The drawing/image registration process is a fundamental aspect of film animation. If the images that are animated don’t have a shared foundation with each other, the movement that’s created by the animator has no common relationship with the background or the viewer’s point of view—it just doesn’t work. It was John Randolph Bray who established and patented the peg system of registration in 1915. For almost a century, folks working in animation production have used paper, pencils, various designs of lightboxes, and pegged drawing discs to do their craft, and within this world of registration there were several standards. In New York there were pegs by Acme (a small round hole with two thin slots on either side), Oxberry (a small center hole with wider slots on either side), Signal Corps (close to Oxberry but closer to three round holes) and Fleischer/Famous/Terrytoons (three round holes). California/Hollywood seemed to hover in the world of Acme, but Disney (which switched over to Acme 20 years ago) had paper that was also punched with two sets of holes—one for the animator and one for the Ink and Paint Department. This allowed for less stress/damage on the holes and thus better registration. It’s only been within the past decade that this conventional process and this sort of equipment has proven to be on its way out.
With the advent of CGI and digital drawing tablets like Wacom’s Cintiq, actually drawing the sequential images on paper and either filming or scanning the drawings is becoming a rarity. I happened to be in our storeroom recently and saw all the old discs and lightbox wedges unused and stacked in the corner. It seemed like a natural subject for a piece here—especially since many of the pieces of equipment have interesting backstories to them. And not all the material and items have been sitting in the dark the past few years—some of the pieces are on display in the studio here and were also a part of the Westchester Arts Council exhibit I curated with Howard Beckerman in 2009 on the history of New York Animation, titled “It All Started Here”. Hopefully, this successful exhibit will find a home at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, in the near future!
So—here are some vintage and current examples of a mainstay of the animation production industry that will soon be obsolete. (Sniff . . .)
The next three pictures are from 2009′s “It All Started Here”, an exhibit tracing the history of the New York animation industry.
For more on working in animation, download the HOW Design Conference presentations Beyond Print: Leveraging Your Print-Based Design Assets in Video and Animation and Motion Graphics: Getting Started is Easier Than You Think.