Animators by day Animation teachers by night.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

More Student Work

I wanted to post some of the work of our students. We dont have the bandwidth to post everyone, but here is the work of one of our students,Guilherme Jacinto from Brazil.
Great Work. Look for more work from students in the future.


Also, post your feedback. We want to know what you think of the site and if we should keep it up and running...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Gestures - Part 1

Gestures in animation can be so many things. I recently gave a talk on gestures for Animation Mentor. The talk really helped me delve into what a gesture is and why people do them. Gestures can be signals that tell a person how you are feeling. Some are primary and others are secondary. A primary gesture might be the one on the photos I grabbed from various sources. The fist in the air says "I have won" or celebrates something. The meaning of your gestures really depend on the situation and the character. As seen in the photo of the golfer, his way of celebrating is much more low key, as it should be on the golf course.
A good example of a secondary gesture might be a person putting his hand up to his mouth to cover a cough. It's an almost involuntary thing and it also tells the person seeing this that he is sick.

In animation, we tend to think of gestures as something that accompany dialogue. Its very easy to make boring choices when you are animating. Myself included, sometimes I just don't think things through. You really do need to explore all the possibilities to make your scene fresh. Here are a few tips.

1) Avoid twinning
2) Try to stay away from over used gestures such as the W pose or the point.
3) Think about your character and what types of gestures they might use.
4) Try to come up with a gesture that is interesting
5) Don't gesture. If it doesn't need to be there, then don't use one
6) Do your homework... Research, Thumbnail, people watch.

I have to say, I have been guilty of having a character gesture too much like myself (in the case of Monsters with Mike Wazowski). For that character, it worked, but I am always struggling to come up with interesting ideas and poses. Heck, actors can do it, why cant we?

I heard a great exercise that actors were doing in a class I was sitting in on. Go out and people watch for a few hours and take 3 gestures from different people and use them in a scene. It worked out great. One of the actors was stroking her hair, waving and putting her hand to her mouth. I thought it was a great way to study gestures.

Try it out and let me know how it works... If only I could get my students to do the assignment....

Some great reading for this type of thing is:

Happy Holidays,


Friday, December 16, 2005

It's been slow...

Sorry we have not been able to post much these days. Everyone was at the Pixar Moma Exhibit. Look for some new stuff in the next week or so. (at least from me)


Saturday, December 03, 2005

The EYE's Have it

I thought I would share some of the information I was reading in a book I picked up years ago. It is called Michael Caine - Acting in Film. The book is a kind of how to for actors. Some of it is useful for animators. I became really interested in the eyes when I was working on Monsters Inc with Mike Wazowski. He basically is a big eye, so I really had to notice the subtle details of how an eye works and moves within its socket. This is the more technical side of things. Learning how to do blinks, changing the angle for the lid to match the direction of a look..... All this is more on the design side of things, which we can get into at a later date. What I thought was interesting about the book was how Mr Caine approaches his close scenes. Read:

"When you are the on-camera actor in a close-up, never shift your focus from one eye to the other. Sounds odd, doesn't it? But when you look at something, one of your eyes leads. So during a close-up, be especially careful not to change whichever eye you are leading with. It's an infinitesimal thing, but noticeable on the screen. The camera misses nothing! "

I guess he is mostly talking about eye darts. Its funny, because this is something that I try to put into my character. For animation, it seems to bring the character alive a little bit more. You have to work harder to keep your characters looking as if they are living breathing things. Eye darts are a big thing for keeping your characters looking alive. So how many frames, you ask is an eye dart? Well, you will have to wait for another post with detailed drawings an so forth... (mostly I use 2 frame eye darts favoring one pose or the other)

Another thing he talked about also contradicts what we do in Animation:

" And I don't blink. Blinking makes your character seem weak. Try it yourself: say the same line twice, first blinking and then not blinking. I practiced not blinking to excess when I first made the discovery, went around not blinking all the time and probably disconcerted a lot of people. Remember: on film that eye can be eight feet across."

Well, I'm not so sure this applies in animation. I do agree that a character that blinks a lot can seem insecure or nervous. Its all how you use the blink. Is how slow or fast the blink is. How close the blinks are together. Blinks really do keep the character alive in animation. Some recent mo-capped films featured characters that didn't blink much or even move their eye brows. Sorry, but they looked like soulless zombies....

More to come with Eyes in the future....

thanks for reading.

Dr Gordon.

Friday, December 02, 2005

How to be a good animator?

I've been getting a few e-mails lately asking the question "How do I become a good animator?" Well to tell you the truth I don't know. There really is no trick, or tip that I can give you that would make you a good animator. I think being a good animator lies within each individual if they are going to be good, great, or not so great. The only real advice is that it's tons of hard work, and constant work. I've been living and breathing animation since I was five. Everyday all day I live animation. I spend ten or more hours at work animating, I go home and work on my own animation projects, I teach animation, I think about animation all the time. Eating dinner I might find myself more interested in the way the tip of my wife's nose moves when she talks rather than what she is talking about, or observing the mannerisms of the waiter when they are telling me about the specials. Watching T.V. I'm constantly breaking down actions, and acting. Everyday I live animation. I'm always working at trying to become a better animator, and it's hard. I think to become a good animator; animation has to be your passion. You really have to be into it, and willing to devote a large portion of your life to learning animation. I'm still trying to figure out how to animate well. What I struggle with is even after all this work and time trying to be a good animator is realizing that I may never be a great animator. In the end being good is a product of how much work you can put into it and how easy it is for you to make the connections between real world observations and the application of animation.
Besides hard work and dedication, finding a good mentor that you can learn from is key.

-Dr. Stephen G.