Sometimes you feel you feel "Linear" and sometimes you feel "Stepped" on. Or a blog about my life in animation school.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


So this week I've been busy with revising almost all my Class 1 assignments, including poses. Most upperclassmen have been telling me that I am crazy for not taking it easy.

Why am I revisiting/revising?
  1. A third of the way in to class 1, I realized that revising and revisiting assignments is a great to relearn a lot of the stuff you think you know. When you actually open the files though, you realize that you don't know how to apply a lot of the stuff you've learned so spending some quality time with the assignments again is a good thing.
  2. I don't want to animate with frame limits. The reason for imposing frame limits is understandable but the quality suffers as you are forced to cut a lot of corners to make the shot shine. And yes, I know in a studio setting, you get a frame limit to animate to.
  3. I also want my progress reel to shine.
I want to have a good grasp of the basics before I get thrown in the world of body mechanics. I know lack of body mechanics can make an animations fail miserably, but not known the basics to me is a worse handicap than that.

First I revised almost all the poses. I am not revising the first pose. I will be including the devastation pose and a newer version of the balance pose in there in which Stu is on the surfboard atop a wave. :)

Next I started with the Light/Heavy ball bounce assignment. We only had 120 frames to do the assignment. I extended this by about 90 frames to get a proper settle going. It's still showing a few dropped frames so I'll be rerendering again.

I'm almost done with the Obstacle Course. I'll be finishing that tonight and then for the rest of the night, revising Tailor and redoing the Pendulum before going in to the weekend and working on the walk cycle assignments.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hand poses to convey emotions

Nick Bruno's incredible blog post about posing hands...


I found my way back home today.
Fifteen years each way,
I think I feel safe.
And when they find I have something to say,
I hope they see straight through me, to what I really mean.

And, yes I feel it in my heart.
And nothing else can make me feel this way.
Here I am, here I am.
I am home.

I think I lost my way somehow, and now I know they way to go.
I thought about it so many times,
But here I am... and I feel fine.

And yes, I feel it in my heart.
And nothing else could make me feel this way.
Oh, here I am. Oh, here I am.
I am home, atlast.
Here I am.
Oh, here I am.

This barricade, oh barricade, it's falling down.
It's falling down.
And nothing can compare to the way that I feel,
to the way that I feel...
When I am here...

It's taken me a long time to feel this accomplished. The past 12 twelve weeks have been a journey. I stumbled for sure.

Now on to step 2.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The refining/polish pass

From AM Co-Founder Carlos Baena:

From Jean-Denis Haas at AAU

Kevin Koch - How Much Polish is too much?

John Kars - Splinecast on Polish (link to the mp3)

11 Second Club Articles

Monday, August 17, 2009


You forget life when you're stuck at the computer and animating...

Last two weeks have been hell in a handbasket. I fail at planning. But somehow I also do succeed in it. The WRONG way. *shakes head* Week 6 specially. Week 6 was the pendulum assignment from hell.

So week 6 in our Basic Foundations class (the week before last), we were introducted to overlapping action or as I like to call it, a world of hurt. It very easy to see why this basic principle can make animations fail or succeed.

You have animate a three joint pendulum with a weight on the bottom. You can either (a) do it simply showing movement of the block that the pendulum is attached to from left to right or right to left on screen with joiints and the ball producing drag, overlap and followthrough.

Or you could be creative have the entire rig do something creative like the block goes in to a figure 8.

I tried to do too much and failed. So what happened? My mentor was not happy with me. He wanted a revision which ate in to most of last week's assignment time.

So I did and I'll eventually put my shame, er, animation here when I feel it's time. *hangs in head in shame*

Good thing to come out of the week and a half of stress was that it reinforced that I am in Basic Foundations. I should be learning the basics while animating the scene without too many flourises in planning. Flourishes in annimation fine. Overplanning is kill.

I forced myself to come up with a simple solution for Tailor. Who is Tailor? Well, Tailor is a bouncing ball with a three joint tail attached. Get it? Tail-or. Basically the combo of the advanced ball and the pendulum rig had a baby and out came Tailor, who looks a bit like a squirrel or Scrat from Ice Age and who is really a lot of fun to animate with, specially if done right.

