Animators by day Animation teachers by night.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Animation Workout.

Your animation muscles are just like any other muscle in your body. They need exercise so that you can make them stronger and less flabby. I love animation and I love animating and the thing I do most outside of work is an animation workout. It’s easy to do and doesn’t take a lot of time. Many of us get caught up in animating huge acting assignments or even longer pieces of pantomime animation. I think these types of assignments are useful and necessary on a reel, but sometimes I think a quick workout can really be more beneficial to your overall success. What I mean by a quick work out is I take one principle of animation or two and create animation to focus on them. I generally just use a prim box or sphere, that way I’m not tempted or distracted by complex humans characters. Remember the goal here is just to focus on one particular thing and animate it really well, polish the crap out of that box so much the corners become rounded. For example lets say I wanted to focus on Overlap. I could easily create a prim box, parent another prim box to it and I’ve got a rough stand-in for a chest and an arm lets say. With this built I’m off and working out my overlap. Turn the box and have the box arm overlap not that hard or is it?

Slow-in and Slow-outs no problem create a prim sphere and just have it move from one side of the screen to another and back again or have it move around the screen slowing in and out of certain key positions. Quick and easy. Want to focus on Drag create a prim box moving up and down and around the screen picking one corner or edge of the box to lead while the other end drags behind.

None of these are going to go on your reel, but hopefully you’ll get a better understanding of the animation principles. That way you can put them together in a more complex piece of animation you would put on your reel. You’ll also get a better understanding of how to use your tools. You might focus one time trying to animate the slow in and slow out of a ball moving around just with the graph editor with just keys at your main poses. Or you might animate something in stepped mode animating every frame so you get a better understanding of spacing and how that relates to the graph editor. Maybe you have a problem with things strobing all the time in quick moves. This is a perfect way to help figure out to solve that problem. Without the pressure of an acting piece or pressure from anything you are free to experiment and mess up and try again because they don’t take very long, and no one is going to see them. Just like working out it’s the end result we are working towards.

Dr. Stephen G.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Anticipation, Arcs and Overlap Oh My!

I had this posted on another blog, but now that a new school semester is about to start I thought I would repost it here.

As a teacher your always getting asked questions about what the secret is, the formula or the answer to creating good animation. Many times I would say there aren't any formulas or secrets just the principles of animation. I was wrong, and I think I've figured it out; the secret formula is the principles of animation. I'll break it down to the most important ones for me, keep in mind all twelve are important to creating great animation. Here's my short list Timing, Anticipation, Arcs, Posing, Squash and Stretch and Overlap. Without these you got nothing with them you might have something. I see too many assignments that generally don't include any of these. My question is why don't people use these principles or think to use them? It's rather simple I make a checklist starting with Timing; I make sure that the scene isn't even, and then I start analyzing my individual motions making sure they are not even also. Posing is next, looking for tangents, silhouette, attitude, complex shapes, awkward shapes, balance, etc. Then I make sure I'm using anticipation before my major moves, gestures or actions. Next on the list is Arcs, checking the wrists, nose, fingertips, root, shoulders, etc. I'm checking all of these parts to main camera in my shot. Finally I think about the overlap, you might say your character doesn't have a tail or floppy hat so what is there to overlap? The whole body is made up of elements that can drag, overlap, and follow through. The arms are a huge element that you can apply the principle of overlap too. Fingers, legs, eyebrows, jaws, eyelids and many more elements can also all overlap depending on the action. So next time your animating a shot or a test maybe think about using a checklist. It works for me.

One last thing no matter what you do, above all everything you do should support the acting and storytelling of the shot or test.

--Dr. Stephen G.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

More on Shape Change

A long while back we did a post about shape change and how important it is in your work. I wanted to reference a couple of examples on YouTube. Hopefully we can do more of this action analysis in the future.

Watch how the force causes her body shape to change. Its amazing how her torso reverses. Also notice how everything overlaps (torso, chest, neck and head. Reversals are key to nice animation.

Yeah, I know, you have seen this. It really is amazing to see how much the body changes and how this guy can change the appearance of his body by movement. Look at the patterns on his arms. Really nice fluid stuff.

Ok, this is just crazy. Obviously this woman is beyond flexible. Its really great reference for articulating a torso. Look at how appealing the shapes are yet the rib cage always stays solid. Its really important to remember that your characters have a rib cage and to keep that part of them solid.

-hope this helps a little...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Why We Animate...

I was listening to a great interview with Woody Allen on NPR radio today. It was about a new film he is coming out with. The interviewer asked him why he does what he does. His answer was "To escape everyday life." Ultimately he wants to go into another world and leave the regular life behind. I guess for me, animating is similar. I'm trying to create this performance that takes place in a virtual world. When I'm animating, I am trying to get into the characters skin and really feel what they are feeling. Animation is different from live action in that its not improvisational. It takes alot of sweat to recreate a performance that looks natural. What I found interesting about the Woody Allen interview is that he, with all his stardom, still wants to escape every day life. He also said he does not have many friends. Work is his ultimate passion. At 72 he still has the same drive. I ask myself... will I be able to animate with the same passion in another 10 to 20 years, much less 30 or 40? I think it comes down to alot of factors. One, is never feeling like you have arrived. One thing that Woody said was "Don't listen to them when they tell you are great, and don't worry what they say if they don't like your work. Just shut up and work." I think that egos can get in the way of good work. I think its so important to try different things. If you are an animator, you have to challenge yourself to do different characters and scenes. I think what I find most difficult these days is putting the grease and polish back into the shots. Some of my students that work here now, have polish that blows me away. I love asking them what they are doing to get that. You really always need to be a student in order to keep up. Sometimes, when I'm sitting in my office, I forget to pull in a buddy to get their opinion on a shot. Its so important to do. I guess the point of all this is to stay hungry and understand why we love what we do. Its very easy to get jaded in this industry, but ultimately, animating, and creating character is one of the best jobs out there. Take a listen to the interview. If you take one thing away from it that you can use, it was worth it.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year

I hope everyone had a great New Year. We hope this year will be a good year for animation and the Spline Doctors Blog. This year we will have a new site with new articles and lots of new Spline Casts. We really want you to post who you want to be interviewed. Also, please send us any topics of interest you want to see on the blog.

Happy New Year.