Monday, December 21, 2009

Carlos Baena on Feedback

I'm re-blogging Carlos Baena's really insightful post on feedback. Really well written and gets to the heart of both giving and receiving feedback. This process is very much a learned skill and this should serve as a great reminder in how to give and receive it graciously.

One thing I'll point out is the mention of mentioning what's working. It's not only good for morale, but to know what's strong. Ultimately, every piece can be critiqued until the end of time...animation is never perfect, but again...great post!

Feedback is quite a delicate part of what we do. Sometimes animators take it well and other times not so well. Over the years, I've come to learn that without feedback, my shots or anything I do would look like complete crap. Getting some fresh eyes on what it is that we do, really helps, especially when you are staring at your same shot for days and/or weeks.

I noticed people give feedback in some ways. I'm not writting here about how to give feedback...but instead, some pointers that may make the process a little easier.

  • First, does the animator want feedback? Are you confortable giving feedback to a person? If you are not, then don't. However, if the animator is open for suggestions, that's a great quality as it shows he or she wants to improve the shot.
  • Also, the feedback should be honest. I always go to particular animators at work, that I know will be direct on their feedback, and will not pull any punches. If I want to improve as an animator, I need that.
  • Not all feedback is about things to correct in the shot. Even if the shot needs a lot of work, it's nice when someone brings up something that is actually working.
  • Make the feedback constructive. Doesn't help to hear "That looks wrong" or "That area seems off". Instead, find ways to let them know how to fix it. Maybe the up/down curve could be smoothed out...or hold that pose there a little longer so that we read it.
  • What kind of feedback are you passing? Is it feedback that will improve the shot based on what the animator has in there already, or is it feedback that will make it different? Big differences.
  • I think it's important to respect the animators idea/choices. I would not want to give a friend feedback that will completely change their acting choices, unless they ask for it. Also, it's important to remember that this is their shot. Not my shot. Helps to keep that in mind.
  • I think it's important to get feedback from a few people. It doesn't matter how much I like the choice/acting I put in there. If two or more people agree that something in there is not working, then it's important to re-evaluate the shot, and consider to re-block that section.
  • Something that matters also is when the feedback is given. It's not the same to give feedback when the animator is just starting to work on it as opposed to the day the animator is supposed to final that shot.
  • If a shot is in the early early stages of blocking, then feedback related to the actual ideas, acting choices or overall staging of the character will be useful knowing a lot of the work in the shot is still very rough, and it's easy to change.
  • However, if your shot is about to be finaled, you are adding some of the polish...and someone tells you, to have your character walking slowly instead of running, it can really set you back. It helps to show often to get feedback, or if you don't, be ready to get feedback that may change your shot a 180 degrees.
  • So usually, if the shot is closed to being finaled, most of the feedback I'll offer is related to small polish things that may help the shot...arcs, pops, subtleties, keep alive areas...
  • It's important to know that getting feedback is about improving a shot, and not judging the animators skills. Some of my early blocking looks very crappy. However, at that stage I can care less about how the curves looks...what I'm concerned about is whether my ideas are good or even worth it.
  • Ultimately, the Director has the final say in a shot. So you can get all the feedback you want from peers, but at the end of the day, you are working towards helping the Director realize his/her vision.

I hope this helps.


Friday, December 11, 2009

andrew gordon...traits of a successful animator

very well articulated

Take this to heart. A few students asked what it takes to get an internship last night and how to separate their reels from the pack. This sort of thinking is really what it's about.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

time is sneaking up on us...

The last 3 weeks of time flies.

Quick recap...
this week. second pass animations on the acting piece.
next week. final pass animation
playblasts/renders of all of your work from this term with the following settings
1024x576 (or 4x3 format if the composition dicates it)
quicktime h.264 compression

final class, tbd.

happy animating

Monday, November 30, 2009

swordfight sequence

love you tube..someone captured the sequence where I did a bunch of anims on the swordfight sequence and the jump to the other table. Telltale rocks...they make everything they touch fun.

google wave invites

i have a few more to hand out if anyone needs one

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

muppets. just because.

fun theory I'm just spreading some viral marketing around, but my lesson of the day, and I have few to give really, is have fun while you work! Animation can be a dull plodding process if you lose focus. Sometimes it's good to forget about the details and refocus on the intent of making something entertaining!

