Monday, December 17, 2012

Achievement Unlocked: Class Two Completed

Well, it happened. I finished Class Two! I had an awesome time this quarter and learned A TON. Marlon was a fantastic teacher and I don't think I could have had a better quarter! I can't believe that I'm one third through with AM. Before I know it, I'll be at the graduation BBQ, wondering how 18 months felt like two. Here is my progress reel, with all my Class Two stuff rendered allllll pretty for you:

Well I hope you enjoyed this quarter as much as I did, lovely readers. I'll be back in the New Year when Class Three gets going but until then, have a happy holiday season! Eat lots of cookies! See you soon!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Week 11! Last Assignment!

Hello! So it's that time again, Week 11. Our very last assignment has been turned in and Class Two is drawing to a close! Already about one third done with AM?! Whaaaa? 

Well I polished and polished and finally finished up my shot! Take a looksee:

Poor Stewie's never gonna be king. After hitting a few roadblocks with this shot, I'm quite happy with how it came through in the end. Marlon was as well, noting that I could just add a little bit of 'keep alive' with the holds to touch it up. In his end-of-term assessment he gave me great feedback, so I am a very happy camper with Class Two as a whole. Can't believe it's nearly done! All that's left is to put together my progress reel, which I'll have up in the next couple days so keep your eyes peeled, readers! See you soon.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Week 10! We're closing in!

Oh hey so I only have two weeks of school left WHAT?! I know I keep asking this but WHERE DOES THE TIME GO? Really. It's freaking me out. It's Decemeber! How?!

Admist all this freaking out, I did finally take my shot out of stepped, which was scary. But I think that I finally got out of that middle "I've forgotten how to do everything" phase now, and the shot is ripe to be fully polished next week. So I'm thankfully back on schedule! See for yourself:

Marlon asked me to change the ending so that Stewie stays in frame, and to do whatever I could to make the gag as funny as possible. After some invaluable feedback from Marlon and my peers, I decided on this ending, where he lands on his bum, because landing on your bum is always funny, duh. I'm pretty happy with it at this point, especially after kind of losing my way on this shot last week. I still have quite a bit of polish to do next week so come back soon to see what I do with it! Cheers!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Week 9!

Lovelies! Happy Turkey Day to you all! I stuffed my face full of soooo much food this last week and I hope you did too. I also animated a bit of course, but I will say these past two weeks have been busy and it's been a bit tough staying on top of school stuff. As a result, I'm behind schedule with this shot, and it's still in blocking this week:

Marlon hit the nail right on the head during his feedback this week. He said it seemed like I'd been really busy for the past two weeks with CTN and Thanksgiving, and I hadn't put in as much time as usual. Week 9 kind of snuck up on me and I didn't anticipate having so little time for AM last week. But with family visiting, a major holiday, work, and my mother's birthday, my week was jam packed.

Marlon gave me a much needed kick in the butt during my e-critique, reminding me that I needed to really push myself and make the most out of my time at AM. So, I'm kicking it into high gear this week and catching myself up so that I can finish the term strong. Still lots of work to do on this shot, but I'm excited to start digging in! Come back next week to see what I've done with it!

Monday, November 26, 2012

CTN! Or, the best four days of my life so far.

OH MAAAAAN. Any of you that follow me on any kind of social media have already gotten a taste of this, but just take a moment to mentally prepare yourself anyways.

Okay, ready?


Ahem. Okay. I can't really put my incredible experience this last weekend into words but I am certainly going to try. I flew in on Wednesday so I could have a day to mentally prepare myself for the convention. Ha, no I'm joking, I actually just watched Game of Thrones with Hillary and Katie Rose (my lovely and gracious hosts), and we stayed up until the wee hours of the morning talking about which books from middle school were our favorites (Whirlygig, look it up). So, Wednesday was lovely and the con hadn't even started!

On Thursday, I started the day with chocolate pie and coffee (obviously) and then was off to tour Disney! They unfortunately don't let you take photos (though they took one of the tour group, which I will throw on here if I ever find it) but trust me when I say it was uh-mazing. The studio is incredible inside and they even let us sneak a peek at some concept art for Frozen, which is coming out next year! It looks very snowy and good and I can't wait to see it. We also saw lots of Wreck-It Ralph stuff, including small scale model of a set piece from Sugar Rush (the candy-based kart racing game from Wreck-It Ralph) that was made from actual candy. So. Cool.

So on Thursday night I was lucky enough to get into a Rise of the Guardians screening at DreamWorks, which was really cool! The little bit of the Glendale DreamWorks campus that I got to see was beautiful and the theater was really nice. And the film was fantastic! The animation in particular was incredible, so many great acting moments. And I snagged a picture afterwards!

And only one guy at the bar afterwards gave me
grief about my shirt!
So, in short, Thursday was awesome. It got me all excited for the start of CTN the next day, and let me tell you, things started off with a bang! Brenda Chapman gave the opening talk, which was fantastic. She talked about why she loves telling stories, how her parents influenced her, how she got her start at Disney (kind of a ridiculous story, you can read about it on her blog), and even touched the whole Brave issue a bit. I know CTN was recording all the lectures, so it may end up online somewhere and if so you should definitely check it out! After her talk, she did a little meet and greet in the lobby and I worked up the nerve to introduce myself. I mentioned Lady Animators to her and said I'd love to interview her (though she isn't an animator, I figured I can make an exception for her). I thanked her for telling the incredible stories she does and she was kind enough to take a photo.

