Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Secrets of Kell: Meeting with the Director & Art Director

I had the opportunity to see The Secrets of Kell at the Hollywood Theater with Gabby today. Even though I could have watched it a couple of months earlier while it was being released in theaters all over Portland, but time wasn't on my side. This time however, I was excited!

For those of you who have not seen it yet, I'm sorry if my blogging might ruin the story for you, but you have to watch the animation for yourself to truly appreciate all the beauty it has to offer.

The story tells of a young boy name Brendan, who lives in a remote medieval outpost which was under siege from barbarian raids. However, when a master "illuminator" arrives to their foreign land, carrying an ancient but unfinished book, filled with secret wisdom and powers, trying to protect it as best as he could, from the vicious barbarians that had already been seized his home, the journey and adventure begins for Brendan. It wasn't an easy journey for Brendan, for he has to overcome his deepest fears on a dangerous quest that takes him into the enchanted forest, where mythical creatures hide, and where he meets a young fairy name Aisling (who transforms herself into a white wolf). As the barbarians close in on his home and the people whom he loves dearly, he must quickly find a way to complete the book, and save many lives that will be lost. That is only possible with his determination and artistic vision to illuminate the darkness and show that enlightenment is the best fortification against evil.

The Secret of Kells was announced as one of the five features up for Best Animated Film, which at that time was accompanied by Pixar's Up, Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Princess and the Frog. Though The Secret of Kells didn't win, but being nominated was enough to boost their publicity all around the world.

Here are some images from the film, and you can see how gorgeous, as well as stylized it is:

After we were done watching the film, director Tomm Moore, and art director Ross Stewart made their appearance to talk a little bit on the film, as well as answered some questions.

The said that within their budget, they tried to keep the film on the traditional side, such as drawing on paper with pencil and brining to life the art form of 2D, since it was beginning to be forgotten, as 3D films seem to take over the animation market. However, even though they kept it on the traditional side, the still had to use a computer for compositing. The backgrounds were hand painted with watercolor, and inked. They started the project in 1999, and finally finished in 2009 (out of those years, it took 6 years for the preproduction stage).

They took into a lot of consideration from other artists' work, which helped get them more inspired to produce such a stylistic look and feel to the film. However, they wanted the style to represent Celtic art, giving history to a more older Pagan belief. They had the honor of being able to look, and have access to the Book of Kells (granted by Burner Mead), but the concern of how much involvement the film was made the process a bit nerve wrecking for both sides, however, Tomm did a great job, and Burner Mead was proud of the results, and encouraged the team to finish their film.

During their pre-production stage, they didn't really know if the book itself, should be represented as a character, versus in just being an ordinary book (with importance of course). After much thought, if the book was indeed a character, the film will lose its seriousness. When they took a look at the book of Kells, they said it was like a shopping/grocery list, and the pages were trimmed. Back in the day, nobody knew of it's importance, and was put away until it was then discovered as the national treasure.

I love it when you get to meet the director, art director, or people who were involved in a fantastic piece of work, such as The Secret of Kells. Best day ever =)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Class 2 Begins, Which Started Off with a Bang!

So, I'm in my first week already, and I'm getting so hyped and ready for action! I'm ready for Maya for some animation, as well as stretching my muscles to act out some of my scenes to get a feel for things. Guess who I got this term? Of course you won't be able to guess! Let me tell you, I got David Weatherly! He's such an awesome, down-to-earth with a good sense of humor, as well as his show in dedication towards his students. (I am still, and forever thankful for having Victor Navone last term in Class 1, because of him, he prepared us for our future classes).

