Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ari Folman, opening chess move

Interesting idea from Ari Folman who did Waltz with Bashir, which looks like an amazing film (just to dark for me, like grave of the fireflys, I'm know it's amazing, but there's too much sadness in the real world for me to go looking for it in entertainment.)

I'm a true believer in the openings of films. I treat it like the opening of a chess game, and I love to play chess. You have to think a lot about the opening, and I thought in this film you have to stun the audience immediately, because they're going through a new language of filmmaking, something they've never experienced before. You want to hook them, you want them to be there for the whole 90 minutes. So we put a lot of effort into the opening scene, to stun them within those first two minutes and 40 seconds.

Andrew Stanton Interview

Notes I took while listening to Jeff Goldsmith does an interview with Andrew Stanton director of Wall-E

the 9 old men weren't at cal arts, but the guys who were right under them, the invisible 12 old men, were there.

I was always interested in the whole thing, the lets put on a show, not knowing that that is what the director does, which of course gave me a bad portfolio.

Roger Rabbit and Little Mermaid were the turn of animation back to life. If you weren't working for Disney you would work 3 months here and 3 months there with a lot of breaks in between.

When Pixar started we were young and naive and doing what we were told. We were told to make it edgier, Edgier, EDGIER to the point where we couldn't recognize it. So at one point we holed up for 3 weeks and turned off the phones and wrote the film we wanted following our gut.

Joss Whedon is what taught them what a good script looks like and Buffy the movie is a great example of a good script poorly made, when you read his scripts you can see the movie in your mind.

Toy Story 2 was redone almost from scratch in 8 months. Andrew wrote it in 3 months (and the other film had taken 3 years to write) most of your time may feel like it's spent on plot, but really it's spent on making the character's dimensional and interesting, so since the characters were already defined it was easy "Buzz and Woody stuck in the desert have to sell lemonade" and you already have something to go with knowing what the characters are like. The big thing that I added to Monsters is rules to the world, ie. that screams power everything etc.

Once I realized that Dory was a surrogate for Nemo, it allowed a proxy for Father to be working with his overprotectiveness throughout the film.

Pixar is nothing but Type A's, Olympic athletes, they can't help themselves from topping themselves and then trying to out do the person next to them. So we try to make it fun to try and counterbalance so people don't work themselves to nothing. It takes it's toll, you love it so much, it's like you're having an affair, it can consume your every waking thought, you are still there when you are home with your family.

Wall-E was hatched when he was stuck on Nemo, writers block, so he freed his mind up by playing with Wall-E.

They had had the idea for Wall-E (a little robot working away by himself pointlessly) way back during Toy Story. But by the time Andrew got to it he had the experience to see what the hook was, what made that idea strong, Wall-e was the epitome of loneliness and futility and thinking "there must be something more", which we can all relate to, and the opposite of loneliness is a love story, which organically stuck the two genre's together love story and sci-fi.

There was something about Luxo that inherently is anthropomorphic, you just can't help but project ideas onto it, you can't stop yourself from empathising with it, kind of like a baby or a pet "oh it likes me, it wants to come home with me" so going for that feeling with Wall-e throughout the film.

Andrew pretty much Beat outlines the story before bringing in a co-writer. When you see a good movie and you walk out, if you really liked it and you start telling someone about it, even if you're a bad storyteller, it still comes across, so if you have the bones true, it'll come across in the pitch. So the outline is as if I had scene it and was telling you about it. I know it'll change, I'm probably sitting on broken bones that I don't know about yet, but it should come across as a movie I just saw instead of what I'm gonna make. I work best with someone else to work with, bounce ideas off of. So talking in a room until we're both saying "yeah yeah yeah, and then this and this" finishing each others sentences, then Jim will go off and write the first volley of what he thinks we talked about, then I'm a better reactionary person, I need something to look at to see how it can be improved. The concept that nothing is truly written, only rewritten.

You discover the story, you just uncover it, like an archeologist. It's like you say the idea of what we want to make is in the ground here, I think it's a T-rex but I'm not sure, so were gonna start digging here, but you have no control of what bones will come up first or if you'll be able to identify them, to think you do is a waste of time. What you can control is how fast you dig, how quick you get them up. Just start digging. You put all the bones together "okay there's my tyranosaurus rex" but if at the 11th hour you pull out a bone that doesn't match any of your plans and you realize that your head bone was your tail bone and you've gotta switch, are you going to have the intestinal fortitude to admit that you have actually a stegasaurus and not a T-Rex. This is where Pixar rocks, we don't have brilliant ideas, but we do a good job of noticing when we have the wrong dinosaur and busting our ass to make it work right for the actual dinosaur we have.

Once he figured out that Wall-e was the keeper of the flame of what life is about, it made it easy because Wall-e doesn't change but changes everyone else around him.

writer's block, it's all about mind games for finding a way objectiviey, looking at your stuff like it wasn't you who wrote it. The word processor gave me the guts to just spit out my ideas and not worry about the words or grammar being write, it feels more like sculpting.

know the punch line to your own joke, know the ending. The first act of Wall-e actually fell from the heavens into my lap, but once I had figured out the climax I did do the hard work of going back and changing whatever I needed to change in the first act to make it all seamless.

I had been watching a lot of Gus Van Sant movies, I was charmed by how they used focus in Finding Forrester. Almost everything would be out of focus and there'd be 4 kids at a table talking, but there was a subtle shift in focus to who was talking, shift to the front plane of their face, helping you focus where you needed to in the chaos of a highschool background. It's all about simplicity, artificial rules that mimic the rules of real life, only the light that exists in a scene don't just throw light everywhere, only where a camera man could fit, what the muscle inertia of lifting a camera would look like, so that the film feels more comfortable and real and the audience can get just a little deeper into it.

I'll get it right the 6th or 7th or 8th time, not 1st 2nd or 3rd, so don't be to worried about the early drafts.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Asp - me

Stop mo music video, shot on blue screen with zbrushed bg

Cost per second of Short films

Keith Lango rounded up this interesting information.

From Wikipedia:
When WB took over the studio from Schlesinger in 1944 there was a schedule of 5 weeks for a 7 minute film from start to finish. They had 3 production units with a director and crew for each. Each unit was expected to make 10 shorts per year, or 30 per year for the whole studio.

From the Animgraph site:
1946 WB's Great Piggy Bank Robbery had a production budget of $25,000 (roughly $170k in today's money)or a modern equivalent of $410 per second.
Disney's 1941 Pluto Short Lend a Paw cost roughly $720k (in today's money) for a per second cost of $1700. The same cost applies to any typical MGM 1940 Tom & Jerry short.

1944 Walter Lantz Woody Woodpecker short cost approx. $290,000 in modern money, for a $700 per second cost.

For reference and comparison:
A typical Pixar/Disney/DW/BlueSky film costs approx $15,000 per second for a feature. Theatrical shorts are the same cost. DVD only shorts are about half that. A typical cable TV kid's cartoon show costs about $133 per second (for a 22 minute show). A typical direct to DVD feature costs about $800-1300 per second, depending who's making it.

So from a budgetary standpoint a typical WB 1940's cartoon fell inbetween a modern kid's TV show and a direct to DVD budget.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Jean Denis Haas Acting Reference

Spungella has a bunch of great analysis of acting reference. I love it when people make these :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Limited Color

Ran across some cool limited palette paintings that make me want to paint.

(this ones by Michael Chesley Johnson) there is no blue in this painting, he's pushing the cool Ivory Black to look blue with the orange clouds.

These ones are by Aaron Coberly using only ultramarine, burnt sienna, and white. Amazing!

and this one by Coberly using Ivory black, Yellow ochre, Venetian red and Permalba white.

Coberly's thread on concept art started me looking at these. His most common limited palette: ivory black, yellow ochre and venetian red. A gallery of his limited palette stuff. In his words "The most important aspects of painting to me are and in this order Composition, Drawing, Values and Color once you have those then you start to consider warms and cools, edges and fracturing space to focus the eye. So no problem just get those 7 ideas down and you got it. I will be spending the rest of my life working on them. One thing I like about the limited palette right now is I feel more free working on warms, cools, edges and fracturing space." He says he uses Cremnitz white (lead, thick and heavy)not as strong as titanium so won't kill saturation. Was using Daniel Smith traditional painting Medium but switched back to Gamblins Gamasol because it's faster and easier to handle.

*edit just read about the "Velazquez Palette" burnt sienna for red, yellow ochre, black (for blue, lamp black maybe)and white. I know you can get a green from yellow and black, but this is hard core limited, have to try it when I get back to painting.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Escale Short film

Escale a short film by Elea Gobbe Mevellec (who went to Gobelins)

I'm loving the look, something new, real solid three dimensionality to hand drawn work! Looks like a sweet story. Can't wait to see more!

