Monday, December 22, 2008

pixar leaves the academy

If reading about the economy wasn't bad enough, it looks like the Spline Doctors have left the building. (thanks JD for the link)

This is a big blow for the Academy...these guys volunteered their time and passion for years, and the results speak for themselves (believe one teaches for the money)...I've worked with tons of people in the industry that have all said they wouldn't have made it in the industry had they not had those 'pixar' classes.

Grab a cup of coffee and read the comments.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

2008...year in review

First off, thanks for doing such great work this term...some of you really had no clear workflow at the start, and it was great seeing everyone develop their process as much as anything else.

What a year for the animation industry. With the dreadful news of Laika (losing 65 people), EA (9 studios closing/restructuring +10% staff layoff), Factor 5's recent troubles...there's a lot of shops closing down, which I always hate to see -it's bad for everyone all around, not only for students getting out of school, but for people who have been in the industry for a while.

Times are dark, but for those of you working on a reel, just know that it takes as long as it takes...your reel will (and should) never feel ready to send out, and sometimes you have to put together the best of what you have to send out, but keep working on it...keep coming up with new work to replace the old..get feedback from your peers, and the some practice animation to keep it fun. If it feels like a chore, it will probably show in the end. So stay positive in spite of the economy - it's never been easy to be a commercial artist in any field, and there's a LOT to be said about persistence. Were I less stubborn, I probably would have given up a long time ago.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

cloudy with a chance of meatballs

Just noticed this production still from Sony's new "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" (great kids book)

What does everyone think of the look?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

euler filter fix

I just switched over recently to Maya 2008 and was dismayed to find the euler filter is broken in it. I'm usually fussy about my rotations and generally work in gimbel mode, but there's times when you just need to carve into an animation and just whack with the euler fix as needed.

Here's the link to a fix and to the actual mel to download (put it in your script directory and restart maya)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jason Schleifer's Blog

It's back up..

I always find Jason's posts to be really insightful...He also mentions a great post on, well, how one's reactions in the workplace ripple outwards.

One of the toughest things to learn in any commercial art field is how to gracefully receive and take criticism. It's something I've struggled with over the years, especially in games, where the hierarchy of decisionmaking isn't always clear, and sometimes aesthetic decisions can take a back seat to a designers taste. It's not always fair, but I've found the only way to make the process work is through good relationships with your team, and learning how to take critique without personalizing it.

Which brings me to a little aside. Being a professional is a learned thing, but I believe the path to being a great team player starts in school. Animation is tricky in that it's subjective to a degree, but there are enough 'rules', or solutions to problems out there to enable a framework for critique.

The hardest thing I had to learn in my professional career is to just listen without responding. If your lead or whomever is looking at your work and doesn't like it, as an employee, it's your job to put on your empathy hat and figure out what they want. Sometimes it's a matter of style...sometimes the motion isn't fluid enough..whatever the reason, it's your job to figure it out, and deliver it not only graciously, but in a positive way. The thing about being in a collaborative environment is that you don't have full ownership of your work. You have ownership of how you do the work, and probably the first pass, but some of the best work comes from collaboration, so being receptive to ideas that aren't your own is key. Back when I worked as an Art Director, the running joke amongst my peers is that a client would come in and ask us to 'make it cool.' Uh, sure. Cool. I would often get frustrated until I noticed a friend of mine as the question back..'well, what's Cool to you.' Then he got somewhere. Once I learned that trick, my job became much easier. Letterspaced type is cool? Great. Drop shadows on everything is cool? Happy to oblige! Once I realized that I was there to help them articulate their ideas, my job became much more enjoyable.

So step back for a second...if you show someone an animation, ask for a critique, and instantly respond with an excuse, you're in a way, disrespecting the person giving the critique. You don't have to take the advice, but what you can do is listen to it, consider it, and if the person missed your intent, explain what you were trying to go for in a clear way. I'm not saying change your animations based on what everyone tells you..that can be a dangerous thing, but learning how to talk about your work in way that's not personal helps you learn to articulate your opinions and become a better communicator. It also opens you up to a better critique if you can express yourself clearly. If you can express intent, your fellow critiquers may have a more targeted solution.

Getting, and receiving feedback, is a tricky endeavor - it takes a while to thicken your skin up and takes practice.

But listen to that Schleifer guy..he knows his stuff.

Make sure you read the animation mentor monthly newsletters (subscribe if you haven't)

Great link on this subject to a much higher degree by the wise Nick Bruno - a primer on making it as a freelancer, and, really how to conduct yourself in the workplace...I wish I'd had this when I started out.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

next term..

I decided to mix it up a bit and teach a different class next term. Looks like I'm teaching character animation 2.

The syllabus is currently:

  1. Change of Emotion (3 weeks) – using a character such as Generi or Hogan, the student will animate the character going through a clear change from one emotional state to another.
  2. Waiting (1 week) – Character is waiting for something – emphasis will be on attitude (bored, impatient, etc.) and personality quirks that keep the character “alive.”
  3. Walking the Dog (2 weeks) – using a character and a provided dog model, the student will animate a cycle of the character walking his/her dog. Emphasis is on quadruped animation as well as personality. For example, the dog and owner may share similar traits.
  4. Eating in a Restaurant (3 weeks) – student may model simple props. Emphasis is on personality (dainty eater, sloppy guy, etc.)
  5. Two Characters with Dialogue –(5 weeks) – Project will be 15-30 seconds in duration and will require at least two camera cuts. Emphasis will be on successfully animating to dialogue and believably showing two characters interacting with each other.

If anyone has taken this class before, let me know how effective the syllabus was (already I'm going to have to veto Generi) So far I've been finding the Academy syllabi to be a bit overly ambitious (already I'm vetoing any 30 second dialogue pieces)

so, uh, you do cycles and stuff...(the return of 'pimp' gingy)

I quote one of my former students who asked me this question the first day of class, when I mentioned I work in games.

So, yeah, I do cycles and stuff, but I wanted to take a moment and show some of the work I've done for a couple of projects. Now, for starters, neither of these scenes have made it onto my demo reel - I didn't have the time to polish these shots to a professional level and after the fact, well, who really wants to see a cookie pee on a demo reel.

This is one of those tricky things in games - usually on an 18 month project, there's about 3 months of cinematic work. This is a good and bad thing. Good because, well, it's acting, performance, and all those things that animators love. Bad in that the timeframe to do these shots is rough.

In the top shot, I had about 4 days to do it(split between myself and another animator), and also had to rig the gnome character as well as do some of the layout. Looking at it, I still cringe. It's also captured from a ps2, so the curves are dampened down a bit..the moving holds flattened out to the point of being static, but really, it just needs more. At the same time, I really struggled to make really clear blocking choices so that the humor could come out even if there wasn't time to polish (like the garden gnome...the animation on that still makes me shudder)

The bottom shot was done in 4 days as well, including redoing the layout, as the intial layout had all 6 characters in view at all times. Needless to say, 30 seconds of animating a realistic character, a dragon, 2 spellcasters, and 2 giants in 4 days is impossible. But my company was happy enough with this level of quality. This is kinda crazy, when I look back on it..there just isn't enough time to even get the pops out, or get the weight to read, let alone refine any elements in the scene, but one doesn't get to make these calls.

