Wednesday 31 August 2011

Mc 14: The diving board

Hey guys and gals,
Here are the efforts for the diving board mini-challenge. What I really loved about this one, is the beautiful mix of both 2d and 3d. All of the clips look fantastic.

Ajnabee starts the compilation off with interesting use of squash and stretch with the Joe Rig. May's monthly winner, Arthurnal, introduced the idea to me of the head popping off like a ping pong ball. Ajnabee pulls this move off just as beautifully.

Next up is C-Nielson's 2d entry. Really liking the rigidity and weight of that diving board.

The next 2d entry is produced by JKR. Again the weight, but also the choice of the 3/4 perspective view, really makes this one stand out.

Next two up are contrasting between the 3d efforts of fbmaq007 and Stacy H, cartoony v poise and elegance.

We then finish strongly with Guilherme Mello Oliveira (love the arc on the leap) and a comic and surprising entry by Kai.

All round great work by all. Thank you to all for your participation and good luck on the next challenge

Monday 29 August 2011

Mc 15: Animal antics

Oh, oobee doo, I wanna be like you, ooh-ooh!!

This fortnight's challenge is to animate a human that moves like an animal. The reason I say human, is that I welcome the idea that there have been many both 2d and 3d entries. Whether its a 3d rig, or a drawn human biped, it is to be based on a human biped. inspiration for this comes from the background work Disney artists did to discover who Tarzan was. There is a link on youtube you may currently visit, where Disney legend Glen Keane talks about this research. Click here to view.
There is also a lovely clip in Jungle Book where Mowgli imitates walking like an elephant. I know there is also a great clip somewhere of Moom or Stewie acting like a dog. If anyone knows a clip can be found, please forward me a message and I will create a link.

Now the type of animal is up to you. It could be a swinging monkey, a landing/flying bird, a prancing deer. If objects are added, it could be a snail (ask how yourself how to make him crawl along) or even a butterfly or a fish. The option is up to you. Although accepted, as the Tarzan clip shows the challenge also does not need to be a cycle.

Please be aware that rigs are often not designed to walk on all fours, so testing is advised before thumbnailing etc. Keeping it simple and stylized is also advised. Its a human anatomy so differences will appear. The test is making these differences work in your favour to form an appealling animation.

Usual rules apply. Approximately 100-125f, 16 by 9 ratio. Challenge runs til 12th September. Please check the 'How to Participate' section for more details about submitting.


Saturday 27 August 2011

Trent Correy Interview

In July 2010, Arthur Gil Larsen won the 11 Second Club competition with a 2d entry. Its been a while, but exactly a year later, Trent Correy won July 2011's competition with his beautiful entry about a Spaniel named Harry. Through this interview, I had the wonderful opportunity to find out more!

I would of course like to thank Trent for this opportunity. Very indepth a providing beautiful insight. I have enjoyed every word. Thank you.

(Reboot Animation Series)
What was your favourite cartoon series as a child?
As a child, I loved the show Reboot. I used to rush home from school just to watch it! The actual animation was simple and at sometimes pretty crude, but the story line was great and I guess that’s what got me hooked. I generally grew up watching the Disney movies of the 90’s (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Aladdin, etc.) but I was also really inspired by live action movies such as Jurassic Park or The Terminator; basically anything Stan Winston. At that point, I was fascinated by practical effects and visual make-up in live action movies.

How did you get into animation? Was it your goal as soon as you began to draw, or did the enthusiasm for animation come later?
This question leads to quite the unusual and rather funny story… Let’s put it this way: I failed high school art. When I was a child, art always came easy to me, whether I was finger painting, scribbling, or drawing a picture. I grew up in a somewhat artistic environment: My mom was always painting at home and took time to teach me. In grades seven and eight, I won the Art Award and was chosen to paint a giant mural for my school, with the help of my mother. High school came around, and I was enrolled in grade 9 art class. Unfortunately, the teacher I had that year was narrow-minded and prevented me from pursuing the “art of animation”. I was instantly turned off of art, failed the class with a 49% and never took another art course in high school. Graduation was right around the corner; I was determined to pursue professional Volleyball and hadn’t picked up a pencil or thought about art since my terrible experience in grade nine. When Algonquin College offered me some scholarship money to play Volleyball, I needed to choose a program to study…this is where my mother comes back in. It was my mom that found the Animation program at Algonquin. I had no idea of its existence, and hadn’t even thought of pursuing art as a career. In a matter of weeks, she helped me throw a portfolio together, and I slowly started to get reconnected with my artistic side. Once I was accepted into the program, my passion was still in Volleyball and other sports, however, my enthusiasm for animation came with time. The first year of school was a struggle. Time management and many hours of hard work were very important for me to balance varsity Volleyball and the animation program. I had a great teacher named Keith Archibald who really nailed the basics into me; he shared a similar passion for art and athletics. My wonder and excitement for animation continued to expand. However, I always felt that it was an unreachable goal, a constant challenge. In the middle of second year I made the decision to quit Volleyball and give my full attention to animation, thus how it became such a huge part of my life. It’s still “An unreachable goal” and every day is a challenge, but that’s what keeps me passionate and enthusiastic about this crazy art form and career in animation.

Talk about your career so far?
My career has only just begun, and I still feel like I am a student learning more about animation every single day. Nonetheless, I have had some wonderful career opportunities in the past couple years. In the summer of second year, I was given my first job in animation at Mercury Filmworks in Ottawa, Canada as a character animator on the TV series, Toot and Puddle. I spent four months trying to figure
out what the heck I was doing! I was just happy to be a part of the studio and contribute to a series that was pioneering a new way to animate TV shows. ToonBoom Harmony was the program used to produce the animation in the show; it was a hybrid of 2D/3D/paper cut-out animation. As far as the studio was concerned, animation was to be completed in “feature quality”. The studio really pushed the limits of both the quality of production and its animators. It was a terrific environment to learn in. Despite the amount that I was learning at Mercury, I was determined to return for my third and final year at Algonquin, in order to complete a short-film. I am happy with this decision as it was my third year short film that helped point me in the right direction, towards working as a professional animator.
Charged, my third year film, was completed in collaboration with fellow students, Collin Tsandilis and Mayrhosby Yoeshen and mentor, Ian Jeans. If I had advice for students, it would be to work in collaboration, as you learn just as much from your peers, as you do from your teachers. I was challenged year-long to keep up with the talent of my collaborators, and it was our continuous and healthy competition that helped us complete a film with a high production level. Watching it now, of course, I cringe… perhaps even shed a tear... but it was the experience that I took the most out of, not the outcome.

