David Cubitt - Lead Animator

David Cubitt - Lead Animator

I'm the lead animator at FLETCHERWILSON and I wanted to write a bit about the pre-production process that we undertake on projects and some software I've been trialling.

Pre-production is a key contributor to a smooth production and to the success of the final product. For those of you who don’t know, pre-production is the simple thumb nailing of ideas, storyboarding and mind mapping.

Whilst different people have different approaches I mostly do this in a sketchbook or on scrap paper (yay recycling) but recently I’ve been trialling a piece of software that feels perfectly designed for this part of the production process. The software is called Mischief and it’s made by The Foundry.

Some visual development for the recent FW Easter Card (See the finished film below)

Mischief isn't a new program - it was first published in 2013, and its mission statement is basically to create drawing software that is invisible to the user. The first thing I like about this software is that the learning curve is virtually non existent (especially if you are used to using Photoshop or Flash / Animate CC) and the basic short-cuts are very intuitive, (B) Brush (E) Erase (R) Rotate canvas ([) and (]) Brush size up and down. There is no set-up when you start a new project, you can just open it up and start drawing. The tools panels are minimal and unimposing, which is especially useful if you have a smaller monitor. I should point out that to get the most of this software you’re really going to need a Wacom tablet or similar. You can use a mouse, but the sketching won’t feel nearly as natural.    

An example of using the window opacity feature for drawing from reference.

One of the main features I've found useful is the ability to change the opacity of the entire program window (see above image), so you can bring up reference images in other windows sitting behind on your desktop. If you have dual monitors as we do at FW then having reference and a program open at once isn't a problem, but I find on my laptop at home things start feeling a bit claustrophobic and this ability to see reference in another window behind and draw at the same time really comes into it’s own.

Another feature I love is the infinite canvas, it's not the first program to boast this feature, MyPaint is another (A nice open source drawing program which has been around since 2004) but its the first one I've used and before using it I didn't realise just how great it is. The fact that you don’t need to worry about your drawing fitting within a canvas frees up your mind to focus on being as creative as possible - when I'm drawing in Mischief I never come across a boundary and this leads to a fluidity in how your ideas expand and progress. It also allows you to have extremely fine detail and broad gestural strokes within the same drawing and surprisingly there isn't any lag as you draw.

Using the full version of Mischief, changing the paper texture makes for a nice mid tone base to add shadows and highlights to.

I've currently mostly been using the free version, which has a very basic set of tools and for everyday practice and sketching it works fine, when my ideas start to flesh out a bit more I find things like layers and the marquee tool are useful but these are all included in the full version. The full version costs $25 which I think is great value. The one thing that I’d like to see in future updates is the introduction of a Lasso tool, which would make selecting and moving or erasing specific images more streamlined.   

Some practice and character sketches done in the Free version of Mischief.

So to sum things up Mischief is a great program for doodling, sketching out ideas and practice, the simplicity of the interface and freedom of the infinite canvas makes it easy to just turn it on and go. If you’re wanting to use photo textures or a wide variety of brushes this program might not be for you but for simply sketching out initial ideas I think this is a fantastic solution and one which I’m really enjoying using.

If your interested in Mischief and would like to know more you can visit their website at https://www.madewithmischief.com/