Saturday, December 22, 2007

happy holidays

have a great break was a great class and I really enjoyed watching you all improve this term. for those that are graduating, best of luck and keep me updated! There are few things more discouraging than working on a demo reel, but hey, that's what you signed up for, so embrace the pain and kick some ass!


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

demo reel, getting a job, the realities of a career in animatoin

When I started this class, I didn't realize how many of you would be graduating this term.

I just wanted to offer up a bit of advice for job hunting, demo reel work and all that.

As an animator, the competition is tough. Look at the short films from Ringling, the work coming out of Animation Mentor, the student work from Cal Arts - much of it is pretty astounding. It's highly polished and much of it at a professional level.

If you are lucky enough to get an interview, research the company in advance. If it's a game company, rent some of their games and be aware of what's in the market now. If it's an effects house, find out what shots they did on various films. And tailor your reel to the places you're applying. If you're applying to a game company that does realistic animation and minimal cutscenes, don't show 90% acting pieces. Most places need to see work on your reel in the vein of what they do, so create something in their style. That way they don't have to feel like they're taking a risk by hiring you, and you've shown a sense of professionalism by taking the company seriously. (check out will elder-groebe's site - good progression of game to film work)

I also wanted to mention the whole film vs games thing...don't be an animation snob! I'm not going to make value judgements about games vs film and neither should aware that there are more jobs in games and that's how many great animators working in film have started out. It's also where many end up as the work can be more consistent
I'm currently working at Sega - here's a couple of links to people I work with.

jan vanbuyten - some amazing creature work
michael parks - broad range of work
ron pucharelli - animator I work with who is also doing animation mentor and treats his personal work as a second full time job

There's a range here, from standard animator to senior level, but these are the people that are applying for some of the same jobs you are. So be humble! It's a very competitive field, so go into any interview you get with a positive attitude, and really look into the kind of a work that's done at a company before you go in.

You don't have to actually say this to convey this idea. One's attitude goes a long way. We just hired an animator who didn't have the best reel out there, but beat out some more senior candidates because of his manic enthusaism. (The more you work as an animator, the more grumpy and jaded you can become, so it's great having junior candidates with tons of passion and energy). Your first employer will be most likely be doing you a favor by hiring you, as your first year out will require a lot of managing and and direction, basically a continuation of your education.

Which leads me to my next point...if you want to work as an animator, your education can never stop. The bar gets higher every year and you need to keep pushing yourself to improve and get the high level of polish you need.

As far as reels go, stay in contact with other and be as helpful as you can to each other. Be open to feedback and's the only way to get out of your head and look at your work more objectively.

all for now...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

crits to the last...

some quick posing notes for wes

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

the last week

Instead of my usual rant about strong posing and solid breakdowns (that's all I ever say, isn't it), take a step back from your shots this week and really look at what's good about them. It's easy to lose heart and mess up your shot in the later stages by not really thinking about it and just adding in more detail and motion.

Antar raised a good point last week when he mentioned his shot didn't seem to change all that much after a certain point. This is a pretty common occurence in animation, but mostly it happens for all of us because we're afraid of messing up what's working and replacing it with worse animation.

Here's a couple of things to think about at this polish stage.
1. save a new version. This way you're covered if you hose your file
2. play to your strengths. look at what's working, and push it further. if the character turns and makes an arm gesture to make his point, explore the timing on it...does the moving hold need to be pushed? Does the gesture need to be snappier? Does the gesture that follows it need to be minimized to make it read in a stronger way?
3. There Are No Laters. That hitch that's been there for the last two weeks. Get it out! It's just confusing your ability to see your scene clearly. If there's a wobbly weight shift, err on the side of smoothness and fluidity even if it's a little drifty. If you see something that's clearly a mistake, attend to it. if there's interpenetration, fix it!
4. the 'right' kind of detail. Look at the arcs on the hands. the head. adjust the arms and spine to make them sing. look at your hand poses. if your hand is that same mittenlike claw the whole way through, break it up with some better posing. do the fingers need to bend on a passing pose?

these are a few points, but take what's working and improve upon it. take those important moments in your shot and make them even better.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


I just grabbed a file I was working on to mention the importance of eyeline and the Norman rig. For shots where eye contact is essential (meaning the character needs to really gaze into the other's eyes), grab the main eye control and turn the attribute individual control on and move the individual controllers (at least one) over a bit. You want to avoid a character looking either crosseyed or walleyed. Even though it seems putting the main eye control in front of another character's face is the scientifically accurate way of doing things, it rarely works out how you'd expect. Really look at the gaze and make sure it feels like it's working with your camera.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

retain that blocking

sometimes your blocking pass works better than your first pass. Sometimes the timing is better with your first instincts.

One way I sometimes work in multicharacter scenes is to save out an alternate version of your scene (your stepped version) delete everything but one character. Put it on a layer and set that layer to reference. delete the textures from the scene for faster playback and to avoid confusion, select all geometry and color it with a solid lambert (red or blue or something easy to identify)

Go back to your main scene and reference in the scene you just created. And there you have it..timing reference you can turn on and off (in the reference window, uncheck the box and it will vanish)

Monday, December 3, 2007

olesegun, week 13

ok...time is short, so i'll get right to what I see as the big moments to fix..

i'm not crazy about the first second - i get the idea but i think the reaching pose is a little cliched right now...i would shave 15 frames off and revise it so it looks a little more natural (maybe reach with one hand) show some more face and make it about a sense of excitement at having a turn.

i like the pushing him away, but it feels like that section comes in a little early. I think you need to push your blocking a little more so you get some clarification in your breakdowns. You do it well from 142-160...i would try to maintain that clarity in blocking through the rest of your piece.

also, with the non-wheel holding guy, from around 195 onwards, you have him start to sulk, changing his body language a bit which will provide a nice contrast to driver.

In general, get those breakdown frames in! A lot of this action works well as far as posing goes, but there is a lot of fast action that will have to be retimed to match the pace of the piece.

109-125 has a lot of good timing and posing, even though it's more subtle. just keep exploring your breakdowns and you'll get into this faster.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

making the tough decisions...

More on the subject of polish. Many of you are frustrated that your progress after the blocking stage has been slow.