Q&A session turned out to be fun and very helpful. For the first time, I was bummed that I had technical issues, and couldn't visually introduce myself to everyone in class. The story is quite funny for those who find it humorous, but for me, a bit of a tragedy. My name was second on the list, and after my classmate, Andre was introducing himself and chatting away, I got excited that it would be my turn that I shifted my right leg, and my knee came crashing on top of my keyboard, which ended up dropping and my initial reaction caused my left leg to kick out and hit my outlets, and all powers to my computer went out. Even my internet tower was down! So I frantically scrambled around, grabbing what came out of the outlet and replugged it in, as it fell back out, and did this until I was cussing at myself for being such a spaz (if that is a word)! It took me what seemed like an eternity (probably 5-10 minutes) to get back online, and reenter into my Q&A session, and long behold, I missed half of my classmates introductions, and a chance to see their wonderful faces! NoOoOoOo!!!

To top it off, when it became my turn, my webcam, or internet service or whatever, failed to deliver, and I was left taunting everyone of any success in seeing MY face. Oh what a terrible beginning of any success! But hey, David told us that we should never be afraid to fail. So this week in a live introduction of myself to everyone, FAILED. I made it up with quite a long jabber of myself and why I chose to go to AM, but I wish I could have attached a pic of me smiling... but that might be over doing it- juuuuust a tad bit.

Since our Q&A only lasts an hour, once a day each week, David actually took his own time to help answer some questions we had, and gave us a full run-down of this week's assignment. For those whose had him, have him now, or will have him in the future - he's awesome. (Since it's not even the end of week 1, I will keep you posted on my thoughts and opinions on my mentor). But currently, the way he puts his time to answer questions, and find ways to find an answer if he doesn't know it shows some serious dedication.

So for now, the adventures continues!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Legend of the Guardians: Simply Beautiful

Addam and I went to see Legend of the Guardians in theaters today, and I can tell you this, the animation was very well done, and the visuals were just breathtaking! I haven't seen Avatar yet (because a few people told me that I'll be mesmerized by Avatar's visuals), but in this movie, goodness me, I couldn't take my eyes off of the environments, and every single detail they added in the movie. I didn't have a problem that the owls were realistic, but still stylistic in their own right. The feathers were amazing to watch, seeing them move as the owls fly in the air.

The film was based off of Kathryn Lasky's series of books, and directed by Zach Snyder (well known for his slow motion in action scenes such as in 300). Animal Logic was the studio that took charge at animating and making the movie possible, and props to them. I wasn't so excited on their previous films such as Happy Feet, and was a bit hesitant to go see this movie, but I was glad I overcome my fear, and surprised myself by liking the film.

The story was an interesting concept. You wouldn't think that owls would have such a legend, and epic battles. The story goes like this, Soren (our main character voiced by Jim Sturgess), is a young owl enthralled by his father’s epic stories of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole, a mythic band of winged warriors who had fought a great battle to save all of owl kind from the evil Pure Ones. While Soren dreams of someday joining his heroes, his older brother, Kludd (eventually becomes our antagonist/bad guy, voiced by Ryan Kwanten), scoffs at the notion, and yearns to hunt, fly and steal his father’s favor from his younger sibling. But Kludd’s jealousy has terrible consequences–causing both owlets to fall from their treetop home and right into the talons of the Pure Ones. Now it is up to Soren to make a daring escape with the help of other brave young owls. Together they soar across the sea and through the mist to find the Great Tree, home of the legendary Guardians of Ga’Hoole–Soren’s only hope of defeating the Pure Ones and saving the owl kingdoms. -- wording by Allan Ford

I liked the overall story, but feel that in the beginning as Soren and his little sister Eglantine (voiced by Adrienne DeFaria) were role playing the battles of the legends told by his father, I wished there could be a little more fast cuts that could hint the battles to help establish to the audience the "legend" of the warriors battling to free all owls of their freedom and stuff, or of like a flashback of what the owlets are imagining as they're fighting with each other.

Here's the official trailer, if any of you haven't gone and see the film:

Here are some images I found on the web (you have to physically see it in theaters, to visually enjoy the beauty the film has to offer).

Friday, September 17, 2010

Alas, the Term Ends!

It has been such a wonderful term! Awesome classmates, and a very caring, intelligent - as well as talented mentor, Victor Navone. Props to him for giving his all when it comes to making sure his students succeed, and keeps pushing each individual to better themselves. I'm going to be missing my Wednesdays Q&A!

