Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gags, Character, and Entertainment

I re-watched all the Wallace and Grommit recently because of a scene in a short film I want to do (which I'll probably have to get on the uberman sleep schedule to ever do) Anyway, I learned that it's not what the characters are doing, it's how they are feeling. Only in the first film (when Nick Park was a student) are there gags just for gags sake (like Wallace playing tic tac toe). All the later films there are gags, but what is essential is what the characters are thinking and feeling about what is going on. The best example is in Matter of Loaf and Death when Wallace is mooning over his lady love, making bread (that comes out shaped like her), and Gromit is exasperatedly keeping the kitchen together, it's entertaining because what they are doing is fun AND the emotional story is being forwarded. (sorry couldn't find the clip on youtube)

Made me think of those Lost notes, about using emotion to slip the exposition to the audience.

And about Glen Keane talking about his first scene animating Bernard(at the 5:20 mark).
My first scene that I got then, on Rescuers, was this little tiny scene of Bernard, where Bernard is just a speck in the scene and he is sweeping the floor.

But I wanted to make it a great moment. I was struggling with the mechanics of how do you draw a sweeping action. Bernard's hands on the broom and pushing the broom. I was struggling with it during a whole week and a half and then I finally went to Eric and said: "Eric, can you show me how to do this?" I figured that he would show me some technical secrets, some principles or formula of animation on how to move a broom convincingly.

And he said: "OK. What kind of guy do you think Bernard is?" I said: "I don't know what you mean." "He thinks he must do a good job, don't you think?" I said: "Yes, yes..." "He puts his whole heart in everything he does doesn't he?" "Yeah, I guess so..." "That's the kind of a guy he is, he really loves his job..." and he started talking about Bernard and you could see this light in his eyes.

This is a speck, no one will see in the film, but he got caught up into the character Bernard and he became this little guy. I could just see what he was talking about: sincerity. He believed in the character. He did not tell me any secrets about drawing or animating, but he showed me how to feel.

So I came back to my desk and the scene just popped out. It was easy. It seemed to me that this was always the point that I had to get to when I was struggling: to believe in the characters and to make them really personal for me. Every character I am working on, that's the first step: find something that you can almost touch about that character."

Sometimes I've heard this called "animating from the inside out". Becoming the character and deciding how you would respond if you were this person in this situation.

The audience will care if the character cares. It's totally fine to include gags as an integral part of the story (as Eric Goldberg talked about in a podcast). But if the story is built of gags that don't push the story or help us get inside the characters it doesn't have a chance to be one of the great's that connects with an audience and becomes part of them.
(*ugh, wanted to find that image of a wire fence with the posts signifying gags and the wire stringing them together but couldn't, any help?)

Brainstorming - Throw it all down

We recently were brainstorming a new character at work. The lead was going down a path for a spell the character could do, there was an alternative that I could see but I didn't bother to mention it because it seemed totally obvious to me and the lead seemed so excited about his current idea. Then someone else mentioned the idea that I had and the lead loved it even more then his first idea, so I guess it wasn't as obvious as I originally thought.

Lesson: Throw down every idea, even if it seems dumb or obvious.

Creating the Illusion of Life

p. 471

It is the change of shape that shows the character is thinking.
It is the thinking that gives the illusion of life.
It is the life that gives meaning to the expression.

"It's not the eyes, but the glance - not the lips, but the smile..."

might be time for my biennial re-reading

The Return of John Frum

Christian Schlaeffer's thesis project.

THE RETURN OF JOHN FRUM from christian schlaeffer on Vimeo.

* found on lineboil

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Watch your time

Discipline. If you know how much time you're wasting, you can get more productive.

put that in your browser and it'll stop you when you hit your time limit (you can change the time also)

I use cooltimer when I notice I'm slouching a lot, to remind myself to sit up straight (also good to make sure you don't give yourself RSI)(you can also put in whatever notification sound you want, Homer Simpson's "D'oh" for example)

I used to have a time tracker to keep track of how long I spent on things but I lost it. I don't like the web based ones, because I do better when the internet is turned off.