I think I had a point somewhere...I guess when I see a lot of student work that's overambitious, it kills me a little, because at times, I have to just bang out work at a first pass/refined blocking state due to the demands of the project...this is sometimes a necessary evil unless you're lucky enough to work for a place that will commit to scaling the scope of a project to allow for really quality work, but in games, cinematics are really subordinate to the gameplay (where even the deciding on a pose for the main character can be redone countless times, as it's scrutinized by the player for sometimes 40 hours...think on that...someone analysing your pose for 40 hours.)

So take on what you can successfully handle, and push your work as far as you can.

As far as the theme of demo reels goes, it's really important to be in the mindset of making every shot count as much as possible. I'm showing these shots as much an example of what NOT to put in your reel as much as they are indicative of the sort of work that exists in game companies. Game cinematics and realtime IGCs do require you bring your A game, both in laying out the camera, and managing scope in order to achieve the best work you can.

You never know what you might have to animate in your career, and therein lies some of the fun and challenge. There is a great post on Flip on how to get a job in games, and I suppose I'd just throw in an addendum that good acting can help your chances, though it isn't the main priority, as most acting is outsourced these days.

great post...getting a job in games

Conversely to the prior post, check out Cameron Fielding's post on getting a job in games

imageworks...a conversation on demo reels

I spied this conversation between Robin Linn and Chris Bailey, an animation director at imageworks on that horrible timesuck, Facebook, about demo reel does and don'ts. To me demo reels are something of a riddle at times, as it's different at different studios, but this covers a lot

one of my favorite quotes

"My kryptonite is that I'm an impatient guy. So if I go to an animators website to look at their work and don't see a big button that says DEMO REEL, I'll search for about 15 seconds and then move on. Likewise if I can't get a demo to play on the site for some reason, I'll simply pass."

Robin A. Linn at 7:54am December 3
As long as the work is good, I don't mind a reel being on the long side - especially if it shows a variety of work (some cartoony and then some more realistic, as an example) but if the work is just okay - nothing is going to help it. Oh, and another thing, dont repeat your animations. If we missed the mistake you made on the first view, odds are we'll catch it on the subsequent one...

Robin A. Linn at 9:23am December 3
I think students (and professionals) forget that animation is acting. We want to see acting on their reels - their acting should show us they know about physics, posing, timing, etc. BUT the performance should always come first and be at the heart of their reel.

When i see reels cut to to a cool piece of music, the first thing I do it turn the sound off. Petty Jedi mindtricks like this don't work on most directors.

And then there's "the more fancy the demo's titles are, the less accomplished the work is" rule.

Chris Bailey at 8:18am December 3
A couple of animators on my crew (whom I loved, btw) asked me after the show what I thought of their reel. So I watched it with them and said my thoughts out loud as I recall from watching it the first time. I could tell it was an eyeopener. Some things that they had on their reel meant little to me and then when I got to a meaty bit I'd say, "... this is where I decided to hire you."

I'm not sure we're all the best judge of our own reels...I've had editors and agents give me advice that I thought was counter-intuititve, but they turned out to be right.

Chris Bailey at 11:01am December 3
I look at fancy music on a reel as a smokescreen. Also, if the music isn't to the director's taste, you might lose points. A lot of public domain music that people put on their reels sounds like porno music...yipes. Better to let the work speak for itself.

Robin A. Linn at 8:36am December 4
Morning all, Animation Director (and all around great guy) Chris Bailey and I were just talking about reels and I thought you might like to read what was being discussed

Robin A. Linn at 8:38am December 4
Chris, what terms would you use to describe the typical Reel Review? For those of you who dont know what a Reel Review is - it is where a recruiter sits down with the supervisors and takes a look at the reels that have been submitted

Robin A. Linn at 8:40am December 4
Please know that most of the time these take place with one or two supervsiors (lets use anim. sups for this example) and we tend to look at between 25 to 50 reels as fast as possible. Remember these sups are on shows and are very busy ppl

Robin A. Linn at 8:43am December 4
The reels once they arrive are, sorted, logged into a database and stored in bins. Sometimes the resume and cover letter get separated from the reel case. This is why I say not to send a separate CV - slip it under the clear plastic cover of your DVD's case

Robin A. Linn at 8:45am December 4
They may sit there for weeks before a reel review can get scheduled - like I said, these supervisors are busy ppl.

Robin A. Linn at 8:48am December 4
If you are one to put your reel into an elaborate case and send along a portfolio of your life drawings, please know that the packaging will probably get tossed and the life drawing may get looked at but more and more I am seeing that anim sups are not really interested in your drawing skills

The first thing people need to know is that director and supes have very little time to review work. If I'm looking at an art portfolio and see life drawings for more than a couple of pages, the next time I'm going to jump a few pages ahead ...if i ... Read Moresee still more life drawings, I'm going reach for the back of the book skipping what's inbetween. I can tell if you can draw by just a few drawings...I'd like to see a progression and range from page to page.

Robin A. Linn at 8:50am December 4
A coordinator will assist in the review - he or she will take the reel and put it into the DVD player. You'd think the artist who sent us the reel would make sure it would play, but all too many times, it wont and the reel gets tossed.

Robin A. Linn at 8:53am December 4
Okay - did you read that? A coordinator sees your reel case. NOT the sup. so why would you spend a lot of time designing a reel case? SPEND THAT TIME ANIMATING

Chris Bailey at 8:55am December 4
I do like to see drawing skills. The most common thing I find lacking in CG animators work is their staging skills. Poses are weak and don't read as well as those with a background in drawing.

Actors learn how to stage their bodies to direct attention to to what they want the audience to see or not to see...traditional animators were taught the same thing, but I'm not sure that CG people are taught this anymore. There are exceptions, of course.

Robin A. Linn at 8:56am December 4
Sometimes the sup will ask to see a resume - sometimes. See, your reel is in truth your resume. It not only tells the sup where you worked but also what you did - what shots you were assigned and how well you did them - you reel is a thousand times more important than your resume/cover letter - so, please do not spend valuable time designing logos, etc. Not to be blunt, but we dont care about that stuff

Robin A. Linn at 8:58am December 4
Chris, what is the most common mistake you see on animator's reels?

Robin A. Linn at 9:01am December 4
Here's a lil background on Chris - just to let you know the caliber of his comments....

Robin A. Linn at 9:07am December 4
for me the most common mistake is that they all assume we look at their entire reel all the way through. We dont - we just dont have the time - you'll get 10 seconds or so....

Chris Bailey at 9:11am December 4
My kryptonite is that I'm an impatient guy. So if I go to an animators website to look at their work and don't see a big button that says DEMO REEL, I'll search for about 15 seconds and then move on. Likewise if I can't get a demo to play on the site for some reason, I'll simply pass.

On my last project, I did just that and if it wasn't for my ... Read MoreAPM going the extra mile to make sure i got a copy of this person's reel, i would have never hired them. That would have been a shame for the both of us as they turned out to be very strong and we became friends.

