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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Critique - GI Walk

The walk is funny, love the Norman tweak (never ceases to amaze me what people can do with that rig).

This might just be that annoying last frame in quicktime which gives cycles that extra pause (how do you get rid of that??!?), but double check your feet that they're not slowing down towards the end before they get off the ground. Something I would tone down is the floppiness of the toes before the plant. As the foot goes up and down, the toes go up, which gives it a lot of overlap. Maybe that's just my "realistic" brainwash I get from ILM :) but I think of military, then hard boots, then no toe overlap because of boots.
Something else sticks out. Look at x11, the leg is up, then shoots down for the plant till x14, but during that time the upper body is not going down at all. I would start going down because right now from x14 to 15 the body suddenly goes down for two frames. It makes it very poppy during normal playback. Don't soften the body too much, but make it a bit smoother as it starts going down, it will take out the snappiness of the gun moving down as well. I like the helmet animation :). Same goes for the up actually. As it reaches the apex, keep it going up ever so slightly to really milk that moment.
The mouth is interesting, but why is he opening it? Is it part of a marching song or some yell as he walks?

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Critique - Walk

Looks good! Huge improvement!

The upper body and head have a great attitude to it, nice!

What sticks out are his arms. Plus his screen right foot (front view) is sliding to the right as it moves back. The feet also need to get rotated out a bit (not so straight default looking), as well as his knees.
(sideview): as his left foot goes back the spacing changes (it needs to stay linear with even spacing). x3 to x4 has a bigger move than before. From x13 to x14 the spacing is too small, then there's a huge move to x15. So if you fix x14 it should fix the spacing before and after. But after that, fix the spacing from x16 on. From x15 to 16 it's pretty small, but then to 17 it's a big movement forward. Bring the foot back on frame 17 and make the step forward more gradual in terms of spacing.
Now the right foot (still sideview): same here when the foot gets off the ground. On x2 the foot could be further back. After that it's okay until x11. It gets to x11 but x12 and 13 has the foot in pretty much the same spot. Keep the forward movement going and then have the foot plant. Finish the arc the foot is on as it moves forward taking the step.

Keep going!

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Critique - Manager

Ok. First off, I love the pens... :)

I like the overall feel, nicely done. Now that it's been so long since I last saw it, I wonder if the hand readjustment around x210 is needed (I can already see you rolling your eyes :) ). Maybe it's because there's a lot of body and shoulder adjustment while he does hit. I would tone those down 50% but keep the hand, I wonder how it looks like. I think it would make it more like a cool subtle detail as opposed to selling that move to the audience, which would distract from the face. Might just be me though (you know me, I always go for less is more). Give it a shot. :)

Let's look at the face (I'm going to crit top to bottom). I like the head movements. The eyebrows are good, but maybe a tad busy? One thing though is, the eyebrows seem to just go up and curl down, but never curl up (up being like a an "n", down like a "u" - if that makes sense shape wise). It sticks out to me during x274, when just the screen left eyebrow goes up. It would be neat to have a nicer line through the brows. For reference, go to Carlos Baenas' new site and under resources or tricks (don't know right now), you'll find a page about brows, very cool.

The brow busy part is mostly after x290 or so. They go down, then up at 314 (I would tone that down 70%), then down again around 330 which is good though, but it starts adding up. So tone that one down, then I would keep the down instead of going up around x345 until around x370 where they go up again. I think it would add a stillness and nice pause before the "I'm sorry" part. Otherwise it just gets too busy.

The eyes. There's a weird counter move around x119. He looks screen left, keep it like that. Right now you have them going toward screen right as the head moves screen left and then they seem to move screen left as the head turns screen right again. Might just be an optical thing, or me, but try to keep a steady gaze. Then there's a quite a big move from x242 to 243. It's a big eye shift over one frame, plus they are really close to the eye corners. Lessen how far they move screen right. You can break it up between little eye darts. Another big eye dart is at x281 to 282. It feels even bigger because the eye lids move so much.

Lip synch is pretty good, there's a section though around x311 which stays the same for a while. It's a very small default feeling shape. Goes till x363 or so but even after that it kinda stays like that. I'm missing mouth corner variation. Not that you would want to make it all too busy and mushy, but try to get some asymmetry in there.

Upper body. There's a screen left/counter clock rotation at x135 that's mostly in the body (maybe a bit in the head too) which feels too fast and it ends to abruptly at x137. Keep the rotation going for 2 or 3 frames, ease into that stop. Then there's a forward and clockwise rotation starting at x197 which feels too separate. First he bends over till x203 (the head also goes with it a lot, which gives it this "one unit" feel to it). Then at x204 he rotates to the right until x209. That move also stops too quickly. Like I mentioned before, tone that whole body move down and combine the two rotations to make it more organic and less robotic.

