Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Secret of Kells

Great style, not Disney! Looks really good, probably a fun story too.

sigh... only Miyazaki seems to be adult enough to not go with the preschool idea of good and evil

Sunday, January 25, 2009

CG multiples/smears

So the Summer 2008 Student Showcase from Animation Mentor had a piece by Henry Sanchez that raised some discussion. Basically Henry was making multiples, like in the old 2D days, when a single frame might have 3 right hands to show the speed of it passing, similar to smears. There was conjecture but never a solid answer on how to do it. Nathan Fulton posted up a walk through of how to do it on the 11second club, which I'm copy pasting here so I don't lose it. Again, Nathan Fulton figured this out/wrote it down, I'm just copying it. Thanks Nathan :)

Here's how it works: Luckily for us, Maya can have fractional frames instead of just integers!
First I made this simple animation using just a few keyframes the normal way. A big chunk of movement happens between frames 5, 6, and 7.

Frame 6 has lots of speed on either side of it, so I decided its "ghost frames" are going to be on 5.75 and 6.25.
Frame 7 is a slow-out, so its ghost frames are on 6.5 and 6.75

Next what I did was type in these fractional frame numbers into the text box right next to the time slider. Once I had my fractional frame set, I could make further tweaks to the pose.

Then I selected the mesh of the character's body, and selected the menu Edit -> Duplicate Special -> Options box.

In "Duplicate Special Options" I set it to "Copy" and un-checked "Duplicate input graph" "Duplicate input connections" and "Instance leaf nodes."

This created a new ghost mesh of the character on that fractional frame.

I then selected that ghost mesh, set the time slider to the frame before it, set its "Visibility" to "off" and keyed it. Stepped forward one frame, keyed visibility on, stepped one more frame, and keyed it back off.

Repeat this process for each ghost frame you want to do, and that's it!

If you step through the animation, you can see where the real mesh is compared to its two ghosts by looking at where the rigging controls are. You can definitely use more ghosts per frame for faster movement. 3 meshes per real frame seemed to be the magic number for me this time.

To take things further, you could apply deformers to the ghost meshes like Henry appears to have done to squash/stretch and curve the rifle.

Hope this helps! big_smile

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Red Rover Studios Workflow

back in 05 RedRover Studios came to my attention through some really fun character commercials. Their lead animator did a workflow write up, I re-tracked it down (the original thread). Here it is.

Monday, January 19, 2009

V kocke

I had lost this one took me a while to re find it.

7 camels: Flat Staging for Humor, Depth for Drama

7 golden camels again great post on flat staging with bright colors for humor, depth diagonals and somber colors for dramatic.

"So use that knowledge to put your camera where it will have the desired effect. Always be aware of where you are placing the camera, and why. Don't just place it wherever it feels right; where you put the camera (and where that puts the audience) has a lot of meaning and can help you get the emotional response you want the audience to have, or it can totally undermine what you are trying to do."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Pose to Pose not for everyone

Three time winner of the 11second club, Tim Granberg, talks about his workflow. This is really interesting because I came through the AM course too and have always felt like I need to be able to nail their workflow, but it's somehow pulling teeth for me, and I always do better when I abandon it and just get in there and start setting keys everywhere. (Really I just need some a couple weeks of solid time full time performance animating and all my rough edges will be polished off and I'll be golden, unfortunately that won't happen until I polish off my rough edges on my own in the few hours I can spare and get hired to do performance stuff, at which point it won't be needed. Ah catch 22's what would life be without you. )

We always like to hear insights into an animator's process. In past interviews you've told us about how you approach your animation. This time around, I think it would be interesting to hear about process ideas that you've tried to incorporate into your workflow before deciding that they simply didn't work for you. Have you had any experiences like that?

I feel a little hesitant admitting it in public but, I never really embraced the pose-to-pose method of animation. It goes back to the belief I have that computer animation lies somewhere between live-action film making and hand-drawn animation. The common approach is to place computer animation in the "animation" category and approach the task much like animation has always been done: starting pose-to-pose. But I like to think of computer animation more like live action, or maybe even live theater, where people don't always get into that "perfect pose." Generally I work in a straight ahead/layered method, but I will admit that it's a way of working that comes from lots of practice. You still must be aware of making strong poses, but my main emphasis is always more concerned with the motion first. As a result I think my motion is always pretty polished even when my posing might not be as strong.

When I started AnimationMentor they taught pose-to-pose, and while I was student, I tried to incorporate the method into my way of working, but I found I animated faster if I could just animated straight ahead and do the poses and breakdowns at the same time in one pass. For me that is the best way to work on my own projects. If however, I do work for someone else's approval, I work more pose-to-pose for their benefit.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

AAU Norman Rig now free!