(click here to watch charged and also to visit Trent's blog)

That year, as a fresh graduate, I returned to Mercury Filmworks, as a storyboard clean-up and revision artist on the Disney XD show, Jimmy Two Shoes. I worked under the talented co-directors, Sean Scott and Kyle Marshall. I spent eight months working on Jimmy Two Shoes, refining my drawing skills and posing for animation. It was still a struggle every day; posing and drawing still seemed very challenging, not to mention understanding the graphic style of the show. I had great mentors Kyle Marshall and Steve Lambe, and learnt a great deal working on Jimmy Two Shoes.
(Jake and the Neverland Pirates)
I was then asked to animate on a Disney production at Mercury Filmworks, called Jake and the Neverland Pirates, which is produced in the same style as Toot and Puddle, using ToonBoom Harmony. This was a great project, working with well-known characters such as Hook and Mr Smee! I spent about six months animating on the show and learning a great deal about character animation. At the same time, I made sure to be constantly working on personal projects and my portfolio. Although I had only had about ten months of professional animation experience, I was itching to push my limits further! My goal had always been set on feature film, and when I heard that Sony Imageworks was hiring, I sent in my demoreel. I knew that my work was not yet up to par, but I took a leap of faith and sent it anyways… Low and behold, weeks later I was on an airplane heading to Vancouver and to a new position as character animator on The Smurfs 3D!
Aside from working at Mercury Filmworks and Sony, I worked on commissions such as creating illustrations, caricatures, and portraits. I also taught Perspective Drawing at Algonquin College for a semester and continued working on personal projects.

I understand you have recently completed work on the Smurfs. Many traditional cartoons for instance Yogi Bear and Alvin and the Chipmunks are being remade into 3d features. What are your thoughts on classic cartoons being transferred to 3D?
Smurfs 2d to 3d
Tough question… Previous to working on The Smurfs, I looked at these films (Yogi Bear, Alvin and the Chipmunks, etc.) and laughed. Personally, I did not find them entertaining and did not completely care for them. However, after working on the Smurfs, my perspective has done a complete 180! A lot of hard work, dedication, and talent go into making these films, and I have gained a new respect for all types of film. I think the idea of classic cartoons coming back as 3D animated films is a subjective topic. For children, who didn’t grow up with the series, it is a great way to re-introduce great stories and capitalize on the properties. For “die-hard” fans, reactions can be mixed: it can either ruin a childhood memory, or rejuvenate their inner child. I will have to let you know how I feel, once they’ve remade Reboot!

When you joined Sony Animation Studio you had very little experience in 3D. How did you find the change from 2D to 3D?
I am extremely open-minded when it comes to animation. I love it all, be it 2D, 3D, stop-motion, you name it! During my interview with Sony Pictures, I was told that I would mainly be working on Crowd shots, and assisting in other scenes. Upon arrival, I was basically thrown into the deep end without knowing how to swim- I was given a shot of my own. Although I was intimidated, it was the best way to learn, and Sony gave me the chance to do so. The change from 2D to 3D had its turbulence, and it was definitely not a walk in the park. It involved a lot of hard work, long hours and dumb questions, but it was everything that I wanted!

Do you now find you have a different process when approaching the two different forms of animation?
My process remains the same: extensive research, detailed thumb nailing, and a lot of blood and tears (and coffee)! From a technical side, I still approach a 3D scene with a very traditional perspective, key-framing on 2’s and 4’s, working in stepped mode 80% of the time and allowing the computer to do as little as possible. From an artistic side, I learn different things from each medium which have a synergistic effect, as opposed to conflicting with one another. I feed off both mediums and therefore, my process and approach is continuously changing and adapting in order to achieve a better workflow.

Your blog is full of wonderful character designs, yet this summer you still attended Stephen Silver's character design course. How important do you believe it is to find new ways to practice and improve your art skills?
(Design for Used Car Salesman)
I am constantly looking for new ways to improve; I found that once I started working, I was learning less and less due to deadlines (TV animation). Drawing appeal and character design have always been my biggest weaknesses, and they definitely still are. That is why I decided to take Silver`s course. If you love something enough, you’ll find ways to improve and practice without even realizing it. I do the courses because they’re fun and I enjoy them, the improving is just a nice perk! I always have time for cafĂ© sketching, it’s something that I love doing and I think it’s a great way to improve your art skills and observation skills. Something I don`t do as much is experiment with different mediums, it is definitely something I need to do and I think it is very important.

How much time goes into designing your characters?
(from google to animation)
It really depends on how clear my vision is…95% of the time I am drawing the character over and over again. Designing characters is a real challenge for me; it involves a lot of trial and error, research and critiquing from close friends and colleagues. For me it`s the biggest challenge of the 11 sec club, I dread the first week because it means I`ll have to attempt to create something appealing…and learn how to draw it perfectly on model. I`m stressing out just writing about it! Once in a blue moon I`ll have a clear vision and be able to transfer that to paper. For July`s entry I more or less went with the first drawing I did which was based off a picture from Google images…and refined it a little bit to be more ``animation friendly``.

Digging into your clip, do you have a canine companion who helped inspire your entry?
(Trent's pet Spaniel)
I love this question! Yes I most certainly did: I have 2 Springer Spaniels (Turner and Sydney) back home in Ottawa. I didn`t sketch them or anything like that, but they were in the back of my head the entire time I was animating. They`re part of the Hound dog family and share a lot of the same traits, the howling and dog point came directly from growing up with Springer Spaniels.

Please talk about your animation process for this clip
When I first heard the dialogue I wanted to keep it simple and the dog idea was the first thing to pop into my head. I immediately started thumb nailing a basic storyboard. I always brainstorm at first, take notes and do scribbles. I tend to do most of my brainstorming with my girlfriend, she doesn`t work in animation so she usually has a different perspective on things. Thumbnailing is huge for me, I work best when it`s already visually planned and I have a clear vision of what I am doing. For this animation I did not film any video reference, I wanted to challenge myself to working with strictly thumbnails and my imagination. Doing thumbnails really help me nail the character and character design, it gets me comfortable drawing the character from different angles and with different expressions.

