Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mike Stern - process and planning


Sharp and insightful post from Mike Stern on the thought process behind research and planning out your shots.

this kid can move!

rango trailer

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

rule of thumb

great post via david martinez

super insightful tips on professionalism as an artist...like the following

"Don't Put Down Other Artist's Work

It only makes you look (1) envious, (2) boorish, (3) stupid, and, in general, (4) bad. Or some combination of the four. Sure, when you're sitting with friends having beers, you can talk shop and express your honest opinions—but never forget that not everyone has the same taste in art (including your friends) and art you deem dreck others might truly love. Especially don't forget that you never know who knows who and who is likely to spread your comments"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

high praise!

This was really complimentary...especially considering how infrequently I post these days. This term, I maintained a private blog from my classes in order to encourage students to post their work for critique. After the holidays, I'll start picking up with this blog again with a few tips and tricks type posts.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

so you want to be a game designer

great link from Matt Garward

Friday, November 5, 2010

insanely fast goalie

probably some compositing involved, but still fun!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

don draper..what?

reposted via Peter Tsaykel -->JD Haas

Thursday, October 21, 2010

splatterhouse demo reels

former students, kicking some ass! And great examples of game reels...really top notch work.



and former Sega coworker, the talented Lisa Hwang

Monday, October 18, 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010

brendan body flight tutorial


Truly great breakdown of bird flight. Bookmark!

keanu reeves - awesomely bad sneeze acting

Sometimes you've got to see why things don't work in order to figure out how to do things properly. This was forwarded to me this morning and a really great example of over/incorrect anticipation. A sneeze is essentially a reflex and sometimes there's this moment where it starts to kick in and you try to hold it at bay. Keanu, however does not...you can almost here him counting, one one thousand, two one thousand as looks from right to left, then sneeze!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

portal 2

from Keith Lango's blog...these 2 characters are a really amazing exercise in contrast and motion style. Love how antsy the skinny droid is and how much character they excude through the minor head tilts and blinks.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Friday, September 3, 2010

linked from travis howe

Because, really, there are few things better than the cookie monster

newt concept art

saw this posted through the magic of facebook...concept art for the now defunct Newt. Love this character study

portal 2 goodness

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

section 2

Maintaining a blog can be tricky...while it can inspire you to be motivated to post and stay up with things, they sometimes feel like sketchbooks you get bored with, and as they near completion, draw less and less.

On that note, to get a bit of focus, I'm going to branch my academy teaching blog into 

Don't worry..I'm not going to abandon this blog, and the split should make it a bit more focussed on general animation info.

Friday, August 20, 2010

camera notes from tj


good tips like

"Add a bit of rotation for shakes as well. Rotates can last a little bit longer"
nger (just a little).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I'm putting out these rigs fairly quickly, so they aren't up to my usual fussy standard when it comes to rigging. Really, the goal has been to bang out some versions of Norman with the focus on cleaning up the rig to a small degree, and pay attention to proportion changes.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how the proportion of a character has a huge effect on motion style, and how a lot of free rigs lend themselves to stylized animation based on how they seem to want to be animated.

This Norman was revised based somewhat on more realistic human proportions, but diverged a bit into something a little more athletic and possibly heroic. It was actually a great learning exercise for me, since I was forced to really study proportion, analyse why his were off, and got about changing what was needed. Right off the bat, I scaled down 2 of the torso cons so his legs would be more in proportion to the body. Next, the head was shifted down to around 85%, making it more of an 7.5/8' head high character. I replaced the pelvis and leg joints, as it was the easiest way to get wider legs that fit into the pelvic area without making it seem like Norman was wearing a giant diaper.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Norman with minor tweaks

download Norman here

After a few years of critiquing Norman animations, I suddenly feel compelled to pitch in and help facilitate in making Norman easier to animate with and mod, hence, Norman_ACTOR. I always get a lot of questions on how to tweak out Norman, and really, I've never felt compelled to do much until recently. I'm going to continue to mod a few Normans and start to generate a small library that hopefully people will find useful.

The reason is that at the AAU there are many Normans floating around and students who don't have the tech know how to fix them. Also, for beginning animators, the pole vectors are not very intuitive.

I didn't do all that much...just set him up for editing and fixed the stuff that wasn't to my taste.