(for a blog about animation I don't talk about it very much huh?)

for those not paying attention. Pixar animator's are no longer teaching at AAU in San Francisco because of too much beaucracy. But the fantastic rig that the Pixar students used has now been made available to the public! The free rigs that have been released have helped countless animator's, but seriously unless you have a top of the line rig you are hindered.


and handy dandy guide for customizing him

and another guide by Ajit Singh Yadav

Monday, January 12, 2009

steampunk x-wing paper cut out

this guy has a free download paper cut out model of a steam punk x-wing fighter, pretty cool

Story by Robert McKee

Rereading Story by Robert McKee here's my notes so far.

Talented people write poorly when they are blinded by an idea they must prove, or driven by an emotion they must express. They write well when they are moved by a desire to touch the audience.

"Traditionally humankind has sought the answer to Aristotle's question (how should a human being lead his life?) from the four wisdoms-philosphy, science, religion, art-taking insight from each to bolt together a liveable meaning. But today who reads Hegel or Kant without an exam to pass? Science, once the great explicator, garbles life with complexity and perplexity. Who can listen without cynicism to economists, sociologists, politicians? religion, for many, has become an empty ritual that masks hypocrisy. As our faith in traditional ideologies diminishes, we turn to the source we still believe in: the art of story." Our appetite for story is a reflection of the profound human need to grasp the pattern of living, intellectually and emotionally.

Weak storytelling is forced to substitute flashiness for substance.

Experience is over-rated, in itself it's not enough. Self knowledge is the key- life plus deep reflection on our reactions to life.

Unschooled writers call "instinct" their unconscious comparison of their stuff with everything they've absorbed, which leads to cliche's either commercial if they embrace it or, avante-garde if they 'rebel' against it.

Early last century a story was considered a craft like music that could be taught. Some authors of the time: William Archer, Kenneth Rowe, and John Howard Lawson, their method was intrinsic, movements of desire, forces of antagonism, turning points, spine, progression, crisis, climax.

"Values, the positive/negative charges of life, are at the soul of our art. The writer shapes story around a perception of what's worth living for, what's worth dying for, what's foolish to pursue, the meaning of justice, truth-the essential values. in decades past, writer and society more or less agreed on these questions, but more and more ours has become an age of moral and ethical cynicism, relatives and subjectivism-a great confusion of values. As the family disintegrates and sexual antagonisms rise, who, for example, feels he understands the nature of love? And how, if you do have a conviction, do you express it to an ever more skeptical audience?
This erosion of values has brought with it a corresponding erosion of story. unlike writers in the past, we can assume nothing. First we must dig deeply into life to uncover new insights, new refinements of value and meaning, then create a story vehicle that expresses our interpretation to an increasingly agnostic world. No small task."

Fancy dialogue won't save a weak story.

Hallie and Whit Burnett also wrote well on the subject of story

Focus on the craft of writing, the building blocks discussed later, so that you don't focus on whether what you are writing is good or not and get blocked.

A story event/turning point is the basic building block of story. It is a meaningful change in the life situation of a character expressed and experienced in terms of value and achieved through conflict(ie. things were good, now they're bad)

beat-exchange of action/reaction

scene - an exchange of beats that results in a Story Event (if it could be re-written to all happen in the same room it counts as a scene (an argument starting from waking up and ending at the end of the morning commute is a single scene))

sequence - a series of scenes (usually 2-5) ending with an even bigger Story Event

act - a series of sequences climaxing in a major reversal of values

story - a series of acts that builds to a final irrevocable climatic story event

don't write a scene that doesn't have a turning point

"Let every phrase of dialogue or line of description either turn behavior and action or set up the conditions for change." Building blocks starting with beats to build scenes etc.

Turning points should be surprising, make the audience curious about why they happened when they expected something else, give insight (make previous clues fit into place in a new way), and move things in a new direction.

everyone always takes the minimum amount of effort to achieve anything, so you have to keep poking your characters until the minimum amount of effort is to open up their soul and put it all on the line

the GAP - the characters (and therefore the audience) when doing an action expect a certain result, when the result is way unexpected it creates a gap between action and expectation that sucks the audience in and causes the character to risk more on their next action which of course has another unexpected result and another GAP

Compelling writing makes the GAP big. "What's expected? What's the opposite of that?"

What's the worst thing that happens to the character if he fails? It has to matter, the character's taking risks to get what he wants, it has to matter what he might lose.

so a minor, medium, or major GAP is the turning point of scenes sequences and acts, where the character has to risk more and more to achieve their goal and the results are not expected and changes the playing board requiring more risk until the climax which is a last irrevocable change

if we empathize with the character, know what tehy want and want them to have it, understand the values at stake in their world, then a change in values moves our emotions.

