Friday, 30 December 2011

Learn more about blinking in 5 minutes!

Someone posted this wonderful video about animating blinks on the TagerTalk group

It says to utilise the eye shapers and other controls such as the nose along with any eye movement and the results of doing so produce an obviously better, smoother and much more appealing animation. I shall try to apply some of this in the presenter animation I'm doing now.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

WIP for 'Marriage' Clip

Work in Progress pic :)

Haven't been posting much because I've just been either getting on with building the scene or planning OR enjoying Christmas festivities! It can take me a while to model things because I'm not greatly confident in 3D modelling. However, I think I've outdone myself a bit purely by just biting the bullet and trying. I will admit I do tend to avoid modelling if I can but I'm happy with the results of my efforts. I used google searched images as reference, particularly for the lounge seat, chair and lamp.

Here's the sound clip (uploaded with the above WIP picture purely just so that I could upload it!).

So far I've lip synced Stephen Fry's voice with the Malcolm character shown and positioned him where I want the animation to start. I will start blocking him next.

Here are a few planning sketches I've done so far:

Malcolm character courtesy of

Just Sayin'

I knew writing this down in this blog would come in handy because I would no doubt forget how to do it again!!! MWAHA! Cleverness!

Pose Constraints! I knew I'd need to constrain an object in this manner again!

That is all. Suppose I just wanted to write a self-congratulating blog post to show I am learning! :p

Merry Christmas x

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Lip Syncing: Presenter

We have another two clips to animate to, one is from a presenter or comedy act and the other is a song. I've started working on the presenter one. The clip is from a Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie act (I assume from A Bit of Fry and Laurie. I'm not looking it up otherwise I'll get 'tainted'! In other words, influenced by the act) about marriage. The clip sounds like the two are in a bar setting but I'm going to put them in a psychiatric office setting instead to make it a bit different. There will be a bottle of water and a glass on a table to accommodate the glass and liquid sounds.

Here's a couple of google'd  images to show what I'm thinking of:

(Last image (Above) belongs to Set Decorator - Helen Britten)

Here is a work in progress of the scene I'm building:

Monday, 19 December 2011

Lip Sync: Test 4

Here is the fourth test, after tweaking the arm movements a fair bit to try and make them less symmetrical.

I could not render the video from Softimage to include the sound track I imported into the software so all this time I've been using Windows Movie Maker to add the sound and publish straight to my account on youtube (though for whatever reason I can't actually save the movie because it plays back with no sound - go figure :/). A classmate told me if I rendered using the hardware render instead of Mentalray the clip would come out with sound. I tried it but it renders all the controls on the rig plus an odd orange texture all over Malcolm's face. I aborted before it finished because though it would be helpful if sound was rendered too, is there really any point compromising the look of the rig? I could get rid of the controls but I have no idea why the face is all orange when I render that way. I'll stick to Movie Maker and Final Cut.

Malcolm character courtesy of

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Thinkings... about Symmetry or 'Twinning'.

Feedback on my first lip sync test was mainly the symmetry of the arm movements. We've been pretty much told to avoid twinning, though I'm not entirely sure why because sometimes people do move symmetrically. Maybe not exactly but enough so that you can't really see much delay or so that their poses are still almost symmetrical. I'm not saying the idea of avoiding it is wrong but it made me look it up in the Animator's Survival Guide (our lovely lovely bible!). The only reason I wondered about it is because a) I'm pretty sure that on occasion I do move my arms pretty much symmetrically and b) the theory that the more symmetrical the human body is the more attractive it's supposed to be. Though that might apply more to the face than anything but surely some of that idea must apply to the rest of the body?

I shall scan the pages tomorrow but basically Richard Williams believes that "symmetry is an expression of harmony, beauty, balance, order and authority..." It's just about how you use it. It gives the example of a politician who will lay down the law with symmetrical movement then break it up when they reach the point, after which they will return to symmetry. Or "the wholeness they're trying to convey" as Richard William puts it.

I watched a clip of one of Tony Blair's speeches and he does indeed, occasionally (possibly due to this speech being just before he stepped down), move his arms in a symmetrical fashion.