This is perfectly normal in the world of animation. However, there are reasons why. Many of you are started to smooth out curves, fix your wrist arcs, all of which is well and good. There's many ways to get to finish, but the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do is to retain what's working and strengthen it. Continue to refine your storytelling poses and improve them. Really nail those breakdown frames. Save off versions and work in 30 frames at a time if an area just isn't working out. The biggest problem I've seen so far is in overall timing, which leads me back to the old classic:


if you're spending hours trying to figure out how long it takes a character to pick up a cup, grab yourself a webcam, or cellphone, and observe. sometimes the littlest details you pick up make all the difference in that whole illusion of life thing.

The other thing I'd challenge you all to do is to really study your poses. If they seem too hammy or broad, you can often achieve the same idea with a less descriptive pose (i.e. finger pointing, hand stretched out) by acting it out and seeing if you can make the pose feel more naturalistic (often subtle things, body posture, contrapasto, etc)

Also, we only have a few more weeks of class time left. For those of you in your last term, I'm more than happy to look at your reels or work you're considering putting on them. I'd also like everyone to collect the work you've done this term and bring in playblasts and/or maya files of your work thus far. For the playblasts, remember, 640x480 with some kind of compression, at least cinepack or quicktime.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

week 12

Time is flying by. Just a reminder...I will be accepting makeup work over the next few weeks for those that have missed assignments. Thus far, no one is doing a new assignment for the final project, so I'll be expecting a high level of polish to your pieces. It's perfectly ok to be working on older assignments, just make sure you're putting in the appropriate amount of work to take these to the next level.

The venerable Andrew Gordon has a 30 minute rule, or, helpful suggestion. If you're not making much progress or are too worried that you're going to ruin your shot by changing it, it probably means your decision making ability is hampered by fear. So be bold - If you have weight issues, save some main keyframes and just go to town.

chances are carving back into it with a fresh eye will help.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

navone thumbnails

great thumbnail reference from victor navone...(good find, jean-denis!)

Monday, November 19, 2007

This Week's Work

Just to be clear, today is the last official day on the dialogue shot. Starting next week, the assignment is to do a personal piece for the remainder of term, so bring all ideas for approval.

For those that have missed assignments now is the time to get a game plan to finish them up.

To clarify grading in this course we'll have 4 categories which will each count as a quarter of your grade

walk/run (count as one exercise)
prop piece
acting piece
personal piece

Within the personal piece, pending my approval you can go back and continue on with older assignments. In addition to that, I'll have some 2 week exercises to suggest for those who want to do more polish on your older assignments but don't wish to spend a month on them. For those who missed assignments and would like to pull that section up from an F, now is the time to finish those assignments.

Additional factors that go into grading are attendance, effort, and rate of improvement. Some of you took on assignments that didn't work out as well as you might have liked, but those that did a lot of research and planning, as well as extensive rework, get points for it. Developing a process of animating as well as learning how to go back and rework your animations effectively is as important.

One tip I'd like to offer concerns the many corrupt files people have had. Get a separate gmail account (which has about 5 gigs of storage) and email yourself your homework the day before class. It's like a free backup drive and you can access it anywhere. Things happen, but use what technology you can to your advantage.

Friday, November 16, 2007

monday night

Just a reminder…. The Academy’s Fall Animation Festival is this Monday, November 19, at 7pm. It’s happening in Morgan Auditorium at 491 Post. Animation by Academy students, fresh popcorn(!), and guest speaker Tom Bancroft (animator on Aladdin, Lion King, etc.).

just saw this on jean-denis's blog. Let me know in advance if you won't be attending class on monday. It's too late to reschedule class, unfortunately, but all assignments are due by classtime on Monday and I'll critique on the blog. Also, most of you are still at blocking on these shots, so I'd like everyone to decide on what they'd like to accomplish over the next month.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

john's shot

ok...lots to talk about here. You definitely took my advice on restaging this shot, but this sort of thing takes a little time. You've solved some problems and introduced new ones, but that's part of the process.

In looking at these sorts of shots, I try to address the biggest issues first and work my way out. For starters, the overhead foreshortened perspective is causing your eye to shoot way off of the page.

Solution 1. lower the camera, raise the guy up a bit to be more eye level with the woman.
solution 2. kill the initial establishing shot and move the piano further back on the sidewalk. then do a slow pan, or closer cut to them talking.

You could keep the initial establishing shot, but i would bring the camera closer and have their postures looking down at it.

I think for the main shot with both characters, you probably want her to at least look down or away more, so we read her expression. it can be ok to do an over the shoulder shot - but right now you're showing so much of both characters that i think you need to use their bodies a bit more.

frame 98ish.
you've might as well have her looking down at the piano while saying this, holding in that moment of anger about the dropped piano.

remember, when someone holds a rope, the weight falls from the point of contact, meaning he can't just slide his hands down. he can pull up to that point, or slide down a bit. but having both hands converge into a central point kills your weight. I would rethink his might be cool to have him lean towards her, lifting one hand off the rope, but keeping the top hand rooted in place. right now you're animating the rope as if it's a gutter or pole. i think you need to add a couple of joints or clusters and have him seem like he can really balance on that thing (see the second sketchover i did, for an example)

i like the hand pose, but again, the weight shift feels unconvincing. Also, you need a few breakdown frames in this to make the acting read more clearly. you slide up with the hand and do nothing with the feet. this completely kills the weight.

example of rope climb...there's plenty on youtube, but watch how the body moves with every arm movement

the 'alas poor yorick' pose. we're all guilty of it, but this is a huge acting cliche. also, he's raising his hand quite high and holding it there for a long time. i would subdue that arm. also, the line seems so conversational, it seems perfect for talking to her, to himself, but all in a glib way. the held pose is such an emphatic way of doing this, that i would make it a more casual body gesture and leave room to play up that moment of dialogue. you start to do it on 227 but then go back to the other pose. you can also have him relax a bit and go back to holding the rope, since it requires a lot of effort to stay held.

not any more...
it seems like this is a great opportunity to use the pose to show a kind of sheepish awkward moment. or disinterested and continuing with the glibness of the line. looking away feels a little halfway there..he's kinda evasive, but not really. again...a super clear pose will help you a lot. he can also look down during her line, and back up to deliver this line.

in short, you've set up another very complicated's not unachievable, but you really need to simplify this a bit and clarify each moment so that you can build upon it.

let me know if this is clear enough...


