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!