I might look composed, but I was freaking out on the inside.

It was so amazing meeting her! She's a huge role model of mine and a great, great storyteller. And so began the first official hour of CTN. Not bad, right? I spent most of the rest of the day wandering the exhibit floor, talking to exhibitors, and drooling over all the pretty art. I did buy one actual gift in the form of a Harry Potter print by Peter Emmerich for Hillary and Katie Rose. The rest of my purchases though, all early Christmas presents for myself. These included a Korra print from Stevie Lewis of DreamWorks, a Catwoman print from Bobby Rubio of Pixar, and a Link bookmark from Jed Henry, whose amazing ukiyo-e Nintendo prints I had seen online.

Then on Friday night, AM and ReelFX hosted a networking party and I was lucky enough meet Glen Keane! I managed to keep myself from turning into a puddle of goo long enough to snag a picture with him and Mike Cedeno, another Disney veteran animator and a really nice guy.

Right before my brain exploded.
Like with Brenda Chapman, it took a lot of self control not just yell "THANK YOU FOR MAKING MY CHILDHOOD SO WONDERFUL" and then running off to hyperventilate in a corner of the hotel lobby. He was kind and lovely and I am so happy I got to meet him!

I also got to meet Marlon on Friday! Very exciting to meet him in real life. He said he usually doesn't make it to the conventions so it was cool to actually meet some of his students for once.

And thank you Loren for the awesome photobomb.

I don't have quite as many pictures from Saturday but it was just as awesome! I hung out with a bunch of awesome AM people and ate a surprisingly good Subway sandwich for lunch but the highlight of the night was Glen Keane's incredible talk. And that one girl who was in tears when he showed the pencil test of "Part of Your World" from the Little Mermaid? Me. Totally me.

And I got to meet my next term's mentor, Mike Stern, on Saturday as well! He's an animator at Dreamworks in Glendale and is an alum from the very first class at AM. He did a talk with Bobby Beck on life in a studio environment, which was fantastic. I signed up for the Class 3 pilot that Mike's teaching next term, which I'm super excited for! It's a Collaborative Advanced Body Mechanics class, so all the shots from all of us will link up, sort of like making a short film with Mike as our director. 

Class 3 here we coooome!

Sunday was lovely as well, with a big highlight being that I got to meet Ryan Woodward, the insanely talented animator behind "Thought of You" which I'm embedding because if you haven't watched it, you have no excuse now.

As you can see, the man is an incredible talent. So glad to have met him! He gave a lecture about the animated graphic novel app he just completed called "Bottom of the Ninth", which is awesome. Go buy it! A futuristic baseball story about a female pitcher who throws 112 mph? How do you not want to read that story, come on! Get yourself to the app store, pronto.

So on Sunday night, I hopped on a plane back home, but I really think I could have flown all the way back to Norcal without the plane, my weekend was that incredible. If you ever have the chance to go to CTN, animator or otherwise, GO. If you work in, appreciate, or even just like animation, you will be blown away by the talent and inspiration you'll find there. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Twofer! Weeks 7 + 8

OKAY SO HI. It's been an insane whirlwind couple of weeks and I am about still coming down from my CTN high so please bear with me!. I've been slacking a bit, I know. But now you get two weeks worth of homework all in one post! Brace yourself.

To ease you in, I'll show you my polished Stewie run (from two weeks ago):

Marlon was quite pleased with this and only had a minor note or two on how I could polish it further. I had a bit of a rough time with shot through the middle part of my workflow (namely Blocking Plus) but I am overall quite happy with the finished product. Not bad for my first run, all things considered. 

In addition to polishing our shot, we also had to plan our next shot in Week 7. For this last shot, Marlon gave us the go ahead to do something a little wacky if we felt like it. So, I ended up deciding on doing a shot with Stewie trying to pull the sword from the stone, but it won't budge (a variation on the popular "trying to open a stuck door" shot). He pulls and pulls, and ends up breaking the handle off the sword. I figured, it'll be a funny little story and a good body mechanics workout.

So I went to town on one of the door handles in my house and cut together the best bits for my video reference.

The weird cuts are there to make it fit within the frame limit, but overall I liked the buildup and the general idea of the poses, but I knew that I was going have to modify/push the poses quite far from the reference. So, since I had time and I knew CTN would take up my upcoming weekend, I did a little pencil test of my blocking to get a head start:

I liked this much more as a base to go off of once I got Maya open and plus it was really fun to do. From this and my video reference, I did some planning sketches. We had a lecture on force in drawing this week, which was really helpful to me in drawing my poses for this shot:

I hope you are still enjoying my chicken-scratch/fifth grader handwriting.

Okay! Onto Week 8! Here is my (rough) blocking from last week. For this shot, we have an additional week and Marlon told us we could use it wherever we wanted. Because of CTN, I chose to use mine this week and spread my blocking out over two weeks since I knew my weekend was going to be jam-packed and I would have only a little time for animating. ANYWHO, here is what I was able to get through before the deadline hit:

This is quite a bit rougher than I would have liked, though I was able to see Marlon at CTN and warn him accordingly and he was very understanding. I've already gotten feedback on this and he is mostly giving me acting notes at this point, which is encouraging since thinking about acting in Class Two is a bit ahead of the game.