There was an interesting article about a game shop working like 6 hours a day and being super productive.  (this article has more meat then the book on flow they reference
notes from that book:
Aspects that can create flow
1. an accomplishable task
2. able to concentrate on it
3. clear goals for it
4. gives immediate feedback
5. absorbed in it (un related thoughts and stimulus do not get computed)
6. feel you have some control over the outcome
to simple you won't get engaged, too hard you'll just be frustrated, needs to be just challenging enough

Discouraged so back to basics

Recently I have been discouraged with animation, and feeling burnt out. Basically because animation takes so long to achieve, and since I have only a short amount of time every night to work on something, whatever piece I'm working on feels like an old overchewed piece of meat before I can finish it.

The solution of course is to get back to the basics. Do quick simple tests that don't take long, to regain the sense of competence. The key of course being quick, so they can be done in a night.

The Arc's 60 frames a day challenge is perfect for this.

Jean Denis Haas has a good list of exercises (and how you should approach them)

And there's a thread on the 11sec club with a ton of exercise ideas.

And maybe I'll reverse engineer the AAU Pixar classes since they no longer exist. (by tracking through Shiva Adloori's blog while he was in them)
Character Walk
Juice box enter scene, react to something, and exit scene
Thought process while getting up from a chair
Character interact with an object
Have Character "fix" something
Gear change: 2 different thoughts with a good transition moment (this LightSwitch moment is the key point to this excercise)
Silhouette Dialogue (solid black)
1 person dialogue with subtext (subtext pulled out of a hat)
hiding something
secretly attracted
something else really important is happening
secretly hates
uber bored with char b.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Miyazaki's Cat

Goro Miyazaki (Hayao's son) directed a commercial, animated by Katsuya Kondo.

page is all in Japanese so if you don't speak it click around til you find this page.

* found by GhibliCon (and I stole their picture to show you where to click, sorry)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Supercrumbly (can only find their Matrix name) wrote an autorig script.

Olivier Ladeuix did a walk thru tut of how to use it

also someone made an autorig based on Jason Schliefer's animator friendly rigging technique's.

Ladeuix says the abautorigger is all node based, while Schliefer uses set driven keys and expressions which he thinks are slower.
My TD at work agrees that expressions are the slowest, but he says it's old school thinking because computers are so much stronger these days. (though I think Ladeuix has more experience then my TD)

Eyes - P.J Leffelman

P.J. Leffelman has this great post with clips of actors and how they think with their eyes.

*I read this post, then lost it for like 3 years, but now I have a blog to capture it forever ha ha

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Passion Pictures East Coast Trains

*found on lineboil


Hayley Morris thesis film, tribute to her grandfather who had alzheimers.

Undone from Hayley Morris on Vimeo.

Love how she does water. Stopmo is so perfect for 3D, because it often keeps us fascinated just because the things are objects in the real world.

*found on the brew

Monday, March 15, 2010

Joe Ranft tribute

I'm not on the inside, but Joe Ranft was apparently a monumental force in the animation world, influencing tons of people everywhere, as evidenced by the huge outcry when he passed away a few years back. Anyway, Jon Muskar (of the Ron and Jon team) released the little tribute he'd made for Joe's send off in honor of what would have been his 50th birthday.

Anyway, this struck me as a great piece even without having any personal connection to Joe, and I think it's because it's about love.

* found by David Nethery
the singer is Madeleine Peyroux

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Vid Ref Channel on Vimeo

Look what I just found. Sweet. 319 videos. And it's vimeo, so if you're logged on you may possibly be able to download them. Looks like it was started by Daniel Asher Harman, big thank you sir.

Set Pieces

Been reading here and there. Thought I'd better jot this down while it's in my head.

Set Piece in film are the thing everyone talks about after they've seen the film. Hitchcock called them crescendo's, and tried to have at least 3 in every film. It's the big WOW sequence, or in comedy, the big long laugh sequence, usually a part of that wow is that it's unique "I haven't seen that before". Probably the thing that's going to be in the trailer to make people want to go see the movie. The equivalent of a music exec asking about a new album: "which are the singles?" Having your set piece involve your primary protagonists and arise organically from the story is what can make all the difference. An audience feels the contrivance when a set piece is arbitrarily imposed.

The trench run on the death star, the snake pit in Indianna Jones, the car chase in anything. With Hitchcock's 3 crescendo idea it makes me think that maybe they are appropriately used as the climax to the different acts (assuming you're gonna split act 2 in two which is often the case.)