  • created blend shape source mesh with all the blends set to on...just edit the topology on the orange guy and you're good to go.
  • added space switching to pole vectors
  • added a color channel to the main node.
To come...prop joints with space switching to allow easy object interaction.

Cameron Fielding on dirt and noise in animation

really shows you that blindly polishing your curves is not the recipe for compelling movement.

Friday, July 30, 2010

new norman variant - "Nohan"

I really like TJ Phan's 'Rohan' rig and had meant to help him out with the facial some time ago, but as my time is limited, I came up with a cheap solution - reshape the face and rig him to Norman. I'm generally a big complainer when it comes to Norman, I think because the forearms and general proportions could be more appealing. But once you pimp him out, he turns out to be a pretty great rig (I'm pretty fussy when it comes to rigs) 

For those that don't know TJ, he's a great concept artist as well as animator, and I really like the proportions of the Rohan rig.

Here's what I did for the beta.
  • Reshaped Norman's face to Rohan's proportions. Still need to work on the mouth and make sure lip changes propogate well with the facial deformations.
  • First pass skinning
  • redid the stock norman pole vectors with zooCST space switching and moved them away from the body a bit (dislike that in local mode they are parented to the hips, causing knee jitter during cycles)
  • added space switching to the cap
  • zeroed out the base rotations of the ik hands (now 0, not -90)

Let me know how he works - bug testers welcome! -...TJ was generous to build and create this great character for the animation community at large - this is just my lazy way of getting a bit of facial on him (TJs rig is a FANTASTIC animation rig, btw...elegant in its simplicity)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

plastic animation paper..free


really great 2d app! Download and start planning your shots!

norman modding tutorial..ref from david martinez

For those of you that are animating with Norman rig, here are a few modding tutorials for it.
How to modify Norman
Modding Norman – Part 1

Modding Norman – Part 2

Modding Norman – Part 3
and HERE is a MEL Script for quick skin wrapping:

Pretty interesting...you'd think I'd have known about this before my first reskin attempt.

I should put an addendum to this, since you can get a faster rig without using wrap deformers..(my trick is to duplicate the geo (arms, torso, etc), move the dup off to the side, use skinAs.mel to dump the weighting onto the copy, unskin the object, tweak it, then skinAs again to reskin it, then delete the duplicate objects...fast and easy)

I did some fixes to Norman which I'll post soon (fixed the pole vectors so they aren't parented to the hips, zeroed out wrist ik..stuff like that)

Norman Mod...Valve tribute

UPDATE...link fixed
I was tired of seeing the stock Norman proportions, and, Norman being a really flexible rig to tweak, thought I'd put up a quick Norman mod...(very beta right now and needs a bit of reshaping). Enjoy

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

animation layers to simplify keyframing

I've used this trick when I've had to deal with mocap, but find it's really useful for trying out a new take in an animation, especially one that's a bit overworked. Once there's a lot of keys down, it can be hard to be courageous and really make strong decisions regarding posing and timing for fear that you'll lose the work you have. This can be counter to doing good animation, since poses and timing can ALWAYS be strengthened and improved.

I'm not sure how widely known this technique is, since I just stumbled upon it myself, but in case it's of use to someone, I thought I'd post it.

I had this mocap lying around (clips below).
This sea of data is counter to any kind of keyframing, and reducing it manually is very slow, however Maya now has animation layers.

Let's start by grabbing all our control objects (selection sets are good for this sort of thing) and clicking the anim radio button.

Still with me? With your controls selected, click that blue sphere with a cryptic yellow star. This allows you to key these objects on a new layer.

Turn the weight to ZERO, and in the layers drop down, set the layer mode to be OVERRIDE. What this does is overrides all animation in the layer below with the animation you currently are keying. Since we're at zero on the weight, the layer doesn't actually do anything until the weight is on. (1=on, 0=off, that is)

Now I'm going to go through the animation and stamp down the keys I want. In a way, reverse engineering keyframing over our mocap. When we're done, turn the weight back to 1. This kills a lot of detail in the animation, but if recorded in an artful manner, saves the right keys.

That's it in a nutshell. Now if you play the animation, it's more clear, easier to see the main beats, and easier to retime and alter key poses.