Whoo! Okay that concludes this double header post. CTN is going to get a post of its very own so be on the lookout for that soon! It's gonna be a GOOD ONE.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Week 6 (Half-Way!) and a Lady Animators Update

Where does the time go? I'm already half done with Class Two! How did that happen? I guess we'll NEVER KNOW. So, this week was significantly less busy than the last one, since I do not go to Vegas. BUT I did parade around in a Wonder Woman costume on Wednesday night, which was lots of fun.

And of course, I worked on my shot. This week moved in Blocking Plus, which is always scary and exciting. Things are really moving! But they look kind of bad! Make it look better! Ah! Keeping those four exclamatory sentences constantly in mind, this is what I came up with this week:

To be honest, this week was a bit of a struggle. I got a bit overwhelmed with cleaning up the graph editor, which was a tall order since I set so many keys when blocking. The is by and far the hardest shot I've ever done terms of physicality and I'm still seeing a million things I want to fix. And while it was hard, I'm proud of where I got though I think I've got a lot of polishing to do next week.

In other news, I've put up two more interviews over on Lady Animators! I spoke to Rachel Hanson and Julie Nelson, who both work at DreamWorks and are both fantastic, talented people. Click on over there to learn about how sad Rachel gets when the only "J" available at work for a PB&J is the orange marmalade flavor and read about allll the velociraptors Julie has animated. 

Well that's all this week, loves. Come back next week for another double-header: my polished shot AND planning/reference for my next one. Whoo! See you then!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Week 5 Live from Las Vegas!

It was another busy week, readers! My big brother turned 30 so I hopped on a plane to Vegas to celebrate, and consequently had less time that normal to work on my shot (I know the title says live from Vegas but I'm actually home now sshhhhh). I was waaaay too busy staring at the INSANE Transformer Halloween costumes that I saw while I was there. Seriously. There is someone in Vegas right now in an eight foot tall fully functioning Bumblebee costume that can actually turn into a car.  I know. I saw him. Or her.

But I did manage to squeeze in a bit of time for school and block in my shot. I made sure to fly home on Saturday afternoon with plenty of time to clean up what I had done earlier in the week and this is the result!

Pretty pleased with this. My mentor advised the camera move so that Stewie wasn't so small in frame at the beginning and end, which I think is great advice. I still have have a hard time deciphering how timing will look once I spline my shots but I like how the timing of the shot's feeling now, though I may speed up a few bits and see how it feels next week.

BONUS: I had a bit of free time today before I watched the Giants win the World Series (WHOOOOOOOOO! Two World Series wins in three years! Panda with the MVP! Romo was crying! Buster looked cute as ever!) So I added a few tweaks to my shot with Ballie that Marlon suggested and I rendered a nice, pretty version of it. 

And that's all for this week, readers. Come back next week for some splinage, and have a happy Halloween in the meantime!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Week 4 is a Doooooozy

It was a busy, busy week this week readers. We had so much to do! Polish our first shot, shoot reference for our next shot, and do planning drawings! Plus I went out of town this weekend to watch Cal take a very unfortunate butt whooping from Stanford. :( But, at least we're getting Missy Franklin on our swim team next year. All in all, I had lots to do. First off, let's look at my turnaround with Ballie, which is all polished for you!

Pretty happy with how this turned out. I my biggest hurdle with this shot was it feeling too soft initially. Even from Week 1 Marlon told me to watch out for floaty-ness in my work, since some of Class One work felt a bit floaty as well. I toyed with the timing of this shot a lot and I think the experimentation I've been able to do with it over the past few weeks has really helped train my eye to recognize better timing/spacing. I think the feeling of weight has improved a lot, even just since my blocking plus pass. 

And now, it's time for more reference video! For our next shot, we are getting a new rig! His name is Stewie and he is pretty much just a fancier version of our old pal Stu, and thankfully his head is not quite as large and he has eyes! Yay! For the list of actions we could pick to animate, we had a lot of cool options, but I decided to go with "a run with a change of direction." I've had a lot of trouble doing runs whenever I've tried them in the past so I thought this would be a good challenge.  On my day off this week I borrowed my dad's tripod, set it up in my backyard and ran around like a crazy person. 

After doing about thirty takes of myself running around, sometimes from off camera, sometimes away from camera, sometimes toward it (I got soooo sweaty), I ended up piecing two of my favorite takes together (that's why there's that weird cut in the middle). I liked the takes where I ran into frame but I also like the little skid thing I did on the turnaround from another take. Thankfull, my mentor gave us the okay to piece together reference last week during the Q&A and I like how it came out.

Also, you may be wondering why I was running with my arms behind my back. Our Stewie rig for this shot doesn't have any arms, so I figured I shouldn't use my arms so my reference was as accurate as possible. Fun fact: running with no arms is really hard. Turns out swinging your arms is a tremendous help to gaining forward momentum and balancing as you change direction. Seriously. Go outside and try to do it without falling over.

