Friday, July 31, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Life pose on cartoon character

Brian Lemay has this great pdf about the old excercise of using a life model for the pose inspiration, but drawing your character in that pose instead. Good points on how to stretch a pose to make it more appealing and entertaining.

found by David Cunningham


smugbuddha over at 11sec club threw up this link to a site that slaps up posed figures for a short amount of time and switches through them, great for practing your gestural lifedrawing.


Monday, July 27, 2009

They're made out of meat

I have no idea what this is, but it's kind of awesome. Ah the interwebs how I love you

Saturday, July 25, 2009

notes from Miyazaki talking in Berkeley

Just got back from seeing Hayao Miyazaki talking, interviewed by Roland Kelts. Lot of fun, he's a funny guy, making jokes all the time. Here's some notes I took. Even with a translator giving me a little breathing room, you should assume these are all paraphrases instead of direct quotes.

Animation is a way to help soothe the soul after dealing with the harsh edge of reality.

Many people live in virtual worlds, where the information entertainment and friends are all virtual, what's the solution?

Old people always say that things are not as good now as they used to be. But when I was a child I was probably living in a more virtual world then people 100 years before with cinema and things. Civilization has always grown with and absorbed it's weak parts. What I'm concerned with now is an end of civilization. It would be wonderful to see the end of civilization in my life time (everybody laughs) but I don't think it will happen, so i have to use my imagination in my films.
We often feel that people and nature are separate, but nature is inside of people. We are not separate from it, it's inside of us. Ponyo's nature has a tsunami inside of her. But the tsunami doesn't destroy the town when it reaches it, it cleans it, purifies it, which is the hope I see in nature.
The river near the village I live in often swells and floods during winter, which always gets the old people excited. It only comes up to your knees so it's not a big disaster, but it does get high enough to get into people's houses. In times like this people always feel like they have to save someone, people are nicer to each other, so the disaster makes people become better people. When we rebuilt our house we didn't raise it any higher, so that we will flood with everyone around us if it comes again.
I don't think it's a good idea to equate a disaster with evil or a "Bad thing". We manage the local forest and even though after a flood a lot of junk gets washed into it, the forest always seems healthier and stronger from all the water. So the flood is not a bad or evil thing, it's just an event, just a part of life and we live with it.

Boring old question about no flat evil characters in your pieces? (okay I editorialized that one, but c'mon, do any research and everyone asks him that. is it really so hard to imagine a story that's like the world where everyone has complex reasons for doing what they are doing, and no one does things just to be evil? sheesh)

To have a film where there an evil figure with the hero having a great battle with them and a big happy ending is one way to make a film. but that means as an animator you have to draw the evil guy through the whole movie, which isn't very pleasant. So I decided not to have evil character's in my film. (everyone laughs)

Color of the film Ponyo almost a character in the film?

The chief background artist has a very specific way of working. He always puts some red and green in every scene, he always puts 5 clouds in. It's a little childlike, and makes you feel good to look at it. I pushed him to become more childlike, (he is a very nice person, so I really pushed him to become a lot more childlike so that it would come through in his paintings, but I think it may have been a little difficult after the film his re-entry into being with people) So his work became very strong and vibrant and colorful. The whole staff were surprised at how full of child like niceness we became.

Ponyo is a goldfish, but looks nothing like one at a pet store, Totorro can't be found in an encyclopedia, when an American film company makes a film with animals they are always rooted in biological truth, can you comment on the imaginative animals in your films?

When we draw animals we have to draw the eyes. Some styles of animation simplify the eyes so that we as humans can understand them, but we can't understand nature. Nature doesn't match our psychology. So for Totorro, I told my staff to draw him so that you don't know where he is looking. Ohmu's (from Nausicaa) have many many eyes so you don't know where they are looking either. I explained to my staff that we need to make Totorro in a way that you can't tell if he is very wise, or very dumb, that he is thinking very deep thoughts, or nothing at all.

role of fantasy?

The easy way to make a fantasy world is to go through a door or a tunnel or some way of just stepping into it. I was looking for a different way to get Chihiro into the fantasy world in Spirited Away. I thought and thought, and the scene got longer and longer until I had to just throw it away and send her through a tunnel.
it works!
yeah. (everyone laughs) I just thought I was cheating myself using such an easy entry point.

the other boring question everyone asks about having strong female characters?(again just do a spec of research man

At Ghibli we are in the process of training 22 new arrivals, 4 of them are men. We are also looking at another batch of 22 to hire, 1 of them is a man. Since there are so many strong women now, I may have to start making films about boys. (everyone laughs)
In film the roles of males and females are different. In Ponyo the boy makes a promise to protect Ponyo and he goes through a lot of hardship to keep his promise, but no one really notices or gives him credit. In my life I've broken many promises, i think it's important to keep your promises, a really strong thing, a good thing to do in life.
I want mother who watch Ponyo to become stronger from it, like the mother in the film, the way she drives the car in the rain is amazing! (laughter)

Typically anime is based upon existing manga stories, why doesn't Ghibli do this?

