Monday, December 28, 2009

Planning for stop mo

In 2009 the first year animators showed a real interest for stop motion animation. The interest in animation styles varies from year to year.

The big question was; "How do you plan a stop motion animation?"

I noticed that in the process of discovering the joys of tangibility and sense of touch in creating animation that most of the animators had an idea in their head and animated straight ahead with it. And it worked. To a degree. They just wanted to get their hands dirty and "start animating".

It was a bittersweet scenario for an animation teacher who has the job of teaching 3D animation. It was sweet to see them dive in and imagine, discover and explore. It was bitter to see the concept of planning we were applying to our 3D work be cast aside for something that seemed more immediately satisfying.

It is all part of the evolution of an animator. The misunderstanding that animation happens in front of the lens is a magical dream created by watching beautiful finished work without ever seeing the evolution of it through planning. Eventually animators discover an important truth that good animation doesn't happen inside one's head. Often it remains trapped there. An animator has to find their way to get it out of their head and into the world. And good animation doesn't magically happen in front of the camera. Magic is a term for not fully understanding something. Sorry to be a wet blanket on anyone's Disney dreams. As an animator grows in understanding they realise good animation is crafted in the planning.

Planning an animation roughly on paper is such an important part of the craft for animators studying a course based on animation principles and the foundations of traditional animation skills.

To help illustrate this idea I have found some clips. The Big Story is a short film. It is directed by Oscar nominated, BAFTA winning, MAD magazine artist (pay attention to the cartoon artist use of caricature), film maker David Stoten.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tarboy (2007) - James Lee - QCA graduate

Each year 5 students apply to continue their animation education at a university level at the Queensland College of the Arts, Griffith University. This 6 minute film is the result of some very hard work and excellent planning. There is some sneaky undergrad humour such as lines like " Can't remember the last one." Most of the animators have probably already seen it, but I post it up just in case you haven't yet. Does anyone know what James Lee is doing now?

There is also some short online videos showing Tarboy concept art and the animatic for the short story.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Better Off Undead - Bobby Pontillas AND This One Time... - Nelson Boles

In 2010 the second years will be planning their major project narratives. I wonder if the "undead" will be a featured theme?

This is an interesting planning animation from an Animation Mentor student. At over 2 minutes it is more than twice as long as what will be recommended to build:

A short film made by Bobby Pontillas while at Animation Mentor.

Or there is this by Nelson Boles:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Cat Piano - People's Republic of Animation (PRA)

The PRA are an Australian animation company based in Adelaide. Check out their whole Vimeo channel. The film below is "The Cat Piano"

Latest short film by The People's Republic of Animation. Narrated by Nick Cave. Directed by Eddie White & Ari Gibson. Produced by Jessica Brentnall

more info, go to

Monday, November 2, 2009

Blade Kitten - Krome Studios

Animators planning their showreels for job applications, count the EAPs in this 1 min 04s studio showreel. The website:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

After Effects Revisited

It has been a little while since I have explored Adobe After Effects. This is a test project.

text, fake fire, music and gogo dancers

Look a mouse! This is actually more complex to do than it looks.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Student to Professional Animator - some tips

Stole this from Cassie's "Artistry Gone Awry" blog

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lip Synch and Facial Animation

This is an 11 minute tutorial for the first year animators as they start to lip synch their dialogue.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

BigFish Fest - Animation Fieldtrip

Cassie 3rd Year, Jack, Katie, Braden, Al, Corey, Alice, Olly, Cassie, Jess, Rachel, Terry
Dan, Alex, Igor, Sarah, Cassie, Cassie, Terry, Jess
animators, lots of them
These are a few digital sketches I made while at the exhibit today.
Please provide feedback in the comments on your thoughts about the excursion to the Powerhouse and meeting the animators from BigFish, Igor and Sheldon.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Kyle Balda 3D Masterclass - Character Dialogue

When I was in Paris for the Gobelins summer school, we were lucky enough to attend Kyle Balda's 3D masterclass. He has posted an "Acting Tutorial highlights" clip so you can get a taste of the process he uses to animate in 3D.

2nd year animators take note on what Kyle says about the root control of a character. It is something we have been covering in the walk cycle exercise. See how animating from the root can be used as the foundation of any body movement, be it in locomotion or acting.

[*Transform hippy metaphor huzzah!*] A tree can't sway without a solid root. Nor can you expect to move an audience without good animation at the core of your character. Always think of the root.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Flipping and Rolling an animation skill

The first year animators are planning some character animation and experimenting using traditional techniques. Once they start flipping out, it's hard to stop them.