So, since I had my reference all ready to go, it was time to do my planning drawings. I always liked how our mentors could draw directly over our reference and after a bit of googling, I found out that I could do the very same thing in photoshop! I got really excited and went to town on my reference:

I apologize that this is so annoying to watch this in real time (and on youtube you unfortunately can't scrub through it frame by frame). Also my color key is basically impossible to read, but black drawings are contact positions, green is up and down extremes, red is passing positions, orange is line of action/weight notes, and white is shoulder rotation extremes. I'm so excited that I figured out how to do this and if my shot turns out well, I think I'm going to add this in as a permanent part of my workflow!

Okay, now onto the drawings. From my drawn-over reference, I was able to lift all the appropriate poses for the run pretty easily and separate them into color coded keys, as you'll see in pages two and three. I pushed the poses a bit where I could, but looking at it now I know that I'm going to need to exaggerate them even more when I get into Maya. Something that I noticed while working on my last shot is that I had to speed my timing up quite a bit to get the weight to feel the same as in my reference. For whatever reason, the timing from live action doesn't directly translate into animation and if you lift the timing from your reference, things will usually feel too slow. I did some rough adjustments with the frame numbers I've timed out here on the first page. 

That's all I've got for this week, darlings! I'm going to start blocking soon so that will be posted up in a few days. See you then!

Sunday, October 14, 2012


So, remember how a couple posts ago, I said I was working on a new blog? Well, the most eagle-eyed of you may have noticed a new link up above entitled "Lady Animators - An Interview Blog".  And it's just what it sounds like. I'll be interviewing female professional character animators for your reading pleasure! The first interview is with Robyne Powell, a supervising animator at DreamWorks and Class One mentor at AM. More interviews are on the way so keep checking back to learn more about these awesomely talented ladies!

Third Week Means Blocking Pluuuus!

Haaaaallo! You are looking mighty fine this week, readers. Is it because of all the crazy baseball that's been happening? I've had four separate heart attacks during these playoffs so far, just FYI. But you aren't here for Giants talk! You're here for animation funtimes. And you are going to get it, friends! Though, if you want to talk baseball in the comments, I'm totally open to that. 

This week our assignment was to continue working on our shot and do a "blocking plus" pass. Now, this pass means something different for every animator, it appears. My mentor said this pass usually only takes him a day to a day and a half, so it's slightly odd that AM gives us an entire week to do it. He also said it can go one of two ways: 

1) Your blocking pass is in good shape, so for blocking plus, take it into spline and start finessing. Go into it with a "finaling" mindset, sort of like you're polishing up your blocking pass . Add in things like overlap, drag, follow through. 
2) Your blocking needs to be heavily reworked, parts may need to be redone completely. In this case, stay in stepped and address your notes, re-blocking what needs to be re-blocked. 

Fortunately, I was in category one for this week, so I splined up my blocking pass and dove in. But before I splined I addressed Marlon's notes, which were generally positive. He just asked me to bring down Ballie's foot a little on the second step and fix a few of the weird ankle poses I had going on. And not to forget to attach my video reference next week. Oops. 

I'm quite happy with how this one came out. Turns out planning really does help you work faster. Who would have thought, right?

Marlon also urged us to not feel put down if we had to re-block. He said it happens to him all the time at Disney. Very rarely, in fact, does a director give him the go ahead on his first blocking attempt. Notes are meant to help and as I'm finding out, they nearly always do!

Okay lovelies, I have to go rest up for all the San Francisco sports games tomorrow. See you next week!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Week 2 - Blocking!

Hello lovelies! I hope you are having a good week and are just excited as me about all this fall weather. For Week two we dove right into Maya to block our shots in. So GET EXCITED!

In our lecture this week, we had a workflow demo from Dimos Vrysellas, who had originally been trained as a 2D animator. Because of his traditional animation training, his approach to blocking was still largely the same as it had been when he was doing 2D. Throughout the lecture, he urged us to treat every key you set as if it's a drawing. In fact, he still refers to his keys as "drawings". For me, this approach was eye opening.

First, he laid down a posing pass, which focused solely on the storytelling poses with no mind paid to the timing. Using the comma and period keys in Maya, he flipped and rolled his keys, the same as a traditional animator would do with his or her pegged paper on animation board. After that, he started a new pass just to work out the timing of the shot, sliding the keys around in the timeline until it felt right.

I've always flipped my keys when blocking, but the idea to do a pass that focused only on posing was a powerful new idea for me. In the past I've usually focused on posing and timing equally in one pass, but for this assignment, I tried Dimos' method of separating them into two passes and I found it extremely useful. I think it really helped the clarity of my shot. Plus, timing it out doesn't seems so scary when your poses are already singing. But here see for yourself!

Something else that was stressed in this week's lecture was to be very thorough in your posing, even in your initial blocking. Don't shy away from putting in overlap, follow through and pay attention to things like foot placement, toe drag, ease-ins, ease outs and holds. I took that to heart and as a result, this is definitely the most thorough blocking pass I've ever done and I'm quite happy with it. Splining this shot seems waaaay less scary.

Well that's all for me this week, loves. Though I will leave you with a little teaser of what's to come: I'm cooking up a little side project in the form of a new blog. I'll update here as things get rolling so keep your eyes open! See you next week. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Week 1 - Turning It Around

Hello lovely readers and welcome to Class Two - Psychology of Body Mechanics! We're off and running here in week one, with our first assignment already underway.

