Animators by day Animation teachers by night.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Developing your Eye

In Animation, one of the best tools you can have is an eye for what looks right or wrong. Some people can really see the elements that are or are not in a shot. Like any good art form, it takes years to develop an understanding of things. In animation we are usually looking out for good poses and design. There are so many different aspects of animation we need to "see" in our shots. Pose, Polish, Cliche acting, Weight transfer, contacts, arcs, texture, asymmetry... The list goes on and on. So how can a young animator develop his or her eye to recognize such stuff? One way is to look at really well done work and break down the components of what makes it so good. Whenever I see something that catches my eye, I really try to frame through it and understand what is going on. Just recently, I saw a bunch of Aardmann Animation. One thing that really blew me away was how good the facial performances were. They had so much thought process and character. I was grinning from ear to ear watching them. It made me want to look at them again as a student. I think that is the key. We can enjoy a film or cartoon as an audience member, but then you have to look at it with another set of eyes. Look at it again with the eye of an animator.

Another way of developing your eye is to look in everyday life. How people or animals do things. If you can, hang around people that are better than you so they can teach you a thing or two, here and there. Whatever you can do to pick up things. Its very important to grow. Ultimately, you are developing your style and that hawk eye for spotting what is and is not working. It takes time, but like anything good, its worth it.


ps - More splinecasts coming. (Anim Roundtables, Pete Doctor, Doug Sweetland) Bare with us, they take time. Feel free to leave a tip in our tip jar at the bottom of the site to help purchase some better equipment.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Congratulations "Virgin Voyage"!

I just wanted to tip my hat to Andrew Gordon, Scott Clark and all of their students who worked so hard on their class project last semester "Virgin Voyage" which recently took an award for "Audience Choice" at AAU's 1st annual Epidemic Film Festival in San Francisco. For those not familiar with previous posts about this project, Scott and Andrew recorded improvisation performers and had their students put it through it's paces, simulating a working production environment. They designed characters and sets, laid out the sequence, animated, and lit and rendered. It's great to see innovative teaching and great student work get recognized. Congratulations again to everyone involved!


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

5 great student films

A bunch of us animators are going down to the Cal Arts producers show on Thursday. One of the people here at Pixar pointed us to some of the films that did not make it into the show. Here is a link to five films that were not accepted but are very well done. Congrats to the directors for making such great films.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Let's put this 2D-3D thing to bed. Shall we?

Dr. Stephen has been posting some great stuff recently. Most of all, that last Milt quote. I read a comment from that post questioning whether Milt's statement carries the same weight when compared to how things are done today with CG animation. We've tried to state this fact in previous posts, but let's try to tuck this one in and send it to bed.

I think it's vitally important to remember in these CG days of ours that everything in Milt's quote is more relevant than ever. The problem with a lot of CG work is that people who have never learned to draw, design, or study composition fail to think about their work graphically, and for some reason believe that the computer will carry part of the load. For that matter, they neglect to think about their work at all. Yes, you can easily turn something in space. No, you don't have to worry about your ability to draw. But 3D Max does not have an "appeal" filter. There is not a mel script on the planet that can create fresh and exciting, organic timing. CG does not let you off the hook. It takes discipline, work, and an eye that a computer can never give you. I hate to burst any bubbles out there. Truth be told, a pencil can't give it to you either.

Pencil or mouse, the struggle doesn't change. I don't care whether you think you can draw or not. Think and thumbnail! Animation is too time consuming and too messy a medium to go into without having invested a good deal of thought and care into what you're doing. 2D animators of years gone by had to deal with draftsmanship, yes. They also had to deal with timing, appeal, performance, story, and entertainment. Nothing has changed. If the classic masters invested this amount of forethought into their work before composing their drawings, don't you think it's equally important to have thought things through before you start manipulating a model that has over a thousand controls?!?!?

Please try to get it out of your heads that animation is a trade that can be learned once you acquire the right amount of knowledge or learned the right software. It is an art form. And like any art form it takes an eye, discipline, and an ability to observe what is around you. I wish I could tell you that it takes this, or it takes that. Believe me, having such knowledge would make our lives a whole lot easier. Alas, it's not the case. Animation is as good as what you bring to it and what you are open to learn along the way. We can give you tips and insights based on the successes of our predecessors in addition to what we might have learned from our own mistakes, but in the end it's all up to you. We're recording some more roundtables in the days ahead and Andrew has another great Splinecast interview planned, so stay tuned. Thanks again for visiting the blog.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Great Quote

Here is a Quote from Milt Kahl, which is from the "Walt Disney's Nine Old Men & the Art of Animation" by John Canemaker. My friend Billy Merrit pointed me to the other day.

In a talk to students in 1976, the year he retired, Kahl was unusually articulate in summing up his thoughts about the art of animation. "it's a very difficult medium," he refelected. "Animation requires a pretty good draftsman because you got to turn things, to be able to draw well enough to turn things at every angle. you have to understand movement, which itself is quite a study. You have to be an actor. You have to put on a performance, to be a showman, to be able to evaluate how good the entertainment is. You have to know the best way of doing it, and have an appreciation of where it belongs in the picture. You have to be a pretty good story man. To be a really good animator, then, you have to be a jack of all trades. I don't mean to say that I'm all fo these things, but I try hard. I got accused over the years of being a fine draftsman. Actually, I don't really draw all that well. It's just that I don't stop trying as quickly. I keep at it. I happen to have high standards and I try to meet them. I have to struggle like hell to make a drawing look good."

How about them apples?

--Dr. Stephen G.