Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy new Year!

Hope everyone is having an awesome New Years Eve.

Pretty excited to be starting Class 4 at Animation Mentor next week! I've been working on a couple short shots in the off weeks. My goal was to get a short shot per week in pretty good shape (first polishing pass.)

Here's the shot i did last week. I haven't done anything on the face yet, but the Sergio rig has a full facial setup so i plan on going back and doing some more on the head/face. I wanna get some nice overlap in the hat and get some nice expressions in there.

Sergio is a weird rig, but i wanted to get some experience using non-AM rigs to prepare myself for the real world. The most notable thing on him is it's all IK. Never used an IK spine before, and not altogether sure what i think yet. It gives some nice freedom with the Squash and Stretch which i like, but FK is so intuitive so the verdict is still out. Also, the IK hands still move when you move the spine.. that seemed pretty weird to me as i always think of the benefit of IK was things stay where you stick them. maybe it's a bug? Who knows. Fun rig to play with nonetheless.

This week I'm working on a quadruped test. I found a tiger rig and I'm doing a run-walk-lie down test. Pretty fun trying something with more than two legs! I'll post that next week!

Happy New Years Everyone!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Animation Class 3 RECAP

Oh boy oh boy oh boy! So here we are into are winter break and FINALLY i'm playing catch up with this here blog. Let this be a lesson. This crazy ol' animation thing takes ALOT of time. So much so, i couldn't even find the time to update this thing. But here i am, halfway through Animation Mentor! I can't believe how fast this has gone by already! I can say however, that i can most certainly see a marked improvement in my work. I haven't hit any major roadblocks yet (thank goodness) and my work continues to get better and better. But enough about all that! Let's recap Class 3 since i was so poor at keeping this thing up to date this term.

Class 3 at Animation Mentor is Advanced Body Mechanics. That's right. Another term of studying body mechanics, which, from what i can tell is a VERY good thing indeed. The old curriculum only had one term of body mechanics and clearly people didn't feel that was enough as not only did the curriculum change to what it is currently, but there were also a couple returning alumni in my class getting some extra practice in.

My mentor was Hyrum Osmond (who is yes, of THOSE Osmonds) from Disney. In this particular class there isn't set assignments or pick lists to choose from as with earlier classes. Basically you get free reign to do whatever you want as long as it's physical in nature and advancing your study of body mechanics. They give you a couple suggestions mostly around picking a 'theme' to influence your work. Themes like, gymnast or janitor or ninja etc. Basically, chose a theme and think about how THAT character would do things. Another thing you could do was what they call an AnimJam which is basically designing your shots in such a way that they all link together. I chose to go with the AnimJam cuz i thought i could almost make a short going that route.

The first week as always was getting to know your mentor and classmates as well as planning for your first shot. Since i was doing an animjam this term, rather than just planning for my first shot, i planned all three (i highly encourage you to do this if you're planning to try an animjam) thus insuring that all three shots worked well together. I've seen lots of animjams that don't quite work when synced up and i bet it's cuz they were planned individually. You have to think about the big picture, and as an added bonus this is something you should be learning to do anyway as on a production, your shot needs to not just work on it's own, but work in context.

I chose a burglar as my theme, with the twist being that nothing goes right for this burglar. I wanted it to be very pantomime ala Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton. Since the stewie rig has no mouth, emotions and actions have to read in the poses so a 'silent film' style seemed appropriate. I scoured the internet for clips and shot a bunch of my own reference to fill in the gaps. This is what i came up with for my 3 shot sequence:

My first shot would be the burglar coming in and losing the gun and running for the door. My second shot would be the guy struggling to get out the door, and my third shot would be the burglar running away and meeting the cop.

My mentor thought it was a pretty funny idea and approved it. His only concern was that all 3 shots had 2 characters, which essentially doubled the work load for each shot. I assured him i thought i could do it, as the second characters were only secondary characters and the animation would be limited (also secondary characters was something i wanted to practice. keeping a backround character alive without distracting from the main action is one tough cookie!)

So i set to work on my first shot. This term i decided to try NOT doing pencil tests for timing (a tactic i later came back to for my third shot.) I still started with thumbnails though. For this ReCap, i'm just gonna put my thumbnails followed by my stages of animation.

Blocking Pass 1:

Blocking Plus Pass:

Polishing Pass:

This is what i turned in as final for this shot, but i hated it. The beginning and the end were working ok, but the whole gun pull and fumbling for it in the air, etc were just NOT working for me. I spent a good chunk of the rest of the term coming back and trying new things for this shot. Ultimately, i settled on something i like but it took a good chunk of time. I should have spent more time planning and trying different ideas out to see what played better. It took me a long time to realize the shot (from youtube) itself was not funny. The SITUATION was funny. In other words the whole crook losing the gun and the clerk getting it was funny, but HOW it plays out in the video was not necessarily the funniest way to do it. I got so caught up in thinking the situation was already funny that i didn't bother considering other ways to build more entertainment value. It took me all term to find something good, after re-blocking and polishing maybe 3-4 different ideas! I coulda just spent more time in the beginning and avoided all that. Lesson Learned!

