Animation

Got a Wacom tablet… and other random things I’d like to say at this point in time thank you very much and how long can I make this title anyway? I guess this is too long already so I’ll just stop

Animation studies

Whew, busy month! It’s week 3 of class 4 of Animation Mentor. Last week I got through blocking out another practice shot, which I’m continuing to add breakdowns to and I hope to start splining soon; next week will consist of polishing. I’ll upload a video eventually… maybe.

Drawing

In other news revolving around the self, I bought a Wacom Intuos4 Medium Pen Tablet! I can’t draw very well at all, but this device should at least make it much more fun and convenient to practice, if I can ever find the time. (I am still quite interested in learning the craft.) But it’s also great for animating in Maya; it’s just easier to move around the screen than a mouse. There’s so much more precision you can get in your cursor movements, and it’s much more comfortable for the arm, hand, and wrist when you’re animating for hours on end (though my back posture is still awful since I have no way to get a monitor at eye level or higher). I really should’ve bought one earlier.

I also bought Stan Lee’s How to Draw Comics, which I’ve been scanning through. It seems to give a great beginner’s overview of the comic-drawing process, but I wish it went into more depth; it sort of just touches the surface of a bunch of topics. It’s still nice as an intro, but I’m going to want more eventually… If anyone out there knows of any good drawing books, let me know! Especially if they’re oriented to the more cartoony side. Or good drawing videos on YouTube… I found a few, though I haven’t spent any time with any of them.

My eventual amibition (perhaps years or decades down the road, if I actually put in the practice hours), aside from trying some simple 2D animations, would be to write and draw a graphic novel. Maybe even turn the novel I’m writing now into a graphic novel; it’s very visual, especially since it takes place in non-Earth worlds. It could be so much fun to come up with a look and feel for different worlds, yes?

I don’t have any fancy drawing software like Photoshop yet, but since I’ll just be practicing, I can probably just make do with some simple free programs.

Google plus

Thanks to Luke for Google plus invite! A while back, somewhere, I blogged about how Facebook needed to allow you to “follow” strangers and celebrities as you can on Twitter, instead of having to mutually friend everyone. Google plus allows just that, along with privately organizing friends into “circles.” For example, you could group some friends into “old annoying high school classmates.” Then you can easily hide their boring annoying updates and shared links, hide your own updates from them if you want, and they’ll have no idea that they’re in such a group. I wouldn’t be surprised if Facebook soon steals this concept.

So I like the overall concept of Google plus; it’s just the kind of social network I want. But they still need plenty of more features (something like Facebook’s “fan” feature, “tag” feature, verified celebrity accounts, integration with more stuff so it’s easier to share links, etc.) and more users, and if it doesn’t get them soon enough, people will lose interest and it’ll quickly become archaic. I’ll be interested to see where it goes.

Hugo trailer

The trailer for Hugo (based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret) came out recently. Aside from some awful cheesy dialog here and there and some awful cheesy feel-good pop music accompaniment which does not at all go with the magical mysterious spirit of the book, the trailer looked interesting. Visually, it was quite good; I think they really captured the look and feel of the world, and the casting seems good. I hope Howard Shore’s score suits the film better than the trailer music. Shore is responsible for the brilliant Lord of the Rings scores, but most of his other scores have been more standard; I hope his work for Hugo is more melodic and fantastical. I look forward to hearing what he’s come up with. And I do hope to see this film in 3D.

Cars 2

I saw Cars 2 the other day. Despite hearing many bad reviews, I thought it was good! It just doesn’t try to make you cry like many other Pixar films do, which is fine with me, because those sentimental moments tend to seem forced and cheesy to me anyway. (Finding Nemo and Ratatouille are the ones that really work for me; the beginning of Finding Nemo just gives me shivers, as does Ego’s flashback.) But the story was fun and the humor, though sometimes corny, had me laughing out loud like a big dork. (“That’s right Mater, you are the bomb!”) Overall, the movie reminded me of being a kid playing with toy cars. You don’t imagine them going through some Doc Hollywood story about a small town in troubled times; you imagine them racing and shooting and crashing and falling off cliffs and flying, and that’s what Cars 2 delivers; it’s what the first Cars should’ve been. Pixar is still standing strong in my books.

(Although that Toy Story short that preceded the film was as awful as watching the Disney Channel.)