Now I have to hunt the web to see if I can find it (looks like she finished last January)

Postural Echo

Leif Jeffers way back in 2005 had a good post about postural echo from Desmond Morris

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Found the motherlode of hand sheets on Nick Bruno's blog. (Yes it has the Milt Kahl sheets, but so much more.)

Nick also has this other great post about brainstorming up a shot that's not cliche.

And a fun one on Eyes

This dude is still the finest example I have seen of hands emoting and thinking (and I can't find anything out about him, 'cept he lives in Romania and his handle is "anymator")

Charlie Chaplin?

Carlos Baena has some links to a show about physical humor with Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) decent watch (especially if you do it during work ;) Interesting thought about Chaplin:

the whole world found Chaplin funny in his day but hardly anyone laughs at him now. He is certainly more skilled then many comedians today. He wears comic clothes, does funny walks, constantly transforming himself, his films are full of slapstick and acrobatic stunts, there is a relentless sadism, under and overstated violence, there are surprising appearances and disappearances, there is surrealism, he is an expert mime and a sharp observer of human behaviour.

There is often a considerable gulf between what can be described as comic and what we personally find funny. The problem with Chaplin is that it is hard for us to get involved with what he does, he is distanced from us by time and the silence of his films. But the main difference is we can't identify with him, he seems to cute, to pleased with himself.

Interesting, he is to different from us to really find funny.

Masters, Moore and Keane

Fred Moore

Glen Keane

Friday, December 5, 2008

Slow action in short movies

Was checking out these two again recently because I was wondering how you convey slow to an audience while keeping it interesting. With Badgered it felt so long the first time I watched it and re-watching it it goes by quickly. The badger is always doing something, he never gets to stop and sleep for longer then 1 or 2 breaths at most, he's not moving turbo, he's taking his time, but he is always moving and changing and reacting. With Geri, his hands and arms are very quick, his body is slow, but there's only a few shots with his whole body moving, they only show the whole body moving like an old man for two shots, and then they cut quicker and quicker to sell the audience on the conceit. It's interesting to watch him for his speeds, because he starts feeling unconnected as a character, his arms move fast except when he's 'supposed' to look old, same with his body. But I never noticed that in the tons of times I've watched it before, not until I analyzed the movement specifically.


A-ha! Stumbled on the Gobelins gallery. These guys are always good and interesting.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Asofiker posted these over at 11sec club It's fascinating how synchronized the blinking is, almost perfectly. Why? How are blinks tied to thoughts, and if it's this universal what's the neurological rule so that we can put blinks in psychologically correctly in our animations? *Ah, never mind. Kevin Koch says the blinks were synched in post (which makes sense, it would make you sick otherwise) that we generally blink around the same point in dialogue but not as exact as this.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My first stop mo

So finally found a smidge of time to try stop motion. Lot's of fun. Fun challenge to do it all in one go, keeping in mind where all the pieces are coming from and going to at what speed, instead of having the crutch of being able to come back and do follow through and overlap in passes. Of course my armature broke near the end (right about at the 3 second mark), so it gets wonky, had to quickly get some kind of end in there. (The plumbers epoxy stopped holding the arm and hip joints still, those joints were seperate pieces that went across like on a "t", the next armature I'm slapping together I'm going around with a single long length of wire.) Anyway I gotta try it again, and apparently get a better camera then my web cam, just have to find the time.

(I'm really just posting this so I can post in the Stopmo forum cuz Lio doesn't like lurkers)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

11sec October crit

Oct crit with Brian Mendenhall.

it's hard not to pack Everything into a shot to show off all your animation skills, but it's good to hold back sometimes for the scene, if it's a subtle scene have the guts to play it quiet.

the reason to put variety in the fingers is that you want to bring out the 3 dimensionality of it, which is why you don't let the fingers all line up in a row perfectly.

believable contacts bring the scene to the upper level of suspension of disbelief. A hand touching offset the fingers contacting, and don't be afraid to reverse fingers because fingers reverse themselves all the time.

Always make the face assymetrical, even if it's really really subtle.

less is more in head acting. don't hit every word with a head accent, choose the strongest word, the operative word, and after that then you can pepper in some more smaller accents, but that way you can easily stop before it gets to much. Always good to break up repition, the line is "on and on" it would be more interesting if it wasn't a vertical nod both times, but the second was a different direction might make it more interesting.

You want to feel like there is something happening, some accent on the strongest sound/word.

Usually expressions change pretty quickly. So can't just key the brows 20 frames apart and let the computer slide them.

The first thing you have to worry about is clarity, make sure that what you want the character to feel is clear.

It often feels like a pop if the head hits a pose and a frame later it's pixel for pixel in the same spot.

Stop Mo Puppet latex heads

Great post over at the Stop Motion Animation Forum. Basically Nick Helligoss is awesome as usual.

Anyway, I have come across that the easiest and cheapest way to get going with semi decent stop mo puppets is make a wire armature (with plumbers epoxy for shoulder and hip reinforcement), then cover it in foam from our sofa (furniture foam). The head and hands can be done with liquid latex brushed on, you can get liquid latex at art shops.

This thread talks about
"Hollow slush cast" - that's where you make a plaster mould, pour in liquid latex and leave it stand for a while, then pour the latex back in the jar. The plaster mould absorbs water from the latex, so a layer next to the plaster starts to get thicker and is left behind when you pour the latex off. The longer you leave it the thicker it builds up. After it dries you have a hollow skin. Dust the inside with talc, peel it out, and you have a hollow puppet head. I used this for hand puppets, where I put my fingers in the upper lip and thumb in the chin and operated them like Muppets. I made the mouth open so I could squeeze it closed, but it would spring back to open.

For foam heads I sculpt the mouth barely open, because it creases in a weird way when you close the mouth a lot more than it's original position. But the foam can usually stretch open more.

Yes, you need a head armature with wires for the upper and lower jaw, and also for anything else that moves like eyebrows or animal ears. They have to attach to a block in the middle, and you need neck wires to connect to the body. You have to make sure the wires will sit in the right place in the plaster mould.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Animation from Script to Screen

Skimming through Animation from Script to Screen by Shamus Culhane.

"I have observed that over 90% of any group of workers are unwilling to improve their abilities by study - unless it happens during working hours and the boss supplies the means... So, for the ambitious neophyte, these figures should be reassuring: The competition consists of less than 10 percent of the entire animation profession."

He tells the story of animating Pluto and the antagonistic crab. How for 3 days he just kind of dreamily thought about it, and drew occasional thumbnails improving upon the storyboard. And then he exploded and drew 700 drawings straight aheading the scene. The drawings were super rough: "That's what the roughs were - not so much sketches as information. Nobody else could have possibly used them to make cleaned-up drawings because they were mostly reminders that at a certain point in the roughing-out process, I felt a certain way. I was feeling the action of Pluto as he snarled at the crab, or the crab as he shoved his hat forward preparing to stalk over to the dog. So these doodles of snarling mouths, scurrying claws, and drooping tails were more memory joggers than drawings." He decided the trick was to completely tap into the creative side of the brain by shutting down the analytical, no stopping to erase or number or anything, just sketch out the ideas as fast as possible, no time for correcting, just starting a new drawing if it's not right.

There are 2 kinds of stories, the kind with a beginning middle and end, and the ones like a Road Runner picture which is just a string of gags. Gag stories, put your character in a situation and then riff off of that. Fatty the Elf as a clock cleaner, what props could get involved, what kind of clock is it, with little characters dinging gongs, what are his companions up to, what's outside the clock, a spooky tree full of owls, what about the weather rain or sleet or sunny, etc... Vs. a story that develops situation by situation from the beginning like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. A third type is really an outgrowth of the first, Disney studios found that having four or five sequences built around comic situations made for a very satisfactory picture, like Hawaiian Holiday.

In creating stories for motion pictures think in terms of the film being composed of sequences that, put together, make a story. Each sequence must have a high point, something funny has to happen. If the story goes along too long without some humor, the audience's attention span will not endure. Look for ways to embellish a gag.

Study Fritz the Cat by Ralph Bakshi. The negative aspects just about cover every aspect of filmmaking. Bakshi has no real sense of continuity or pace, so there are big holes in his story line and the picture progresses in fits and starts. It is the work of a man who had a message but lacked the intellectual means to put it on film. Another warning film is Raggedy Ann and Andy directed by Dick Williams. The writers were trying to write for children, which made the story mechanically coy, self-conscious, and deadly dull, despite the charm of the original characters. Some sequences were allowed to drag on way to long just because they were animated well. This film shows that the best talent and #3million does not guarantee success. Sound judgement and the ability of the director to handle the talent are more important. Bakshi went on to blow Saturday morning TV wide open with the fresh and new New Adventures of Mighty Mouse, and Dick Williams blew the doors off their hinges with Who Framed Roger Rabbit. "I believe the lesson that can be learned from these two men is that one should never be daunted by failures, great or small. Have faith in your talents.

