Friday, December 19, 2008

End of Class 2

Class 2 ended this week. I polished my last assignment and put together a pogress reel for both classes 1 & 2. The concentration level increased dramatically in class 2. Next time I'll try to chose simple projects  so that I don't stress for more time. Sandy proved to be a valuable friend when I needed help tackling the dreaded gimble lock - thank you Sandy. 

One of our classmates from the first class, Casey McDermott, landed a job at Rhythm & Hues. Congratulations! Casey is a talented animator and a wonderful person who has a great potential to go far in this industry. He helped me rig the fishing rod in my final assignment. I wish him the best. I also owe him a lunch ;o)

Another friend of mine, Teresa Nord, graduated Animation Mentor - congratulations Teresa! I met Teresa at Martin Hash's get together a couple of years ago when we worked on The Tin Woodman of Oz, a volunteer film project of ameteur animators using the Animation:Master software. Teresa's dream is to work for Pixar and I believe she will ventually end up there because I saw in her a burning desire to succeed and a strong passion for the art. All she has to do now is polish her demo reel and gain as much experience as possible working in the industry. All the best Teresa!

My mentor, Peter Kelly, also got his job back at ILM, congratulations on that. I think ILM is the place for me because of the array of projects they work on, most of which are behind the scenes, which I like.

During the course I joined MySpace, Facebook, and Linkedin, just to keep on the up & up with the rest of the animators. I also did a small acting gig promoting a translation software being developed by the Stanford Research Institute. I'll post the clip if I can get a copy.

Anyway, that's all for now - I hope you enjoy the clip. And Happy Holidays.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sleeping Beauty and Return of the Jedi

I watched Walt Disney's legendary Sleeping Beauty 50th anniversary platinum edition and was reminded of the sophisticated artistry and style of this unique treasure. Most notably, the background work of the artist Eyvind Earle

to whom Walt went in the hopes of injecting new life into what has become a predictable cartoony style aimed at children. This movie is Eyvind's. The infusion of Eyvind's style raised the bar for the animation industry to new heights and opened doors for imagination that later led to such classics as Fantasia. Geometric landscapes, art deco, gothic and even the characters were inspired by Eyvind, all contributed to produce one of Disney's first successful films.

But what struck me was the scene where we first see Malificent's goons in her castle as she expresses her frustration for not finding Aurora/Briar Rose. And in particular this guy (from a later scene in the film):

Immediately I thought "that's the character from Star Wars the Return of the Jedi!" The resemblance is unmistakable:

(Or should I say that the guy from Star Wars is based on him?) Could it be that George was, somehow, influenced by that image and reintroduced his own version for his film? I don't remember him saying that. It amazes me, however, when I saw ROJ I did not make the connection but now that I watch SB again the connection is made. And just to be sure that I'm not the only one making this connection, I asked my son when we watched it and he also immediately made that connection without hesitation.

So the next time your kid scoffs at Sleeping Beauty, it might be a good opportunity for an intellectual discussion about how history influences the future. And in my animation journey it certanly made me appreciate the contributions of of the artists of the golden age to the rest of the generations after them.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Class 2 update - 208

Since each assignment takes 3 weeks to complete, updates in this blog become few and far in between. Right now I'm working on the last assignment, but I thought I put up my last two assignments.

This one was done in week 4. The emphasis is on weight shift. This is also where we start shooting video references of ourselves as part of the assignment to study the different mechanics and forces that are involved in a simple turn around.

Mid term assignment is where we get to use Stewie without arms. The complexity of animating an added torso and head increased exponentially. I found myself going over the allotted frame limit. This is also the first time I add sound to my work.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

An evening with animation legend Richard Williams

It was an exciting evening (Sunday, 11-2-2008). At the old Balboa Theater in San Francisco

I attended an evening with Richard Williams, a legendary animator best known for his work on Roger Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, sponsored by ASIFA SF.

He is the author of one of the mandatory animation books at Animation Mentor 'The Animator's Survival Kit', a book that I have referred to many times in my animation journey and found it to be very useful and practical. It has become one of the most popular animation books in the industry. Although Richard's main purpose of the seminar is to promote his tutorial DVDs (16 DVDs of 100s of clips that he animated to illustrate his lecture). I liked the fact that the format of the presentation was more of a Q & A than just a "shameless promotional". He began by showing the promotional clip which started with the animated logo The rest of the evening continued with an equal mix of clips from the DVDs and Q & A.