This is also useful for revising sections of your animation. Do the above setup, but set a zero key 1 frame before you begin altering the animation, then weight to 1, then grab frames, set a weight to 1 key, then a zero key and you're good to go.

clips to come.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Interview with Jan VanBuyten

great interview from the peeps at Mixamo

love this tip

Any last tips for aspiring animators out there?
A: Draw every day. Work from pictures to photos and don’t underestimate quadruped animation. If you continue to draw even if it’s not good, you will learn more about the motion itself with drawing. Drawing forces you to think more about what you do – doesn’t matter if the drawing is good or bad, you’ll learn how to animate better in the long term.

great post on animating secondary characters

from David Martinez, from Animation Mentor

some highlights:

Some directors have completely mastered the use of extras or background characters in their movies. I think of Robert Altman films like Nashville, or Stanley Kubrick's epic masterpiece Barry Lyndon, or Laurence of Arabia. These are examples of films with hundreds of extras performing in a way that enforces the narrative but never dominates or overshadows the principal characters unless otherwise intended (as we saw with Hitchcock).

From an animation standpoint, background characters can often provide the animator with an enormous amount of creative freedom. Most often, background characters won’t be as rigidly directed as the principal characters. This means that the animator can experiment in many different ways. Quite often, early motion tests, either for rig development or as a means to understand the way the character moves and expresses itself, will find their way into the backgrounds of a scene. Because so little direction is often put into background performances, animators may go straight ahead in the creation process, animating as loose and creatively as possible. Background animation opens the animator up to the whole gambit of possible actions that character might perform in the scene. Going back to our crowded stadium example, you could animate a little girl eating a hotdog and the wiener pops out the back of the bun and lands on her dress. Or maybe you'll need to animate 10 different ways characters might clap their hands. Whatever the scene might be, background animation can be super detailed, refined, and creative.

Monday, June 21, 2010

toy story 3

I usually don't do film reviews on this blog, but I wanted to throw in a glowing review to add to the other 99% on rotten tomatoes. Sequels are usually a pretty mixed concept to begin with, as they usually tend to mine nostalgia to drive a story forwards. I think the Shrek franchise has done it with mixed results.  I think Toy Story 2 was one of the few sequels other than Aliens that really amplified the drama and storytelling. I don't even know what it is about the Toy Story movies that resonates on such a deep level with me - possibly how it captures the best of what it is to be a child; the innocence of imagination and ability to find wonder in the fiction kids naturally create for themselves. Maybe it's because seeing the first Toy Story cemented my desire to be an animator and really created that sense of wonder in my adult life, in wanting to breathe life into things. I think that's the greatest aspect of animating, finding that place of unfettered imagination when you're just capturing something for your own amusement.

That's really what amazed me about the film - it was a celebration of the imaginative process. The toys themselves, while they have distinct personalities, are fundamentally representative of parts of the creative process, and in a way, the best of what we have to offer. Bravery, nobility, loyalty are all part of who these toys are. Then again, pettiness, bravado, bluster, crankiness, fear of the unknown, of change, sibling rivalry - all these are also part of who the toys are. The conceit of the toys existing as a reflection of the owner was really beautifully done, and also on how they reflect back. The idea that Andy grew up to be a decent person, in part because of how the ideals of the toys reflected back onto him was incredibly touching.

I really wasn't expecting a film with that much emotion to it...from the trailers I really was expecting a lot of gags (and there were - it was definitely tailored more towards those who saw toy story earlier, and it was a little scary at times for my kids, sadly) but I was really surprised with how the themes of friendship, loss,  becoming obsolete with the passage of time echoed past the closing credits.

Above all that, it was incredibly inspiring in terms of animation...some really broad physical stuff and humor coupled with some moments of extreme subtlety - loved the bits with the little girl acting like a 2.5 year old.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

last class

Great last class!

Everyone really brought their A game to the final project. I'll be sure to post a compilation soon.