When Pinochio got off to a floundering start, it was apparent as the rushes started to come in that there was a great need for some unifying factor. The picture seemed fragmented. The writers were not able to solve the problem within the framework of the plot they had created. It followed the original book fairly closely. Disney pressured them to go beyond the book and create a brand new character, the practical, conscientious Jiminy Cricket. Not only did he pull the plot together but Jiminy almost stole the picture from Pinochio. (so don't get myopic, take a step back and see with fresh eyes)

A good way to start making layouts might be to draw thumbnail sketches covering a part of a sequence, such as all the shots in a certain interior or exterior, on one piece of paper. That way, the chain of shots can be scanned to see to it that the camera angles conform to the principles of screen editing. (Pixar takes this up a step with color scripts, seeing how the color emotion also flows)

Compose the background around the required action to not distract from it but to emphasize it. Do not struggle to keep the camera still. Sometimes a slight pan will give the action a freedom and grace that would not be possible without the camera move.

Watch out for sequences of scenes that follow each other and have very similar compositions. The audience may find the film boring without knowing why. The human eye likes to work. It is a pleasure to have to keep making adjustments to variations of camera positions, different horizon placements, sudden moves from long shots to close-ups. All these visual exercises are a delight to the eye, completely separate from the plot or the acting ability of the players. Dull compositions can take the fine edge off a good story.

I have nothing against unusual camera angles, providing they are doing a job, showing some important piece of business in the best possible composition. But I do not want an artful shot just as an extension of the layout artist's ego. Sometimes I reject an odd point of view in a layout...I try never to remind the audience that it is being manipulated, forced to look at the action from a point of view that we choose. So the gnat's eye view in a shot is rejected in favor of a more normal and less obtrusive camera angle.

As soon as possible after establishing a long shot to set the locale, I want to move in and omit all extraneous detail.

Be careful about seeing to it that long stretches of dialogue are made interesting by some action germane to the plot. Make sure that important information is still interesting. A boss is ordering his salesman to go out to the wild west, (where the previous 3 salesmen were killed), instead of having a boring talking head shot, give the actors something to do, like the salesmen getting dressed where he can finger dubiously the bullet hole in the buckskin jacket he needs to wear as the boss assures him it is a great growth opportunity. The problem of providing enough interesting action often occurs in the singing sequences. Disney films are the master of this, study them for ideas.

Bar sheets come before x-sheets. Used for pictures set to a known music. At the top of the sheet is a box that indicates what the beat is, for example 2/12 would indicate that each bar of music would have last 24 exposures and have 2 beats in it. Bar sheets are even stronger then x-sheets for matching up musical beats with visual ones, because you can see the entire musical score easier. After the bar sheets are written up the information is transferred to x-sheets for the animators.

The audience of which you should be aware when you are animating is yourself. This is why when you are animating, you must surrender to the tug of your emotions and draw from your feelings. You do not share your thinking processes with others, because you have a unique life experience. What you do share are feelings, sense of humor, a wry appreciation that we are an odd species... so, as you animate, let yourself without reservation be both the entertainer and the entertained.

Norm Ferguson would initially sketch a number of key poses in rough drawings about an inch and half high. Then he would start to animate straight ahead, having solved in his mind the basic geometry of each important pose. Thus, he had the advantage of exploring his key poses, first, then arriving at some variation on them when he was animating straight ahead.

The impetus for the direction of the line of action can come only from feeling what happens to a body when it is expressing a particular emotion.

There is a way of drawing what will inevitably result in an uninteresting pose. That is when perspective is avoided. Very often, it happens because the animator started to draw an arm or a leg from the torso outward. A hand can express emotion; an elbow or a forearm cannot...The best way to avoid these boring parts is to start by first drawing the hand where you want it in the pose, then attaching the arm to it. Very often, it will be in such acute perspective that it is not noticeable.
One time, while I was working on a drawing of the Fox in Pinochio, the pose was giving me trouble. The character's head just didn't seem to be resting in his palm. Norman Ferguson came along and redrew it. He first drew the head at the angle that was needed. Then he sketched the hand cradling the head. Then he made an arm nd finally the body. In other words, all the elements that made up that drawing were done in the order of their importance. That was one of the most important things I learned at Disney's. Are you going to draw two characters glaring at each other eyeball to eyeball? With Fergie's lesson in mind, I would begin by drawing the eyes, not by laying in the two bodies.

Always think of eyes and eyebrows as one unit. The eyebrow is not something pasted on the forehead, independent of the eye. Feel how the eyebrow going into a frown is pressing down on the eye and changing it's shape. When the eyebrows go up in surprise, the shape of the eyes should change accordingly.

Most actions tend to start slowly, accelerate in the middle, and slow down to a stop. This is the main reason that spacing charts were developed.

While the poses tell the story, it is the timing that intrigues the audience. In a way, it is more important than the poses because it gives us such specific information about the personality of the actor.

The eye delights in sudden changes from slow movement, or no animation at all, to frenzied action. This unexpected change of pace captivates audiences the world over because it is part of the universal language of mankind.

Norman Fergusson, the Pluto expert, was the Disney animator who began to extrapolate humor from thought processes. To make this subtle form of acting enjoyable, the movement has to be kept to a minimum. For example, if Pluto was walking along and his paw suddenly became stuck on flypaper, he would come to a complete stop. Then his eyebrows would go into a frown. He would go from that to a slow blink. When his eyelids came back up, the audience would see that Pluto was now looking skyward-thinking. The only movement on the screen would have been Pluto's eyes and eyebrows. There is not much chance of putting over Acton such as that while the character is moving around. An exception is when Snow White kisses Grumpy good-bye. He turns brusquely and starts walking toward the door. His steps get slower and slower because he cannot maintain his pretense of being such a curmudgeon, and his heart melts. While Tytla did change the dwarf's expression as he walked, Grumpy's change of pace really did most of the acting. But as a general rule, since the thinking process is usually only reflected in the face, the elements there-the eyes and mouth-are too small to compete with large parts of the body, if those are in motion as well.

In order to "read" the emotions of a character, the audiences first looks at the face, then the hands, after that, the body, starting with the upper torso. Hands are very important in revealing attitude.

T.S. Sullivant is an interesting animal caricaturist.

It is necessary to know the skeletal structure and the construction of the muscles in order to caricature an animal's movements. In 4 footed animals, the shoulder blades, being upright, jut out from the silhouette.

Accented gestures always precede emphasized words or phrases by anywhere from 3-4 exposures to 15-20. They are never in exact synch with the words.

Animating dialogue, listen to the track until the words fall away and you think of it in musical terms, then choreograph the body with the cadence as well as the meaning.

Lip synch
First thing I do is draw in all the closed mouths, paying attention to the sound before and after this particular position to be sure I'm drawing the proper width. Then I do all the mouths with closed teeth showing. Then I pick out the loudest vowel in the sentence and draw it, then the next loudest etc until they're all done. Of course, the loudest vowel is going to have the widest open mouth, and the mouths are less wide as the volume diminishes. After that it's just inbetweening. With this system there is no way that a 2ndary vowel will have a bigger mouth then the louder vowels.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

1 guy=250 f/x shots

Old article I retracked down today about Gareth Edwards doing 250 f/x shots by himself in 5 months.

You know, just pursuing how to make movie making more of a feasable individual sport, so that more people can make things that actually connect with themself, so we aren't only subject to movies made by committee. Also interesting to see how he prioritized to make it happen.

Monday, November 24, 2008

yay! harddrive space

Scott HanselmanC Cleaner and helped me open up 15 GB on my harddrive, now I have space to play the newly cheap Prince of Persiagames

concentration vid ref

Robbie Cooper videotaped kids playing video games. (Better with the sound off) interesting study of what we do when we are really concentrating. Look how much thinking happens in the mouth. Interesting how focused the eyes are, and the head is translated around instead of the eyes.

thanks to Spungella

Friday, November 21, 2008

Robot Chicken Fabrication

Robot Chicken Video Blog has a quick video of how they make their puppets. Cool idea to use a mold to shape the plumbers epoxy. I didn't expect them to use wire rigs, thought they'd use fancy expensive stuff. Interesting they use hard head and hands.

Fabrication video


Victor Navone does an interview over at Animated-views

I actually have Victor Navone to thank for my getting into animation, it was his short Alien Song that made me realize that I could mess around with animation on my own, on a personal computer, without needing to be able to draw perfect anatomy frame after frame, which led to a discovery of a passion that I'm still chasing today.)

AV: How did you express WALL•E’s personality via pantomime?

VN: That’s easier to explain by showing than by saying it, but I’ll try! With a limited character like WALL•E or EVE you have to rely a lot more on subtle changes and timing because you don’t have complex limbs or facial expressions to help the audience know what their attitude is. You can roughly suggest WALL•E’s attitude by the tilt of his head, the slump of his neck and the position of his shoulders, but movement is what really helps sell the idea. Seeing the change between two poses is as important as the pose itself. The Muppets are a great example of this; they don’t have complex facial expressions - usually just a mouth that opens and closes -and often they don’t have expressive hands. But based simply on how fast they move, the angle of the body, and the angle of their heads relative to their bodies we can tell how they are feeling, even with the sound turned off.

