Advice on Pre-planning Backgrounds


I have read on this forum that “complex” backgrounds should be done in other software and imported as bitmaps rather than created in TB. I am just wondering how one determines what is too “complex” and what CAN be created in TB.

For example, I have created a street background scene for my first little cartoon, which has been done entirely in TB. It comprises five separate drawings, and for me anyway, is quite detailed. The two foreground drawings comprise the near sidewalk and half of the street, and are attached to the same peg. Two of the background drawings are attached to another peg. The background and foreground scroll across the screen at different speeds as a character walks in place along the sidewalk. The last drawing in the far background comprises the night sky and doesn’t move at all.

After finishing this background, I looped it a few times and exported it. It takes quite a while to export (maybe five minutes or so), and as this comprises just part of what will be many moving images, sound files, etc. in the final product, I am worried that I may have made things too heavy or processor intense already.

I did make sure to convert all lines and artwork to brush and flattened/optimized everything before painting.


Well, what are your system specifications… regarding processor speed and RAM…?

Anyway, depending of course on personal style and preferences…
I mostly draw all my backgrounds in TBS… some (more complex scenes) render of course fairly slowly
(a few hours), but most of my scenes are rarely longer than 500 to 2000 frames…
Render to image sequences (PSD or PNG) I guess is more gentle on RAM use,
than direct to QuickTime in any codec…

If you like, here are a few examples of backgrounds directly drawn in Studio:
(some elements are imported from Photoshop)…


One of the best ways to understand complexity in a background is to visualize a tree. You can have a tree that is made from simple forms and only rendered in a couple of colors (brown and green). Or you can have a tree with very detailed multi-toned bark and hundreds of different colored leaves. The complexity comes from the level of detail you are trying to render. Ten simple trees are not complex while ten very detailed trees are extremely complex. It is the complexity of the detail which you are trying to present that is the determining factor. The more you aim for a photo-real look the more you need to stick to raster graphics (jpg, gif, png etc.). If you are trying for a very graphical style and avoiding significant gradient shading then vector backgrounds will work fine. One last thought to consider is the entertainment is in the action and rarely in the background so the emphasis should be on backgrounds that don’t interfere with the action. The simpler the better is a great rule of thumb. -JK

Thank you both. These are very helpful guidelines and visuals. A few hours is a long time. Here I was thinking five minutes was taking forever! Anyway, good to know what to expect in the future.

Much appreciated.