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.