Thursday, May 13, 2010

SIGGRAPH 2010 - It's no NAB!

SIGGRAPH is an annual conference held in Los Angeles for computer graphics and things related to computers and that industry. SIGGRAPH stands for Special Interest Group on GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques. It's something I've heard about for years, investigated things via the net during or after it happens and only dreamed of going to. Is it nerdy? Yes. Is it my cup of tea, mooooost definitely.

So, about 3 months ago I applied to be a student volunteer (through Animation Mentor) for SIGGRAPH 2010. I found out on Monday that I was accepted and I will be out there from July 24th to the 29th. Basically it involves me working for 30 hours over the course of 5 days with people who work in the animation, effects and motion graphics business. My payment is friendship, connections and a free pass to the exhibit and everything that's being displayed for when I'm not "working". It sounds absolutely awful.... but I guess I'll go. Hehehe.

I don't have a lot of info yet, like my schedule, free time, what I'm doing or whatever, but I do know I'm going! I'll keep this blog up to date about my trip and when I'm out there. No, really, I will. I swear, better than my assignment updates... maybe. :D

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Stewie Soccer Throw In - Polish

So here's the final pass I handed in. The arms are "hitchy" to say the least. I talked a few things out with Marlon, both in the Q&A as well as letting him know when I turned the assignment in, and he gave me some great advice. Another cool thing was the video lecture this week actually talked about a few things the AM rig has to counter act my issues. I plan on redoing the arms for this animation in the next few weeks, so expect an update!

Overall, I'm not satisfied with this one, mostly because I didn't give myself enough time to finish it. It's something I do not plan on doing again! Animation-wise, if I hide the arms, I really like it and think it has some potential. I'd like to work on some of the easing, maybe speed up the throw and also do something with the end of the throw in where his arms extend (offset them so they don't hit at the same time, etc).

Final... for now.

Until next time... and let's hope that isn't another 3 weeks!

Blocking Plus -Soccer Throw-In

Man, I have been slacking when it comes to posts. I can't even make my once a week! **sigh** Sorry to all 4 people who read this blog! Anyway, here's my blocking for the soccer throw in, part of my AnimJam for class 3. I've received very little in the way of critique about this, in a good way. Marlon really dug it and thought it was going to be a really strong animation. I like it myself, but I noticed a serious issue with the arm controls and how Maya is handling the animation (you'll see it in my polished phase, and I think I learned a way to combat it for further assignments!). Anyway, without further ado!

Stewie the All-Star Soccer Guy

Oh yeah, and I left my reference video on the end of this one. Marlon asks us to submit it every weeks tacked on after our animation so he can show us where we may have strayed, issues to work around, etc. I seriously think not shooting reference was one of my biggest issues before AM. I would just wing it and, well, we see where that got me!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

No Rioting, Please...

It's the start of another session at AM, and this time my class is in Advanced Body Mechanics. My mentor is Marlon Nowe, who has worked at Blur studios, Rhythm and Hues, and is currently animating at Disney Animation Studios (animator on Rapunzel/Tangled). He's a really cool guy and I can tell already, he expects a lot out of his class. This is a really good thing! It's going to be a tough semester, but I think I can hang!

The first spin of the semester! We weren't given a pick list this time (list of 10 or so animations to choose from), but rather expected to come up with our own ideas. We also had to decide if we wanted to do an "Anim Exercise" (3 totally different animations/themes) or an "Anim Jam" (3 animations with the same theme, but not a short). I went with Anim Jam, and more specifically 3 soccer related animations. I thought I could get some subtle stuff in there as well as some really big actions so I could practice (or learn!) the whole gamut of a realistic style. So, here's the blocking for my first shot - a traditional soccer throw in.

"Only Americans would call a game you play with your hands football..."

So far I think it's working well. Marlon had a few things to comment about my silhouettes (i.e. - the ball and head were visually "touching" in one pose and it needed some negative space) but overall, he was pretty positive. I felt good about it especially since I didn't feel like I spent enough time on it before I had to rush and turn it in. I need to be a bit more stringent with my time, but if you know me, you know I'm a procrastinator! Hehe. Anyway, I'm off to Blocking Plus this week so it will have a lot more breakdowns and probably hit spline mode before I turn it in. Here's hoping for no red cards....

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Final Assignment - Finished.... for now.

So, I made it through another class. I'm really stoked about the progress I've made and I can directly attribute that to my mentor, Steve Cady. The dude is just plain awesome. He nitpicked the little stuff, but that's what makes or breaks a great piece (in my opinion). He gave me great suggestions, his classes were seriously informative (using students pieces to show how he would do things, etc) and he was just a really nice guy. OK, enough butt kissing... ANIMATION TIME!

Here's what I handed in for my final assignment. I really like it, but there are a few things I want to go back and polish or just straighten out. Overall, I feel that I really got a better grasp on overlapping actions, smoothing some motions out, etc. Plus, I survived the dreaded Gimbal Lock and walked away, alive!

Stewie, man of few words and many actions.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Parkour - Polishing

I'm heading to the final 10% this week. I've started to clean up my splines, fix issues and whatnot, now I just need to get that last little bit so it kicks hind quarters. Last update for this project on Sunday!

