Sunday, April 3, 2011

AM Assignment 1: An Introduction to Staging and Composition

This class is going to be a very fascinating experience by the way the look of the class syllabus. I've decided to do an "Anim Jam", which is based off a theme (of my choice). I went for a Stewie in boot camp theme, and decided to call it "Stewie goes to Boot Camp"

Here's my introductory theme of Stewie in his costume, and initial props- along with the overall breakdown of my three shots that I'll be working on this term:

You can never go wrong with a reference video- that is why I had my fiancĂ© Addam volunteer himself and his time to act out my first animation shot: (thanks Addam!)


Here's my sketch of my planning poses for how I will execute my animation:

Off to blocking I go!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Class 3 Starts!

I can't believe I thought that Animation Mentor gave their students Spring break off! Wooooow! Apparently we don't get a break, which is fine, but I really thought that we were going to 'have' one. Oh well, back on track. 

After finishing up my last class with Leigh Rens, I am now assigned to have Dave Vallone as my next mentor! He is AWESOME! (I'll probably be saying that to all my AM mentors), but hey, for now, Dave has his own separate blog page, on how much I think he's awesome. It's a full class, so Q&A took a bit of an extra hour to finish, but I just loved how much time, and care he took in each of his students so he could get to know each, and every one of us. He wanted to know about why we decided to go to AM, and what (in our opinions) are our strengths and weaknesses.

When I was cam, I was amazed at how our animation talk led to Vietnamese foods, and it started making the whole class hungry by the end of it. He had so much advice as well as knowledgeable to share, and I just want more!

Here's an AM newsletter interview they had with him. I am stoked!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Apologies for the Long Absence!

Hi Everyone!

I know I might not have a lot of consistent visitors to my blog, but this is my own personal apology post on the long absence of not posting anything for the last two months..? Anyways, I was out of the country for almost two months, visiting family- and I cannot take internet for granted anymore...

Well, I am hoping on coming back with lots of posts in a few short days!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

AM Assignment 2: Blocking to Final Pt. 1

Okay, so here is my second run at class 2. My advice was given that, in order to understand the principle of animation, you must keep it simple, and apply what you know to it gradually, and from there, you can improve and better yourself.

I'm in my first blocking pass where all my keys are stepped, so I could get an overall feel of timing, and spacing. I'm doing a hopscotch animation of Ballie, and from the reference video from last week, and doing the action myself, I've used my planning drawings and started out with clear, strong poses.

Here's my animation of Ballie playing hopscotch:


Update 1/19/2011:
After my Q&A, this morning I looked at my e-critique online, and I'm very happy with the direction I'm heading. I'm also thrilled at the explanation Leigh gave me on my breakdown poses for spacing, and I'm off to more animating!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

ANIMATION NOTES: Tackling the Moving Holds - Various Animation Tips

Okay, so I am getting to that point of hysteria with making my animation of moving holds look natural in Maya. It ends up looking either not timed correctly, or VERY awkward. Sometimes I just sit here and stare at the monitor for minutes, then disappear, then reappear and continue to stare to see what's working. Moving holds in 3D is difficult, at least for beginners, and even some mentors have admitted that it's one of those things that it takes experience and a good eye for timing and spacing that can accomplish a pretty good moving hold in their animation. 

So I've decided to do a bit of research, and provide some nice insights on some resources on how to tackle moving holds, and help us better our skills, and create wonderful animation! At least for me, I'll be able to come back, and reread what I've researched, and keep moving forward.

What's a moving hold? And what's so important about it? A moving hold is a slow change in pose of a character movement over a number of frames. They are mostly used to keep a character alive when the pose is essentially "static".

In hand-drawn animation (2D animation), it is very common for animators to animate an action, then slowing the action, and adding holds of that pose for several frames, and then move into action again. With 2D animation, the action still stays alive, visually in our eyes, even with the use of held drawings. This goes the same goes for puppet and clay animation.

Here are a few resources I've found that are very helpful in understanding, and how to use moving holds in your animation:

Three Parts to a Moving Hold:
Provided by 

1. The Amount of Movement (motion)
Too much movement in a moving hold can make the animation look mushy. Too little movement can make the character look static. The key is to understand and develop an eye for what looks right. There is no hard and fast rule to the amount, from an algorithmic approach. Having a good eye for motion and energy needs to be developed through the constant practice of life observation and animation practice. 

2. The Amount and Variation of Energy
It's a typical problem for animators to forget to vary the speed of a moving hold. When you don't vary the speed of the ease out (or the energy), you have basically a linear movement.and linear movements are not natural, visually. When they exist, they imply that gravity is not affecting the character. The impact of gravity is an exponential result, not a linear one.

