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!).