Chris Bailey at 9:13am December 4
Please don't put weak work on your reel. We've all done work that isn't our best, when you put weak animation next to strong, it says that you either can't tell the difference or that your supervisor contributed to the strong work.

Is this too blunt?

Robin A. Linn at 9:14am December 4
How do you feel about elaborate menus that require you to push lil tabs to see part of the reel? I HATE THEM.

Robin A. Linn at 9:29am December 4
Ive seen reels where the characters that the applicant animated were in color while the rest of the shot was in black/white - that was a great way to break it out

Chris Bailey at 9:36am December 4
One last thing before I go out the door to the gym to beat my puny animator body back into some kind of shape. I posted about this earlier, but it bears repeating...

Since I haven't worked on big, multi-year spanning animated features in years, I need to know how fast my animators are. Sometimes, I'll need a shot in a day and while it doesn't ... Read Morehave to be the best shot in the world, it needs to look like a shot, meaning that the poses must communicate and there is a sense of timing.

When I see reels from feature films with just a few shots on them, it makes me wonder how fast they are. If I were to look at the shot breakdown from Alvin and the Chipmunks, my guess is that 90% of the shots were animated by 30% of the crew.

I can't count the times I had to go to the animators on my latest project at WB and say, "we need this new insert/fix/whatever, but it has to be done be end of day tomorrow or it won't make it in.

The animators that can do that for me are invaluable.

Chris Bailey at 9:36am December 4
One last thing before I go out the door to the gym to beat my puny animator body back into some kind of shape. I posted about this earlier, but it bears repeating...

Since I haven't worked on big, multi-year spanning animated features in years, I need to know how fast my animators are. Sometimes, I'll need a shot in a day and while it doesn't ... Read Morehave to be the best shot in the world, it needs to look like a shot, meaning that the poses must communicate and there is a sense of timing.

When I see reels from feature films with just a few shots on them, it makes me wonder how fast they are. If I were to look at the shot breakdown from Alvin and the Chipmunks, my guess is that 90% of the shots were animated by 30% of the crew.

I can't count the times I had to go to the animators on my latest project at WB and say, "we need this new insert/fix/whatever, but it has to be done be end of day tomorrow or it won't make it in.

The animators that can do that for me are invaluable.

Chris Bailey at 9:37am December 4
The color/BW solution is brilliant!

Peter Saumur at 1:07pm December 4
Ah HAH! So you know Demian then... :D

I was wondering what you would look for in a demo reel that was only motion capture shots? I've worked with motion capture my whole career, and will likely start AM this year, so I am curious if you hold the same criteria for those types of reels.

Chris Bailey at 1:11pm December 4
I can tell if the animator knows how to interpret the mocap data.

Well, experience has taught me that Mocap only goes a very very very small way to finalling the performance - if these was someway to see the raw feed vs. the final that would be great, but I dont even know if that is possible. How about this - do you have any work that is Mocap free that you could put on your reel as well? That'd help. Look, I know one thing, animators that are Mocap savvy are also very tech savvy - and that is always a bonus

Monday, December 1, 2008

burn after reading

I put up this clip from the Coen Bros movie, Burn After Reading. As per usual, with the Coen Bros, it doesn't totally add up, but has such moments of genius in it and such great offbeat characters, it's hard not to enjoy it (assuming you like twisted black comedies)

I had new respect for George Clooney in this..the link I posted has no sound, but even without sound look at the power of the reaction shot. This works so well even as pantomime - just watch as he has that moment of realization at 55 seconds in. His entire demeanor changes..from genial, moving his head around, to completely contained. The eye darts and minor facial movements are complex and worth study..

Frances McDormand's somewhat clueless and chatty character provides a heightened contrast to him as well, making his lapse into paranoia even more powerful.

Watch the slow camera move in to emphasize that realization as well as his shoulders showing he's breathing much faster..even in a very close shot those details MATTER.

at around 1.25, look at his barely contained fury..almost a moving hold full of contrasting parts...

Of course, the camera work and cuts support his mental process.

New respect for Clooney!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

sindhu-quick crit

This is coming along, but I encourage you to be disciplined with you blocking...right now it's in a halfway state of rough blocking and starting to be splined out. The problem as that the two styles of working are fighting with each other. There's some smooth moving holds, but at the same time, the feet are popping into position still in stepped mode.

At this point, I'd suggest really nailing down your key poses and breakdowns by eliminating those sections that are throwing you off. Sometimes the 'wrong' detail can mess up perfectly good poses and timing. At this point, I would keep some moving holds going and avoid the single frame pops, like when he checks his watch. Go back and clarify both the timing and posing of what you have, rekeying your main poses, main breakdowns, and deleted extraneous information. It will make it easier to retime.

Also, commit to a finish on this...don't just go straight ahead until you're done...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mass Animation

a facebook targeted group maya animation project. I know nothing about it, but looks interesting.

hogan, redux

Thanks for the brave beta testing. Apparently I deleted the left IK handle when cleaning up the rig (my tds would be ashamed)

I retraced some steps and reposted it on my site

Sunday, November 16, 2008

richard williams lecture notes

Courtesy of Monotone Dreams

nick mills, w11

Great sketch. It's interesting that you drew her much larger than the Dad in the of those inspirational notes to inform the scene, since she really commands the scene.

You've made some great strides this week. I still feel the restraint you've shown in animating her can be pulled into the Dad. Right now he's more Wallace and Gromit than Surf's Up. She gets pretty broad at times, but you've dialed her down and focussed on her internal thoughts, which works well.

The animation is nice, but there are some stylistic issues that if addressed could enhance the performance.

F50-90 I think the overall poses are good, but there's a little too many of them in the middle..mainly
the rhythm of this is ...well I'll tell ya ONE thing PEter...etc.

I think you could slow down the body pulling over and lead with the head a bit more, taking a little more time to catch up. He does a double bob in making the point but it seems he builds up to the agitation in the conversation. I'd ditch the hand gesture '1'...the hand is out for emphaisis and doesn't need to literally form the symbol for one, especially since you go into it and out really quickly.

In his initial turn, there's a lot of careful overlap and big movements with the hands..i'd dial that back a little because the broadness of the movement feels too emphatic and large for this part of the scene.

in 'peter never would have..." have him turn away a little as he says peter, and slow down his arrival (right now f165) so he's finishing the thought while still turning may make him seem more harsh and inconsiderate if he takes his time with the dismissal. the arc of the hand here.

309 have her well up with anger more...the squash before the stretch..before she leaps up a bit. you can coil up more tension in her face.

as she screams gay, don't necessarily have his hands tap in succession...have them go tense and claw up! maybe shake a little in fear.

391-400 while nice as motion, makes his careless remark less convincing because he seems super controlled through this action.

