Monday, May 21, 2012

T-Rex digital painting

During summer break, I am spending a lot of time working on my digital painting skills.  Here is my most recent work.  I know I still have a long way to go, but I am happy with this as a good step along the way.  As far as looking convincingly three-dimensional and structured, I feel this is a success.  The details could be better.  Also, the lighting could be a lot better.   Here is how I did it.
 Before I started on my own T-Rex, I did a study of another artists T-Rex.  I would have studied photos too, but obviously that wasn't possible in this case.
  First, I sketched the T-Rex.  I focused on giving the sketch three-dimensional structure.  To do this a studied T-Rex fossil skeletons.
Next, I rendered the basic values in greyscale.  I do this so I am not distracted by the colors and can focus only on the form.  However, I did have in mind that the underbelly had a brighter local color.
Then I added a quick color layer.  This is just flat colors on an overlay layer on top of the grey scale layer.
On another solid layer I rendered the forms again in color.  I got most of the colors from the lower layers.  I did use the color picker occasionally but only to augment the colors I already had.   Most of the work is done at this stage.
From here on out, was all adding details.  I also noticed that I didn't have enough dark areas.  Everything was around the same range of value, giving it an unnatural look.  I also noticed that the all the colors were around the same saturation, so just as I added dark areas, I added so desaturated colors to make the saturated colors come forward more.  I finished it off by adding scale texture and details.

I learned a lot from studying the other painting.  Even though I know my T-Rex is much worse than the painting I copied, I still feel as though I improved quite a bit in doing this.  Going forward, I will continue to study other paintings and photos, then try to get a similar result in my own paintings hoping for steady improvement.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Intergalactic Groove

It has been a while since I've posted and I have a lot of work to post.  This post will be for my final model pack.  This was the final assignment for my character design class.  The assignment was to design three characters and a vehicle that fit together in a show, short or feature, and to produce turnarounds, poses etc. 

My project is Intergalactic Groove.  The characters are a funk band that travel through space to bring funk to the unfunky.  The inspiration for this was classic Fleischer cartoons.  Their early cartoons were heavily influenced by the jazz music that was happening in New York at the time.  Instead of Jazz, I took my inspiration from 70s psychedelic funk.  Parliament was the biggest musical inspiration.  The outlandishness of their album art and live shows combine very well with cartoons.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Animation Exercises - week 2

These are this weeks Animation Exercises.   This weeks subject was a very simplified head structure.  I based this structure off of the structure used by Andrew Loomis in his book: Drawing the Head and Hands.  This week I received some excellent advice from Rainplace (I think Mike Nguyen is his name).  He recommended having an emotional motivation for the movement.  I tried to work that in starting on day 6.

Day 1 - a simple turn-around to familiarize myself with the structure and practice turning it in space.
Day 2 - Bouncing cycle with a little rotation.  Ended up looking kind of stiff
Day 3 - Jumping over distance,  this ended up being my favorite
Day 4 - Overlapping action cycle with a cube representing a torso going up and down
Day 5 -Bungee jumping,  I started this one without a clear idea of what I wanted it to look like but it still turned out okay.
Day 6 - So excited he launches out of control.  I was trying to do a stagger effect on the antic but it didn't quite work.
Day 7 - Moving so fast he loses control, but manages to stop himself before going over the edge.

Adding the emotional element to these makes it more difficult, but also a lot more fun.  As I try more complexity and emotion, I am more likely to fail to achieve the look I am going for.  I do go back and try to fix them up quickly if I can, but I have to keep in mind that these are intended to be quick exercises so I shouldn't refine them until they are perfect.  It is good to have this opportunity to try out things and not be afraid to fail.  I figure if I never fail, I am not being ambitious enough.  On the flip side, If I am failing too often then I am being to ambitious, since the purpose of these is to practice the fundamentals so they become second nature.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Animation Exercises