That is all, now onto a week of break from AM, but surely filled with a lot of other work for now...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

AM Assignment 12: Class 1 Progress Reel!

After submitting all my assignments and learning from Victor's eCritiques online, as well as awesome lecture videos, I now present to you all my Class 1 Progress Reel:


I will continue to work to revise and better my animation, because the more practice you get, the better you become. Much more to come in the next class!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

AM Assignment 11: Spline Editing Pt. 2

I feel like my taking from stepped mode into splines failed epically... there were a lot of areas where my character personality walk was too choppy, sliding and very uncontrolled, and Victor says it takes time to get use to spline editing and getting it right. All I can do now is to fix, fix, fix and learn, learn, learn. Areas that were choppy just needs some attention in the graph editor and the same goes for areas that were slipping and sliding. Overall, this is a good start to continuing revising.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

No Go on The Global Jam

I received an email from Desiree stating this:

Hello "Guard Dog Global Jam" Volunteers,
      First, I would like to thank you on behalf of Bill, myself, and everyone here at Plymptoons! We have received an overwhelming response to the "Guard Dog Global Jam" and all feel very honored that so many talented artists have offered to lend their skills to this collaboration. Unfortunately, all scenes have been claimed and we have therefore stopped accepting submissions. If you would like to be kept as an alternate for a scene of your choosing, please let me know and I will keep you on file.
   Again, thank you so much for your interest and keep those toons coming!


I didn't get any of the 3 picks I sent in... very tough competition! Oh well, better luck next time? Onward to animation homework!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

AM Assignment 10: Character Walks

This week, we're taking what we learned from a basic vanilla walk, and push that concept a little further, and create awesome character walks. It took me a while to figure out what type of walk I wanted to do, but after watching OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting), on the histories of war, a authoritative walk, such as a person in the army, or correctional camp walks differently than a princess, diva or fashion model. There's a strict, cut walk, that you can add personality to it, and I really liked the concept.

Here's a blocking of my guard walk:


After submitting my assignment, I told Victor, that I felt as though the walk seemed more to be a sneak, and he told me in my eCritique that, that's due to the rotation of my hips being too far back as he lifts his legs to walk in a marching manner. He also pointed out that Ballie's toes seemed to always be bent upwards, and it seems too extreme, so if I backed away on that, just ease it a bit, it'll help the whole sneak issue a lot. Since I didn't take into consideration of Ballie's initial stance, his legs were a little far from each other, and it felt unnatural, so I needed to fix that, and make them closer together.

Taking all of Victor's feedback, I did a revision of Ballie's character walk, and here it is:


Time was very limiting, and in the blocking before, I didn't have Ballie do a turn, but in my final submission, I added in the turn. I had a lot of difficulties with knee pops and feet slippage, but overall, Victor said it was a good spot to end, and definitely needs much improvement, and I agree.

We had to sketch out poses that communicate exhausted, and I chose the one with the butt sticking up because I thought it was funny to do that pose, and if you're so tired, being in that pose doesn't really bother you, because at that moment in time, all you want is rest.

Here's a pose of STU being all exhausted:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Global Jam for Guard Dog Begins!

At 9:00 PM last night, I sent in my request submission to be selected to animate a scene from Bill Plympton's Guard Dog animated short. 

Since there was a 3 hour difference from where I'm at, and from where he's at, I was anxiously awaiting the time, counting every second and minutes that passed.

I had already composed an email with my top picks on which scenes I wanted to do, and it was saved in my drafts for a while, and when 9:00 PM came along, I pressed the send button. I got a replied email from Desiree (probably an automated email) stating:

Hello Guard Dog Global Jam Participants!

     Thank you for your interest in our Jam!  The entries are still flooding in;  we're doing our best to sort through them. I will be in  
touch with your scene assignments tomorrow.
Thanks again! 

Desiree Stavracos

So now, we wait...