Just thinking really... and rambling.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Other research for AP2 Presentation

Here are some extra things I looked into to put into the presentation.

The two screen caps below are when I was looking at camera movement and then later Arcs. I tried to building the scene in which the camera moved to follow Toothless' movement. I also traced the arcs that Toothless moved in. I believe this was done to give him the movement of a feline predator (makes sense if we consider the rumour about his movement being based on an alleged domesticated mountain lion). It makes the switch to puppy eyed dragon much more apparent.

I was looking at the line of action here to demonstrate that the focus is on Toothless in these shots. We can see Hiccup leading the eye by offering the fish to Toothless.

AP2 Presentation: Scene Analysis

Here is my presentation for tomorrow. I'm hoping it will go well. I'm mostly hoping I'll be able to hold my composure as last time I got flustered and rushed a bit (or at least I felt I did - still waiting on feedback on the first module). I enjoyed watching the crap out of this movie, looking for what scene I wanted to analyse :)

Lip Sync: Test 2

After some feedback, I've tweaked the animation a bit. I was told the arm movements were too symmetrical so I added some delay here and there, I've also animated the tongue.

Malcolm character courtesy of

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Lip Sync: Test 1

Our assignment (alongside the presentation) is to animate and lip sync to a chosen track. There were a few tracks to choose from but I went with one about Christmas eve.

It goes like this: "*Ahem* Blimey.. Sorry! Christmas Eve on a rooftop, saw a chimney, my whole brain just went... What the hell!"

Here are some planning sketches:

Malcolm character courtesy of

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

How To Train Your Dragon: Clip

Here is the CLIP I'm analysing for my presentation. I cannot embed this due to copyright.

Facial Expressions

We had a lecture on facial expressions over the past two days and I really found them interesting. I find body language and what people are REALLY saying really interesting and over the past couple of years I have learned about the quirks that I do when I'm feeling certain ways. I've also started to understand other people better by paying more attention to watch their saying with their gestures and eyes.

It takes me back to when I was a child and how me and my brother always knew when Dad was in a foul mood. He wouldn't shout or overly express he's not in a good mood, nor say anything. I don't remember anything in particular but when asked how we knew we always say he was 'giving off vibes'. When he did make appearances he was very detached from his surroundings and never made eye contact with anyone. Something about the way he walked told us to stay out of the way and he'd speak as little as possible if spoken to, if he chose to answer. That is about all I can remember but until starting university I never understood how we knew. Random train of thought!

Anyway, there is a person I follow on DeviantArt who does a lot of reference material included facial expressions. She's quite good and I've used her a lot for reference in drawings. I like how she just gets into a character and goes nuts! Here's a few links to examples:




I might try and experiment with facial expressions if I get the chance.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

How To Train Your Dragon: Research 2

Here are scans from the book I've been referring to about camera layouts and shots for the previous post. The book can be found HERE!

The book focuses on all aspects of animation production rather than just the animation. I read through these sections to refresh my memory on camera layouts, scene planning, types of shots and the rule of thirds. I then applied what I learned to analyse the clip I'm showing for my presentation. Speaking of which, I will upload that clip very soon.

Monday, 5 December 2011

How To Train Your Dragon: Camera

In the clip I'm analysing, only 3 shots are used:

The first one is a long shot of Toothless (his full body is in shot) with selective focus (Hiccup is slightly out of focus). It is clear in this shot that the audience should be focusing on Toothless and his reaction to Hiccup.

The second is a medium shot of Hiccup (shows him from waist up) to focus on his reactions and thinking. He's playing a bit of a dangerous game here by standing face to face with a dragon and the audience needs to see how he reacts and what he's thinking. This shot allows the audience to focus on his facial expressions and actions with the fish when necessary.

The third is another long shot but of Hiccup (full body in shot). It's a longer shot than normal because of the space left around Hiccup's body. It's not enough to be an extreme shot but it establishes something important to the audience; how in the open Hiccup is. This shot is used when Hiccup is forced to drop his knife away from his body. Being out in the open with a dragon is dangerous enough but this shot emphasises how Hiccup, on the act of throwing away the knife, is truly alone with nowhere to run and now completely defenseless.