The Lion King 3D

Preceding Cars 2 was a trailer for The Lion King 3D rerelease. I have mixed feelings about it. Some scenes looked really awesome in 3D, when they were really able to separate the different layers. Other scenes just look funky, especially facial close-ups. It looks like they just “bubbled” the characters, stretching them out in one direction for one eye, and the opposite direction for the other eye. The overall effect is: “Uh… hmmm… huh? Eh…” My overall judgment: Disney, you either have to put more effort and money into 3D-izing something like this, or forget it. But I’m a hypocrite, because I’ll probably still go see it.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Animation

Animation Mentor class 3 almost over… what next?

My final week of Animation Mentor Semester 3 is wrapping up! I turned in my last assignment on Sunday; here’s what it looked like through the four weeks I worked on it:

There are still some problems with it, but I think I’m getting better. That’s 3 semesters down and 3 to go! I’m halfway done!

As I’ve stated before, I’m taking a leave of absence for 12 weeks instead of jumping right into semester 4. I’m going to be working as hard as I can on my automatic melody generator, so I’ll keep this blog updated with my progress on that. My current goal is to create it as an Android app. Other platforms may follow, depending on its success or lack thereof.

I also started a new project: I’m creating a Grand Theory of Human Intelligence (or GTOHI), not only detailing the basic principles of what intelligence is and how it works, but trying to simulate the results of human intelligence with basic artificiall intelligence programs. This project might fall flat on its face, but I have some ideas that I think are definitely worth exploring. There’s a lot of research to do, so I probably won’t have a product based on my findings until I’m 70 or 80 years old… or dead.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Animation

Inside Pixar

The New York Times online has a great little video about Pixar:

Now if that doesn’t make you want to be an animator, what would?

Pixar has been coming under scrutiny lately as it was recently revealed that their film Up borrowed heavily from a short cheaply-produced poorly-shot film of the same name that Disney productions released in the 60’s…

Lastly, here is the best demo reel I have ever seen… I only hope someday I can get skills like this…

By S P Hannifin, ago
Animation

Animating a box lift – part 2

In our second part of animating a box lift, we space out the poses we did last time and add in betweens.  Unfortunately there’s really not much to show here, but I’ll blather about the process I’ll use for a bit.  Here’s a screenshot of what my workspace looks like in Maya:

[[insert screenshot here – eventually]]

I actually don’t worry about the timing between any of the poses until I started working on the inbetweens.  So I take two poses, spread them out, and think about what the character (Stewie) should be doing halfway between the two poses.  More often than not, his “mid-pose” won’t be exactly in the center of the two poses; it will “favor” the first pose or the second pose.  I use the sliders on TweenMachine to create this pose easily, though I still have to manually move some things around so that they will travel in arcs and not straight lines.  Move the hand down a bit, add a bit of drag on this rotation, move the foot to the side a bit more, etc.

Then I play through the poses and move them around time-wise to try to get the timing right.

Then I do the same steps on a smaller scale, between the first pose and the newly-created inbetween pose.

And I repeat these steps until I’m done, usually with only about 2 to 5 frames between the poses.  And I end up with this:

Isn’t that just great?  Yes it is.

But before moving on to the next step of polishing, we have our director or animation supervisor (or, in my case, my Animation Mentor mentor and fellow students) take a look at it and point out parts that could use some improvement.

Here’s my list of areas to improve:

1 – Around frame 74ish, the head pops back to looking forward too fast.

2 – When Stewie puts his arms under the box around frame 70, the box should sink just a bit into Stewie’s front hand — it should not look like it is magically trapped in space.

3 – Around frame 101 and 103, the box seems to slow strangely in it’s ascent — the timing needs to be reworked there.

4 – Head pop on frame 96 to 100!

5 – The front foot should not slow into it’s position on the floor on frame 151… it should hit the floor with a bit more speed; Stewie is *falling* onto that foot.

6 – Frame 160 to 183 — what the heck? It’s supposed to be a bit of an overshoot on the settle, but the timing doesn’t quite work, and the front hand on the top corner of the box goes a bit funky (especially on frame 167). That whole area needs attention.

7 – More drag on the front hand throughout, especially during its bigger movements.

8 – When Stewie moves to the side on frame 119 to 120, but more drag on the box; he can’t move it to the side that fast; it’s heavy!