3. The Concept of Contrast
Contrast is a primary element that gives the animation (as well as all art), some sense of energy is contrasted. The more the contrast, the more striking the impact of the animation. With animation, the more contrast there is between pose, line of action, pacing, etc., the more attention you will get from your audience. The simplest way to build contrast from a moving hold, from one pose to hitting the next pose, is to push the moving hold the opposite direction of the pose that directly follows it. 

Here's a Few "Moving Hold" Tips:
Provided by
1. Overshoot is your friend.
Coming to an abrupt stop is OK in animation, but in order to make it feel organic rather than robotic, you need to employ some amount, however subtle, of the idea of overshoot. Overshoot isn't a very complicated idea. It basically works like this:

Part A:
  • Figure out your end pose. 
  • You should have worked out your planning stage. 
  • What's the hold trying to communicate?

Part B:
  • Your overshoot pose is basically your previous "key pose," but taken up a notch. 
  • Slightly exaggerate the pose/silhouette and line of action
  • And then exaggerate it EVEN MORE, now you have your "overshoot pose."
Part C:
  • Now put that overshoot pose into your scene, maybe even just a couple frames after your "real" pose, and then arc back into your "real" key pose. (You'll need to overlap some things to pull this off properly) 
  • Basically, you're just going from your "real" pose, to your overshoot exaggeration, and then back to your "real" pose, again.
  • Arcs and timing are key here, as it will help a lot if everything doesn't stop on the same frame, and you nearly always must have nice arcs on the wrists, head, hips, etc.

2. Keep the eyes alive.
As long as the eyes are alive, you can darn near completely freeze the body and still have a chance at keeping the audience feeling like your character exists, so pay special attention to the eyes during any moving hold! Put some time into working out eye poses that really communicate his intentions, emotions, and thought process; and choose your blinks carefully and for specific reasons.

3. Ease in!
Having a character slam to a complete stop is always going to look phony-baloney. There are certainly times when the style demands this sort of thing (Warner Brothers springs to mind), and if the style allows for characters to completely freeze, you can use this for great comedic or dramatic effect. However, most of us won't be able to just have our characters freeze all the time, and when our guy pulls out his flowers, we'll need to keep him alive, thus the moving hold.
  • You need to ease into it, at least a little bit. Make sure your character doesn't feel like he just hit an invisible wall or something, which is far too common on the demo reels I see.
  • There are two basic types of moving holds, in a sense. 
    • The overshoot hold, where you zip past your destination and then quickly recover back into your intended pose. 
    • The long ease-in pose, which is basically just a long slow subtle ease into your key pose.

4. Ambient motion
Is really subtle ambient movement you can put onto your characters. It can be tiny chest rotations that feel, even subconsciously, like breaths. It can be small readjustments in the head, or a slight shifting of the weight in the hips (and the chain of events that follows). It can be secondary animation, such as a sniff or fingers subtly rubbing against each other.

Timing for Animation
Harold Whitaker and John Halas (foreword by John Lasseter, Pixar)
Page. 52

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

ANIMATION NOTES: 12 Principles of Animation

Hi everyone, I just wanted to provide myself, as well as everyone else, some notes I've learned from many teachers, mentors, peers and resources, to help better our understanding of animation. I will be doing this from time to time, so you can always look-up my 'animation notes' in my 'things I talk about'

The Twelve Basic Principles of Animation was created by two Disney animators, Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas, as the basic law in animation, to help animators create more realistic animations. The main purpose of the principles, was to produce an illusion of characters adhering to the basic laws of physics, and how to deal with more abstract issues, such as emotional timing and character appeal.

1. Squash and Stretch
Gives the illusion of weight and volume to a character or object as it moves. How extreme the use of squash and stretch is, will vary (style, exaggeration etc.).  It is the most important element and is used often.

2. Anticipation
Prepares the audience for a major action the character is about to perform. Almost all real action has a major or minor anticipation (such as a golfers' back swing or right before a jump). It also is used to help develop personality to a character.

3. Staging
The use of posing or an action of a character and objects within the scene help communicate to the audience the character or story's intent, such as (attitude, mood, reaction or idea that relates the story to the character).  The effective use of camera angles and shots (such as: long, medium, or close up shots), can also help supplement to the story. It is good to have the background design simple and clear, so that it isn't obscure the animation or competing with it. Background and animation should work together as a pictorial unit in a scene.

4. Straight Ahead and Pose-to-Pose
  • Straight ahead animation is when you start at the first drawing and draw continuous sequence of poses until the end of a scene. The con to this method is, you can lose size, volume, and proportions of the character. The pro to this method is the animation has a more spontaneous feel to it. Usually fast, wild action scenes are done this way. 
  • Pose to Pose animation is more planned out with key drawings, and done at intervals throughout the scene. You have better control with a character's size, volume, and proportions. The con is sometimes the movement can feel rigid if it's not varied enough. The pro to this method is, the animator doesn't have to draw every drawing in a scene. Many animated scenes use a bit of both methods.

