Thursday, 13 December 2012

Artefact 2 progress, and today's tutorial

Some criticism I received about this include that I need to look into the hip action in the walking cycle. It needs more emphasis.

Sean commented on the way the character raises his left hand when he checks the bottom of his foot - it's a typical feature of human body language, that when attention is directed away from a body part it loses its drive and goes limp.

So far my research has taught me a bit about body language that was particularly informing in the blocking/storytelling poses pass. Practising animation is also enriching because I'm learning about the technical side. How to go from FK to IK, how to mask that transition. How to get the feet not to shift around too much when walking using the master control - I wanted to use this control particularly to do this.

My research has also planted some seeds for thought in my head that may come into fruition when I get into the animating and secondary action passes. Things like what to do with eye contact and character's hands. In the second paragraph I mentioned body parts going limp - the book I've read doesn't explicitly say this but a combination of what I've read about extremities being less under direct control and the experience of being a human make this one of those things that you realise you had a sense of but didn't know in such a precise manner.

I also come away from each tutorial session with a list of things I should do. Sean recommends making a collection of examples of secondary actions I can find from media that I can use to demonstrate what I mean by secondary action. It might be that I can also use this to form a directory where I can pull secondary actions from to replicate in my own work.
It might be worth noting what camera angles do to secondary action, as well. The shot controls what's being focussed on, would focussing on a secondary action make it a primary action?
Also what happens in terms of culture? Will all the secondary actions I pick work globally?

Going back to the limp hand a bit, Sean described this as a secondary action. This might open up a distinction between different types of secondary action - things a character does consciously, unconsciously, and the manner that a character does something. These things are all very vague though - thinking about them, the boundaries are immediately blurred. I'll come back to this!

I also have a plan for the next artefact, for secondary action - a character pouring themselves a drink. I am going to use secondary action to give multiple takes on this. This I hope will also help define what I mean by secondary action.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Begone Dull Care

I just watched this, and I have to say, despite it not having much of a story or characters to empathise with, it is quite entertaining and watchable.

The shapes and colours dance across the screen to the jazz and it just works. A great way to represent how jazz sounds in a visual medium.

Friday, 30 November 2012

The Floor Thing Story

OK, so one piece of advice I received in the last tutorial was that there needs to be some background for the piece of work I am working on. I need to know what kind of people the characters are, and what the thing on the floor is.

OK, so here goes -

Dave likes to take his time and appreciate things. He is annoyed with people, and other things with modern life always getting in the way. He is easily irritated and overreacts.

Bert is carefree and tries to look on the positive side of life. His easygoing-ness usually means people treat him well, but he is shy and doesn't enjoy being in difficult situations with other people.

The item on the floor I am going to identify as being a pretty large beetle with a shiny, jewel-like shell.

La Luna

La Luna, which is Pixar's original short shown before Brave, I can't praise enough.

It is so charming. It has no actual talking in it, just some European-sounding gobbledegook,  but the story is very clear and is just spectacular. Weaving stories like that, that is why I want to be an animator.

If you can get hold of it, watch it.

I shall be taking my copy into a tutorial to show the others!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Application of research - Artefact #2

The quality from playblast is always hit and miss.

I've been fairly quiet about what I have read in the Body Language book I've looked at, but in producing this video it has been useful, so I will take this opportunity to make a complimentary blog post with some details.

This book is more of a self-help book, teaching you how to better interact with others so you don't alienate yourself from them, or freak them out, or just plain come across in the wrong way. However there have been a couple of tips I have picked up that can be applied to characters.

Feet -

The extremities of the body are, well, extreme, and so the conscious control of them appears more difficult than that of your face. As such, your true feelings tend to leak out into your extremities without you realising this. The feet, in particular, although they can't say a whole range of things, do tend to be quite honest with what they are saying.