(please click to enlarge)
By the time it hits the animation paper, I`d have figured out the most appealing pose and expression. I am big on getting outside opinion, sending a rough test to friends or even family to get different perspectives. Most of my keys are figured out while thumb nailing, so it`s just a matter of syncing everything up, pushing poses and working out my timing for the scene. My rough keys are usually quick and dirty…but mostly dirty. I find 11 seconds is A LOT to do in one clip, I`ll often get lost and I personally find that it`s best to split up the animation into 2-3 sections to focus on timing and acting better. Once my keys are timed out (after a lot of trial and error, crumpled paper and rethinking ideas), I begin to put them on model and tighten them up. I then rough in my breakdowns…always on 2`s and 4`s…and sometimes 1`s if it`s a fast action. Again, I rework timing, acting and usually contemplate quitting animation and giving up…at this point I`ve looked at it too much and send it off to friends for feedback. Then comes inbetweening, it`s a really hard stage for me because I feel like I`ve already worked out all the problems in the scene, I feel like it`s done! I push on and start to see how bad my timing is…I rework stuff again and again, throw out a lot of drawings and start to tighten up breakdowns and put everything on model. Then it`s done! I submit it, don’t look at it again…and drink my pain away…only joking. I have such a huge respect for guys like BJ Crawford and Matt Sheperd I don`t know how they do what they do, I look up to their drawing and animation abilities. I was just trying to finish the animation, that`s the biggest obstacle for me…trying to get it all done in the time allowed and with the quality that I want. My process is far from perfect, but I am slowly starting to figure out what works best for me. I think it`s very important to figure out a personal workflow and to be constantly building on it.

Your drawings have been able to maintain consistent volume through the piece. Any personal tips and advice?
Like I previously wrote, thumb nailing and planning helps me to explore the character and learn it`s construction and design inside and out. Before I started animating I created a layout pose. I spent about 3 hours drawing it over and over until it was what I wanted. It was basically a pose of the dog, on model and staged where I wanted him to be for the scene. I kept this paper on my pegs, behind my animation at all times and constantly flipped back to it. When I was tightening up my keys, I was constantly checking the volume and model of the character. Unfortunately the majority of my time goes into drawing my keys and breakdowns on model, it`s a challenging stage for me, but once you`ve nailed those drawings, the in-betweens do themselves.

The inclusion of wrinkles in the dog's body increases the complexity of the character handling. I love that you have chosen to do so, as it really adds a lot of appeal and character. Please talk about this.
I don’t want to talk about it! I tried to simplify as much as possible, but the wrinkles were definitely a challenge. Without the wrinkles, it wouldn’t be a bloodhound…so the character needed them! The layout pose I did was a big help in tracking them, the body more or less remained stationary…which I did purposely to simplify the animation as a whole. This is one of the benefits of doing a 2d animation…you can design a character however you like…and do whatever you like to him. Once again it was a challenge and kept the animation interesting for me.

Within the voter's comment section shown under your animation, you wrote: “I'm a little surprised with the win; when I was voting, the top 5 all blew me away, so great job to those guys/gals!”
Please share some thoughts on one or two of these fellow entries.
So many great entries in July, and when I was voting the ones that came 2nd and 5th stuck out to me. The 2nd place one, made me laugh…and that’s hard to do when you’ve heard a dialogue so many times. It had some great staging, some nice animation and appealing designs with the Morpheus rig. I thought it would win for sure. The 5th place one was the other favourite; I liked the fact that it was simple, direct and had some solid acting choices. The animation was smooth, not over animated and the poses and gestures were appealing. Then I found out the animator had just graduated high school! Most of the time any of the top 5 could win, in July I don’t think any of the entries (including mine) stood out as sheer winners…I feel fortunate to have come out on top. Congratulations’ to everyone in the competition.

I also wish to ask you about your June entry. There was an abundance of crowns used within the clips. I like that you took a slightly different perspective and loved the beautiful character designs you uploaded to your blog. Please talk a bit about this piece.
(Image taken from Trent's June entry)
June's entry (titled 'Reciting his favourite movie!') was such a disappointment! I had just finished Smurfs, and was itching to do some 2d. I had been developing that character for a month or 2, he was for another project and I really wanted to test him out with a dialogue piece. I forced the dialogue on that character…and forced an idea that wasn’t really making sense in the early stages. I hadn’t done any 2d for almost a year, I was slow, rusty and constantly trying to make the idea work. Here’s what I learnt: a) if the idea isn’t working from the early stages, it won’t work in the end either, no matter the quality of animation. b) Don’t force things upon the idea, you have to be open to change and work with the information given to create a great idea. c) KISS- Keep it simple stupid…I tend to overcomplicate things; I am constantly reminding myself of this. I tried to incorporate what I learnt in the June entry to help improve my July entry.

Talk about one or two parts of the eCritique that enhanced or expanded on the ideas you had originally set out to animate.
Anthony Wong ecritique
Anthony gave an amazing eCritque. I am lucky to have received one from such a talented 2d animator. The thing he most expanded on was the planning of the scene and how important it is. I always try to plan, and get inside the character, but it never seems like enough. Watching him act out sections and choose poses based on the feeling of the character and not just the appeal was very cool. He also broke down the dialogue and reworked parts of the animation to fit the real meaning of this particular scene. I feel like I will probably watch the critique a few more times before taking everything in. The big thing I learnt from it was: Every pose chosen and movement made has to have a meaning…why is he moving like this? Why is the timing like this? Why did you choose this pose? I have to remember to constantly ask these questions while animating, to dig deeper into the character in order to bring it to life.

Do you intend to return to this piece to incorporate the suggestions made in the eCritique?
I will definitely return to this piece to tighten things up and make changes. I am going to incorporate as much as possible. I think a lot of what Anthony talked about is something that I need to practice applying to my future animations, especially when it comes to planning a scene. Once I have made some changes to the animation, I am hoping to clean it up and colour it. I am very much looking forward to getting back to the “drawing board” fresh with inspiration and ideas, thanks to Anthony Wong.

