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Friday, October 12, 2007

Pixar Zoetrope

This thing is just too COOL! What about a smaller handheld version, with just one character, sold at Disney stores. I'd totally get it. Here's another angle (shorter clip though). - found @ Cartoon Brew

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Strong Hand Poses and Contact

Those pictures are from the new CG "Ten Commandments".

Take a look at the hands/fingers. Please make sure that you don't have default finger/hand poses like that in your work. This is kinda a repost, but you can't research/study hand poses enough. Make sure to look at Angus' drawings, check out comic books or do a google search, you will find very strong poses (not just for hands, for instance Tennis and Football). Find inspiration where ever you can.

Also, look at the feet (in the first pic), they don't seem to be really grounded on the floor. Make sure that your contact points are solid. not just with feet, but on hands, or whatever you have that should convey contact and weight. Even if it means tedious frame by frame work. Davis' cowboy on-his-knees clip is a good example.

I know it's a cheap shot to point out stuff like that, there might have been tons of reasons why the poses look so generic, I'm just using it as an example, so no need to write me an angry email.

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Critique - Jello

Alright, the "teacher" works great during the push-off-desk. The gesture on around x110 for "Who did this?" is a bit broad, it's very "Tataaaa, look at that." You can lessen the arc, where it's a very matter of fact A to B (with a little arc though). I would keep that pose with some life to it as he looks back to the kids (the hand to the chest is very even in terms of timing and slow). You can then go to the folded hands as he starts walking
The walk needs some work, it needs more weight and character, right now it's very still (whole body with arms and head are moving as one), loosen up the upper part. The screen right leg around x206 is doing a weird swing, where the knee is pointing screen right and then moves in with an opposite pose at around x214. Lessen the out and in of the knee.
On "I'm gonna loose..." his bending down to the kid is too big, tone that down because you want the full explosion happening with the other kid. Straighten him up as he says that line. He's stiffening up, preparing for the jump, then make the jump a bit faster and have his head always looking at the kid (with a little nose down for the overlap on the land, but not too much). On "mind" you can have him get closer to the kid to accentuate "mind".

The right kid looks okay idea wise, just put polish on it. The left guy shouldn't look at the other kid because it distracts from the teacher, the audience should always be looking at him. The kid can look at the other one at the very beginning with a tiny head rotation towards him, nothing big.
With FK/IK switching you either match it frame by frame or make the switch happen across a few frames.


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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Critique - TNT and Martial Arts

First off, the TNT clip:

I can't wait to see the final version (love the foot traces as he slides back - how are you going to make them visible? Are they just geometry, little spheres?).

The main thing that sticks out is his facial expression around x188. At the beginning of the shot, before he bends down to pick up the box, you see him screaming. That expression needs to be while he throws the box and clearly visible at x188, a scream of power and desperation, hoping that the box is far away enough.
There is something about that pose pause around x190 to x200. I would add some overlap or continuing acting with his body. Right now it seems like he pauses for a bit in order to go to the shocked expression at x209. It's a bit too pose to pose.
Speaking of x209, I would offset the arms in terms of posing a bit. At x209 (during that section) both arms are stretched out and down. I would take the screen right one and move it up a bit (see image), give it more negative space between the chest and the upper arm.
I'll take a look at it at home for a more detailed critique.

Again, the foot traces are great, now you need to add little touches like that to the set. Give the walls some character (don't have them be straight lines for instance), same with the boxes and the ground. Keep going, nice work!

The martial arts one is coming along nicely. One part that stuck out was around x176 where the poses could be stronger.
As you get further along, add some detail to the foot when he holds the pose at x40 (right now it's pointed up with the same rotation throughout, you could tense the foot more right before he goes into the next action, or relaxe it a bit, just keep it alive). Same with the head, it feels locked.
Would be cool to add some breathing or strong inhale/exhales during certain moments, gathering his strength before the next salve for instance.

Hope that helps!


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John Nevarez

Take a break from animating and check out John Nevarez' blog. There are lots of really talented artists out there with fantastic blogs, which can be really inspirational in terms of posing, design, composition (like Gabriele Pennacchioli's one-drawing story), but I always visit John Nevarez' blog, because not only do you get to see what he's up to, you also get posts with TONS (and I mean TONS) of links to other insanely talented artists.

The variety of artwork is great, you get really inspired to create unique characters and to place them in powerful backgrounds. Sometimes there's just a very strong hand/finger pose, or the interaction between multiple characters or the composition using a small and a big character, a certain facial expression, etc. etc. but there is always something cool.

It will take you a long time to go through all the posts and links, but whenever you have time, start your journey into holy-moly land.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Does your browser crash?

I'm using Quicktime 7. 2 - Firefox - Flash 9,0,47,0 - on 4 different systems (different configurations), Firefox and Mozilla 1.7.7 at work, nothing happens. If anybody finds any solution, please let me know.

