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.