5 more to go

Hard to believe we're this far into the class. With 5 more classes to go, that really means we have 4 more weeks of actually working on our animations. In the realm of animation, this isn't a lot of time. The last few weeks are slotted to be allocated for a personal piece, and I'd like to open that time up to work on pieces that will either help your reel out, for those of you preparing demo reels. This time is also open to polish older assignments. I would however, like a plan of attack from everyone for the rest of the term. As animation is mostly about planning and decision making, I'd like to see you all take on a manageable project that will allow you time to polish your work.

Also, if there are lecture topics or areas you'd like me to focus on, let me know.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

pushing that first pass

I was starting to draw up my lesson plan for this week, but wanted to reiterate a few points.

Many of you are still struggling with the basics of first pass animation (meaning, that awkward stage between blocking, however it's done and first pass, rough animation). I wanted to clarify what I expect out of first pass animation.

1. key poses, all timed as well as you can. Make sure there are enough of them. The main reason why first pass animation often falls apart is because there aren't enough key poses in your blocking. Conversely, having too many different key poses close together can also be problematic. But you won't be able to tell this from too few poses.
2. breakdown frames all in the right place.
3. Curves are unimportant inasmuch as whether they're linear, spline, plateau, clamped. It really doesn't matter. Wild hitches with IK/FK shouldn't be there though..which leads me to..
4. take out clearly wrong motion. if you have your hands drifting in a really distracting way, take charge. If you have a foot interpenetrating through the floor during a hold, fix it.
5. For acting pieces, you don't necessarily have to have your facial shapes

Many of you have mentioned how you're used to working in a more 'layered' approach. I'm not going to contradict working methods from other classes, and it's good to have more than one technique under your belt. That being said, I haven't seen effective uses of the layered technique in this class so far, because the keys and breakdowns aren't solid enough to hold up to the offsetting that happens. I think animation by nature is layered, in that you start with solid planning, and work your way to greater detail in your shots. For me, it's not adding extra overlap to the fingers in the end, but really rethinking every pose at every stage. Polish is HARD and separates the good animators from the great ones. I'd like us to get to a point where we can start to polish our shots.

So, a quick tip. If you have an awkward section with way too many things going on, grab a small range, say, one action (no more than 30 frames at a time)
-get yourself a selection set for the whole character.
-key all on the key poses. key all on the breakdown frames.
-delete everything else.

having fewer, clear keyframes lets you retime your breakdowns more quickly, as well as repose. Often something that works in blocking becomes too broad in motion, and requires pushing back a bit.

Hope this is of help for now..

let me know if there are specific things you'd like me to go over for this week's class.


Thursday, November 8, 2007

killer bean forever

This is pretty inspiring stuff. Jeff Lew, an animator who got his start animating shorts in Animation:Master, back before everyone had access to higher end 3d packages went on to have a successful career, then dropped off of the planet for a few years to make a...well, I can't say short since it's 85 minutes. That's right...a feature.

Check out the trailer though, and note how restrained much of the animation is. He really knows when to stylize things in both a fantastic way, and towards realism. Love that initial walk in.

Monday, November 5, 2007

useful article

Useful article regarding those tricky breakdown frames.

handy software

I realized I mentioned the wrong freeware audio editor in one of my class notes.

A lot of times your audio sounds hitchy and awful in maya. You can grab this free program, put your audio into it and use the 'normalize' filter and that should get rid of the awful stuttering sound you often get with downloaded sound clips. I have better luck using an aiff file than a wav, but that could be pure superstition on my part.

this is free digital pencil test software and useful for getting your sketches in to start shuffling around timing. I haven't used it a ton - but it's pretty easy to use.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

olesugen's prop piece, week 4

This was rendered without frame numbers, but I believe you can download this as an mp4 from google video and look at it in quicktime.

This will take a while to crit, so I'll get back to this later are some main points to get you going...

1. first 4 seconds. main character wobbles back and forth in an even way..less motion is better than wrong motion. I would cut this back a bit and get a good moving hold on it.

2. First take. too snappy for the poses you've established. I'll get into snappy motion later, but basically, going from subtle pose to subtle pose can't really have an ice age style speed of transition.

3. Anticipation into the jump. Still not working. It's too fast and feels to awkward. When in doubt with physical pieces, video yourself and draw from it. Even Tom and Jerry cartoons, which are prone to exaggeration, have a solid foundation of weight underneath the character. It's the pivot off of the front foot that kills the motion for me.

4. Jump is ok, but the timing is uneven on it, which kills the weight on it. also, the fact that he remains hunched over makes the motion feel stilted.

5. Lift. the up and down isn't working...a slow steady pull back timed well is all you need. repeated key poses make motion seem robotic.

6. initial lift is ok, but gets hitchy...his foot really far forwards then popping back feels a little unconvincing. lifting something heavy, your feet tend towards staying under the body as much as possible. the off balance pose looks like an anticipation pose to a fall right now.

7. lean forward. rotates only on the pelvis. i think the pelvis needs to settle backwards more to make it not look as much like a pivot.

8. last fall. accellerate into it. right now it slows down making him seem like he's putting it down carefully. slam that down!!!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

shawn kelly thumbnail

helpful tips on planning animation

(link to all of shawn's tips)

golden poses

I stumbled upon this from one of the many animation mentor student blogs, who refers to these Bill Watterson comics as examples of the 'golden pose'

I wanted to mention this term..a lot of the old school disney animators use this to refer to a pose that communicates the essence of an animation. The key pose of all key poses in your scene, if you will.

This week there will be no pose assignment, as your shot planning should involve a LOT of thought into these poses. This means acting out your shots and planning out these main poses. I'm not really sure that these Calvin and Hobbes shots have actual golden poses in them..they're more useful to me as examples of stellar composition (in the above look at how the signs arc over leading you right to Calvin).

I will encourage all of you to sketch out your poses..even if the drawings are crude. Crude is fine. To me, there's something to separating the process out of posing the model in maya, which is a technical exercise, from really thinking about your posing.

Like the prop's much easier to animate into a strong pose. I'll try to dig up some good thumbnails of shot planning, but look at that Eric Goldberg pdf for reference. He has loads of useful tips.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007

john's walk

i'm throwing in a few more comments since John did a bit more work on this since last i saw it, and since POLISH is a course goal - just a quick one, though.