Here's something a little closer to what i finally settled on (but still not my final idea)
Reblock/polish on Shot 1:

On to shot 2! This one came together a lot better and with less problems than my first shot. The first one was the one that plagued me this term! Here it is in order from thumbnails to final pass.

Blocking Pass 1:

Blocking Plus:

Polishing Pass:

And then it was on to shot 3. This shot was the inspiration for my whole animJam. I'd been wanting to animate this clip from Buster Keaton for a long time, so i was stoked to dive into it!
Here it is from thumbnails to final:

Dances are pretty tough, so as you can see i spent alot of time thumbnailing on this one. I also chose to go back to doing a flipbook test as well. I neglected doing so on the first two assignments with my thinking being that my thumbnails being so detailed, that drawing them again and making a test was essentially doubling my workload with no net benefit to my CG test. I think i was wrong there. Timing these out and experimenting with pencil tests ultimately led to better CG work (IMO.) Also, i tried something different, i just scanned in these images (rather than redrawing them) and adjusted them in flipbook to make my test. It worked out pretty good!

Flipbook & Blocking Pass:

Blocking Plus:

Polishing Pass:

I really have to thank some people in putting this final sequence all together. My mentor and peers were paramount to helping me get here. The feedback was amazing and pushed me further. Having friends like Jais Bredstead and Tu Nyugen in my class was really inspiring and pushed me to bust ass even harder to get a good final product. My former Mentor Drew Adams was a big help early in the term with my first shot, going above and beyond the responsibilities of his own work at Dreamworks, and his OWN class, to take the time and do a proper eCrit for me as well. Also, Travis Tohill over at ILM was a great help in feedback and sparking ideas throughout the whole term. Anders Ancker took the time to design the Burglar costume for me, as did my buddy Marcel (whose last name is way too long) who designed the Cop Costume for me. Also, Faisal Asghar who dressed the sets for me and turned me on (no pun intended) to a great lighting tutorial. That's the great thing about the AM community. There's always someone out there willing to help you out in one way or another and i couldn't have done it without this wonderful community.

Anyhoo, back to showing stuff. Here is the final test in sequence:

And then all polished up and rendered with music for my Progress Reel:

If you made it through this whole crazy post, you're more patient than I. Looking through it i think it's a pretty good representation of how much work goes into these crazy little cartoons. I'm pretty happy with my final work, but stoked to move on to acting and taking my skills up another couple notches. It's been a crazy adventure so far, but i've still got a looooooooong way to go and i'm excited to keep riding the train.

Two weeks until term 4, and in my off time i'm enjoying catching up on being social, watching movies, playing video games and enjoying my family. Of course, i can't still long, so i've got a couple short 100frame tests i'm working on for practice as well.

Happy Holidays! I'm outta here!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Animation Mentor class 3

Man have i been lazy with the blog lately. Let me tell ya... class 3 started getting pretty time consuming. As did my work and personal life all at the same time. I'll do a proper re-cap shortly but for now, here's the end result of My Class 3 Advanced Body Mechanics efforts. In this class you pretty much get to do whatever you want as long as it's physical, so i chose to link my 3 shots together and make an *almost* short.

Let me know what you think!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Assignment Upload

My computer really sucks ass this week. Here is my assignment for week 8 class 3.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Animation Mentor - Class 2, Week 12

Well i suppose i must apologize. It's been well over a month since my last post but with good reason! I swear! haha. There's been a couple things conspiring against me this term. The first is the amount of work required to complete the assignments. With the introduction of spines and heads and arms and hands, (as well as more difficult assignments,) the level of complexity and thus the amount of time necessary to complete the assignments has risen dramatically this term.

On top of all that, i spent most of the term away on business, at Siggraph, and my favorite, moving to a new apartment. As if all that wasn't enough, i was swamped at work and didn't have internet access at my new joint for a good couple weeks. So i apologize for no uploads, but i had to spend all of the little time i did have kicking butt on my assignments.

I think i did pretty good this semester. My mentor Drew Adams was just plain amazing. He gave me tons of great ideas, and was super critical of my assignments, which for anyway is exactly what i needed. I learned a ton from Drew, and he was truly an inspiration. If you go to AM, try to get him as a mentor! You'll thank me!

So.. rather than recap every week, we're at that point in the term where we upload our Progress Reels, so I'll just go ahead and let you take a look at that!

Our last assignment was another pick list. I chose to go with a dance, but i wanted to do a dance that was truly horrible that the character *thinks* is awesome. I used Elaine's notorious Thumb Dance from Seinfeld as my main point of reference, and spent a lot of time on the front half trying to build up that 'I'm awesome, this dance is gonna be the best' attitude. I particularly like those first 100 or so frames, as i didn't rely on the Elaine reference and really spent a lot of time with my mentor hashing out my ideas. The music is obviously not the original music.. just something i slugged in. If this were to go on my real demo reel, I'd find a good track and re-animate a bit to hit the beats properly.