416..i don't think you need so much overshoot here. you can overshoot up and settle down..shooting out and then back quickly makes it a little rubbery.

when he says 'what'..give him a clear expression. it can be defeated, confused, blank - anything really clear will help finish this scene in a stronger way.

keep going! looking really good.

where's my playblasts

Remaining playblasts needed are from...
Bee Lee
Sherwin Lau

If anyone else had work i didn't download, please send it my way.

bee lee, w11

B. Lee. owe me a playblast on your dialogue piece and i'm happy to critique it.

The walk..i'm more curious at how you resolved last week's assignment, but let's look at it.
it's a little unfinished right now, but in the right direction.

areas to address

  • feet. around f17 it doesn't feel like the correct passing pose. f22, the right foot doesn't take off in that muybridge/richard williams standard way. check out reference and my pdfs on cycles for the main foot poses in a walk. basically it isn't lifting back and up enough.
  • head. keep it relatively locked straight ahead right now it hitches at the end of the cycle throwing it off.
  • hips. aren't rotating in either direction. right now they're making the pose feel static and flat.
  • root/pelvis, main node thingy. not much y movement. remember. quick fall, slow rise. it also moves on the x over each step.
  • spine. wavelike motion forwards and back, slight curve inward as it's over each foot.
  • shoulders/top spine. should start further back and rotate a little forwards.
That should point you in the right direction.

kimberlee, w11

This shot has come a long way and is now in that elusive polish phase.

In general, it's really working - you've simplified the amount of key poses and now have a lot of fluidity that wasn't there before..the motion is pretty snappy, but I buy it, especially with the frenetic screaming. if anything, you could strike a couple of crazy head tilts with his mouth open to match that energy

as far as polish goes, there's a few areas other than knee pops/minor snaps.

Between f1-3, these are moving really fast. you may want to start with something closer to f4 so he can just hit the jump right away...these poses work for slower motion. the current result is that it's a little poppy.
As an example (quick mouse drawn pose) - looking guarded but starting to anticipate the next movement would help on the quick action

9-11 - delay one of the feet..have it land later

11-17..have him reach and start to pull earlier..the head is a little poppy in that it rotates back and forth quickly

28-35 timing is nice and crisp, but it still has that sliding from one pose to another feel. get a foot over a little earlier to settle into. watch the right knee pop.

f40 lag the pose of the left leg back a little to avoid twinned motion.

next part is nice.

65-73. arcs of the legs body don't fully match up with the torso motion. i think the legs would fall down a bit and fly out rather than just going straight back.

75 would be nice to have a torso arc away from the wall and straighten as it lands into it.

pull is pretty nice...i wish the monster would change his arc a bit though..he kinda lifts up and then back and that flexible neck seems like a nice animation opportunity.

94-103. watch the arc of the right's doing a lot of quick pose changing

117-119 --stretch the arms to be straighter, open the fingers, let the head fall a little and get more parallel with the floor to emphaisize the humor and tension of the pull.

great progress on this's really come a long way!!

jae won rho, week 11

looking better. since there's a lot to this, i'll go the bullet point route to address each section

  • remember that rule (guideline) in animation. let one thing happen at a time. the motions become indistinct in the beginning (f1-30) because both characters are moving at similar rates at the same time. i'm still not fully buying the attacking guy (let's call him A) bouncing around before his leap. And defending guy (B) is a little quick. if he's looking around and notices A, i think his moves should be more deliberate, maybe even start with a slow weight shift onto his right leg, positioning him to be attacked more effectively. i think A just needs to creep in his pose a little bit, not bounce around like a boxer..he's too squat for that much motion
  • 32-43. A is still pretty poppy here. i don't think B needs to lean into the knee kick..he could even stand more upright instead of leaning in and still convey a good reaction. the kick is problematic in that there are timing/spacing issues still..make sure you slow down the shift onto the other leg before jumping and then accellerate into the kick. right now he's just hitting poses but i think he could be arriving at them more fluidly.
  • 43-59 this is a LOT more clear. slow down the big guy's recovery a bit to differentiate him, and to let him be caught off guard a bit more by the stranglehold
  • 62-107 better as well. shuffle the timing around on Bs slap so there's more of a hold on the anticipation, then follow through, slight hold and the follow through, then the could have a longer hold on the extension of the kick as well, and bring it back in a more controlled way...for 'game style' animation, think of one hand beating on a drum and make the beats different enough to be interesting..instead of drum, drum drum, drum..think drum-Da-DRUM-dada-Drum (if that makes any sense whatsoever..sorta a post topic in itself)
  • while the landing feels better..the run up still feels a little posed out. i think at 116 As right foot shouldn't come's the foot he's planting on and passing the weight over. up through 126 that little section is a rework. keep it more like high jumper...getting force forwards and getting a good position to leap from.
  • i like the next section overall..he slows down a bit on the flying kick (roundhouse?). watch the pop at 137-too big a pose difference. don't have him land as's harder to establish the weight of landing
  • the final kick..this one is a bit more stylized - dial back the distance of the characters on f160, have
    B curved in towards the other character and unfold the opposite way as he flies out of frame.
  • slow down A's recovery from the land by 50%
good work!

Friday, November 14, 2008

week 11, Steve Ly

le parkour.
some things are better, some things are the same. Overall it's a lot more fluid.
I like that he's entering running - his poses are a little awkward in the entry...slow it down a little bit so the viewer has time to catch up with the start of the scene. avoid the straight poppy leg syndrome in f2

the jump is pretty good, but carry the momentum of the feet forwards a bit more as he jumps instead of pausing under his body..they'll get ahead of him faster so you can avoid the clipping issue.

f34..have his upper torso/head lean down into the will feel more controlled, and have him start leaning and turning into the wall for the wall jump

wall jump. i like the overall timing..i think his rt foot hits early and stays stuck a little too long..
you could even have his rt hand touch the wall and help bounce off. keep the body rotated a bit on the jump back towards the wall as will make the pose less static

f69 maybe have him be a bit higher in the y so he has more time to land. experiment with his right foot landing a bit wider or more in front of him, to soften the step he then takes.

i like the stepping and readjusting here.

for the jump here...i would at least offset the legs so he isn't jumping like a 2d sprite will give you more opportunities for weight and better sillhouettes.
f124 has all sorts of twinning going on.

143 area...i've already mentioned having him teeter. because a pole is not a stable surface, if you want him just bouncing off of it, i'd change this part to landing on one foot and jumping in one continuous motion. i don't buy that he's stable here. he'd at least be shifting/rebalancing on the balls of his feet and working to stay balanced.

151 jump pose = very twinned. you could reach with one arm and follow with the other, like when Indy has one of his classic near misses.

very symmetrical pose

i like the climb up through 196, but lose it a bit from 202-218...i think he needs to push up and land more forwards as gravity assists him into the land.
use some reference for this!!

The end needs more feels like blending into 2 poses right now and it's the one opportunity to give this guy some he smug, tired..hit him with a feeling.

flurry of crits

Sorry I fell prey to whatever my kids brought home from school last night..I'll make a concerted effort to get you guys crits as soon as possible. I'm going to start with brief crits for all, and will continue to reedit this post in greater detail.

One thing..

please..please..please playblast your work. If maya at school won't work, get a tech to help you..I'd rather spend the time critiquing your work than opening up your files and hunting down references. Also, compress them out in quicktime...I brought home 700mb of files last night, mostly of minimally compressed video.

and onwards..

I like it up to frame 40...though some actions are happening at the same speed (and kill those pops, like rt foot at f55) - now is the time to go back and soften up the hard transitions. you have some arcs traced, which is good, but a more important thing to address at this stage is how the poses flow into each other.
68-76 - as she dives into the cartwheel, there's a lot of jitter..really go back and watch the pelvis, arc of the body through this part. have her accellerate into it.

