A dopesheet (UK) or exposure sheet (USA) is the means by which an animator indicates how all the artwork in an animation scene is to be shot. It shows which piece of artwork goes where in relation to the others and how long each piece is to be exposed for in frames. Although there are no real standards or rules in doping, I wrote the following as a guide to clients sending me animation for inputting into Animo, the digital ink and paint program that I use.
As elsewhere in these notes, I sometimes refer to Animo as the compositing program, but these rules are pretty much universally applicable so far as I am aware.
1. each level within a scene should have a unique name
2. if at all possible, the name should have some bearing on the level's content. For example, in a scene with a character called Fred, Fred's right hand might be called FRH. (You can't always make it that obvious, but it helps when you can and do).
3. naming: each drawing needs to be identified with a name up to
4 characters long and a number. Examples
of acceptable names for drawings: head1 Pete25 arm12 boot5 2H23 dff99 A1
The limit of 4 characters is not absolute, but do bear in mind that your doping must be written in quite narrow columns Ė it therefore makes sense not to make the names too long for purely practical reasons
Should you wish to use a convention where the number comes before the letters you can if you really want to (for example 1head, 25Pete, 12arm etc.) but please donít do it if everyone else on a production is using the other convention and please then be consistent and always name drawings this way
4. it is fine to use drawings from another scene but only if rule 1 above is not broken - so there must not be two levels both called AB used within one scene. Example. Let's say you have created a level called AH in scene1 and the drawings go from 1 to 23. Later, you realise you can use these same drawings in scene 5, but need to add another 3 drawings. In this case, you simply call the new drawings 24, 25, 26.
5. Öwhen you do re-use drawings from another scene, this must be very clearly indicated on the dopesheet. The easiest way to indicate re-use is to put a lightly coloured line around the relevant level and indicate in the margin which scene it has come from. If you are adding new drawings to a re-used level, we store the extended level in the original scene.
6. we prefer it if the background level, that is the level which is at the bottom, is doped on the extreme right of the dopesheet and that you work from right to left. This isnít a real rule Ė you are welcome to do it the other way, but please: be consistent. Always do it one way only.
7. numbering: please donít invent your own unique numbering system. Donít start using fractions or decimal points or Roman numerals or your own crafty hexadecimal system - the common ways of numbering, hence the ways that work are very simple:
7.1. the first drawing is numbered 1 (e.g. Ax1) and every subsequent number increases by one. That is Ax1, Ax2, Ax3 etc. Please donít start with a very high number (maybe you think itís a good idea to start the numbering with the frame number of the film itself Ė no, it isnít a good idea), for instance drawing H1005. Animo will assume that this drawing is on the 1,005th. frame of a very long scene!
7.2. each number can increase by 2 if the animation is on doubles, so the sequence could be Ax1, Ax3, Ax5 etc. This is quite common usage, as it enables the animator to insert an extra inbetween later without affecting the numbering. For example, if in a sequence such as B19, B21, B23 you need to smooth the animation by adding an extra drawing between 21 and 23, this will be called B22.
7.3. Öand what if you want to add a drawing(s) where there is no gap? To add, say three new extra drawings between existing drawings HH33 and HH34, just add HH33a, HH33b and HH33c
avoid the technique of using drawing-numbers that exactly correspond to the
frame number on which they occur, a practice that is quite common. For example,
say a scene is 125 frames long. The first drawing might be A1 on frame 1. Suppose
it is held for 12 frames. Some animators will call the next drawing A13 as it
will occur on the 13th frame. This does make it very easy for us to create Animoís
dopesheet as in fact every new drawing will place itself automatically on the
correct frame of Animoís dopesheet. For that reason, if your job is just compositing
in Animo, you might think this is excellent practice as it makes your life nice
and easy. It is, however, in my opinion very bad practice, for the following reasons:
- it makes it very tedious at the scanning stage as every drawing must be numbered individually at the computer keyboard instead of simply being incremented automatically
- it rapidly becomes a numbering nightmare when a drawing is needed to be doped more than once such as in a walk cycle or lip-sync Ė the whole idea of automatic numbering then flies out of the window - you end up with a scene in which some of the artwork is frame numbered and some not
- if the animator has to change the timing after doping has been done for any reason, then every drawing would in theory have to be re-numbered! (In practice, you again end up with a confusing mixture where some drawings are frame numbered and some are not).
or not the above is entirely clear, please take on board the message: using
frame numbers for your animation drawing numbering is unwise.
8. please check my notes on writing dope sheets. There are problems which always recur, mostly to do with indicating dissolves (mixes) and or camera moves and I show simple ways of dealing with these.
Final note: the old cliché about pictures and words holds true in doping. It is sometimes much easier to scribble a rough drawing showing something intended than trying to cram the margin of your dopesheet with words.
Be clear and unambiguous about your intentions and always assume that if anything can be misinterpreted or go wrong, it will.
As ever, I welcome your feedback, particularly if you think I am being unclear or just plain wrong.
Here endeth the lesson.
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