Monday, November 30, 2009

Character Animation

Blocking Second Pass (part 2)
I have taken the second part of the sequence through the same process I described below. This time however I filmed some reference footage for the first shot because I was not happy with the blocking. I recorded myself repeating the dialogue several times on my webcam until I got a few interesting gestures. I especially wanted to get rid of the "For Me..." gesture where he put his hand on his chest. That just seemed too obvious and in fact when I acted it out, that was the last thing I would do when saying those words.

In fact it still needs some tweaking because I haven't captured the second part of that gesture properly, but this is looking much better and more interesting than before. Now I could do with some feedback before taking it further.
Next Installment: Splined

Friday, November 27, 2009

Character Animation

Blocking Second Pass (part 1)

Here I have taken the first few shots of the piece through the second stage of my blocking process which adds breakdowns and inbetweens to further define the actions. Hopefully you can see that working in this way allows you to build up a nuanced and complicated performance from a very simple foundation.

At this stage I am generally not even touching the facial expressions or lip-sync. You want the performance to work without, so don't add it until you're happy with the physical acting. There are points in this where I want Karl to be thinking to himself and you can already see that coming across just because he stops looking at the other two and sort of retreats into himself physically. Ricky is quite manic and so his character is fast moving and dynamic but the other two are both quite dead pan deliveries. It should make a nice contrast and also it allows for some more subtle acting. It can be quite tempting in animation to over act but when a character is not moving, generally it means they are thinking. And that is when an audience starts to get drawn into a performance or character when they see a thought process stirring up inside.

Next installment: Blocking Second Pass (Part 2)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Character Animation

Blocking (first pass)

I've transferred my thumbnails into 3d now, and as you will see it has already changed quite a bit from the initial sketches. I found that some of the poses needed pushing for clearer silhouettes and also you start finding nice contrasting lines of action in the body and head when you are flipping between the poses. I like to pose out my shot with the keyframes next to each other before I time them out along the audio so you can do the 3d equivalent of flipping your drawings.

I have changed one of the camera choices from the animatic too beacuse I needed to frame the characters a bit differently. Some of the acting/pose choices have evolved here too. I am constantly acting it out in my head and getting up and doing little gestures to see what might work better for the character. Some people would shoot reference before starting to block out the shot but I like to get quite well into the second pass blocking before I shoot any reference on something like this. Really I will only use that to get ideas for where I can refine and add extra realism which comes much later. It's important not to get bogged down in details at this stage. For now I'm happy with the first pass and where it is leading... you might want to get some feedback at this stage or show it to your director to make sure you are getting what you want from the keyposes. Even though I have blocked it very simply it is important to have some idea of where you are going to elaborate on actions in the next phase.

Next installment: Blocking (plus)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Character Animation

Now that we have our shots layed out we can go into photoshop and rough in some thumbnails. We have the characters basic positions in the frame and we can run through some rough acting/pose ideas to get things rolling.

This has the advantage of being able to try out ideas and experiment a bit without wasting time posing the rigs in 3D. Sometimes I would just use pencil and not bother scanning them in and putting it together like this but I thought it would show my ideas better.

Ok, so for first pass thumbnails we have some interesting ideas developing here. We've got enough to take into MAYA now and begin fleshing out these poses. I like to keep things loose throughout this process because I find I can feel out stronger poses and acting once we are in 3D.
Next installment: Blocking

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Character Animation

Breaking Down Audio/Camera Animatic

The first stage in my process is basically layout. I take the characters into the 3d environment along with any props and models I may need. I set up the characters sitting around a table as I wanted to make it feel like this dialogue was part of an interview (I may elaborate on the gag further down the line). So two guys interviewing and one interviewee. I sit them down in a neutral pose and then go in and set up some camera's that will determine the shots I want. With this done I take a render of each camera angle and then edit them together in After Effects to see how the sequence will break down into seperate shots. Here is the video of that edit:

I think this is a pretty good pacing for the sequence, keeps things interesting focusing on different character's at various points. Obviously the more you know about cinematography the better you will be able to set something like this up. You should be aware of things like the 180 degree rule so that things are clear and readable. At various points we are not actually looking at the person who is talking which will give me a chance to animate reaction shots which will add to the cinematic feel. I may add changes and subtle zooms etc in MAYA but for now this does it's job and gets the ball rolling.
Next installment: Thumbnailing
Character Animation

Software/Rig choice
Now that we have the audio file, we need to decide what we are going to animate with. If like me you decided to specialise in animation then you may not be able to model and rig your own character. That's ok though because there are a multitude of rigs out there built by clever people who do have those skills and are willing to share their generic/practice rigs for us animators to use. Just don't go using them for commercial or profit making films.