There could be a fourth shot, which is the slight close up on Hiccup's face (from shoulders up). This is only used once in this clip to really focus on Hiccup's response to Toothless' disapproval of him having the knife. His facial expressions are key to his thoughts. In this shot we can see that he decides, knowing its dangerous, to throw it away.

The shots are kept minimal and simple. There is no dialogue in this scene but there is a 'conversation' between the two characters through body language alone, which is why it is important to have Toothless' whole body in shot. The cuts in this scene are timed so that after a character does his action, we see the other character's responding action and then back again to see the first character's response to that, creating this 'conversation'.

The main focus here is on the characters building a relationship.

The rule of thirds is used in this clip to keep the shots interesting but more importantly to clearly show that these characters are interacting by spacing them appropriately when both in shot at the same time.

Toothless is never shown alone in the shot, Hiccup is always out of focus in the foreground. However, Hiccup is shown in shot alone but slightly off centre towards to left. He is always looking at something downwards towards the right. I think this is intentional because if Toothless was kept in the shot there wouldn't be enough focus on Hiccup and his responses and thoughts.

In this last screen capture he is a bit farther on the left. He is still looking at something downward towards the right. With all the space around him. he is giving the impression that the character on the other side of the conversation is the dominant one and making him feel small. He does look quite small in that shot!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

How To Train Your Dragon: Research 1

Found some wonderful artwork by character designer Nicolas Marlet and various other artists that worked on the concept art of How To Train Your Dragon on another blog I follow: Here
The blog is called Living Lines Library and has lots of concept art, animation tests, storyboards and more from all sorts of animated movies.

There are also lots of interviews with various people that worked on the film on Dreamworks' YouTube Channel.

Also found a rumour (I say rumour because I can't find any evidence to support it) that a domesticated mountain lion owned by the one of the directors' (Dean BeBlois) uncle was the inspiration for they way Toothless moves! Found on wikipedia, under the Development section.

Production development blog for How To Train Your Dragon.

AP2 Presentation: How To Train Your Dragon

I already knew that I wanted to present a clip from How To Train Your Dragon but which part I didn't know. I've been watching it again and again and parts of it again and again and I think I've decided which clip I want to have.

It's hard to find the clip on the internet so I will have to make one myself but it's on this video that someone has compiled themselves on youtube (I truly hate these kinds of youtube videos but nevermind..): Check it out
Clip is roughly 0.33 to 0.55.

I will upload a better clip soon.

Previously, Hiccup decided to release the dragon instead of achieving his goal up to that point (which was to kill a dragon and be finally recognised as Viking and not useless). Interestingly the dragon, straight after being released, also decided not to kill Hiccup. They both had an easy chance of killing each other but did not take it.
The second time they see each other is from afar. Hiccup is on a rocky edge watching the dragon struggle to get out of the dipped area surrounded by rock, trying to figure out why it won't fly away. The dragon only becomes aware of Hiccup's presence when he drops his pencil down into the area. It is also shown at this point that the dragon is unable to catch its own food when it fails to catch fish in the water. Hiccup and the dragon only gaze at each other from their places but nothing more, showing no bad intentions towards the other.

What I really like about this scene (the clip I'm analysing) is it is the first time Hiccup and Toothless have been face to face and in front of each other since when Hiccup released Toothless (though 3rd time they have seen each other, counting the moment of release). So by going right into the area where the dragon is currently trapped in (a very open area with very high walls of rock and little place to hide or escape through) is very dangerous.