John..really nice job with this and great pushing it to this stage. It was tricky, as it's basically a cycle and a variant all in one. It works well and the skip into the next stage is great. The one problem area is his right foot around frames 11-16 --it kinda decellerates and causes a bit of loss of weight. make sure the foot accellerates down into the plant (just like that bouncing ball)

the loop into the salute is good and a nice detail. the fingers wiggling are a bit much and muddies up that part of the action. I think it's enough that he's saluting. watch the knee pops at full extension (the back leg) - could probably be fixed with a little extra hip rotation. nice work. On your standard run, watch the arm delay..they hit a wall in front of his body rather than letting their momentum carry them forward a few more frames.

keep going on your prop piece though..

Thursday, October 25, 2007

for those that submitted soundclips

Antar -both are great...go with either of them.

John..I think the 'look at this room' starting from the 'look at this room' part (about 10 sec in) is really good - it has nice pacing to it. The others are great (for a short film :) but too long for a 3 week acting piece.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

seung's animation

Seung is currently working on some dialogue pieces and I wanted to show this one as a great example of moving holds and sub-posing. The whole animation is essentially animated off of one good pose, which is my unofficial definition of a sub-pose; something that varies the pose a bit with smaller beats, but doesn't significantly alter the sillhouette.

Something was bugging me about this animation, so I imitated the pose and realized, I can't hit that pose without leaning onto the balls of my feet. I did a crude sketchover, which isn't entirely accurate, but it should get the idea across. For those of you animating sections off of a pose, make it a clear plausible pose, and something the character can convincingly hold for as long as it needs. I'll get into more detail on this animation when I can.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

going forwards, grades, etc.

So going forwards, we're all lagging a bit behind on this assignment. I've extended this assignment out a week, but this will be the last official week on this assignment. As per the cycles, you can continue to work on these and improvements will count towards your grade. Some of you have mentioned problems with the workload and asked whether you can work on assignments you're working on in other classes. The short answer is no. Having two different teachers critiquing the same assignment is only going to lead to confusion. I will recommend scaling your assignment down to a managable size, so choose your sound clip carefully and plan out your shot in a way that seems like you can manage. Antonio is doing a more basic box lift, as opposed to a more involved narrative but he's already worked out the mechanics of his shot and is moving on to second pass animation this week. If any of you need an extension on assignments, email me and we'll work something out. For those of you who took on a big assignment, like Shogu and John, work on getting those pieces to a complete state as possible and we can evaluate where to go at the next session. The last few weeks of class are held for a personal piece, so we can come back to these if you'd like to use treat it as your personal piece, or use those weeks to take all of your pieces a bit further.

I'll be doing midterm grades this week and I'll be grading on the following criteria.

-how effective your animation is. This is both an artistic and technical review. For the cycles, the criteria is pretty clear. does it communicate a particular thing (tired, energetic). How effective is the cycle - are there pops, mistimed parts, enough overlap. Did you incorporate class critique into your animation?

-process. from research, planning, thumbnailing to finish. This includes how much work you put into your piece as well as how much planning and working out a process for animating. Those of you that had thumbnails, reference video, and 2d animatics will score higher in this category (and in all cases, it shows in the work)

-did you show up and hand in your assignments on time or at all. I've set up this blog as a way for you to receive critique and to give your peers the ability to review your work even if you miss class. Going forwards, a missed assignment will be docked a full letter grade each week it's late capping out at a C.

If there's any confusion or lack of clarity, please let me know, and email me if you need critique on this weeks assignment.


This week pose assignment:
just in time for halloween. Remember. make this a complete pose. This means fingers, facial expression, shoulders, composed in the rectangle. don't worry about rendering or lighting.

Many of you are struggling a bit getting from blocking to first pass. This can be challenging, especially when the blocking is stepped. I usually don't step my keyframes, but just copy the pose to right before the next frame, and delete it as I start to get the rough splines working. I would NOT focus on the graph editor at this point. Think of it as a guide and a tuning tool. The best thing you can do at this point, is to reestablish your holds, strengthen your main key poses and add some well place breakdowns, and delete all the confusing motion that is plaguing your shots.

Irena (sorry to use you as an example) - your rock push piece has some nice posing in it, but a lot of partial posing, where just a limb moves and not the entire character - I would encourage everyone to be really disciplined and fully pose your figure at each main pose, and get your timing pretty nailed down. You'll be surprised at how much progress you'll make by just hitting main poses, some well placed breakdowns, and having your animation timed out.

Some animations fell apart a little bit this week. This is ok! Working in stepped mode can be useful, but the first thing that falls apart is weight. This is because stepped animations read in a 2d way and your mind adjusts for the limited information, kinda like in a Hanna Barbera cartoon.

When these fall apart, the first thing to do is to get your holds back. If it was working in stepped, get some of the feel back by retaining the holds.

Next, get your timing right. Many of you had the pelvis and boxes decellerating into the next pose. Retime your scene where you need to to make the weight feel right. If you're struggling, grab a webcam and act out that part, pull it into quicktime and arrow through the frames..see how long the action actually takes.

too many poses. That often happens going from blocking to first pass. if there isn't enough time to get from pose to pose, it will feel very disconnected. poses often need enough time to read, or breathe, if you will. Sometimes clarifying your posing happens after you see things timed out. Shogu's (will I ever spell this right) animation worked well in blocking, but when he started finalizing it, his run had too many steps in it. That was an area that just needed to be rethought.

Save a copy. If you're struggling with the same section over and over again, save an alternate version, and make some bold moves with it. kill lots of keyframes and go to town.

and for those who didn't show up to class over the last 2 weeks, send in your work -

Monday, October 22, 2007

antar notes

I don't have the box lift handy, but I wanted to mention a technique of solving weight..animate an actual bouncing ball. For something like a box lift, it works out well - since you can animate your box or ball so that it looks right, put it on a layer, set it to Template, and animate to the happy timing you've made. I did this very rough example to show how an incoming box that the character catches has to accellerate with gravity.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

reminder..tomorrow's assignment/Midterms

1. prop interaction. as finished a pass as you can. for those behind (most of this class seems to be a week behind on this assignment) have REFINED BLOCKING (blocking with lots of breakdown poses)

2. Pose. for those that did one last week, refine it further, complete with facial, shoulders, fingers. A very pushed pose. For those that didn't do last weeks, do an additional pose that reflects a strong emotion. happy, sad, disappointed, what have you.