The key fact about feet is that they point in the direction of what you are interested in. So, someone's interested in talking to someone, their feet generally point towards them - we're picturing a scene where two people are talking face to face. If the other person is interested in getting away from that person, for whatever reason, their feet will tend to point away. This also applies to the torso in general - a torso that's pointing away from someone suggests an amount of unease in the situation.

Hands -

Hands are another extremity. They're closer to your brain and people tend to gesture a lot with them so they're under a fair amount of control. However feelings still tend to leak out into hands.
People hide their hands, or use their hands and sometimes arms, to hide parts of their body if they feel somewhat distressed or uneasy in the current situation.

This is all I'll cover for now because it's somewhat relevant in this video - the feet placement in particular was helpful with boosting these storytelling poses.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Don't Think, Feeeeeeeeeel

Ok, here is the blocking pass for Bruce Lee's character.
This video can stand as Artefact 1, although for those purposes I won't call it the complete Artefact 1 until the entire blocking pass is complete.

The poses are much better than the last version.
I also thought of how to get Bruce Lee's character to enter the scene. I'm not sure how well the footsteps will line up in terms of timing until I get onto the more fluid passes.

Lao is next, he shouldn't take as long because he's not got as many gestures to perform.

I haven't thought much about expressions yet. This is because I'm avoiding getting into lip sync this early. I might put in a few key ones before I move onto the next pass for Bruce Lee though, so the blocking performance is complete.

Storytelling poses

I am finding now that it's a good idea to step back after fiddling with a pose and simply try to read it to see what it says.
It's very easy to get caught up in how something moves or where something should go that you can't see the wood for the trees.

The Bruce Lee character in this short is very nearly done, in terms of blocking at least. All the way through! So look forward to it being uploaded later today.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Self-study week

This next week is self study week. Handy then that I just started to read a relevant book! Looking forward to seeing what I can learn from it.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Currently getting stuck into 'Body Language' by John Borg. It's kicking off with eye contact but even so I've picked up one or two things that may be handy for applying to characters.

It's interesting to read things that you've known all your life but haven't... kinda been aware of.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

3 things I like, and 3 I don't.

Starting off with things I like, here's #1:


Megamind, for me, is great. I think animation suits this type if thing, to make characters that can do things impossible in the real world.
Anyway, that's not the thing I like the most about it. I find it very funny! Some of the expressions in it are great!
They command some real empathy. You can connect with Megamind when he's in disguise as Bernard, and he talks to Roxanne about what she thinks of him.
Some of the gags in it are great too, one in particular that I like is when Metro man is being hit by objects and he doesn't even shift a bit. This is kinda a violation of the principles of animation, but it works so well!

For #2 I'm going to suggest a film I like:


There's a few reasons why I like it. One of those is because it deals with dreams, which I find fascinating. Another that it deals with the impossible, but in a fairly realistic way - it's a bit like the Matrix in that sense - A whole new world that brings its own rules that you can have an awful lot of fun testing out.
This particular picture from Inception I find striking. I like old stuff, really really old stuff that looks like it's been there for ages and totally forgotten about. It has a real sense of mystery. Things like this remind me of a dream I once had where I stumbled across these three huge spires that were so incredibly large they were mind-blowing. It almost hurt to dream about it. Since then I've just found old things like those buildings (the smaller of which I found out is a real building. (OK I found out that it's not a real building but there's a place called Liepaja in Latvia that looks very similar.))


If I could recreate that sense of scale awe in 3D I'd be very happy.
I suppose you could say that the reason why I like Inception, and this stuff, is because it triggers a deep down sense of adventure. And Inception is totally badass, there is that.


Japanese Cartoons.

I think the main reason why I like Japanese cartoons is because they are about much better things than you tend to get in western cartoons, certainly back in the day. Oh, and there seems to be a whole lot more of them.

Where else can you watch a cartoon where someone's took on the role of the grim reaper, or is the pilot of a massive robot, or is some type of ninja? If only they had played these cartoons on a proper channel when I was young, not a cable one. Then I would have never left the house! Actually, thinking about it, that's probably a bad thing.