The clip starts with Toothless slinking down from a high rock he had been watching Hiccup from, moving very cat-like. It is clear that he does not welcome Hiccup until he sees something he wants; the fish. He does not immediately approach Hiccup for it. He is still very suspicious and cautious and keeps low to the ground. A cat behaving like this would mean it is frightened and would attack if necessary, the same can be assumed for Toothless here. Hiccup, though obvious very scared, offers the fish immediately at arms length, tilting his head away in fear that the dragon may bite off more than the fish. Toothless, slowly and cautiously, moves towards the fish, putting one of his bad legs out first and following with his front. He almost takes it when he suddenly looks at Hiccup's waist and draws back growling. Hiccup seems to know immediately what has upset the dragon as he opens his fur jacket to reveal a knife. Touching it confirms that Toothless does not like it and won't approach him with it there. Hiccup drops the knife at arms length to his side but this isn't good enough for Toothless who flicks his head to one side, still looking at the knife. Hiccup flips the knife onto his foot and kicks it further to the side, we hear water splashing and can assume it is no where within reach now. Toothless, appeased, shows his approval by sitting up like a dog with huge eyes. This is not the first time his eyes have been bigger than usual but this is the first time he has looked cute with them.

Watching the wordless communication here is interesting as Hiccup seems to pick up exactly what the dragon is thinking, perhaps illustrating the first time a Viking has actually paid observing attention to a dragon without the intention of killing it but to understand it. This is the first 'conversation' as such between Hiccup and Toothless, presenting the idea of a bond that could possibly happen between them. It is evident that they are both curious about each other (Toothless not so much right now but he is still cautious with Hiccup at this point). Toothless shows intelligence in the way he directs Hiccup to get rid of the knife and it is established this way that they are able to understand each other, again opening a way for a possible bond.

Monday, 28 November 2011

New page!

I've made a new page so that it is easier to find all the final products of each task! Check it out at the top right corner!

Sketches from final component of AP1

Here are the sketches and notes I did during the animating of Component 2. I hadn't uploaded them before because they practically lived on my desk while I was working on the animation as I kept referring back to them or adding key frame numbers.

Final Hand In for AP1

Finished the last assignment for this module (Animation Practice 1). Pretty happy with the result though I can see where it needs improving already!

Malcolm character courtesy of

Final Assignment: Test 2

I've noticed I haven't put up a lot of tests. This is mainly because I don't tend to render off unless I'm finished a round of inbetweening or something like that. Sometimes I'm so in the zone I forget to!

Anyway, test 2!

I'm actually happy with it so far. I'm not confident that it's fantastic but I'm still liking my idea and happy to work on it which is great! Since by now I'd have usually hit the 'blindness'.

Waiting for feedback before I put splines back on and render it, will wait half hour to an hour at most since deadline is tonight.

Malcolm character courtesy of

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Walk Scene: Test 8

Latest and last render of the walk assignment after tweaking it as per previous feedback.

Malcolm character courtesy of

Friday, 25 November 2011

Arthur Christmas

Finally went to see this tonight. Been looking forward to it because I love Christmas films. The film was ok, I wasn't expecting it to be fantastic so I wasn't disappointed. I loved the idea for the story (one child missed on Christmas Eve) but I think it could have been pushed a bit further as I didn't feel that warm fuzzy 'aaawww' magic at the end. The animation was good too but I noticed some weird bits here and there. For example, I've been taught to never keep a character still and there's a part where a lady is staring fixedly at a screen and talking. The top of her head was dead still while her jaw moved and it looked a little weird to me.

However, I still enjoyed it. It was a nice idea and it looked great. Just think it could have been better.

Final Assignment: Test 1

Here's the first test for AP1 component 2. Still needs more breakdowns and the ball and tail still needs blocking properly but it's getting there. Just uploaded it for feedback. Will continue working on it in the meantime as I need to decide how to end it.

Malcolm character courtesy of

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Feedback for latest walk test

Mostly just that the coin flip needs to be slower (takes about a second to happen) and to have him carry on a few steps before the video finishes.

Short post but put up as a reminder to myself.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Walk Scene: Test 7

Much happier with this. Put it up on the Masters facebook group for feedback. Hoping if any that not much tweaking is needed from here on as I'd like to purely concentrate on the last assignment.

Malcolm character courtesy of

Remember remember

Not the 5th of November, Constraining!

Just had to figure out how to constrain objects to things (characters mainly) because, well, you forget if you don't do it for a while. Last time I constrained something was somewhere around this time last year. So I'm writing it down here in hope that I won't forget again (or at least if I do, I can come back here!). I even changed the colour of the important bits!

