Saturday, January 30, 2010

Blank canvas acting

Remember I was talking about less is more? I was watching an Ian McCaig video and he was talking about the Kuleshov effect. (you know, a close up of a face then a cut to a plate of food, or a dead guy, or a naked women, and audiences praised the actor for looking very hungry, or sad, or lusty, when it was the same shot of the actor all three times.) McCaig was specifically talking about it with character design, giving them a zero expression allows you to project your thoughts onto them.

When I worked retail, I found that my customers would really like me a lot the more neutral I was, they would project their own ideas and beliefs onto me and assume I was in total agreement with them.

Which is all to say, it's okay to have restraint. Let the story do the acting and just keep your characters alive and involved, the audience will put the emotion into the character. You will never be able to sell heartbrokenness with movement and poses as well as if the story sets it up well and you give the audience a blank canvas to project their own experiences of heartbrokenness onto.

Course the trick is, how do you do this in a short demo reel clip? My friend Eric Luhta does it in his chosen one clip on his demo. And JHD does it in his looks clear exercise.


swiped this image from Dr. Glen Johnson's syllabus notes page, which looks like it might be useful to dig through the rest of

How Milt Kahl did it

Tip from the 11second club about a blog by Sandro Cluezo (Disney & Bluth 2D animator.) Haven't been all the way through the blog yet, but he has a great post breaking down Milt Kahl's approach to a scene with example drawings along the way. (He's pieced this together from talking to people who knew Kahl, Kahl passed away when Sandro was a teenager). Anyway, interesting to check it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bioware concept artist requirements

from bioware

What Does A Successful Concept Art Portfolio Look Like?
What You Need

To be a Concept Artist for the games industry, you need the following:

* Imagination – if you don't have this as a foundation, you will never draw anything uniquely cool or interesting. We have seen plenty of great renderers with no imagination. Those portfolios are tough because the work looks good, but there is not an original idea in the bunch.
* Next would be the raw ability to draw. Draw, Draw, Draw, as they say. You have to draw more than the next guy to get the job.
* Ability to communicate your idea quickly, both verbally and through your drawings. You also must be able to receive and give constructive and balanced critiques. This is in the top 4 attributes. It is so important to work with the team and not be the lone gunman.
* Good color sense. A mastery of color and how it relates is essential.
* Ability to create mood with lighting and atmosphere. Most environment pieces are all about the moods they evoke. Composition is also very important.
* Ability to work in different styles. It's great to show off your style, but also show how you can mimic and adapt to other styles of rendering. This makes any concept artist more valuable.
* Ability to deliver something that is better than what was asked for, yet still meets all the criteria, on time, and the iterations well-communicated.

What do we look for in a portfolio?

We look to see if the concept artist has a range of subject matter. We look for as many of the following, as well-executed as possible:

* Characters – We like to see personality and "story" in the character. The drawing should answer many questions, but also invite the audience to ask even more, compelling them to want to learn more about the character. Have a sheet of facial expressions of the same character to show different moods and attitudes.
* Costumes – This is a chance to show off your sense of fashion. The costume is part of the character. Tell more of the story, showing the same character in different clothing as a good exercise. The clothing should have the right balance of form and function.
* Creatures – Must be believable, i.e., through the study of real animal/human musculature and skeletal structure, create a creature you believe can move, eat, fight, breed, and so on.
* Environments – Natural exterior environments that features organic structure and flora. Lighting, color and mood are essential.
* Environments – Exterior environments that feature architecture. These should be integrated into the landscapes that surround them. Must show a command of perspective, an understanding or architectural design, show the influences of various geographic and historical influences. We like to see this mixed with a bit of fantasy or sci-fi. A good split for "real" versus "imagined" architecture is about 70/30 - so a subtle approach to integrating fantasy into a concept.
* Environments – Interiors should have everything from the above point, but from the inside.
* Tech – We like to see how a concept artist understands technical things. How does a machine fit together? When you look at the drawing, can you imagine it working? This can be a fantastic catapult with gears and levers, or it can be a futuristic device. Both should look like they can work, have a sense of industrial design that reflects the culture and time they come from, and of course, look cool.
* Vehicles – Believe it or not, it is hard to find people who are really good at this, so it's one other thing we look for to help balance our team of concept artists. See tech above. Good vehicles can make or break a game (especially if the game play revolves around driving).

Keep in mind we don't expect a single person to excel at all the subject matter. Most people have their favourite thing they grew up drawing. But try to include as many of the above as possible. I remember we had someone apply who said they would like a job as a female character artist, and sure enough he was an expert at depicting the female form! However, for the size of our studio (and for the size of most game studios) this request is too specialized for us.