Stewie-man, Stewie-man. Does everything that a
Stewie-man can.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Parkour - Gimbal Lock And Other Fun Stuff

So Steve really liked my blocking for the Parkour. He gave some really great tips to enhance some poses and that he felt I would be really happy with this animation when I'm done. Apparently he wanted to build me up before this week when I wandered in to the wonderful world of Gimbal Lock! (no offense to Steve, of course!).

Sooo, Gimbal Lock.. aaah, good times. If you don't know what it is and for some crazy reason, interested in it, check it out here. Essentially, it crept up in my project when Stewie was doing a lot of flips. The torso would look fine in blocking but as soon as I went to spline, he was twisting like a pretzel. The torso would rotate on all three axis several times over a short span of frames. OUCH! Hehehe. Anyway, hours later I had it all straightened out, but it still got me very frustrated. I'm sure this isn't the last time either!

I'm fairly happy with this phase of the animation, but I know I have plenty of work ahead of me. I need to add some more overlap to the places where he stops quickly, like the wall jumps or the landings, but at least I know they're needed. I also have to smooth a ton out, lock planted feet in place... the list goes on and on. I only have 2 weeks to finish up before this class is over. Better get a move on!

Parkour - Insane even with pixels!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Final Assignment This Session - Parkour - Blocking

Here's the blocking stages of my last assignment for Psychology of Body Mechanics. It's based off of Parkour, or Free Running. It's a fascinating and insane sport. I watched a National Geographic Fight Science episode where a guy jumped off a platform over one story high, flipped, landed, rolled and posed all macho for the camera. NUTS!

Anyway, here's the blocking stage. I have some work to do but I think this will easily be the best assignment I've done yet. It's a lot of fun, but I know it's going to be tough. Oh, did I mention it's the hardest thing on the pick list (we're given a list of choices and each has an assigned difficulty)... plus I chose the model with arms and hands because I wanted to do wall hangs. Ugh... I must be a masochist...

Thumbnails of Stewie going on a Parkour adventure

Detailed info about the key poses I wanted to get right.

Flying and Flipping!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Box Jump - Final

Here's the final box jump assignment. I've learned a lot about lead and follow with this assignment and how I want to work for the next piece. This is still in the "OK" range for me, but I know it's a step in the process of learning.

Moving on...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Box Jump - Blocking

Here's my blocking for my new assignment, jumping on and off a box. I decided to keep this one "simple" (quotes because it's sooo not!) and just get the basics perfect. Steve gave me some great feedback, taking to heart that I asked him to be brutal. He liked the side step and settle on the top of the box, a lot of my reversals (C-shaped poses that start one way and then switch - see the jumps) and how I led my actions with the eyes. Other than that, he let me know where I was going off course and I think his critique was dead on.

Key poses from my sketchbook

Planning the animation

Why would he walk around the box?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Pendulum of My Life

I'm a self taught animator and 3D modeler (until I went to AM, that is) so most of my expertise comes from the trial and error I had to go through while reading every book I could get my hands on. I had such a desire to learn that I wanted to absorb an idea, focus on how to master that tool or technique by constantly using it in my work and then continue the process with another book or tutorial. It seemed to work, but then I also found myself trying areas of the programs just to see what it did or how I could maximize it's potential (to this day I love using procedural textures over texture maps for this reason!). Many years after the fact, I started to recognize a trend in my work from this type of experimenting - the pendulum.

I started to notice objects that I built (rarely did I animate since it intimidated me) very much resembled a pendulum to me, figuratively speaking of course. Thinking of how a typical pendulum works, lets say, in a grandfather clock, it swings back and forth, left and right, each time hitting a peak and reversing direction. As each project was completed, I would start at the peak of the arc (few polygons and low resolution texture map, lets say) and then a few projects later it would swing the completely different direction (tons of polygons and gigantic texture map). I would create every nook and cranny in something that would be 200 feet from the 3D camera with texture maps that were 40 megabytes in size! That's INSANE! So, back the other way I would go, but I wouldn't swing all the way to the extreme peak this time.

Slowly I started to find my sweet spot as I would work on each object (over months and even years, mind you) until the pendulum slowly started to come to the center. I learned what was good for close up objects and what you could do to make something believable when it only occupied a small amount of screen space. Polygon numbers became reasonable. I experimented with object resolution depending on camera distance (snooze-fest for the non-geeky, I know). Anything to optimize my work.

By 2008, I really felt like the pendulum was moving so minutely, it was almost invisible. I had found the sweet spot for my work and was pretty darn proud.