An open ending leaves the last bit of storytelling up to the audience. "Will it work out? Will they stay together?"

McKee goes on about the different kinds of story and plot "arch plot" "minimilist" "Hollywood" vs "Art film" okay if you want to write specific kinds of stories there's a little advice

Cliche comes from the writer not knowing thoroughly their stories world. An honest story is at home in one, and only one, place and time. You can't have "a story about divorce, in Everywhere, USA" because breakup in the bayou bears little resemblance to a multimillion-dollar Park Avenue litigation.

Mine your memory, find a memory with the feelings you want to capture, write the memory down, rewrite that feeling into your story.

Research wins the war on cliche by giving your world authenticity, it also breaks writers block.

the first idea is the sum of everything you've ever absorbed, so brainstorm a list of possibilities and ask which is truest to my characters and their world?

genre gives you boundaries for you to work within, a framework of possibilities for you and expectations for the audience. the challenge is to keep to convention while avoiding cliche.

A characters true nature is revealed under pressure. Even under identical situations unconscious decisions can reveal different characters (the high power lawyer and the illegal immigrant both rushed into a burning school bus, one rescues the white kid, one rescues the little girl, revealing their lifelong unconscious programming)

Characters whose outside and inside match are boring

The finest writing not only reveals true character, but arcs or changes that inner nature over the course of the telling.

the function of structure is to provide progressively building pressure to force characters into more and more difficult dilemmas where they must make more and more difficult risk-taking choices and actions, revealing their true nature down to the unconscious self.

Adventure and Farce demand simplicity of character because complexity would distract us from the derring-fo or pratfalls necessary for those genres.

Movies are about their last 20 minutes, for a film to have a chance the last act and it's climax must be the most satisfying.

Climax is the keystone, once you have that rewrite the rest of the story to support it

idea and emotion are separate in life, (if you see a body you'll react emotionally and then later reflect on mortality) Both happen together so rarely it feels like an religious epiphany. Story is an instrument that you create epiphanies at will, called aesthetic emotion, which help you understand life

story is an argument made through invoking emotional proof, don't just have a character say it unless you want to suck.

controlling idea - what the films about - a single sentence describing how and why life is like it is. value (how things work out, ie love fails)+ cause (why they work out because men and women can't understand each other)

once you've written your climax, figure out what your controlling idea is, then go back through and rewrite the rest of the movie to emphasize it. Once you have the controlling idea you can avoid intriguing irrelevance and make sure each scene forwards the debate

progressions build by moving dynamically between the positive and negative charges of the values at stake in the story.

have to argue both sides well to be convincing

good films say "life is like this" they give lucidity and understanding to how life works, they don't give solutions "you should do this"

ironic films tend to last longer in posterity because life is complicated, what you are pursuing may wind up destroying you, or you give up on your object of desire and find yourself fulfilled

storytellers are not responsible for curing the world, are only responsible for telling the truth as they see it

If I were this character, with their background, in this position, how would I react. Write emotionally true, get inside and write from the inside

what's the setting, politics of the characters world, values of their world, genre, backstory (significant and relevant events of the past), and cast design (1st rule is polarization)

the inciting incident radically upsets the balance of a characters life, instigating a quest to reright it, the big hook that the audience wants to know if it can be re-

the audience anticipates that the forces of antagonism provoked at the inciting incident will build to the limit of human experience and the telling can't end until the hero is face to face with the forces at their most powerful

rule of thumb is that the inciting incident must occur within the first 25% (so 1st 1/2 hour in a feature)

if the inciting incident is archetypal, it can be the opening scene, if not you can use subplots to introduce and warm up the characters until the audience cares what'll happen to them after the inciting incident

subplots are a possible way to keep the long 2nd act interesting, can deemphasize them by not having all of their story elements/turning points happen on screen

what's the worst thing that could happen to my character? how could that actually be the best thing? and vice versa

a feature is usually 40-60 scenes balled into 12-18 sequences that ball into 3 or more acts, if it's dragging in the middle the scenes are probably not getting progressively harder for the characters

and then the library called back the book. Up to chapter 11 Scene Analysis

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Light and CG

Evgeni Tomov art director for Tale of Desperaux had an interview over at CGtalk, the film looks beautiful, he has interesting ideas about lighting it:

“Light was paramount with this movie,” he says. “Light disappearing and coming back later. If you look at Vermeer, who is a bit later, but a good example, you’ll see that he let large areas of the canvas fall off, but they’re not completely black. They’re richly painted.”

Thus, Tomov challenged the lighters to create soft shadows and irregular edges. “As soon as we saw hard-lit edges, the shots looked digital,” he says. “We wanted to make an animated movie, not a cartoon.”