Now the shoulders. This is going to screw you up but I would tone those down a lot. One thing that sticks out is how low they are. Look at x113, that's a good position. It's easier for us to lift up the shoulders. Moving them down is a really forced move. Unless we rotate them forward, more like a slouch. It's good to implement shoulder animation, it's often forgotten, but in your case I feel that they are too isolated, they move too much. Take x112 for instance. Around there you have the screen left shoulder move down very slowly til x128, which makes it a bit swimmy and isolated. Around the 200 area, tone down the height. You already have to tone down the upper body rotation, so maybe that's enough, but you might have to move the shoulder down a bit. The way it is now makes the move down from x241 to around x269 a very big one (it's also very slow, which gives it that uncontrolled, swimmy, spliney feel). Then on x319 the screen right shoulder, which is already low, starts to go even lower till around x335.

Looking at the hips I realized what makes the upper body/head movement from x198 to x210 so detached. The lower body and especially the hips are not moving. It feels very stiff. No need to add crazy movement, but some keep alive would be nice.

Changing the upper body and shoulders will alter your arm curves so try to keep them the way you have them now, because they're good. One thing though, check x284, the pose of the screen left arm with the hand on the tie. The wrist is cranked up a bit too much for my taste, it feels a bit broken. Tone that down a bit.

That's it. :)

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Ray Harryhausen

SFGate got a nice article about the legendary Ray Harryhausen. I can already see blank stares from you guys in class. Now imagine me going "Whhhatt???!" So go and check out at least "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad", "Clash of the Titans" and "Jason and the Argonauts".

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Critique - Walk cycle

Alright, a few things:

He has really long arms. I don't see why, but for some reason they look really long. :)

Let's start with the rig. He looks a bit weird with that big stomach. Weird because you can only tell by the sideview. From the front he looks normal. Plus he has skinny arms and legs. I would just get rid of the big belly. Right now it doesn't really add anything to the character.

Animation wise what stuck out immediately are his arms. They are very choppy in terms of movement because there are too many pauses and stops during the swings, they also need to swing back a bit more. The first pause is at x9 for a few frames, then at x21 and x28. Keep the swing uninterrupted. His left arm is also swinging too early. The end of the arm swing should be a few frames after right leg ends the forward step.

I would also add a tiny bit of side to side body movement (front view). He looks a bit locked off (especially that geometry piece above the hips).

The screen right hand's rotation is also a bit mechanical (front view) how it rotates at around x15.
Your screen right foot (front view again) is sliding towards the right after x12. It's also not moving backwards from x1 to x2 (side view). There can't be any pauses the moment the foot touches the ground.

You also have to have your feet roll off the ground. Look at x15 til x19. It looks like the foot just slides forwards. The foot needs to get off the ground and roll back a bit.
Good reference for that can be found @ Catty Wampus (love that name)

I would also rotate the feet out overall (front view). Even though they rotate out during the step, once they are on the ground they are straight forward again, default pose style.

Check out reference clips here and here.

The weight shifts in your hips are also happening a bit late, move it 2 or 3 frames earlier. The hips go up when the weight is on the leg. You have it go up after the passing pose. I also don't see too much Y rotation in the hips, don't forget to put that in there.

The head (front view) is also showing a few pops as it swings from side to side. Check your spine curves or your root (probably both). Make sure that you don't have unnecessary keys, double keys, etc.

Let's start with those fixes.

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Art-of Books

I'm a huge fan of Art-of books and I'm looking forward to the "The Art of Kung Fu Panda" one and the one from "WALL.E ".

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Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who - Video Clips

Yahoo got two new clips. I love the animation, I just wish Horton would move a bit slower.. Bluesky really has top animators there and a unique style. Don't forget they are at the AAU tomorrow!

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Acting Reference: Die Hard

One of the really hard things to pull off is to inject personality into your cg characters. You're so occupied by making the motions believable and getting rid of pops and tweaking arcs, and on top of that you have to make the character unique and entertaining? Definitely not easy. Even animated features don't always pull it off.
But when it works, it's really a blast. Edna Mode from "The Incredibles" comes to mind. Such a fun character.

It's really difficult for animators who work on a single shot for their demo reel. A movie (or short to some extend) gives a character the possibility to grow and change. You have about 90 mins to get to know the characters, so sometimes after 80mins of a character being insane, one single shot of stillness could be hilarious. But if you take that shot out of context, it could fall flat. How can you show a substantial character arc within a 5 second shot? How can you make your character NOT look like your typical Norman/Hogan/Generi/etc. guy doing an animation exercise? I wish I could give you a MEL script that answers that question (although that would take the fun and challenge away...).