I'm a fan of some of the episode-based anime. I enjoy watching stories unfold over the course of a few episodes, but there are some shortfalls to this. One of which is the quality of the animation - having to pump out a new episode every week (or the equivalent) means they have to cut some corners. Scenes with characters standing still, repeated animation, still things that move over the screen, is all disappointing. So is reducing the frame rate of action sequences. That's cheating!

This is where Studio Ghibli films come in. Some of their films are fascinating and because they've not got the same time constraints they can take their time with their animation, resulting in some beautiful films.


Things I don't like:


Old Disney cartoons - I don't mind some of Disney's hand drawn cartoons. I've seen the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pocahontas, The Sword in the Stone, Robin Hood, Jungle Book... Probably more. I also used to like stuff like Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry, so it's not that I dislike hand-drawn stuff, or old cartoons, or Disney specifically.

Conveniently, the video thumbnail is exactly the right frame to represent what I don't like.
They made the characters soppy and pathetic, and when they move the squash and stretch seems over the top. They almost seem to be made from jelly. Appeal is one of the principles of animation but these characters lose appeal with me because of this. Maybe I just appreciate a more realistic style of animation.

Also, another one of my gripes with Disney is the songs. When I was a kid I'd be happy to watch a Disney film but I'd always be dismayed when the characters started singing. It doesn't happen in real life! I found it disappointing.


Animation in video games:

It's always over the top.

When I think, 'dodgy animation in video games', I'm always reminded of the way the character in Metroid Prime would stand when idle. She'd gently dance side to side, and her hand (the other one is a gun) would close and open. Admittedly you didn't see this often, being a FPS style game, but it was stupid nonetheless.

It seems almost as if the producers have thought, 'shit, we need this character to move, what can we do?' and 'ooh look, we can move this!' and the result is characters that weave around when they're idle. This over-the-top-ness is generally the problem with video game animation.

If I were to animate a character's idle pose, I'd have them looking around a bit, and thinking, maybe shifting their weight from side to side every so often.

There is one game I've played recently where the animation is impressive - Uncharted. The way the character touches walls when he goes near them, and the seamless transitions between cutscenes and gameplay were great, and they drew me more into the game. Maybe a more realistic character commands more empathy?

Massive, obvious shortcuts

This ties in with part of what I said about Japanese cartoons.
I find it detracts from the enjoyment of a cartoon when you can really tell when an animator has done something to save time. Moving a still thing across the screen, looped animation, parts where only a character's mouth moves. Done right, all of those could work, and I'm sure they do.

I remember in particular this dodgy cartoon I saw before which was some kind of medieval hero type thing. Anyway, oh no, the town was set on fire! And oh no, the same 4 people ran away from the buildings in the same way over and over!
For me it just doesn't work.

It seems to me that I'm a fan in particular of a realistic style of animation. Not that it can't be about unrealistic things, an not that you can't use exaggeration, sparingly, perhaps.
It's my goal to learn how to do this well, and to build a good portfolio in the process... And that's why I'n doing a Master's Degree!

Tutorial Feedback #1 - Don't Think, Feeeeeel!

So I showed the current version of my Bruce Lee piece of work.

It's occurring to me that this animation can stand as the first artefact.

The first pose is still wrong.
I think I need to step back and just try to read what the poses of the characters mean. How they read.
I might be thinking a little bit too realistically too. It might be worth creating poses that are quite strong rather than what I naturally tend towards which is a softer approach.

One piece of advice that was thrown in was that I should consider putting an introducing sequence in there. This would serve the purpose of making this animation actually make sense, as well as allowing me to kick it off with a good, strong initial storytelling pose.

Another piece of advice is relating to the posing, as well as my general workflow - I need to make the poses complete. As you can see, the hands haven't really been touched yet. So, I should make the poses complete, because they are distracting for the viewer, as far as constructive criticism goes.