3. dialogue. a selection of clips to get approved for the upcoming 2 character acting piece.

4. As our midterm grades approach, I'd like to see all the work you've done up to this point - finished playblasts of your latest prop piece, as well as both cycles from 3 angles, front, side, and 3/4 at 640 x 480, as well as the poses you've created.

that's all..can't wait to see what everyone has come up with for tomorrow.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

common cg pitfalls

common cg pitfalls

from Jeremy Cantor

This has some good tips and things to think about in taking your work to a more finished level.

interesting animation for irena

this relates well to your piece...just a guy and a rock with a LOT of weight, linked from victor navone's site

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

frame display mel

//here's a handy mel script it's a frame display toggle - make it a shelf button or save it as frameDisplay.mel (omitting the last line if you do that) - it will make critiquing the anims easier for all of us

global proc frameDisplay()

int $hud = `headsUpDisplay -exists HUDFrameCount`;
if($hud == 1)
headsUpDisplay -rem HUDFrameCount;

headsUpDisplay -section 5 -block 1 -blockSize "small" -dfs "large" -ao 1 -l frame -command "currentTime -q;" -atr HUDFrameCount;




Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Irena's Anim

Ok..for starters, make the framing work for you. because the background obscures your norman, it becomes difficult to make the character's poses read as strongly as they could. look at the rough black and white sketch for my suggested framing. The point of this piece is to show the struggle against the boulder. Having a far perspective loses some impact.

Let's look at your key poses.

A. the arc of the torso feels too upright for a 2 ton boulder. think about where the force is coming from. your character should be positioned to absorb that as best he can, meaning the overall arc of the body should be in line with the force. My dumb stick figure guy above him is an attempt at more balance. when you lift or deal with heavy things, you need a good plant or it will seem off balance.

B. too week. it could work if the rock started to instantly come down and you went into a recovery pose. Nonetheless, this is more of a breakdown frame.

C. you need some force here. Think of the overall center of gravity.

D/E. start working on that arc of the body. reversals are great to add contrast, balance, and to vary your animation. not only that, it can show some power.

F. keep the feet angled up for a plant. head down. leg straight. get some power into this.

G. the step back and start to get control..

H. what happened here. i get what you're trying to do, but if he's looking at the boulder, move it offscreen. add more poses to show what kind of reaction he has.

these are basic mechanical issues i'm pointing out. i see what you're trying to do, but at this stage, every pose should be complete. moving the feet around for that mad scramble reads as more of a symbol of posing than actual posing. this can be ok (though less thought out than fewer, strong poses) but once you start animating motion, you need to animate what the rock is doing. the rock is kinda a character here. i think you need to show the failure and imminent danger. i mean, hey, it's syssiphus, however he's spelled. it's about failure and blind determination. i would think about what the rock is doing. it could be something as literal as 1 step forward, 2 steps backward. that can be funny!!! the rock can slowly be rolling, gaining speed and then he leaps out of the way, or gets crushed by it. Coyote and Roadrunner play on the joke of an inevitable conclusion - how they get to that point is where it gets interesting. This animation has a known conclusion, so play up the buildup and penultimate moment.

At this point, take out the keys that aren't reading as well, add double the amount of keyframes and breakdowns, which can be splined out with holds - that would work for this piece, since it's about solving a motion issue of an impending weight. Push what you have further, and add more poses to show what the point of this is. is it a gag? is he disappointed it got away from him and he has to slowly walk down the hill to get to where he is? ah, so many great moments for a little drama...

Shogu's Anim

we went over this in detail in class....i put it up to show the good and bad points of stepped blocking. Also, Shogu did the most research for this shot and it shows in his blocking. The weight lift is very convincing..the pauses in the acting moments with the tailed ball work very well. The poses in the rock lift all work well and the timing is pretty solid for this stage of the animation.

The problems with stepped blocking often involve weight. The tough area of this shot is his pivot around to the running forward. Some areas are too fast, some too slow. When you find yourslf in this position, don't worry...that's why we do solve these problems faster. Also, for weight shifts, I like to turn those sections to spline first, because it's much easier to see the weight and to fix weight problems. The quick fix...add more key poses and in betweens. When areas don't work, it's because the poses are off, the timing is off, or both (since they relate). So don't worry about wrecking what's working. Save a version off and make some bold moves and look at it. This is not the stage to be timid or to try to keep what isn't working.

In the end though, 1 weight problem for a complex piece isn't too bad...the acting and focus shift between both characters is very solid and sets the stage for a very entertaining piece.

john's first pass

some rough posing notes to start with. i'll get into detail later on, but make each of the key moments of your scene clear. if you had to write down what your character was expressing at each point, what would it be? The first part seems clear, but the gear change towards the end could use some sharpening up, notably the 3'rd pose here before the end...that moment of realization i think. Also, echo your facial expression through the posing..he's very upright and central in this, get some rotation and twist into him. Look at the animation mentor showreel, the first piece with the 2 cavemen. The animator shows they're cavemen through body posture.

more to come...

ok..i made some general framing notes. also, you may want to have the camera looking off to the side to get a slightly more 3/4 view to get a bit more focus to the performance. right now it's very foreshortened, which isn't unworkable, but gives some posing challenges. In general, the posing is too upright - hopefully my notes are clear but push them further.

Regarding the overall piece..each section seems pretty workable but the floaty timing is making it hard to read the beats. The first part seems pretty good, but the pose goes static. maybe not have the trees go as far back so he seems like he's struggling to keep them pushed a don't have to, but could make a stronger moment. It seems like you're headed for a strong entrance, so push that further. maybe have the trees snap back after he pops forwards.

The jump needs some help..even a couple of more poses timed well will help. what kind of jump in is it..if it's angry, get some reference and act this part out, at least the landing. Because it transitions into a gorilla move, it might be good to make the landing more loping and animal-like.

I like the sniff, breathing and lean over..all good and clear. the next part, i'm not sure. is it fear? should he slowly continue backing away?

the penultimate moment (i like that word) is REALLY important here. how he gets to the next scene will make this it a slow dawning that it's a cute teddy bear? showing him slow to get it but having the lightbulb go off will add humor and drama.

so how. timing. pacing. reshuffle the timing on these moments and add more poses to make these moments stronger.

pochen's anim

Really nice work so far.

