Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Presenter: New camera cuts test.

My tutor thought that it would be better if I tried some camera cuts in this particular animation, as she didn't feel that the audience would know where to look. So I played around with that idea.

Excuse the GOD AWFUL video quality. This is why Windows Movie Maker sucks and I really need to get a new video editing software... preferably free and I am a poor poor Masters student. This is only for demonstration, there is no new animation blocking to see.

Life Drawing 30-1-12

Typical! Missed last week's life drawing and it was a male model. Go to this week's life drawing and it's back to female!!

Anyway, we did the usual 2 minute poses and 15/20 minute poses. We also had to draw a square on our paper and do a close-up on some part of the model's body.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Presenter: Blocking 3

It was suggested that I change Fry's Malcolm to look away from Laurie's Malcolm when talking about being nine, as if to be remembering the memory and then look down because it's embarrassing. I re-rendered the changes for show and tell tomorrow.

Another One Bites The Dust: Test 3

Added the hip wiggle and rendered it properly. Excuse the black patches everywhere, some parts obviously failed to render. Will be re-rendering for the final version anyways.

I didn't realise how little emotion I'd put on his face... could have sworn I put some more smiles on him at least. I'll be working on that next!

**EDIT - Just noticed the walks are a bit stiff.. or rather the top half of his body is. Will try to smooth that out a bit if I have time. Need to work on the presenter animation for the time being.

New page again!

Added another page for this module's (AP2) final animations, to make it easier/quicker to find.

That is all.


Rio is an animated film by Blue Sky Studios released in 2011. It's about a Blue Macaw (Blu) who never learned to fly. He is taken to Rio de Janeiro as part of a breeding program (as the Blue Macaws are an endangered species) to mate with a female named Jewel. They get into trouble with a smuggling group and have to escape Nigel, a Cockatoo.

This is a fantastic movie, I loved every minute of it when I went to see it. I was recently reminded of it when I saw an advertisement for it on my Xbox.

I remember being very impressed with the animation of the bird characters. The vibrant colours and catchy music made for a really 'feel good' experience.
I wrote a post about the 2005 animated film Valiant a while ago, stating that I wasn't very impressed with not only the animation but the film in general. I thought a lot of things could have been done better but it may have been because of the technology at the time and the budget. In Rio, you can really see the improvement of the animation of bird characters. Blu does a lot of things that are considered human-like due to how he had been raised but he looks natural doing them. The rig was modelled with obviously better knowledge of how birds work and it had been taken into account that the animators would have to 'humanise' him in some way.

I was really inspired when I went to see this movie and I desperately want to see it again. If I ever have to animate a bird character, this film is a prime example of how it should be done! I recommend it!

Another One Bites The Dust: Test 2

Feedback from my classmates pretty much said that the first step Malcolm takes is abnormally fast. I was concerned about the microphone being in front of his face too much but they seem to think it's ok. I might change it slightly anyway, just to satisfy myself, if I have time. Here is a quick capture of the fixed animation.

Next I'm going to give him a hip wiggle (to the beat) when he stands in the 'Freddy Mercury' pose... which is this by the way!

Statue in Montreux. Image from Wikipedia.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Another One Bites The Dust: Test

Worked on 'Another One Bites The Dust' a fair bit. I've changed the camera angle since the feedback. I've also added more breakdowns, the lip syncing, couple of bits and pieces for the background and lighting and I've now put the animation on splines.

Ever since watching Keith Lango's video on cleaning up your animation I've been taking more care and changing the way I clean up my animation. When someone told me my animation needed cleaning up or needed more polishing, I'll admit I didn't really understand what it meant. Or at least I realised I didn't understand when I watched that video. It was like being hit in the face with a brick epiphany. I didn't need to add more key frames, I needed to take them out! So I've started the cleaning up process much sooner than after I've completed all the breakdowns. I've started noticing keys that don't need to be while adding breakdowns and delete them.

It's great :D

As for my animation, with the change in camera angle I'm now a bit worried that the microphone is in front of his face too much so that the lip sync can't be seen much. I'm sending it for feedback so I'll wait and see what my classmates think. Other than that and the obvious and inevitable polishing it needs, I think it's coming along nicely :)

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Presenter: Blocking 2

Blocked the Fry character now. He's a bit wobbly but hopefully that will ease out as I add in the breakdowns, if not I'll sort it out then. Sending away for feedback as usual.