This also leads me onto another suggestion, by Adam. He recommended starting this animation from scratch, this time using blocking and nailing the key poses first before working on the movement.
If I start it again I'll have a proper go at thumbnailing the key poses so I have something to work from. It should speed up the workflow somewhat, rather than having to work from my head.

All in all, it seems I need to work on my primary action and key storytelling posing before I start mucking around with secondary action. I rather like the title of my question but I'm wondering whether I should work key posing and primary action into my question so the progress I'm making now can be properly part of my MA.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Monster House and Mo-cap

I watched a brief bit of the film 'Monster House' after hearing some things about it.

I heard positive things about it at first, albeit relating to its abandoning of the typical mo-cap/performance-cap thing of photo-realistic/photo-creepy characters and textures.
And in this way, yeah, it kinda works.

However, watching the film is a different thing altogether. It's true the motion is all very smooth but something isn't right. Somewhere between the actors not acting large enough, and the fact the detail of the movement in the face doesn't match that of the movement, creates characters that are creepy and kind of dead.

I don't know if part of it is because having seen lots of keyframe animation before we are used to seeing them move in a certain way, or whether performance-capture just doesn't work when used like this.
I think it might even go down to the fact that I'm seeing these characters move in such a convincing way that I'm assessing them as real people and they fail that test.

I would much rather watch a good piece of dreamworks or pixar animation than this, anyway.

Monster House is weird, avoid it.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


The current iteration of my Master's subject is 'Enriching the the narrative of an animation through manipulating secondary action'.

I hope that I can, with the three presentation dates, split the course of research into three areas within. Maybe I can begin with larger scaled gestures and work my way into more detailed actions, ending with subtle nuances of facial animation.

I definitely want to include something about character personalities. How does a confident character portray nerves? How would the same character behave when bored, or excited? And then the same with a nervous character.

One of the goals would be to be able to portray a personality of a character, and in an episodic animation, have a consistent personality, or in a feature-type animation have a personality develop. Perhaps even both.

The resulting skill would be the ability to put my mind in that of a wide range of characters and know what my quirks would be, and importantly, how to animate them.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Body language shapes who you are

Wimp is a great website. Every day there's 5 videos. They can be anything: comedy, things that make you think 'what the hell?', great ideas, and educational stuff.

Quite often there are TED talks that make their way on there.

I have to admit when I see a TED talk on there I usually close it, that's 20 mins long and I don't want to watch such a long video.

This particular one stuck me as being vaguely relevant to my future master's project, so that's why I'm sharing it here.

The woman's basically saying, standing like this:

Makes you feel like a boss, to the point it changes the hormones in your body. And that if it feels dumb, just keep doing it 'til it doesn't.

Anyway, if I can make my characters behave in this way it should have an effect on the way you perceive their personalities.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

What am I doing today?

Today I went to uni, had the first introductory tutorial with Andy and Shaun.

Tasks that I've returned with are to find 3 things I like, 3 I don't, and to pin down a sense of what I'm looking for as an outcome of this course.

I think I've got an idea for one of the things I dislike, but I'll make a proper post about these when I've got them all nailed down.

For now, I'm faffing around animating to part of this scene from Enter The Dragon:

From 1:04 to 1:27. I've chopped it down a bit where there's a long pause before 'let me think'.

In the past when I've animated I've stuck to animating shot by shot but this time I'm doing it all in one go. I'll deal with the camera later. I do have a bit of a storyboard to work from - my version is going to be more amusing to watch than Bruce Lee's.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Review of the Market Square

Thought I'd try to write the personal review of one of the locations we visited this night.
It's pretty late now, considering I'll be up around 8. I don't enjoy 7 hours of sleep.