Above is a video clip of Argentinian animator Ignacio Ochoa animating (in colour erasable pencil, like Will. I would like everyone animating with 6B lead pencils. [link] If it's good enough for Glen Keane, it's good enough for first year animators).

This is a link to Mike Nguyen's blog, he taught animation at CalArts and animated on Brad Bird's Iron Giant feature film. In his case he is 'rolling'. Thanks Michelle for pointing out this post.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Paris ~ "Reulf" by by Quentin Carnicelli, Charles Klipfel & Jean-François Jégo

In a black & white Paris, little creatures with paintbrush decide to brighten up the city...

Reulf is student project from University of Paris VIII directed by Quentin Carnicelli, Charles Klipfel & Jean-François Jégo as part of our graduate program in Arts and Technologies de l'Image.
Music composed by Robert le magnifique & Olivier Mellano.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Music Videos

The second year animators will be possibly creating some animation associated with music. One animator has organised their major project based on music. Steve Baker, in his guest lecture, spoke about making links with local Brisbane bands and how creatively fruitful those relationships can be for animators and musicians.

I look at this music clip and keep wondering what a traditionally trained animator rather than, or maybe 'as well as', an illustrator could have done with it. note: that is not a comment on the illustration, which I find appealing.

Heath Ledger directed music video animated by animators at The Masses. I can see a bit of difference here, with timing and spacing, especially in the opening sequence. Understanding motion is something animators can market to production houses. warning: this clip depicts people being skinned by whales

Student Animation Blogs from Canada

A post and film featured on Mitch's Animation Anxiety Attacks has inspired this post.

The film was by a 2008 graduate from the animation course @ Sheridan College in Canada (4 year course).

One of the animation teachers from Sheridan has an unofficial blog, much like this one, that links to student blogs for Sheridan College.

I think it is a good idea for students to assess their own animation development by comparing their output and animation results with their peers (other animation students). That way they can see and seek to improve.

How does your animation compare?

Because some of my students don't seem to fully understand my teachings, but have an amazing grasp of anime, I have translated the above post for them using online translation software:

Mitch, so the post and the film which become the feature. The insecure seizure of the life of Mitch urged this post. The film Canada (course of 4 years) kept depending on 2008 graduates from the university of Sheridan of course of life. The one of life teachers from Sheridan is connected to [burogu] of the student for the university of Sheridan, in the same way as this 1, it has that informal [burogu]. I think of that what assesses the development of their itself lives the equal person (the other life student) thing by comparing the result of their outputs and life is profitable step for the student. The method of seeing because they improve, being possible to endeavor. How it compares your life?

While you are checking out student work the 2009 AnimationMentor Student Showcase is worth a look.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Forest Trio - Alexey Alexeev

What is it? What makes this animation so appealing? There is some nice technical aspects such as wonderful timing, good design, interesting characters (how about the base drum by the rabbit!), and check out those head turns. I laugh at this every time.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer in Paris

Paris blog
(image from Ratatouille, Pixar Animation 2007)
click on the rat to get to Paris

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The only breakdowns should be in your animation planning

During first semester in 3D classes we were animating using the Jason Ryan technique.

Boiled down, and for animators at the start of our 3D animating careers, the technique is all about planning our animation sequences fully before we open the 3D software.

Despite trying to encourage understanding of this animating method, I still observe animators absolutely bursting to turn on their computers and open the 3D 'animation' software to, what they think is, 'start animating'.

It is quite a challenge to communicate/ demonstrate to animators, despite the software titles, that animation does not happen in the 'animation' computer program.

The core of animation occurs in our planning. And that is where we should concentrate our style, time and effort.

Back to the Jason Ryan technique: Draw story telling poses, then add 'extremes', then start the break down process so that the whole animation is planned before employing the "computer inbetweener". Pretty much don't let the computer do more than 2 or 3 inbetweens as you plan out your early 3D animation explorations. That is what we should get the hang of as we are learning.

animation big gunThis is where I'll bring in Shawn Kelly from AnimationMentor. He is a big gun.

shawn's tips & tricks blog"Well, as far as I'm concerned, you've hopefully done some planning and know what your poses are going to be on what frames, at least generally speaking. If that's the case, then you're just going to a frame, sculpting your pose, and then saving a key on everything, and then moving on to do the same thing a few frames later or whatever, right? Hopefully, that is the way you are working. If you are only in the first five or six years of being an animator or are a student, then I strongly believe you SHOULD be working that way."

