Saturday 31 January 2015

Luis Trebino Interview

Hello 11 Second Clubbers,

Luis Trebino joins us for this month, to discuss his winning entry for November's audio clip. His entry presents the tale of little troublemaker, who got caught by his teacher.

About the interview; the 11 Second Club receives entries from all over the world. Doing these interviews, I have been able to ask and discover about other cultures and approaches. But still, as an Englishman, I feel I had taken for granted that a lot of online education for animation, is in English.

Luis was rejected from a school, as his first language was Spanish. To hear how he learned English, before applying to a different school and succeeding in producing beautiful work... for me, it was a simple mind opener to discover an artist's endeavor to learn the craft.

Thank you Luis, for your time.

Animator's portfolio
Winning Entry

Jay Jackson compliments some of your choices, as those coming from an experienced artist. Please can you talk us through your four years in the animation?
First of all I want to thank you, Steven, for your time and dedication to this interview. I’m very happy about winning 11 Second Club's November competition. I’ve learned so much from this site since the first time I participated 4 years ago. Winning the competition was very important for me and completely unexpected due to the high level of all animators participating.

Jay Jackson did a great critique and said very cool things about my shot, coming from him makes me very happy.

This last 4 years I’ve been studying animation hard almost every day so wining eleven second club is for me like a prize for all the effort I’ve made.

All animation students know how difficult is to improve and how difficult is to be confident with our work. the last years have been stressful because I have worked and studied at the same time and that’s very hard.

I started studying animation after the university in a self-taught way but I discovered quickly that I needed to enroll in a animation school to be able to improve. The first animation school I tried rejected me because of my English level, it was very hard for me. I still remember how it feels not be able to do what you really want. Therefore, I didn't surrender and I started to do English classes. Finally, after 3 or 4 months of English classes , I tried it again in a new school: Animschool, and they accepted me.

I’ve learnt so much from Animschool and their instructors. It took me almost 2 years to be able to graduate because I did several breaks due to my job and personal affairs. But I didn't stop practicing and working hard to improve. In the next months I will do a workshop in Anim Squad to continue learning.

You noted that you work in 3d modelling and rendering. What inspired your choice to explore character animation?
I’ve done visual arts in the university, where I first met 3d modeling, rendering and animation but in a very basic level. When I've completed my visual arts degree I chose to became a 3d artist so after some time studying modeling, rendering for myself I found a job in a architecture studio, where I’ve learned a lot about these disciplines.

 (A sample of Luis's work)

I've always loved animation, since I was a kid. I grew up with Disney movies and Warner Bros pictures. So I quickly discovered that I wanted to become a professional animator. That idea was always in mind.

''Any particular favourites?''
I think Looney Tunes are fantastic, so simple to understand for kids and so funny as well. From Disney I love movies like Lion King and Toy Story. And I also remember Jonny Quest from Hanna-Barbera. It's funny, when I was a child I've always imagined Hanna Barbera as a woman. Just a few years ago I realized that it was from William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.

Were the Disney/Warner Bros movies dubbed?
Yes, they were. The Spanish version always try to be as close as possible to English version. Adding that little things that makes characters differing. Like for example Bugs Bunny nasal voice or Daffy Duck lisp. You can check the differences in this two Space Jam videos.
First the original one,
And the spanish version,

Of course the original version is better, but I think the Spanish dubbing actors did a great job as well.

In Spanish we have 2 different dubbing accents: one for Spain with Spanish accent and another one with a more standard accent for latin american spanish speakers (like a Mexican-neutral accent). I was born in Argentina, so I grew up watching cartoons with Latin American neutral accent,despite the fact is completely different from Argentinian accent.

Now I live in Spain, I think its is funny to see the difference between the two dubbing versions. There’s always fight about which one is better. Personally I prefer Spanish (from Spain) dubbing.

(A particular favourite of mine, is the Polish version of Be Prepared. I love the richness in the voice). See link - here -)

Have you found your modelling and rendering skills, influencing your animations?
I haven’t, I think the animation must influence the modeling and the rendering and not vice versa, but rendering can be some plus to the final shot. I thought it would be a great idea to add some motion blur especially for the paper and the first big movement.

I didn’t modeled any prop for this shot but I usually do. Basic modeling skills are important for animators, not essential but sometimes you can't make a animation you have in mind because you need some props or some stage and you don’t know how to do it, so is important to not have any obstacle that impede doing your shot.

About the final render, I did it everything in Maxwell Render. Maxwell is very easy to use, it works like a real camera, so you don’t have to set photon settings or technical stuff. You only need to set the ISO, F-stop and Shutter like real life cameras and you get a really good result without investing a lot of time.

Please talk a little bit about your classes with AnimSchool.
Animschool is great, they have a very structured way of teaching and that’s really good for starting animators. Students learn directly from professional animators now working in the industry. Every class is very structured, in this way you learn the whole process of a shot, from the basic idea, thumbnails and video reference to the layout, blocking, splining and polishing.

In addition to your animation classes each term there’s a new animation related class for students and graduated, like drawing or storytelling plus the animation general reviews, where you can attend for additional review of your work.