Please also include personal work, sketchbook material, and figure drawing studies.

Concept art is the most competitive space in video game art. So your submission has to look better than the competition. Select only the best pieces to feature in your portfolio. Visiting websites or forums that feature concept artists or concept art for critique and comment is a good sounding board. is an excellent resource for professionals and those seeking advice in this particular field.

Good skill and good luck!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fun is the best technique

I'm pretending I'll actually have time to do a short film, so I was storyboarding and pulled out old storyboards for this idea I had done a few years ago. Amusingly I liked the old ones better, from before I had read so much about film and theater craft.

Reminds me of Mark Kennedy's post on Indiana Jones' airplane fight, where he talks about the fact that we aren't given a clear idea of where Marion is, and the huge fact that some fighting happens but it doesn't advance the story at all. And it's a super fun flick even though it's not 'following the rules'

And of Ed Hooks craft notes for Jan 2010 (he hasn't archived them yet so I can't give you a permanent link) With the great quoate of "When you didn’t know much about it, you simply jumped into the pool and splashed around. Now you dare not get wet until you are absolutely certain that you can do five laps with alternating strokes."

And a little bit of DJ Nicke's Animation Salvation thing where he talks about having too much knowledge without putting it to practice makes you flabby. (Nutrients + Stress + Recovery, being his key to peak performance, mentally nutrients=education)

And it all comes down to don't worry so much about doing it "right" and just have fun, trust your instincts!

Kyle Kenworthy's Acting Reference

Animator Kyle Kenworthy has a nice collection of acting reference film grabs from movies, always love when someone does the work for me and grabs things out to look at, makes it a lot easier because I don't get sucked into the story and can focus on the craft. Check it

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Less is More

Saw it yesterday on some blog, but can't find it today to give the person credit, if you know where I got this thought let me know.

The point was that animator's use everything to sell the emotion, they try and make the entire body tell you what the emotion should be, it's what we're taught. If someone is angry, then we give them Angry shoulders and angry feet and an angry line of action and anywhere and everywhere we can we push the idea of Angry...BUT actors rarely do this, if an actor is playing an angry character they may only show it with a slight jaw clench (Clint Eastwood made his whole career off his jaw muscles).

Makes me think of JHD's review of the Illusionist and how long he kept his cool. Which makes me think of Paul Ekman noting that most emotional displays only last 4-6 seconds, then fade into more of a mood display. (could be wrong about that Ekman thing.)

Jacob Gardner Specificity in Character

Once again I've run across it and feel compelled to re inscribe it. This time from Jacob Gardner on the Speaking of Animation blog.

Don't just animate "some dude". Putting a white coat on your guy just makes him "some dude" in a white coat. If he's supposed to be a Dr. at the end of his shift, he's going to pick up a clipboard with a familiarity and probably tiredness that a patient would not handle it in that way.

*he's got an update with photos

Pixar Research Library

Daniel Caylor found this link to Pixar Research Library which is I think their research papers, mostly fancy TD programmy stuff, but the article on Making Rats Appealing I felt was useful to animator's/ character designers.

My Summary:
1. low center of gravity/ flour sack shape & simple silhouette for old school classic Disney soft friendly character shape
2. made mouth muzzle really malleable so it can tie in with eye deformations, making the whole head feel connected and maintaining a sense of movement of the mouth even if the nose hides it (nose kept hardish to preserve skeleton) (look at the picture how the mouth points to the eye)
3. teeth lip controls to control composition of teeth "cradled in lips" or " sticking out ratlike"
4. deformable controls to allow animator to nail nice compositional silhouette's

Grickle Hickee's

Speaking of minimized animation that still gets the story across, Graham Annable da Grickle consistently makes creepy feeling shorts, solid pacing, good use of sound, minimal animation.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Vermonster - changing the rules

Just ran across this (sorry if this post is a little political). Rock Art Brewery just beat a goliath. So as I read the story, a little micro brewery in Vermont made a beer called Vermonster Hansen Beverage which makes Monster energy drink (and billions of dollars) felt that Rock Art's beer was infringing on their trademark and was going to take them to court. So obviously if Rock Art doesn't just kow-tow Hansen's gonna win the case 'cuz they have the deep pockets to just drag it on until Rock Art goes broke with lawyer fees. But Matt Nadeau, Rock Art's owner, pulled a little jiu jitsu. He sent out emails to fans of the brewery, who rallied the troops and made facebook pages, tweets (#boycottmonster) and got some solidarityfrom other businesses pulling Hansen products off their shelves. So the CEO of Hansen calls up Nadeau and asks how to stop it, and Nadeau gets in paper that Rock Art's allowed to keep using Vermonster.