This comes from a post by Shawn discussing how he prefers animating hands using inverse kinematics (IK) rather than forward kinemetics (FK)... Read more

Friday, June 19, 2009

Chish and Fips

After the lecture roadtrip adventure to QUT, the animators settled down for a feast of chish'n'fips!
L to R: Jess, Canary, Zac, Sarah, Cassie and Olly
Gen, Will, Banana and Ryan have a hunger
Does anyone else have publishable photos of this excursion?

Friday, June 12, 2009


This is a compilation of some works-in-progress clips from the 2nd year animators (WiPs). They are continuing to polish their work after a critiquing session we had in class. You can see their final work posted on their blogs. Links on the right of page.

I am quite proud of what they have learned working through this first Essential Animation Principle (EAP) exercise. Please critique their work.

Some works in progress by 2nd year animators.

Some work by 2nd year animators that had to be handed in by a deadline. "Animation is never finished, it's just handed over"

Monday, June 1, 2009

Aaaarrrrrgh! Max is caught in the fog!

When Max for Maya is opened, he is a massive rig and sometimes disappears in a grey wall of 'fog'. This is how first year animator Braden taught me how to fix that problem.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The beans are coming! Snowboarding ones.

It is nearing assessment time and I'm working through some submitted work by animators. In the modelling process part of the task was to create blendshapes for facial features (1st years didn't have to do this part). Unfortunately it appears that quite a few animators didn't take the opportunity to animate their character's facial features using blendshapes.

So... I had a bit of fun with one bean as I was checking the character rig. Did I ever mention that it is fun being an animation teacher? I hope that the animators' relationships with their first ever built character rigs haven't soured due to the metaphorical blood spilt during modelling classes? You didn't create Frankenstein's monster. Love your beans, please. Give them life... boohahahahahaHAHA!

Garn, I urge you to get your beans out for a few short animation exercises... See Mitch's handy chart!

I wanted to test if a student's character rig blendshapes worked on a spacing exercise animation. They work just fine.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Alan Dewhurst - Brisbane Lecture ~ Peter and the Wolf

I think most of the animators who attended would have sketched this image Peter and the Wolf is a short animated film that won a 2008 Academy Award. Alan Dewhurst, one of the producers, gave a lecture on May 27th 2009 at Queensland University of Technology.

The film took about 4 years to make and over 250 people are credited in its production.

The three main people involved were: Producers Alan Dewhurst and Hugh Welchman, and director Suzie Templeton.

The film was eventually made in Poland in association with Se-ma-for Studios. It was shot using cameras lifted from Berlin at the end of World War II.

The film is strongly influenced by eastern European themes and music. It's foundations are from the story by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. The design of the film was based on the central relationship between the visual presentation and the music.

The darkness and seriousness of the film has given it distinction but at the same time hampered its growth into the main stream. The animation and design is excellent.

Maya software was used to produce a detailed animatic with ruff models and a full layout and to animate the blue balloon that helped the magpie to 'fly'.

>Find out why the animators were directed to animate a female wolf.

Find out where computer graphics were used to complement the stop motion animation.

Alan spoke a lot about funding and obstacles to production. How a lot of the film is created based on a complex web of promises that needed to be honoured over time (before paying the producer's fees). A gem he dropped into the lecture was, "Don't let ambition run in front of the budget, otherwise you get in all sorts of trouble."

Suzie Templeton made an award winning student film at the Royal College of Art in 2001.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Meet the Parent(s) in Maya

A few of the second years are producing essential animation principle scenes (EAPS) with the character interacting with an object. This video tutorial will help with those sequences:

Watch 0000 Parents in How to Videos  |  View More Free Videos Online at

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tips for setting up Max for Maya

Importing Max for Maya (character rig by James Hunt: ). He is big and not easy to scale, so scale everything up to him.

Applying an image texture in Maya

Some of the animators wanted to know how to do this, so here is one way to apply an image texture simply but effectively in Maya. It is based on this video tutorial from Swinburne University in Victoria. Thanks to Will for finding the tutorials on the Internet.

Golden Rule: Don't let modelling and texturing eat away at your animating time.

Some of the animators in the studio were interested in how to apply an image texture to a polygon shape.

The second in a series of three parts to the process.

Third and final part to this three part series of short Maya texturing video tutorials.

What the label looks like in the UV texture editor when the cylinder is selected in object mode

Maya - Setting Preferences for Animation

Is Maya playing too fast when you're trying to see your animation?