AV: What was the most challenging sequence you did on WALL•E?

VN: The most difficult sequence was where EVE revives WALL•E only to find that he has no memory. WALL•E himself was easy - he just had to be a machine without character. EVE was much more difficult. I had to plan out the entire sequence of her emotions and how they would progress over about 13 shots. I made a map of the whole sequence and plotted out her emotional state for every shot, and then tried to figure out how to communicate that through her body language and eye shapes. I worked back and forth with the director a lot on this, and made many revisions. He had a very specific idea of how he wanted the sequence to progress, and I had to try to match that vision. Often he would tell me to pull back, so that she didn’t get too frustrated or sad too soon. He wanted to make sure that she had somewhere to go emotionally, and that she went through all the appropriate states before she arrived at grief. It was a difficult balance to find. In the end, the sequence seems to go by so fast that I don’t even notice all the work I did!

AM: For BURN•E, communicating his thought process to the audience was the biggest challenge. He is a fairly limited character, which is appealing, but more work must be done in the story process to communicate his intentions. With BURN•E, and with WALL•E, if the audience can’t tell what the character is thinking or what is going on, then they loose interest very quickly.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ira Glass

Ira Glass on Storytelling on youtube:

a story in it's purist form is a sequence of actions, this happened, then this happened, then this happened, and that made me think of this, and then this happened.

it has a momentum in and of itself.

the most boring story will even survive just because it feels like it's going somewhere.

when you have one thing leading to the next leading to the next you feel that you're on a train that's leading somewhere.

often you want to start with action, that's one of your building blocks.

bait, you want to constantly be raising questions, it's implied that any questions you raise you are going to answer.

the whole shape of the story is that you are throwing out questions to keep peoples attention and then answering them along the way

another building block is a moment of reflection, what the bigger something is that makes this story worth listening. "what does it all mean"

so you need the story to work, and you need a moment of reflection, and you bounce back and forth between, if it's not working you might be missing one of those two building blocks.

not enough is said about the importance of abandoning crap. Don't be afraid of killing your babies.

Failure is a big part of success. If you're messing up a lot you should be happy because you're doing it right. If you're making a lot of mistakes it means that you are working hard and you're going to be in the right place to catch the gold when you find it.

Every creative person he knows went through a phase (years long) where they knew what good stuff was, and they knew that the stuff they were doing wasn't there. In other words you know what's good, and you aren't making it. A lot of people quit at this point. The way to get through it is to make a lot of work, get in a situation where you half to turn out the work. The only way to close that gap between vision and crap is to do so much work that you pick up the skills to close it. Ira is top of the game, he says it took him longer then anyone he knows to close that gap.

2 errors beginners make, when they start: try and talk like you're on tv or the radio, the opposite is true, the more you talk like yourself ( a real person) the more compelling you are. And being an egotist. It's interesting how people interact, not just people who only think and care about themself. Better at least what you think of other people.

Excited Reference, Eye Reference

Carlos Baena has another good post about eye acting. What I really appreciated about this post is he talks about ambiguity, making your characters seem alive and like they are thinking and feeling, but not making it obvious exactly what they are thinking and feeling, leaving that open for the audience to fill in.

And Jean-Dennis Haas has a great breakdown of an excited happy clip. Great read!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Myths and Legends

ta-da Ta-DA TA-DA ta-DA!! Post 100 (okay 2 of them aren't published yet), guess I'm more of a windbag then I expected ;)

Straight lift from the steampunk myth's and legends contest over at CgTalk. List of resources for researching myths and legends.

Project Gutenberg's (the copywrite free online library of classics) mythology and folklorebookshelf.

Encyclopediea Mythica

Another online myth and folklore encyclopedia

a 3rd encyclopedia

Monday, November 17, 2008

Goldberg, Williams, Lasseter, Maclane

lot of little snippets from different places

Richard Williams Spline cast
Ken Harris was one of those minimum movement guys, playing tennis he would hardly move and the ball would go flying. So he hated the flashy Disney animation flashing all around, he would reduce it all down, so it was very conservative and that's what made it funny. Master of restraint, disagreeing with the Illusion of Life "pushing it further". When you push it further you can always pull it back, but they never do, they never do pull it back and it's too much. It's great to go crazy, but it's funnier if you don't. I want to push less.

I felt the need to do a stick figure version of the illusion of life because it was too complicated with the beautiful disney drawings, the principles are disguised and distracted from.

Animation Podcast Eric Goldberg
I like to draw everything that has give and will support the idea of the pose, and then draw the anatomy on top. Which is a limit in CG, you are already dealing with bone and hinged characters. I know there's an underlying structure, but I look at the overall graphic shapes and how they would move, and then make it work anatomically afterwards. I tend to start with the most compelling aspects first, I will almost always start with the face. My current character the first thing I draw is the bridge of the nose, then the eyes behind it, and then the mouth underneath, so I can get whatever expression I want.(normally you start with the cranium, but then you're constricted in what kind of expression will fit) The eyes nose mouth combination is the central focus So I'm not limiting to myself to what the expression should be based on how it sits on the cranium, I'm going for the priority, the expression first, and then hooking it up into the cranium afterwards.

On Pocahontas we had to drop ALL of the comedy to appease Jeffrey Katzenberg, make it straight and dramatic. Of course what happened, towards the 11th hour, everyone was saying "there's no laughs in this film, we have to put some laughs back". Fortunately we had the sidekick characters to put the comedy in, but honestly you could pull the characters out and it would be the same film, It was like trying to wedge comedy bricks into a house that had already been built. They were spot gags, not essential to the story. The great thing about Ron and Jon is that the comedy is part of the fabric and tone of the movie, you can't tell the story without the comedy characters, it makes a more unified fabric of the story, a more unified film, then if you drop all the jokes and put the comedy in on a second pass.

Mike Jiona(?) color designer:
Use very vibrant colors to evoke mood, not necessarily to evoke realism.

I think animation was invented for the short film. Brevity is the soul of wit. If you can say something compellingly in a very short amount of time, that's better then waffling about it for 2 hours. That said, the breadth that can be said in a feature can be much much deeper. The sidekick character in a feature has the largest emotional range, they carry the comedy, there needs to be something underneath that comedy, and they have to feel for the hero so the audience will. The toughest thing to do on the Genie was to make him sincere, make people believe that after bouncing off the walls he still has feelings for Aladdin, and that contrast makes it all the more stronger, getting that contrast (from wild to subtle) and stay in character is really gold.

Fantasia can define who the characters are through pantomime with their movement. When watching tv you can leave it on and "watch it" without actually looking at it 90% of the time and know what's going on. You can't "listen" to a road runner cartoon and appreciate the nuances of the personality unless you actually WATCH it. If you can turn down the sound and tell what's going on it's animation, if you can turn down the picture then it's radio.

what is CG capable of but hasn't yet accomplished?
A lot of people in CG use the limitations of the medium and call it a style. "CG's a style, you can be a lot more subtle, little eye darts and things" but what you can't do seemingly is make a character really feel organic, big changes in shape and facial muscles and stuff. You can, but you have to think in a different way, typically in CG you work layeredly, you move the torso then the legs then the arms, which is why CG walks look floaty, because they don't have a push off (which is how you would do it in hand drawn, start with the push off thrusting that torso forwards). Strides are being made but it's not a natural thing for CG to do. CG is still in it's infancy, it's only a little further along then Steamboat Willie. If Cg's going to advance it needs to learn more from the 80 years of hand drawn that developed the medium. It's stunning to look at the drafts for Song of the South, the same 4 names over and over (Thomas, Johnston, Kahl, Davis) these guys could produce a prodigious amount of quality animation without breaking a sweat. They had developed certain approaches and ideas, that could be made use of in CG now. It's because they knew their medium so well, certain conclusions where arrived at over all of those years as basic ideas/ basic principles: the strength of a storytelling pose, don't make extraneous movement if you want the audiences eye to go a certain place, stop moving the body if you want to see a facial expression change.

Whenever I can I reduce the motion blur, because I want the actual shape of the character to give you the fluidity itself, instead of doing it with motion blur, which is why CG looks kind of like toys moving around. Clay notes that smears and wipes and stuff are a dying art because if they are put in for a big movement, they look funny with the motion blur on top. Eric saw a fur demo at Pixar he was told "look at all that overlap we get for free" and he thought "look at what you aren't getting, someone making that arm point and all of that fur dragging behind it to emphasize the point and then catching up, you get the dynamics but you don't get the artistic thought that says everything supports that movement. Sim follows what the action does, but it doesn't emphasize what the actions does. Which is what's compelling about hand drawn, everything you do can organically support, whether it's the stretch of a drawing, or the shape of the clothes. You can also draw things with a give, so it feels like the character is organic and alive and constantly being affected by the environment and their bodies and everything.