What advice would you give to others looking for a career in character animation?
I am 23 years old and not really in the position to be giving advice, but here is what I have to say: Whenever I am up late working long hours, or stressing out about a scene I simply remind myself…I make cartoons for a living…I have it pretty damn good. If you’re able to make a modest living, doing what you love to do, then you’re in a pretty small percentage of people in the world that can do so. I think I read this quote in the book “how to cheat in Maya” and it’s stuck with me for a while now: “Enjoy the process, not the outcome”. It’s hard sometimes to not think about the outcome, but if you truly enjoy the process, the outcome does take care of itself. For July’s entry, I enjoyed acting the scene out, it was a challenge to complete the 250 drawings but I enjoyed trying to get things on model and appealing. I truly enjoyed the process of making it move and act the way I wanted. I was never thinking, “I need to win” or “I need a new demo reel piece”…I was doing it because I love animating. If you’re pursuing a career in character animation it does take a lot of hard work and dedication, but there are lots of resources out there and if you truly love it, it won’t feel like work at all. If you’re desperately trying to get into feature animation, here is my theory: If you want it bad enough, it will happen, it has too…it’s just a matter of time. Your work will eventually get better; you’ll eventually catch a break as long as you keep working at it and show your passion. It’s important to be easy to work with and market yourself properly. This shouldn’t really be a conscious effort, as long as you are nice, pleasant to be around, willing to learn and work hard you shouldn’t have a problem. Something that I have been doing since graduation is attending conferences or festivals. I try to attend 2 a year if possible; it could be Siggraph, CTN, CG CON, the Ottawa animation festival or even a Pixar workshop. They do 2 things for me; the first is probably the inspiration. After attending one of these conferences, I usually feel a lot fresher and inspired. I learn new tips and tricks from lectures and it usually gives me a boost to work on some personal projects. The second thing is networking; animation has a very tight and small community and these festivals and conferences are a great way to meet new people including recruiters, fellow animators, and potential employers. I highly recommend trying to attend at least one a year. I hope this helps!!
Interview by Steven Hawthorne

Friday 26 August 2011

Tips for the Aspiring Professional Animation Artist

Cartoon Brew posted a great link to Waveybrain's blog post about starting off learning animation. After running into unprepared students and the frustration that seems to be industry wide with this he wrote a great post about what to expect if you want to animate at a major studio. With focus on other disciplines to study inorder to push yourself he dose a great job at explaining why you need to do more then just animate. This is something that I have been embracing for a little bit as well. On top of my regular life drawing I have been working on a concept art portfolio doing sets, storyboards, characters and color scripts, learning final cut and after effects and helping friends with there film projects so I can learn about everything. I dont think as animators we can ever have too much background. We make things come to life, so we need to know all about how to to it so that when we animate people believe the life we put out there.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

AnimSchool Interview: Animator Tony Bonilla

Hello guys and gals,

A great opportunity I am enjoying at present is the opportunity to interview some extremely talented animators. I believe sharing their thoughts and experiences can be true inspiration to help others to follow their own dreams.

Recently posted on AnimSchool Blog is an interview by Andrew Tran, who had a similar opportunity, interviewing Blue Sky Studios animator Tony Bonilla. Tony's words offer great wisdom and will hopefully provide a lift to all.

Andrew also shared on the site, this video from Ira Glass. Read, watch, enjoy!

Monday 22 August 2011


Michael Carr posted an interesting topic to his blog in relation to work speed and "cheating". He talks about his work being a one pass animation and with controlling the key poses he can let the computer take over from there. Interesting read for sure but outside of video games I wonder how this looks. 

Interior Lighting tutorial

Hello guys and gals,
The members of the 11 Second Club come from a variety of backgrounds, each able to offer their own thoughts to our forums. Appearing in these forums on a regular basis, is the debate whether lighting and rendering should or should not effect the voting in our monthly competitions.

My own thoughts on this debate hope to find some kind of middle ground. Yes, 11 Second Club is an animation competition. However, what makes 11 Second Club so intriguing is its celebration of diverse talent.

This post hopes to celebrate the idea of being different. To do so, I wish to take you guys back to Dapoon's entry for July 2010.

The idea itself is unique and challenging. It presents a story of a same sex relationship. Sexuality is becoming more acceptable in television and feature film. However, within some social groups it is still greeted with an unease. I admire Dapoon's choice to tackle it within an 11 Second Club entry. He handles the characters with love and care, his animation and story telling are simply beautiful.

Dapoon felt that the idea was not communicated as successfully as he wished. We challenged Sarath Thomas to add to the scene. Through lighting and further rendering, the idea was pushed further. Its finished appearance is deeply sophisticated and appealing.

To conclude, the competition invites diversity. Playblasts are great! If you wish to spend all your available time on the animation, there have been some fanastic entries over the years that have done just that. Just please don't ever be afraid to be different. First with story, and then if you choose to light, ask yourself how this could use it creatively to add to the whole appeal.

Good luck and happy animating!

Please note, the new look animation will be rendered soon. I am posting now to offer the community the opportunity to explore Sarath's fab methods of lighting, opening possibilities for your own entries. To check out the tutorial, please click here

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Tip: Mute The Audio

Here's tip I often use to see how my animation is working. Turn off the sound. By muting the audio it really forces you to focus on the characters acting/emotions. It shouldn't be just the audio that tells us what the characters are saying/thinking it should also be their body language, gestures, facial expressions, etc, etc. Here's a video I made that really showcases this. It goes through some clips from movies/tv, but without any audio. Notice how you still fully understand the emotions the characters are feeling and are still able to follow along with whats going on. If you're working on an animation, try muting it and see if you can still understand what the characters are thinking/feeling...does your animation still read without the audio?
Kyle Kenworthy

Monday 15 August 2011

Mc 14: the diving board

Hello guys and gals,
After a week's break, the challenges the are back! This time around its a jump from a diving board. Mechanics are most important here, so perhaps research some Olympic dives and choose one you wish to push further through animation. For those who wish to incorporate some story aspect, you could also choose to broaden the idea and have somebody leaping off of a pirate plank! Argghhh......Splash!!!