The one thing that will help this right now is pushing the timing further. I diagrammed this out into key poses since there aren't frame numbers on this.

Great from A to B...he seems very intent on what he's doing and has some attitude. For polish make sure you have a little animation on the fingers so the hand doesn't seem claw can be stiff, but at least one pose change in the fingers, or even keeping them loose will help the gesture of dipping read.

From B to he mixes some paint and starts painting...this whole section feels very evenly timed. watch things like the back arm moving at the same rate as the makes him feel stiff. I think as far as timing, you may want to hold the moment of the gaze before painting by at least 10 frames, or introduce some kind of staggered pause there so this section has time to read before going into the next.

C to D
this is a crucial part of this anim and can give a lot of character. right now, it feels like the key poses are in the right spot, but you'll need to rework how he gets there. I think it's part the smoothness of the gesture and part might want to try the flourish happening with the elbow pointing out, lots of drag on the arm, some shoulder movement as well, followed by the head. Also, the pelvis is riveted in place..make sure it moves a little, both upwards and back. This is a kind of weight shift and will make your animation more alive and help with the subtleties.

D to E
this needs some help...slow it down, especially the arm. if you want to keep it fast, have some good in betweens, but watch him snapping back. There are a lot of forward back keyframes, and this is more of a quiet settle forwards...dampening the movement on this gesture will make the preceding one that much more entertaining.

F to G great. make sure you animate the hands/fingers on the way down..but very clear and well timed.

G to H. when you move the head, also move the neck and torso a will help make the movement more naturalistic

H to I
get a good back leaning in between. this is a comic, snappy moment, which will necessitate a good in between to get into place faster. get the pelvis forwards first and rotate the body and head back so it arrives in a more dramatic way.

I to J
not finished, but i like where you're going

This will be a very strong piece..get the problem areas and end to the same level as the parts that work, and finess the important moments first.

Some fellow animators at work took a look over my shoulder...the unanimous consensus is the arm flipping back gets lost, so make that part read clearly as the first thing to fix. Also, as per the Eric Goldberg notes, 'juggle the timing' make sure there are enough pauses the make each part read clearly.

john pose 2

some quick notes

Desmond Morris - google video

these videos are a fantastic animation resource. Desmond Morris is a sociologist or behavioralist that has some great insights about human behavior and motivations. This one is good for John :)

The Human Animal - The Hunting Ape (1994, Part Two)

48 min 21 sec - May 2, 2007
Description: A Personal View of the Human Species by Desmond Morris. This episode looks at our most fundamental activity - finding food, examining how humans exploit even the most inhospitable environments, and analysing how our origins as hunter-gatherers manifest themselves in the fast-food culture of the modern world.

John's pose

For those of you that missed class last night due to the pixar lecture, not a problem...that's a legal excused absense and I'll post and crit your work over the next day or so. I'm also extending out this assignment later into the syllabus because everyone is so far behind in this assignment. I know it can feel like you aren't getting to the animation by spending a lot of time in the planning stage, but I guarantee you'll produce better animation and be faster by making big decisions sooner.
John was the only one who delivered a pose this week. Everyone else should do include last week's pose with the upcoming week. Poses will count for half of a letter grade for each week just to reiterate their importance. On to John's pose. John has some great things happening in his blocking and some really good poses. They can, however be strengthened. I did some very crude sketching over his pose submission. What's working in the pose right now is the overall sense of the upright position of it - it's readable that he's a little anxious about looking at the stick. What I'd encourage you to do is to go deeper into the pose...if he's anxious, maybe hold himself more upright..his hands feel like they could show off some tension...standing on his knuckles would make him feel more apelike. Having one hand protecting himself might convey anxiety..there's a lot of acting choices you could do here to strengthen the pose. Graphically, there's a lot of even things happening. His shoulders are parallel with his hips. His legs are at similar angles with his feet both pointing forwards. the arms have a similar bend to them. The hands don't feel fully posed and if they were splayed, or if the weight were more on the fingers, it would read as being more tense, or at least intentful.

I drew some quick stick figure guys (very crude and awful drawings) just to show some ideas about pushing some of the angles a bit.

On our syllabus is the book Manwatching, by Desmond Morris. It's a bit dry in parts, but it's one of those great books that allows you more insight into human mannerisms. I'd browse through one of the chapters on social cues and then go back and rethink your pose.

So, in my long winded way, good work, but push it further! It will help your prop piece.

Monday, October 15, 2007

More Free Learnin'

This is pretty handy..John K breaks down a double bounce walk in minute detail. A fun read after all that cycle work we've done.

Note Resource

I've just found an amazing link resource (click the above image)
On this site are the top secret Eric Goldberg notes, which I would encourage you all to download and study. In case you aren't familiar with him, he was one of the main guys who animated the genie in Alladin and is both an amazing animator and educator who has influenced a great many people.


hard to go wrong with looking at silent film acting for pantomime shots

Saturday, October 13, 2007

This week's assignment

Just to clarify, this week's assignment is to have the following:

1. first pass blocking, in maya, of your prop assignment, rendered 640x480 and posted to the drop folder by the start of class.

2. For this week and every week going forward, create a single pose that relates to your animation. This means a highly finished single pose render that either relates to your scene, sums up your scene, or is taken from your scene and refined. The more we study poses as a class, the stronger everyone's work will be.

3. Have a selection of audio clips for me to approve for your acting piece.

I realize there's a conflict with the pixar recruiting session on monday night (I believe it's for TD positions). Just let me know if you won't be attending class and email me your shots or a link to it and i'll critique it on this blog. 3 Weeks is NOT much time to do a good piece of pantomime well, so it's crucial to make good decisions well at each stage. I'm not a big believer in the 'layered' animation approach, meaning work in incomplete parts, building up to a finished pose. I am a big advocate of working general to specific, so having good clear decisions made at this stage and in maya is going to be essential this week. My grading has been fairly soft thus far, as I've been learning your process and capabilities (and because cycles are a very specific type of animation) but it will become more difficult now that we're getting into the guts of this course.