Presenter: Blocking 1

I finished blocking the Laurie character last night and left it to render. The clip is a bit too long but I can't shorten it until I have the Fry character moving. Sending this WIP to the lovely Masters masses to share any thoughts on.

Feedback on the latest lip syncing task was that the movements are still a bit too big. It was suggested I take the first arm movement and change that to him scratching his head instead, which I thought was a good idea. I am determined to get it right!! Haha. However, I'm shelving it for the time being because I need to focus on the other two tasks. If I get time at the end I will make the changes. Other than that, my class and tutor seemed happy with it.

The Bites the Dust blocking went down pretty well too, I just need to consider where the camera is going to be. I'm playing with the idea of having the character get all up in the camera's face when he sing 'hey! gonna get you too!' but we'll see how that works.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Presenter: Returning to that task!

So I'm returning to the presenter task now that I've got most things sorted on the other two tasks. I've studied the reference I'd got from uni and have changed it around a bit. Only a bit. Like now the Laurie character is holding the glass. And is drunk :)

Here's a WIP Pic!

Updates soon!

Lip Sync: Redo 3

Feedback mainly said that the eyes could do with being more 'snappy' and that perhaps a blink before and after the 'bog-eyed' look would help the transition. So that is what I've worked on plus added a few more breakdowns here and there.

Sending this away again for feedback.
I applied what I learned from the blinks video I'd posted before, particularly using the eye deformers to 'squish' the eyes a bit when blinking. This makes the face look more connected as the eye deformers move the eyebrows and cheeks slightly too. I think it looks more natural and appealing, I hope it looks that way to an audience too!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Another One Bites The Dust: Blocking 2

Feedback from my classmates said that it seemed odd that the character didn't look back when he was moving backwards and to look more at people walking backwards as the walk did not seem right.

I've added a head turn to look backwards and am part way through fixing the backwards walk (still not happy with it). I've also added more breakdowns.

Found some reference videos of people walking backwards here:

Man 1 (Front View)

Man 1 (Side View)

Going to need to take some reference videos of myself walking backwards..

Anyway, sending this video away for feedback. Still needs some more breakdowns and more work on the backwards walk but I like to hear what people think. In case I missed something!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Lip Sync: Redo 2

New animation with further polishing. Sending this to my class mates for feedback.

I think it still needs a lot of work (of course it does!) but I'd like to see what other people suggest, if any, before I go much further. I'll be alternating between this and the song and dance animation.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Lip Sync: Redo

I'm redoing the animation in my first lip sync task. The feedback was basically that the poses were too big and there was no build up in the action. I've taken and studied the reference and blocked out a different animation.

At the moment, only the body movement is stepped and the lip sync and facial expressions remain the same and in splines. It's going to look a little weird but I don't want to complicate redoing the scene so have left the lip sync and facial expression for adjusting later.


I've not posted this either?? God I'm terrible! Note to self: See something awesome/interesting/useful, POST IT IMMEDIATELY!!

Anyway, I saw this a couple of years ago then lost it (couldn't remember what it was called or what film it was for!) but it was posted on our facebook group a little while ago. It's the best reference video I've ever seen and really shows how necessary reference is and how much it benefits your animation.

During this module I've really learned how important reference footage is and am now working on losing my inhibitions in front of a camera. Most of the time I'm ok but occasionally I get a little embarrassed. Watching this video is really inspiring and I really want to be able to go nuts in front of a camera!
I want to do a splitscreen video with my reference and stages of animation like this. Watch this space, I'll post it on this blog if I do!

Twinings Advert and Take 10.

This is a beautiful advert from Twinings Tea last year. Honestly, I'm a bit surprised I hadn't posted it before!

The animation and visuals are gorgeous! I found a making of video which mostly talks about the concept and development of the idea rather than the animation but it's still very interesting how they turned what they initially thought would have been a boring idea into something everyone can connect with.

If you follow the making of video back to YouTube and read the description under the video, it talks about the research that went into 'getting back to you' and how important it is to Take 10.

This is certainly an inspirational advert and the making of is just as good. It is inspiring to see that a plot can be drawn from anywhere, you just need to research and find it. From this, I've learned to really think about my tasks and research more to find inspiration for plots. As sometimes I get stuck when trying to think up plots for some tasks! Like the Another One Bites The Dust song and dance task! I went to the green screen room not knowing what it was I wanted to do and still came out with reference which was a massive help!

Rough Blocking: Another One Bites The Dust - Better Render.