Here are some of the rigs I found at 11 second club. They have a great website where you can enter a character animation competition each month. Some rigs are better than others, the three in the middle of the above picture are the ones I have chosen. Partly because I have used them before and know they work well and partly because they fit the characters of the dialogue.

As you can see I have chosen to use MAYA. This is the program I am most comfortable with but there are a multitude of choices around. The best bet is to decide based on the industry standard software of the field you want to crack into. High end character animation almost always uses MAYA. Games animation would be 3DS Max. Investigate the companies you want to work at and see what they use.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Character Animation
A look at the process and progress of an animated scene.

It has been a while since I animated a really juicy dialogue shot in 3d animation so I've decided to create one as a centre piece for my show-reel. Since I always learned a lot from seeing other people's working method I thought I would also document it on this blog. I will try to go into as much detail as I can. Before we start I suggest you look at my current show-reel.

Picking the audio
To begin with you have to pick a piece of dialogue to animate. This is a very important part and there are many options. The industry standard method of creating a piece of character animation for a show-reel is to take a clip from a film or TV show or similar source, and animate a short clip in your own unique way. It is down to personal preference but you have to consider who you want to see it and how they may react so don't have anything offensive or nasty. I try not to pick anything too well known, if it is from the latest blockbuster film then your audience already has preconceptions of the audio. And if you're trying to out act Robert DeNiro you might come away looking a bit silly.

I have picked some audio from a podcast that I listen to. It is from the Ricky Gervais podcast and features Karl Pilkington and Steve Merchant. It is quite well known I suppose, but it has only ever been in audio format so you don't know how they would act it out themselves which gives me free reign to invent a performance.

There are a lot of clips I could have gone with but I narrowed it down to this 39 second clip. It has some very interesting rythm's and beats in the dialogue which is what you should look for and also it inspired me (probably the most important thing) and made me laugh. I would suggest a shorter clip if you are just starting to animate. About 10 seconds is good. But I want to go for something that requires some different camera shots and movement. We will see if I have taken on too much!

Friday, November 13, 2009

I want to share some links that have been keeping me inspired over the last few months, most of it is comics related... some animation related. All inspiring artwork and thoughtful blogging. So in no particular order: Jason Brubaker is working on an independent graphic novel called Re-Mind which looks stunning and I am following the progress on and off. Scott Morse is a Pixar story artist I believe. I first found him through his graphic novel Ancient Joe which I'd recommend by the way. His blog is full of artwork he does outside of work. I have no idea how he finds the time! Darren Rawlings working on a graphic novel. Agent Orange. I don't know how close to completion it is but the development work is fantastic. He also has a cool webcomic, The life of Rex Bunyan. Yet more graphic novelly goodness from Evan Dahm. This one is epic and I've barely scratched the surface. Will probably just get the book when I can afford it but I like to check out the site now and then to see what's new. Chris Grine's new site launching soon with Chickenhare 3 which is being released as a webcomic. He is a published comic creator and yet he's decided to release this latest book online. Perhaps that means publishing on the web IS a potential money maker. Hmm. I love this site for an inspirational monday lecture. Davis B Levy has created several tv series and even published a book on how you can do the same. It is quite New York indy scene orientated but very interesting none the less. Fun comic about a kid in school who tries to be a super hero. Foul mouthed but often hilarious comic about a chicken (cock) and a cow (bull).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My plans to update the blog regularly have faltered again... I need to integrate this more into my website so that everything is easily updatable. Anyway my comic K-9Lives is coming to a close I think. It is just not keeping me interested enough to continue and there are other things I feel would greater benefit my time. I am considering taking December off from updating all my comics anyway so that I can come back fresh in the new year.

I recently attended FLIP '09 and took part in a portfolio review session. Basically 6 animators volunteered to display their show-reels in front of an audience and then receive an in depth critique from a panel of industry experts. It was a valuable experience and after the initial rush of nerves I quite enjoyed it and felt that the feedback given was well thought out and useful.