All I can say is study real life, study actors, study all types of reference. Think about the situation the character's in, think about a backstory, anything that gives the character personality. Make the character a unique living individual. To me that's what I'm missing when I check out student work. When you look at all the demo reels out there (by students), it's safe to say that the majority shows a 20 to 25 year old, well built white male, doing some goofy stuff, or lifting boxes, or walking in place going nowhere. :)

I'm exaggerating but I think you get my point. Of course it's really easy to write this and tell you guys to animate an Oscar worthy performance that lasts only a few seconds. It's very easy, but it's incredibly hard to do. Everybody is struggling with it, not just students.
With the flexibility that the Norman rig offers, we're starting to see different characters, young, old, male, female, etc. That's good stuff, keep it going, keep them coming!

Now what does this have to do with Die Hard? Well, it brings me to a handful of sequences that Hart Bochner is in. He plays Harry Ellis. The ultimate douche bag. The moment you see him in the movie you know he's an ass. An arrogant fool. But I love it. I picked out this sequence because you could take single shots out of this and his character would still be clear. The moment he walks in, every gesture, every posture just screams "I AM A DOUCHE BAG." :)

Watch for yourself:

I can take a few frames out of all that, but it's his movement, his timing that sells the attitude.

Now, within this over the top performance there are two little moments that I love. One, watch the face of Hans Gruber, played by Alan Rickman, around the 55 sec mark after he leans forward. Before he talks, there's a little moment where his face shows almost disgust. Might just be me but that moment still cracks me up. Internally he must be ready to barf after Ellis' speech. I also love it because don't think about the audio clip in your shot as the main selling point. Sometimes it's the little things during the pauses that make the shot stand out.

The other one is the framing of Ellis and the evil blond henchman. All you can see is the top part of the head, mainly his eyes. But they tell you a lot!

So again, look at how he walks in, how he leans back, how he uses his hands, his face, how he sits down and delivers that grin, etc. What a douche bag, love it!

Another section in Die Hard I wanted to point out is not acting related, but more about a film making rule and how subtle yet successfully it is being implemented in this sequence.
It was either the commentary or a making-of that made me aware of it and I've been paying attention to that ever since. It's not huge, people might not even care or won't have to care about in their one character shot, but as always, I love to nerd out on things and wanted to share it with you guys.

Every rule is there to be broken of course, but usually filmmakers stick to it. In this case it's about in which direction the actors are looking when they are talking to each other. Well, usually we are look at each other, right? But in a movie, you have to make sure that when character A is looking screen right, while talking to Character B, that Character B is looking screen left, otherwise it can get a bit confusing (are they talking to Character C?).

What I like about this sequence is how multiple characters are introduced and how Bruce Willis moves around in order to stick to that above mentioned rule. Let's take a look:

The shot starts with John McLane (Bruce Willis) talking to Sgt. Al Powell (Reginal VelJohnson). McLane looks screen right, followed by Powell looking screen left, establishing (if it wasn't already obvious from an audio point of view) that they are talking to each other. Then you hear Gruber joining them off screen.

Since a new person is being introduced, it would be confusing to have McLane look screen right, so he turns around and as Gruber's introduction comes to an end, McLane ends up looking screen left.

So now we have them looking at each other, perfect. The way McLane turns is subtle and doesn't draw attention to itself, but it's needed in order to not brake the rule. After a while another character joins the threesome, this time it's Ellis, our favorite douche bag.

And you'll see McLane do the same thing as before, again, not in a flashy way, it's done over time and across cuts, but nevertheless, eventually McLane and Ellis are facing each other.

Subtle, manipulative and audience directing techniques, love it. So many times those tricks are hidden. Just pay attention to colors which convey a certain mood, lighting that makes the main actor stick out just a little bit more than anybody else, etc. etc.

Again, not that you would have to think about all that in a shot with just a single character, but if you happen to have more and there is dialogue with them across different shots, might as well play around with those techniques.

Video clip(s) are for educational purposes only
Copyright © 1998 by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
All Rights Reserved.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ratatouille wins!


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Flyboys - plane animation

Wow, that movie sure wasn't my thing. I didn't expect much but the acting (especially by Jean Reno) is sooo bad.

The dogfights on the other hand were pretty cool. Most of the times the physics felt believable and there weren't a lot of scenes where the animation stood out as totally fake. In this clip I liked the maneuver.

Video clip(s) are for educational purposes only
Copyright © 2006 Electric Distribution (Flyboys) Ltd.
All Rights Reserved.

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