Rendered the rough block without all the controls visible. And I fixed a couple of things. This video I'll be sending for feedback, though as said before there is still a lot to do to it.

Timing still needs working out and more extremes need putting in. I'm watching the animation process video I posted before a lot because I want to adopt that way of working. This is the first stage. Next stage will be putting in extremes.

Rough Blocking: Another One Bites The Dust.

Here is the first (very rough!) blocking for the song and dance task. It's just a quick capture video (hence why the controls are visible).

No where near anything I can call 'almost done'. Still a hell of a lot of work to do but uploaded this for an update on what I'm doing.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


I've decided to scrap all the blocking and lip syncing for my presenter animation (don't worry, I made two copies and kept the original file with the blocking on!!). It wasn't going well because I'd lip synced first and tried to block afterward which wasn't an issue in the first lip sync task but presented problems during a bigger task.
Basically I was having problems blocking over the lip sync, as it would key the face controls too which was something I didn't want it to do. So I've decided to do the blocking first, then lip sync after I've finished blocking, like the process of an animation video I posted a few posts ago.

Juuuust keeping you updated.
I'm taking a break from the presenter animation so that I can come back to it with a fresh mind. In the meantime, I'm working on the song and dance animation with Another One Bites The Dust by Queen.

Future Applications to Jobs

Not entirely to do with the Masters course but I've been thinking about getting a website for my work. An actual domain rather than my current wordpress site. I feel that it will look more professional to have my own website without a .wordpress or .blogspot or anything in the URL.

Here are a couple of links I wanted to be able to find later.

Five ways to get your portfolio noticed!

Writing a CV for the creative industry!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Life Drawing 16-1-12

Went to life drawing last night. We had to do the 2 min sketches in continuous line, which I hate! It throws off my mojo or something because afterward I find I can't draw! The aim of drawing in continuous line is to find as few lines as possible, as we weren't supposed to go back on ourselves and just explore the body structure. Here are some of the drawings. The longer poses were drawn normally. We had to draw the body in the chairs, rather than just drawn over the top.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Un Monstre a Paris (A Monster In Paris)

Been watching a ton of cartoons lately as we've somehow managed to get a large package TV for free for a few months! Saw this advertised on Cartoon Network; A Monster In Paris. Seems to be a French 3D animated film coming out soon though no where seems to know if and when it will come out in English. There is however, an English trailer for it!

Looks interesting enough, will definitely try and see it whenever it comes out!

Quick capture test - Another One Bites The Dust

Just taking the first part of the blocking off stepped curves for a moment to check I've got a good rough timing to work with. It's hard to tell without rendering a test sometimes. By all means, this is no where near even at a rough stage. There's much more work to be done. I just wanted to make sure that the heel is hitting the floor at the right beats before continuing.

Animation Planning

A classmate posted this video on our masters facebook group. It shows the process of creating animation from animatic to final animation.

I could really learn from this. I do the sketches and general planning on paper but I seldom put them into an animatic, which is something I really should be doing. Instead I've been straight ahead posing using video reference and keying in the first poses that way. I've already adjusted the way I work (I used to lip sync before putting in the poses, which started to cause problems when animating bigger scenes. I now block key poses and some inbetweens before lip syncing) but it still needs to change for more efficiency in planning.

Found the final render too :)

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Meet The... Series

I've always loved the animated shorts that Valve come out with, especially the Meet The.. Series with Team Fortress 2 Characters.

Meet The Soldier:

The whole animation style is very 'cartoony' and fits well with the scenes which are simple but not at all plain. The lip syncing on this particular video is fantastic! It has to be since his mouth is the only part of his face you can normally see. I like how they've animated a sort of verbal personality into his mouth. His mouth 'E' shape is exaggerated and they've given him a bit of an under-bite. My lip syncing is pretty basic right now but I'm starting to work smiles and other emotions into the mouth while talking. I want to start putting in more personality when I think the character would have a particular way of speaking.

Tangled Ever After

I cannot wait for the rest of this!

The animation is amazing. Every little movement is so smooth and natural. Even when any of the characters are standing still, they're not stiff/rigid. This is something I'm having a bit of difficulty with; the polishing of animation. I've been working on it but this is a fantastic example of where I'm aiming.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Another One Bites The Dust: Reference clip

While at uni today I also asked for help with the song and dance reference. The song I chose to do is the first chorus from this song!