The way this term is set up, we'll be working on more complicated shots for four weeks at a time, so by the end of the class we'll have three complete shots. For each shot, we have a list of physical actions to choose from, ranging from simple to more complex in terms of body mechanics. But first, I have an updated workspace photo for your eyeballs:

I moved into a new house during the break week and finally got a new desk in addition to my drafting one. So now I have a L shaped setup with my drafting desk on my left and I am loving it so far! And of course, my second monitor is still the light of my life. Animators of the world, dual monitors are a must, I'm telling you. You'll wonder how you ever got anything done without one.

Okay now WHO'S READY FOR SOME AWKWARD VIDEO REFERENCE? Good because you're about to see some. For my first shot this term, the action I chose was to have Ballie do an about face. I quickly found out that there is a lot going on in what seems like such a simple action. Part of our homework this week was to shoot video reference of ourselves doing the action, or else find some reference of someone doing the action. Since one of our proposed options was a roundhouse kick, I'm guessing a lot of people ran to YouTube to see what they could find but since I chose a very doable action, I decided to just shoot it myself on my phone.

After turning around for the camera about a half dozen times, I decided on this take. I liked the rhythm and casual-ness of the timing and I think the foot placement is more interesting than anything I could have come up with out of my head.

For the other half of our homework, we had to submit 2-3 pages of planning sketches to help us when we start blocking our shots in next week. This part was actually really fun. Marlon shared with us that when he does planning thumbnails, he usually starts by tracing key poses from his video reference in Photoshop, and then refining the drawings from there. I really liked this method as a starting point and used it for my thumbnails here. After tracing off my reference, I redid the drawings to match Ballie's proportions a bit better and pushed the poses a bit more. 

Please forgive my little kid handwriting. During my move last week, I found a bunch of school work from elementary school and my handwriting has seriously not improved since I was twelve. Maybe I really should have been a doctor, huh?

Since I had a bit of extra time this week I also did a pencil test of my shot as well. I wanted to check how my timing felt and I like to practice my 2D skills whenever I get the chance. 

The timing of it feels a little mushy to me now watching this back but I think it may be partly because in some spots I needed really tight inbetweens and I didn't quite pull it off correctly. 2D is something I really want to get better at while I'm at AM so I'm going to try and do pencil tests along with my planning whenever I can.

Well, that's it for Week One! I'll be back next week with my first pass at blocking my shot in so stick around!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Class Two. Let's do this.

I've decided that this post-a-picture-of-my-face-during-week-one thing is going to be a tradition, so brace yourself for four more of these in the coming year.
But for reals, I am so stoked for Class Two! Maybe also a little scared, can you tell from my crazy eyes? I had my first Q&A yesterday and Marlon seems like he is a great mentor. Plus, I know most of my classmates through our AM facebook group already, which is pretty neat.

Towards the end of the hour he did bring up the fact that while AM is so often happy faces and rainbows and sunshine, the truth of the matter is that not all of us are going to get to the level of skill needed to work on feature films. He said most of his students have their sights set on Pixar/DreamWorks/Disney but by the end of AM, many of them are simply not ready for the big studios.

Basically, if we want to the top students in our class, the ones who get picked up straight from school, we have to get our butts in gear starting right now. Our reels need to be top of the line and we need to be getting As consistently on our assignments.

Of course, that's the way any school works. And all of us knew this in the back of our minds, I think. Though, it seems that at AM it's easy to forget sometimes. The staff is so encouraging and caring and energetic, and the work in the student showcases is always so incredible that it seems like if you can just find your way into this school, you too can be magically transformed into an incredible animator!

Like anything though, there's no magic transformation, no special pill, no silver bullet. It's practice and hard work and long nights and frustration tears when Maya crashes, and with a bit of luck and good timing, all of it will pay off in the end. And maybe it won't be your dream studio. But really, would you rather be doing anything else?

So thank you to Marlon for taking off the sugarcoat for us. As the youngest of three children (and the youngest of a generation of eleven on my mother's side), I can from experience say that kid gloves only hurt you in the long run.

Maybe this is discouraging to some people, but I'm choosing not to take Marlon's advice that way. Sure, a dream job at one of the big studios is something I've longed for since I was sixteen. But this industry is getting more competitive by the year and there is a lot of talent out there. I've been thinking about it a lot lately and working in a film studio, a small studio, going abroad, working in games, TV, commercials, or freelancing all have distinct pros and cons and I don't want to set my sights on any one of them just yet. As long as I get to animate, I'm in.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Class One? Check.

Well we've arrived at Week 12, which is insane. I feel like I just started AM and I'm already done with a full term! Wut.

For this week, we had to compile a progress reel of all our Class One work and upload it to the student site so that our new mentors for next term could get a feel for our strengths and weaknesses going in. My most dedicated readers will have seen this in bits and pieces already, but if you missed anything, here is all of my Class One work:

And with that, Class One is done! I had a great experience this term. My mentor was great, my classmates gave fantastic feedback, and I learned a ton!

I've got next week off for a break week between terms but next Monday I'll be back! My Class Two mentor is Marlon Nowe, a supervising animator at Disney who is currently working on Wreck-It Ralph, which I am so excited for. Wah! See you soon, lovelies!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Week 11! Almost there!

