Is computer animation the wrong medium for Transformers?

Discussion in 'Transformers Earthspark and Cartoon Discussion' started by Toad84, Oct 19, 2020.

  1. Toad84

    Toad84 Well-Known Member

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    Versus traditional animation?

    I just rewatched Prime, and it had very few unique characters. Prime, Bumblebee, Ratchet, Bulkhead, Arcee, Wheeljack, Smokescreen, Ultra Magnus, and Cliffjumper for the Autobots. Megatron, Starscream, Knock Out, Breakdown, Shockwave, and Predaking for the Decepticons. Skyquake and Dreadwing were color swaps. Then waves of identical Vehicons and Insecticons. And of course Unicron and the 8 human characters. And this all took place in barren often rocky landscapes.

    Then we get to Siege. Same problem. Small character list and tons of recolors.

    I know redecos happened in every Transformers to fill out rosters with generics but Prime and Siege were the most egregious.

    Cyberverse probably had the best of both worlds with a large varied cast despite using classic animation looking computer cel shading.

    So is Transformers in animation best suited to classic animation(G1), computer(Prime), or a mix of both(Cyberverse)?
     
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  2. GeoSociety

    GeoSociety Quit

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    If done wrong, yes. I think the problem lies whenever they pull out another "epic scale" story based show, because the story always will outweigh the budget. When it comes to 3D animation especially it should be done about working within your limits. Same way Toy Story was revolutionized 25 years ago in a way to speak since Hasbro hasn't been as expensive with investing their TF shows. A perfect example of this problem would be Prime or Siege which is what you described. Now I kinda trash these shows often, but when the Prime and Siege writers want something like an epic/grand/avengers/DOTM scale story, and the art department wants it to look like the prettiest ILM film EVER and as a result we get these blatant problems like super generic backdrops, generic nobodies, there's an obvious problem.

    Recently I think a good example if done right could've been Cyberverse. I did enjoy this show alot but I think they could've pulled something off much cooler if they had better writing. Presumably they didn't have a high budget for sure, but later in the later seasons the backdrop environments actually started looking unique, the fight scene between Iaconus and Croaton was great, the Quintesson's designs were also creative. They were on the right path for sure with the stylistic of the show, but were hindered by a cheap script and voice acting.

    At some point I really do want TF to go back to traditional 2D animation for obvious reasons. Then they'd surely be able to let loose with their writers. But 3D animation shouldn't be feared because of what I said, if used properly you can use it to full potential.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2020
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  3. Liege Nemesis

    Liege Nemesis Snarks about old cartoons

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    No. Beast Wars showed that you can do CG Transformers well even when you consider that they were hamstrung by the obvious limitations of 1996 CG technology. (or especially because they were restricted in such a way)

    The trick is to lean into the creativity that the limitations of the medium impose on you.

    You can't have huge expansive casts because character models are time and cost intensive to make. So make the show small scale, focused on just a few characters. But develop those characters really well.

    There's a temptation to use the fact that a 3D model can strongly replicate the actual toys, but recognize that doing so can leave you with stiff, lifeless forms that look dull and uninteresting. So inject life and vibrancy into how the characters can move and act. Beast Wars' strength in its characters is that in spite of the primitive models having lots of issues with obvious exposed joints, stretching, clipping, texture mapping issues, and cheaty transformations galore, the animation uses the freedom of the character model process to make a lot of little touches that add to the immersion and realization of its characters. Megatron is a huge hand-talker, making him look more grandiose and bond-villain-esque. Blackarachnia would slink, sway, and sashay when she moved, drawing her hand/claw things across other bots, tilting her head, and playing up that femme fatale/seductress role for all it was worth. Dinobot could often be seen grimacing and averting his gaze in contempt whenever the Maximals suggested a less-than-direct (read: violent) option for stuff. Enough little things like that breathe life into the cast sufficient to overcome the restrictions of CG.

    Play with the camera, be cinematic. use creative scene transitions and shot angles. Do everything you can to make the most of what the tech can do while hiding what it can't. Then, as long as you deliver a show that's well-written and well-acted enough it'll be positively received.