I'm also quite fond of my first shot this term where Ballie is jumping the Gap. I just feel like i did a really good job getting as much out of that limited rig as i could. The sticky gum assignment came out decent i guess, but i'm least happy with it. That assignment fell in during my Siggraph/Moving/etc phase so i just didn't feel like i got the amount of time into it that i would have liked to spend.

Anyhoo. Without further ado... here it is! My Class 2 Progress Reel. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

SIGGRAPH & Animation Mentor - Class 2, Week 5

Oh buddy! What a week! This week was a true test of work/life/school balance. I'm in the middle of relocating back to San Francisco, fairly busy at work, and have to get my first blocking pass together for this weeks new assignment. As if that weren't enough, I also attended my first SIGGRAPH.

Let's start with that shall we? I wasn't planning to go this year as I'm only in Class 2, and hence have nothing to show recruiters but some super sweet bouncing ball reels, but my good buddy Jason convinced me that it was A: Awesome, and B: worth my time. Plus he hooked me up with discount tix and free hotel.. so really I'd be just stupid not to go. For those of you who don't know SIGGRAPH is a huge computer animation conference. This includes VFX and all that too, but the point is every major studio is there with recruiters and once i graduate AM it's gonna be a mandatory first stop in my career hunting.

I was lucky enough to be tagging along with an accomplished Pixar dude, and that most certainly got me into some pretty sweet parties including the ILM Lighter/Darker party and the infamous Blur Party (both were fricking awesome!) AM also had a host of rad events to check out. I started with the coffee talk on tuesday. After that i scooted over to the Iron Man 2 panel and got to check out some unreleased footage from the film. Also checked out the AM animation blockbuster breakdown panel, which was really a treat. What else... hmm. Saw a How To Train Your Dragon panel which super cool, and my buddy Jason was part of SIGGRAPH Dalies where he explained how he rocked the Fire at the end of TS3. The AM Happy Hour was also pretty boss. Got to meet a lot of people in person for the first time, and some new people as well.

SIGGRAPH was pretty awesome. I met a lot of really great people, and saw lots of really cool stuff. I look forward to next year in Vancouver when I'll have a more complete reel at hand!

So anyhoo, that took a good chunk of my week.Monday-Thursday. I brought my laptop along thinking i'd be able to squeak in some animation time, but all i really brought along was a heavy paper weight. I got absolutely no animation done during SIGGRAPH. I flew back Thursday morning, and with no work thought I'd have a good shot at making a dent in my homework, but with very little sleep over the SIGGRAPH days i pretty much coma'd out Thrusday once i landed. That left Friday. I took Friday off work and busted serious ass to pound out my pencil test for timing and basic blocking. Here's what i finished up Friday:

I did a lot of experimenting on this one and ended up taking a bit longer than normal for a pencil test. I tried a lot of different ways of getting into poses and tried to stay a little more on model (rather than using straight up stick figures) in the hopes that would speed up blocking in maya. In the end i think it did. Even little things like paying attention to the shoulders (which i wouldn't have done as in depth had i used stick figures) really helped speed the Maya Blocking phase.

Saturday, as if my week hadn't busy enough, was spent apartment hunting followed by a late afternoon lunch at the in-laws for my sister in laws Birthday. Got home in the evening and jumped into Maya. Pulled a late night and managed to squeak this out:

And now it's time to sleep! Catch you next week y'all!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Animation Mentor - Class 2, Week 3

Alrighty then.
So this week we're still on our first shot for class 2. Drew gave us some notes addressing our blocking and we were tasked with preparing a blocking plus pass. Blocking Plus is basically, further breaking down your shot. Whereas blocking is typically little more than your storytelling poses (the key poses used to tell the story in your shot) and basic timing, blocking plus is significantly more broken down and the timing should be totally nailed down. Basically solidifying the timing of your actions, and putting in as many poses as necessary to describe your arcs and the actions in your shot. The idea with this phase is to make it as easy as possible for the computer to figure out proper inbetweens going into spline. I'd already gone pretty overboard in blocking last week and essentially already done a blocking plus pass, so Drew's notes were fairly minimal but very informative. I continued breaking this shot down until i was for the most part on 2s except for moving holds, where 2s weren't necessary to describe the action. It's a pretty fast paced shot with a lot of physicality, so breaking it down this much was pretty essential. In fact, my guess is i'll still have to hand key quite a bit in the polishing phase to get the computer to do what i want. Anyhoo, here's what i turned in:

I'm off to rock some resident evil 5. catch y'all later.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Animation Mentor - Class 2, Weeks 1-2

Alright, so i got a little lazy last week and didn't throw up a blog post so i'll try to cover both the first weeks of class 2 right here.