When asked what can be done about animation as a medium to advance beyond the children and family entertainment so that it can be taken seriously not just as a form of telling high browed narratives but as a fine art; Richard replied "I'm making one of those!" His answer, in a nut shell, was to just do it. But the problem is 'the golden rule' (Whoever has the gold, makes the rule), so if you want to get backing from somebody, they want to make children stuff. This is the reason Richard is selling his work in order to be able to produce his own work.

He dodged a question about his opinion of The Thief and the Cobbler, I guess its a sensitive spot with him.

He didn't reveal much about his film other than he had the idea for it since he was 15. He does not want anyone else to help him with it. He mentioned how relieved he was when Spielberg took over his small company of animators. He does not like running the business side of animation.

Watched some incredible footage about lip sync. He relayed Milt Kahl telling him the secret of lip sync, he told him that Jim Henson, the Muppet guy, is the genius because he realized what no other puppeteer realized before him, he is progressing the action. The secret to lip sync is progression.

A good quesion was asked "How do you feel about the attitude that there is no point in animating human beings (realism) when you got action films?" In summation, Richard said that animators discovered how realistic animation does not work back in the 30s. It lookd floaty, unbelievable. They tried using a reference for Snow White walking. The important part of artistic animation is that you only show the essence of the idea. In realism there is so much detail being conveyed that the viewer will become detached from the subject.

Richard is not of the opinion that 3D animation is an outgrowth of 2D. He said that 2D animators are scribblers while 3D is hi tech marionettes. Different animals.

Another great clip about eyes. The eyes tell the story. We watch the eyes more than the mouth.

About facing frustration during animating, he advised to research your work before you animate.

He told some charming stories of his work with Milt Kahl, Art Ba
bbit, Ken Harris and other animation legends and revealed some little golden animation nuggets of wisdom that he referred to as little secrets. They are no secret now, but his way of relaying them was funny and entertaining. He also relayed a funny story where actor Michael Caine gave an acting session where he said to his students "If you see something you like, steal it! Because they did" Of course Richard also said that he doesn't like it when people steal his work, but I took it in the context of inspiration.

The theater was full, 300 people attended. This is the first time th
at I was among so many individuals with similar interest as mine. Quite a few Animation Mentor students but the majority were SF State or College of Art students. Their enthusiasm to Richard's lecture tells me that this industry has a lot of steam in it. I am looking forward to what comes next in the future of animation.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Class 2

Class 201

The second semester Q&A started like the last semester, introduction time! My mentor this time around is Peter Kelly, a soft spoken gentleman and a talented animator whose latest work can be seen in Iron Man. He animated Iron Man so well I thought it was a suit worn by Robert Downey Jr.

Peter started with 2D animation, inspired by Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, he pursued Disney animation. A CalArts graduate of traditional animation, and an accomplished draftsman, he was further inspired when attending lectures by animation legends such as James Baxter, Andreas Deja, Glenn Keane, and Marc Davis. Hired by ILM after they saw his short film he went on to work on Star Wars Episode II and III, the Hulk, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean 2 & 3, and Iron Man, among others.

Laid off from ILM during the writers' strike, Peter now is a lead animator at Cinematica, a game production company.
The class students is a mix of different levels of experiences. Sandy Sze (pronounced Sea) is the only classmate from my previous class, which, I think, makes the transition into the new class easier - Sandy is an accomplished animator and a great person to be associated with.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

End of Class 1

Just got back from a mini vacation so I thought I update this blog. Last week was the end of class 1. There really was no assignment per se but Bobby wanted us to upload a progress reel containing all of our work in the class, so, here it is

I wanted to keep polishing the Laurel & Hardy walk cycle but there seem to be a glitch in the Maya AM tools and since school is out for this week I figured I upload what I got and polish it later. This class has been an eye opener for me when it comes to planning the work. I learned how to plan everything by blocking and layering every detail. I also learned how to exaggerate my poses. Elliott Roberts has been great and gave me a very good review. I will keep in touch with him since I know he has tons more knowledge to offer, besides being a great guy to chat with.