9 – On frame 17 it looks like both hands hit the box at the same time.  Maybe one should hit before the other?

Here are some of the main phases this animation went through, ending with the final shot:

So, we tackle these issues, then go into our graph editor and spline it.  When we first spline it, a bunch of issues are obvious: unwanted overshoots, jiggers, and pops.  Some of these can be fixed visually by just looking at and fixing wonky curves in the graph editor.  But there were a few things I needed to give special attention to.

Firstly, the spacing on the head as Stewie comes up was full of pops and strange spacing.  The main problem was that the position of the head was the sum of the joints in the spine, which all bent at different times and speeds.  The only fix I could fine was really to go into each of those spine joint curves in the graph editor and try to orchestrate their changes in such a way that the spacing on the head was more or less even.  This was quite difficult.  The end result is passable, I think, but could’ve been better if I had had more time (and experience, for that matter).

Secondly, the elbows popped a lot, especially the back elbow near the beginning, when Stewie first starts tilting the box.  In the final shot, you can see that I bent his back sideways (towards the camera) – that’s just to make that back elbow not (without having to edit the hip translations).

The spacing on the box was also a problem, one that I never fully fixed.  You can see that in the first few shots the spacing was – weird.  It started going too fast too fast, then went too slow too fast.  Or something like that.  By the final shot it was much better, but still wasn’t quite right.  Oh well; it was due, so I had to turn it in.

I think the overall animation works, but with the spacing and timing issues it’s still a bit wonky, especially in the head and the box itself.  In the future, I will try to put in more inbetweens in the “blocking plus” phase, really trying to define the arcs and the timing and spacing more specifically before going into splining.  Really I need to do little “spline test” – spline a short duration of the shot just to see what exactly splining will do, then switch it back to stepped mode and make the changes I need.

And that’s the practice animation of a box lift!  Next up: practice animation of a heavy box pull and push.  Whew.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Animation

Animating a box lift – part 1

I thought that this semester of Animation Mentor might be more interesting if I did a little more online chronicling of the work I put into an exercise.  For the next few weeks, I’m working on animating a box lift.  This will help me practice a few things: going from blocking to splining to refining and figuring out a work flow that will work for me, animating a character in which the weight distribution changes, and animating the subtle movements of the hands and feet.  There are probably plenty more; really the entire animation process is still less than a year new to me, at least in terms of actually doing it.

This is the first week of working on this exercise, so the only thing (and I’m going to be speaking in first-person plural) we’re going to worry about for now is getting some nice strong easy-to-understand storytelling poses for the shot, as if the shot was going to be told in comic book form.  We won’t even worry about timing yet.  I’ve already shot some video reference of myself picking up a box, and drew some horrible-looking sketches of the poses I think I might want to capture:

sketch1sketch2

(By the way, when shooting video reference for something like this, you must use a truly heavy box.  If you’re only pretending a box is heavy, your weight won’t shift realistically.  When you pick up a heavy box, you shift your weight to stay in balance.  If you shifted your weight that much with a box that is actually very light, you would fall down and go boom.)

OK, so we have nine poses there.  That should work nicely, yes?  There are some balance issues with a few of those (I’m not a great 2D artist), such as the last two, in which the feet are displaced too far in front of the hips.  But oh well!  Just as long as we don’t make those same mistakes in 3D.  I might another pose between the last two with him lifting up his front leg to help him get a grip on the box while he slides that front hand forward.  I had it in the video reference, but it didn’t make it to my sketches for some reason, but it could add some extra believability.

Here’s what we’re starting with:

blocking1

Our character in his T-pose.  Boring.  But I added a green hat and a brown box.  Maybe he works for UPS and this is his last shipment of the day.  He’s tired, but he’s happy this is the last piece of work for the day.  And it’s Friday and he gets the weekend off, so in a way he’s even a bit excited.  I also moved the camera to a bit more of an angle so it’ll be easier to see both legs at the same time.

OK, pose #1.  He’s looking down at the box, slightly hovering over it, getting a quick idea of its size and shape.  Oh, one thing we need to think about is whether to IK the spine or not.  In my last class, I always did; it just seemed to make animating something like a back flip or a quick slip easier.  But here we know we’re going to have our box resting right on torso by the final few poses, so the spine will really have to bend around the box.  So, for this shot, I think we’ll keep the spine in FK.  Besides, I should get some practice with FK spines anyway, yes?

