If you are interested in being a traditional animator (meaning animation by hand, on paper and pencil) you have come across or will come across the term “peg bar”. But what exactly is a peg bar? And do you need one to be successful?
So a peg bar is a piece of plastic, or if you fancy a piece of metal, it’s to hold your papers in place when you draw and shoot your animation. Here’s an example of one from ACME (yes, the company name is ACME). Hit your paper and stick it on the peg bar as you draw.
The purpose of a peg bar
A peg bar not only holds the papers in place when you’re drawing them, but when you remove them from the peg bar and put them back on when you record your hand-drawn animation, it makes sure the paper goes exactly where it was last so your drawings stay in the right place.
If you can see in the picture, the peg bar has a circular bead in the center and two rectangles on either side. The rectangle pieces make sure it aligns up and down, and the circle makes sure it aligns left and right. It’s weird voodoo witch stuff, but it works great.
So peg bars are incredibly useful tools for traditional animation. You’ll see on any behind-the-scenes recording of something, like a Disney movie, that you’ll see everybody working on animation disks, which are basically a combination of a peg bar and a light box.
The drawback of using a peg bar
What is the big drawback of peg bars? Well, since you have to hole punch your papers for the peg bar, and since they have those weird square pegs, you’ll need a special hole punch to do it. Those holes? They are not cheap. The cheapest ones are usually around $500-600, and that’s a lot of money for a paper hole punch. The good thing is that you can use it as a tax cancellation.
There are a few workarounds you could do though, you could use a regular hole punch and get a peg bar that has three circular pegs instead of schmancy’s fancy square pegs. These work fine too, but not as perfectly as the square ones, your pages will move a bit more with all the circles.
a cheap job
Fortunately for you though we are the cheapest of the cheap and have a pretty decent job for you! Records! First of all, they’re already more or less a 16 by 9 aspect ratio, which is very helpful when it comes to scene layout and such. Plus, they’re cheap as dirt and you get a billion of them for next to nothing, which when you have a million pictures to draw helps a lot. But how do you get everyone to line up?
Since they’re smaller and you’ll be using the entire index card rather than part of a page of paper, it’s easier to line them up when you pick them up, as the chance that you’ve drawn one image further than it should be on the next is minor. So how can you align them? Using some duct tape!
Lay out your first index card and make a small stack of tape, maybe 3 or 4 layers on the corner of the index card so it slides snuggly against the tape. You’re making a little corner wall of the tape, so each of the following index cards you can slide into that corner and have it pretty much flush with the previous card. Calm down, peasant!
We’re sure you can find other ways to do some clever workarounds, but the chips are very simple, and we found they work and don’t take as much effort to get what you want. It’s not as exact as a dowel bar, but it will do.
So a pin bar is a tool that makes sure your frames line up exactly as they did when you originally drew them the next time you put them on the pin bar. They’re not super necessary and you can do without them, but they definitely help!