(straight ahead)


5. Follow Through and Overlapping Action
  • Follow through is the movement in which continues until it comes to a stop. Nothing stops all at once when it is in motion, and coming to a stop. When the main body of the character stops, all other parts continue to catch up to the main mass of the character, (such as arms, long hair, clothing, coat tails or a dress, floppy ears or a long tail).  
  • Overlapping action is when a character changes direction in motion, while other moving parts continues from that motion before changing its direction to the main body's movements. This often creates drag. (This could be clothes, hair, fur, ears, upper/lower body etc.) Timing becomes very critical to the effectiveness of drag and the overlapping action.

6. Slow in and Slow out
Makes the animation of a character motion or moving object more life-like. Slow-ins and slow-outs help soften the action, and add to the visual appeal of the animation. The fewer the drawings, the faster the action, and the more the drawings, the slower the action.

 (slow in)

(slow out)

7. Arc
All actions, with few exceptions (such as a mechanical device), will always follow an arc or slightly circular path. Arcs give the animation a more natural action and better flow, and help eliminate staggering motion.

8. Secondary Action
Adds to and enriches the main action to an animation. It usually reinforces the main action. A walk is a good example of secondary action because the walk itself is the primary action, and the arm swings, head bounce and all other actions of the body act as secondary or supporting action.

9. Timing
A variety of slow and fast timing within a scene adds interest as well as clarity to the movement. Most animation are done on twos (one drawing on two frames) or on ones (one drawing on each frame). Timing in the acting of a character helps establish mood, emotion, and reaction to another character or to a situation. It takes experience and personal experimentation from trial and error to refine your timing technique. 

10. Exaggeration
Is not the extreme distortion of a drawing, but more of a caricature in: facial features, expressions, poses, attitudes and actions. Poses without a bit of exaggeration can feel stiff and mechanical. Using good amounts of exaggeration can give aesthetic to the animation.

11. Solid Drawing
Are the basic principles of academic drawing (such as form, weight, volume solidity and the illusion of three dimension).

12. Appeal
Is the aesthetic look and feel we give to the animation, which includes an easy to read design, clear drawing, and personality development that will capture and involve the audience's interest. Like all forms of story telling, the animation has to appeal to the mind as well as to the eye.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My First Substitute Mentor - Very Insightful

Earlier today, Leigh emailed all of us, to let us know that he's currently traveling, so we'll be having Mark Pullyblank as our substitute mentor. I felt nervous at first, because it's week two right now, and sort of wondering what my outcome will be this term... Anyways, I was also anxious to hear what our sub has to say, and just soaking in as much information he has to offer.

He's a very cool, mellow guy, with a lot of advice, as well as just making everyone even more excited (at least for me). He's making me feel more comfortable at approaching different workflow and being loose to learn more from your mistakes, as well as FOCUSING ON YOUR POSE(S). He's also very silly.

I'd have to say that, unlike regular school where the students give the sub a hard time, Mark really had all of our undivided attention, mostly with his very informative lecture, added with loads of humor. He actual teaches class 5 for acting for animation, so he's very expressive in his motion.

That's him, and check out his demo reel:

My favorite quote from Mark: 
"Brick walls are great, because it keeps the people who don't want it, out."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

AM Assignment 1: Walk-Through - Clarity in Blocking

This time around, I'm keeping it simple, so I've decided that Ballie is going to play hopscotch. I don't know what Leigh will say, since my e-critiques aren't up yet, but these are what I've submitted (minus the progress reel)

I found a hopscotch reference video on youtube, and thought this will give me a good idea what the hips will look like on Ballie. I've also took in what Leigh expects from us when we're doing our planning stages. I've labeled the numbers in corresponding the area in which Ballie will have to land on when he tries to complete his hopscotch jump.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Anxiety From Failing Turns to Excitement for Success

Today is the first day back to class 2, again for me. Also the first time I'll see who my mentor will be too. I got Leigh Rens. I've read from many past students of him giving him lots of props for being a very informative, and helpful mentor, and I'm really forward to that, this second time around.

My Q&A session lands on the same day like my previous class, the only difference is the time. Instead of starting at 8 p.m. it's at 11 p.m., and that's good, because in a few weeks, I'll be out of the country for a two month vacation to visit family, and relaxing (which I desperately need!), in Vietnam, it'll be on Wednesday at 2 p.m. in the afternoon! I know my sleep will be whacked out if I stay there for more than two weeks, but hey, I think it's worth it.

Anyways, after seeing him, and listening to everything he had to say in the first Q&A, I got really excited because his direction seemed more focused, and it made me less nervous.

Here's a link to see his demo reel: Leigh Rens' demo reel