Interview with Angus MacLane
AM: For BURN•E, communicating his thought process to the audience was the biggest challenge. He is a fairly limited character, which is appealing, but more work must be done in the story process to communicate his intentions. With BURN•E, and with WALL•E, if the audience can’t tell what the character is thinking or what is going on, then they loose interest very quickly.

Q: Burn-E has a very "Pixar" feel to it as an animated short. What is it about repetitive failure (Lifted, One Man Band, now Burn-E) that is so funny?
Angus MacLane.: Humor usually comes about when result doesn't match the expectation. If everything in a characters' life goes well it's hard to relate to and probably not as funny.

RI: Is it harder to do an animated film with little dialogue? Does it put more pressure on the animation to do the talking? Because of this, was WALL•E a harder character to create than some of your others?

AM: It’s not harder to animate, but it is way more work in the storyboard process.

In your work make sure that you are making something that you believe in. In BURN•E I tried to have at least one thing in each shot that was true or real or relatable. Make the world of your film believable and relatable and the audience will follow.

Interview with Lasseter
Lasseter: To make very successful and entertaining films, you need to do three things really well: You need to tell a story that keeps people on the edge of their seat; you need to populate that story with really memorable and appealing characters; and you must put that story and those characters into a believable world. My philosophy is that quality is the best business plan, and it all starts with a great story, regardless of whether it's released in theaters or goes straight to video. The sequel should be as good or better than the original. When we were making "Toy Story 2," the movies we looked at were "The Godfather: Part II" and "The Empire Strikes Back."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jesus Stop Mo

Regardless of your religious beliefs, you have to give these guys props for their animation skill. Look at those productions values, looks like it was filmed in real life! And such nice subtle movements. Fantastic. Wonder what it would be like with out the Moby track dubbed over it.

Found it over at Lio's site (wish he would do a site makeover, hard to navigate as it is.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Eyes and Foreshadowing

Kyle Kenworthy has a vimeo page with some great captures of acting with the eyes.

Eric Scheur pointed to a great bit by Greg Behrendt that's a beautiful example of forshadowing done simply and effectively.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Touch of Evil Post on 7 camels

Another great post from Mark Kennedy.

couple quick notes (more gems still in the post):
One of the most powerful ways to start a movie is to pose a question that the audience wants an answer to.

First act of the three act structure is the exposition, getting all the information about the story's world before the Spark/Inciting Incident imbalances things. The audience appreciates getting the info they need as quick as possible so they can jump into the action.

Hands of the Master

another cool student film out of France (man what do they have in the water over there.) Their official site

Thread on it over at CGTalk with a little Q&A stuff (but I first saw it on Spungella

This dude worked on it so did this one, and I think this one(3 man team! incredible) but not sure, I don't really speak french.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Drawing Words & Writing Pictures

Picked up Drawing Words & Writing Pictures by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden at the library recently. It's the distillation into book form of a college course on making graphic novels.

They broke down the essential ingredients to the narrative arc well:
1) protagonist: the character(s) who we ride the story through,
empathizeable: audience must care what happens to them
motivation: protagonist must want something enough to do things they won't usually. They can consiously or unconsciously want it, and it doesn't have to be in their best interests. "You can make a protagonist consciously want something what will actually work against his or her interest and unconsciously want the right thing, or vice versa."
ability: "The protagonist doesn't have to succeed, but he or she must have the potential capability to solve the conflict."
2)call to action: a non-routine event that creates an imbalance in the protagonists life they feel compelled to correct.
3) escalation: "a series of unexpected turns of events that make the protagonist work even harder to resolve his or her problem."
4) climax: final chance to fix things, either succeed or fail
5) denouement: the optional wrapping up of loose ends not related to the conflict at the end

advice on scanning artwork (they're assuming inked B&W artwork):
scan in gray scale at 600dpi at 100% scale
save as a TIFF using LZW compression (tiff's are non lossy)
go to image size and change resolution to 1200dpi (I don't see how this helps, it's already been scanned at 600, so that's the cap, but they insist this is important)
adjust Threshold to clean it up
clean (and don't use anti-aliasing)
change Mode to Bitmap (put threshold at 50% (128) which won't affect since we already manually thresholded)
and that's it, now it's ready for print, or converting to jpg for web I guess

they're big into traditional tools, they like traditional inking with a nib, or even better a brush. And they like traditional lettering using an Ames lettering guide

6"x9" is pretty standard printed size for US comics (a 2:3 ratio). Most artists draw at 9"x13.5" which is 150%. Most printers and photocopiers won't print out to the edge, so if you're doing it yourself, you're probably better off staying in the live area and not having bleeds. Good gutter size is 3/8" to 1/4" at 150%. Live area is the edge of what will be printed, so put the outside panel edges on the live area, and the printing will add the margin all around (don't include the margin within your live area, or you'll get double margin)(so for 9"x13.5" draw all the way out to 9 and assume the margin to the edge of the paper will be outside of that.)

the rest of the book has stuff about rhythm of panels and how that affects the readers sense of time, and talks about juxtaposing words and pictures to get new meanings from both. I appreciate that they start off saying you don't need to draw well to make comics.

Yay libraries!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Richard Williams Lecture

So Asifa-Sf brought Richard Williams of Animator's Survival Kit fame in to do a talk, and I just got back. Basically it was clips from his new DVD and Q&A's. Here's my notes
(the DVD looks like it's really just his book in video form for people who learn better from video then reading, looks like it's his seminar, and every drawing in his book animated out)

Someone asked what will it take to get animated films out of the children's movie ghetto:
First the moderator mentioned Bill Plympton, Persepolis, and Waltz with Bashir as examples of animated films that are already there.
Dick said that you just have to do it. The golden rule being "he who has the gold makes the rules" so the big companies are just going to keep pumping out the kids movies because they know that's what's going to sell. So you have to do it yourself if you want animation to approach another genre. Which is what Dick is doing himself, right now, working on a project that he has wanted to do for 50 years but never felt like he had the skill to accomplish until now (this is why he's released the DVD set, to fund his film)
(this all reminds me of the Ralph Bakshi talk at comic con this year, that spawned 2 threads on CGTalk about being an independent movie maker.)

On lip synch:
Be sure that you get flexibility in the face
Pop the vowels
Think of your phrasing, don't articulate every sound, basically choose a few key poses for the words hold them longest and transition quick between them.
The secret from Milt Kahl (just like in the book p314) "That muppet man, he's a genius, because he has realized what no other puppeteer has realized before him. He is progressing the action, when that frog is talking he is going somewhere, he's going forwards, back, sideways, up, down, in, out whatever, he's going somewhere. And he does better then our god damn lazy bastards with all our knowledge and ability, he understands progression. "(this had always confused me (Alonso) in the book, and talking with animator's everyone had always had a different theory of what he meant, but hearing him tonight I'm pretty sure that Dick just means moving the speaker around, physically moving the character from one spot to a new spot of ground, as opposed to just having a talking head staying still on the screen just saying the lines. Going a step beyond Dick, I think the real secret is just having the character doing something, so rarely in real life do we just stand still, look directly at someone, and make pronouncements (only when the stakes are really emotionally high) usually we're doing something else (fixing a bike while we talk, doodling, or just looking around the cafe and sipping a drink while darting glances back at our listener) or the animation classic (getting ready for bed and removing false eye lashes)

Dick told a story about Dick Huemer (I think) a top man at Fleischer studios, the New York studio that was king of cartoons, Disney kept trying to get Huemer to come over to his studio, but Huemer was the best at the best, but he noticed how Disney's stuff was getting better and better, as if Disney had a secret weapon. Eventually when Huemer did go over he discovered Disney Studio's secret weapon was attention to detail.

The brief for Roger Rabbit was to design the characters to look like Warner Brothers characters, move with Disney articulation, and have the humor of Tex Avery (though not as cruel)

If you are researching other animator's (as Dick was researching for Roger Rabbit) it's very easy to be ruthless with what you like and what you don't. When you're working on your own stuff, when you're being creative, it's very hard to "kill your babies". So in a way it's easier when you're working for a client and their brief. When Chuck Jones worked on his own stuff, he would make a brief, and then he would hold to it as if it were the bible, to give himself boundaries and trick himself into being ruthless with his own stuff.

Dick talked about how Disney had tried rotoscoping for Snow White. If you film a woman walking across the stage, and have a top illustrator trace it perfectly, the result will float (or have very little weight). So the animator has to add a little invention, push it a little further, exaggerate, to make it feel right. If Rembrandt were to do a drawing of you, it would be better then a photograph due to the invention he adds to it. We're not just duplicating reality, we're editing it, improving it (otherwise, just take a photograph).