On to Class two.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Class 109

This is where we get to experiment with walk cycles which is pretty exciting because this is arguably the most difficult part of animation, as admitted by the professionals as well. But that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the other assignment, the concerned pose.
Concerned! Now that is one vague emotion to try and illustrate on a faceless character such as Stu. What I found frustrating about this assignment is the lack of a good pose that clearly illustrates (in silhouette) someone who has a concern. I googled many references for "concerned", but I either come up with previous AM students' work - which had a certain sameness to it - or pictures of actors where most of the concern was in the face. So how do you illustrate someone who is concerned with only the body? I recorded my thoughts in the hope of finding an answer to the basic of posing in animation; the line of action. What line of action best describes a person is concerned? The first thought of a concern pose almost always reads either more like a person is thinking, or is devastated. Worry is closer to concern but only to a lighter degree, yet the question still begs for an answer:

I don't know if my ideas about what line of action is most appropriate for the concerned pose have any merit, but I wish there was a book or a blog out there that explains, in detail, the correlation between emotional states and lines of action.

In my search for a pose that is unique I found the old Coppertone ad to be the most appealing, and since most students at Animation Mentor are too young to reember this ad

I siezed the opportunity to pose Stu in that fashion because I think the pose, in all its adorable cuteness, represents concern without going overboard into other emotional states that everyone (including myself) seem to fall prey to.

I am still searching for that illusive connection between vague emotions and the line of action, and I hope that someone will discover it.

In the meantime, here are some more examples of my work in Class 1. With only two weeks left this is by far one of the most positive experiences I have in my life.

In this next clip is an exercise in overlapping action. Our class had the pleasure of being mentored by Raquel Rabbit as a substitute because Elliott had to be in Germany for a couple of weeks. Raquel brought with her a fresh perspective and her thorough observations and engaging style was welcomed by all.

Here we combine the principles of exaggeration, squash-and-stretch and overlapping actions all in one act of our choice.

I, again, opted for some originality in the pose depicting strength. Almost everyone else went for the oft cliche of physical srength. I tried to illustrate a strength in attitude;

Friday, August 1, 2008

Class 101 Update

I figured its August and I better show some of the work so far;

Emphasis on clear poses, there was no specific pose required, just anything that we sketched during the week. My son Jared helped me with some yard work and this is the pose I chose for the assignment; pulling tree branches.

The first animation exercise, the famous bouncing ball. It is amazing how hard this exercise is in spite of its simplicity. The y axis (hight) and its relation to the x axis (distance) need not be mathematically correct, believability is what we're after. And if you add an x rotation, things get pretty intersting

Sketches and pose of an excited person:

More fun with bouncing balls, this time exhibiting two different weights:

Pose expressing devastation;

And more bouncing ball but this time we put it through an obstacle course and use squash and stretch and exaggeration, two of the fundamental principle in animation

So far the experience has been wonderful. I enjoy being among like minded people and everybody at Animation Mentor has been helpful and a joy to know and learn from.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Class 101

The first week of class 1 (of the regular AM semester) has begun after much excitement and anticipation. WOW! The amount of material is overwhelming. The great thing is the tremendous welcome messages I got from students in advanced classes. That is a great way of motivating newcomers and making them feel welcome. There are many training videos to sift through and the amount of knowledge they contain are pure gold. The Q&A session with mentor Elliott Roberts was mainly focused on introducing ourselves via web cam. I no longer have the distinction of being the oldest in my class for I now share this privilage with two other who are contemplating a career change. Our mentor, Elliott Roberts is a super nice guy. He worked as an animator on Robots, Ratatouille, Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest, Charlotte's Web and Iron Man, among others. He is a visual effects artist on the movie Mutants (in production). His experience at Pixar, ILM, and Tippet Studio makes him a treasure chest that I will try and hoard as much knowledge from him as I can.

Here is a pose set I did in Maya to comemorate the beginning of the AM journey; I call this 'A Star is Born'

This next one is just simple posing since, eventualy, posing will be our first assignment;

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Zen of 2D

Taking advantage of the term break I went ahead and did this 2D exercise in FlipBook to satisfy my animation itch. I realized something while animating in the old fashioned art of frame by frame, that there is a sense of zen that takes over while I laboriously tried to stay conscious of not repeating the previous drawing (a very easy trap to fall into I found). The realization that I will have to create the next frame from scratch, without even a hint of reference. I mean recreate the model from head to toe, recreate the props in their entirety even though they're not doing much of movement. Just the elation and horror of anticipating a blank page in the next frame is an experience only a 2D animator can appreciate. Flipping back and forth between the blank page and the previous frame just to stay in the flow of the movement, flow of life, the whole experience just forces me completely, my entire body and mind, to surrender to the task at hand. Taking a stretch break from the hand cramp, stiff neck, tight back, all become a hindrance because I did not want to get out of that zen mode. The moment of feeling completely alive while shutting the rest of the world completely out.

