Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Friday, February 1, 2013

Thursday, January 31, 2013

TDs to the rescue

If you've ever opened up maya and had reference errors and no animation in your scene, grab your keyable nodes and try this (in a python window). Mark's script and blog post can be found here:

 import maya.cmds as cmds
#Change this to False if the curves are not in the rootNamespace but 
#in the sameNamespace as the controllers. 
#build up the main lists 
[chns.extend(cmds.listAnimatable(node)) for node in nodes]     
for chn in chns: 
    if stripNamespace: 
    if animCurveExpected in animCurves: 
        if not cmds.isConnected('%s.output' % animCurveExpected,chn): 
            print '%s >> %s' % (animCurveExpected,chn) 
            cmds.connectAttr('%s.output' % animCurveExpected,chn,force=True)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Always the student

Week four of the Animation mentor creature class. Loving it so far, and probably the biggest thing I'm getting out of it is remembering what it's like to be a student. I'm not sure if it will make me more or less sympathetic to MY students in reviewing their work. I put up my locking pass for a jump assignment I'm working on. I'll flesh this out later with the reference I used as well as some notes on what I've learned so far.

It really comes down to the basics - reference, observation and planning. And not much sleep.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Monday, December 31, 2012

New Years Resolutions

This past year has been the worst I've ever been with blogging, partly due to the new demands of now helping all my kids with their homework, now that the twins are in first grade, but mostly due to a concerted effort on my part to FOCUS. 

One thing I've noticed that's dangerous and tricky in a professional sense is how career burnout can sneak up on you. Over the past two years, I've made a lot of lifestyle changes at the expense of blogging and personal work, but with the end result of being a better animator AT WORK as well as making a more concerted effort towards becoming a better spouse and parent.

It's very easy to become a workaholic in any commercial art field. It's also easy to stop growing in one's career and just go through the motions and I've found that one's personal life and professional life can bleed together, especially in a career where you, or at least I, spend as much personal time as possible working on the craft. 

When I started at Toys for Bob a year ago, I tried to use the change as a way of reevaluating my process and reflect more on how I work, especially since I found myselft in a production environment of dailies with easily the best animation team I've ever been on (and I've worked with some fantastic animators over the years).

I also joined a Masters Swim team partway through the year, where, at age 45 and missing a lot of cartilage, I was unsure if I could even do it. What surprised me is how joining something with the mindset of a beginner led to rapid results. Before I knew it, I was keeping up with the workouts and swimming more than I ever had in my life. The other thing (yes, I'm the king of digression, but stay with me) was this crazy zen like practice of working on my stroke. What's fascinating about it is that it requires so much body awareness to swim well, that the slightest thing that's off corrupts the whole system, very much like animation. Apply one principle badly and the appeal goes out the window, if not the base mechanics. So I started working on my weak areas, doing a lot of supplemental gym work to even out the things that were holding me back. This led to a lot of discovery and I ended up doing things I'd never tried before...pilates classes, kettlebells, educating myself on 'dryland training', and learning how to manage a bad hip and shoulder while still consistently swimming 8-12 miles a week.

Why am I babbling on about swimming on an animation blog? Mostly because I learned a lot about myself and how I approach obstacles in doing it. I also found that that bleed through between the barriers of personal and professional life was advantageous in this one area.

I'd read a lot of blogs from successful people, nearly all who are unusually optimistic (something that has often eluded me). When it came to swimming, I starting setting long and short term goals on a daily and weekly basis. It started with a goal of doing the Alcatraz swim this upcoming spring, though that was pushed off a bit as I started training for an hour swim, despite trying to manage joint pain (I kinda just decided to view the joint issues holding me back as , but puzzles to solve, rather than obstacles in my way)

End result of 6 months on a swim team - I just swam an hour straight with the team in training for an hour swim next month.  The sense of accomplishment, despite being in the slowest lane, is something I haven't experienced before. Am I the best? No. Am I even really as good as a high school swimmer? Who cares...an adage my coach told me one day when I was frustrated with the lack of progress in my stroke:

"Swim your own race."

It all clicked after that. It's easy to get discouraged with animation. When I look at the guys I work with, I'm pretty much in lane 5 there too. But on the team, and learning and growing because of my teammates, working towards the common goal of self improvement. Basically, suck a little bit less every week. With swimming, as opposed to the rest of life, there are at least tangible metrics to measure progress.