I think we can just enjoy manga by just reading it as it is. (I agree, stories are usually best told in the medium they are created in and for. Hellboy and SinCity spring to mind-Alonso)
Manga and film have very different concepts of space and time, if you're not aware of that then the ultimate product can be very boring. The sense of expansion and compression of time is a very salient feature of manga. In animation time and space flow since we draw each frame.

You do all your own storyboards, what's the advantage to this over the American way of having a story team?

In Japan it's normal to have the director draw the storyboards, it's almost a condition of becoming the director. If you can't draw them everyone has the feeling of why do we need him then?

I know it takes a lot of thinking and working on an idea to create the seed of a new film, how do you know when the idea is ready to begin developing it?

It depends on the film. Only when I've tried and realize I can't push this idea anymore, I can't try any new versions of it or new ways of looking at it, only then have I found the core of my movie. That's what I tell my staff, you have to be willing to try really hard and work really hard on something that might be useless and impossible to find the core that's worth keeping.
We want the characters to have a happy ending. But we can't have that happen in an unpersuasive way, they must overcome something, go through some struggle. By effort or accident we have to find the best ending, or the best ending sometimes finds us in a mysterious way.

has making films gotten any easier?

Each time I make a film I feel that I have just barely been able to get through it, and I hope that people won't see all the weak spots and holes where I just barely patched it through. So once I finish I don't want to see it again and try to forget it as soon as possible.

I told my wife when I finished Nausicaa that I didn't want to go through that pain again. But since I say this after every film I've become less persuasive, so I try not to say it at home as often anymore.

virtues of 2D vs CG?

Sometimes it feels like we are rowing a lonely bark in a sea of speedboats. Since hand drawn involves so much drudge work we thought we'd hire a young guy to try making it with a computer, but we found that it was faster and easier to just draw it by hand. So I think we should be more casual about hand drawn animation. I think we are freer when we draw by hand. When a character is feeling down trodden we can draw them thin and small, when they are very confident we can draw them with a bigger head. It's very hard to do that type of thing in CG.

what do you do when you get artists block?

Only thing I can do is think. When I really think hard I smell blood deep in my nose. It's not necessarily that thought process but something may come to me out of the blue while I'm thinking so hard. But I have to have really hit a wall and thought about it a lot for something to come. My own theory is that we do a lot thinking with the surface of our brains, then underneath there's the subconscious, and even deeper theres a deeper darker space. What we really want to say comes from our subconscious, and the truest most pure things we want to say come from that deep dark area. That's when I smell the most blood. (everyone laughs)

Do you think children will be able to appreciate your films in 50 years?

I think I might be able to make a film that a grandmother can tell the granddaughter this is a good film to see, but I'm not sure if I can make one that a mother can tell her daughter.

Your films are about love, any thoughts on it?

I think at the end of all our difficulties and problems we find it. When we finished Ponyo my staff said that the boy will have a lot difficulty being with Ponyo, I was the only one who said "he'll be alright", that's what life is: dealing with difficulties.

what is your hope for the future of animation?

Those who want to make films should be making films. I don't like to theorize about the future, we should deal with the present moment.

have you ever considered doing live action?

(big surprised reaction from Miyazaki)
Would have to turn the Japanese landscape back 50 years. The roads, the factories, the inlets, the clouds, even peoples faces, all are different, we'd need a lot of computers to make it right.

Do you have a favorite film of yours?

I don't think if you have many children you can say this one I love more then the others.

What's next?

I don't know myself. People often say that I'm energetic for my age, but I often feel very tired. What happens next won't totally be my decision. I have to decide if I'm going to just keep going until I flop down dead at my drawing desk, which isn't a very cool way to go.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Concept art-ing

When I was a little kid I wanted to be a concept artist for D&D (I'm not sure the word concept art existed back then.)

Anyway, I've been recently absorbing the blog of the art director for D&D Jon Schindehette who has the chimeral task of "building the artist community", so his blog is very aimed at advice for people who want to be illustrators, and highlights of illustrators he likes. It's been interesting and informative so far.

Once I finish digesting Mr. Schindehette's I'll move on to Irene Gallo's art director for Tor Books.