    The problems you cite are not automatic to CG productions. They're automatic to productions that use CG badly. It's an important distinction that makes all the difference.
     
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  4. jungle penguins

    jungle penguins Well-Known Member

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    One trick that's been used in recent years is pretty funny. If a character's altmode doesn't need to be shown in the story, they just don't make the altmode. It's not concepted (what ever a toy team does is likely separate), it's not modeled, it just doesn't exist. Not until the story really needs it. By doing so, you save a lot of budget because Transformers characters are usually 2 models (robot, vehicle). Cyberverse got away with that a lot of times. Transformers Prime based an entire plot point of Predaking learning to transform because for a few episodes, they didn't have the budget for the fancy transformation to robot mode.
     
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  5. optimalsupreme

    optimalsupreme Well-Known Member

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    Computer all the way.

    With Beast Wars it was the fact they had a small roster which meant they had to really develop the characters instead of churning out new ones.

    It's quality over quantity.

    Beast Wars as well was full of just rocks and trees but it's the detailed character models that you actually about.

    Cyberverse had loads of characters and yes some of them were fun but everything was rushed and meaningless.

    Prowl, Shockwave, Cheetor all die early in S3 and are just forgotten about. Why, because there's a tonner of other characters and new ones every other episode.

    It might look more creative but it feels hollow.
     
  6. Arrogant Arachnid

    Arrogant Arachnid Banned

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    Don't think there is a thing as "wrong medium" for Transformers
     
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  7. ABrown

    ABrown Well-Known Member

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    I love Transformers in beautiful CGI.
     
  8. kaijuguy19

    kaijuguy19 Keyblade Wielder

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    Like others said it really depends on how it's used. Beast Wars is a great example of how it does CGI right.
     
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  9. Honorbound

    Honorbound Well-Known Member

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    To add my voice to the choir, I'm going to say that it's all in the execution. You need to know what you're trying to do, you need to use your assets smartly, and you need to understand and work with the limitations and strengths of the medium. The Beast Era proved that CG can work and work damned well, whereas Energon and the Prime Wars are master classes in how not to use CG.
     
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  10. AutobotAvalanche

    AutobotAvalanche Number One in Boogieland

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    Medium is completely irrelevant. Siege and Prime have problems that run far, far deeper than "not enough characters" which isn't even a problem at all.
     
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  11. TheUltimateBum

    TheUltimateBum Nautica Lover

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    Computer animation is a good medium, but the problem is when you try to make something way too grand that will balloon your budget considerably.

    Beast Wars and Beast Machines knew their limitations and despite the dated animation and blank backgrounds in BW, they didn't focus on what they couldn't do. Instead, the showrunners always tried to tell stories that would allow them to show what they could do really well, not what they couldn't do. Even Beast Machines, which was conceived in the style of an epic novel for television, knew that it had to keep the stories within the budget and did it really well, feeling quite intense without feeling pretentious.

    Energon and Cybertron... *sigh* I'll give Cybertron something over Energon: Cybertron's characters can emote a little bit (but it still isn't on the level of BW or BM). But otherwise... I feel they were too literal with the toy designs being perfectly represented onscreen (that made the animation look clunky as hell). I haven't seen Siege, and I'm not going to, but judging from the trailers, it has the same problem. Using CAD models of the toys? Well, that is nice and all, but the problem is that the characters just look lifeless and emotionless. BW did go with the 'perfect toy in show' approach, but knew that concessions had to be made (hence why character heads and faces tend to look different from their toy counterparts in order to allow for better facial reactions and why the color schemes tended to differ in order to make the characters stand out).

    TFP just wanted to feel way too grand and epic, and that is what failed in their case. They promised way too much, and their budget ballooned to the point that they were forced to cut corners constantly. They did have good fight scenes, nicely detailed designs and very intricate transformations, but I could instantly tell that just those things really did hurt the budget of the series and basically forced the showrunners to take some really bad shortcuts. A Bayverse-esque aesthetic with lots of detail and intricacies works for a big-budget movie, but not for a TV show, because it will start draining the budget considerably.