Monday, May 10, 2010

spline doctors animation contest

This month I thought it would be cool to run another contest. The walk is a difficult thing to animate well in animation. Getting the right attitude, making the character feel like they belong in the world you set them in. Weight, physicality and so on… They are all elements of a good walk. First prize is a signed poster of all the animators on Toy Story 3. Second prize is a set of steak knives, third prize is your fired (I had to make the Glen Gary reference.) Second and third prize are to be determined. There is also a possibility of the 3 walks being used for an article in a popular 3d magazine. Here are the ground rules:
Animate a one of the following walks: (in 2d or 3d)
A character with a physical limitation (ie a man with a ball and chain, or limp, etc… use of props ok)

A period character from the Victorian era (do your homework. Many to choose from)

An 8 year old kid on his way to or from school (think about subtext)

A confident character from the early 1970’s

Ok, there are the choices. Obviously you will need to show the cycle. Please include a rough and final pass. Its best if the character is in an environment. Obviously, no stock rigs.  You will be judged on originality, execution,  and entertainment value. Good Luck!  Contest end May 14th. Email walks to splinedr@gmail.com

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy mothers day

I wish more animated shorts were like this...

can't stop laughing.

Friday, May 7, 2010

no laugh track

someone forwarded this to me recently - a sitcom clip with the laugh track removed.

I thought it was interesting on how the pacing of the jokes rely on the laugh track to act almost as a third character in the scene.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

animation progression blog


Great find JD, and incredibly applicable to what we're doing now. Dive on in and abosrb the great blocking

love the Jeff Gabor process videos...he makes it look effortless and probably the most effective use of building overlap into his poses. It's planned and built up so well that it looks like his blocking was derived by exporting his final animation at 4 frames a second.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Thursday, April 8, 2010

export fail

Not sure why this is a tough one to get across....but please, please please use compression.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

how much should you practice?

according to Shawn Kelly...

"For myself, I just added up on a calculator all the time I spent studying/practicing animation in school (including stuff like figure drawing), time with my mentors, and animating on my own. I added all of that up, and it turns out that my animation education time before landing my dream job at ILM was 18,400 hours"

It took me about 5 years before I was lucky enough to land my first job, and a LOT of practice (something that never ends)

class is moved

Room 324 this thursday at 7pm. Sorry for the last minute notice, but his gives the procrastinators amongst you an extra day for that beauty pass.

game art covers (interpretations)

a mixed bag, but some really clever mock cover art in there.

Monday, April 5, 2010

acting/shot pacing comparison

The things you can find on youtube...

I found the unaired us pilot of the IT Crowd (with Joe McHale, whom I usually find really funny) - I'm not sure, exactly it doesn't work...I'd be curious as to thoughts...the creator summed it up really well (love the useless stuff you can find on the interwebs) with a lot of discussion about how to remake something as well as the surreal tradition of British sketch comedy. To me, there's just something less funny about the pacing of the US version. I'm hardly qualified to give a detailed analysis of British v. US humor, but even looking at these as acting choices and watching the phrasing and pacing of them, it's pretty interesting, especially with the myriad ways one can act out a performance.



airplane v. zero hour

side by side of Airplane and the inspiration, Zero Hour (who knew...thanks Elliot!)

layout to final...2d style

Nick Cross - process videos

Friday, March 26, 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

satrio - notes

I would focus on the first part of this rather than the acting bit at the end...it's a bit too much of a big take right now that happens really quickly without a lot of necessary settle into it.

I like the idea of the happy march in...be careful to really push the breakdown frames so he's not hitting the poses in such a linear rate. Make sure the back foot is planted enough to get a real push from it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Run Studies

I was putting together a lecture on runs and took a minute to do some really rough studies to try to understand them a bit further. This is mostly me noodling around trying to understand the mechanical relationships beyond just doing one and having it look good. I try to do these as much as I can/need when trying to solve a motion problem. Pose and motion relate completely in animation, but I find in doing cycles, the motion itself is a kind of character, or, rather can be a really strong indicator of what's going on in the body. Runs in a way are almost an animation of a strong pose, and the character and energy applied can really be found in the little things...how much hang time in the kickoff. What are the arms doing? Are they pumping and driving the motion like a sprinter? Or going along for the ride as an extension of the torso rotations in the case of a jog.

I did a couple of studies...one as an 18f run without a huge stride. It's more of a jog and designed to get a general sense of cadence and rhythm. No rotations yet, just a general idea and an attempt to get the y of the pelvis relating to the movement of the feet...always the first thing I try to nail down.