You can set your timeline and frame rate preferences by following the steps in the short video tutorial below.

Set up Maya for animation

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Animation Mentor - How a film is produced

Animators can benefit by seeing the process that other animators work through to produce a final piece of animation.

The Animation Mentor You Tube channel has student work that shows how they got from an idea for an animation to the final product.

It includes steps that the second year animators are aware of: design, layouts, storyboard, animatic, at this point the AM students to a 'pitch', video reference = ACT IT OUT and film it, blocking out the poses in 3D, animating, polishing and presentation of the final film.

What I like about this film is that it is a simple concept that allowed the student to focus on the animation. Keep It Simple.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Monsters Vs Aliens

Recently we had an animation field trip to see Monsters vs Aliens.

Some discussion resulted.

The Character Design Blog has put together this video featuring some of the artwork for the movie. I know the first years, in particular, love to illustrate and really good way to direct that passion is toward character design for animation.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Non-verbal communication

It has been stated by scholars who study body language that 60 to 80% of human communication is through non-verbal communication, or body language.

In terms of animation, that adds some meaning as to why some animation communicates so well without dialogue and why we love, for example, French animation, or Japanese animation so much. See the post about Shane Acker's short film "9" (below), as a recent example of animation that communicates without dialogue.
Ian Lacey (Animation Resource Centre) always encourages his students, who seek to be character animators, to animate what the character is thinking.

Acting for Animators author, Ed Hooks, also describes it as essentially important.

The important communication is displayed through the character's body language.

The animation is particularly delicious when the dialogue was in contradiction to how the character was communicating non-verbally. It can drive a whole story in the opposite way to the characters' dialogue thus giving insight or unease to the audience. The animator is the one who controls it.

I think it is important for animation students to realise the importance of recognising non-verbal communication as a skill. Firstly, in terms of observation. Observation being: seeing + thinking about what you are seeing. And secondly in looking to thoughtfully apply techniques, such as: facial touching gestures, psychological gestures, line of action reversals, power centre shifts, meaningful symbolism to every opportunity in animating.

Hey, those things sound familiar don't they? Psychological Gestures, Line of Action, Power Centres, Meaningful Symbolism... they all relate to posing in story telling poses (click for a great resource .mov download from Keith Lango).

Many of you have probably already seen this video on body language (I'm sure Dan might like it for the music ;) ) ...

An interesting experiment for student animators is to search video sharing sites for video reference on body language. You will pick up some good ideas and maybe even someone at a nightclub.

Why do you have that blog?

I'll try and be briefOK people here's the thing.

You have an animation student blog for an important reason.

Because I say so. :)

The reason I say so is: so I can see how you are progressing in your class work by asking you to post work completed as class tasks.

Class tasks should be treated as design briefs. That's not designer briefs, Ryan.

Animators should practice getting them on (your blog) within the deadline... set for the class assessment tasks.

If you have an itchy spot that is telling you, "I think I should have posted some work up on my blog under the heading 'Assessment'", well you may very well be correct.
The work you post is some of the proof that you are doing the work to become a good animator and end up with a qualification. Y'see you give me proof that you're doing the work. I organise for you proof that you have done the work (a lovely framed certification from the best dang animation course in Queensland).

Check the class task sheets on Blackboard to see what should be posted on your blog.

The stimulus to make this post is an educational one as well.

Why do you have a blog? Maybe it can work for you... learn more from Karen J Lloyd's Storyboard Blog (it's a blog you should get used to visiting as their is a lot of good stuff there).

Friday, April 24, 2009


I look forward to seeing this animated feature film later in 2009! You have to endure the advert to see the animation. But it's worth it.

Shane Acker's original short film animated without dialogue:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Timing and Spacing - Animation Principles

Click on the pic for animation gold from Synchrolux on: spacingI am new to animation teaching. One of the interesting challenges is trying to teach animation principles to the animators I work with. Today I have taken on the challenge of trying to describe two, quite complex, closely interwoven animation principles, timing and spacing, as separate entities (things).

We will be messing with time and space in this post so just check that no astropsychological worm holes appear near your computer screen and suck your brain out.

I have tried to achieve describing these principles in terms of linking them to the physical areas in a studio, in which an animator works, to help show the difference between them.

Working from a 2D traditional animation understanding, it may be easier to understand this attempt at a basic description of timing and spacing:

Spacing happens at the lightbox and animation disc, on the paper. On the paper is, the stage or the space, where you draw your character. The position where you draw your character on the page is working on spacing. When you overlay your sheets of paper the spaces between each drawing of your character is spacing.