I was trying to attach one end of this box to Malcolm's hand because he's going to carry it. I will have to animate the constrain to unattached it when he comes to letting go of it. But we'll cover that another time.

Firstly I was trying to constrain it by Constrain > Object to Cluster but it wasn't letting me pick any cluster I created or any geometry to create a cluster to attach it to. I enquired the legendary facebook group TagerTalk for advice as I remember it was a fiddly thing to do so perhaps I was forgetting something.

To constrain something this way, first you should create a cluster on the geometry in the area you constrain to (pick point(s) Edit > Create Cluster or Ctrl + L), then create a null and Constrain > Object to Cluster. If the geometry cannot be selected (as was in my case), create a small point cloud (2 x 2 or something, depending on how big a cluster you need) parent it to a bone or joint or whatever is appropriate to get the desired movement and then select points and create a cluster.
Then select the object to be constrained and parent it to the null.

I did this and realised it was not what I needed. I needed the box to be able to rotate with the hand and using this method does not take orientation into consideration. Only tranforms!

So I actually needed to Pose constrain. And this is how I did that with the help of my tutor: As Malcolm does not have any selectable bones in his hand, I had to use his main wrist control. Select the object to be constrained. Click Constrain Compensation (CnsComp button under the constrain menu on right). Constrain > Pose. Done!

Malcolm character courtesy of

Friday, 18 November 2011

Reference and Sketches for Final Assignment

We shot reference videos for our final AP1 assignments today. Was fun but had headache so couldn't help out too much :(

My feel for the scene is that Malcolm has spent the day putting things into storage and having a good sort out. This is the last box he has to put away so he's quite tired out at this point. When he places the box down and turns around, a rat has appear in his path! He's not too pleased with this company so he tries to catch it in a box, though what he's going to do after... well, he hasn't thought that far ahead...

Anyway, here's mine:

I really liked Scott's reaction to the 'rat' so I'm thinking of having that in my animation. I'd been switching between entering from a starcase (cellar) or from a ladder (loft) but I think I'll stick with the original idea of a cellar for simplicity.

This is the original roughed out storyboard:
This shows the character entering a cellar with a heavy box. After this I was unsure about the idea and kept changing things back and forth. Will update another time with a complete storyboard.

Spent some time drawing Malcolm, so that I could draw him in poses later.

Roughing out an idea for the scene (when I was thinking about having it as a loft).

The first attempts at drawing Malcolm's emotions. These are awful...

Again, still toying around with the scene being a loft. These are of Malcolm entering the loft with a heavy box.

Playing with some facial expression ideas.

Been trying to get some shocked/scared poses down. Glad we did the reference because it was so hard trying to find the right pose and I think Scott nailed it in the reference better than I could find/imagine.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Scaredy Poses

While looking around the internet for some 'scared' poses (as in, just been frightened out of their wits), I came across a little Mr Bean animation.

I found this a bit anti-climatic after all the build up. It might be because I am looking for and expecting a big shock reaction of some sort at least before the 'oh... it's just a mouse...' The reaction he expressed seemed more like a 'what the hell...?!'

Still, I would have put a little scream or even a gasp in! Good loft reference for my final assignment though. Perhaps I should think about a build up in my animation too..

It's harder than I thought to find reference material of someone being scared/made to jump. I've found a few good pranks but I'm finding it hard to see those poses (being either too small an action or not the right movement like dropping to the ground) being a part of the animation. I did find some good (and funny) videos of people getting scared. I'll just have to take note of what people commonly do when frightened, such as arms go upwards though how upward they go varies on situation, type of scare and type of person.

And some people flail like crazy!

Feedback for latest walk

Had a feedback session about my walk cycle today, here is what was said.

# Character movement is still fairly wooden, add more breakdowns for more flow.
# Speed up coin catch (perhaps the walk off too)
# Hand goes through trousers! Fix it!
# Slow down his arms when he stops to look less like a jerk movement.
# Add more flow to arms
# Go through Splines and see where it can be broken down (for more flow).

I'll be continuing work on the walk where I can.

Life Drawing 14-11-11

Some pages from my last life drawing session.