80-86 - watch how the character falls into the landing pose. right now it pops right in..have 2 frames to extend the feet and then settle a bit..even if quick, it still needs some padding.
96-108 overall the idea is good, but throw away your reference and really look at your animation. Frames 94-98 are barely moving, then abruptly pops ino the new pose. careful of that! This should be a smooth motion.

f120..she lands, jumps forwards, then is pulled back by an invisible string. watch the weight on this! it's in the right direction though but that final bit of animation needs to be thought out a little more clearly.

so, end result. focus on posing, spacing, timing issues, go through 10 frame sections at a time to address the fluidity. your character is making some large pose shifts over single frames..address that and you'll be a lot closer!

Monday, November 10, 2008

the OC...

...obstacle course, that is.

Looks great for a first pass...the animation flows well, the timing is overall good - it will have to be refined a bit, but for a first stab, elements are in the right place..

Using a game style camera is tricky..I'll get into detail later on how to improve it, but overall, you want to have a little lag in the camera..when it's practically parented to the character, you lose opportunities for weight.

Right now, the biggest issue is the symmetrical posing, Feet plant at the same time, arms land and take off at the same time...really getting a bit of twist to your character will help, so you aren't always viewing him as a flat plane. I did some quick sketches to show some ideas.

But really, this is a great opportunity to look at some Parkour footage (you know, that sport where French kids jump off of buildings)

This clip is very fast, but if you can get a flv converter or some screencapture software (or some better clips) you can study it more detail.

As far as staging goes, when he jumps onto the pole, it seems like a great opportunity to have him lose balance a bit before jumping forwards.

from the comments (always love comments)

Learn Parkour

The parkour stuff I see on youtube is always really of those things where for although it happens that way in reality, slowing down some moments helps a lot.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


In looking at my last post as well as playing around with differing ways of laying out shots at work, I realized in trying to teach animation, there's a murky gray are that happens in that time in which you finish roughing things in an acceptable level of detail, to the point in which you're just smoothing out curves and adding overlap to the fingers.

I call this pre-polish.

Why pre-polish, and aren't I getting a bit semantical in trying to talk aobut animation? Probably, but there isn't always a concrete vocabulary to talk about this sort of thing amongst animators/educators/dilletantes. What I'm defining to be pre-polish is that awkward phase where things can, and often need to take a turn for the worse before they improve. When you're a student, or feeling precious about your work, this is where your animations can fall into a pit of indecision and minor change and don't seem to ever get to the next level. This is to me the single most frustrating part of animation.

There are reasons for how and why this happens. The main one being the decisions made up to this point aren't precise enough to allow for smoothing out your animations. This is a notorious issue when going from stepped to linear/spline/plateau. Something that looks great in this graphic, snappy, lively 2d sense, suddenly looks slow and mushy and unappealing.

if going past your stepped is failing, go back to stepped and ADD MORE POSES.
there may not be enough information to allow for the leap into refining

Really, at this stage, the most important thing you can do is to is to really start looking closely at your work. The benefit of the stepped method of blocking, or even just holding poses, is to really focus on strong posing and good timing. Once you start splining out your curves though, you can lose the timing and overall feel, usually because there isn't enough information in the scene. In stepped mode, it's like a slideshow of movie stills, so your mind fills in the blanks. The challenge at this point is to really look at your poses and see how they're working in motion..are they too extreme for the speed of movement? Too slow? Is the path of the motion too jagged.

This is just a quick post to get you thinking, but at don't be afraid to really analyze your work at this point.

Also, make sure everyone goes to Keith Lango's site and go through is tutorials..they're all eye opening, even if you haven't looked at them in a while

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

using reference wisely

I notice the preponderance of rotoscoped animation at the Academy and felt obligated to put up some thoughts on how I approach using reference. This isn't by any means a formula - formulas invariably fail in animation.

So let's start with an exercise, as a way of breaking down process. In an earlier post I mentioned the merit of learning for learning sake by doing more of an exercise rather than gunning for a demo reel piece at every turn. Why? Animation is about evolving one's process, and constantly learning how to see deeper. But pushing ourselves deeper into simple exercises is a good way to solve technical problems in animation as well as push your eye into seeing more detail.

In the spirit of doing a concrete exercise, I chose a throw. But what kind of throw is interesting? A baseball pitch is always good, but I've done enough of those, so I found 2 clips to work from from BBCmotiongallery - a shotput animation (clip 1 clip 2)

So the first thing I did was to watch the clips repeatedly. For me, a great way into seeing is by sketching, so I did a rough sketch sheet of what I took to be the key poses and important breakdowns in the scene.

Admittedly, these sketches are pretty rough. But right now they're a way of searching out information and seeing how poses sequentially work together. In analyzing the motion so far, I broke it down into a few ideas.

  • anticipation..athlete getting into the internal headspace to throw the ball.
  • raises arm and bounces a few times..more of an exaggerated anticipation
  • bouncing up and down in preparation for the throw. This seemed interesting to me. In one of the videos, the thrower just bent down, stored up some energy, and exploded outwards. The bouncing seemed like an interested move in that it's almost practicing what's to come, and getting in tune with his body.
  • weight shift onto back leg as pelvis raises
  • front leg kicks up and raises as he hops to build momentum
  • plants on front leg, explodes out into the throw, torquing his body in the air, landing on the other foot
  • land on other foot, balance on it, settle back to watch the result of the throw. More of a contented leisurely pace
So now I've done my research, chosen elements from 2 clips. Now it's time to put our poses into maya. This next part is the most time consuming part of the process..laying in the key poses. It should be the most time consuming part because if the poses are weak, the animation will be lackluster. For this exercise, I'm keeping it in stepped mode as long as possible. I usually don't work this way for motion pieces, but lately I've been pushing myself to work this way because it's a tried and true method of really focusing purely on posing and timing. So here's the first round...just poses and rough timing. I used the reference footage as a guide and approximated how long things took, but as I'm using a different model and don't want to be too slavish to the reference footage, I pushed it aside after I put in the rough posing and did a rough timing pass based on what felt good.

In looking at this version...there are plenty of problems, but there's enough information to get a general idea across. But some of the poses are weak and they could flow better. So my next pass is to refine the existing poses and add in new ones as needed. I'm still being as economical as possible so as not to overload myself with too much information.

Ok. This is better. The animation is flowing better and the arcs are make a little more sense. Right now areas to watch are the flailing up and down with the arm in the beginning as well as the recovery. From experience, I know these are areas that once splined will be problematic and either require toning aspects down or adding more time. In order to better see what's going on with those areas, I'm going to add a LOT more breakdown frames. Probably about double.

This exposes some problems, but parts are working. There is some fluidity to the throwing part, but the scrunching down feels pretty wobbly. The spine is rotating all over the place and fighting itself on the way down. This will be jittery if I spline it right now, so some of this information I've put down is wrong. Time to stop looking at the reference footage for a while as it's served it's purpose so far. On the next pass, I'm going to refine the jitter, reclaim the key poses so there's time to experience them without noisy motion. I'll spend most of my time eliminating wrong poses and strengthening the ones that are in the right place.