Week 1, our assignment was to pick from a list of about 6 or so different options and choose the assignment we' be focusing in on for the next 4 weeks. That first week, we had to choose and shoot video reference for the option we chose. I had a hard time deciding what to do, but ultimately i chose to go with 'Jumping over a gap.' These first 4 weeks are focusing in on the hips and as such most of the other options offered very subtle movement in the animation and i really wanted to go for something physical and cartoony my first week back. We were also required to upload 2 pages of thumbnails from our reference. Here's the video reference i chose:

I'd actually shot a ton of reference on a bunch of different options and had my peers help narrow it down for me. We also Got to meet our new mentor. Mine is Drew Adams, currently at Dreamworks working on Kung Fu Panda 2. Drew is super awesome. He actually originally started as a 2D animator, so his approach and workflow is pretty similar to the one i've been experimenting with. His Q&A's are really a blast! He usually starts with some kind of mini lecture for the first half. Either a quick walkthrough of blocking a shot (the way he approaches it) or maybe bringing up some cool animated footage and frame by framing it with us in realtime to show us how he studies how other animators accomplished their shots. SUPER helpful! He then spends the second half of the QA opening the floor up to any questions, about the assignment, the lecture, or whatever. Super super great way of using the QAs i love it! Also throughout the week he sends us 'links of the week' so far these have been anything from cool animated shorts he likes to additional lectures (not AM ones) with good info. Drew is just awesome!

The second week our assignment was to block out our shot based on our reference and thumbnails. I started by first doing a pencil test in flipbook to nail down my basic timing and keyframes. Here's what that looked like:

I was going to Disneyland this week and didn't have a whole lot of time to finish the assignment so i started early on sunday. I finished this pencil test sunday, before i'd even got an e-critique on my reference. After that i immediately jumped into Maya and started blocking. I wanted to be able to get some feedback even though i was leaving thursday. I uploaded 2-3 Maya versions and solicited feedback before coming up with this for my final blocking assignment:

This is actually probably broken down more than it should be for this week, but i was super stoked on the assignment and just kept doing more. Most of this is animated on 2s or 3s and in some cases 4s (2= a new pose every 2 frames, 3= a pose every 3 frames, etc.)

I'm pretty happy with where it's at at the moment and eagerly awaiting notes from Drew.
And now off to week 3!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Lil more blocking..

Animation mentor just started up again! yay! Got a Dreamworks Mentor this term named Drew Adams. I'll re-cap the week later.. for now, here's a little more blocking on my Attack Squirrel shot.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Don't Feed Em - Blocking pass #2

Hey hey y'all!
So i worked this shot a little further this week. Started breaking it down a bit mostly on the STU character. The impact when the squirrel attacks happens so quick, it'll probably need to be keyed by hand in the end. Right now it's on 2's, and still needs some work on the post impact. maybe a little body bounce or something to sell the weight. I'm also thinking i've got a better ending in my head then what' represented here... Right now i have the squirrels bouncing off scene, but i'm thinking it'd be more funny if after they knock the dude over, they come in from all directions (maybe 3 or 4 of them) and get the nuts at his feet (nuts aren't in there yet, but that's the idea)
Also, it's mostly gonna be a moving hld on dude for most of the shot to build up the tension and get a nice contrast in timing from trying to feed the squirrel to attack. Here it is so far:

So i think I've got one more blocking pass to go here, then I'll move to a linear pass and on to polishing. Still a ways to go, but it's getting there!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My Week Off from Animation Mentor

So i just hit mid-week in my 10 days off from AM, and I'm feeling the withdrawls. Like some kind of junkie. I had a great animation-free weekend river rafting and drinking far too much with my friends, but come Sunday I was feeling the urge. I mentioned I had a little animation shot to keep me busy and in practice during the off week, and I thought I'd share my progress.

I found this clip on the interwebs when I was researching squirrels for my original tailor assignment, and even then I knew I'd adapt it into a short shot. I still need a little practice with overlapping action and wanted to do another Tailor test, so this was too perfect.

I adapted it slightly by adding in a character instead of a stuffed squirrel and using the Tailor and STU rigs from Class 1. Here's my rough pencil test for timing and blocking.

And here's my first stepped blocking pass in Maya based on my pencil test. I just finished this portion last night. Still a looooong way to go, but the basic idea is in there. I'm really trying to make Tailor feel like a squirrel.

So there you have it. I hope to have this all finished before the next term starts, so stay tuned for progress updates.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Class one is done! - Animation Mentor Week 12

Wow! 12 weeks already flew past! Crazy. I still have 5 classes to go, but i just can't believe how quick 3 months blew by. I learned a whole lot this term. I made an effort to not skip ahead and really focus in and absorb as much info as i could on each given assignment. Even for things i would consider review, i learned a ton. This week we were tasked with putting all our final shots together from most recent to oldest in a progress reel. When looking at all my assignments back to back like this, even in such a short amount of time and covering basics, i can see an improvement in my work.

I had such a blast in this class! I mean your homework is bringing things to life! How cool is that? Even something as simple as a bouncing ball is so much fun. I think my favorite assignments were the obstacle course and the character walk. I felt like those were the assignments that were the least mechanical and allowed me a margin of creativity in my execution. In looking at my reel i feel like those are the ones where i can see a bit of my personality and sense of timing influencing the shot. I think there was opportunity for that in the Tailor bouncing shot, but i'm not sure i did that as well as i could have.