This is the showreel I cut after the feedback. I am currently searching for either freelance or fulltime work in animation. I am hoping to animate some commercials or idents for tv/online portals. I am always on the look out for high end character animation too so if you are an employer or interested party feel free to contact me. Details on my website.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hitchcock's Spellbound
Watched Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound last night. It is worth watching because it has some nice ideas and a fairly good story about a mental institution, psycho analysis and repressed guilt. Unfortunately I thought it was far from his best. In many ways this is a very generic 40's film that feels very dated now. Some of the story drags and the music - unlike say Psycho which is iconic - is again generic and dull. After watching the film I read an interview with Hitchcock and he echoed some these things himself. Apparently he had a producer who had some influence on the film and therefore it is not pure Hitchcock. A Salvador Dali dream sequence is a nice touch although it is not quite as cool as it sounds. Cinematograpy wise there were some nice moments. When the leading couple share their first kiss he cuts away to a long corridor of doors opening before fading back to the kiss. It was a nice metaphor opening up the sub-conscious mind and memory that kick-starts happenings in the story. Also later on in a plot twist moment (I'll leave out spoilers) the leading lady is in a crisis and panic, suddenly you see some classic Hitchcockian shots and cinematography. It really stood out in this moment and then he is put back on a leash.

Overall score: 60%

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A birthday card I did for my Nan, a huge horseracing fanatic!

This is the kitchen at my Nan and Da's, I had been practicing drawing with skewed perspective. Fun to do.
I sat and sketched my garden one afternoon, I need to do some more of this. I drew it straight down in ink which I prefer because you have to be bold with it. Coloured it in photoshop, toyed with the hue's for variation's. This was one sample.
Haven't been blogging much of anything lately. Lots going on behind the scenes but haven't been drawing stuff that I can post yet, it's all very hush hush. Also busy with the webcomics. This was a kind of mood board for a sports comic freelance pitch. Didn't get it, but I like some of these.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Comics Roundup
K-9Lives - The comic is back and running after the hiatus and things are going well. With the animated short going round festivals it is advertising the comic around the country. Last week I came up with a topical Swine Flu story that fitted in nicely with the theme. The Dog goes to Mexico to try to infect the Cat with flu... Ending with the CDC tracking them down, and an underground resistance group of pigs who've joined forces with refugees of the bird flu and BSE epidemics who defend them from the CDC patrol!

Bloodwhat? - My new comic, at it's core is a parody of an 80's dungeon adventure game, but it will go further than that and I will develop the world and characters into unique stories and situations. With 13 strips up so far it is early days but this is going strong and I have a good buffer built up so I should be able to keep the updates regular.

The Von Spleen Experiment - This is very early days in production... I was developing this as an animated short but the story kept growing and growing and ended up being beyond my ability to produce independently at the moment. So I am translating the thumbnailed story skectches into full comic pages. The hope is that I can generate interest in the story and characters through the comic first, eventually print a book and then see whether an animation would be viable afterwards.

And with all these projects going, I am now slightly burned out... I need to go out and have a beer, chill out and re-charge the batteries so I can get going on all these projects.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

At the weekend I made it down to the Worthing End of the Pier International Film Festival to see my film K-9Lives play. It was a really nice fest and the people I met were extremely nice, helpful and encouraging. Thanks to Roz and Linda for their kind words and for selecting my film for the competition. Go see to see what pipped me for best animation... Concragts to Carl Medland for winning an award for his film My Beauty. There were some really good films so it was just an honour to be screened. Unfortunately I couldn't make it to the awards ceremony but I recommend the fest for next year, and hope to have another film there!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rocket Jo (France 3)
Uploaded by Tele-Loisirs

This is the TV show I worked on in France for 6 months... It is showing now on French TV and will hopefully come to England? Or maybe DVD soon. For now though there is an episode on Daily-Motion. This one was animated by Christophe.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Storyboard Comparison (read bottom to top)
I thought it might be of interest for some people to see the story sketches I did for the animation below. As you can see I work very roughly, on various scraps of paper. I find it is easier to get ideas on paper if you are not feeling too precious about the result, It doesn't matter how it looks to me... so long as I have the idea. Then if it needs re-working I do that when I approach the scene in animation.

I chose this shot as the first animation test because I was happy with the shot, I knew it would be in the film.... wheras some other things in the film are shifting and changing still. I have probably half the story worked out, with the rest roughly mapped but needing some things adding. At the moment the story reel is running about 6-8 minutes and we're about half way through I think. So probably it will end up being about 12-15 minutes. I have about 1 minute of finished animation, so we're on our way!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Animation Test second pass TVSE from Doug on Vimeo.