Because the beginning part was getting worse, i deleted the wrong keys and reestablished some holds, simplifying the motion a bit. Also, I'm noticing that some of the breakdown frames are too close together, so on the next pass, it's going to be crucial to focus on timing and spacing, as they've been suffering a bit through looking at the motion. I'm also making a conscious choice to minimize the bounce at the beginning, both in the extremity of the motin as well as the amount of felt like it was overshadowing the next moment and to get better texture to this scene, I'm toning it down, again, taking the IDEA of bouncing in place from the reference and implementing it differently. I get up out of my seat here and act out this motion with the goal of figuring out the lean of my chest, and where my cente of gravity is relative to my feet. I've gone back and added in many more breakdowns on the faster action, as it's time to be decisive.

Next, I spline out my curves (plateau in this case, as it avoids overshoot, but you have to watch for flat tangents where you don't want them). Ok. A little disappointing, but time to carve in. The timing is mush in places, snappy in others, so let's pad keys where needed, add more fluidity and overlap to various poses, take out obvious hitches in the spine rotations and pelvis, cleanup that problematic torso hitching in the beginning, and start to fix the rear settle.

And here we are, at first pass stage. Here, I want the timing and spacing and poses as complete as possible. The only thing left after this (which I didn't get to for this demo) is refining. Refining means many things, but let's focus on splining out to first pass. I slowed down and reworked the beginning - it's not there yet and I'll next want to choose a camera angle and refine to that (as it's an exercise, I haven't focussed too much on it. were it a real shot, we would have locked down the camera from the start). I've heavily revised the weight, especially as he does the weight transfer as he throws. There's still plenty of problem areas, but it's closer now and now we can focus on weight mechanics and getting more fluidity into this piece, which will come by pose tweaking, adding new poses, and refining what we have to make it flow better.

This is NOT finished by any means, but I hope it demonstrated a process for you. Really, this is about the appropriate amount of steps to get to the polish state. Go to the splinedoctors site, as they have some great posts about taking your work past blocking. Andrew Gordon had a great quote to the effect of really spending time on the posing and timing takes a lot more work on the front end, but makes finishing the shot much faster.

So where are we at this point. At 50%. That's how much time it's going to take to finish this shot, but that's a lecture on polish, which is what separates the good from the great.

Not that this is good or great by any means, but I had a little more time today to start the polish pass, setting a specific camera and cleaning with that window open in the corner the whole time to see how my changes affect that angle. Let's call this nearly second pass. At this point, the changes get slower - things I might think about at this point are things like really pushing the moving holds..for the throw and hop, when he lands on his front foot, how is his balance? How long does he hold his foot up before placing it is the spacing on it as he plants it. Looking at the animation, it's still pretty rough, but moving along in a positive direction.

A trick I sometimes use in figuring out stepped to spline is to grab keys in the timeline and turn them back and forth from stepped to spline mode. Being lazy, I made some shelf buttons to do this faster. The mel for these is below. Basically, whatever you grab and is red in the timeslider will change tangency.

These 2 mels are like a toggle between curve types for selected curves in your timeslider

evalEcho "timeSliderSetTangent step";
timeSliderSetTangent step;

evalEcho "timeSliderSetTangent plateau";
timeSliderSetTangent plateau;

These next to set your global keying preferences, so the next key you set will be in a particular tangent type (you can also add in linear, etc, but for this demo, i just go back and forth between these two)

keyTangent -global -itt flat;
keyTangent -global -ott step;

keyTangent -global -itt plateau;
keyTangent -global -ott plateau;

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

new lesson coming up

I've been a little silent lately, but as the class size is basically eliminating the possiblity of much lecture time, I'm putting together something for the blog on How to Use Video Reference, from start to finish.

It's been a concern in teaching at the academy that students rotoscope into maya. Rotoscope CAN be a useful tool, but it's essentially tracing, and, like drawing from a photograph and losing likeness, the detail can overpower the understanding of weight, force and motion.

Really, in using reference, it's important to let it work for you and not let it take over the process. How? More to come soon.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

sindhu sneak cycle

ok..this animation is problematic, but does some things well, and help is on the way.

let's start with the anim..

It's doing some things well..some of the moving holds are pretty good and overall the posing is not bad. But. Always a but. There are major timing and spacing problems. Really, a sneak cycle is like a walk cycle with the torso having more overlap forward and back, while trying to hold a pose. That's the classic 'sneak' a la the Preston Blair book. Right now..there's a lot of quick accelleration to a slow as molasses slowdown on the passing poses..that's the killer at the moment. Also, as the character goes into the passing position the foot pops off the ground with the pelvis. Remember you push off with your foot after the pelvis starts moving....even in a fast paced run..feet are a springboard to moving forwards...

You can see some fundamental weight shift issues by the blue's not terribly off, but enough off to see that the planting of the feet gets a little weightless.

What I think of for an effective sneak above all posing, is the overall rhythm. I did a quick sphere test in place as a (albeit rough and not terribly accurate - but I squeeze these crits in at lunch) example of the sort of rhythm you want.

lift...step...plant...accellerate into the settle...slow settle...repeat.

so watch the rhythm of your cycle. Also, the head/torso tilts right and left a bit...make that more fluid by keeping him aimed forward to minimize the dread 'zombie' effect.

But what do I know. Handily, Jason Ryan has a free tutorial on the sneak.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

animation layers for earlier versions of maya

who needs 2009 when you can get that layers in 7 (which i still use)

Go to NEOREEL and download their maya plugin..

the update they suggested i use caused the plugin to fail, but once you enable it, type in

neoreelLibrary -config

into your script editor and enable what you need, and you have layers.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

steve ly..3 hit combo

Ah, the famous 3 hit combo. Steve is clearly doing a piece targeting game companies, which is great...don't be afraid to do pieces specific to where you want to go. I wouldn't send this to ILM, but it's on it's way to being a really strong piece.

The thing with 'game reels' that you need to be careful of is catering them to the perceived look of a game animation. Game animation is tricky because it has a lot of restrictions on it because of the engine it's going into, and the ability of states to blend to each other. I can go into some of the restrictions if you guys are interested, but suffice it to say, when I do a reel of my game work, I tend to reanimate it as needed to either punch it up, or slow it down accordingly. The biggest culprit is the transition back to a resting ('idle') pose. I see a lot of student reels where the ending happens abruptly. Maybe that's how it is in a game, but the reason is so that the player can get control quickly. What companies of all types want to see is good motion and weight, so don't be afraid to have your character take an extra step, do a shoulder shrug, or anything to finish the action.

So the above action is good...the poses and general flow is correct. Steve did his homework and is doing a good job of taking some reference and starting to move beyond it. Using reference footage can be a certain point you have to chuck it and just periodically glance back at it. Mocap and rotoscoping want your animations to be smooth, fluid, and a little sluggish.