I can't say enough about how much I love my job, because of the people I work with. The bar is kept perpetually high, and no one acts or feels like an expert and everyone is generous enough to give the best critique they can. I look at the shots I'm most proud of and can feel like they got there because of the input I received on the way.  Approaching work with the mindset of a beginner seems like a winning formula. Staying open to ideas and constantly pushing yourself seems like the best way to swim one's own race.

My lead also pushed for a bunch of us to take the Animation Mentor creature class starting this next term, which is something I've wanted to do for years. The next few months will be perhaps the busiest I've ever been in my life, as I'll be teaching, taking a class and continuing to push myself at work.

I got a little off topic here and this turned into more of a journal entry than blog post, (something I don't usually do), but the main idea I was trying to convey was that finding something for yourself away from work that's yours can inform everything you do. I'm not saying go out and swim, but I have found that having something that gives you personal satisfaction and challenges you to grow can affect how you approach learning.

Looking forwards to a great 2013!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

b-ball tricks

We had an end of project postmortem, and one of our exercises was to come up with inspirational animation influences.

This is a challenge - there's always the go to works by Disney and Pixar - there's so many accomplished animations being created every day, but one thing I tend to look for outside of things like Shere Khan's acting  moments and the other fantastic animation solutions out there is in timing.

I tend to look for the unexpected - things that I come across that stand out as being unusual in timing, pacing, structure or what have you.

The above clip was sent my way and it seemed to relate well the the Richard Williams adage of "juggling the timing", meaning vary your beats so they hide patterns and shift into the feel of music.

Friday, August 17, 2012

rethinking the run cycle

While I was looking into options for running again (post hip-arthoscopy), I've started reading a lot about "pose" and "chi" aka, "minimalist" running techniques; essentially landing on the midfoot and keeping a slight bend in the knees as way of lessening impact while running (and preventing more injury)

As I looked into it more, I started approaching it all with an animator's eye. One of the things I love the most about animating is researching motion - finding the right movement style for the character, or sometimes just learning how to see deeper into specific types of motion.

I'm always used to approaching a run like this:

But looking at real life as way to inform your animations:  (Examples below (taken from http://www.runblogger.com/2010/07/runbloggers-guide-to-minimalist-running.html )

This shows the standard footwork in most animated run cycles. I'll go back and some point and diagram these out a bit, but it has a lot of commonalities with what you see in most animated runs...knee goes straight for a couple of frames before contacting with the heel. Back foot peels away. Often a bit of chest compression after the impact.

Now let's check out the midfoot running style.

And here is the midfoot strike in action (on some of them - the last guy is a heel striker and you can see the impact shock as he lands, which is often a great touch in an animation). It looks more effortless, but the difference here is fairly subtle. Rather than stomping down on the heel, they pull the foot back further to land on the ball of the foot.

As an animator, the "pose" running system caught my eye, as it works on the tenet that the run is based off of a single 'correct' pose, something I've always ascribed to. The before/after is pretty clear in this section.
The main differences-
  • back foot kicks up to the backside rather than extends out (pulling into the 'pose')
  • much shorter foot stride. Plant is under the body.
  • 180-200 strides per min.
  • body leans forwards and uses the continuous falling motion to propel you forward, while the up down pumping action keeps momentum.
  • never touch the heel to the ground.
  • less up and down motion in the body
Another how to by the pose running guru.

So what does this mean for animators?  More options to consider how a character might run while injecting plausible motion. Maybe the heelstrike is more appealing, as you can get a slower stride length that might fit your character proportions better. Or perhaps on a short legged character, the running on the balls of the feet with more of a pumping action would make more sense.

Let's look at another extreme

What's interesting after looking at this is seeing how much closer the pose running system is to sprinting.  Especially with the high kicks.

I found I was lacking clarity in forefoot vs midfoot running, so dove back into google. 
From Newton Running...product placement aside...good examples of forefoot endurance running v. sprinting.

AND MORE (Barefoot Running site with slow motion clips)

This barefoot running site has what every animator wants to see...curves! They measure impact force as they run.

Good example of the forefoot strike with and without shoes.

This last bit is interesting, as it factors in how a shoe can influence gait and foot plant. I'm now curious to see people running in boots or with thick soles and how that influences stride length.

Friday, July 13, 2012

cool cameras!

via Andy Salvo