Timing occurs on a timeline in the computer. The first timeline a traditional animator (these days) will encounter is at the line tester. The drawings are captured into images by the camera in the line tester. The images are then placed into frames in the line tester. When you move the frames containing the images of the drawings of the key moments (breathe) of the animation up and down the timeline in the line tester, you are working on timing. Key frames contain key moments and when you change the position of key frames on the timeline you are working on timing. Timing occurs at the computer when working with the key frames in the timeline.

Summary: Spacing occurs at the lightbox. Timing occurs at the computer.

Things get more complex when an animator does all the work at the computer.

So I tried to make a video tutorial to explain spacing and timing in this 21st century situation.

When I critique an animation I wonder if the animator understands what I mean when I say, "The spacing could be adjusted to depict more weight", or, "The timing could be adjusted to build more tension or add more texture." I think many of the animators in my studio may think timing and spacing are the same thing. They often use the word "timing" where I would have used the word "spacing". Anyway, this is my attempt at explaining about timing and spacing.

It is important that animation students grasp the difference and the interconnectedness of timing and spacing. If you understand these principles and how to animate with them you will have unimaginable, super animation powers that will be irresistible to animation employers, and your animation will be awesome.

Timing & Spacing explanation attempt by Pixar animators

Monday, March 16, 2009

Acting it Out

In this 3 minute clip Ian talks about "Acting It Out".

Filmed March 2009. Lecturer is Ian Lacey animator and award winning animation educator.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Free Hugs - story telling - using reference material outside of animation

I watched a video that Sarah M (1st year animator) made of a day in Brisbane. Hope she posts it on her blog. It reminded me of the "Free Hugs" campaign.

Now, I wonder what it is in this story that grabs me? Is it the colour change on the first hug? Is it the music? Is there a basic need that has been identified?

Tell me second year animators, what is the story about? And then, if you can tell me what is the story ABOUT? What are the initial motivations of the characters? What creates a change? What makes the impact?

Can you design a narrative like this?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Student Animation Challenge

The animators who made it to the first of our animation guest lectures this week would have been challenged by the industry animator giving the talk.

Well, it is official, you have been slapped with the animation gauntlet.

Let us see some of your 50 to 60 frames a day appearing on your blogs.

Are you up for the challenge?
(pictured: Robert Downey Jr from the film Iron man)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Important 'tips for students' poster

Here is a tip: click on this picture This poster is available for download from The House of Curves blog. tHoC is an animation studio and school based in Holborn, London UK. I came to find it through Ed Hooks' Acting for Animators newsletter, which is a good one to subscribe to.

With an industry animator visiting to give a guest lecture this week I would like to draw students attention to the tip that says: Be Impressive. If industry people visit, meet them on time, have good questions ready, show interest. It'll be remembered.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Crushing Animators Dreams

maybe Karen can crush your dreams?If you take part in an animation critique of your student work with your part of the conversation going something like this: “Yeah, but…”, “Yeah, but…”, “Yeah, but…”

Then you need to read this post.

I am concerned. The animators in my care are missing out on an important part of their education from me. The second years are bringing their animation dreams into the light, out from the dark recesses of their imaginations. And there is no brutal, direct animator to crush some, or part, of their animation dreams for the animator's own good.

When I was a student there was a teacher who would crush a student's dreams directly and honestly and out of kindness. That teacher had seen a reality in animation that is not present at animation school: people invest and spend money on the animation being produced, and they don't like to waste that money. Bosses do not like to see their employees wasting time.

The team we have teaching this year will not allow students to go off the reality track with their animation dreams. Directions will be given to harness any wayward schemes while trying not to stifle creativity.

But there is something about a brutal approach that may be missing in a teaching institution studio setting where the focus is encouragement to create.

The thing that is missing is an approach similar to how a studio director may manage a junior animator's work and behaviour during paid working time. Something more realistic, like what junior animators will expect to face in a workplace where creativity is t-boned by economics.

In a studio the boss' main aim is to create income so everyone gets paid. So they can by food and find shelter to live. On the boss' desk is where the violent crash of art meeting commerce happens. Income is the imperative to keep the business alive. A workplace is not so much a place to educate and coddle the ego of a junior animator as they hatch an animation.

The workplace boss's critique of work that deviates off the client brief in a moment of junior animator creativity, that is not up to standard, that is not completed on schedule due to hours spent "researching" on the Internet, may be a bit more abrupt than junior animators faced at animation school.