Monday, November 23, 2009



static composition


narrow range of motion

devin15 devin16

explore foreground/alternate staging

Some nice things going on here, but right now the biggest problem is still staging. It's composed like you're sitting in the audience of a play. Looking at the yellow sketchover I did, there's clear shapes the characters fit into and never leave, adding to a static feel. Looking at the sketch underneath that, it's a range of motion ghosted image composite. In a nutshell, your character is bolted in place in a widely framed composition, which demands at least a solid weightshift. I don't mind the acting on the guy, but she needs to solidify her performance a bit. Maybe take a step or 2 and then turn away. Or explore alternate compositions to focus on more detailed performance. I quickly did 2 cut and paste versions to see how the characters hold up.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

art thief

read JD's blog

While the adage imitation is the sincerest form of flattery holds true, it hold true to a degree. Copying, is, well, cheating, in the world of animation. That goes for taking credit for other people's work as well. But Aysha Khan, you've made it to the wall of shame!

Sometimes animation is collaborative...shots are shared. Rigs are borrowed, etc. But give credit to who deserves it, and never plagurize. It's a very small industry and theft of ideas, or anything else, for that matter, will bite you in the tush. Guaranteed.

Friday, November 20, 2009

shelf buttons….tangent switching

I mentioned a workflow I use of switching tangent types even in the early stages of an animation to evaluate timing.

Here’s a few shelf buttons/mel commands you can use to avoid having to do a lot of clicking in maya. Just save the icons to your images directory and add them in. Were I more clever, I’d build a UI for this. The first 3 scripts change selected keys in the timeline (or graph editor) to different tangent types. The following 3 determine what sort of keys you’ll set next. Enjoy! They save me a ton of time.



//change selected keys to linear
keyTangent -global -itt linear;
keyTangent -global -ott linear;

//change selected keys to stepped
keyTangent -global -itt flat;
keyTangent -global -ott step;

pl //change selected keys to plateau
keyTangent -global -itt plateau;
keyTangent -global -ott plateau;

//change key type to linear
evalEcho "timeSliderSetTangent linear";
timeSliderSetTangent linear;

//key type to stepped
evalEcho "timeSliderSetTangent step";
timeSliderSetTangent step;

//change timeslider to plateau
evalEcho "timeSliderSetTangent plateau";
timeSliderSetTangent plateau;


since there have been a LOT of missed assignments, I'm giving the weekend to email in any missing grading period is next wed, so the cutoff is monday at noon.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

kamil crit

some quick sketchovers...notes to follow.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

aaron hartline....process video

>click here<

I love watching Aaron Hartline's process vids. The interesting thing with blocking is that by definition it's's incomplete with only partial information, but manages to really communicate a lot with a few poses and continues improving/adding/refining with each pass.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

compositional inspiration

I'm pretty much a sucker for all things noir. In planning out an animation, it's easy to want to worry about the camera later on. This turns out to always be a mistake, as you can get to the heart of your shot much faster if you treat the camera as another character.

What I love about noir is that lighting, composition and set all pull together as a primary aspect of storytelling. Foremost, it sets up a sense of drama...sillhouetted characters against light fog...characters faces shadowed under wide brimmed hats. The cliches abound, but for me, it gets intersting when the characters are small onscreen and the background elements played up. It gives a sense that the protagonist is up against forces much larger. The use of shadow as a framing device that enhances sillhouette adds drama.

Not that I'm advocating the over use of heavy shadow, but the idea of using the environment as a storytelling device, and the use of strong foreground and background elements has merit.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

choosing dialogue

Since this week is the first week of dialogue driven animation, aka lip synch, aka acting, I thought I'd mention a few things to consider in choosing a line of dialogue

10-12 seconds. This is a good length for the remainder of term. Too long, and it may be difficult to complete with any sense of polish. Too short and it limits your options.

Pacing. Choose something with a variable rhythm to it. I like to think of jazz drumming in considering variable patterns. Too often a line is chosen because of the entertainment value it has without factoring in how you might animate it.

Avoid the Gag. Be wary of going for humor through a single gag, where you arrive at a snappy punchline. If done right, it can work, but if the reliance is on the gag and not leading a situation up to a dramatic conclusion, humorous or otherwise, it can feel cheap.

Don't use something everyone knows. It's a challenge, but if you grab an Adam Sandler clip off of, chances are people know it and will think of the source before they think of your animation.

more to follow..

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monkey Island

Telltale just released the newest episode of Monkey Island. I did a couple of shots, one of which was used as a promotional still (disclaimer, as they provided pretty detailed layouts)! This project was a huge treat, and I really geeked out on working on these iconic characters.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

first aid

Prolific animator and educator, Keith Lango, has posted these, which are conveniently directly relevant to the weight pieces you're working on. I highly recommend Keith's tutorials as well.

Monday, October 12, 2009

john k does the jetsons

Pretty interesting post on what's almost an exercise in pushing beyond the original material. I wish I could see this in's interesting how much it deviates from the original, but still feels like the same characters.

david anthony gibson's cloudy reel + useful breakdown

JD Haas beat me to the punch on this one, so he gets the credit for finding this really well written post and reel breakdown

love the style and detailed descriptions on posing/planning

Friday, October 9, 2009


quick reminder…in a weight shift, treat the spine and pelvis as a unit. As your pelvis moves up and over the foot, the spine generally counterbalances to maintain balance.