Jeff (THANKS!!!!) posted this in the comment section:

...actually there's a new quicktime bug that crashes all browsers, that happens every time it updates itself. try this...go into..

quicktime preferences
direct X
disable enable directDraw accelleration, secondary monitors, and video accelleration.

all should be well.


So, I asked around and no one is having browser crashing problems except my students (which sucks because you guys really need to be able to read the posts). Here is a reply I got from a "tester" which might help:

They can try emptying their cache.


Clearing Cache on Firefox 2.0 for Macintosh

1. Open Firefox.
2. Click the Firefox menu and select Preferences.
3. Click the Advanced icon and click the Network tab.
4. Click Clear Now under the Cache section.
5. Click the "X" in the top left corner to close the Advanced window.
6. Exit and re-launch the browser.


Clearing Cache on Microsoft® Internet Explorer 7.0

1. Click Start and select Settings, then Control Panel.
2. Double-click Internet Options.
3. Click the General tab.
4. Click Delete under the Browsing History section.
5. Click Delete Files in the Delete Browsing History dialog box.
6. Click OK.
7. Click Close.
8. Close and relaunch your browser.

Clearing Cache on Microsoft® Internet Explorer 6.0

1. Click Start and select Settings, then Control Panel.
2. Double-click Internet Options to open Internet Properties.
3. Click Delete Files.
4. Click OK on the Delete Files dialog box.
5. Click OK.

Clearing Cache on Firefox 2.0

1. Click Tools and select Options.
2. Click the Privacy icon.
3. Click Clear Now in the Private Data area.
4. Click Ok.
5. Exit and relaunch the browser

Also try flushing your DNS cache.

open a command line in windows. Start > Run > (type: CMD)
in the DOS terminal type:
ipconfig /flushdns

So, give that a try.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Blocking Stages

For some curious reason I've received numerous emails from students expressing their dissatisfaction with their clip, even going as far as stopping to work on it completely (curious because they all arrived pretty much at the same time). All of them were in the blocking to blocking+/polish stages, where the main ideas are in it, but not all the details.

If you have a clip which is very subtle, the basic blocking might look very boring to you (that happens even with action pieces btw.). Don't give up, trust your instincts. If you liked the idea at the beginning, hold on to it. It's normal that you get bored or frustrated after seeing your clip a hundred times. Work on a 2nd clip to change your ideas and to keep a fresh eye.

Sometimes the "wow" factor lies within the polish. Just make sure that the foundation, the blocking, is in place and go from there.

Justin Barrett has an interesting breakdown of his Puss in Boots clip, from acting reference to final polish. There is even a clip with 4 stages shown at the same time. Read through his breakdown here.

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Animation Mentor: Advanced Work-flow - Two Medium Approach

Another article in the current AM Newsletter is "Advanced Work-flow: Using A Two-Medium Approach" by Kenny Roy. He says about this method:

Simply put, TMA is the practice of switching between hand drawn and CG animation, whenever one method offers a better way to overcome an animation obstacle.

It's interesting to see that this work-flow is being covered right now. A few days ago there was a post on the Spline Doctor's blog, which started as a 2D animation software recommendation. They mention that students should learn 2D animation before tackling the 3D version of it. The comments to the post mention an AM work-flow involving 2D and 3D animation. So go through those comments and you'll end up with tons of useful links about 2D software.

But back to the main topic. The work-flow is not for everyone, since basic drawing skills are a minimum. It's all about saving time and getting to your animation as quickly as you can, so bypassing a complex rig and drawing your poses can be great. But if you can't draw at all, you might take the same amount of time. Just go through the Pros and Cons he lists and you'll see if this method is for you.
There are also clips that illustrate the method. It's definitely an interesting approach and you should at least try it. Greasepencil by Jason Schleifer is also very cool, a script that let's you draw inside Maya.

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Animation Mentor Fall 2007 Student Showcase

Alright, ready for a big piece of humble pie and a refill on motivation?

Stop whatever you're doing and watch the AM Student Showcase 07.

It's fantastic and humbling to see how high the bar is now in terms of student work.

Perfect example up front, Nathan Engelhardt's Body Mechanics clip with the cave men. It could just be a weight assignment, but there is so much that makes this clip stand out. First of course, the animation. It's very well done and funny, the emotions are clear and the character seems alive. There is also interaction with the set, as he pushes away his tools during the struggle.
The 2nd guy adds humor to the whole "exercise" and gives it a little story. Also a good incorporation of a cycle (with some extra tweaks to disguise the cycle).
The composition is clear. Even though the character is right smack in the middle of the frame, the emphasis is on the stone, which occupies most of the left screen half. He's standing in front of the sky, which makes his silhouette clear, there's nothing busy behind him.
It's not just an empty space, it's an actual location and the character is part of it. He's wearing his little loincloth. The landscape is not just flat, it's a bit uneven where he stands, there are hills and rocks in the background and stones and bones in the foreground. Nice touch how the foreground and background are out of focus, adding depth to the scene.