Okay, I know that it's technically Week 12 right now and I'm late in posting this week but I won't tell anyone if you won't, okay? Okay.

Our main assignment this week was to finish up our personality walk and add, for the very first time, a perspective camera angle! Hooray! Here is what I came up with for my 3/4 perspective view of my lazy walk with our friend Ballie. 

And, for our very last posing assignment, we had to communicate "balance". This one, like the strength assignment, was easier in some ways because balance is communicated almost completely through body language anyways, so Stu not having a face wasn't such a hindrance. Plus, it was fun to think up balance-y situations and draw them. Like these!

If it wasn't for So You Think You Can Dance being on right now (go Eliana!), I don't think I would have thought to  use dance photos as reference for these drawings. The dance drawings, along with the other balancing act ones came out pretty well, I think. After picking out some favorites, I posed Stu accordingly:

I think this actually may be my favorite batch of poses of the term. Stu's big melon hardly even got in the way! After some peer feedback, I decided to go with D:

My mentor was quite pleased with this pose and with my walk. I'm happy to have ended this term's work on a good note. All I have left to do is put together my progress reel compiling all of my work from Class One. I'll post that up tomorrow so keep your eyes peeled!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Most Exhausting Week Yet

Lovelies! Hello, hello. So glad to have you here with us during Week 10. It is a doozy, so buckle up. I'll ease you in with a revision of my vanilla walk from last week:

My only note for this was to fix his slight lurch as he moves forward across the screen and delay his up and down translation just a touch. Other than that my mentor was pleased! Okay on to the good stuff now.

This week we got our very first shot at a character walk, which was both exciting and overwhelming. For the first time this term, we were pretty much given free reign. Our only stipulation was to do a walk with some kind of personality. My first thought was, "that leaves me infinite options HOW AM I GONNA CHOOSE?!" Then I thought about our pose assignment this week, which was to communicate "exhaustion" (more on this later). So, I thought doing an exhausted/lazy walk might be fun. After filming myself slumping around my backyard for reference, here is what I came up with for my blocking pass:

Ballie, such a lazy bum. Now onto the drawings! Like I said, this week's pose is "exhaustion." Here are some sketches of poor tired Stu. I took a nap in the middle of doing these, you know, for research. 

Here are some of my favorites done with our pal, Stu. His head is still enormous and unwieldy, if you were wondering. 

Okay, readers, vote away! Which Stu looks the most exhausted? Please let me know and I'll be back next week with a finished personality walk and another round of drawings!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Concerning Week 9

Hello darlings! For those of you back in school, happy first week. To the rest of you, happy Week 9! This week I had to finish up my walk with Ballie, which meant getting the little guy out of blocking and into splined mode! This has historically been a difficult step for me but as I'm learning more about how to thoroughly block in a scene, it's getting less scary to hit spline in the graph editor and watch the playback. Plus, this walk is fairly straightforward so I could be nice and methodical about it. Here it is!

Turns out that fixing knee pops is quite a chore. So is keeping Ballie's giant feet from intersecting the ground. But all in all, I'm happy with how this came out. Keep your eyes peeled for a revision of it next week!

The other part of our homework this week was do sketches and a Stu pose that communicate "concern". For me, this is the most difficult posing assignment we've had so far, mainly because I think concern is difficult to communicate solely through body language, especially if the viewer is unaware of what circumstances are causing the character to be concerned. With this in mind, I thought I would probably use props and a set for my pose, and I asked my mentor if if would be okay to even use another character in the pose to help it read. He said he was okay with it but urged us not to rely on it and especially not to let a secondary character distract from the main concerned character. And so I did a mix of sketches, some with props, some with other characters, some with just plain ol' concerned Stu:

I actually like how these sketches more than I thought I would when we got the assignment. I tried to vary between different kinds of concern, some mixed with worry, anger, sadness, etc. I picked out my favorite ones and took a shot with Stu:

Surprisingly, I think my favorite of this bunch is F. It's based on drawing 9, which was kind of a throwaway drawing. Inversely, drawing 2 was on of my favorites but I think pose B is too busy. My classmates also liked D and E but I think that F is similar to them and a bit more interesting. Leaning towards F for now, but if you've got love for any of them, please let me know! I have until noon tomorrow to turn this in.

And one last bit for this week, a revised physical strength pose for your viewing pleasure. My mentor asked me to tweak my pose from last week:

Hopefully it now looks more like Stu is lifting up rather than back and away (and his back looks less broken). Welp, that's all for me this week! Next week I'll be blocking in my personality walk (SO excited for this) and there'll be more poses for you to vote on! In the meantime, have a lovely week and go Giants!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Walking in a Straight Line is Harder Than You Think

Well hello! Week 8 is upon us, readers, and it is the most exciting one yet! We got to block in our very first walk cycle, huzzah! One Leg grew another leg and turned in Ballie, thankfully, or it would have been a really tough walk cycle (well, jump cycle). AND we have another Stu pose this week so I will need your votes to help me pick once again. But first! My revision from last week:

My mentor had a few notes about Tailor, mostly concerning his small hop from frames 47-51 and his flip around frame 36. As for One Leg, he was pleased that he made it into my shot and just had a few notes on tweaking his jump. All in all, I think this is my favorite shot I've done so far as it was definitely the most fun to work on.