OK, here’s what I got:

pose1

We’ll change the lighting and the exact camera framing later (the shadow on his spherical head look terrible and hides his eyes).  The front hand was hard to place; for the sake of an easier-to-read silhouette, I’ve placed it farther back and a little more outward than someone in real life probably would.  Other than that, I think it’s OK for now.

Pose #2 is quite a change.  His feet come forward, he bends way down, and he places both hands on the box, preparing to tilt it forward to see how much it weighs and to get a grip underneath the box.  But for pose #2, he’s just putting his hands on the box; he’s not yet applying any force to it.

pose2

This was a difficult pose because the guy gets into such a little scrunched up form, yet we still want the position of the arms and legs to be clear.  It’s posing a form like this that really makes the character’s wacky geometry noticeable. His arms really are barely long enough to be wrapping themselves around a box that size, and he has to tilt his big old head way up there to prevent himself from smashing into the box.  (I could’ve just changed the box’s size easily enough, but I wanted to treat this shot as if I had been assigned it in a feature film and did not have that option.)  In my sketches, I had the hips much higher in pose #2, but here Stewie (as the character is called) has to have his hips farther down so that the arc of the spine can look OK without Stewie’s head going into the box.  The back leg is a challenge because we want its position to be clear, yet there’s so much stuff in front of it that can block it and intersect with it.

Pose #3 is very similar:

pose3

As we can see, the hands stay mostly the same (I did move the fingers around just a bit, especially the thumbs).  The back foot comes forward.  The hips go up and tilt up so that Stewie does not hit himself in the chin while tilting the box forward.  The back arm is kept straight.  Hopefully this will look much better with lighting so we can get some shadows on the ground.

Pose #4 mainly consists of Stewie shifting his hands.  He’s not yet lifting the box, but he’s preparing to.  The box is now tilted forward, so he can slide his front hand down to the bottom and wrap his fingers around the edge.  The back hand will slide to the other side, out of view.  While we’ll have to worry about that back hand’s position for the sake of the section of the back arm that the audience can see, we won’t have to worry about it’s rotation or the curl of the fingers; they will be invisible, so who cares?

pose4-5

Pose #4 and #5 are really combined here.  The original intent was to have pose #4 show mostly just the hand shifts, and pose #5 would show the downward movement of the hips.  But due to Stewie’s wacko anatomy and short arms (compared to the size of the box), he has to move his hips just to be able to reach the bottom of the box; he can’t shift his hands without moving hips.  This is obviously going to be sheer torture to animate!  I originally also wanted to keep his spine in the same sort of curve as the previous poses, but that would case his head to go through the box, so his spine is going to have to change curve directions for this pose.

As we can also see, the back arm is completely hidden from view, except for just the very upper part of it, which we can see attached to the shoulder, so the placement does matter, though the curling and rotation of the fingers does not.  I’m also cheating with the arm; it’s actually intersecting with the box.  But it’s out of view, so who cares?

The back foot and leg was also quite tricky.  We don’t want them completely hidden from view, yet there’s hardly any room to show them.  I think what we’ve got here might work, but I’m still not 100 percent happy with it.  What other solutions are there?  I’m not sure at the moment.

OK, on to pose #6.  This will be fun; Stewie is now actually lifting the box.  We will have to shift his hips back to keep him in balance.  His hands will pretty much be in the same position, though perhaps we can shift the front hand forward a bit for a better grip.

pose6

OK, so he only shifted his hand a little.  And I curled the very end of his back hand around the back edge of the box, so you can just see it.  A nice touch, perhaps?  Or perhaps it makes his arm look too long on that side?  Eh, we’ll leave it in for now anyway and we’ll see what my mentor says.

At first glance, this pose looks so similar to the last one, you might think it was quite simple to pose.  On the contrary; I found it the most difficult to pose yet, for two reasons: firstly, Stewie’s anatomy is just too small to pick up a box that size.  If you see the pose from another angle, you’d realize how much cheating is going on just to get that front arm to look OK and not intersect with the box.  That back arm is going almost completely through the box, and, as you can probably see by the position of Stewie’s shoulders, Stewie is really standing to the front side of the box.  Who would ever pick up a box like that?  Secondly, getting the balance right took forever.  We really have to do it by eye, and it’s almost like trying to draw a perfect circle; it always seems to look just a bit off and you feel like you could just sit there and tweak it forever.  A little back, a little forward, no, back again, a bit to the side, etc.  On and on.  It is easy to go mad.  At a quick glance, I think what we have here is at least good enough to move on to the next pose, but part of me still feels like something is still a bit off, still a bit out of balance.  Oh well; we do have a due date, so let’s move on.

