autumn-esque palette of hand-colored leaves and branches twigging into little thin sprigs!), but I still had to craft each "frame" by plucking leaves off the tree and positioning them in the dynamic spectrum of their fallage. Yes, I made each leaf fall! Here's smaller shots of all 15 stills used to compile this funny animated masterpiece:

Falling leaf tree stills from Nit Wits comic #44 (animated) by Chris Dunmire

After I had all the stills done, I imported them into Photoshop layer by layer over a Nit Wits comic box background and then used the ImageReady component to complete the animation by turning each layer into a frame. Then I coordinated the timing between each frame to make the animation live (which I did, and redid, and did again and again and again until I was satisfied with the punch line effect. Timing IS everything!).

Pretty cool, huh? Obviously, the more 'slightly modified' frames used for an animation will yield a more convincing masterpiece, but I didn't want to go overboard and make the final file size of the animated gift overbearing, nor did I aim for perfection — surely this keeps in step with its comic charm!

Truly, it was fun playing around with the animation process for this simple little amateur comic, however, I wouldn't have been so eager if times were like Disney cartoonists and MGM animators of old who had to hand draw, color, and animate every single comic cell of a production.

On the other hand, who knows, maybe a day job like that would have been fun. •

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ęChris Dunmire, www.chrisdunmire.com.