* now I need to go explore Billy Mernit's Living Romantic Comedy blog, which I pulled up when I searched for Set Piece

Friday, March 12, 2010

Brink Cinematic Trailer

This cinematic by Splash Damage has great body mechanics and motion in it. (did blur do the trailer?)

here's a different link if you don't have a youtube account, or don't want to sign in

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Video Game's are gonna own your life

Jesse Schell  did this crazy lecture at some game conference. Interesting, frightening, the future's coming .

* found it on Kyle Kenworthy's blog

Monday, March 8, 2010

Matter of Loaf and Death - How they donut

they're so cool! (watched all the wallace and grommit shorts again this weekend)

Elk Hair Cadis - Gloriously CG short

Elk Hair Caddis from peter smith on Vimeo.

graduate film from Danish animation school Animation Workshop by Peter Smith, Alice Holme, Anders Brogaard and Magnus Molle.

has me thinking of the old idea about leaning on the strength's of the animation media. Before I was only able to come up with the strength of CG being smooth and clean and easily cloneable, but this shows another strength, being able to make anything out of anything (can conceivably have a water balloon out of granite, or a hammer out of a blob of hairy flesh).

*edit ha they emailed JHD, they said they were influenced by Meinbender and he has a making of clip too

MakingOf_ElkhairCaddis_peter smith from peter smith on Vimeo.

reminds me of meinbender studio. One of their bumper's for Cartoon Network. And article on them over at CGTalk.

* found on lineboil

Friday, March 5, 2010

Richard Baneham - director of animation on Avatar

Speaking of Animation (which is fast becoming a really strong resource) just put up a podcast with Richard Baneham. Really interesting stuff. He talks about the old Disney approach of having a character lead, so that the character stays consistent through the film, and likens that to mocap the actor is the lead artist to give everyone the reference of who the character is. He makes the point that you should not worry about labels but use every tool to tell the best story. It's a very strong point, personally I think mocap reduces the animator's potential for creative input (course I haven't done it so what do I know) but he's right, telling an engaging story is the only thing that matters in the end.

understanding the relationship from frame to frame. whether that's spatial releationship within the space of a frame, or muscle to muscle relationship. It might look like Zoe in the last frame, but that doesn't get you fuck all, it's how you get there.

back in the 2d there was a huge diversity in the types of animators there were guys who could draw the shit out of it things, great illustrators. They could always hide behind great drawings. But I always found they were not necessarily the guys who could touch the audience best. There were guys whose draftsman skills where not that tight, but they understood how to connect with an audience, and for me I'll take one of those animators everyday.

That's the key. Whether you can tell the story in a manner that connects with the audience. And that's your 1st job as an animator When you sit down at a desk, your job is not to move shit around, your job is to tell a story. Within each shot within each character, within each motion, how do you communicate best what's going on at that particular time, if you always keep that at the forefront of your mind, you'll do fine.

2D vs 3d vs Mo-cap, who gives a rats ass, how do you tell a fucking story. Why limit yourself. as artists before you sit down and start a scene what tools are available to you make the best possible shot and put up on screen to connect with the audience. If you do that before every production everything will be better for it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Kevin Koch on Story

My old mentor Kevin Koch has a solid post on story in animated films.

quick summary:
Story is what happens and to whom, why it happens, and what it means.
Plot the series of events, which usually provide conflict. King died, then the Queen died. The spine of a story,  but not essential for a good  (the king died, then the queen died of grief. would be a story)
Theme what the story means, the message
In general, the subplot often carries the theme, and in a well crafted movie multiple characters will reveal multiple aspects of the theme.
Character not essential to a story, some spider man stories are good some are not, but all have Mr. Parker

these are elements (with others) that make up a story, there are sometimes film remakes that shot by shot remake a movie. The story [and it's elements] is the same, the execution is different, and the resulting films are fundamentally different.

Ultimately, the key to a fantastic, enjoyable, successful animated feature can be summarized in a few words: entertainment and engagement.

definitely looking forwards to his follow up post

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mike Fudge - Mesh Transfer - good topology

Apologies to the 40 or so of you that read this blog, this is probably super obvious stuff to some of you, but since it's new to me I'm throwing it down here.

Ran across this quick walk thru by Brutal Legends artist Mike Fudge where he's using Maya's Mesh->Transfer to make one object match the shape of another, so he can quickly knock out the shape he wants without worrying about anything else, then he can go back in and super easily put in loops that will deform nice. (He says it's similar to project in zbrush) (my coworkers all prefer to model in max, or zbrush and use topogun to get it back)

Anyway, news to me.