Right now, the 2 things that will improve this piece are purely timing and spacing related..I did some cutting and pasting of frames in quicktime to both sharpen and pad the timing, accellerating into the punches, and holding after the fact...the knee kick definitely needs some holds. See the boxing capture below for slow motion footage of accelleration (link)

The other thing to watch (that i don't have too much time to get into) is how the feet travel. The offsetting is's not too 'stompy', which can be a problem. On the other hand, they feel like they're in slow motion at times, so the jumps forward may need some frames trimmed to accellerate into each step...I'll look at it further, but it's very much improved from last week. You've arrived at what I think of as the polish stage..refining timing, pushing the elements to be stronger..

Monday, October 20, 2008

tae kwan do

Lou is doing some great work on his current assignment. I usually don't come out and sing praises, but the prep work he's doing is great. All the acting choices at this point are very considered and feel really clear.

Being rigorous at the blocking stage - I really can't stress the importance of it. One thing I want to mention is framing your shot. Lou's acting choices are very considered, but this has a long way to go in being a piece of entertainment. I've approved it thus far, as the acting in the main character is entertaining. A piece like this however, demands a context. Right now this feels like a cut from a movie and a complete enough piece of dialogue to hold it's own. Things to think about in a shot like this are questions like.

  • is it worth showing 2 characters interacting. The reaction of another character really amps up the main character's performance.
  • FRAMING. Go to the movie screenshot blog and spend some time. Study how the great ones frame their shot. 16x9 or wider is great, but it also presents some compositional challenges.
  • Are you showing too much or too little of your character. I like the layout of these shots, but I start to wonder why the character isn't moving around more in the space. Quick solution...zoom in. If your character doesn't have any weight shifts it's a medium shot, either move that character around a bit, or zoom in for more of an intimate shot.
I did some quick frame markings to show what would happen if you just zoom in...the character is still prominent in the frame, going with the show as much as you need strategy. This piece feels like the character is talking to the camera, or just slight of it.

I grabbed some screenshots from the movie screenshot blog to show some over the shoulder shots and framing solutions.

Again...this is a really rough smattering of shots I've found, but really pay attention how your characters are framed on set. Think about how far the camera is from them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

golden axe finally out!

I just saw this on youtube...Golden Axe, the game I worked on for the past year just came out today. Someone was kind enough to put up a video of captures from it of some of the work I did on the main character...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Sam did a good thing in submitting blocking- it's really important to be hypercritical at the stepped really is the foundation of what's to come.

I did some quick sketchovers from her animation. The important thing to do, especially in a character without legs is to really pay attention to the shape and tilt of the shoulders to convey weight. Really think about where the legs are underneath the body and how you can get the shape/sillhouette to really read. This animation moves from S to C curves repeatedly, and it would be helpful to really push those as much as possible. Also, if you're carrying a heavy suitcase, your arm will extend out and shoulder will go down or up depending on the tilt of the generally support heavy objects by counterbalancing with your body.

Pay attention to the neck and head as well. the tilt really helps convey line of action.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

jeff gabor's horton comparison reel

Just found a link that someone reposted. Probably the best argument for stepped blocking out there (and for planning your shots)

spreading the gossip...

I guess the adage, 'you're only as good as your last shot' applies even at the highest of levels

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

2d programs

Jason Fittipaldi chimed in with a quick question about 2d software.

Ok. First, props to Jason for posting a's the first one this semester and he isn't even at the AAU - but it's a good question. I'm always giving you guys a hard time about sketching out poses and planning your animations. The ultimate way to do this is in 2d. It's time consuming, but even through rough drawings, you can really get to the heart of things.

My favorite program for planning animations is alias/autodesk sketchbook pro. Hands down the best pencil tool out there.

For 2d animating, I use a few -
Pencil - free, which is always good. Pretty stable and finally in a pretty usable state. Did I say free?

Flipbook - Jason Ryan does his demos in these, and he being the badass draughtsman that he is, is a better salesman for it than I. Check out his tutorial - it's pretty inspiring and useful to see how much you can convey with a simple figure. Reasonable price.

plastic animation paper
- a great program, with a free version. the only problem is unless you spend some $$$, you can't hold frames, which limits its usability. Great for bouncing ball practice.

tv paint - a very powerful program with a high level of complexity, but looks pretty nice.

And on that note, a site with cheap tablet pcs.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

kimberlee is looking for help on a production

Kimberlee from class requested I post this regarding help with a production she's involved with

Back in December of 2007 a non-profit organization came to the school and asked for help on there production. The 3-D project is called is an action adventure about robots (society) and targeted for a younger audience. Being an non-profit they already have sponsors...however we are going for ABC! We are in collaboration with many instructors at the academy and Chris Armstrong to get this production up to television standards.

Possibly the most exciting news is that Reprogrammed is well on its way to being converted into HD High Definition 1080! We are also encouraging everyone to invite people they know to gain experience and knowledge working on a real production for television (all departments). Every volunteer will gain professional experience working collaboratively with others, and will be allowed to use the shot they've worked on in their demo reel, and possibly a letter of Recommendation for your future job. Reprogrammed has already been recognized as a special project at the Academy of Art, and a few students have already gotten jobs. We were excited to give a professional reference for one student already! This is an opportunity that everyone should be a part of and you will not want to miss!

We will be meeting up again on Monday nights at 7pm on the 3rd floor of the 180 New Montgomery Building. Our classroom has been moved to the Weta Lab.

If you are interested please attended a meeting on Monday night and bring some examples of your work with you...a demo reel (if you have it) is preferred. If you can not come in on a Monday you can e-mail us.

If you are an online student, you can still help with the project as we have SEVERAL online students working hard on this production!

Best Always and Thanks Again,
Brandon Chappell
-Assistant Director
Kimberlee Lawless

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Academy Events Next Week

Monday, October 6

Walt Disney Animation Studios

491 Post Street


Representatives will discuss Apprenticeship Programs and Disney Talent Development

Tuesday, October 7

Honorary Doctorate Presentation: Richard Winn Taylor II

2151 Van Ness

5pm Reception

7pm Ceremony & Presentation

Mr. Taylor is a VFX pioneer who has worked on such films as Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Tron

Wednesday, October 8

Animation Town Hall Meeting

180 New Montgomery

Room 400A, 10am

Students can meet the directors, faculty, and other department representatives, ask questions, and express themselves

the fine art of caricature

I'm sure many of you has seen this by now, as the current economic crisis is on everyone's minds. This was a role made for Tina Fey, and it's pretty fascinating to see the mannerisms she picks up and embellishes to push the comedy. I think for it to work though, the comedy comes from how well she picks up on the details before diverging from them.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The benefit of practice

Jean-Denis brought up an extremely valuable series of points in one of his recent posts that I feel compelled to riff off of, notably that of the value of practice exercises.

I think there's a difference between an exercise and a demo reel piece, and as a student, or even a professional, there's times when you just need to just let an animation be a practice exercise. As a student, it's sometimes more preferable just to do a lot of practice exercises and later on, turn those good ones into more refined pieces.

It's a tricky want to approach each animation with a certain amount of gravity (and not just the physics) - part of becoming a better animator, and something that never ends, is the process of honing your eye, which comes from doing a LOT of animation, as well as watching movies, critiquing your peers as well as those leaps in learning we all periodically make that push us a bit higher.