Review of the Market Square

The market square is a very versatile area of Nottingham - a location that has multi-cultural and multi-subcultural uses. Many sorts of people can use it for an array of different things. First and foremost it is the hub of Nottingham - you could indeed describe it as being in the middle of the city. This makes it an excellent place for meeting your friends before embarking on other activities.
As a consequence of its ease of access and large open space, it often plays host to a number of different events. These include the summer beach theme, where the feel of tropical beaches are brought to the very inland Nottingham city. It includes genuine sand!
During Christmas there is a European market that even has a small German style bar with food - this brings the flavours of some of our other neighbouring countries into our city centre, as well as offering a chance to buy some handmade jewellery and other craft items that aren't available from anywhere else in Nottingham.
One could not forget the Nottingham Eye, a temporary Ferris wheel brought here in time for valentine's day. It's a nice opportunity to have a quiet moment with your loved one, as well as getting a glimpse of Nottingham's rooftop - providing you go at daytime.
Around the autumn season, Game City moves in. This gives a chance for the younger generations to check out up and coming video games or to try out games made by local indie developers. It could potentially be a lure into the games and creative industries for those who have not yet moved into their careers.
The market square also sees the likes of outdoor concerts and other media events, from Afro-Caribbean themed musical concerts, to poetry, demonstrations by the armed forces, and just general commercial events.
On a personal level I find that the market square's greatest use is as a location for riding bikes and skateboarding. As a rider, I find the square caters well for the purposes of meeting friends, and a place to initiate or conclude a ride. The multiple steps and platforms of differing levels present good locations for performing tricks, and the wide variety and reasonable space allows the creation of a fair amount of trick combinations.
Despite the market square being such a great location for such sports, it has some pretty significant downfalls. The first is that depending on when you go there, it can be pretty full of people and indeed other events such as the Ferris wheel, which leaves no room for the rider or skater.
The second is that there is never an PCSO or CPO far away to issue you with a £30 fine for enjoying such an area. It's understandable, and that understanding usually gets you out of paying the fine, but the PCSOs or CPOs will always move you on. There'll never be time to complete that trick combo you were dreaming of.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Research question ideas

Andy replied to my email with a couple of possible questions:

'How does secondary motion help describe a character's personality'

'Body language as a nonverbal method of communicating an animated characters state of mind'

At the moment I like the sound of the first one more, but I'll do a bit of reading around both of them and decide which direction to go in that way.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

First day of MA university

So far we have met the entire MA group, and been given a group task about journeys.
Could be fun, groups will be dished out tomorrow.

As for my actual project, I'm trying to narrow down a question.
Nothing's concrete yet. I wonder about something like 'how can study of body language inform and improve an animated performance'?
I could look into micro-expressions and how one could include those.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Pre-arrival activities!?!??!?!?!

I've, ahem, been on a long holiday. There wasn't any internet, and definitely no blogspot.

The first task is about finding out about the area I want to look at for this year's research.
Although I wasn't aware of these pre-arrival activities until last week, I had been forewarned of this a few months ago so I do have something vaguely resembling this.

So what I've done goes like this:

Originally I knew that I wanted to further my skills in animation itself, but at the time, I didn't have any more detail than that.
Thus, it was suggested that I might want to watch some existing animations and make a note of what it was in those animations that I particularly liked or was interested in.

I seem to have misplaced the book I wrote all the notes in, which is a nuisance. Anyway, the main thing that I  enjoyed was small details in the animation that made it all the more convincing.
the principle of animation that I think most reflects what I've picked out as being most interesting to me is secondary action.

After dwelling on the idea of secondary action for some time I think I'd want to take my research in the direction of the relationship of secondary action with personality. Perhaps something along the lines of how one can develop a character's personality with secondary action.