To give you an idea of how you could approach this challenge, please check out this 'Stewie's flop on Diving Board', a beautiful Animation Mentor assignment by DayDreamer Pro. If you like the student's spring in the board, you may wish to check out the recent 'Adding bend to polygon object' by Camaro.

It has been great seeing the participation of 2D animators recently and I hope this for this to continue. However, for Maya users, Wolfor has kindly donated a diving board scene. Please feel free to use this for the challenge. The scene will continually be hosted from the blog enabling animators to practice at a later date.

Again, this two week animation challenge (ending on 29th August) should be around 100-125f with a 16:9 ratio. Choice of rig is up to you guys, whether you wish to use a ball with tail or a full biped. For further details, please read the 'How to Participate' section on the blog. Thank you!

Hope you all enjoy!

Sunday 14 August 2011

Animation Progression Reels blog

Each animator has his only style and methods of production. The blog titled 'Animation Progression Reels' presents a collection of clips showing the various artists' different stages of their animation production. There are some great works showcased on its blog, which may offer new ideas to evolve your own production practice. Click the image to check it out!

Character Design

Friday 12 August 2011

Buying a new Computer for Animation

Update 10/2012: Hi all!
Although most of what I wrote below is still accurate, some of the parts will probably be outdated by now, so have a look around before buying some old crap :D

Hi all!

Some weeks ago, I wrote a lengthy post about what is needed in an animation-ready computer. This was not the first time I advised someone on how to build a computer, but this time, I actually based my recommendations on my own Computer (which is fresh and exciting and awesome!), so that I can really say how good it works. And seeing the new term will be starting soon and probably many students are now on the lookout on how to support the economy, I'll just post this here again.

Although I am going to name a few brands, do not take this as "you have got to buy this or you won't be able to animate", but just as an example (in most cases).
Next to my Workstation, I'm using a 2008 Macbook (non-pro) for Maya as well, and apart from some small bugs, this works well enough, too.
This can be used as a guide for buying Notebooks as well, some things might vary of course (like the Power or the Graphics).

First off, if you are not sure if you can build the computer yourself, you probably shouldn't. Although most hardware IT people usually say "oh, applying thermal paste on the processor is easy", I have to say, considering that letting the processor fall too hard on the socket or touching one of the pins with your finger can irrevocably damage the CPU while losing your warranty, you might want to consider letting your hardware supplier do it for you. This way, you can also be pretty sure that everything you're buying will be compatible if you pay them to start the computer before shipping it.
Another alternative is to buy a machine from a big supplier like Dell, HP or Apple, but, while guaranteeing that all parts are tested and are 100% compatible, and offering you a very good support plan, these companies are usually pretty inflexible, more expensive and you probably are "forced" to buy some parts you don't need, like a crappy webcam or something (the stuff they say is "for free").

So, here's my setup:

Intel i7 2600k 3.4 GHz
ASUS evo p8p67 Motherboard
Gainward Geforce GTX 560 Ti Phantom (2GB RAM)
16 GB Kingston Value RAM
750W corsair power supply
a fast 60 GB OCZ SSD Drive for the system
and two normal 1TB SATA drives for the data and the backup
together with enough cooling power (one good CPU cooler and four case fans), one (a bit too) fancy case and nice but inexpensive mouse and keyboard cost me around 1200€, which is about 1050 GBP or 1 700 $. (Being a freelancer I get the VAT back, so it was actually only 950€)
That sounds quite much, but this should be considerably cheaper in England or US since the Euro is rated far too high at the moment.

I shall now explain my choices:

-Scrubbing a complex character takes up lots of computing power, hence the big i7 (and best value/price relationship) Following rumors I heard, you should be careful if you buy an AMD CPU, because like the ATI cards (mentioned below) they're not really production ready for 3D work. At least of the people and studios I know, no one is using AMD processors.

-the ASUS board I chose, because it's said to be compatible for installing MAC OSX on the machine, and I plan to do so, sometime or other, and it supports dual Graphics which I wont use, but you never know... It also supports 16GB RAM (or even more) and has enough plugs for any kind of whatever I'll be wanting to plug into my computer.
But actually I think this is as good as any other board in that mid price range, nothing special and a few very odd (and strangely amusing) bugs.

-The Geforce I took, because it has 2GB RAM, although this is probably way over the top; and is not always available, because NVidia obviously wants to (re-)broaden the gap between gamer- and professional cards.
The 500's series seems to run smoother with Maya than the 400's, and with the newest driver it supports Maya's Viewport 2.0 completely. Unless you don't want to do something very Highend, you should definitively save your money and not buy a Quadro card.
Another thing about Geforce Cards, if you're using Maya 2011 and above, they're officially unsupported by Autodesk, this is probably a political thing so people start buying the overpriced Quadros again. Mine is working without any problems to date (knock on wood), but you need to make sure that you apply the correct setting to the Nvidia panel, lest this will make your Maya act very strangely and crash/freeze often. The most common thing is that you need to set the "threaded optimization" to off. There are other settings to be looked at, but you can find this very often all around the interwebs.
But whatever you are going to buy, remember NEVER to buy an ATI card, they're absolute rubbish and completely useless for OpenGL based professional 3D packages. If this is also the case with DirectX based packages (like 3D Max), I don't really know, maybe someone wants to enlighten me?
I think I need to edit this part on the ATI cards, seeing that Apple is using Radeon's quite a lot, lately. If you're planning to buy a MAC, and are using MacOSX only, the builtin driver for your ATI card should be sufficient to have Maya running smoothly and obviously without trouble. If you're thinking about running Linux on that Mac, you might have some major troubles with the ATI, though.
The other edit is that Autodesk has released some certification on gaming cards again, meaning that you can now check on the Autodesk site if they tested the card you own/plan to buy and how the card fared. :D

-About the RAM: Okay, 16 GB is a bit over the top for animation, I guess 4-8 GB are sufficient for everything you're planning to do. I just had enough money at that time so I though, what the heck?
Here you just have to be extra careful and double check with the board manufacturer if this SPECIFIC RAM you are planning to buy is supported. The one I wanted wasn't. Took me 2 days to figure out... I had good experience with Kingston, DELL is using it as well.
And try to buy big RAM bars so you don't use up all slots and can upgrade more easily later on.

