Topic: The Merits and Pitfalls of Frame Blending

An interesting subject was brought up in this thread the other day. In suggesting the use of "frame blending" in stop motion, Shahriar inadvertently began a lengthy debate on whether the process should be used to improve animation, enhance movements only as a special effect, or if the process itself is nothing more than a fast shortcut to better animation, and should be looked down upon.

I, personally, think it's good for semi-replicating the look of interlaced footage, just without the digital artifacts and other ugly distractions that, admittedly, plague a lot of older (pre-BiM) brickfilms. I understand that for most brickfilmers of the time, interlaced footage wasn't a stylistic choice, and thus, their use of "frame blending" was not intentional.

However, I think that "frame blending" can and should be used intentionally - if for a stylistic reason. (Such as how I'd like to use it in projects looking forward - as a bit of an homage to "classic" brickfilms)

What are your thoughts? Should "frame blending" be considered an animator's dirty word? Or does it have its merits? What other consequences not already discussed could arise from its use?

I went ahead and moved this to the post-production forum, as, unlike the thread that this discussion originally came from, I think this topic better fits being here.

Last edited by Dyland (October 19, 2016 (01:16pm))

Re: The Merits and Pitfalls of Frame Blending

Frame blending could be useful if you were doing a cinematic trailer with lots of closeups or if you were doing a brief slow motion scene. But otherwise I think it's a cheap shortcut. I feel like, no matter how you use it, good animation skills will always be better. And that type of skill can never be substituted.
I think it has it's place, and I've seen it in executed well in films such as Zombie: Genesis, but I'm a purist.

Re: The Merits and Pitfalls of Frame Blending

If you want footage to look interlaced, why don't you just interlace the footage? Frame blending and interlaced footage look nothing alike to me, interlaced footage generally looks like whoever uploaded the video didn't understand the export options in their video editor and frame blended footage looks weird and lazy with strange pulsing that ruins the overall movement. You would be better off messing with color separation and artificial interlacing to get a good, 'old video' look.

As someone who grew up recording video on VHS and later Mini-DV tapes, and seeing and struggling to remove real interlacing from video, if I see a video with frame blending in a video I will not associate that effect with interlacing. Your artistic goal, to harken back an older format with lower quality, will be lost on me, the viewer. Ultimately it's a lazy solution that does not communicate the idea that you seem to be setting out to achieve. Ultimately as the creator you get to call those artistic shots, but remember the audience does not know your intentions and do you really want them to come to the conclusion that you didn't understand the output options when you exported the video? If you want an easy 'VHS look' just find or make some VHS stock footage and overlay it over the footage, doing a little more work would be better, but even just overlaying some VHS style degradation over footage would at least allow the audience to understand what you had in mind. I believe that if at any point the audience starts thinking about export settings you have failed at your goal.

I have messed around with damaged video looks before and while the path I took was pretty lazy I still ended up editing the overlay footage, sometimes frame by frame, to get the artifacting I wanted where I wanted. Good effects work is not about picking a filter and pressing an 'apply' button. You generally need to work through the settings and make sure that the artistic goals you have are being met without bringing attention to the effects work.

Re: The Merits and Pitfalls of Frame Blending

To quote what Nathan posted over in "Smoother Animation:"

Nathan Wells wrote:

I'm firmly in the "never frame blend" camp, for all the reasons Rio, Sloth and others explained.

Dyland wrote:

And, several older brickfilms, either out of purpose or limits to encoding and compressing programs of the time, appear to have a somewhat blended-frame effect on their animation. The first time I noticed this was in Nathan Wells' Beast.

To be clear, that's not frame blending in Beast, that's good old fashioned Windows Movie Maker compression and interlacing.

I find myself really liking the slow motion effect done in Paganomation's Go Miniman Go! brickfilm. It looks just like a 24fps film when "slowed down" (not like high-quality slo mo's done at higher frame rates, though) and, doing such a shot without the frame blending wouldn't look as good (unless you decreased the movements and took more frames, but, honestly, would it still look like slow-motion at that point, or would it just appear that the minifig's moving slowly...)

And, I'm sure we all know the story of Jurassic Park, right?

Spielberg was originally going to feature stop-motion dinosaurs in the picture, but decided against it later... Why? Because he thought that the stop-motion had too recognizable of a look. He knew that the audience wouldn't be fooled... everyone would know it was animation. So, in the end, they went with CGI - and Jurassic Park went on to revolutionize the film industry. (or, at least, is often tied to the increase in CGI's popularity for filmmakers in the following decades)

In lieu of firing the team of animators that the studio had already hired, they used them for storyboards and, apparently, even some of the CG work in the final film.