The specific lesson is about understanding what a critique, and sometimes actual criticism (they are different), of your work is all about. It is important how an animator deals with a critique of their work as to whether they will weather the tempest of being a junior animator in a paid animation career.

Luckily Karen J Lloyd has made a post on her blog that covers some of the reasons why animators need their dreams crushed. One is to save you from the crushing hammer-fist of embarrassment.

Criticism and feedback, when coming from the right place (or sometimes the ‘wrong’ place) is the only way you learn and grow... Smoke-blowing will keep you where you are. Stagnant... if it’s (criticism) coming from that place of wanting you to learn something and grow, then keep your mouth shut for a minute and listen. Stifle the “Yeah, but…”s.

"Being a constructive critiquer" from the Animation Resource Centre.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Killer Bean Forever

Totally out of the blue, just at the time the second year animators are creating their own bean characters in Maya to animate in 3D, I came across this:

Killer Bean Forever - Official Trailer - video powered by Metacafe

It's an 85 minute low budget CG film created primarily by one person. It looks entertaining. It must have been a mammoth task. And it proves further that animation is full of beans.

How to Make Links in Blog Comments

Making a web link in a blog comment from Frank G on Vimeo.

The code I typed in the video looks like:

[a href=" address"] link words [/a]

The sharp arrow brackets described look like: < >. Replace the square brackets [ ] in the code with the arrow brackets to make it work in a comment post.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Embed Video - From a Vimeo Account

Vimeo is a video sharing site that the animation teachers researched in 2008. It has a 'no porn' policy that would hopefully resist it being blocked by the Institute's Internet censors. Vimeo is user friendly for uploading videos and embedding videos into blogs. Students are advised to create a Vimeo account.

Embed a Video from a Vimeo Account from Frank G on Vimeo.

Maya is "chugging"

Maya is 'chugging' from Frank G on Vimeo.

If you do this step to speed up Maya you may lose your sliders from your Blend Shape window. To fix that, if it happens, simply rebuild your Blend Shape as you were shown in the video tutorials using the Create Deformers menu in the Animation drop down menu set.

3D Modelling - 2nd Year Animators Class Photo

Click to see more detail Class photo of the Animators of 2009 - please email me label corrections and additions

3D modelling in Maya is a wonderful challenge for student animators. It is also an exciting software technical exercise to, it seems, endure and survive.

All students take to the task like ducks to water. Some students are floaty feathery ducks, others find they may be a sculpted sandstone duck that needs a bit of encouragement to stay afloat. I remember being a stone duck at this task as a student because I wanted to know the technical detail of every mouse click. That slowed the flow of my modelling down to a crawl.
The students who sculpt in 3D like they sculpt in modelling clay, looking for flow lines and massaging things into shape, usually settle down with their iPods plugged into their ears and get down to business. As a teacher I listen for the noises of mashing on the keyboard as students grind the "Ctrl+Z" buttons and that is where I know I am needed.

It is a lovely surprise to see that some of the adamant (that's not Adam Ant from the 8o's new romantic rock band, by the way)... adamant 2D animators are graceful swans at 3D modelling.
As a lead-in exercise for the second year class, animators were asked to design a simple bean shaped character on paper in a front and side view. That model sheet would be used in Maya as a reference to build the 3D model. Yup, I did say simple. Ah, well...
Animation Tool; Model Sheet: The rough model sheets were planned using pencil and paper. There also was an option to create a model sheet using Flash software (see next image). The animators were asked to post their preferred model sheet up on their animation student blog in a class task to assess abilities to follow a written design brief. It also meant I could have a chance to match the model to the animator in the class photo (above). When all the model sheets are posted a final labelled image can be posted here and made available for the end of year graduation programme.

Creating a 3D model sheet using FlashModel sheet made using Flash tools

Animation Tool; Modelling Clay: A final step before we fired up Maya was to do some 3D modelling. Based on the drawn character design, the animators sculpted their characters using modelling clay to have as another form of reference.
In the process they rotate the model in their hands (Alt+LeftMouse in Maya), sculpting the clay to make appealing shapes. They added eyes (combining polygons) and carved out mouths (deleting or extruding polygon faces).
In feature film studios there is a department where the characters are sculpted in clay and these reference sculptures are used by the animators to keep a check on shapes and mass as they animate. The sculptures also look cool on shelves in those dreaded 'making of' extras on the DVDs.
I reckon the sculptures made by the second year animators look really cool in the studio at SBIT. And it's nice to see them sitting on the desk next to their creators being asked for advice on how to use the modelling tools in Maya. Those little inanimate creatures must be giving pretty good advice as none have been seriously assaulted as yet.
Click this picture to see a really big class photo

Friday, February 20, 2009

Tell me if you know it's true

Remy wanted to learn how to cook in 'Ratatouille'Here is something I was thinking about as I was weaving through peak hour traffic on my scooter being chased home by a subtropical thunderstorm... If I were to say to you:

Learning is being interested in something and wanting to know more about it. It is the major task of a student.