-750W Power seems to be enough for that big Graphics board and 3 HDD. I guess 650 would have been enough, too.

-My biggest coup was using a SSD Drive for the system. Windows7 now boots in about 20 seconds, which is faster than the BIOS with all its settings. You doubleclick a program and its there, instantly (nearly:)) Maya 2012 just took 7 seconds. You just need to back it up frequently because there is no real experience on how long those SSD's run. Looking back on this decision now, you might want to get 80GB rather than 60GB, because the space on my system disk is running pretty low now.

 EDIT: I just recently upgraded my system to a 120GB SSD, that seems enough for now, and bought another 2TB disk for backup reasons. So now, I have two 1TB disks running in a striped array (raid 0) and a 2TB disk for backing up the data, which is in a box beside the computer and only used for backing up. Seems to be a bit faster that way, too.

EDIT: I forgot to mention, that if you're using such a relatively small harddisk against such a big amount of RAM, you could end up with problems because windows will be using up additional 32 GB of disk space for the hidden hiberfil.sys and pagefile.sys system files. DO NOT DELETE THESE FILES!
The pagefile.sys is just a portion of the harddisk reserved by windows to use as additional RAM if the actual RAM space runs out (which is very likely to happen at 16GB RAM :D) so you can set this to a fairly small amount or disabling it altogether. You can find how-to's en masse on the Internet.
The hiberfil.sys is a snapshot of your RAM before you set the computer to hibernate, so if you don't need that you can disable that as well. There are tutorials on how to do that as well on the internet.

Well, that's that. You could tweak here and there and get some cheaper parts to push this below the 1000€ mark (with VAT) but I didn't because I planned on using this machine for the next 3-4 years, so I want this baby to be future ready.

I hope this was informative and at least a bit entertaining for you. If you found anything obviously wrong here, please let me know and I'll review my post asap.

Cheers all!

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Mc 13: the sneeze

Hello guys and gals,
Here are the results from the 13th mini-challenge, inspired by Stina's Boberg's sneeze. After receing our first 2d animation in the swing challenge, it was wonderful to see two more appear in this one.

First up is JKR's, produced with a '6B graphite stick on good ol' animation punched paper over my home made light table'. Most who are familiar who his posts, recognize his passion for 2d animation and also his work with Fred the Monkey.

The second entry is an absolutely beautiful effort by Camille. I really love its appeal and cute story line.

I believe there will be a week's break from the challenge's this week, before commencing again on the 11th. Stay tuned!

Monday 8 August 2011

3D Lip Sync Resources

Hey guys and gals,
Many have asked for some resources on lip syncing. Thanks to the community members of the main site, I can present to you a few to get started with.

Up first is a classic tutorial, DJ Nike's How to make lip sync easy.
A great resource, that provides some tips on how to break down the lip sync and recognise the different parts of the mouth and jaw that come together to form dialogue.

Next up, Spline Doctor and long term Pixar Animator, Andrew Gordon, provides some great advice within his mouth-a-mation post. The post creators pointers as opposed to a step-by-step tutorial, but certainly highlights areas that can help guide you.

Pandamation's Tricks #7
Pandamation's list of tricks offer many great tips and advice on various subject areas. Trick #7 tackles How to do Lip Sync

Keith Glass's offers a greatly detailed three part tutorial, that is well worth checking out! 

Lester Banks
This recently produced tutorial by Lester Banks, offers another great method of tackling sync. Using a method of recognizing and working with visemes, introduced in Jason Ospia's Stop Staring (definately worth checking out), Lester provides a detailed walkthrough. Well presented, informative and a great addition to the club of sync resources.
Please click the pic to view the tutorial.

Character Design

Remember, these tutorials although offering different ways to tackle this challenging subject, there are many different methods available. You may even find your own. Always keep yourself open to new ways of thinking, and with plenty of practice you could create some well talked about bits of work.

Good luck and keep animating!

Re-doing a shot: getting rid of the mental block

So how many of you can relate to the poor animator in the pic? I can!

Like every other animator out there, when I was starting out, I used to face this enormous overwhelming challenge of redoing shots. “What the heck! Now I gotta change all my animation that I almost starved myself to create??” That thought would creep me out (it still does)! However with time and practice, when I somehow pulled this fear out of me (at least to quite an extent), I realized that wasn’t so scary after all! "Maybe it was just me and my silly mental block! Doh!" I concluded.

But nope! It’s not just me! A recent interaction with a friend fairly new in this field made me realise that it’s not as easy to remove that ‘mental block’ as I thought. Much of the lot seems so attached to their work and forgiving of their mistakes that any changes suggested could as well mean murder!

Truth is, the real animation world out there isn’t so forgiving. If a shot needs changes, it needs changes. Get that right or get fired!

The first thing you gotta do is lose the love for your shot. It’s okay to appreciate that you have an ability to create something of this caliber, but kindly keep it to that. ANY shot (I repeat ANY shot) has the potential to be better. A very talented friend of mine once said “An animator never really finishes his work, he simply surrenders!” So unless you’re married to your shot, lose the love.

There’s another factor why animators fear incorporating changes: LOW CONFIDENCE. This applies fairly to the newbies. They don’t exactly love their shots, they know there are problems in them, but at the same time they just can’t seem to gather enough confidence to make changes, fearing it might end up looking worse.

In either case, it’s all a matter of thinking. You need to mentally prepare yourself when you work on a shot, that you might be asked to make changes. And when someone does suggest changes, you should tell yourself over and over again “Yeah I need to change that” rather than “Oh man now I gotta change that??” The former thought process creates a certain uneasiness within you and subconsciously you feel restless until you finally incorporate those changes. It also prevents you from being complacent. Okay I agree it’s definitely human to think "Oh man now I gotta change that??". What makes the difference is how fast you switch to "Yeah I need to change that".

You need to make a start someday. This mainly applies to students and people who are learning on their own. It’s better to get used to redoing shots as early as possible when there’s no one looming over your head with a deadline sword. That way at least you’ll get some practice and later on actually perform better in a production when there is someone looming over your head with a deadline sword. Because then you will have gotten used to making changes in your shots rather than freaking out saying “What the heck! Changes?? Nobody taught me that in school!” You become flexible.