So, here's a quick listing of examples of animations that I'd suggest doing with the goal of not putting on your reel. To have fun with, push without pressure, and to refine your skills. Like intellectual push ups.

  • The bouncing ball. It never gets old, and is a pretty accurate litmus of weight, timing, spacing. If you're bored with it, do a heavy ball..a light ball, balls on a pool table, a ping pong ball and a bowling ball. I'm not sure if it's possible to master this exercise - I do a lot of these in 2d on my tablet pc and feel like I learn something every time I do them, but you won't see one on my reel..
  • the weight shift. One of the more problematic areas for student.Video youself, draw from this. observe the subtle interaction of the pelvis to the feet as well as curve of the spine. a good one is to have a character idle for a bit, then turn and walk away in the opposite direction they're standing. You could punch it up...maybe have someone waiting for a bus and has to run to catch it once they notice. I've seen more reels get killed for bad weight shifts than anything else.
  • weight exercises. lift, throw, catch - anything you want. how characters pick things up is essential, and always needed. you could go subtle..have a character pick up an envelope, or broad, and have someone use a sledgehammer, or chop wood on a stump.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Criteria for Demo Reel Work/How to be a student animator

Jean-Denis with the wisdom..

A wise man on an ordinary day, he really nails down many sentiments I feel about what you should focus on as a student, the process of learning, as well as what goes into making a reel.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

quadraped walk cycle demo

Untitled from coop on Vimeo.

As promised, and because I'm becoming less convinced of my ability to give a lecture AND critique 25 students in 3 hours, I'm going to attempt to post more additional content on this blog.

Really, this is nothing terribly fancy...a 25 minute demo of how to rough in a quadraped walk cycle with a few bullet points and no audio. The technique was shown to me by a pretty spectacular animator, Jan VanBuyten who has done animation from Balto to The Host - he really knows his creatures, and this is my take on his methodology of roughing in the basic mechanics. It's a much more layered approach than I generally take, but it takes you pretty far into the cycle quickly, while keeping it editable.

Let me know if this is's my first attempt at making something using screen capture software-the whole thing is realtime with no editing, so you can see me make some wrong moves and backtrack a bit in places. Also, it's playing at double speed, recorded at 15fps, so you never see the final cycle in real time...(more detailed info to come)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sindhu - new to class, here come the crits

Sindhu (whose name I hope I'm not mispelling) is a late arrival and emailed me 2 cycles.

Now, I'm happy to crit these, but going forwards I want to be clear that I don't want people submitting work they've done in other classes, mostly because you'll learn more by doing it over from scratch after a snazzy lecture and demo.

Ok. Let's start with the walk. We're officially not getting to them for another week, but here it is..a basic walk. Walks are tricky in that your eye quickly gravitates to what isn't working, but it's also hard to pinpoint what's just know it is.

Also, it's easier for me to do a crit if i have the .ma file, or a playblast from multiple angles with a frame counter (use my frameDisplay.mel if you need one)

The overall poses and feel of it is good, but the even feel of it makes it a little robotic. Part can be fixed by posing. It looks like the stride is a little short. You could either tweak the Y of the pelvis to avoid the squat nature of it, or extend the overall stride length a hair by giving him a stronger extension/pre-plant pose. Also, there isn't a lot of rotation to the all moves as a unit, making it feel like it's still in blocking. Offsetting the rotations tapering upwards will help with that. I'm not sure if the elbows and shoulders move at all in this..make sure they are animated. Even subtle changes will help add fluidity while still retaing the basic nature of it. the spine could do that nice wavelike motion a bit more going forwards/back. The head should be gazing at a point in space...not just moving with the body...a good time to use those parent space attributes. Other than that, the overall extension of the feet make it feel soft rather than a plant.

The ball guy has a nice rhythm to it - it's a little more evenly paced than a traditional walk, giving it a happy feel..the Y of the pelvis is more like a run, but it works with this character and i don't know the rig limitations to critique the pelvis, etc.

the arms feel a little underanimated though and the antenna has a pop to it. More crit as I find the time...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

cycles, quick recap

You all have my notes by this point (pick up this week's pdf in the pickup folder) but I thought I'd give a quick recap for those of you who inadvertantly nodded off during class or just signed up.

How I Do a Cycle, Cliff Notes Version
Cycles are a different kind of animation compared to most other, because as important as the poses are, the eye is paying attention to the rhyhmic interplay of the parts of the body. Minor offsetting of things like the shoulders make a big difference.

  1. Figure out what you're doing. Get reference, sketch, act it out, have a clear idea of what sort of cycle it is.
  2. Stamp down complete poses for the main keys and breakdowns of the cycle. Contact, Passing, etc. It should read as a cycle for the most part. Even key the fingers..get those poses strong and spend time refining them.
  3. Next, start dealing with the stride length and relationship between the pelvis and feet. These are the biggest changes in your cycle, rather, they relate to each other, so any change has to be done on all 3 nodes. You're also establishing rhythm and cadence here. I often turn the pelvis curve to weighted and nail the Y movement of it.
  4. Key the feet to get nice fluid arcs and more accurate placement of the feet. The breakdown frames add a lot of character, so go to town on these.
  5. The spine. If you're main key poses are solid this should be finessing. On a walk, there's very much a subtle wavelike motion on it. On a run, there's more of a faster compresion after hitting the ground (be careful with this or your cycle can look jittery)
  6. head and neck. solidify this relationship
  7. rough in the arms
  8. analyze what you have. break it down to your keyposes and breakdowns if it isn't working
  9. polish arcs working from the pelvis out.
This isn't THE way to do a cycle. Lots of animators even take it in stepped mode to near finish. All methodologies are valid...this is just what I've found to be a fast workflow

Also, if anyone has questions, post them in the comments so your classmates can benefit from your inquisitive nature. Also, comments in the blog that are more pointed than shout outs to your homies will count as a form of class participation.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

uh...where was everyone...

Sorry about the mix up..I didn't have more than 6 email addresses for the class and opted to go the route of printing the time change in the pdf and posting to this blog.

For those actually reading this..please send in your assignments and I'll find time to get you a crit this week.

the walk cycle

just a quick smattering of things I found on that interweb

the syllabus

I had a good meeting with Chris Armstrong about the syllabus and goals of this class. The end result was that he felt it could be a bit more free form, provided I teach the course requirements.

This is good news for you guys doesn't mean I'm going to go easy on you by any means, but it does mean that we can restructure the course to your individual goals. This also doesn't mean to just bring in the same assignment for months on end...just go over with me in advance what you'd like to do and we can start tailoring the lectures to the classwork.

As an example, I posted a revised syllabus here. It's not the new syllabus, but merely an attempt to revise it.

I'd like to start tailoring this course more towards polish and refined animations

Friday, September 5, 2008

Syllabus, et al..

Good first day of class I hope..I know I overloaded you with a lot of info, but the first day is always a challenge.

Quick week class will be on Tuesday.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

more free rigs

Just noticed not only some free rig links, but free prop links as well at the animation lounge.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

end of summer, new semester

A new semester begins...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Kevin Koch Shot Walkthrough

GREAT POST by Kevin Koch on the anatomy of a shot.

A really nice walkthrough that takes a different tack than stepped to linear.