Everyone did a great job blocking…don’t be too precious about it though and continue to make it stronger and more clear with each pass.

sony animators blog

head over to room 1403 for some inspiration.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

polish tips from Shawn Kelly

from Shawn's blog....

What are some extra goodies to add in polish to make the animation stand out even more (eg. head squash and stretch…)

For me, the single biggest thing is pushing my arcs into something clear, fun, and pleasing to the eye. There's nothing like some beautiful arcs on the wrists, feet, nose, props, etc., to really bring a scene to life and take it from looking acceptable to looking great!

Other than that, especially in visual effects animation, which is the medium I've mostly worked in (animating characters who need to live in the same frame as live-action actors), the key is subtle complexity. It's finding small ways to add little secondary things that bring the character more fully to life.

Things like having a character swallow, and the intricate neck muscle movements that go into a swallow, for example. Or putting in breaths into the scene - expanding the chest a bit, etc.

As you say, you can also get some great extra mileage out of squashing and stretching the head slightly, if the style of the film is appropriate for that. In a more realistic film, you could get that feeling out of squashing/stretching the fleshier parts of the face while keeping the skull itself more rigid, but it's the same idea - giving the overall character a heightened feeling of being organic and fleshy.

All of these sorts of things - micro eye movements, muscles flexing/relaxing, ear twitches on an animal, toes squishing against the ground, etc - these all can add to the overall complexity that will help the character feel even more alive without sacrificing the subtlety of the performance!

shaba games..the end

boo. Activision shut down my former employer Shaba Games - a really great place to work. Another big hit for Bay Area animation. Best of luck to all my talented former coworkers.

Friday, October 2, 2009

moving a static cycle forwards

Last night I realized a bit too late that the technical aspects of maya were taking over for everyone, so I figured out a nice low tech way to move a static cycle forwards without using space switching tools and rerigging mid project. I’m a huge fan of the simple solution whenever possible.

I grabbed a quad walk I had from an older project that was blocked in in-place. I often start my cycles in place to establish the rhythms but move them to translation as soon as possible, as cycles in place are a bit of an abstraction. At the very least, I’ll take the master node and translate it (linearly) to better establish the footfalls and eliminate foot slide as soon as possible, then mute it at the first frame when necessary to better evaluate the cycle (especially on runs, which move too fast to evaluate well with translation)

So..pretty simple…looking at the curves on one of the feet…pretty rhythmic in that sine wave shape that in place cycles have.


Next, let’s grab all the nodes that need to translate forward (in this case, 4 feet, pole vectors, and the pelvis)


On the bottom right of your screen, next to the display layer tab, there’s a button for Animation Layers. Click that, and the on the LAYERS dropdown, create new layer. The one thing you don’t want to do is create an override layer, which can be really useful, just not in this case.


With our nodes still selected, we’re going to set 2 keys. One at the first frame, then at the last frame of the cycle, translating the character forwards in z. Make sure there’s no wobble to these splines ( I usually grab all the curves and press SPLINE, which oddly makes them behave as if they’re linear). Now I fuss with this final location until there’s as little foot slide as possible. If you’ve done this cycle in place the whole time, there’s invariably going to have some foot slide, but if it’s minor, let’s not worry about it yet.

So here we are…first pass..translating forward, working as expected.

Save off a version, and let’s bake the changes down.


These are the settings I like to use…Smart Bake is really useful for not making a cloud of points.

Now that it’s baked down to a layer, we can look at the Z curves


This is linear, but you can see the foot drift on the holds, which should be fixed.

This method falls into the category of a simple solution rather than an elegant one, but anything that gets you towards your goal faster is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

workflow post...cloudy/meatballs

David Anthony Gibson with a really eloquent posting about workflow and process

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

out of commission

sorry for the complete lack of updates..between my hip surgery (not a big deal..I’m already walking without cructches, or as my daughter would say, ‘my scritch) and my son’s burst appendix, I’ve been tied up. I’ve been reworking my animation menu as well as updating the class rigs.

email me if you have any questions about the class and please send me your work samples if you can. I’m mostly sitting around a hospital these days and would love to get caught up.

Friday, August 7, 2009


for all you crazy twitterers out there, search #animtip - a collective sharing of tips from animators everywhere. Great for inspiration. Don't underestimate the whole inspiration thing.

wingsuit jumping

Curious how they land!

Friday, July 24, 2009

kyle balda tutorials

I highly recommend picking up this issue of cgWorld...the above link references the video tutorials of the great Kyle Balda walking you through a shot. The magazine includes the above rigs.