    RiD 2015 and Prime Wars have the framerate problem, which makes them look kind of cheap. Out of the two, RiD 2015 is better due to the characters being able to convey expressions with their faces (but that doesn't excuse the somewhat clunky framerate, despite my enjoyment of the show), whereas in Prime Wars, the characters just didn't seem to have that much facial range.

    Cyberverse I think has had the best animation out of all the cartoons of this decade. I really like how fluid it is, and the simple designs really allow for more flexibility in terms of storytelling. It didn't go overboard with details like Prime did, because the people involved with Cyberverse knew that it would be prohibitive, so the simpler, blocky yet slender aesthetic works, and the characters do get to showcase quite a bit of emotional range.

    Then again, those are my overall thoughts on the matter.
     
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  12. Rodimal Rodimus

    Rodimal Rodimus Agent of Unit:E

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    Mind you, i don't mind CG animation as long as it's done well and consistently.

    However, I somehow doubt a "live-action TV series" would really work on principle and execution. Unless they got a really big budget for that.
     
  13. Furnace

    Furnace Antroid at a picnic

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    ^This. Subjective aesthetic preferences aside, what matters is not the medium itself but how the medium is utilized.
     
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  14. SPLIT LIP

    SPLIT LIP Be strong enough to be gentle

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    It definitely isn't, but the problem is CGI is way cheaper than it used to be, yet can still be prohibitively expensive. You can get higher quality animation if you're willing to pay for it, but if not, you get Cyberverse, Prime wars, and WFC.

    The same is true for traditional animation. It's only good if it's good. It has benefits and weaknesses to CGI. Characters can emote more and typically do whatever you can draw them doing, but it's also harder to stay on-model and feature multiple characters moving at a time. CGI allows for for latter, but can be restricted in the former. Neither become an issue if you just chuck enough money at it.

    Hell, this video alone shows both mediums, and demonstrates their strengths and weakness (and is also extremely jammin'):



    The problem is not the animation medium, it's Hasbro's reluctance or inability to afford quality work.

    As an aside, this comment reminds me that Beast Wars also had a lot more effort than people realize. It's common in CG1 shows and movies to use matte paintings or 2D images for backgrounds. This is just logical, as it looks just as good but saves you having to render actual terrain. Beast Wars didn't do that, at least not to start, so save for a few low-rez captures pasted onto flat geometry in the distance, most everything in the show is rendered and modeled. That's pretty impressive for one of the earliest CGI shows.
     
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  15. Novaburnhilde

    Novaburnhilde ジェノサイダー

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    Nope, not at all.
     
  16. Magnum Dongus

    Magnum Dongus @DiddlyDipstick on Twitter

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    I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s wrong, just that it is less visually appealing than 2D, at least to me
     
  17. CannonBlaster

    CannonBlaster Well-Known Member

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    I don't think it really matters. TFs can look good in both 2D and 3D
     
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  18. TonyStink

    TonyStink AKA Deinotron the Terrible

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    Yes and no. Using good CG made BW look good and feel good at the time, but that's from its high budget. Prime has good animation, but lacked development in the characters, showing us that it put more money into animation rather than writing. G1 had good storytelling, but the animation wasn't top notch (yeah, thanks AKOM); the same thing with Animated. Cyberverse, however, isn't exactly top quality animation, but at least it put more money into animation when compared to some cartoons of its time. I haven't considered watching the show yet, but I've only watched three episodes, all of which had fairly good stories, dialogue, and expression.

    If we could go back to BW days, when lots of money was put into the show with the hope of advertising the toys correctly with fine animation and good storytelling, I would very much be happy.

    Also, traditional drawing gives more expression, as CG tends to have errors and unnatural looks, as proven in Energon and Cybertron.
     
  19. SPLIT LIP

    SPLIT LIP Be strong enough to be gentle

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    Cel animation also tends to have errors and look unnatural, such as in Armada.

    Energon and Cybertron are just about the bottom of the barrel you can get with CGI.
     
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  20. TonyStink

    TonyStink AKA Deinotron the Terrible

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    Yes, Armada is notoriously known for its many animation errors.