Let me give you my own example of how I went about getting rid of that fear.

I am definitely not someone who loves his shots. I was more of the not-confident type. I remember in my animation school (Takshaa), when I was in my first semester (on learning basics), I did two shots as assignments (ball-box, and ballman-ball interaction). I was suggested some major changes to improve them. But I was pensive! “Who’s gonna go through all those graphs again?” Eventually I didn’t make any changes thinking I’ll get used to redoing shots later with time.

I went to the second semester and did some walk/run cycles. Once again changes were suggested. Once again I got pensive, thinking I would incorporate changes in my next assignment, even though all the while knowing that those changes are needed. And sure enough I didn’t make any.

Then I did a jump. Changes suggested again. Me pensive again. Me thinking again “Okay next time for sure”. But this time I had an additional thought “I can’t keep procrastinating like this.” That’s all it took to break the ice. Those 6 words! That thought process created the required uneasiness in me.

So I chose a day and sat down to make changes And yes, it was tough! I hesitated to even touch the controllers. It was a struggle all the way, first to get rid of that mental block, second to actually change the animation. It wasn’t easy also because initially the changed action wasn’t really looking good (animation principle wise), and plus my previous saved version was always there tempting me to give up and be complacent with it!

I still kept going, and finally one fine day it started to look good, or I dare say, even better than the previous version! Below are the videos to show what I mean.

Original version

Changed version (improvised ending)

Okay agreed, the animation isn’t really all that great when I look at it now, but the important thing is, I overcame that fear! It gave me a sense of accomplishment! And that’s when it hit me: changes aren't really that scary! It completely 'changed' my perspective!

And since then, I’ve been on a roll! Removing this fear even made me grow as an animator. I’ve happily welcomed changes in my shots and each time I incorporate them I see that they really push the piece further.

A very prominent example I can give you is when I was blocking out a shot for the 11SC July 2010 contest. Changes were suggested to go for a completely new acting choice and set up, and further below is what it finally looked like.

Original version

Changed version

So yeah it’s really all in the head! You can’t let that simple mental block (which isn’t as scary as you think anyway) get in your way of improvement. Try it once and you'll see for yourselves. Once you get rid of the fear, you’re already halfway there. The other half, where you actually make the changed animation look good or better, is only a matter of time. :)

Thursday 4 August 2011

Lip Sync for Stop Motion, Old-School

In my last video tutorial I detailed how to create a reference video for lip sync using Maya. But not all stop motion animators have Maya. So let’s try this old-school and prepare a bit of dialogue using a good old fashioned exposure sheet.

You still have to go high-tech, however, and open the audio file in something that will show the wave form. This can be the animation app, or one for editing audio, or video editing software. For this demo, I read the track in Final Cut Pro by setting the timeline to twenty four-frames per second and dropping in a sound clip of someone saying “the eleven second club.” The task is then to break down the sounds to the frame. This is done by scrubbing through the sound and finding bits you can identify.

Then transcribe this to an exposure sheet:

4:03 thee The
4:04 e eleven
4:05 ee
4:06 eel
4:07 l
4:08 le
4:09 e
4:10 v
4:11 vi
4:12 n
4:13 ns second
4:14 s
4:15 s
4:16 se
4:17 e
4:18 k
4:19 ki
4:20 i
4:21 n
4:22 nk club
4:23 kl
5:01 l
5:02 u
5:03 U
5:04 u
5:06 b
5:07 h

This can be all you need to animate the mouth of a clay character, as you would sculpt the mouth frame by frame to match the noted sound. If you are animating in two’s you need to consider the two sounds being made within those two frames and shape the mouth accordingly. You can further prepare by sketching the mouth shapes ahead of time. The principles explored in the lip sync tutorial apply, but here are the main points:

Make sure the mouth is shut on m’s, and before b’s and p’s.

The mouth should be the widest on the hardest-hit vowels. Show contrast with the softer sounds.

Don’t over-enunciate. If the sound is slurred, or letters are skipped altogether, do the same in the animation.

Keep in simple.

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Vivian Guiraud interview

With his entry 'King Talks', Vivian Guiraud won the crown of landing first place position in June's 11 Second Club competition.

I wish to thank Vivian for granting us his time in order to share a few words about his shot production.

I hope you guys enjoy!

When did you realize you wanted to get into animation, and how did you first go about learning?
In 2002 I was studying Industrial Product Designing in Toulouse, in the south of France. I one day realized that I wanted to do something more artistic and creative.
I had a big decision to make. I've always beed amazed by cartoons, 3d pictures and general animations we could see appearing more and more in movies. I searched and found a 3d school in Montpellier.
During the second year of learning maya software we began to explore the animation part. As I just started my first animations exercises, I realized it was just I was looking for. Creating movements on puppets was really magic.

I see you've worked on many commercial projects, while also on film ''La Mecanique du Coeur'. Please talk a bit about the difference in these experiences.
The main difference between these experiences is the time you have to do the job. On commercial projects you can have very short deadlines so you have to work fast and be reactive in front of director wishes and customers changes. I had to work with small teams and talk a lot about technical constraints, shots repartition, animation style throughout the process. This create a good dynamic and great exchange with people you work with.

On the movie you really have more time to plan and polish your animation. Characters had a real background. We had a precise description of characters states of mind and thoughts for each shot of the movie. This was really helpfull to create credible acting movements and leads you in the right way. I loved to work on this project, this was really acting animation and to meet and work with many talented people was really exciting. Unfortunately, for my first experience in full cg movie, the production just stopped in the middle of the process, due to financial issues.

(click here to view reel)

You have mentioned you don't plan your animation with drawings, a habit you wish to change. What changes and developments do you hope this will have upon your existing practice?
Yes there are a lot of things I have to do to improve my animation process. I know planing is a very important part and I often denigrate it because I'm too impatient...
Making drawings, filming myself, thinking more about staging the scene are things I have to work on. These could all help figure out what works and what doesn't.

