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...