Friday, October 12, 2007

antonio's reference

[reference video]

Alright! Our first e-crit. Ok. Good job with the reference. There's a lot you can learn from it and there is an art to using it wisely. For starters, A-B and C-D are 2 takes on an anticipation to your animation. Repeating an anticipation makes it feel kinda cliched and vaudville. Just do an action once and keep it clear. E-F are a more minor anticipation but valid, as it's part of the casual walk in. The casual walk in is a good point in your animation to start to build character. I think you need to commit to what the character is feeling at this point. I know that seems a little new age, but if it's heavy, he might look more intentful. If he's cocky about it, maybe play up the more casual aspect- maybe walk around the is a good time to explore opions

Watch for the good details like in K where you can make your animation come alive, and figure out what happens after M. It seems like you have a great setup for either a good settle, a drop, or anything that shows the result of this buildup. At this point, i'd get it into maya and push those poses!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Is this thing on?

I just wanted to check on whether or not you were finding this useful as a class...I haven't been receiving any work in progress thus far or comments...I'll scale my posts back if the class isn't finding this terribly useful.

I'm going to have a norman rig with built in prop switching available for next class and will go over file referencing as well as the technical issues of dealing with props. If anyone would like to use it, email me and I'll send it your way.

In the interim, one tool I can't live without for this sort of thing is sean nolan's snWorldSpaceTool.mel - it's up at his site or in the class drop off folder from week 1, I believe. I'll get into the mechanics of how to deal with space switching soon...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

flurry of helpful posts by jean-denis.

I urge all of you to go to Jean-Denis class blog. He's teaching the same course, I believe, so his notes are extremely relevant to what we're doing. So this will be one of those 'what he said' posts. He references a workflow by Justin Barrett, a great animator and super nice guy who works at ReelFX and teaches at Animation Mentor. (ah, I remember his guy pulling the sword out animation back in the day, before we all used maya...)

His blocking is pretty detailed, but what's great is the insight into process, especially seeing his first pass blocking to revisions after comments from the animation director. There were some pretty big changes, but the blocking stage is where you want to make those big decisions. Also, look at the Animation Mentor showreel...for those of you intending to go into animation as a field, be aware of how high the bar is. The price of admission is high polish, so make those blocking decisions, make sure you put enough poses in to make your decisions clear, and have time to put in the detail that separates an ok animation into a super entertaining one.

I'll get more into stepped to spline blocking's a tricky thing, but the first obstacle can be taking away all your holds, making everything look drifty. I actually don't work in stepped mode, but middle mouse drag my pose, then set key, to the frame before the next key pose. This allows for easier cleanup. You can also keep your curves in spline (or plateau) the entire time and still get the same effect without the confusion of switching your curves.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

even more on cycles

After reviewing our final cycles, it seemed that people still had some issues with hitching feet. When polishing up your cycles, especially walks, go back and make sure your main curves are moving in a logical way. The feet in a walk move almost like a metronome, keeping an even beat. You can stylize the cycles through posing and timing of the in betweens (the Richard Williams book is pretty much a manual for creative in betweening), but the main Keyframes have to hit where there supposed to. The other note I wanted to mention is that if your extremes are too extreme, they can look a little poppy because there isn't enough time to allow for settling and follow through on things like the arms. Yes, you can go in and start offsetting curves, but generally the faster and easier way is to go back and dial down your extremes a bit to allow for the motion to finish.

I pretty much love everthing Valve does. This one is great to look atfor the cutting of fast and slow action. We talked a bit about phrasing in our last class, as this is half an action piece and half acting, watch how the beats of the piece help the humor of the situation. All the Team Fortress 2 bits are very well animated (my favorite is probably the 'heavy')

On the subject of strong posing, look at those fantastic cycles. The poses have incredibly clear sillhouettes and each character moves like it seems it should. The flamethrower guy has a cartoony hop to his run. The heavy guy as a lot of detail the the side to side rotations...all great stuff.

Monday, October 8, 2007

going beyond the exercise

Tonight we're going to look at our blocking with a critical eye. There have a been a ton of great Academy grads over the years. This one caught my eye, as he does a great job at setting up the stage for an entertaining animation. The weight isn't even perfect on it, but it's close enough, and by having the motion and dynamic posing guide the eyethe entertainment value allows the viewer to focus on the important areas of the shot. Details like the ham flying out of the top of the fridge add a lot of texture to the PHRASING of the piece. Additionally, the general beats of the forward back motion are funny in and of themselves.

Friday, October 5, 2007

elliot's blog

Since Jean-Denis started this instructor blog craze, I thought I'd turn you to a blog of the guy I sit next to, Elliot Roberts, a former Academy grad who has worked for Pixar, Blue Sky, Tippett, and ILM, and now and Animation Mentor. Listen to what he's saying about posing...he knows his stuff.

He references a great quote..
"As Ham Luske said:
"Your animation is only as good as your poses. You can have good timing, good overlapping action, and good follow through- but if your poses are not strong and to the point (telling the story) you do not have good animation.""

This is really important in considering your layouts. Many of you had issues in your cycles because you keyed the extremes of your poses at the end of the cycles, so that they felt a little robotic. I've found often in animation that revisiting your key poses can make your animation get to the next level. It's a lot more work trying to arrive at a weak pose rather than a strong one.

So to reiterate this week's assignment. In addition to blocking in your shots (with additional reference material), create a single pose that sums up your animation.

more on cycles...

If you thought cycles were hard, look what these guys have to deal with. This is pretty a 10 second club for stop motion animators. After studying all the curves and the wackiness that ensues, it's interesting to see that fluid cycles can exist in even as cumbersom a medium as stop motion, and here, its ALL about the pose. The fluidity, or lack therof, is often determined by a good pose at the right time. Curves and spacing help, of course, and are great for refining, but the stop mo samples all work BECAUSE the poses are in the right place.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

shot planning..more animators yacking about it..

More, with handy thumbnails...

shot planning notes

This is just copied over from Clay's Animation Podcast site - they get to the heart of ideas of shot planning.


From time to time between ‘casts (believe me, it’s a lot faster to write than to cut a show) I’ve decided to start posting some animation notes I’ve collected/written for myself over the years. I won’t commit to how often or in-depth this will be, but it’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, right?