Dick was asked where he thinks CG should go. He said if he were working CG he would be interested in exploring how far you could push things so that you feel them but don't see them. This was one of the things he went over tonight, the invisible inbetween, the 1 or 2 frames of anticipation that goes in the opposite direction, just enough to give the feeling of snap to the motion but not enough to be visually seen. (p283-284 stuff)

Dick was asked about using video reference. He said that live action reference and mirror's are useful but he tends not to use them because he doesn't want to use himself, he wants to emphasize the difference in the character, he doesn't want all the character's to move like he does. The master's of our art observed everything, crib notes from everywhere, observe all day long and file things away in your mind to use in some future scene. He said that once Milt Kahl finished 101 Dalmatians he said that he regretted studying Dalmatians because he could have done it better himself (been more inventive before having absorbed the reference) but that's because Milt Kahl had studied live action reference for the past 30 years, so just because Milt says don't use reference doesn't mean to not study it, DO study it, just don't let it become a crutch or a barrier.

Someone asked for advice on starting a studio:
Dick said: Don't do it :) He said that when his studio was small, 15-30 people, it was marvelous, there was collaboration and healthy competition, you could try stuff and experiment and improve. But when it got huge, the bigger it got the worse it got. He became a wage slave, he was the slave who had to pay the wages. The problem is is that Dick wants to be an artist but to run a studio you have to be the business man (so you don't get to do any art) or hire someone else to be the business man (who's going to hire idiot's and make dumb decisions) you can't do everything. The rabbit picture save him, when he got it, all the bad people fled when they saw it coming, and he knew that once it was done Disney and the other big studio was going to take all the good people, so Dick was free. The 9 old men said that Disney was an artist, the greatest actor of all of them, and that his brother was the business man. So best if you can get family you trust to be the business man so you can stay the artist.

What's his thoughts 2D vs 3D? Dick says that he thinks that 3D is a different thing, it is not an evolution/improvement from 2D, just different. Different animals.
2D is scribbling
3D is high tech marionettes

Dick said that he had to throw something about eyes into his book, because the Disney guys go on and on and on about them. So he made up a quick little page and ate up space with a border of eyes. (p. 326) In his new DVD's he animated them, changing from one pair to the next. On a blink you should move the pupil down with the lid, as if the lid where heavy and pushing it down. The pupil should distend the shape of the eye when it is near the edge (distend it subtly if it's meant to be realistic)

Dick was asked what he thought about mo-cap:
Gollum was the best thing in the whole picture, but it was astounding because it was surrounded by live action. Basically it was like Roger Rabbit.
And as for Polar Express (*audience laughter) ... I don't need to say anything, so I don't want to say anything ;)
(I have heard from a few animator's that the PR department played up the technology a lot trying to get another Oscar for the film, for Andy Serkis, but in fact the "mo-cap" was heavily tweaked (so much that often it was more of video reference then actual "performance capture" and that at least on the first film there was no mo-cap on the face, so all that brilliant acting was brought by the animator's, not just Serkis, and certainly not by the caterer's who appear 4 screens earlier then the animator's in the credits.
Just saying, I'd like to compare the live-action footage of the mo-cap to the mo-cap data and the final scene)

Asked what he does when frustrated:
He doesn't get frustrated because he does a lot of research.

The secret to animating dance is, if you can get the body going up and down on the beat, then you can do practically anything with the legs and it will work.

In his book he talks about getting more "acting within action, movement within movement, more change" which is basically the animated shape changing to a contrasting shape at the same spot on the screen (i.e. the long skinny falling ball contacting the ground and the next frame it's contrasting shape of it squashed flat in the same spot on the ground)so I asked him "why do we want this"
Dick says: Shows like the Simpson's are dialogue driven, talking to Matt Groening his biggest concern is where to put the characters on the screen. But the other kind of animation, the florid stuff, that's what the change is for, you can't help but watch that kind of animation, it grabs you by the throat, it's compulsive viewing (I think James Baxter's animation for Enchanted is probably an excellent example of this, it just flows and it's such a joy to watch.) Dick likes SouthPark, but he said that when they hire a Disney guy you can see them starting to get a little more flow-y, and suddenly it's not funny, it needs the crude animation to work. So if you can get the big Change then you are free to work in whatever style you want.

When would be the best time to be alive as an animator?
Right now. It's exploded everywhere and there's more money so you can actually raise a family on it. And with current technology you can do a scene and then shoot it and see if it works right away. So Now is the Time!

and here's some Youtube fun (I notice the page gets really slow when I embed them, so I'll just do links)

Documentary on him about Roger Rabbit

Thief and the Cobbler (his personal movie that Disney raped, theoretically this one was redone the way he intended

Christmas Carol Short (got an oscar on this one too)
another Documentary, this ones longer

And this is a blog by people who worked on the Thief and the Cobbler I think

Saturday, November 1, 2008

links links

lots of random links I'm tired of having clutter up my bookmarks but I don't want to lose. (that's what this blog is for, mobile notebook so I don't have to keep track of things anywhere else)

BBC motion gallery, must have reference link for any animator

the must have link for texture artists

Charles Zembillas 603 collection of concept art/character design for Jak and Daxter, interesting to see the style evolve as the project went on.

Manfred Ragossnig Coloring Bishop vid tut on texturing Animation Mentor's Bishop character (I may know enough now to no longer need this, but now it's here if I do)

Point n Click free software to make your own point and click adventure game, (Day of the Tentacle, Sam and Max, King's Quest, Peasant's Quest) would be cool to do sometime

Chris Georgenes how to use Flash for the flat 2D Graphic actiony tv shows (Dexter's Laboratory, Foster's Home...) screen captured walk through

Hayk Manukyan flash tutorial vids for using flash in the traditional way, a little dry but full of useful info on 2D technique. By the guy who does the Neenja shorts, which are fun.

More flash stuff, fx stuff this time

site for stealing vids off youtube

National Film Board of Canada so Canada promotes their own homegrown animation, here's a place to watch a lot of the shorts they've commissioned.

Abandoned Places Henk van Rensbergen photographs abandoned old factories and eastern bloc industrial stuff, cool images, great material for a zombie anything.

another abandoned places photographer

And sooner or later we're gonna get chickens, so here's some urban chicken coops Bawk Bawk!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

thinking vid ref video

Got this vid from my friend Maciek's blog. Interesting vid ref for thinking.

Fifty People, One Question: New Orleans from Benjamin Reece on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

September 11sec club crit

Last month's crit of the winner of the 11 second Club, done by Kenny Roy, a mentor who I always tried to watch all of his critiques while at AM because I learned so much from him.

whenever the face is turned from camera you really need to push the lip-sync/ mouth shapes much more so they read, also cheat the mouth over towards camera, so it's clearer.

On Horton they had a control to grab the mouth and swing it out from under the trunk so that it was easier to read. Bluesky put cheating tools into the hands of the animators.

Dipthongs, vowels that have two actual vowel sounds, making two mouth shapes. Like fire actually if slowed down sounds like FaaaIIIIre. So often you want to stick on the first part of the dipthong because that sound is stronger and visually will more clearly communicates the word being made. Lean towards big open shapes (if possible) to telegraph the words.

Keys on jaw should not always line up perfectly with keys on mouth. For example, in the words "soccer" the "er" sound actually occurs during the close of the jaw, not a
second opening of the jaw. So go through your dialogue, with your hand on your chin, focusing on simplifying and amping up your jaw movement (so making it simpler, but also bigger so that it's clearer.)

R shapes Kenny Roy usually mixes an oo shape with a sneer.

Kenny likes to do an entire jaw pass before touching the mouth shapes. Finds it helps the lip synch a lot to just have the jaw nailed.

Kenny talks again about holding consonants at the end of words, that when the air ends we are still holding the mouth shape for a little while.

Overlap in the face, in the brows for example. Really makes the face feel fleshy and realistic and organic, keeping you out of the uncanny valley. The 12 principles (squash and stretch, antic, overlap) all apply to the face.) Kenny is complimenting Tim's overlap on the brows, which is reactive of the head shaking.

Kenny goes over again 2ndary action again. His example this time is if he's talking while twirling a pen he has enough cpu power to do both, but if he hears something that makes him angry and he suddenly stops his 2ndary because it takes all his cpu power to focus on the new information, so it has a big impact.

Kenny warns that rigs tempt you to rotate the upper spine a bit too much, because biomechanically our upper spines don't move to much because the ribcage holds it pretty stiff, so spread rotation out along the whole spine.

Tennis match, of where the audience's attention is, imagine it's a single ball bounced around the scene, from character to character.