Last week, Jesse Winchester, from Schoolism, came to speak to our class. It was a very inspiring presentation. One of the things he encouraged us to do were daily exercises that isolate specific drawing skills. I know from experience how powerful that can be; so I took this idea, and applied it to animation. This week I did a quick animation exercise every night before going to bed. These took between 15-30 minutes. The specific skill I am trying to isolate is moving-three dimensional objects realistically in three-dimensional space.  I plan to use simple forms, so I can draw them quickly. The idea is to focus on the movement, not the individual drawings.  What I hope to achieve through these exercises, in addition to all the other animation I do, is to reach a level where moving objects in space is second nature, so I can focus more on the character and performance when I animate.
The theme for the first week is a cube. I figured a cube would be good to start with because, by definition, it is three-dimensional and must be drawn as so. The first day, I dropped the cube off a ledge. It bounced slightly, then after coming to rest, pulled itself back up. In the next exercise, the cube does a flip. The third and forth exercises featured the cube twisting one way, then twisting back in the opposite direction. I did this one twice because I was not happy with my first attempt. The problem was, I started animating without a clear idea of what I wanted it to do. As a result I ended up with an unclear action. On my second attempt, I knew what I wanted and was able to achieve it fairly easily. The next exercise was the cube jumping off into the distance. For my sixth exercise, I tried to give the cube a little personality and had it do a take then faint. My final exercise was the cube falling away from the viewer looking downward into a well.
It is early to say whether these exercises will give the desired result, but I am very optimistic they will. I plan to keep doing these exercises every day as long as I can find the time. Each week I will chose another simple shape and gradually get more complex while staying simple enough to remain focused on the movement.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


These were assignments for my layout class.  I enjoy layouts.  I like composing a scene.  Having the whole frame to work with, and with tones and colors allows me to create contrast.  Working with perspective appeals to my logical side.  Even though I often fudge the perspective, since I know the rules, I can logically figure out which way an object should sit and which planes should be visible.
Layout is important in animation, not just to give the characters a stage to act on, but also to set a mood.  The feeling of the environment can have a profound effect on the mood of a scene.  The look of the layouts and backgrounds is an important element and must match the look of the piece.

For these first layouts, the assignment was to create a composition with two characters, a briefcase, an animal, and a vehicle.
The next assignments are perspective assignments.  The first being in one-point.  I may have 'fudged' the perspective a bit much in this.  I moved the vanishing point away from the center to create a stronger composition.  This means technically it should be two-point perspective, however I still handled the lines as if it were one-point by keeping the horizontal lines parallel to the picture plane.  While technically this is wrong, I think it makes for a stronger composition, which is more important than getting the perspective correct.  For the color, we were aloud to use one or two hues.  The idea was that it would still be similar to greyscale.  Color adds to the feel of the piece.  One color also adds another dimension.  Greyscale can range in brightness.  One color can range in brightness and saturation.  Saturation being the strength of the color vs grey.  I took full advantage of that in this layout to contrast bright, saturated glowing lights, against a dark, desaturated backdrop.  The composition still works in greyscale but looses some of its punch.
The next assignment was two-point.  To create the circular shape of the room, I measure the room as a rectangle, then created a larger rectangle around it.  From this larger rectangle, I plotted out the circles in perspective.  I used a desaturated orange, to contrast the saturated blue of the sea.  I didn't push the contrast quite as much as the last one since I felt it would be distracting in this composition.
 This assignment was three-point perspective.  This was to be the exterior of the two-point perspective layout.  I was told to stop using so much color, since the class was supposed to focus on line and tone, so I kept all the color equally desaturated.