Oh, I also don’t like the position of the back foot and leg; they are too hard to see.  However, I didn’t want to move the feet at all for this pose; Stewie is picking up the box, after all.  I can’t imagine someone one change his footing too much as he’s just starting to pick up a box.

Again, getting some light and shadows in the final renders should help; right now it’s difficult to tell how high he’s lifting the box.

Here’s the pose from another angle, showing all the cheating being done:

otherview

Yikes!

OK, on to pose #7.  The trick with #7 is that Stewie has lifted the box up past his waist.  In our last pose, Stewie is lifting the box with his arms and spine the most; in pose #7, he’ll be using more leg power to stand all the way up again, but he’ll also be changing the direction of the curve in his spine and using his arms to the bring the box in closer to his chest (so that, obviously, it will lean on his chest, and he’ll be thankful he’s not a woman).

pose7

This pose wasn’t quite as time consuming, but the balancing act was still tricky, and I’m still not sure I’ve got it quite right.  I also rotated the front foot out a bit to make the outline of the leg clearer, plus a foot between those two poses might add a touch of believability to the animation.  Similarly, I moved the back foot forward a bit, so that the leg didn’t look so much like it was coming out of the hand.  We still want to keep Stewie balanced, so there’s only so far we can move the foot like that, obviously.

Again, there’s some major cheating going behind the front of the box there.  Perhaps next week we’ll take out the tiny portion of the back hand that’s visible; it looks like he might need to have that hand on the bottom of the box at this point, instead of way over there.  But I’m not sure.

My favorite thing I did here was to lower that front shoulder and tilt it towards the camera a bit; it really makes it look like Stewie is putting some effort into keeping that side of the box up, which could be some good setup for pose #8.  It gives the tiny portion of the back arm some room to be seen, and helps make the outline of the front arm more visible.

All right, I think only two more poses are really needed.  In pose #8, Stewie will have his back more straightened out, really standing up as tall as he can with such a large object.  But to help him get a better grip with his front hand, he’s going to bring his front leg up a little and let the box rest on it just for a second so he can shift his arm easily.  Which means – a one leg balancing act.  Oh boy.  Ugh.

pose8

The invisible hand behind the box is really way out there.  Perhaps next week I will use FK on that back arm; we really just need to control how that little upper portion of it that’s visible looks, and doing it with IK means animating the upper arm by animating the hand, which could become frustrating.  Also, if we light this scene, our messed up hidden half might show in the shadows.  But we won’t worry about that this week, I suppose.

So there’s our pose #8.  The box is really close to Stewie now, he’s really brining it in close.  In my original sketches, I had planned to have Stewie hold the box from the outer bottom corner, but his arms are just to short, and stretching them looks ridiculous.  So instead I think we will have Stewie hold the upper part of the box, more like he is now, but we’ll try to straighten out his arm if we can.  I hope it is clear what Stewie is doing: bringing up his leg to help shove upwards so he can get the box into his final grip so he can carry it somewhere (good thing I’m not animating him walking with the box – yet).  It’s pretty nice having that back hand completely hidden and not having to worry about it, yes?

OK, one more pose.  In pose #9, Stewie will be in his final position, the box firmly resting on his chest, Stewie leaning back a little bearing the weight and ready to walk around with the package.

pose9

As always, the balance was tricky to get, and every time I look at the pose from a different angle, it feels just a bit off balance somehow.  But you have to stop tweaking eventually.  Here we’ve got a straight in the front arm, just like I wanted, running across the top edge of the box, something I didn’t exactly plan for, but I think it will work since Stewie’s arms are too short and my box is too big for Stewie to the reach the opposite corner.  As you can see, we also have Stewie’s fingers from his back hand just barely visible on the underside of the box.  Stewie’s spine is mostly straight and leaning back, so Stewie is bearing a lot of weight on his chest.