ALRIGHT WALK CYCLE TIME. Our lecture this week was fantastic. We got a full blown walk cycle demo from AM's CEO Bobby Beck and tons of great info on walks. Now, unlike some of my classmates, this isn't my first go at this. I've done walks in the past so I know that they are WAY harder than you think they're going to be (I did a quadruped walk cycle while I interned at DreamWorks and it took me freaking forever to get it even halfway decent).

Our assignment this week was to do a vanilla walk with Ballie, meaning just a plain ol' no personality walk that gets him from one side of the screen to the other. As walks go, this is on the easy side since you get to be fairly systematic with it. Plus, there are tons of resources out there that map out exactly how to do a vanilla walk. And Ballie is essentially just a pair of hips with two legs so there's no need to worry about arm swings or overlapping spine/neck/head motion or anything like that. Here it is:

Now keep in mind this is still in the blocking stage, as per our assignment this week. So, since there's only a pose on every third frame, it looks a little choppy but hopefully you still get a solid idea of what the walk is going to look like when it's done. 

Okay, onto the fun part. Our pose this week is supposed to communicate "physical strength". In a sense, this was an easier assignment because it's not an emotion like the past ones have been, so Stu's lack of a face didn't pose as much of a problem. On the other hand, Stu's distinct lack of muscles made it hard to communicate strength without some kind of prop. In my sketches, I did some exploring, doing some poses with props, some without, some with superhuman strength, some poses out of comics books, some from photos, and some out of my head. Here is what came out:

I also decided to add in the silhouettes with this week's poses, because I think it's even more important to have a strong (heh) silhouette and line of action for this particular assignment, again, because it's not an emotional pose and it needs to read right off the bat (and as you can see from number 9, I'm still feeling the gymnastics love even though the Olympics have ended). 

Something I dwelt on a lot while doing these was whether or not it helped the pose if Stu was struggling to push/lift whatever prop he had. In some cases it seems like that would take away from the pose immediately reading as "strength" by making Stu seem weak and unable to move the object, but in others it seems to help the overall reading of the pose. Since I'm still unsure, I'll let you decide! Here are the Stu poses I came up with after getting a bit of feedback from my classmates:

You know the drill by now, right? Which Stu or sketch looks the strongest? Vote away!

And don't forget to come back next week when I'll have a finalized walk cycle and another round of poses for you to vote on! 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

It's already Week 7?

I don't know how that happened. I'm already over halfway done with Class One! Insanity. In a good way, of course. And what's even more exciting, this week we finally got to animate Tailor! He's the little bouncing ball rig with a squirrel's tail. I've been seeing him in AM student reels for a long time and was super stoked to finally get to animate with him. It's the first time we've really gotten to animate a character who is moving and thinking of his/her own accord. Here's the shot I came up with earlier this week:

(Who has two thumbs and figured out how to make the videos larger? Eh?)

For our assignment this week we had two options to choose from: animate Tailor doing an action of your choice that includes at least three bounces, or animate the one-legged ball rig doing a single jump, landing, and settling. For whatever reason, almost everyone chooses Tailor over poor One-Leg. During my Q&A this week, my mentor mentioned that he likes when his students add a bit of entertainment value to their shots, like a small gag or visual joke of some kind (as long as you don't let the gag take up all your time and attention, causing your animation to suffer).

So, after class I looked back at my shot and thought that, while I had faithfully executed the assignment, it wasn't the most exciting thing in the world. It felt like I was doing an overlap exercise and nothing more. So, I decided to stop neglecting One-Leg and put him in my shot as well. It seemed like Tailor was running from something anyways, so I decided to have One-Leg chase him into frame, only to be foiled by the first wall that Tailor glides over. And so:

Ta da! I'm pretty happy with how it came out and I think it's more fun to watch now. Though, poor One-Leg just can't win. Heh. This week we also had to revise our pendulum shots from last week:

My mentor had a few notes for this, mostly concerning the last swing and settle as the pendulum stops. That section gave me grief the first time around and it was still difficult to get it right for this revision. Plus, while I worked on this, I was at the part of the Return of the King audiobook when Sam thinks that Frodo is dead and it was stressing me out. All around, a stressful shot. But I got it to work eventually, I hope (Sam discovered Frodo wasn't dead, just paralyzed, so it worked out for him at least).

Welp, that's all for this week, lovelies. Get yourselves ready for Week 8, when we get to start our first walk cycle! And there will be a new batch of drawings for you to vote on! And Frodo will destroy the ring! And King Aragon will finally return! HUZZAH!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Playing Catch Up

I know, I know. I've been slacking. But that means you get two weeks worth of homework in this post! PLEASE CONTAIN YOURSELVES. First up, my revision of my two bouncing balls from Week 4:

I had a few little things to change for this revision, my mentor just had a few minor notes on timing that I needed to fix. Though I do need to start getting in the habit of planning my shots under the amount of required frames so I have some wiggle room if I end up needing it (which I almost always do). If I had 20 extra frames here you would've seen some nice settle on that beach ball but alas, I was at my frame limit and my due date loomed.