Confident acting is a good thing, even if the director doesn't agree, it's easier to change then to deal with a wishy washy performance and have to try and push it to a strong performance.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Short Story and Character tips

Was excavating at the now dead Animwatch Forums and ran across this thought from Lucas Martell

"characters have so much depth and backstory that they even change personalities based on their moods and who they're talking to. ... When you feel like you thoroughly know and understand all sides of a character, you resonate with them and they become more like an old friend than someone you're watching through a camera. A stranger might elicit an emotional response if they happen to hit on a shared experience, but if you're best friend goes through an emotional experience, you go through it with them."

also got linked over to an article on Short Story writing that had some tips that work for short film:
A short story:

* Gets off to a fast start.
* Generally has a limited number of characters and scenes.
* Starts as close to the conclusion as possible.
* Frequently deals with only one problem.
* Uses only the detail necessary for understanding the situation.
* Usually covers just a short time period.

Explosion or "Hook." A thrilling, gripping, stirring event or problem that grabs the reader's attention right away.

And here's a few posts by Jenny Lerew a storyboard artist who writes the The Blackwing Diaries (really I'm searching for a blogpost someone wrote maybe a year back about the fact that character's don't have to have an arc in a story, the story could be just "man vs nature" instead of always the character's having to grow during. anyone know the blogger I'm talking about?)
Why jerks are no fun

Character Trumping plot

Monday, October 6, 2008

11sec crit Aug2008

Latest critique of the August winner of the 11secondclub by Sean Sexton.

Obvious that Sean comes from a 2D background, because he's very focused on the contour of the character, which makes sense because in the end everything winds up as a 2D image on the screen and must read well as a graphical shape. His main critiques was that the spacing needed polish on some movements, it was causing the character's silhouette to "boil".

Also he talked about easing in and out of eyedarts. Tiny little cushion. So in this example a 4 frame eyedart, small cushion out to 2, then huge spacing pop to 3, and small cushion in to final at 4. Only throw in a breakdown if crossing the entire eye (like 3 in the 2nd example). Reminds me of Animation Survival Kit's 2 pose run, same principal (p.196). Biomechanically it makes sense because our eyes move in short little bursts, so a little burst as start aiming, and then the jump, then the final shift as reposition from where landed to what the eye was aiming at.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Balance short film

(*welcome to any new readers :)

Got Secrets of Oscar-winning Animation by Olivier Cotte, out of the library, because libraries rock!

One of the films reviewed is Balance which is a great film.

Wolfgang and Christoph Lauenstein animated this film in 5 months, in their parents spare room, while still attending university, for about $5000 (which I assume is mostly for the film) and won an oscar.

Excerpts from Cotte's interview with the brothers Lauenstein:

The animated puppet film can't develop the same themes as traditional cinema; for example, a love story with complex characters, which is rich in trivial detail, needs to be filmed with real actors. But for us, the choice of the puppet was appropriate to show human behaviour whilst doing without trivialities. This fundamental notion is what drove us to make Balance.

At the time, we liked playing music and we used to compare cinematography with the art of music making. With music, you can create emotions by using only a few notes. We wanted to sue this purity, this simplicity in the cinema. That is, we wanted to play with very few elements to obtain something true, to get to the essentials.

(For the stopmo concerned, wood for the skeletons, clay for the heads, Layers of foam and cork over 1/2 a ping pong table, pins for tiedowns, pinholes in the pupils to change sightlines)

makes me want to get a garage, learn Justin Rasch's trick for not sleeping, and make my own film.

and a paraphrased quote from Zorba the Greek (which I just watched today because Libraries rock) "man must have a little bit of madness in him, or else he won't have the courage to cut the rope so that he may fly free"

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Thinking vs Emotions

Ratul had a comment on a previous post. I came to a new understanding trying to answer it. Here's the gem I sifted out from my thoughts (at least I think it's a gem ;) Acting wise, thinking is something that really makes your character's seem alive and believable, but emotions are what people connect to them through.

Ratul Sarna said...

Hi Alonso!
Great posts by Tom,,I read them through sometime back and wanted to ask him a question but my hesitancy stopped me. I think it would be great if you could shed some light on it.
Tom writes, " Thoughts are shaped by the personality, feeling and context. Thoughts are the last internal process."
But, if you read "Acting for Animators" by Ed Hooks, in the first chapter itself he points out that "Thinking leads to emotions and emotions lead to action." And here Tom is saying the exact opposite. Who is right? and How should we think about it while handling a shot with a character? Should emotions be dictated by the thoughts or vice versa.
I hope I'm not bugging you :D

Hey Ratul,

You should totally ask Tom, worst that happens is he doesn't respond.

I actually have a BA in Psychology, and what I remember is that emotion's were evolved because they were faster then thinking, so if a tiger jumps out at you, you're scared and flinch, instead of thinking about what to do. But there's probably opposite theories as well, the brain's a black box and everyone's just pitching theories trying to guess how it actually works.

Rereading that Ed Hooks section, he gives an example of "you're walking down a dark alley and you hear something behind you" and then he describes the "thought process" of deciding it's footsteps and not an airplane. I think he's totally wrong, if there's a sound behind me I don't "think" about what it is, I "know" unconsciously what it is.

We are so unconscious of ourselves, we usually act based on how we feel and then justify it after the fact with thoughts. Our emotions determine what things we notice and how we interpret them. If your girlfriend came in talking about how wonderful her new professor is, you may react nastily to her because you feel jealous, but think you are doing it because she is acting like a know it all. If you are prejudiced against a group of people, you notice any news reports that are negative about them as true, and any that are positive as exceptions and not the norm, and you think you are being objective but you are letting your emotions bias your thoughts.

Acting wise, thinking is something that really makes your character's seem alive and believable, but emotions are what people connect to them through. So we need to have both. So the key time to think is when the character is not talking, they are listening or observing the world, they are absorbing information and processing it. Then they take the information they've processed and compare it to what they want, and that affects their emotion. Then they initiate an action based on what's happened and how they feel about it to pursue what they want. I listen to the audio to try and discover what emotions I think the actor reveals in their voice. When the emotions change, that's when I try and show the thought process, indicate that they are processing the incoming information, checking how it affects their progress towards their goal, and then how it changes their emotion to a new beat, and new tactic towards gaining their goal.

We don't think "if I explain myself, then she will understand" we need or want her to love us so we explain ourselves in the hopes that it will achieve that goal. We don't consciously think "she's frowning and crossing her arms, her body language says she is not agreeing" we feel that our approach is not achieving our goal. Feeling her reluctance makes us feel frustrated so we yell, or sad so we collapse and give up. Play one beat until something happens to make you change your approach and play a new one. When something makes you change your approach we need to see that the information has penetrated and it is causing the gears to change. Thinking is showing the gears changing to a new emotion.

The other kind of thinking, conscious type, is more for when you are talking slowly trying to choose the right word, or recall a memory or something, those you can play through with a single emotion, or change if there is a beat change.

A lot of the time the emotions are really subtle, not really very distinguishable from each other. But as an animator you have to exagerate the change in emotions so you have different beats to play so the performance is varied. Don't exagerate the performance beyond what the voice gives you, but push the contrast between beats so it's easier for you to have somewhere to go. This is how the audience connects with your character, they may not have felt the same thing in the same situation, but they need to see it as a believable possibility. This is why all those demo reels with people freaking out, having the lower lid eye twitch, and then throwing stuff around, just don't work, without a build up to show the character getting that justifiably frustrated, or to establish what a hot temper they have, then it just looks like the actor hamming it up. So the emotions need to be believable that this character could react with that feeling, and appropriate for that character and that situation. If the emotions are sincere and authentic then the audience empathizes and shares them, if the emotions don't fit it breaks the suspension of disbelief and audience stops caring about the world you are trying to create on the screen.

But what the hell do I know? :P Just theories that I'm making up as I type them down, lord knows it hasn't shown up in my animation yet. So feel free to disregard, or come up with opposing theories or whatever :)

And thanks Ratul, the opposite of bugging me, you are helping me get better, so mucho thanks! :)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Calvin and Hobbes

Speaking of Calvin and Hobbes made me want to go and see if Bill Watterson has spoken at all about storytelling and stuff. Found This interview between him and Richard West. (Why are interviewer's so stupid? Why is it so hard to wrap their heads around Hobbes being alive sometimes and not other times? So what? Why do they have to try and make a real world explanation for it?)

It’s a strip about a family - a familiar, universal setting that’s easy to identify with. I’m trying to put a unique twist on it, but it’s well-covered ground.

The whole challenge really is to set up rules. You can make your cartoon world have as much sense or as little sense as you want to, and the main thing is that you’re consis­tent within that vision.

The aspect of the strip that I have the most fun playing with is the personalities and the characters. In other words, their in­teraction is what is interesting to me, not the playing with the form of the comic strip.

WEST: You once said that Calvin’s imagination was greater than yours. Where do you go to find inspiration if you‘re not basing it on your world ?