Next, the 18f run with torso and pelvic twist. This turned out to be the most important thing to get. It was easy to overanimate everything, but the twisting of the torso really made it feel more like a run. I started out with a lot of compression after the feet contacted the floor, but it was looking really rubbery and, well, wrong.

After this came the 18f run with compression. Whereas in a walk there's a nice, rhytmic, sinuous motion to the spine, in a run, it seems to be more of a reaction to the impact of the body from the pumping of the legs. This of course, becomes inviolate when doing a full on sprint, Where the body is held much more rigid. I'm mixed on the compression idea...I think if it's done right, it can add a lot of weight and character to an animation that by it's nature can be somewhat mechanical (ameliorated by offsetting things..having hip and shoulder rotation happen early and late relative to the body, etc). The thing I'm mixed on is that it can look kinda floppy if overused (as my example is a bit) What I was happy with was the slight offset of the y motion in the pelvis to torso...the offset compression made it feel like it was a connected body rather than a series of parts. It was still looking static so I added a minute bit of forward back in the z, which made another rhythm that seemed to help make it less static.

Next, I started taking a stab at the 14f run...more of a sprint, though the feet are completely wrong...there should be a higher arc in the front and a quick descent, but again, these are studies, and that's the next step in refinement. I changed the stride length, positioned the legs further back, and angled the pelvis forward. I should probably explore a less slouched position for the upper body. Working through them, I ended up with one with a lot quicker torso twist, added hands to show the pumping action, revised the arcs of the feet.

These are super rough studies, so don't judge! They're a great refresher for quickly testing yourself on what you actually know about motion and what's actually going on in a cycle in a way that gets the information out as fast as possible.

I hope this is useful, and feel free to add/dispute any of the above...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Carolina crit w3

Looks pretty good - the one thing that's most noticable is the weight transfer onto the stiff leg. The stiff leg is too far back in general and probably takes too big of an arc from front to back. The sense of drag is good but a little uneven..something endemic to in place cycles. In doing cycles where one leg is stiff, you generall push onto it, rising a bit to get the momentum to fall onto the other foot, which would fall hard. You've animated the dominant foot in a little more of a cartoony manner with extra overlap on the way down, but that works for this model/style of animation.

The arms could use some refinement in the spacing, but in the degree of drag in the poses and in the amount of noise in the settles.

I didn't touch upon the spine, but it does need a bit more compression (which would be stiff)

Hopefully this screencapture will makes sense..

Lana - week 3

This looks pretty good - it's very readable right from the start as being a kind of cross between a regular walk with a bit of a runway walk thrown in. I put up a quick sketchover and will follow up with a more detailed crit.

Right off the bat, the hip forward/back rotation is the opposite of what it should be.
Timing of the feet is good, but spacing could use some decelleration after the kickoff...right now it's happening right before which would cause a stutter if put in motion.
the hand gesture is fun, but a jitters a bit - i'd keep it more fluid and get more accelleration in the spacing of the hand back to front a bit to get some snappy motion to it...too much noise after it falls forwards...tone back some of the breakdowns. Lead with the elbow a bit more in that gesture to get more naturalism/fluidity to the motion.
Add more frames of the right hand matching the body it's resting on so it won't look off - even a few frames right off the bat will get it pretty close.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

next week

thursday at 7, room 805

for those that can't make it, email and we'll figure something out.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

schedule conflict

I'm out of town the first part of next week...

email me if you guys can switch to either next thursday or friday (or if you can't)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I hope acting out your animations like this doesn't become a job requirement. Meet Azo - weird hybrid of animator, parkour enthusaist, and carny.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

blog sabbatical

What a crazy few months it's been - apologies to those who read this for not posting in so long...the Iron Man 2 crunch did me in and I hit a really low point creatively and really just wasn't inspired to post.

I'm going to be picking up the blogging again, though this time with a bit more focus...there's so many great animation blogs out there right now, that it can feel redundant to post similar info, so I'm going to focus a lot on workflow and process and really try to do fewer posts with a greater focus to them.

On another note, I just finished my first week at Lucas Arts...the team is incredibly talented and the project seems incredibly well planned. I can't say much about it, unfortunately, but it's incredibly inspiring already.