The final assignment to focus on perspective was to use measured perspective.  This means using perspective grids, and evenly spaced elements.  For this I went for a classical look.  I created a lot of contrast by using black against while to highlight the geometry.  To keep this contrast through out, I used only black, white, and 50% grey.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Special Effects Animation

In this post I will cover the two weeks we spent on special effects animation. Any animation that is not a character is considered effects animation. It usually refers to water, fire, smoke, and explosions. Special Effects animation is very different from character animation, yet follows the same principles. The first thing we covered was a flag waving in the wind. In this exercise we animated the wind, as seen by its effect on the flag. The flag follows a wave pattern. This is important because that pattern comes up again and again in special effects. The waves are created by eddies of air as it pushes the flag. To animate the wave, animate the eddies and draw the wave on top of it. Here is my flag waving cycle. The mistake I made here is having the eddies shrink in size further down the flag. This means the trough and peak of the wave are less pronounced further towards the down wind end. These should be the same size as they are on the upwind side, giving the end a snap to it.

 Next we animated a water splash. Special effects animation can be very detailed. It is important to start by animating very general shapes to get the motion down before adding the detail. For this splash, I studied a slow-motion video of a rock being thrown in a lake. Also, as in all my special effects studies, I referenced Joe Gilland's great books: Elemental Magic both Volumes one and two. A splash creates sheets of water, in a shape determined by the shape of the object causing the splash, and said object's angle and rotation. When the object first hits, the water is propelled with a lot of force. This force begins as a hydrological explosion and quickly forms the shape of the splash. As the force dissipates the splash slows at the top of it's arc. Next, the water shape breaks apart as the splash falls back to earth. A secondary splash occurs as the water displaced by the object rushes back into the air pocket created by the object breaking the surface. In many cases, including the splash I studied, this is actually larger than the primary splash. It follows the same pattern of movement as the primary splash, shooting up quickly, slowing at the top of it's arc, then breaking up as it falls. Animating water is difficult because in order to make it work, it must be abstracted yet still look like water. I feel that the biggest flaw in my splash animation is failing to make the splash really look like water.

Our final special effects project was left up to us.  The following clip is my project.  To animate the fire, I first animated the air currents.  Then I created a layer of fire shapes on top.  Next, I animated red and yellow soft layers above and below those fire shapes, based on where I thought the heat would be, to flesh out the flame.  The process lead to a very stylized fire.  I feel my skill were not up to creating a realistic one.  The motion of the explosion is similar to the splash.  The initial force is very strong and creates the smoke shape quickly.  The smoke shape slows down and then breaks up.  It dissipates and flows upwards instead of falling back down like the splash.  The smoke follows the exact same pattern as the flag wave.

I enjoyed special effects, but I am glad to be done with it and back to character animation.  If I were to really devote myself to effects animation I would study fire, smoke, water, and explosions, both in motion and still images.  It would take years to really learn to draw these forces, even longer to animate them.  I will not be doing this study because it will not make me any better at character animation, which is my goal.  However, I do feel like it is important to have at least an understanding of how special effects animation works.  In the future, if I am called upon to produce effects animation, I will have some idea of how to do it.  Also, there is something useful, as well as beautiful in studying the pure physics of these elements and the forces behind them.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Working with Dialogue, Music, and Sound

Working with sound adds a whole other element to animation.  Since the timing of animation can be controlled precisely within the fraction of a second it can be synced perfectly with both speech and music.
First, we covered lip sync.  Lip sync can be done simply by breaking down dialogue into the individual sounds that occur during each frame.  Then, the mouth shape is drawn to match the specific sounds.  Mouths shapes are covered in too many books in too many different ways for me to go into detail here.  It is slightly more complex in practice since multiple syllables can occur quickly in a single frame.  The important thing in making a mouth look convincing is to open quickly on the vowels and close slower into consonants.  Also, the longer a vowel is held, generally the more open the mouth.  Here is an exercise just for lip sync.

Animating dialogue is not simply making the character appear to be talking but to make the character act.  This is something a character animator works on an entire career.  Here is my first taste of it.  The first video is something I did on the side.  The voice is my friend Jarryd Meyer prank calling a blood bank.  This was practice for our dialogue assignment.

