Animators by day Animation teachers by night.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Pixar 2 Student Work, Fall '06

I'd like to post some of the student work from last semester's Pixar 2 class. Most of these clips are from our 2-person dialogue assignment and the other is from an assignment we called "Subtext From a Hat". This involved giving each student an original line of dialogue. We then had them draw a slip of paper from a hat that had some sort of emotion or character trait on it for the subtext of the perfomance. Here are some of the assignments we thought were particularly successful. We're proud of all our students and their efforts. Hope you enjoy these clips.


Ben Kerr
Curran Giddens
Julie Choi
Chris Turner

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Pose to Pose w/ Layers

Since Andrew asked me to join him and the Pixar guys who teach at the Academy, and then Spline Doctors, the one thing that I've seen most consistently asked of students is advice on work method. Now, I'm a 2D guy. Not including one shot I did on IRON GIANT, INCREDIBLES was my first experience with 3D. I'm the least tech savvy of the fellows who started this blog (and for that matter, probably of the people I work with), but I figured it was about time I faced some of my fears and ventured forth from the safe harbor of my previous posts regarding performance and address some of your questions regarding 3D work method. Bear in mind, there are people far more talented than I who can address some of these issues, but I figured if an approach can work for someone like can work for anyone.

A question that has come up in recent comments is, "How can I work pose-to-pose and still use a layered approach?" I don't claim to know the answer but I can share with you what has worked for me. First, I can't start a scene without knowing where I'm going. I will thumbnail every scene I get so I have a roadmap of the poses, beats, and attitudes that I know I am going for. I will then pose out my shot to match the thumbnails I've done. Bear in mind that some of these poses are going to be breakdowns of action that will help me map out the transition of movement from pose to pose. The biggest mistake I see students make working pose-to-pose in 3D is not thinking about the actual movement. They get lost in the poses and forget about the animation. I will then time out the shot with a series of holds not unlike on old-school, 2D pose test.

Once I feel that the overall timing and poses are working, I will immediately go into spline work polishing the main movement in the shot, working from the root, outward. I'll start off by invising geometry that might distract me (i.e. arms, legs, etc.) and bring into the spline editor the controls that define the main movement of the shot and start polishing. It may be the root. It may be the chest, neck, and head. It may be just an arm and a hand. Whatever it is, I will work from the inside out and I'll never polish any more than 3 to 4 controls at a time while I'm working in the spline editor. I will then work by tweaking and adjusting my animation and playblasting often. Even though you're working on a computer, animation is a very organic process. Work with your shot so it feels right to you. Don't let the computer dictate what you will accept. If it doesn't feel or look right, keep working at it until it does. If you still don't see it (and don't know how to get there) find someone more tech savvy than you and see if s/he can steer you to what controls you need to manipulate to get the results you're looking for. DON'T TAKE "NO" FOR AN ANSWER.

Once things seem to be moving the way I've envisioned, I will then start re-vising geometry and begin polishing outward. Please bear in mind though, that this approach will work ONLY if you have truly thought out your shot. Your original vision may evolve along the way, but you can't work like this without a clear idea of what you're going for. For that matter, whether it's 2D or 3D, you should never start animating before you know what you're going to do. Good luck and I hope this helped.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

The answers aren't in the animation.

I was hoping to post some student work but I'm still waiting for some files from a few folks, and where I promised Andrew I'd post something this weekend I figured I'd follow through on my promise and cover a topic that has come up quite a bit recently.

Our director was in dailies with us this week and the subject of the difference between contemporary animation and that of the classic golden age came up. It was observed and generally agreed upon that the largest shortcoming of present day animators is the ability to reference past work as a means of problem solving. Unfortunately, it's very easy to do. How can you not watch Bagheera and Mowgli struggling to get up that tree, or the dwarves sadly approaching Snow White's casket, or Stromboli tearing Pinnochio a new one without thinking that you've found the answers to everything you need to make your work great? The flaw in that reasoning however becomes apparent when you remember that the talents that generated that work did not have the luxury of such reference. I believe our generation easily forgets that and from there we develop movement and performance cliches that can make modern animation unsatisfying, if not down right annoying to watch. The answers to our problems are not in the work of our gifted predecessors, but in the same place they found theirs. In life.

It is nearly impossible to do this job well without a keen sense of observation. Your job as an animator does not stop once you get up from your desk. When you're strolling through a mall it's your job to notice certain things. It's your job to notice the look on the face of a husband following his wife around the store when there is only 15 min. before the game starts. It's your job to notice the body language of a mother with a stroller full of twins being followed by her four year old who is screaming for a toy in a shop window. Perhaps even pausing a moment to see the the way someone scarfs down a Hot Dog on a Stick. These observations will provide you with what you need to make those interesting and unique choices that will reach out and touch the audience watching your work, and separate it from the person who has ripped off the the ol' Baloo-rubbing-his-hand-on-his-neck-while-he's-thinking bit for the millionth, freaking time.

The work of the pioneers who have blazed the trail we walk on now should continue to be enjoyed and will always be a source of inspiration. However, in the interest of pushing the medium to be as great as it can be requires that we not use their work as a means to solve our problems. Frank and Ollie didn't write the "Illusion of Animation". It was "The Illusion of Life". Make the effort to take a good long look at it and let it strengthen your work.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Back up on Itunes

We are back up on itunes. If you can, please write a review if you have time. The others were wiped out.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Animation Round Table

A bunch of us animators, Adam Burke, Angus Maclane, Scott Clark, Stephen Gregory and I thought it would be cool to sit down and just talk animation. The result is this podcast. I'm not sure how it worked out, so let us know. We basically, set up a microphone, put out some snacks and drinks and began with whatever came to mind. I am in the process of updating the itunes feed, so dont expect it to be on itunes for a bit. I hope you enjoy it. Remember, all of this is just for educational purposes and by no means do we think of ourselves of knights or doctors of animation. We are are still learning and always students...

link to audio only

link to chapters version

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Virgin Voyage coming soon

We did a cool new short film in the 3rd level Pixar class. Its called: The Virgin Voyage. Here are some images of the characters and a short clip of some of the animation. Basically, we recorded some improv actors and built a story around it. It was a really fun excercize and we hope to get the whole thing up and rendered soon.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New Spline Casts coming soon

Just when you may have thought this Blog was dead or dying... Think again. We have Two new Spline Casts coming up. The first one is an animation Round Table discussion with Myself, Adam Burke, Angus Maclane, Scott Clark and Stephen Gregory. We recorded it just a few days ago, so its fresh off the press. Look for part one in the next few days. I am using a new format. Its called, Record, Edit, Upload. There will be no fancy openings or garageband music. They will be available on itunes and on the site soon.

The other splinecast is a mystery guest. We were unable to get Doug Sweetland, but we were able to get someone you will not be disappointed with. I'll give you a hint... Who is your dream guest?
Its probably one of them...

We also have student work from last semester to show off and hopefully some insightful posts for the new year.

Stay Tuned and pass the word.