WATTERSON: Well, for example, just a simple thing that I’ve played around with a couple of times is the issue of size. You take your size for granted. You get larger up to a point and then you stop, and then that is your size, and you relate to the world from that viewpoint. If size was a complete variable, what would the world be like? In other words, if there was not a hard and fast rule of growth, how would things change? That presents me with an awful lot of visual possibilities that I enjoy working with. And to adults who are used to thinking of the world from a certain vantage point, it sometimes seems fresh, I hope.

WEST: One of the best things about the strip is that you surprise readers with the areas of concern of the strip. Do you surprise yourself? Do you find yourself pursuing things that delight you, that you’ve stumbled upon? Is the inspiration on automatic pilot?

WATTERSON: I wish it was more than it actually is. I can’t just turn off the things that we all accept or have learned. For example, everybody works with a day-to­day assumption that gravity is going to be there from the time he gets up until he goes to bed and so on. To imagine if gravity were suddenly turned off requires an effort. My mind doesn’t just naturally go off in these odd directions all the time.

WEST: Well, in the last three years, have the fantasy sequences gotten easier? You seem to be doing less of them these days. Is there a reason?

WATTERSON: At first it was fun simply to juxtapose fantasy with reality - the simple fact that the reader could see the fantasy and then, at the end, see the flip. See it from the child’s view and then, later, see it from the adult view and realize that there’s an inconsistency there. That was originally a fun device, but the burden on the strip has been to make each switch more clever. The juxtaposi­tion alone can get predictable it it’s just done over and over in the same way. Each time it’s got to be done with some unpredictability, some cleverness to it so that it doesn’t become moribund. So, yes, I’m doing fewer because it’s getting more and more difficult.
But I still try to do the fantasies as they interest me. There’s a limitation to them. They’re fun to read and they’re certainly fun to draw, but they don’t have the emo­tional weight to them that an interaction between two in­teresting characters does. In other words, when Spiff is on Planet Zorg, it’s a visual feast. I get to draw bizarre landscapes and monsters and fool with lighting and color and so on, in the Sundays. It’s an adventure story on the simplest level. He reacts to the situation and then maybe at the end it flips into a classroom or whatever, but there's no emotional depth.
The depth of the friendship between Calvin and Hobbes interests me because of its significance. Each kind of story has its own problems in writing, but my main concern really is to keep the reader on his toes, or to keep the strip unpredictable. I try to achieve some sort of balance between the two that keeps the reader wondering what's going to happen next and be surprised.

WEST: What do you say to the thought that Calvin and Hobbes is basically the exploration of a friendship and that all of the other comic devices you use are comic relief from that emotional center?

WATTERSON: That’s not far off, but I don’t know if I’d say the other is just a relief from that. Both interest me for different reasons. Really, what I’m trying to do is to juggle as many balls as I can at once so that I’ll have a slapstick joke one day, a fantasy another day, a friendship, a sadness. I try to explore as diverse a world as I'm capable of. This, again, gives me the flexibility to keep the writing interesting and I hope it also keeps it lively for the reader as well.

WEST: What do you say to the thought that Calvin and Hobbes is basically the exploration of a friendship and that all of the other comic devices you use are comic relief from that emotional center?

WATTERSON: That’s not far off, but I don’t know if I’d say the other is just a relief from that. Both interest me for different reasons. Really, what I’m trying to do is to juggle as many balls as I can at once so that I’ll have a slapstick joke one day, a fantasy another day, a friendship, a sadness. I try to explore as diverse a world as I'm capable of. This, again, gives me the flexibility to keep the writing interesting and I hope it also keeps it lively for the reader as well.
Many strips have, you know, the funny character, the straight man, the foil - those characters are stereotypes and fairly flat. The role of these characters in the strip is entirely defined by their function as a member of a social group or age group, or whatever, and I’m trying to avoid that as much as I possibly can. I try to make each character, even the ones that aren’t that important, a unique personality that, over time, will develop. Some of the minor characters appear less often than Calvin and Hobbes, but, hopefully, over years, each one will become a unique personality that will be every bit as complex and interesting as Calvin and Hobbes.
In other words, I don’t want the parents to simply function as parents. I want them to be unique individuals as well. They are parents, of course, and, as sane people, they have to react to Calvin’s personality. What I try to do in writing any character is to put myself in his posi­tion, to the extent that I can, and I know that if I was Calvin's dad or Calvin's mom that I would not react to him with the gooey sentimentality that sometimes appears in other strips. Given Calvin's usual behavior, I think his parents show admirable restraint in theirs.

WEST: Is it easier for you to imagine being the father than it is to imagine being Calvin?

WATTERSON: The dad is, in some ways, a parody of my own dad and he's also part of myself. I’m also part of the mother, too, and Susie, and everyone else. I’m pulling out different aspects of my personality in writing each character and, if I’m doing my job well, I’m being true to the situation and true to the character. Hopefully, the mother is not just the disciplinarian, but is more well-rounded than that - the same thing with the father or Susie, and so on. My aim is to make each one complete and real.

What I found to be true of the earlier strips I developed was that I was often making my cast much greater than I had the authority to speak about. I was trying to deal with friendships and relationships that I don’t understand. With Calvin and Hobbes, I don’t really think of them as a comedy team that dances on stage and does an act for you. It’s a very natural and personal friendship of the type that I’m most familiar and comfortable with myself.

Calvin and Hobbes together are more than the sum of their parts. Each ticks because the other is around to share in the little conspiracies, or to argue and fight with. In many comic strips the animal eventually steals the show, just because animals offer more freedom to the cartoonist. As we were talking about earlier, the improbability of certain thoughts coming from the mouth of a child provides a kind of humor just from the context. Well, it’s even more the case with an animal because it’s even more unprobable.­
Also, there is more latitude that way. You know, you can draw a penguin on a toilet reading The New York Times and it’s adorable, but try doing it with an adult male character, and it’s disgusting. I think there is always the temptation to go with the most flexible and fun char­acter, and that’s almost always the animal. With Calvin and Hobbes, though, Hobbes is the more subtle of the two while Calvin is the loud, obnoxious one. Each is funnier in contrast to the other than they would be by themselves. In fact, because Hobbes is the much more subtle and quiet character, it sometimes surprises me that people respond so warmly to him because I think his character is much harder to get a grasp on. It may just be because he's cute.

Looking back, you’ll see that some of the old strips are one-gag formulas, endlessly varied. Krazy Kat revolves around the tossing of the brick. Little Nemo was always a dream and you knew the kid is going to wake up in a heap at the bottom of his bed in every single strip. I find Herriman a lot more interesting than McCay, but both are working within a very limited construct. It’s a very different approach to cartooning that what we do now. I would go insane working with limited formulas like theirs, but on the other hand, Herriman and McCay gave us something better than gags. Back then, the fun was in the getting there. The destination of each strip was the same, but every day you went there by a different road. Today, we want the strip over as soon as possible - ”Just hand me the punchline, please.” The fewer panels, words, and drawings, the better. I think Pogo was the last of the enjoy-the-ride strips. It’s a shame. We’ve really lost what comics do best.

Calvin and Hobbes isn’t a gag strip. It has a punchline, but the strip is about more than that. The humor is situational, and often episodic. It relies on conversation, and the development of per­sonalities and relationships. These aren’t concerns you can wrap up neatly in a clever little saying for people to send each other or to hang up on their walls. To explore character, you need lots of time and space. Note pads and coffee mugs just aren’t appropriate vehicles for what I’m trying to do here. I’m not interested in removing all the subtlety from my work to condense it for a product. The strip is about more than jokes.

Instead of ask­ing what's wrong with rampant commercialism, we ought to be asking, “What justifies it?” Popular art does not have to pander to the lowest level of intelligence and taste.

and from a different interview
It was a slow process, and actually what happened is another odd coincidence. One of the strips I'd sent had Calvin and Hobbes as minor characters. Calvin was the little brother of the strip's main character, and Hobbes was like he is now, a stuffed tiger that came to life in Calvin's imagination. One of the syndicates suggested that these two characters were the strongest and why didn't I develop a strip around them? I had thought they were the funniest characters myself, but I was unsure as to whether they could hold their own strip. I was afraid that maybe the key to their wackiness was the contrast between them and the more normal characters in the rest of the strip. I wasn't sure Calvin and Hobbes would be able to maintain that intensity on their own. But I tried it, and almost immediately it clicked in my mind; it became much easier to write material. Their personalities expanded easily, and that takes a good 75 percent of the work out of it. If you have the personalities down, you understand them and identify with them; you can stick them in any situation and have a pretty good idea of how they're going to respond. Then it's just a matter of sanding and polishing up the jokes. But if you've got more ambiguous characters or stock stereotypes, the plastic comes through and they don't work as well. These two characters clicked for me almost immediately and I feel very comfortable working with them. That syndicate, oddly enough, declined my strip, so I started sending it around. Universal expressed an interest in it and wanted to see more work, so I drew another month's worth of art, sent that to them, and they decided to take it.