The point of this story for me is that if you let others define the rules and the arena you're gonna lose, if you want to debate about elephants and I keep saying "don't think of an elephant" I can never win.

Or a direct animation example: IceAge 3 made $888million, and cost $90 mil to make.(986% times it's cost) Up made $683 and cost $175.(390%) Monsters vs Aliens made $381 and cost $175.(210%) And Hoodwinked made $51 and cost $15 to make.(340%) Showing you don't have to have top of the line production to make a profit (but maybe you need to be sweatshoppy)

But all of these examples are missing the point, they show you can be small and still make it big, but this is still playing by "their" rules in "their" arena. I just noticed that is following the AnimationMentor path of creating an online school that will teach people how to do their craft because all the graduates they see coming out of regular schools do not have near the skills they need to enter their industry but do have a huge dept. So these online schools are redefining the arena, not letting old rules dictate how to play (I think AM is accredited now, but I don't think they were when they first started out, the point being that giving people hireable skills is more useful then giving them a piece of paper that the old rules value.)

Sorry I can't tell you what the a new arena could be. I'm still trying to figure it out by defining the goals and trying to seperate them from the existing conditions.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Serene Teh

how long til some ad agency rips it off to sell some crap?


Margarita by Hampa Studio based on a poem by Ruben Dario.



michelle found the making of

Making Appealing Cartoon Drawings

There are some artists that everything they do is just appealing to me. Dan Segarra, Sarah Mensinga etc. I've been reading a blog by Rad Sechrist (storyboard artist at Dreamworks, and Comic artist who contributes to Flight). His blog is a great source of his exploration and continual pushing to improve himself. (depressing in a way to think how far I would have to go). Anyway, he breaks it down pretty quick and simply here and here that basically I am responding to the way the lines flow into each other, the rhythm of the mark making, which comes down to body parts and contours flowing into each other, instead of being stuck onto each other like playdough.

He also breaks down how to lift the disney style, which honestly is really strong. heads, noses.

*JHD pointed him out to me

Saturday, January 9, 2010


So I've stumbled across it a few times, figured I'd pin it down in case I need it. Cool concept art site all about flying vehicles.  forum

and matching blog, which has the best of?

*image by Goro Fujita 
who also has a cool looking site conceptrobot which I would check out if I wasn't supposed to be in bed

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bodhisattva in Metro

*it has a minute and a half of "setting the scene" you could skip in at 1:20 and not miss anything if you're impatient like me. 

Laughter Yoga in practice. Really just put it up here as a decent laughter reference video

Sadly it felt too forced to me, I was too aware of the camera being there for me to mistake it as candid, and my feeling of that situation would be that people would be very uncomfortable nervous if someone where to behave like that without reason in a public place, which I suppose is a lesson in where you can lead the audience. Nice idea though, and totally possible with a group of friends

Alma vs Bert

* I think Alma's only going to be online for a short time

Alma from Rodrigo Blaas on Vimeo.

So this has been about the net lately. Pixar artist Rodrigo Blaas did this short film. It looks beautiful, it moves beautiful, but it has me wondering what's the point? Maybe I've read to much Keith Lango, but I'm really starting to wonder about this much effort into a short film done on your own. Obviously Blaas has access to some pro quality friends he can pull in to help him out, so he managed to get it out in 2 years, but it leaves me wondering if it was worth it. Like Pigeon Impossible taking 7 years (not to harsh on P.I., it's a fun film, but could it have been done quicker if it used simpler models/sets?)

 I guess it comes down to what your goals are. I'm interested in short films for emotional character based stories, and I think that that is achievable with simple models. Personally I don't think the high res models, specular reflections, and multi render passes enhance the emotional core of the story largely enough to justify the extra time spent on them. True it looks pretty, but it is very time consuming and can distract from the main point. And I think that you can use tricks and hacks to get a similar mood fast and dirty. (Look at hands of the master, a lot of that fancy environment is just matte painting. Or look at Bert, it's using lighting and color to set the mood as well as Alma does.)

Not to diss Rodrigo & co., Alma is a beautiful film. But Bert by Moonsung Lee is emotionally stronger for me personally, and a thousand times more in my reach for achieving something similar. If I ever find the time to do a short film it will likely look more like Blip then The Passenger.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Fine Art Resources

I studied fine art in school, some day I'd like to get back to it. Here's some resources if I ever do.

Alliance of Artists Communities

Artist Deadline List