The planning was pretty simple.

Here's the sketch...

So it comes in to frame from screen right to the platform. Looks over to where it's jumping. Anticipates the jump and then jumps in a nice little arc. Once it lands does three jumps, small, medium, a bit larger than medium. Stops and does a wiggle. Anticipates and does a small jump which is the anticipation of the anticipation of a really large jump that makes it fly off screen.

How did I go about it after planning?
  • First body blocking pass - Blocking the body
    I turned the visibility of the tail off and blocked in stepped mode as to where I think the body would be. Basically putting in my golden poses/main keys for the body.
  • Second body blocking pass - Blocking the body continued
    This time refined the key placement and adding breakdown keys. Most of the anticipation keys were set in this pass.
  • Third blocking pass - Blocking the body continued
    Adding even more breakdown keys to further refine the spacing and the timing. Yes, I am rely less of splines and more on actual keys to polish times. The less you keyframe an animation in the computer, the more you are giving the computer to set as in-between keys and the computer is a really horrid in-betweener.
  • Fourth body blocking pass - Adding in the rotation on the body
    Basically doing exactly that.
  • Fifth blocking pass - Adding in the rotation on the body continued
    Adding breakdown keys to adjust the timing and spacing in the rotation.
  • Sixth blocking pass - Adding in main keys for the squash and stretch
    This one is a freaking doosy. Except I did this one in spline mode when I should've stayed in stepped.
  • Sixth body blocking pass - Adding in the squash and stretch
    This one is a freaking doozy. Why I did this one in spline mode when I should've stayed in stepped, I'll never know.
  • Seventh body blocking pass - Adding in the squash and stretch continued
    Basically adding in keys for the squash and stretch. This step made the ball come to life.
  • First body refining pass
    This is where all stepped tangents were converted to flat and spline tangents in the graph editor. With a lot of breakdown keys, migraines were avoided. In this pass I worked out refining the ease-outs and ease-ins.
  • Second body refining pass - Adding in the squash and stretch continued
    Added more breakdowns to adjust spacing and timing.
After that I got feedback from a few friends in Class 1 about the motion of the body. After incorporating their feedback. I started animating the tail.

I knew this would be hard as all hell I I didn't do it correctly. I knew it need to be animated on 1s aka basically on everykeyframe. That meant I need to set a key on every joint on the tail from 118 frames that my animation was running. With 4 joints, you're animating 472 frames (118 times 4 joints in the tail). At first, I tried animating it straight ahead two times before giving up on it.
I then switched to a combo pose-to-pose and straight ahead attack plan.

The entire tail was done in stepped mode. Well, since there I am controlling every frame it would make absolutely no sense to go to spline. And believe it or not. It worked pretty well. I then submitted it and got feedback from a few people and a campus mentor.

Overall, it was a pretty interesting and a damn challenging assignment and so very much fun. I did this in two successive nights without much sleep. That said, here's the final result after a round of revising from the feedback. Oh yes, I have already revised it. :D

Revised version

Oh yeah, and this is not the official revision. My mentor has still yet to critique it. I am not completely with the tail wag between 24 to 45. I am hoping that he will comment on that and then speed with which he exits.

EDIT TO ADD: My mentor did crit my assignment. I will revise it. He did mention that I need to compress the tail when the body squashes so I will be adding that. :)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Tutorials galore...!!!!

Most awesome CG Tutorial site EVER - If you look at the list of the 50 awesome Maya tutorials (4th post down), the 50th on that list is my good buddy and AM classmate Daniel.

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Dealing with Splinophilia (the fear of splines in the Graph Editor)

Victor Navone is a hero to a lot of us that dream of becoming animators and working in the industry.

He went to Academy of Art University and then gained fame by making Alien Song the animated short (literally, one minute long) film about the alien singing Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive "that went viral like and landed him an interview at Pixar.

He's been there ever since and also teaches at Animation Mentor when he can.

His tutorials on controlling your Graph Editor splines are invaluable and are a part of our Class 1 syllabus for Animation Mentor.

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