‘Klaus’ Clean Up, Part I

Last year I worked as a clean up artist on the Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning Klaus. SellOut Animation, based in Edinburgh, worked on scenes outsourced from the main studio, SPA, in Madrid. From May until August I joined the team, cleaning up a variety of shots and characters from throughout the film.

It was a steep learning curve, having both to familiarise myself with both the complex characters and the software. We cleaned up around fourteen drawings a day, which approximates to a little over a second of footage.

These shots were animated by Cécile Carre. I did some clean up work on both of them (not shown here).

I would be given a scene which already had one or two spot keys drawn for each character. These allowed me to see how the character was supposed to look, and gave me a head start for the drawings nearby. This was especially useful when drawing Alva. Her clean up model sheet showed her with quite a neutral face, but in the shots I worked on she was usually scowling!

This shot, featuring Alva and Jesper, was a collaborative effort. Most of the shots were – I only worked on one, I think, where I did the keys, breakdowns, and inbetweens for all characters. In this shot I cleaned up the keys for Alva, Jesper’s hat, bag, and letters. I also did a couple drawings of Jesper.

I had a lot of fun working out which way up the letters would be as they fly up in the air and float to the ground.

The original was animated by Cécile Carre. You can view it here.

Cécile Carre’s animation
Clean Up

Despite being the titular character I didn’t work on that many shots of Klaus. This shot was a really nice one to clean up with a mix of subtle and large movements in Klaus’ face. I cleaned the keys for Klaus and Jesper.

Comparing the images of Klaus you can see how the clean up lines have been used in the final film. Outer ‘containing lines’ vanish, but the internal lines remain.

Victor Ens animated this shot, which you can see here.

Victor Ens’ animation
Clean Up

Part II

4 thoughts on “‘Klaus’ Clean Up, Part I

  1. Beautiful clean up work on ‘Klaus’. You all did amazing work. I’m working on mastering Harmony now and the clean-up with the vector Pencil tool is a bit challenging. (I’ve done traditional pencil on paper clean up in the past , used Photoshop for cleaning up line work with bitmap brushes, also Sketchbook, and have messed around with TVPaint, which is also bitmap.). May I ask you some questions about using Harmony ?

    “It was a steep learning curve, having both to familiarize myself with both the complex characters and the software. We cleaned up around fourteen drawings a day, which approximates to a little over a second of footage.”

    14 drawings a day is remarkable for such detailed, high-quality line quality and very tight volume control. Was a standard work day defined as 8 hours a day or longer ? Did you find that using tools in Harmony like line stabilization and using the Line Tool (in Curved Line Mode , allowing for the line to be “bendy”) and using the Pencil Editor tool to adjust the width of the line were things you used a lot or did you just draw your lines freehand and rely on the usual sort of “draw-and-UNDO-redraw-and-UNDO-redraw-and-UNDO” method until you got your line down the way you wanted it in one stroke ?

    I hope you don’t mid the questions. There’s not a lot of information available about the approach to clean up used on this movie. The SPA YouTube channel has a lot of behind-the-scenes-how-we-did-it videos on animation, character design, backgrounds , lighting , but not much about the clean-up process.


    1. Hi Jean, thank you! I’ll answer what I can, but some of it will relate to the studio I worked for rather than for SPA as I was part of an outsourced studio for the clean up.

      At the studio I was at we worked for 8 hours. We occasionally did some extra hours but the goal with them was to complete additional drawings. At the beginning of my time on Klaus we had a smaller quota per day which was increased as we got faster and better. From what I was told this is a normal rate to go at for clean up, but as I haven’t worked on any other 2D features I can’t say that for sure.

      We used the brush tool, not the pencil tool. I believe this was because of the process used for colour and lighting (but I’m not certain). A lot of the time I re-used lines from the spot keys, which were manipulated to fit using the anchor points, tapering of the line, and the eraser. When I drew lines I did so with a lot of draw-and-undo before making final adjustments using the same techniques – much like wielding a real eraser with a pencil line on paper.


  2. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions! I enjoy drawing with the brush tool in Harmony. Clean up with the pencil tool is interesting , but is more of a “mechanical” process to me (a lot of time spent pushing and pulling vector points around) , not quite a organic as drawing freehand strokes with the brush tool.

    Well, again, I have to say I’m so impressed with the work everyone did on ‘Klaus’ , animation, clean-up , backgrounds, etc., the film is gorgeous to look at.


    1. No problem! It took me a while to get used to the brush tool, but I like it now even though vector brushes still don’t work quite how I expect them to. Thanks again, and all the best with your own work!


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