I’ll start with some notes I put together for a talk I gave about the fundamentals of animation. They may not be the same as someone else’s list, but they are the things I wouldn’t animate without. Rather than just dump them all at once, I’d rather post one at a time and hopefully you’ll have a chance to read through them and add thoughts or ask questions.

Here’s my list of the can’t-do-without Principles of Animation:

    Squash & Stretch
    Drag & Overlapping Action
    Secondary Action

This list isn’t a how-to, and it’s certainly not all-inclusive. It’s more of a “how-I-think-about” these principles.

It’s an outline for a talk, so, as you’ll see, the notes are fairly brief. I’d love to hear what you think about these things, and I’ll try to clarify whenever it’s not totally explained in the outline. Although I’m not posting the clips I showed to illustrate my points, I still think this outline is a worthwhile read. And, of course, I want to learn too, so if you have something to add or take away, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Eventually these principles will all be compiled on one page. For now, here’s…


  • Ask yourself: "What would I like to see on the screen?"
    • Give people their money's worth: "If I were paying good money to see this, what would I expect?"
    • Imagine in your mind: "the ideal version of this shot" and aim for that
    • Entertainment
      • It's the relationship with the audience that makes entertainment work because:
        • They have an expectation and it's our job to give it to them in an unexpected way
          • Applies to all forms of storytelling and animation is a part of that
          • If you have a shot of someone picking up a box and it's done exactly like you'd expect, there's no entertainment
          • The movie Jaws (or any great movie) is an excellent example of this:
            • As the audience we know there's a shark and the expectation is obvious - the humans will win (at least we hope). Then why is it entertaining and why don't people just walk out before it's over when we know WHAT will happen? Because they want to see HOW it happens. That's the part they can't predict. That's where we have to be creative, surprising, inventive, and original. When's the last time you heard someone say "Oh you've got to see that movie, it's so predictable!" This is how we should approach every aspect of a film - from the story, to the indiviual acts, to the sequence, to the scene, all the way down to the individual shot.
    • Three types of reactions according to philosopher Arthur Koestler - HA! HA!, AHA!, & AAH!
      • HA! HA! (humor) we laugh when we unexpectedly see the same thing in two frames of reference (there's "the expected in an unexpected way" again)
        • In it's broadest sense - this is why jokes are funny
        • First frame of reference: “Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas.”
          Second frame of reference: “What he was doing in my pajamas I have no idea.”
      • AHA! (insight, discovery) combining two different things so that the sum is greater than the parts
        • This is why mysteries are so popular - they provide built in insight
      • AAH! (self-transcending) lose yourself in an experience; when you find yourself transported to another frame of existence
        • Some movies get to this point, but not most. These are the moments that have the greatest effect on people.
        • Some animation moments I can think of where I lose myself in the movie:
          • The dwarfs crying in Snow White
          • The Beast's transformation in Beauty and the Beast
          • When the Iron Giant says, "Superman"
          • When Dumbo flies
          • Gollum arguing with himself
          • Mufasa's death in The Lion King
          • Moses discovering the burning bush in Prince of Egypt
          • The chase in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
          • For me, all of Peter Pan
      • To me, every moment should be one of these three
        • If a shot doesn’t accomplish one of these, or at least lead to one, I question whether it is worth anyone’s time.
        • What they all have in common is that they allow the audience to feel smart. This is one of the most powerful tools in making movies, when the audience feels like they've made a connection between two seemingly unrelated ideas. It happens all the time and if the filmmaker has laid in all the clues in a sneaky (not obvious) way, it engages the viewer and keeps them hooked. The audience is actually participating in the film instead of it being hand delivered to them.
    • If you can imagine what you want to see, half your work is done
      • Picture it in your head - close your eyes and see the edges of the screen, the set, and what the character is doing. It takes practice, but it's a skill that can be developed.
  • Thumbnail - they don't have to be works of art, they are just a map
    • They are your storytelling poses (key poses of the shot)
    • Work out the best poses and, if needed, how to get from one pose to another (breakdowns)
  • spline doctors podcast

    Always inspirational, and some good thoughts on pacing..

    Tuesday, October 2, 2007

    Check out the competition....

    I shamelessly stole this blog idea from another instructor, Jean-Denis Haas, a great animator as well as teacher. You can see what his students are doing as well as his insightful critiques on their work.

    General notes

    For next week, and going forwards, create a playblast at 640x480 and have it up in the drop folder at the start of class...3 hours isn't a long time to cover the material we need to this term, so
    let's make sure we start class off without wasting a lot of time. If you drop them off earlier in the drop folder, I'll have time to review them before class.

    Although we're done with the cycle phase of this class, you may keep working on them in addition to your other work. The unfortunate thing with cycles, is that they often take a bit of reworking at the end to get them to the next level. Many of you were struggling with some curve related issues in the reiterate, the first thing you should do is to make sure the key poses are solid, then go back and use the curves to analyze your motion...if you see hitches in them, or uneven timing, fix them, but don't rely on the curves to magically improve your animation...they are essentially a polishing tool. With some of your animations, we went in and offset some of the curves, be it spine rotations, or the y movement of the pelvis. While this is an ok and valid way to work, the better way is to KEY THE OVERLAP from the start. Don't procrastinate and think you'll go in and miraculously offset all your keys later...what that really means is that you are living with weak or incomplete poses.

    This is going to become relevant the more we get into our pantomime exercises...keying complete poses are easier to animate to than partial poses. You may here of the layered approach to animation, where you animate in parts building out....i'm more of the belief in hammering in solid poses, and going back and REFINING the offset of parts, but if you try to hit it right the first time, you'll get to your goal faster. The last thing you want to do is constantly shuffle around keys in maya hoping it will look right. This is the merit and the curse of's infinitely changable, but it means you can hack away without a plan. The best animators out there have either a 2d or stop motion background, both of which involve strong decisionmaking early on in the process.

    Disney Notes is a great resource

    This one is a good quick reminder of important elements in shot planning.

    exaggeration - link

    as you prepare this week's assignment, I thought I'd send you to a great link regarding staging and planning your animations

    Victor is a pretty insightful animator, and this post is a good way to approach the pacing of your shots.

    Monday, October 1, 2007

    character animation studio

    I've just set this up as a way of asking questions and posting critique in between class sessions. We have a lot of ground to cover this term and the more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it.