It's interesting...his approach is very intuitive and for those who dislike the 'stepped' aka 'drawing method' of laying in shots, it's a valid way to work. I'm never a stickler on having to work one way - I think different working methods work well for different people, and different animations sometimes require a different methodology, but download these zips for a different perspective on process. It's an interesting workflow in that you focus on hitting the scene beats quickly and getting to the heart of the rhythm of the scene, but you don't really arrive at your poses until later on, which is heresy to the way a lot of people work. I've met a lot of old school pixar animators that work this way as well as Sheridan grads.

comicon footage...Iron Man 2

I thought I'd post this as an excuse for not posting...I've been working on the Iron Man 2 game and here's a walkthrough from comicon. I did the ground based robots in this one...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

font based on car movements

iQ font - When driving becomes writing / Full making of from wireless on Vimeo.

Looks like without a class to teach, I'm a poor blogger. I'll start up again later this summer, but here's a fun link via Justin Barrett.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

new chris landreth short/blog

I'm never sure how I feel about Chris Landreth's work. Always technically adept and masterful, but deliberately distancing as well. In any case, an interesting production blog.

Friday, June 19, 2009

100 frame exercises

100 frame student exercises from coop on Vimeo.

Taking a note from Jean-Denis, we tried these 100 frame exercises last term, with mixed, but mostly favorable results. Students really stepped up and made some entertaining pieces! The nature of the pieces forced decisionmaking quickly, but are really to animation what the quick sketch is to figure drawing.

Great class..I'll post more work samples soon

Friday, June 12, 2009

lou romano's blog

How did I not see this before?

Monday, June 8, 2009

GTD....great post from Jason

Jason points out that organizing skills aren't really something that's taught in school, and quite honestly, it's something I still struggle with. It was easier in my 20s when my life responsibilities were a fraction of what they are now, but now I find when the system breaks down, it can also really impact creativity as I struggle to catch up.

The Link

The impetus for Jason's blog posts are a utilization of David Allen's "Getting Things Done" methodology, which, at it's core, is an organizational system based on getting all the worry and lack of focus out of your head and onto a piece of paper/document to evaluate and prioritize. Basically, the goal is to get into the habit of constantly evaluating and prioritizing your life, acting on what you can.

Like any system, it's only useful if it works for you, but Jason has an interesting take on utilizing this methodology when it comes to planning your animation.

Last term I did 2 directed studies, one more successful than the other (this isn't to disparage anyone's animation abilities, but more goes to reflect on how process can help you or bite you in the tuchas)

Without going into specifics, one student didn't refine their 2d and 3d animatic, citing not enough time, and just plowed ahead without a strong enough plan, and consequently made relatively little progress. It's this prioritizing of time that can really be useful in looking at animation. Rather than a a big to do list that seems overwhelming, Jason suggests breaking the to do list into categories, like body, face, etc. in order to easily help focus one's priorities.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

project Trico

from my favorite game developer, Team Ico

Monday, May 18, 2009

Meet the Spy..

I'm a shameless Valve fan..especially when it comes to Team Fortress. As animation it's pretty astounding how well they nail each character's movement style to reinforce their character.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Last Class

I can't believe another term is over. Thanks for all the hard work everyone...keep me posted on what you're up to next. It was great to see everyone's progress..keep it up!

Maciej Dakowicz - grab reference where you can

A polish photographer, Maciej Dakowicz, apparently spent 4 years in Cardiff taking shots of the interesting gamut of emotions/expressions captured

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

cute short!

Scoop Volante from Pix'Elle on Vimeo.

love the quick editing on this one.


some quick notes...can't believe it's the last week!

Monday, May 11, 2009

sindhu…preliminary crit, week 14


I like the framing of this makes more sense to start with the kite

2nd 2_recut

This shot still feels a little awkward. I like the low view showing off the height of the building. Not so sure about the tiny framing of your character flying the kite…I think a tighter view would help make the action more readable.


4th 4_recut


This next sequence is pretty good, but in your 3d animatic had a moving camera and a continuous move left with the character. It seems like you could do a bit with the push pull aspect of flying a kite. Previously, your character was in one pose moving backwards…having him lean in to then pull back and lose balance would help give a sense of anticipation and set up for the large action of falling off the building.


I don’t think the crane shot downwards is helping…it actually flattens out the drama of falling downwards. Doing the opposite..looking upwards to then see him looking down would be more dramatic. In any case, I’m not sure a jump cut to looking down is doing you any favors here


not sure if this is necessary…the next shot communicates the panic of falling well, and the succeeding shot shows the action of falling quite well.



Maybe look upwards with the camera…


This is a less important shot, and it seems the path of the kite string would be going upwards as the kite is hovering.


nice framing!