All of this doesn't require any technical skills (besides the animation mechanics of course). There are no crazy modeling skills necessary, this should all be doable.

The visual icing on the cake are the textures. The stone, the landscape, the exaggerate form of the clouds, beautiful. The lighting works also very well.
The rocks and the sky could be taken from an image and not be actual geometry. But the realistic stone texture makes it all work together and nothing stands out as out of place.

But that "little" extra requires skills beyond animation and basic modeling. I would always spend the extra time on animation. When you feel that the animation works and you have free time, then you can work on the extra visuals.

Either way though, this is what students do, that's the current level.

As you continue watching the reel, you start to wonder if all the students took extra texturing classes, since all the sets look very nice (even the snow on the 2nd clip). :)

Another fantastic clip is the two character interaction one by Shad Bradbury. I've always been waiting to see a clip like that (since most clips online are about one or two characters talking). This one shows a great feel for weight.
The struggle of the little guy lifting/pushing/pulling the heavy one is great, but I'm actually always watching how the heavy one moves. The way the body feels heavy and squishy is great. A bit cliche maybe but to push it further you could put those characters in a warzone or some environment which makes it clear why he's pulling his buddy. Yes, it's the desert and he wants to help/save him, but a more interesting set and maybe interaction with it would have been top notch.

There is a lot more in that reel, so please check it out, it's well worth the time.

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Critique - Walk & Run

The walk:

Front view: your body is missing the left/right translation. So let's say during x10 (and of course for the other side as well), his weight needs to be over the screen right leg. Right now your body just goes up and down.
The head could also use some stabilizing, right now it swings with the body left/right. If you pick the middle part of the head, it should more or less stay in the middle with some overlap, but your head swings from left to right a lot.
The right arm more so than the left one hits a wall towards x32/x1. It does an outside swing, then comes in a bit until said frames and hits a wall for a few frames. Make sure that the arc continues throughout the loop.

Side view: the feet are sliding, it looks like they snap down and backwards, slow down, then accelerate before the lift off.
There is a hiccup in the spacing on his left arm, it seems to slow down around x10, then speeds up again.
The hands are too early in terms of drag and overlap. Look at x32, the arm just finished its backward swing yet the hand is already rotated back (delay that by 2 or 3 frames and I would actually lessen the rotation a bit).
His head could use a bit more nose up/down, when the body goes up the head drags a bit with its nose down and vice versa on the down.

The run:

seems good except one major thing: there is a giant snap during frames 1 to 2 and 15 to 16, as if he got hit by a giant hammer!!


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Animation Mentor Newsletter - Oct 07 Issue #27

The new Animation Mentor Newsletter arrived yesterday and I hope everybody signed up for it.

The highlights are:

The 11 Second Club revealed!
- AM is now sponsoring the site and the future looks bright!

"The Briefcase" short by Jimmy Almeida - I met Jimmy and he's a very talented and funny guy, same goes with his animated short. Make sure to check it out.

Profile on Dave Burgess
- Dreamworks Feature Animator

Profile on Megan Hobby
- AM Alumni

There is more, but they warrant their separate posts. Check out the links and sign up for the newsletter if you haven't already.

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Strong Poses and Planning

According to Jeff I "started this instructor blog craze" :) and I'm glad when other teachers are adopting this method (I doubt I "started" this method though). Whatever it takes to give students the most help they deserve.

And now that I'm checking out Jeff's animationaac blog, I'm glad he started the blog. He has a great link to Elliot Roberts' blog, which has a great post on strong poses.

He also has a super sweet outline for planning your shots from Clay's Animation Podcast site. Absolutely go check it out!

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We Were Centurions

Go to wewerecenturions.com and watch the clip. I feel bad for complaining about something (I hear my own voice going: Well how about you create a finished short instead of criticizing), but here it goes. This is (to me at least) an example of too much gesture acting, less would have been a lot more. If you characters have limited facial features, there is no need to act everything out with your arms/hands to compensate for it.

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Monday, October 8, 2007

Critique - "Jello"

This works a lot better, nicely done. If there is a way to put the screen right student more into frame, that would be good, so he's not that cut off.
The hands are fine, but as you get into a more refined stage you can add more business to them, instead of them just being cupped together, not too much, it's nice how it's a bit contained before the outbreak, plus it lets you concentrate on the character's face. He could hold his hands together, rub them a little bit, relax the hands, stuff like that.
At the end, when he screams at the kid, I would have him look straight into his face, not looking down the way it is now.

Basics are blocked out, now you can put all the good stuff in it! Can't wait to see it!


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