At the end of each class, your mentor writes an assessment of you laying out your strengths and weaknesses. Raquel felt i had a good sense of timing and intuition for movement. She felt that i needed to improve in my study of overlapping action and posing. She said my Pendulum and Tailor assignments were 'ok' but there was plenty of room for improvement and that in my poses, while i explored lots of great options in my sketches, i often played it safe with the ones i chose to pose.

As usual, Raquel called out the same things i was thinking. I've learned a lot from Raquel and other mentors here over the last few months, but i think the thing i'll take away with me to Class 2 is that i need to trust my instincts more. 9 times out of 10, Raquel or another Mentor or student called me out on the things i felt were a little off but let slide. Mostly minor stuff, but still... So in the future i plan to trust my gut and if i think it's off, i'm fixing it!

Here's my progress reel for class 1. We're taking a week long break before class 2 starts and i've got a little test i'm working on to stay fresh. I'll post updates as it hashes out.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Animation Mentor Week 11

Well that about does it. Week 11 was the last week for assigned projects. Next week all we have to do is fill out an end of term survey, and prepare and upload our progress reel. Then we get another week off before starting the next term. Me? I'm pretty stoked to start up the next class, and i'm not gonna sit around for 2 weeks waiting for it to start, so i'm gonna polish up the other walks i didn't go with for my assignment and i've also got another little test planned involving STU (who we've yet to animate) and Tailor in the works.

But this week.. well this week we had to polish up our character walk and do one more set of Poses on STU. This week's theme was 'Balance.' First up, here's my final Character Walk with Ballie:

And here are my sketches for 'Balance.'

I finished up my polishing with enough time to play around with a couple poses this week. Here are the ones i liked the best.

I liked the Michael Jackson one a lot, but ultimately decided to go with the one where it looks like he stepped in something because the pose not only demonstrated balance, but also seemed to tell a story.

So wow! Class 1 complete. 5 more to go! The next class starts into Body Mechanics. This is soooooo vital in Animation that it gets spread across two terms. The first one (Class 2) is Psychology Of Body Mechanics, and i just can't wait to start!

Until next time..

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Animation Mentor Week 10

Oh boy! I got super excited this week. This week started the last assignment for Class 1. It's a 2 week assignment, and the mission was to create a walk cycle with personality. Raquel had us think about our character and really wanted to plan out who this character was before starting on the walk. How old they were, male or female, fat or thin, mad, sad, happy??? You get the idea. This week our assignment was to block out our personality walk. We were also required to sketch some poses that suggested 'Exhausted' and pose one on STU. I totally forgot this part and rushed through it. I got way to caught up in the walks.

I've found blocking to be a fairly quick process at this point (thank goodness!) and i'm getting pretty quick at it so i went off the deep end and did like 6 different walks, and with the help of my classmates narrowed it down to one. here are my blocking passes on the different walks:

Ultimately i chose the first one. The Fat Waddle. After we polish next week, we're gonna switch to a 3/4 view, and i felt this one had the most interesting movement (or at least opportunity for) in 3d space as he waddles side to side. I plan to polish all these at some point. Art Babbit said something along the lines of 'Do a bunch of walks. Do all kinds of walks. Walks are about the hardest thing to do right..' so i'll take it from a master and go ahead and get some practice in.

For my pose i wasn't totally satisfied. It's my own bad, i just got sidetracked and ran short on time. I think it communicates 'Exhausted' but there's some bad tangents in there. I could have probably got a better camera angle on it. I actually liked one of the other sketches better, but it just wasn't shaping up nice in Maya. Oh well.. can't win em' all.

On to polishing!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Animation Mentor Week 9

This week our assignment was to polish up our Vanilla Walk with Ballie, sketch various poses that showed 'concern' and pose our favorite sketch on STU.

First, I tackled polishing the walk. I thought it'd go pretty quick cuz the blocking was a breeze, and I've had some (albeit VERY little) experience with walks in the past. As it turned out, the polish phase just about monopolized my week. I didn't count how many hours i spent, but suffice it say it was a whole lot. The knees are a tricky beast. Getting knee pops out was a nightmare without causing a whole new set of problems. I suspect it's because Ballie has these really obvious balls for knees (so you can see what they're doing.) I got it working pretty nice a few times, but just wasn't satisfied. If there's one thing I've learned so far this term it's to trust my instincts. Raquel ALWAYS calls me out on the the things i think i can let slide (but know aren't quite right.)

Here's what i came up with:

I just got my e-critique and Raquel was super happy with it. She said i nailed it, which really made all the hard work worth it. I think it's because i spent so much time on the knees, which were not just a problem for me, but everyone.