Apparently, the already made puppets were hooked up to a wireframe in the computer, and then, the animator's movements were captured there. I know it said something about this process on the DVD behind-the-scenes, but, I couldn't find a clip on youtube, unfortunately...

If this process was indeed done, that means that the computer went on to "fill in" frames between what the animators actually recorded... essentially frame-blending. (more like artificial in-between's, but, you get the point) Here's a clip, sadly heavily interlaced, of what the original stop-motion T-rex would have moved like...

And, I agree with Spielberg. Those movements aren't "real" enough. Now, does that mean animators should always use frame-blending (or even use it at all), no, of course not! However, I believe that frame-blending can add a bit more fluidity to the end result of good animation... somewhat masking the stop-motion itself. Some say that's detrimental and should never be used... but I think frame-blending has merits in certain situations.

Re: The Merits and Pitfalls of Frame Blending

An in between in a 3D program is nothing like a frame blended image though.

Look at this image:

a proper inbetween would have the ball between the two points, while the frame blended center creates this weird middle image with the ball in two places at once, that will never make animation look better under any circumstances.

Re: The Merits and Pitfalls of Frame Blending

I can't speak for all who use the process, but, my goal in using frame blending isn't necessarily to achieve "better animation," but rather, to have a different and unique look...

Let's remember Lech's post on the "Smoother Animation" thread:

Lechnology wrote:

Not exactly Frame Blending, but it's an example of why relying on post-production effect doesn't always give you the result you want, is Protectors of the Earth by Joleo.  For the uninitiated, it may look very smooth and life-like movement, but if you look carefully, you can see frame blending...

I consider the use of frame blending to be somewhat of a stylistic choice... so, I can never be outright against its use in animation. Movies themselves are really just a big special effect, as it is. Director's, animators, and editors shouldn't discard any process on the notion that it "looks bad to some..." if that could sacrifice creative potential... especially in such a limiting field as stop motion. (let alone brickfilms)

If the process could benefit your film in any way (even if just to set it apart from other films in an insignificant way... I'm looking at you, Peter Jackson) I wouldn't count it out.

That's why it strikes me as odd when some brickfilmers are wholly against its use, and think that its not beneficial under any circumstances... period.

Re: The Merits and Pitfalls of Frame Blending

When I see frame blending I see a slight stuttering that looks worse, like legitimately worse, why is why I strongly discourage it's use, it 'seems' like a shortcut to smoother animation, but relying on the effect might look better to some people but cripples your ability to legitimately improve and decreases the overall experience for others.

Re: The Merits and Pitfalls of Frame Blending

I agree, Sloth. Generally, shortcuts will never trump working hard to achieve the same effect. (Whether that be smooth animation, or a perfection in any other art form)

Onion-skinning (essentially in-production frame-blending) won't help improve animation, and frame-blending (post-production) won't smooth out animation after the fact... rather, it's an effect. (And, debatably, a useful tool or a complete waste of time)

SlothPaladin wrote:

... [frame blending] decreases the overall experience for others.

I would have disagreed with that statement before this discussion started, however, now I see that many are against the use of frame-blending outright.

I'm really glad that this discussion was started. I've always found animation (and post-production effects of any kind) to be a fascinating subject - especially when applied to my favorite hobby. I'm sure these topics will be great for others to read though and form their own opinions on.

Re: The Merits and Pitfalls of Frame Blending

One of the most upsetting examples of frame blending I can think of is this Walt Disney's & Salvador Dali collaboration, the project wasn't finished and then it got released in (I think?) 2003 and it looks like all the keys got drawn by proper animations but some at Disney found the animation, figured they would publicly release it and rather then hire animators to finish drawing the inbetweens they just frame blended the key frames together in a goal to make it look 'smoother' and I think those bad inbetweens really take away from the film, more so then just running the animation at a lower frame rate would. Like the first time I saw it I was upset that this is what we get to see of this animation, and I feel like the final project was ruined by the decision to use frame blending.

Re: The Merits and Pitfalls of Frame Blending

To each their own. I actually like the dream-scape look that frame blending seems to give that project.

Re: The Merits and Pitfalls of Frame Blending

I'm with Dyland on this. The first time I saw Destino I interpreted the frame blending as a stylistic choice, because it seems to be used selectively. It appears that the frame blending obscures the emotions of the characters whenever they get very emotional, but I suppose that's just because that is hard to animate, and was saved for last. mini/lol