That's 'Another One Bites The Dust' by Queen... just in case.
I was having trouble deciding what I wanted the character to do. All that's needed is jigging about but I still wasn't sure on what to have the character do! So my lovely classmates and tutor had a go:

Definitely helped. I'm thinking of animating as it is in the clips, maybe with some more pointing at the person (Rachel - the other one again) playing the guitar.

Marriage Clip: Rough Reference

I had a go a couple of days ago at filming my own reference for the marriage clip. Here are the vids! Also, excuse the pyjamas!

Me acting in Stephen Fry's part:

Me acting in Hugh Laurie's part:

I know, I'm awful! Haha.
Here's some more reference shot in uni with my classmates:

Raf, Scott and Rachel (the other one!) did a brilliant job! Definitely happy I asked for other people's input.

How do you like my animating? Call this number...

We got our results for the first module (AP1) recently and I've taken some time to reflect on my work until now, specifically have I improved. And I think the answer is yes! Most definitely!

In third year (last year) I worked on a 2D/3D mix animation in a group for one of the modules. I animated a character in two of the scenes. It was a hell of a challenge as an animator because at the time I didn't feel too confident with 3D, however I was determined to improve. The other problem was that we did not find out until it was too late that the guy who volunteered to model the character had never modelled a character before. ANOTHER problem was that I had to rig that bad boy. I was fine with rigging, I actually enjoyed rigging up until that point. However, it was another challenge to rig it as there were a few problems with the model...
Anyway, the point is animating with the result was hard enough, we didn't have much time after all the faffing about with the rig/model so the animation was a bit rushed. And here it is:

I was happy with the result though it obviously still needed work, probably lots of it.

I look at this and look at the stuff I'm coming out with now and I can see the improvement. Don't get me wrong, I've still a way to go! And that's cool. I'm enjoying it! But it's great to be able to see the improvement I've made so far and it motivates me to keep pushing! The results that I got were not... great. They were good though and I still passed. I'm happy about that. However, I'm going to keep asking for feedback and just concentrate on improving and enjoy it.

*Allows self to feel proud and happy for a moment* ...

Now back to work >:)

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Life Drawing 9-1-12

Yay I went life drawing yesterday! Wooo!
Here's some of the sketches:

 (This first one was just me doodling while waiting for the class to start... thought I'd show it anyway!)

Interesting Blog Posts

Just posting up a couple of interesting blog posts. I think subscribing to Animation Mentor on twitter is one of the best things I've done because they update so often with blog posts on various subjects. This one's on time management:


This was really refreshing to read because I have a lot going on in life and often wonder if I'm doing the right thing by having a part time job (need to eat and all that!) and worry even more if my relationship with my fiance is being seriously affected. It's a busy schedule but I do find that I work better because I'm forced to do something else, see other things and take a damn break! Then come back to my work with a fresh mind. What good is an animator (and a character animator at that!) whose closed up indoors not seeing life? So yeah, not entirely to do with the Masters course and a bit personal but it was nice to read that it's not just possible but okay to have a life too!

Another one that I've found (on Adam Warren's Empowered twitter!) is about staging. It's mostly written for comics but there are some things that apply to animation too.

Comic Strip Artist's Kit

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Video Reference for 'Christmas' lip sync

Following the previous post, I asked where to go next because for the life of me, I didn't know. My head just crashed and couldn't reboot! My tutor told me to get someone who hasn't seen the animation to act it out, which I'm still waiting on. However, my classmate had a go for me and sent me the clip.

As soon as I watched it, it clicked. I could see exactly what I should have been doing and how, yes indeedy, there was too much going on in my animation. ALL of the actions were too big. I acted it out myself too and filmed for reference but seeing someone else do the actions really helped me understand what needed to happen and get over the damn blindness!

Here are the videos:


And Rachel's!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Lip Sync: Test 6

Feedback from the last test was to exaggerate the lip sync more and that there was too much going on (esp. with the hands. Basically start with subtle actions and build up. We were shown a good example of this with a clip from Monsters Inc.

However, when it came to tweaking my animation I found I was a bit lost for what to do other than only use one of Malcolm's to gesture at a figurative roof rather than both his hands..
Here's the clip so far:

Malcolm character courtesy of AnimSchool.com

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Lip Sync: Test 5

After feedback today, I've spent most of the afternoon/evening tweaking my lip sync animation with the polishing checklist (a previous post or three ago) in mind.
I'm hoping it looks much better. I think it looks at least a BIT better!