Also to be checked out: Ninja Mountain Scroll podcast and blog

And world building podcast (with a not intuitive site for finding the podcast)

and Wip podcast
This post on the artorder blog had a breakdown of the order and timeline for illustrating, which might be a handy benchmark reference

Monday, July 13, 2009

Daarken Lich Priest Tutorial

A concept artist named Daarken just threw up a free tutorial on his painting process every bit as good as the ones that massive black charges for.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Collected Curios WebComic on Character

Philip Jackson who writes a web comic I sometimes read posted up an interview, with this tidbit, and some decent advice on webcomic making

People seem to like the SA cast because they can see a bit of themselves in the characters. I get a lot of emails from people saying they’re just like Scarlet or Pip! I think the more a set of characters act like a person would in the real world, be they facing day-to-day drama or crazy sci-fi peril, the more readers warm to them. That in mind, I try to ensure the SA cast make logical decisions, even when facing illogical situations.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

DV Rebel by Stu Maschwitz

So I got The DV Rebel's Guide by Stu Maschwitz out of the library. Really solid book, made me want to get a digital camera and run out and make a movie (which is the point). (then I remembered I don't want to make a live action movie, right now at least).

Anyway, lots of good advice on doing a big time looking movie on the cheap (El Mariachi style, less then $7000). The main point being Hollywood has $$$, you have time. Make your movie in storyboard first (where have I heard that before?) and then shoot your boards, that way you don't have to worry about coverage you shoot what you need and use slight of hand cuts to give the feeling you want without blowing borrowed sets up. Think light and agile (ie need an accident scene, keep your camera in the back of your car and stalk the fire stations training grounds) and know your going to be doing a ton in post to make it look pro (comp in bg's you couldn't get permission to shoot, comp in explosions and gunfire you can't afford to do). So had good technical stuff on getting a solid professional look out of images (which is applicable to stop mo or post on animated films as well as live action.) So I'd recommend it if you want to do a live action film, or even if you want to help on the post of an animated one.

Aspect Ratio:
action flicks are always widescreen. Academy=4:3=grandma, no one uses it anymore. Standard widescreen is 1.85:1 (aka one-eight-five) Video you can crop down/mask to 16:9 which is almost identical to 1.85:1 so 16:9 is default for DV Rebels
SuperWide Screen:2.40:1 (star wars, La femme nikita) image squeezed when recorded stretched (cinema"scoped") when projected. Which gives that Bladerunner long horizontal blue lens flare (instead of a round one)

Lenses are the palette of your film language. Wide angle is typical of action flicks (gives you that "in your face" feel), fish eye barrel distortion gives away you're using DV, AfterEffects optics compensation removes it. You can even draw your storyboards to suggest what kind of lense to use (as my quick copy of his quick example shows) 35mm film does shallow depth of field, if you can get that it makes your stuff look quality. DoF is usefull because you really control focus composition and detail. (So with lenses and depth of field not only do you get the film look, but you also simplify your compositions to the level of comic books, like Jeff Smith's Bone, if the point of a 2 shot is the dialogue, you can use dof to make the bg abstract and equivalent to leaving it out like you would in a comic book.See my way heavy handed example using the Muppets to illustrate how you focus the eye and make the rest irrelevant)

Directing Actors by Judith Weston

look for triangular compositions & rule of thirds yatta yatta

what does the camera tell us in every scene? a low angle shot of a swat team busting in will make the team feel powerful, a down angle shot from above of them bursting in will make us feel like someone's gonna get the drop on them. p. 226 has a great example of asking and answering questions (each shot should answer the ? from the previous shot, and ask a new ?) his example: Dude looks through a sniper scope (what's he see?), POV guy sitting in a car (what's our dude think?), Close Up face with scope: he looks serious (will he do it?), shot of hand on trigger he's about to but stops (why?) full body shot: our guy looking over his shoulder (what's he see?) car pulling up beside his (who's that?) close up driver: its competing assassin with gun drawn(!!!) etc.

22fps is the conventional wisdom for speeding things up for a little extra oomph, slower and what's the point, faster and it's obvious. (undercranking=recording at a slower pace then playback will be)

if you want to shoot a scene outdoors, find it on google maps, and input the gps coordinates from google maps into sketchup, then sketchup can tell you where the sun's going to be all day long, so you can plan your shooting schedule based on where you want the sun to be.

best way to make a special effects shot feel real is to film it as if it where real. If filming miniatures make sure the camera is moving at a proportionate speed. If you're cg blowing up a car track the camera like a real camera man would (trying to keep the car in screen but not being dead perfect), basically make the camera feel like it's in a real place with real weight and speed, as if you were there, even if it's 100% inside the computer.