In 3D, the environment (props) aren't going anywhere, especially when they're constrained. You don't even have to create the model again. All you're doing is posing the model (puppet) at the established keyframes then tweaking the splines of inbetweens. A moving hold was not a term I recall existed when animating in 2D, but it is absolutely necessary in 3D to cover up the "deadness" ofthe medium.

One last thing this 2D work has done (only 83 frames), is it made me appreciate the amazing draftsmanship of the 2D animators of the past who made the drawings flow so smoothly from frame to frame.

Now, in this particular quick sketch, I took the idea from Disney Animation "The Illusion of Life" where at the top corner of the book is a series of flipbook (not the registered trade mark) drawings of some clips from Disney animation films that I thought would make a good exercise. I realized also that flip book animations do not go by the standard 24fps that film does. 16 frames in a flip book is enough to give an illusion of life. But it took me 83 frames just to make it register in a movie and even then I had to look twice to see what the character had done. It needs a lot of clean up, but it sure taught me a valuable lesson about timing, squash & stretch and spacing.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Woohoo I even get a certificate

Well now here's an unexpected pleasant surprise, AM actually issued me a certificate :o)

I think its a very nice touch to keep the positive attitude flowing as we head into Class 1

Thanks AM

Thursday, June 12, 2008

End of Maya Springboard

Maya Springboard last session was last night. My thoughts are that it was a very positive experience to learn about Animation Mentor's way of teaching and culture. The first half of the semester was all about learning how to navigate the online school structure and what to expect once the classes start and how to interact with mentors and students.

The second half was all about learning the Maya software. Kudos to AM for making learning Maya easy and fun. It was a combination of video tutorials and live Q&A sessions. The rigs that AM provides make animating them easy. Here is my last two assignments. Visiting the other Maya classes was also fun. Seeing other students work and exchanging comments helps in assessing our progress. Looking forward to the next semester which I will chronicle in another blog.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Maya Springboard

Only one week left for Animation Mentor's Maya Springboard and I thought I share some of my work :)

This first one is learning how to model basic shapes in Maya as well as adding shades, textures, lighting, and cameras. (The robot I imported for fun - I did not model)

Then some basic animations to get used to the tools in Maya. I am impressed with this software, feels smooth to operate.

This last one I did in FlipBook to have a good idea of how things will work out before working in Maya.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

My Animation History

I was searching for some old college notes when I stumbled on my old Animation history that I thought is worth preserving in cyberspace. Its my first Super8 movie camera with single frame capability that I bought from a camera store in Laguna Hills (I believe it was on Alicia Pkwy), still in its original box with the peripherals that came with it. I may have only used it for a year or so. I'm amazed how well it still looks.

As I opened the film bay to take pictures of it, lo and behold there is a Super8 Kodak film still in it!

I have no idea what is on the film (if anything). It's been over 25 years and I don't remember. I'm not sure if I should take it in and get it developed. I don't know if its still any good, or if any photo stores left that develop Super8's. But, that was how I was geting into being an independant animator.

I also found my pegboard

and animation paper and cells.

I threw away the animation paint when they dried up. I bought the stuff from before there was computers or internet. I'm glad to see them survive to this day. I can't seem to find the grid sheet that had the TV safe borders. Oh well, nothing lasts forever.

It was a time of discovery and dreams. I just can't imagine myself now drawing frame by frame - then shooting the film, frame by frame, have it developed, put it in the movie projector only to find out what timing and spacing that needs to be changed or tweaked.

We've come a long way haven't we?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Class 1

Just got done with Class 1 of Animation Mentor's Maya Springboard. Anthony Travieso (our class mentor) was superb. He was fun to chat with and the session was crammed with information about using Maya and he knows his stuff. The live cam sessions are great - so much better than typing :P The time went by fast and I was able to use the Cintiq as a dual monitor where the session is on one screen and work on Maya on the other. I am liking the Maya software very much. The people in the class are some of the nicest people.