I have been working on this shot for a while, trying to get the visuals to my taste. It takes a long time cleaning each frame of all the dust and debris that the scanner picks up. I need to see if there is a quicker way but for now I think this is how the film will look.

Festival Update:
K-9Lives Episode1 has been selected for screening at Worthing End Of The Pier Festival.
The screening is on the 30th April.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I've decided to do all the shadows rendering in pencils, I really prefer the look and it means I can spend more time at the drawing board which I prefer to staring at the computer screen. The comments from Sketch Tavern by Spagetthi016 and Dozer (dont know their real names!) were very helpful and I've made a few improvements on these shots.
I went off the grimy look of the previous B+W stills so I did a cleaner crisper version here. I also added colour to the yellow wires... This could be a god way of doing B+W and still having some visuals pop in colour on certain items.
I've posted my concept stuff at Sketch Tavern and just got an in depth critique on some of these stills, I'll post up the altered version soon.
I'm trying to define the visuals for the film, this is where I take some stills and try endless variations of colours, photoshop effects, chop and change different things. I'm quite likeing the black and white style.... I have always been drawn to B+W but haven't utilised it in any of my films yet. It seems like quite a big leap to take colour out of the picture. I do think it will fit the style of the story tho.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Early Animation Test for The Von Spleen Experiment from Doug on Vimeo.

For your viewing pleasure........ a veeery early test on The Von Spleen Experiment. I'm planning on using this very rough pencil style, the colours kinda rough too. I'm using a shadow layer which will take much longer to paint but I think it looks much nicer. I want to get things rolling with this project and don't want to hesitate too much.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

It's a bit early for poster design but I wanted to do a sorta concept sheet, with the main characters and the title. I can put this with the pitch materials but basically I'm making this without funding anyway.... so it's just for fun.
I actually started animating the first shot yesterday! It will give me a chance to try some things out and define the style, and I've picked a shot that I really like to start with and it's a lot of fun so far. I'm still storyboarding it but since I don't like getting bogged down in one area I'll move about onto different departments (storyboard, background, layout, animation, colouring etc) as and when I get the inspiration. That way I'll always be fresh.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Character sheets for my new project "The Von Spleen Experiment". I have had this project in slow development on story, character design, etc for about a year now and it's beginning to shape itself into a ready for production project. I am planning on getting some close friends to contribute some work in their particular fields of expertise, partly just to keep things interesting for me. I am planning a 6 month schedule for this which is 6x that of my previous film "K-9Lives Episode1". I think it will be important to aquire some outside assistance if only to keep my own inspiration levels up.
Unless I get some freelance work this is what I'll be working on for some time now so expect more of this to come over the following weeks.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Watch the trailer for my short film K-9Lives Episode 1 on the film's IMDB page.

Be sure to give it a rating after you watch!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Festival Update:
K-9Lives Episode1 has been selected for screening at "Shorts on Walls" as part of the Flatpack festival in Birmingham Sat 14th March.

Check my website for further details, and I'll keep updating on the blog about any other screenings.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

5. Refined. More reference for parts that I wasn't happy with, elongated for a longer vertical pan. Experimenting with colour in photoshop.

4. Colour. Inked up a version based on the previous sketch, and coloured digitally.

3. Rough sketch. Looked at photographic reference for various elements to get more depth to the piece. Developed the composition a bit further.

2. Developed thumbnail. I've been looking at forced and extreme perspectives and I tried to incorporate that into the composition. Thinking about a possible camera move around the scene too.

1. Initial thumbnail: I knew I wanted a street with a doctors surgery sign. Town in the distance. The road was going to be very hilly here.
I wanted to give an idea of the process for this piece. I'm working on backgrounds for my new film project, it starts out with rough little thumbnails that are really not very good..... then I think about the composition and elements that I want or don't want. Then I take a look at some reference photo's, etc. Gradually it develops into something quite interesting.

Friday, February 20, 2009

This is going to be a birthday card for my cousin, a massive star wars fan!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Someone at sketchtavern pointed out that I wasn't drawing any ladies! So I took steps to right that..... I've always struggled to draw girls and it's time to put the effort in so I can draw them without reference. These are almost exclusively from ref.... Unfortunately google referenced not live ref!

Just loosening up with some pose pages for the characters in my new project. Referenced some of the poses from elsewhere and just shoved my characters into the poses, finding that quite helpful.