The polish phase took so long, i almost didn't have time to do my sketches and pose. Concern is a tough one, as at least in my observation, a whole lot of what makes it read is the subtle action in the face. STU of course has no face. Here are my sketches:

I went with the circled one, as i felt like concern for a child's well being was pretty universal. When Raquel reviewed my sketches, she thought that while the drawing expressed concern, it was based on context and the pose itself did not necessarily read as concern. It think she had a very good point, one i had not considered in choosing this pose. After she saw the pose however, she felt that it did well enough and did not require a revision. Here's my Stu Pose:

That's it for this week! On to next week!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Animation Mentor Week 8

Week 8. So this week our assignment was to animate a new character 'Ballie' in a basic 'Vanilla' walk. A vanilla walk is basically a no frills walk with no character at all. More or less, just the straight mechanics of what make a basic walk work. This is a 2 week assignment with this week being the blocking phase and next week being the polishing stage. A blocking pass is basically when you go through and set the important keys and breakdowns necessary to establish the action of your shot and the basic timing. So in these drawings there are no inbetweens yet. I'm using stepped keys. These are the drawing that must read to describe the shot. In the polishing phase, you add the inbetweens, the bells and whistles and smooth out the timing and action.

The lecture this week focused first on studying some footage and then having a real-time walk through of Bobby Beck's process for creating a Vanilla Walk in Maya using Ballie. We were also asked to go out and observe people walking and take notes on what we saw and share them with our class. I've already seen a ton of really good notes and reference material from my classmates. Particularly from Josh Dai and Matthew Long. Those dudes are pretty awesome and i follow their work and notes with a pretty close eye. I shot a bunch of footage of people just walking around downtown SF. I'll get some more detailed notes on my observations up later in a separate post.

As usual, we started with sketching out some thumbnails detailing my basic thought process.

This week, i didn't bother with a Flipbook Pencil test for a couple of reasons. The first being that I typically use Flipbook to figure out basic timing on more complex scenes. With a vanilla walk I've already established my basic timing in my thumbnail drawings. Also, since i usually use Flipbook as my blocking pass. This weeks assignment was only to turn in the blocking pass, so it would have been doing twice the work to use Flipbook as well.

Here's my Blocking pass of Ballie doing a vanilla walk:

I'm by no means an expert, but I've done a few tests with walks in the past so this went pretty quick for me. I'm sure there's a ton to fix up, but I was pretty happy with it pretty quick. I had this wrapped up in Maya in about an hour, so i moved on to doing some more tests with the pendulum and Tailor. My mentor felt i did a pretty good job with those assignments, but i really wanted to explore some different techniques and approaches and more importantly try to really ingrain the concept of Overlapping Action (one hell of a complex concept mind you) into my head.

The other part of our assignment this week was to sketch a bunch of poses that portrayed physical strength. This was a bit more difficult than i thought it'd be. It's tough to show physical strength or weight in only one drawing. Here are my Sketches:

Since i found myself with some free time this week, i decided to pose out as many of these as i could and then decide which one i liked best. At first this was because after the first set of poses i did i felt they all looked like shit (an opinion i changed the next day when i saw them with fresh eyes) but i also figure getting pose practice in is never a bad thing. I can already see myself picking up speed in posing. Here's all the poses i tried on STU:

And this is the one i ultimately went with:

I felt he had the best line of action. We'll see what my mentor thinks.. haha! Next week we start polishing up our vanilla walk.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Animation Mentor Week 7

Alright! Week 7! This week our lecture focused more on the technical side of this crazy ol' CG business going in depth into the graph editor and spline editing. The assignment expanded on last weeks diving a little deeper into overlapping-action. Once again we were given 2 options. One was to use a new character called OneLeg who is basically a one legged ball. The assignment with him was to do one jump. Option two gave us another new character called Tailor. Tailor is basically a bouncing ball with a squirrel like tail. This opens the door to finally give one of these rigs a little character. The assignment with tailor was to get a minimum of 3 jumps in there and focus on the overlapping action in the tail. The frame limit was 120 frames.

I decided to create a shot that incorporated both assignments. I'm still rocking my current workflow where first i sketch things out and thumbnail in my sketchbook, do a flipbook pencil test to figure out my timing, then go into Maya to finish out the shot.

First i studied some squirrels running around and feet moving in a jump. I also jumped on one foot a couple times to get a sense for what that felt and looked like. Then i whipped out my sketchbook and made some thumbnail sketches.

Next i jumped into Flipbook and did a rough pencil test.

So basically, i thought of Tailor as a squirrel, and OneLeg as a giant Squirrel-Smashing-Robot. Here's the final assignment i turned in, animated in Maya.

This week was also the first week i had to do a revision to my previous assignment. I mentioned i wasn't 100% happy with it, and my mentor called out all the things i knew were still not quite there. Here's the revision i did to the pendulum assignment:

Well there you have it! Your all caught up with my Animation Adventure thus far. This week we get into basic walking. Awesome! See ya next week.

Toy Story 3

This week i got an awesome opportunity! My wife and i were invited by my buddy Jason (who's an Effects Animator at Pixar) to attend the Family and Friends screening of Toy Story 3 at Pixar Animation Studios. I was told it was a good idea to brush up on my Toy Story knowledge, so Jackie and i rented parts 1 and 2 and watched them the previous evening. Now you know i'm not gonna give any spoilers here, but suffice it to say the movie was just awesome! Sequels can be a tough cookie, but i think it's safe to say part 2 did a great job and part 3 most certainly did not disappoint! It was just awesome! The story was great and the film just looked awesome. I mean, the textures they're pulling off now.. wow. And the lighting is just excellent. This is definitely one of the best looking CG films to date. The animation is just getting better and better too. One thing that still sticks out to me is the animation on Woody. Wow. It's just so good! They did such an excellent job of making him feel like a floppy rag doll with a heavy plastic head. It just looks great!