Please talk a bit about your process for your winning entry.
What I did first was to listen the sound clip and look for a little context to fit characters in a story. The king's cake tradition came to my mind and I thought it could be funny to play the scene with that. Then I listened the sound clip lots of time to find out the characters' feelings and states of mind.
I loved the contrast between the two characters and found lots of inspiration in the tone of the voices.

This inspired me a lot during the blocking process, trying to find the right poses. When I felt confident in my blocking, of course spline and then the polish process came after.

I also spent time doing some modeling, cloth. Too much time I think. I didn't want to rely on that, I just wanted to dress characters in the way people could easily recognize the right king and the fake one. it was a mistake because clothing doesn't work very well and it lost me a lot of time which I could have used to polish my animation.

To finish a friend helped me for lighting and the rendering.

Digging into your clip, I wish to compliment the confidence you express when animating the hands. It reminds me of the great work done on the Grand Duke in Cinderella. Please talk a bit about this.
Thanks for the compliment. I just thought hands could be useful to enhance the steward's character, using exaggerated poses and movements to match his fake and arrogant personality.

His talking way was confident, so I had to move his hands to show that. I wanted to make him as a noble arrogant guy, a little effeminate. I put these ideas into my blocking, making hands poses which could illustrate this type of character. Like at the beginning when he's drinking, and eating in a fake aristocratic way, the way he's holding the piece of cake while he's talking...

It reminds me the homeless drag-queen character in the Satoshi Kon movie: "Tokyo Godfather". He moves his hands a lot while he's talking and I think it really nicely shows off his personality.

 I can see a further comparisons with Cinderella, in the relationship between the two characters. Both stories present a sarcastic steward/grand duke who fails to avoid provoking the king's explosive temper. May I ask where you gained inspiration for your characters?
Listening the sound clip a lots of time, I looked for a little context to fit the characters. I was focused on the sentence: "you said you didn't want it"and scratched my to find an idea on what the king didn't want. Then the king's cake tradition came to my mind.

Maybe not all people who watched my animation understood its context. It's based on an European tradition. During the epiphany period families eat king's cake where a trinket is hidden. The person who finds the trinket becomes the king for the rest of the day and has to wear a fake paper crown.
So I thought the king could be the winner but didn't want to take the fake crown because he's got a real one, and the steward just wanted to make him angry with his arrogant acting and way of talking.

For inspiration, I animated both characters separately. That's why they looked different, but I mainly wanted them as funny as possible.

I love Jim Carrey who exaggerates a lot his acting just to provoke laughter. I think my inspiration comes a lot from those kinds of comedians.

Many voters enjoyed the moment the king bites on his knuckles through anger and frustration. I also enjoyed the little overshoot on the crown around frames 202-212. Where did these ideas come from?
The crown had to look in paper, like a postcard, so I used a bend tool to animate it. For the biting part, it came naturally. Actually I do it a lot with my friends when we are joking about together.

Voters also enjoyed the snappy movement of your characters, particularly the king. His poses contain many straight angles in comparison to those of the steward. Please talk a bit about animating in this style.
It's funny because I was more focused on the steward's acting. I thought he was more interesting to animate. His relaxed and arrogant way of talking inspired me to make his moves smoother. In contrast, for the king I just wanted to make him really angry so his poses were pushed more straight and snappy. Technically, it was a struggle to find right timing and spacing. During spline process I did a lot of playblasts to figure out what works and what doesn't and had to move my poses in time to find the most efficient timing.

I love your use of mouth shapes, particularly those on the king's steward from 298 to around 316. What is your approach when animating the mouth?
Actually I wanted to use the steward's jaw to make him even more arrogant. I was inspired by his British accent and I had the idea to advance his jaw while he was talking to ehance the fake acting. For the frames 298 to 316 moment, I wanted to push the dynamics of the jaw animation in each frame to show him his change from being funny to afraid.

I generally use a mirror to figure out my moves for lipsync. For all the steward's "T" "D" "S" I used mouth shapes as to show his teeth,while its important for all mouth openings to fit arcs including on the jaws.

Unfortunately, the steward's jaw and lipsync looked better on playblasts. I believe the lighting and the shadows disturb a little his mouth and expressions. This is something I plan to fix.

Kenny Roy mentioned how difficult it is to animate one 11 second shot, getting things to flow continuously without a cut. Did you find yourself struggling with any part of the animation?
I want to thank Kenny for his many advices and corrections, it's really great to get great feedback. He's completly right, it's really hard to keep things continuous without a cut. I was fighting against myself because I wanted to focus on the steward's acting, to show him first but I liked the idea of his knuckle biting. Finally I kept it, and it worked's well but interrupts a lot what I wanted to show first. I confess I never had the idea of fitting a cut and it definately could be a solution.

Talk about one or two parts of the eCritique that enhanced or expanded on the ideas you had originally set out to animate.
Kenny mentioned to build the scene with 2 or 3 shots, it's definetly a thing I have to think before beginning to animate. In differents parts he talked about using body to enhance movements credibility, like on the steward sit on the chair when his leg is moving, or when the king pulls the chair. His critics about arcs are really helpful too. I know I have to spend more time to polish them.

 (click here to watch Kenny's ecritique)

Do you intend to return to this piece to incorporate the suggestions made in the eCritique?
Yes I think about making some changes during the coming weeks. Great thanks to Kenny again

What advice would you give to anybody new to animation and its community?
To work hard, question yourself, and the most important have fun!

To participate at the 11 second club contest is really interesting, it was my first participation and it was great to see all competitors ideas.
Interview by Steven Hawthorne

Monday 1 August 2011

Adding bend to a polygon object

With this month's entry being inspired by martial arts, it seemed most appropriate to post this tutorial by Adam Bradford (Camaro). It was created after a fellow community member asked how to create a bo or quarter staff that could bend to incorporate both drag and follow-through. The playback rate is a little slow, but overall a beautiful collection of tips which could easily be applied to many other objects.
Hope you guys find it useful!

Mc 12: The Swing

Hey guys,
here are the community efforts for the 12th mini-challenge. They include an adventurous attempt by Iestyn Roberts, bending the Norman rig into all contortions for a baseball swing. Eric Swymer tried an unusual angle for his zombie attack, Kiopaa presents a tennis serve with some beautiful squash and stretch, while Elliot Russell shows off our first traditional 2d attempt!
Great work guys!