In an attempt at a visual metaphor, learning is the gathering of shiny knowledge nuggets to put inside the treasure chest of memory inside one's brain.

The need to learn is the pilot light, the interest in the craft, flickering within the animation student.

Teaching is being interested in facilitating (helping) the learning by the animation student in a craft that the teacher is passionate about. It is about igniting the passion for animation within the student mind. The teacher is a big blast of flammable gas!

Maybe that didn't come quite right? Start again...

I have observed an interesting contradiction in some young animators. They want to be told the answers to important animation questions put to them in class. But at the same time they do not like to be told what to do. "Tell me the answers but don't tell me what to do." Hmm, fascinating. Quite the conundrum.

There seems to exist an impatience to be. To be an animator, maybe even a notion to be a good one, but not enough patience to apply the time to learn how. That is, to learn animation the best way by finding the answers for themselves.

Curiosity may have killed some cats, but to my knowledge it is not yet a lethal problem for animation students.

Let's face it, the animation teacher is not a repository of all animation knowledge. But animation teachers do know where to guide a student to look. And we do know the difference between an animation gold nugget and a polished turd.

Now before anyone goes jumping up and down trying to mount a high horse, 'polished turd' is a recognised animation industry term in common usage.

One of my animation teachers used to talk about, "The WHAT and the HOW" in animation and I hope he will one day write down his thoughts (he also talked a lot about polished turds). His context for "the WHAT and the HOW" was the what and how to animate.

I'm using it in the context of being. The what and how to be a good animator.

First up, the what. Ask an animation student, once they have enough information about the craft to actually want to continue practising it, rather than just be entertained by it, "What do you want to be?" They will invariably say, "A good animator."

Next, the how. "How do you get to be a good animator?" Voila! some fantastic facial animation video reference. Occasionally a blank look (that creates a mental uh-oh).

The how is about learning. Learning how to become a good animator.

There is a lot of fool's gold out there for the curious animation student who strikes out on their own without a map; things that look like animation information but are just a pile of polished turds. The teacher is the treasure map to show students where to find animation knowledge. "Y' dig?" Turds are just fine for making compost but, really folks, are no fun to dig around in.

The student is the treasure hunter. And there is a big mountain of animation gold (knowledge) in the world's libraries (even the one at SBIT), on the Internet, on DVDs, some in your teacher's memory, some in other animators and lots in the local industry full of experienced but time poor animators. The treasure map, the teacher, is trying to guide animators to it while avoiding the turds. Yup, I wrote turds again.

People don't get to be good animators without learning how to animate.

Ponder this, the treasure doesn't get delivered to Jack Sparrow's or Indiana Jones' front door. The murderer doesn't walk into Sherlock Holmes' office and give themselves up. These interested adventurers go out, do their research, dig around a bit here and there looking for clues and then they find it. The producers and financiers applaud as hard as the audience. Rhetoric warning. But did you ever notice the real treasure is all the things they discovered along the way?

The larger the desert to cross, the sweeter the beer on the other side. Next time you attempt to cross a desert you would have learned, taught yourself, that it is easier in the company of a camel and a bag of dates. And the beer in Agadir tastes like nectar. If you just jumped aboard the Polished Turd Airlines flight from Cairo, the beer in Agadir just tastes like Moroccan beer and all you've learnt is that they allow smoking in business class and that little curtain is no barrier to the stench. I think I just typed that because I'm thirsty.

The questions and tasks assigned in class are not "telling an animator what to do". They are a trail of information bread crumbs, carefully selected sign posts, to lead animation students along their own path of discovery in how to animate.

Facilitate your own learning. Bring the things that you find in your research, your discoveries while looking for the answers to tasks and assessment items. Bring them to your teacher and we will pick off the bits that look like turds and work out together whether it is animation fool's gold or the real thing.