Another strength is that Animschool have so expressive and appealing rigs, really easy and intuitive to use. All characters are joint based. In opposite to blend shapes, joints are more flexibles so you can find better poses without breaking the rig.

I must ask about an earlier entry, ''That Creepy Game''... do you play video games and if so, which is your favourite? Is it as scary a choice as the fish's?
I used to play video games, nowadays I have no time for that, I spend all my free time animating. I played lots of video games when I was a kid, My favorite genre of videogames is strategy, i get so invested thinking how to defeat the enemy, planning attacks. I think there’s not other genre of games can do that, squeeze your brain. I think one of my favorites is Sid Meier's Civilization, Is the perfect strategy game. I’ve played civ 1,2,3 and 4, no time nowadays for civ 5.

I didn't think in a specific game for that shot, I just thought in a horror game. I focused in the characters reaction, the nostalgia of “Charlie” seeing that video game and remembering how fabulous was playing it when he was a kid.

Tell us a little bit about your animation process?
When I have a shot in mind what I do first is planning, I think about the characters, how do they think, what happened before the shot and what is going to happen after it, I think is necessary to keep in mind a whole idea about the situation. With time I realized that this is the most important part of the process, you can’t start animating if you don’t have a very clear idea of the what is going to happen in your shot. This is the most creativity part and creativity works in the same way for all artistic disciplines, there’s isn't a way to learn how to do something creative, but there are some tricks that can help like writing down thoughts wherever you are.

After that I search in internet for images and ideas according to what I have in mind. Sometimes I get really good ideas for the shot with a image. Especially about the staging and the composition. I use, because you can filter results in order to search exactly what you need.

At this point when I have my basic idea sometimes, depending of the shot, I do some thumbnails or I do a basic layout cinematic in order to see if my idea and my staging is going to work or not. After that I start my video references, I explore different ideas and acting choices in order to find the most believable acting according to the character. Finally I start animating. I first do a pass with the 4 or 5 basic poses being sure this poses are the best I can. Then I add some breakdowns and I start a basic lip sync. When I think everything looks the best as possible I go to splining and I clean all curves and fix timing. Finally I polish everything.

I must join others in compliment the acting choices on the teacher, particularly the head and hands gestures. Please talk about your approach to this character.
I first tried to think in a typical school principal, listening the audio I decided that Marshall rig from Animschool was the best pick for that voice. So I started thinking his thoughts, he is very big guy with a strong voice so he should move slow and show weight in his movements. The audio sounds very calm and confident, but I tried to look deeper: He is very upset about something, but he is controlling himself because he is the school principal so he can’t show anger.

At this point I thought about something wrong or bad that a student can do in order to justify that annoyance , the first I thought was in a slingshot but I've noticed that it’s a very difficult thing to handle. So finally I decided to use a firecracker, very easy to handle and to model.

To achieve the character I did several video references. In this case the audio is very uniform, there aren’t big beats so the acting should be delicate without big movements or reactions. I tried to hit the beats carefully in order to not overact, this was the hardest thing to do.

Looking at your layout, an interesting difference to your finished animation is the pose on ''smart guy''. In your finished animation, on the exception of grabbing the firework, the hands gesture together (e.g. they place the paper down, rest and fold arms). Please talk about this choice?
I did the layout in order to have a basic idea of the poses and the camera changes. After having a overall idea of the shot I started to do some video references of myself. I found better choices for the acting, a more realistic way to show the character thoughts. So I added this new acting to the shot. There are big differences between the layout and the final shot due to the video reference, about expressions, weight, movement...

Starting an animated shot with a new character is exploring uncharted territory so video reference is an essential tool for all animators. Shooting yourself you can know which acting choices, movements and expressions work better for your animation Also, while you are recording yourself you can find fresh ideas to add and you can realize that some of your initial ideas do not work as you thought. 

The comments offered from the community, provide constructive feedback on lip sync. Jay Jackson adds to this, inviting both yourself and others to take a look at the Illusion of Life for tips. How have you found the challenge of approaching sync? 
Lip sync is always challenging, especially for non- native English speakers. Participating for the 11 second club November competition was really good for me to realize that lip sync is my weakest point. The feedback from the community and specially from Jay Jackson was absolutely accurate.

I checked The illusion of life as Jay said, I found it very useful. Something I already know and is very important is to not hit the sound in the exact moment, is more like trying to give the impression of speaking. In order to get this feeling I hit the sounds 2 or 3 frames early. Another thing that Jay said and I read in the illusion of life is to keep the last mouth shape for some frames when a phrase ends to keep it alive.

There are such a good advices from page 462 to 465 that every animator must know about lip sync and gestures to make a good feeling of speaking and there are some good examples to take a look.

Lastly, do you mind if may I ask what bit of advice you would give to others entering the competition?
11 second club competition is a perfect way to know the animation level you can reach. I participated 4 times and I see a improvement from the first time I did to this time. So I completely recommend to try it, is a good way to learn from the community.

Don’t forget to plan your shot! listen meticulously the audio, write it down and start from the beginning, researching ideas, thinking about the characters and their personality. If you start animating from the first day, for sure your shot will be poor. Behind a good shot is a really good planning. 

Interview by Steven Hawthorne