Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Animation Inspiration

Thought I'd take a post and just talk about some of the stuff that's inspired me over the years. There has been tons, for sure. I grew up watching cartoons. I remember when I was young, I'd try to draw stuff I'd seen on TV - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Simpsons, X-Men, Garfield, all that stuff. I was pretty crappy at it, but hey, it was fun! Then I kind of put that stuff aside and focused on math and science, which I didn't mind. I wish I'd developed those core art skills though, because it's biting me in the butt now. When I got to college I actually tried being an art major for while. I took 2D design, drawing, art history, all that stuff. Then I switched over to computer science. Why? I'm not sure. I guess at the time it seemed more 'safe'. I still loved to watch movies and play games, though. I was really into games, moreso than I was into movies (I actually still am today, I think).

Unlike most people, it wasn't Pixar / Disney / Dream-works that was my initial inspir-ation. I think I'd always admired them, but I wasn't focused on that kind of stuff so much back then. It was actually SquareSoft. When Final Fantasy VIII came out, I remember being floored by the emotion brought through those characters. The CG was absolutely beautiful for the time... I think it still actually holds up well today. But at its core this was a love story. I don't remember many CG features that had touched on this element beforehand, and I think this is one of the reasons this game was so inspirational to me. Looking back on my work, I can see it's been influenced heavily by Square's style.

Nowadays it tends to be more traditional/acting-type animation that inspires me. The three I mention above, of course, plus all skilled animators I come across on the internet. It's funny how once you learn what animation really is, how your influences are significantly reshaped. Anything that will make me feel something, I think, is inspirational.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Scoping Shorts

After this one, I probably won't do another one for a while. Why? Because they take sooo damn long to do. I was even cautious of scoping when I started this one. One character, one environment. I still went too far. I guess the problem is I couldn't come up with a story that would fit under 1 minute 30 seconds. I also did something that required multiple cameras. I think for the next outing I'm probably going to stick to something drastically simpler, so I can focus solely on animation. The short Bathtime by Carlos Fernandez is a good example of something I might aim for, or Cameron Miyasaki's S.O.S. Either that, or just stick to 10 second club entries and other short animations I can use on a reel. I find myself subconsciously trying to rush this, which is not a good thing. I'm working on it full time and it's still probably going to take me until mid-April just to get the animation portion finished.

I'll post progress on it once the next major section is animated.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Animation Mentor (?)

Everyone I've talked to about this says it's amazing. I think I want to try it. Unfortunately right now I'm trying to finish off one (really expensive) degree so I may have to wait until I'm settled somewhere working. I think the feedback alone would be invaluable -- it's one thing getting feedback for your work in the forums, but I think it'd be entirely different getting feedback from industry vets. Plus there's so much about the basics of animation that I've skipped over... so much of the time I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing.

That, and drawing. God, I suck with a pencil. Once this short is done I'm drawing at least 2 hours a day -- no exceptions. It's just something I've always neglected... too busy programming in the past. But I don't want to lose my ability to code! ...Man. Life is hard.

Facial animation

Sometimes I wonder if the subtlety I put into facial animation gets noticed. Granted, I'm not the best at it, so maybe it's a good thing. Seeing some of the work done online has me curious though... Cane-Toad is an excellent example where the subtleties push the boundaries and really make the characters feel alive. Right now I feel that it's hard for me to simulate this effect, either due to my inability to analyze and apply those subtle details, or due to the limitations of my rigs, or both. I hope I can achieve that kind of mastery with my work someday. There still many things I feel like I'm not paying enough attention to as well, like arcs in the face, specifically with the mouth, plus squash and stretch. It's an area I have yet to explore. I'll probably try to dive into it after this short's done.

Friday, February 24, 2006

More on Juggles

So Juggles is an animated short I've been working on, pretty much exclusively since November. It's come a long way since I've started it. It's essentially about a boy who teaches himself how to juggle -- well, not exactly, but sort of... his reflection teaches him. The exercise here is to try to successfully pull off the brain switch test -- using the same character, create the illusion of two entirely different personalities. (Click the image to view what's currently complete -- 10 megs, divx. I'll probably start posting in Quicktime once I figure out the best compression/streaming scheme).

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Listening to Music

Something I'm not sure if animators have talked about -- does listening to music while you animate degrade the quality of your work? Non-lipsync'd work, of course. I've often wondered this. Typically, I try not to, unless I'm animating something that's based almost entirely on the physical properties of something else (or is otherwise easy to animate). For example, the wrist and fingers. When I'm figuring out timings and placements for the core parts of the body, I'm too scare to. But man, it gets boring otherwise. I have to listen to something!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


I'm kind of frustrated with animation. I wonder if most animators are. There are so many times where I'll spend so long on something, just to realize that it's crap! So i wipe the keys and start over. I guess it's good in a way. And I have that luxury since I'm working on a personal piece right now.

The piece I'm working on is a 3-minute short called Juggles. I started it while I was back at Crystal Dynamics in the fall (the modeling and rigging). I've been animating it since January 1st (yes, January 1st) and I'm at about the 50% point. I guess that means I'm working at about a pace of 2 seconds a day. When I was at Crystal we were doing 10-15 seconds a day. I think there's only so much you can do with a given amount of time, but we did our best. Now I'm trying to do something to the best of my ability... I hope it turns out as I'm hoping it will. I learned a hell of a lot while I was there, and I am so thankful. I didn't know what I was doing before then... maybe I still don't...

I have good friends that are helping with stuff. Basically everything I can't do, or do craptastically - texturing, lighting/rendering, sound design, and music composition. I really respect these guys, and I'm sure they'll be masters in their fields one day. I was never trained formally in this artsy-fartsy stuff, consequently I don't draw, but I made some storyboards that pretty much only I can dissect. Pretty bad. From this though I figured out timing, camera placement, and all that blocking jazz. We'll see how it goes.

P.S. If you haven't already, go play Shadow of the Colossus. Best game ever made.


Never done this before! No doubt will be interesting. I've always wanted to try starting some kind of journal just to document what I'm thinking and my thought processes... Guess it's finally going to happen. This is probably just going to be me dumping my mindless gibberish on a webpage for personal reflection (since I honestly have no idea why anyone what want to know what I'm up to :), but it'll be a good exercise. Most posts will probably pertain to character animation, since it's what I do, and I'd like to see the evolution of my methods as (if) I get better at my craft. I'm damn busy these days. Let the chaos begin!!!