Sending it to the wise facebook masters group for feedback.

Malcolm character courtesy of AnimSchool.com

The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child

I watched The Gruffalo last Christmas (Christmas 2010) and The Gruffalo's Child this Christmas just gone (2011) and I absolutely love them.


Gruffalo's Child:

The sets are beautiful and I love how the characters look in 3D. The animation of the characters feels like stop motion which I think adds so much charm to the piece.
The movement between poses is smooth and natural looking, which is something I really need to work on in my own work. All the movement is paced nicely with no jerks or snaps to poses and the slow in slow out principle has certainly been used.

Also found a 'Making of' video for The Gruffalo:

Watching this makes me want to build sets!
Anyway, watching these films has made me more determined to get the timing right on my animation and focus on making the movements more natural and smooth. I've had some feedback on my first lip sync which has pretty much confirmed that I need to work on polishing the movements, with perhaps a few tweaks here and there. For example, do something more with his eyes at the 'brain fizz' action. I may make them go crosseyed.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Christmas Sketches

Due to the cold and Christmas planning I've not been able to go out so much and draw people out and about. Just to keep drawing, I sometimes like to do the 30 Second Drawing challenge on PoseManiacs.com. Here's a couple of pages from that.

The last sketch is from a reference stock photo from mjranum-stock who produces all sorts of reference photos with interesting themes. At the time I just wanted to sketch two people interacting.

Starting Monday 9th Jan I'm hoping to start attending the life drawing classes again.

Also, currently updating some previous posts with planning sketches that I weren't able to upload at the time.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Polishing your animation

A neat little tutorial about polishing your animation with a big checklist of things to think about! I need to polish my animations more so I'll be leaving this link here to find later.

Right Here!

Valiant (2005)

I just finished watching Valiant on TV and thought I'd share my thoughts on the film.

Quick flavour:
Valiant is a British animated film (produced in 2005 by Vanguard Animation and Odyssey Entertainment) about homing pigeons in the war set in 1944. It follows a pigeon character named Valiant who hears about the Royal Homing Pigeon Service and wants to do his part and volunteer.


It was cheaply produced (Wiki) and worked on by a small team and it shows. I wanted to like this film because I like films that experiment with different perspectives, but I will admit I found it hard to find something to like. There were some great actors whose voices were featured in the film (such as one of my favourites, Hugh Laurie) but it felt like they were used to promote the film and carry it forward, rather than combining their efforts with great character acting and film direction.

I did like the start of the film where it showed a pigeon version of war propaganda and idolisation of the war effort. It set up the film for the audience to immediately understand that we're in for a war story. I thought it would be interesting to see how the views of the pigeons would be portrayed but unfortunately... it didn't go that way.

I appreciate the animation effort. I've heard how difficult it is to model and animate winged characters, especially when trying to allow for human-like actions and emotions. It does mention in the Wikipedia article I linked previously that the process is a 'misery'. However, I do feel it needed more time. The models didn't work greatly with the animation and it didn't look great.

The scripting was made up of too many 'jokes' (the film is described to be a Comedy but frankly, I didn't find it funny) and attempts to be funny so that when it was time to be serious it could not be taken seriously, taking away a lot of emotional connection with the characters. The end displayed a fact about that 54 Dickins Medals had been awarded to animals in war, 32 of them being pigeons. I felt that was a nice touch but it contrasted too much with the film that had been goofy up until that point and it was hard to tell if it was part of the fiction or fact if you didn't know.

The most engaging characters were the two French mice. They were appealing in looks and personality and were a welcome break from the antics of the pigeons. I think the biggest problem with the pigeons was that they didn't change. I assume the training was supposed to toughen them up and make them into MEN and all that but when the pigeons came out the other end there didn't seem to be much difference. Yes, they didn't complete the training but they didn't seem to be progressing anywhere as characters. They remained nothing more than comedic value.

I really wanted to like this film because it was British (Go Blighty!) and I do like war films. I especially like seeing films explore a different perspective on things. But the story just didn't do it for me. The lack of character development took away the emotional success for Valiant and there were a few holes in the story that made a few things unclear (such as, why was it important for pigeons to carry messages and why did they want to keep it away from the falcons, other than because they were the enemy?), which in turn took away the climax. Perhaps the humour was lost on me a bit.. though I'm not so sure because I like childish humour and can even appreciate toilet humour if done well.

Perhaps it was because Ricky Gervais featured in it and I find the man more annoying than funny...