And – I think that’s pretty much it!

Finally, let’s render those eight poses with mental ray.  It takes longer to render, but it can put in some simple shadows we couldn’t get before.  (And we don’t even have to set up lights, woohoo!)

mr-pose1mr-pose2mr-pose3mr-pose4-5mr-pose6mr-pose7mr-pose8mr-pose9

Hmmm.  That white ground with the green hat and brown package makes him look more like an elf.

And that’s it for this week!  Hopefully I’ll continue to blog like this as I continue my assignments, but who knows.  I’m often busy and tired.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Animation

Animation Mentor class 2 reel

I finally uploaded my animation reel after finishing class 2 of Animation Mentor… this includes my work from class 1 and class 2; only the first three shots are from class 2 (the back flip, the quick slip, and the jumping hips):

Of course, none of this will end up on my final job-searching reel. It’s all just practice. I find it a bit annoying to watch those first few class 2 shots; while I learned a lot doing them, I can still see that they need quite a bit more work. That back flip was especially difficult, and I picked a pretty dumb place for the camera to go. I should’ve put it at more of an angle so it would be easier to see both arms and legs at the same time. Also I don’t think the landing works very well. I think I was too lazy in my blocking, and by the time I moved into splining it was too hard to get the timing to right. (I wasn’t really lazy, just had a tough time managing my time that week. I’m still trying to balance work with animation studies with not going completely crazy.)

For the next few weeks I’ll be animating the lifting of a heavy box. Multiple mentors have told me: “Keep it simple! You’re still learning; this is practice!” But it’s easy to think of a box lift as being really boring. Nobody looks at a box lift and says “wow, what a great box lift!” And you see people animating all this running and jumping off walls and balancing on tall columns and you think: “Woah! I wanna do that! Like, right now!” But you have to calm down and think to yourself “silence, young grasshopper, in time you will come to wield such powers, but you first must focus on the basics.” And then you think: “But I am mortal! By the time I hold such lofty powerful powers of power, I will be be close to death and it will matter not!” And then you have to think: “Oh, do shut up!” And then you think: “Don’t tell me to shut up!” And then you give yourself a slap and get back to work.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Animation

No more princess fairy tales for Disney?

I found this article to be interesting. It states:

Once upon a time, there was a studio in Burbank that spun classic fairy tales into silver-screen gold.

But now the curtain is falling on “princess movies,” which have been a part of Disney Animation’s heritage since the 1937 debut of its first feature film, “Snow White.” The studio’s Wednesday release of “Tangled,” a contemporary retelling of the Rapunzel story, will be the last fairy tale produced by Disney’s animation group for the foreseeable future.

Actually, I think most of the “princess-ness” of Disney came about in the 90’s with The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Pocahontas, all released in less than a decade, and all following a similar Broadway-influenced romantic comedy formula. I’m sure Walt Disney himself never meant for his company to be defined by fairy tales or princesses. They did Snow White in 1937, then didn’t do Cinderella until 1950, and didn’t do Sleeping Beauty until 1959. That’s only three princess-oriented fairy tales done in old Uncle Walt’s lifetime.

The article mentions that their Princess and the Frog didn’t do as well as they’d like. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but looking at the previews, it certainly didn’t look that great. It was tauted as introducing Disney’s first black princess just as the nation was getting its first black president. A film decision like that should never be made for political brownie points. And they were, dare I say, racist, playing to stereotypes and setting the film in New Orleans and making the music score jazzy. The film shouldn’t have been set in America at all. Unless the intent was to make the movie about racism (which I doubt, and there are already plenty of movies about that), the movie should’ve treated the princess just like any other princess.

Anyway, I digress. My point is, I don’t think this news is really all that breath-taking. It’s natural. It’s obvious.

I think it’s kind of silly to guess at what the public wants, because I don’t think you really can know, beyond certain genre generalizations. Like “vampires are popular now” or “wizards are popular now” … but that doesn’t tell you what sort of story people would be interested in seeing, or what sort of stories they would not be interested in seeing.

I think filmmakers should step away from looking at the profit numbers (as long as there’s a profit at least) and just do whatever interests them the most, whatever story gives them goosebumps just thinking about. The audience does matter, but only to a certain degree… not to the degree of dictating what sort of film to make next. Really, audiences have no idea what they want.