HDR (High Dynamic Range Lighting)taking several exposures of the same scene, so when they're all blended together you get impossible to photograph photos, like a night city scene where you can see all the details under the streetlights, but also see the full milky way. So you use a mirror ball to get a snapshot of the whole world around, and you project it onto a sky map to mimic the light of the environment. (so I'm a noob for not knowing this stuff, so what, it's my blog :P )

stock.xchng is online stock photo service that's mostly free, great place for bg matte photos. Or Vue series for making cg worlds, or Terragen which is the same but free.

p 219 Imagine a scene in where a man explains to a woman that she may never see her son again. Imagine the backstory of the imaginary viewer who's pov you want the audience to take. Someone who knows the women well, will only occassionally glance at the man, the man's not important the audience cares what how their friend takes this news. But if the audience knows the man better, maybe he's an FBI agent and this is his first time telling someone their son is dead, the viewer will want to see how he delivers the news. By how you cut the scene, you tell the audience which of these two options they are. You change the virtual personality fo the audience by dictating what's interesting to them, since we all naturally look at what's interesting to us, as the editor you are only allowing them to look where you tell them it's interesting, it's like you're controlling their minds. If you are constantly failing to show the audience what they truly want to see, they will become impatient and lose interest. Like a horror film where someone's wandered if, it might delight the viewer not to show them what's behind the actor, or it might annoy them, delicate line to walk.

8 frames on either end of a shot is a common "handle" for editors to have space to cut in where they want, but 10 and 12 is not unheard of.

three dominant tones is the average choice for color correctionists. Simple statements. Often shadows are pushed one way (like indigo), midtones another(like green), and highlights a third (like golden). Freeze frame any shot from your favorite movie "and count how many colors you see. Chances are there will be no more then three. ... You might find a scene with up to 4 dominant tones, and you will certainly find some with only one or two, but three is the average. Art directors, cinematographers, wardrobe artists, and directors consipire to restrict the palette of a movie" Then he talks about associating color with meaning (ie. red for scenes where the character makes choices not true to himself, yellow for the antagonist). Suddenly the purpose of those pixar color scripts becomes more clear to me. His examples are of the Matrix being green tinged and the real world being blueish. The Birds having a red object in a cool scene right before an attack. And American Beuaty having a red white and blue theme to all the major shots.'s color palette tool will take any web image you put in and spit out a palette of the strongest colors. A tool you can use to see if your composition is color harmonious, or to help you decide what kind of color harmony you should push too. Petr Stanecick color scheme designer has a tool that will automatically generate color palette's based off a color you choose and what kind of scheme you want (ie. analogous, split complimentary etc.)

some advice he has for color correction/altering, is that you can push colors super aggressively and the audience will go along with it if you keep flesh tones believable. Like Underworld being so blue and black and white, the flesh still looks like flesh. You can get away with warming up the flesh a little during your changes. One option is to throw a warm light onto your actor if you know you're going to smash the color balance to blue in post, so planning ahead for your final look.

One last piece of advice: you'll learn more from making a movie then from reading a book about making movies.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

SplineCast: Pete Doctor & Bob Peterson

If you missed it Andrew Gordon posted the interview he did with Pete Doctor and Bob Peterson. Here's my notes:

The original idea for Up while a cool idea, had no emotional core, no "Oh I can really relate to that, I know what he's going through"

what's the engine that drives your story forwards, what are people going to take home with them. Craft the why. So they started with a sketch of Carl looking sour, with happy baloons, and they had to craft the reason he was so bitter and why he wanted to fly his house.

how do you know if something is funny after seeing it over and over?
Try and trust that very first laugh, if when you first came up with it and everyone was laughing... After the 20th time there is no way you can see it clear, so have to rely on other people.
How do you take it further?
Sometimes you break it, you change it and it suddenly isn't as funny. Gags that don't add to the emotional throughline, don't forwards the story, then you have to pull them out. Russel dropping the GPS out the window was in and out of the movie 5 times. Partly it comes down to defining the characters, we didn't know if we wanted to make Russel competent or not. Also the high pitch dog voices we were on the fence a lot, the audience will only grant you so many get out of jail free cards, "I was with you up to there, but man, you just went too weird", and wanted the villain to have teeth, since Charles Muntz was pretty elderly Alpha had to be a threat, so were afraid to lose his dark side for that gag. Sometimes a gag is okay just for a laugh, even if it doesn't forwards the story, it gives the audience a release to pop the bubble to ease the audience into a lighter place. or stuff born out of gags can work its way into plot (like squirrel started as a gag, but was used in the end to defeat dogs)

on a reel a walk cycle that shows weight and that the person is thinking about their environment

the goal is that everything already works in story reel, so that animation can't help but plus it. Don't have a weak beat and hope the animator's can save it.

tying up at the end of the film, you want to hint at what's happening in the future without giving it all away.

pitching-imagine it as if you were watching it, keep it moving along, do the voices if you can.

the difference between a successful sequence or not is the entertainment, it has to move the story forwards but it also has to be entertaining (and humor is usually entertaining)

Pete: I always had an eye to where I was going, but I was always having a great time with where I was. At any time you should be able to pause and say "this rocks, I'm painting cells, how cool is this! I love my life"

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Cameron Fielding @ ILM

Cameron Fielding who is pimp, wrote up a quick post about what he learned on his 1st movie project (Transformers 2)