First impressions? This is going to be a great ride.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cintiq has arrived

A very exciting day. I purchased the Cintiq 21UX tablet a couple of days ago from Wacom Direct website. That same day I received an email from UPS giving the details of transport and delivery date. I even received a recorded message from them telling me to expect the shipment arrival between the hours of 8:00AM and 7:00PM - isn't that amazing? They narrowed it down to 11 hours!!! And the message also said that an adult above the age of 21 must sign for it otherwise it will be returned to the warehouse for further instructions. Believe me, I am not about to miss the delivery, so I played hooky from work ;) I checked the UPS tracking yesterday afternoon and saw that my Cintiq has arrived at their South San Francisco distribution point. I was so excited I wanted to just drive there (40 minute drive) and pick it up myself - but that was just a thought. So, today was the big day. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. I was also so paranoid of the driver missing my house (even though they have delivered here a hundred times) I am not about to ake any chances, what if the driver was new and isn't familiar with my neighborhood? AT 7:30AM I posted a note on my door to let the driver know that not only is he at the correct address but that I am present to sign for the shipment.
And I waited, and waited. Every time I hear a truck driving by I run and open the door to see if it was the delivery. Every 15 - 20 minutes I'd be at the door, adjusting the sign so that it can be seen directly from his vantage point. Anyway its 8:30AM and my palms are sweaty. I thought I'd better distract myself, so I read my email, visited Animation Mentor to see if anything is new in my box, posted a couple of replies at the 11 Second Club, and the Animation:Master forum. Then went to Netflix and watched a movie online, all the while going to the door and checking.
Finally at 2:00PM a loud knock is on the door.....and there it is; a 36lb carton box in all its glory!

I think the smell of a new electric gadget is as intoxicating as that of a new car, don't you agree? And what is up with all the warnings from Wacom? "DO NOT lift the stand...", "DO NOT remove the foam...", " DO NOT operate the display...", "DO NOT plug in the USB until directed to do so.." What the hey man? Don't they know that people are going to be on pins and needles to use their tablet than to be reading so many DO NOTS? Especially when there is so much to be done? But, considering how much it costs I didn't take any chances and agonizingly read and followed all their instructions to the tee.

So get this, I assemble the unit (heavy) and hook it up to the computer, but lo and behold my electrical strip is full!! DOH! Evil ideas started creeping into my head "You don't need that other computer?" But I answer myself "it has files on it that I haven't used for years, what if I need them???". "You don't need that other monitor?", "But I do, that computer has dual monitor capability, it would be a waste of a plug not to use two monitors!". So I kept going back and forth with myself and finally, FINALLY, discovered a free socket behind one of the computers that I rarely use !!! Guess what, that is the Cintiq socket!

Ta daaaaaaaaa

That is one beautiful gizmo. And ifyou think I am going to let a bare hand touch that pretty screen, you bette think again. I dug out from my days of photography a genuine, 1976 Kodak cotton glove and modified it so that I can feel the pen but protect thescreen from my grubby hand ;) Clever huh?

And right away I went to work on Jason Ryan's ramp up tutorials

And there you go, my first Flipbook movie brought to you by Cintiq :D

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Trying out Maya 2008 (or 9.0)

I purchased the Boris rig from Jason Ryan just so I have something to experiment with in Maya while waiting for the Animation Mentor Maya Springboard to start with the Maya section (we're being introduced to the web site for now). I must say that not only is the Boris rig awesome and fun to use, but Jason, his (I presume) wife, Susan, and Lee (Boris rigger) are most helpful when I needed help. Jason even called me by telephone to make sure that he understood my trouble (which was mostly my lack of understanding Maya). You don't get service like that nowadays. Lee resolved the issue and that is my first rendered pose of Boris - I'm pretty happy with it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

My birthday my blog day

Hey there, so this is the birth of my first blog which happens to be on my birthday (April 19). I am currently in Animation Mentor Maya Springboard class an am hoping to use this space to publish my progress. We'll see how it goes.

I did this pencil illustration back in 1982 at a cartooning class that I attended at Golden West college in Huntington Beach, California. My teacher, Tom Shannon, has been a great influence on me. I miss you Tom.