Not that that’s not what Disney is doing. I can’t really tell from the article what they’re doing; who knows how they’re making their decisions?

Oh, and did they really want “Tangled” to appeal to boys? Firstly, its style is all wrong for that, from the colors to the guy’s facial hair pattern. Secondly, the preview doesn’t show enough thrilling action. Instead it shows “Here comes the smolder…”

The article also mentions that they’re no longer doing Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen. Though it’s been dramatized before, I’m rather happy about this. Firstly, I’d hate to see the story Disney-ified. The story has a darkness to it that Disney (or Pixar) would probably ruin, even if they ruin it well. Secondly, I’d like to do it myself. Not ruin it, that is, but turn it into an animated feature. I guess there’s really not much of a chance of that, but if Disney had done it, there’d be no chance, so at least now there’s a one billionth of a percent chance.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Animation

Workful weekend withering away

Whew! It’s been a busy weekend. Fortunately, due to my ability to work well under pressure (did you hear that, potential employers?), I was able to get my animation to a level I was pleased with for my Animation Mentor homework, after dedicating about 5 non-stop hours to it last night and 3 more this morning. (Daylight savings time was convenient.) The shot still needs more work, but at least it’s on the right track… I think. The assignment this week is, I think, to polish and finalize the shot.

Now I’m at work again. We get a ton of business on Sundays (if you can call it “business”). On the one hand, this makes the time fly by like a neutrino, on the other hand it leaves one as tired as a quantum physicist misunderstanding the point of Schrödinger’s Cat.

Not sure what I’ll do when work is over, if I’ll go see Megamind tonight, or just go to sleep, or try reading, or watch the next Animation Mentor lecture, or watch a movie, or play a computer game. Nice to have choices.

When you’re too tired to do anything creative, is it better to just take a nap, or do something involving less thought, like playing a computer game or watching TV?

What to do in daytime when tired?

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By S P Hannifin, ago
Animation

Cartoon project

I started planning out my cartoon. I don’t know if I should blog about it much, because in all likelihood it will never come to fruition, with my track record of fruitioning things. But I started working on the character design.

It’s very interesting to work on character design when you can’t draw well. But I’ve been trying to follow two main principles: simplicity and contrast.

Simplicity – the characters are based on very simple shapes: circles, squares, ovals, rectangles. And their clothing and hair is mostly textured right on the shape, just for ease of drawing. They’re nothing like Disney, with nice flowing clothing and such. If you can’t draw very well, you gotta keep it simple. Especially since the idea is to animate them.

Contrast – to make the characters easily distinguishable from another, I’m trying to make them each have very contrasting sizes, colors, and shapes. (And hopefully voices and personalities, when/if I get to that.) This is probably an obvious point. I just don’t have much else to blog about.

I would post pictures of my character designs, but I signed a non-disclosure agreement, so I can’t. But I will say there will be five characters. And a sixth character who only pops his head in every now and then. I am currently aiming to be finished by the Summer 2012, before the end of the world. That’s my daydream at least. If I can’t get this to be a cartoon, I could at least turn it into a podcast.

I’m guessing I will blog my progress, though I won’t show any examples until I actually have a product, or until I’ve given up. It’s called “Blather” after all, so I have to blather about something…

Oh, I’m probably also really shooting myself in the foot with this project. The wise old man in me tells me that I should instead focus any spare energy on creating a really amazing short film that could land me a job somewhere, rather than spreading out my time and energy over something episodic. But for now, the episodic idea excites me more.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Animation

How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon came out on blu-ray yesterday. I missed seeing it in theaters, looks like it would’ve been fun to see in 3D. Anyway, I had heard great things about it from other animation students and it didn’t disappoint; it’s a really fun film with some great flying dragon epicness. It also has the best film score I’ve heard this year, as you can hear by this sample (if it hasn’t been removed for copyright violation yet), music by John Powell:

And here’s just a little talk with some animators from the film who graduated from the animation school I’m currently attending, Animation Mentor:

Finally, here’s a podcast interview with the directors of the film. Fun stuff!

Beauty and the Beast also recently came out on blu-ray, and it looks fantastic; blu-ray is truly the way all 2D animated films should be seen. The clarity of the drawings are just awesome. You can really see the pencil markyness like never before. And the backgrounds also look especially vivid.

By S P Hannifin, ago