Animation as a training aid

By Alex Bickerstaffe

Visual aid mediums are now being used by many sporting bodies, not the least by my own, the British Amateur Weight Lifters Association.  (B.A.W.L.A.)

In the making of one of our aids we pick out of a movie film of a weight lifter, those relevant frames which will be used in the analysis of the movement. These frames arc then enlarged, printed, and then coloured. Various lines are blocked in with shading. They are re-photographed in pairs in a 1-2, 2-3 sequence using colour slide film so they can be projected on to a screen. The coach can then talk concerning the positions of the weight lifter in detail making points in relation to the correct technique.

As a Senior Coach I have given such lectures using this aid on many occasions.
We also use movie film of lifters slowed down frame by frame using a Spectre Analyser 16mm projector.

However, despite the fact that we often view film of the world’s top lifter’s, in many cases lifting world record poundages, individual technique is not always as we coaches would like it to be.

So I thought, why not a Technical Animated film of a lifter lifting world record poundagcs, using perfect technique and having a superb physique to boot. Nothing is impossible in animation so I am told.

Little did I realise what was involved in this sort of project. I can just see many of you smiling away and nodding your heads.

My resolve was strengthened when I saw on TV the Disney film. GOOFY OVER SPORT. This film must be my next buy.

I won’t dwell on the film as I am sure most of you saw it when I did. Sufficient to say that some of the line animation that was used inspired me, though I am not sure how it was done.

I’ve been using a movie camera for years for holiday stuff and not much else. I had a good camera and tripod and wondered what else I would need for animation.

A look through the movie mags was the first priority. A Filmcraft add caught my eye, “Everything for the cartoon animator.” I sent off for the catalogue. I was amazed. Here were things I had never heard of, cels, peg bars, light boxes, rostrums, oh dear! Then a page listing “Books for Animators”. I wrote off for the book ANIMATION IN TWELVE HARD LESSONS by Bob Heath.

What a great buy it was. It was not long before I was very carefully taking the book to pieces page by page and having a go at the exercises. To cut a long story short and so as not to bore you all, I had a lot of fun, a lot of laughs and I did learn about cartoon animation.

After some ‘stick men’ loops which I ran through my editor I soon found how careful one has to be in creating movement. My men moved everywhere rather than where I wanted them to move.

The tripod and cross hair registration method just had to be improved on. So another look at the Filmcraft Catalogue. A trip to my bank for a second mortgage and over a period I bought paper, cels, paint, an animation disc, a light box and finally the Filmcraft 80 Rostrum.

I must be honest and say that I had some misgivings when I sent off for the equipment. It’s not cheap in my opinion, but once it arrived my fears were dispelled. Everything was superbly packed and was excellent quality. I spent days just looking at it. The disc is a whiz, you can draw anyway you wish, just turn the disc. Even my stick men look better when using it.

Here I was with great ambitions as an amateur with real professional gear. I have been talking to other weight lifting coaches to try and scrounge film of weight lifters in action to use as a basis for the animation. If any of you happen to have any ‘footage’ of weight lifters to spare, that I could cut up, send it along and you will be my friend for life.

I work regular nights (security) and so am unable to get along to a cine club. Most of what I’ve learnt has been from books and from having a go.

Originally printed in Animator’s newsletter Issue 1 (Summer 1982)