Equally amazing.. and maybe even more so, is the short that accompanies this release. I won't say anything about it except; 'wow.' Just so cutting edge, well executed, a joy to watch, and a really powerful message. Pixar really pushed it on this one and killed it. There's no way they're not getting an oscar for that one.

Everyone do yourself a favor and catch these wonderful films when they get released.

Animation Mentor Week 6

Week 6. Wow! Halfway through Class 1 already! This week we were introduced to overlapping action. On this assignment we got to choose between two assignments both using a pendulum rip that has a base and 4 joints ending in a weighted ball. Option 1 was to start the pendulum swinging from a stopped position. Option 2 was to move the base and have the pendulum react accordingly. In both assignments the objective was the same. To observe how the successive breaking of joints creates overlapping action. Option 2 was regarded as the more difficult one, so naturally i went with that. The frame limit was 100-200 frames.

The workflow i used last week of sketching a plan, animating a pencil test in flipbook, and then moving into Maya worked really well for me so i decided to use it again this week. First i planned out my shot in my sketchbook.

Next i went into flipbook and did a rough pencil test to figure out my timing and rough overlapping action.

Unfortunately, i was pretty swamped this week. I had a trip to Las Vegas planned for a combination bachelor party and bowling tournament at the 11th annual Punk Rock Bowling. This is an animation blog, so i won't go into details on that one, but the point is while i had an awesome time, i left Thursday and had very little time left to work on my assignment. This is the first week i wasn't totally happy with the work i turned in. It's mostly OK, but there are some obvious problems to me. Here's what i turned in for week 5:

Animation Mentor Week 5

Zipping right along to more awesome stuff! This week finally gave us a ball that had Squash and Stretch. The Lecture focused on Anticipation, and Squash and Stretch, how it applies, and how it influences your animation. The lecture mostly focused on anticipation and how every living thing anticipates, before going into an action. For example, we bend down before we jump up. This is to build momentum for your action. Anticipation also helps clue your audience in as to what is coming next.

The assignment this week was to guide a bouncing ball through an obstacle course and come to a stop. We were given 3 obstacle courses to choose from, a frame limit of 60-120 frames, and no set path on how to get your ball through the obstacle course.. that part was up to us! We were also required to upload sketchbook thumbnails of our planning process. I tried a new approach this week that i learned from Jason Ryan's website, that just makes a lot more sense to me coming from 2D. Basically, i started as i always do. By first sketching out the obstacle courses and drawing in various paths of action for my ball to take. After i nailed a few of those down, i brought a few of my favorites into a program called Flipbook. Flipbook is basically a 2D animation package. Because i can draw waaaaaay faster than i can pose, i sketched in the key poses of all my obstacle courses and adjusted the timing on all these in flipbook. I then posted my flipbook pencil tests to my Public Review section and asked my classmates to tell me which one they liked the best.

After getting lots of feedback, this is the one i chose to do in 3D. I really liked the contrast in timing on this one, and tried to exaggerate it a bit in my 3D version.

Animation Mentor Week 4

Getting more and more fun at Animation Mentor! This week's assignment was again a two-parter.
Part 1 was to animate both a heavy ball and a light ball bouncing. For example, a bowling ball and a beach ball, or cannonball and a ping-pong ball. The lecture and assignment were demonstrating how differences in the timing and spacing of the action influences the feeling of weight. Again i went on the interwebs and studied a bunch of footage of bouncing balls. I looked at lots of bowling balls (which by the way bounce more than you'd think!) and a bunch of beach balls and ping-pong balls. I studied the footage frame by frame, and sketched out some thumbnails of my planning process. I started this assignment by first just getting the up and down movement on both balls nailed down.

After nailing this motion down in Maya, i started playing with a few variations.

Version 1

Version 2

Version 3

I decided to go with the teeter-totter shot cuz i felt it demonstrated the principles well, and even better, it was the most fun and entertaining to watch.

The second part of the assignment was to Sketch a bunch of poses that described 'Devastation.' This one was a little more tricky. Largely because of the previously mentioned gigantic head that STU has.

Again, i did a few poses on STU, but decided to go with the one that's circled above.

Animation Mentor Week 3

And it starts to get interesting... So week 3 brought us our first actual animation test. This weeks assignment was a two-parter. Part one was to sketch out a plan and upload an animation test of a Bouncing ball. Because the school is constantly trying to instill in you a sense of the production pipeline that major studios employ, we were given a frame limit of 50-100 frames, and told the ball was supposed to have the weight of a basketball or soccer ball. I started this assignment by filming video reference of dropping a basketball and studying it's movements.