So, what's that have to do with Animation Mentor? A lot. Every piece I do here is a huge swing in my pendulum of working through my learning process. I'm going to over animate a lot... then I'm going to forget about all sorts of rotations and movements just to start another project that I'll over due again, but this time I'll learn not to put so much in to the hips or something. So, you see where I'm going with this. It's the little "failures" if you will, that I'll discover and realize that they aren't wrong, just not tuned yet. Stuff's swinging all over the place, but as I polish my skills, the pendulum I finally animate in a few years will be so badass that it will be a trophy of my travels through learning animation.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Princess and the Frog Q&A

A few times a session Animation Mentor has question and answer sessions with animators from specific movies or projects. Last night I had the opportunity to listen to T. Dan Hofstedt, an animator on The Princess and the Frog. I'll admit now, I have yet to see the movie, but it's on the "must buy" list when it comes out on BluRay in March. Anyway, T. Dan is a mentor at AM as well as so he was pretty familiar with the process and made sure he gave people plenty of time to ask questions (all of which were really good!). He gave some great insight on the 2D process, how he made it to where he was (his dad was actually a caricature artist for Disneyland in the 60's) and his work flow. Pretty cool.

A great section of the Q&A had to be the drawings he was showing us and the final sections he worked on. He was responsible (lead animator) for the band in the movie and the character designs and animations. It was cool to see the evolution of the characters as well as the process in to how they would move, the traditional techniques used for motion blur (drawing several drumsticks instead of one, smears, "dry brush", etc).

I think the best part was the inclusion of Frank Thomas, one of Disney's Nine Old Men, as the piano player in the band. It seems to be a cool homage that animator's love to do, previously showing up in Pixar's Incredibles (Frank and Ollie, to be specific) and the Iron Giant. It's something that "those in the know" will get, but I don't think of it as an inside joke as much as these guys have a real love of these guys and what they gave animation. It's their way of showing that because, well, these guys are why we get to do what we love.

"That's the way to do it. That's old school."
"No school like the old school."

Anyway, it was enlightening to see the process, inspiring to hear that what I'm going through is "normal" (or called learning!), and that 2D animation is very much alive and people will embrace it. *sigh* :D

Monday, February 1, 2010

Gap Jump - Final

I finished my gap jump this week and I'm moving on to another assignment. I think this turned out well but I would have liked to polish a few more things. Steve gave me some great feedback and helped push this animation a lot further, telling me what worked, what didn't and where I could take parts to the next level. I'll be getting a review in the next day or so and I'm sure he'll have a ton more to help me out. Very cool.

Love the hop!

EDIT: So, I got my eCritique for this and I have to say, it opened my eyes to a lot of things. Here's the major points of what Steve had to say:

1) The run is too floaty - I need to speed it up some and make him really tear in there if he is going to hop to a stop.

2) The hop doesn't have any overlap - I need to show the hop affecting the ball/hips as he stops.

3) The ending where he's off balance needs a quicker transition - I need to have him fall forward more and then quicly catch himself with his extended foot.

4) Overall check on my arcs - There's a tool for this and I know I have to use it more.

Anyway, good eCrit and I already know how I'm going to attack my next project, jumping on a box (keeping it simpler to make sure I nail it!).

Monday, January 25, 2010

Gap Jump - Planning and Blocking

Here's my first assignment. This one will span 4 weeks (planning, blocking, blocking plus, polish) and I'll turn each step in for Steve to review and give me feedback. So far he's liked what he's seen but has also given some great critiques such as not doing two things at once. For example, I had Ballie stopping at the edge of the gap on one foot and, as he gained his balance by sticking the other foot out, he shot upwards to help himself out. Steve suggested I have him shoot up and, at his peek, shoot that leg out and move in to a hold. Man, that little difference was huge. But I guess that's why he's the mentor and I'm the student!

So far so good. I'm in the Blocking Plus stage and I've adjusted the timing a bit so the jump is faster, some holds are a touch longer or exaggerated and some other tweaks. I'll be posting the splined animation soon but here's my blocking and planning stages.

Quick sketches, notes and detailed doodles.

Planning out specific poses that I wanted to nail.

Gap jump Blocking

Class 2 - Psychology of Body Mechanics

Just a quick blurb about my next class. I'm pretty stoked about this one (shocking, I know) because I'm taking the basics I learned and applying them to a few different animations that I get to choose over 12 weeks. My mentor is Steve Cady, a great guy who has worked on flicks, like Avatar, Scooby Doo, Watchmen (GAH!!!), and is currently working in games via BlueCastleGames. His Q&A's are really cool because he shows us things he's worked on in the past (drawings, planning, blocking, final renders) and then gives us his tips and tricks. This is the best way to learn for me, seeing it go down! I'm pretty stoked, as I'm sure you've heard!

Stu - Balance

Final pose assignment of Stu balancing. One thing Mark told me throughout the class and made a final suggestion to was to push my poses. Squash them more, accentuate the angles, anyting to really push the idea I'm trying to portray. If I've taken anything from my first class it's that I'm conservative. Yep, you read that right... me... conservative. Hehehe.

Sketches for balance pose.
This is what reading Tony Hawk video game reviews does to me.

Weeeee! Nothin' Like a good manual!

Side Sneak - Final Class 1 Assignment

For whatever reason (probably dissatisfaction), I never uploaded my final assignment from Basic Foundations. Well, here it is. It's not great but I've come to the conclusion that I'm learning, of course it's not going to be perfect. I struggled, I found things I wished I had done differently, etc, but that's the best part - I'm learning.

Anyway, the plan was a side sneak, which went awry for several reasons, but it's a stepping stone, and that's how I look at it.

Not so sneaky-pants.