Discovering the important things for yourself, while being guided by your teacher, will make you a good animator.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Character Design - Glass - GoMA

Tom Moore web site under this link Animators in Brisbane had a wonderful opportunity. An installation of work by Adelaide glass artist Tom Moore was up in the entrance foyer to GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art) as part of the 'Optimism' exhibition.

Tom Moore displays thought provoking, remarkable character designs based on hope and evolution, where nature and plants triumph over automobiles. All made in glass.

How often have you had people look at your character designs with initial bemused shock and then intense interest? Learn from this craftsman about where imagination can take your designs. Study more than animated film to inform your development as an animator. I'm pretty sure Miyazaki said something along those sentiments.

Thinking vs Planning & Doing

Publicity image from Ice Age 3 by Blue Sky Studios animation Scrat knows all about "Doing!" - Ice Age 3 publicity image. Blue Sky Studios.

"Doing!" is more than a cartoon sound effect.

It is an important part of the process of learning animation. Doing is pronounced as "Do-ing", Do + Ing = Doing, as in, "What the heck are you doing!"

A wise employed animator once said, "The learning of animation is in the doing of animation."

Part of the process of animation is planning. When you are thumb nailing ideas, you are doing animation.

The animators who are planning their major project for this year need to know something important. This can be applied to any animation discussion between animation student and teacher.

When you approach your teacher to help plan your major project idea (or even a class exercise) bring with you a pencil and the notebook/sketchbook that you have specially bought for planning the task.

Take notes and draw thumbnails (plan) in the process of discussing your project.

These meetings are not "throw away" chats. They are PLANNING. We want to see results of your planning. Bring your planning out of your brain and put it on paper, please.

"Thinking about animation is not actually animating"*
*In this important for students, practical moving forward sort of way.
If you want to debate that point bring it to the table.
But make sure you bring a notebook and a pencil.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Can of Beans - Character Shapes

Some been shaped characters found during researchIn preparation for a 3D character modelling assessment task these are some of the bean shaped characters found by the animators. Just goes to show that many major animation stars have been formed from the humble bean (shape). And if it is good enough for major studios to design and model bean shaped characters, it is an absolute must do for us.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Where's Linus?

Having been abandoned by his second year student parent, Linus the EAT (Essential Animation Tool) decided to end it all at The Pig and Whistle.I just need to post this here as part of my teaching. The second year students will understand.

Friday, February 13, 2009

6B or not 6B... or maybe 2B? That is the question.

I have asked the first years to do their animation drawings with a 6B pencil. Thankfully a few more 2B pencils were held up today and even a few 6Bs and a 7B. Many still hold up illustrating tools (pacers) at the 'dailies' (meetings around the big table - simulating a studio meeting at the start of the day). When we work ruff, creating working drawings for animation it is better to use animation tools (a soft lead pencil).

The pacer will come into play (or out to play) when you have to produce cleaned up animation.

My animation teacher used to prowl the classroom getting the illustrators to put away their pacers when producing rough animation drawings.

I thought I would enlist a few important animators in this blog post to help me help the new animators see the benefit of a soft lead pencil in the animating phase of the animation process. These are people who know what they are talking about when it comes to animation.

Take special note how Glen Keane holds his pencil. There is more information about how to hold a pencil when drawing in animation and Glen Keane (I advise you to listen to the podcast and watch the clip at the link).

Thursday, February 12, 2009

How do I embed a video into my blog?

How to embed a video file in a blog from Frank G on Vimeo.
When selecting the Embed code click and hold down the left mouse button. To find the Embed code on a Vimeo video, put mouse over the screen and an "Embed" label button appears in the top right corner. Click on it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What happened to my Maya tool panel?

What happened to my Maya toolbar? from Frank G on Vimeo.

Line of Action

At the end of class as I was turning off the computers I found some abandoned student sketches of poses Line of Action depicts the Energy and Emotion in a pose.

An animation industry animator (click on the picture) described Line of Action principle to me as:
"The LOA thing is always a killer...



Yes, he did use his "All Caps" voice because it is very important. The incident (pictured) was captured on a security camera (click here to see the footage).

To paraphrase Leonardo da vinci, "The ... attitudes of a figure should display the state-of-mind of him who makes them and in such a way that they cannot mean anything else."

Image used for educational purposes is from Toy Story © 1995, Walt Disney Pictures

Monday, February 9, 2009

Inspirational Animation

Hopefully the new animators I'm working with will work out how to embed video clips into their student blogs, so we can see what inspires young animators.

What is animation? Don Hertzfeldt explains... I advise just watching the section from 1:04 to 1:23 for the explanation. The other stuff, well, you have been warned.