I then went through and studied the footage frame by frame and made thumbnail sketches in my sketchbook and planned out my timing and arcs.

For safety's sake, i also studied footage online of a more basic bounce to a stop and sketched out a plan for that as well.

The next step was animating! Since this was a fairly basic assignment, i went ahead and animated both assignments

Version 1

Version 2

I really wanted to go with version 2, but i felt the way the ball gets some backspin off the wall and then bounce-rolls back toward the wall was just not reading well in the animation. I opted to submit version 1 for my assignment.

The second part of the assignment was to sketch a bunch of poses that demonstrated 'EXCITEMENT' choose one, and pose it on the STU character.

Again, i did multiple poses, but ultimately, my peers at school felt that #4, the dancing STU was the best.

Animation Mentor Week 2

Alrighty! So for week 2, our assignment was to go to a public place and do a bunch of sketches. This is something i do on the regular already, but it was nice to be in a mode where it's regimented again. I like this! So the assignment was, go to a public place, do a bunch of sketches, then pick one and model it on the STU character provided by AM. STU is a super simple rig meant mostly to get us comfortable playing with controls. One thing that's a real pain is STUs gigantic head. Most the time it's no problem, but sometimes it makes some poses very difficult to achieve. Though we were only required to turn in one STU pose, i tried to do a few of my poses and then pick the one i (and my peers) felt read the best.

Ultimately, I went with the sitting pose.

What a Slacker!

Well not entirely... but certainly as far as this blog is concerned. To be honest, this program hasn't been terribly taxing just yet, but life outside of school has been crazy hectic. I've had to leave town on business twice, hit up a bachelor party in Vegas once, and been slammed at work. Other than the week of my Vegas escapade, I've managed to find just the enough time each week to get my assignments to a place I'm happy with, but there's just been no time leftover for this blog.

But alas. Today is a free day, and next week in school is stuff I've done in the past, so i thought I'd take the opportunity to bring you up to speed on my animation adventure. So I'll keep it sequential and get everything up in order here...


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Week 1 at Animation Mentor

Why hello there!
So i didn't post much about week 1 when i started last week, but that's mostly because there's not too much that was exciting to post. That's not say the week was not exciting! Indeed it was! It's just that our homework for week 1 was basically to familiarize ourselves with the online campus, meet our fellow classmates and Mentor, and fill out our school profiles. A lot of that I'd already done during the Orientation week, so mostly i just cruised the site, checked out upperclassmen's work and cheated ahead in the syllabus. No sense in sitting around right??

My Mentor is Raquel Rabbit. She's worked at Blue Sky, Dreamworks, Laika, Wildbrain and Tippet studios and seems pretty super awesome. We had our first live Q&A (which is basically a live video chat with everyone in the class) and got to meet all my fellow students as well as Raquel. My iSight was on the fritz, so my video feed was janky, but the audio was all good and we got through it.

This weeks assignment is to sketch in a public place, upload a page of sketches with my favorite circled, and recreate the pose on the STU rig. I already sketch pretty regularly and carry a sketch book around, but being required to do so again is both great and daunting. We were supposed to do at least 10 sketches, but i easily have like 8 pages from the weekend i'm weeding through. I'm one of those go-overboard types. When homework is fun there's no reason to not do more right? I'm also gonna go ahead and do more than one pose on STU. Ultimately, I'll just upload my favorite for class, but i figure it can't hurt to practice posing on a rig as much as possible.

I'll upload my sketchbook stuff and some of the STU poses later this week and recap Week 2 of my Animation Adventure. Stay tuned.


Monday, March 1, 2010

My Animation Adventure.

My name is Ryan, and in 29 days i start the next chapter in my Animation Adventure. I've wanted to be an animator since i could pick up a pencil (though I've certainly detoured a few times.) I went to Art School determined to come out an animator, only to find the education lacking. I went on to explore other artistic endeavors. But it's always come back to this. No matter what i was working on i seemed to touch on or integrate some form of animation. Bottom line? I want to animate. I heard about a school called Animation Mentor a couple years back that was turning out excellent student work. The student reels were both inspiring and a constant reminder of how much i had to learn.

In 29 days, I start Class 1 at Animation Mentor and I'm beyond stoked. Actually, it's kind of a mixture of nervous and excitement. I'm 30 years old, I have a wife, and a full time job in the film industry making music videos and commercials and such. I don't expect this to be easy. But nothing worth anything is easy. I don't really know what to expect... Luckily, I'm not going in totally blind. I have some animation experience. I've read all the required books, the tips and tricks eBooks and blogs, used MAYA, even participated in the 11 Second Club. I've only been playing with 3D animation for a year now, much of which was spent learning my way around MAYA, but I've done some 2D and Stop Motion, and can at least grasp if not fully achieve the 12 basic principles of animation... so at least there's that huh?

I thought it'd be a good idea to start a blog documenting my Animation Adventure from the (new) beginning. I hope to post my progress, ideas, inspiration, how I'm doing balancing work, school and life, etc. If anything i think it'll serve me in seeing my own progress, and hopefully it'll inspire some other eager soul to go for it too.