Okay next up is my actual assignment from last week, which definitely the most fun assignment we've had so far. Bouncing ball obstacle course WHOOOOOOO. We were given several obstacle course sets to choose from and then pretty much let loose to do what we wanted after that, as long as physics still applied. And we even got to squash and stretch the ball, huzzah! Lucky for you, I already revised this shot as part of my homework for this week so it's already all nice and neat for you.

I had a lot of fun with this one. And for a bit of experimentation, I did it pretty much straight ahead and put a key on every frame. I used to think 3D animators who did this were crazy people but I actually loved the amount of control it gave me. So screw you computer, you're a terrible inbetweener, anyway.  Heh. But be forewarned, if you don't plan well when doing a shot this way, things can get messy fast and it might hurt you more than help you.

And here is the final devastation pose I went with (thanks for all your help, darlings). I revised it a bit for this week after some feedback from my mentor and hopefully it reads more clearly than it did initially. But man, I'm never gonna get used to Stu's huge head. 

And finally for this week's assignment! Our lecture this week went over overlapping action, which is fun because stuff we're animating is actually starting to look pretty cool. I always think that overlapping action is one of the more straight forward principles. When I think about it, I'm like, "Yes, that makes total sense, breaking of joints, wave motion, drag, follow through, simple BOOM." But actually animating it and getting it to look juuuust right is deceptively difficult. AKA: this shot took me way longer than I thought it would. Heh. 

And hey guess what? I came 30 frames under the limit. I planned for 50 under the limit and then I added 20 because my pendulum settle felt a tad too fast. I'M LEARNING!

I hope you enjoyed my homework dump, readers. Next week I'll have a new emotion pose for you to vote on so keep your eyes peeled. I won't slack I promise! If you get bored in the meantime, go read Ryan Lochte's Twitter feed, especially if silly spelling errors make you laugh. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Devastation and Stuff

Hello lovely readers! This week I need your help again! Part of our homework is to find a pose that communicates "devastation" (bit of a bummer after drawing a bunch of excited guys last time) and since all you lovelies were so helpful last time, I'm asking for another round of votes! Here are the sketches I did so you can see where I started from:
I thought devastation would be relatively easy to portray, but I think some of my drawings just came off as "tired"or "suddenly dizzy". Heh. After getting some feedback from my peers, I posed a handful of them with Stu, as seen here:

Stu's enormous head and tiny legs proved to be a challenge for me again (I did attempt to pose drawing 7 but it proved impossible with Stu's head). Even if I scale the arms enough so that Stu can wrap his arms all the way around his head, it still looked weird. Anyways, I would love to hear your thoughts! Which Stu looks the most devastated, A-F? Or do you like one of the drawings better? Sound off in the comments and check back at the end of this week, when I'll post a revision of my two bouncing balls from last week as well as my obstacle course assignment from this week! Much less depressing!

EDIT: Okay I did one more, we'll call this Pose G. I went back drawing 7 and tried to make it happen and I'm actually rather happy with what came out. Feel free to vote for this one if you like it best!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bouncing Balls Galore

While I unfortunately have no drawings for you to vote on this week, dear readers, I do have two (count 'em, TWO!) animations on which to feast your eyes. Now, I'll admit they are not the most exciting things in the world but they are very important exercises that will do nothing but help in the long run. You know, like learning your scales (don't tell anyone that I never really learned my scales on guitar I'm gonna do it right this time shhhhhh).

First off, I've finessed my single bouncing ball from last week. My mentor was generally pleased with it but he did ask me to tweak the timing a bit so here is what resulted:

With animation this simple, I think I sometimes get too caught up and overwork a shot, past the point where I should have stopped, to the point where I no longer have a clear vision in my head of what I want to be doing (this definitely happens to me with more complicated shots as well, just not as quickly). Then suddenly, I'm at a point where I can't make it look good again and I've also lost my ability to tell what looks correct anymore. At that point I usually flip my chair around to my TV, play a couple rounds of Mario Kart (or Super Smash Bros. if I'm feeling especially frustrated and feel the need to Falcon Punch the crap out of a tiny, electric Pokemon), and come back with fresh eyes. I find that it really, truly does help to take a break every half hour or so and stop staring at your animation (sidenote: the pomodoro method is so effective, it's insane. It seems too simple to be as effective as it is but TRUST ME. Google it). That way, your eyeballs don't fall out of your head and your mind and body get a little break. Oftentimes I come back and boom! I see exactly what I couldn't see earlier, and am able to fix the mistake. I think this is good advice for any level of animator, or frankly for anyone who works at a desk all day long. Breaks are good. They will help you.

Okay tangent over. HOMEWORK! This week we were assigned another bouncing ball shot (but this time we used two. Schwing!) One ball was supposed to be a very heavy one, like a cannon ball or a bowling ball. The other was supposed to be very light, like a beach ball or ping pong ball. The point of the assignment was to understand how differences in spacing and timing affect how the audience will perceive the weight of an object. How does the timing of a bowling ball bounce differ from a beach ball? What are the differences between a ping pong ball and a cannon ball as they roll off a table? After watching practically every youtube video of people throwing beach balls around and dropping bowling balls in parking lots, here is what I came up with:

Pretty happy with this one too, though I might make a few tweaks to both shots before Sunday. Thanks for reading! I'll be back next week, when I'll have a new emotion to pose out and I'll need your help again, friends! So stay tuned and go see Batman this weekend so I can geek out with you about it.