The second task refers to drafting up a presentation.
As of yet I'm not entirely sure what my question will be so preparing this presentation beforehand will be difficult.
I'll have more of a think about it later on.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Artefact 4 Evaluation

Artefact 4 is the final artefact I produced.
I came up with a new story that I knew I could use my knowledge of composition to enhance.
The story is of a stolen trophy, and two school boys accused of the theft by a teacher. Each child makes his case and the teacher decides which to believe, that turns out to be the wrong kid.
I am aware now that I can't use composition to change a narrative. It's a supporting tool. With this in mind I created a single version of this story where the composition supports the narrative.
From artefact 2 and 3 I learnt that moving the camera up and down does have an effect on how a character is portrayed, but it should be used subtly. Thus I avoided extreme highs and lows and instead used the camera to represent either the children or the teacher - this would enhance the sense that the kids are underlings of the teacher, and that the teacher is in charge.
It's important that if the camera represents a character's viewpoint that it's positioned to represent their height.
The final shot of the artefact, 008, works especially well because without the character in the foreground it would only seem that the other kid is further arguing with the teacher. The inclusion of that extra character lets the viewer know that what's being argued is related to the character in the foreground. It's his expressions that suggest that he's managed to pass the blame onto the other kid. Including the characters in the background makes the viewer know it's that that he's looking smug about.
Responses show that you do get a real sense of the story thanks to the composition. The inclusion of the three emotions in the final shot is one thing that was picked up on as being effective.
Perhaps a second version would've really made it obvious what I was doing.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Artefact 4

Artefact 3

I made this a while ago but I've not uploaded it yet. Here it is.

Version A -

Version B -

Friday, 27 April 2012

The Pilot

Here's the result of my client project!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Artefact 3 Evaluation

Artefact 3 evaluation
The third artefact was a 3D representation of the story I made for the second artefact.
I chose to do this because I noticed inconsistencies with my drawing skills, and this was consistent with some of the comments from the tutorial group - they said the male character looked short.
There were other inconsistencies with my storyboarding skills that I noticed when I started to prepare it in 3D - some shots were impossible to make exactly like the storyboard, the characters when arranged were at different angles with the background.
To progress this artefact further than just a 3D remake of the existing storyboard, I made an alternate version with the camera angles opposed, which should change the apparent narrative - reverse the roles, in this case.

The purpose of this artefact was to show what I was doing with the camera. I made two opposing versions so that I could demonstrate the difference between different shot compositions. It
The responses from the presentation this time were fairly positive, but not exactly what I was after.
The group admitted that there was a clear difference between the two versions of the story, but what the differences amounted to was different between each person.
Shot 006, with the woman with arms thrown in the air, was particularly striking. In the original version the audience felt the woman appeared crazier.  'She looks like she's going to eat my head' was one particular response. Whereas in the alternate version they felt she seemed angry.
Shot 005's original version got the response that the guy seemed to be joking, whereas in the alternate version he seemed more serious.
In shot 007, the original version has the man's hand out of shot, and because of this the shot doesn't work that well. 'He looks like he's pointing at the dog.' came one response.
In general people felt like this was a couple who were arguing over something that had happened before.
Moving the camera and changing composition does change how an audience reacts to what they're seeing. Each person will react slightly differently. It appears to have an  effect on how people read body language - there was a comment on how making a character's teeth more visible affects the character's expression, making them seem more or less angry.
It seems more and more as though composition is a supporting element to communicating narrative, and not central one. Perhaps there is a most suitable composition for a given part in a narrative?

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Kid and older kid together

Older Kid

The sandman is tugging at my eyelids so I'll leave it here for today.
I just wanted to post a picture of this slightly grotesque creation. An adult sized body but the exact same child-like head. It's pretty weird to behold. Tomorrow holds reworking the face to look the design. If I work quickly maybe I'll even get the girl scaled up too. That means friday I can rig them all. Looking forwards to checking out this nifty program I've been told about. From no rig to fully rigged in an hour? Yes please.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Girl

Using the nCloth tool, the skirt falls down.
This might take a bit of experimentation to fix.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Girl with half a head

Happy with this, needs mirroring and attaching.

Not sure what to do with the colouring of the dress. Nor do I know how to make the skirt part of the dress. I've asked Baris what to do, I was thinking of using the cloth function.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The girl, progress

This is the model of the girl as she stands. I made this today. I must be improving, last year this would've taken a week.

I might reshape the feet, and I'll have a closer look at the hands.

Tomorrow, there will be a face on this character.