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.