The assignment was to record one six second line of dialogue, then animate a character delivering the line.  The character must be shown in a wide shot (full body) and use his whole body to act.  I decided to go for some serious over acting.  The line is delivered by Nathan (sorry, don't know his last name) who is a very talented voice actor.  This was definitely the hardest assignment of the first semester.

Animation can be set to music as well as sound effects.  A beat can be placed at a regular number of frames (for example an accent every 12 frames), then music can be written to match or music with the same beat can be used.  Sound effects can be broken down frame by frame and noted on an exposure sheet.  Of coarse, syncing to music can be much more complex. Mark Mayerson and Amir Avni both wrote excellent posts on the subject.  This is one of my favorite aspects of animation.  Below is one of my favorite examples of music and animation synced.

Our final assignment for the semester was to animate a character moving around to music.  The actual syncing with the music was not part of the grade.  It was more about showing all the principles we had covered during the semester.  Since the character had to jump around, I did not try to sync it to the music at all.  The jumps take too long to hit every beat. The assignments were linked up to form a class anajam.  At the beginning of each assignment we were to morph the previous character into our character..  This was to be synced with a sound effect we recorded.
The first video is my assignment.  The next is that of the whole class.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Walks and Runs

After an overview of The Principles of Animation, The next things we learned are walks and runs.  Animating walks and runs is simple to understand but infinitely complex in its variation.  Everybody has a distinct way of walking.  The way a character walks says a lot about a character and his/her mood.  For example a confident character will walk differently than a wimpy character.  That same confident character will walk differently when he's sad.  As you can see, there are as many way to do a walk as there are characters and emotions.
The nuts and bolts basics of how to make a two-legged character walk is fairly simple.  However he/she walks, he/she will go through some variation of four key drawings.  The first is the stride or contact, where the forward foot first contacts the ground, but before the weight has been shifted to it.  The second is the down or squash.  Here, the character has shifted his/her weight to the forward foot.  Usually, you would squash the character's leg down to take the weight.  In real life, this squash is very slight, usually imperceptible; however, in cartoon animation this squash gives the walk and up and down action which is much more lively and appealing.  The next key is the crossover or passing position.  Here, the rear leg has left the ground and is coming in front of the front leg.  Without this frame, the leg seems to pop from one side of the body to the other.  The last key is the step or up position.  Here, what was the rear leg has now passed the front leg and is outstretched, ready to make contact.  After the step, the other leg contacts and the cycle begins again.  With these four key, infinite variations are possible.
Walks can be animated from one part of the screen to another, or they can be done in a cycle.  In a cycle, the foot on the ground, that would be stationary in real life, must move at an equal rate throughout the cycle, as if it were on a treadmill.  Also, the first frame of the cycle should follow the last frame.  With a cycle a background could be panned behind it, and it would look like one continuous walk.  The first walk exercise we were given was a cycle of a character with extremely loose joints.  I took this to an extreme.

Walks can also be done in perspective.  The keys are the same.  The only difference is the added complexity of perspective drawing.  Start with a perspective grid on the ground plane.  The length of a grid square is the length of the character's stride.  First, using the grid, draw in the stride positions.  Then it is simply a matter of animating through the four keys between each stride.  The next exercise was to animate the same character from the cycle in a perspective walk.

After walking we covered runs and turning.  A run is basically the same as a walk except its faster and at one point both feet are off the ground.  With a run there are also four keys.  The first is the launch, were one leg is pushing off the ground, launching the body.  The next is the mid-air key, where both legs are of the ground.  Then the landing, where one leg, usually the one that did not launch, first makes contact with the ground.  Finally, in the squash position, the landing leg squashes to take the weight, while the other leg passes in front.  The squashed leg will be the one that launches in the next key.  In a simple 90 degree turn, after the squash, instead of passing the front leg, that leg turns.  Then the step is pretty much the same except now at a 90 degree angle, same with the contact.  Here is a quick exercise I did to practice turning.

For the major assignment on walks, we had to animate the pink panther walking in a way that expressed emotion.  First he had to walk across the screen, then turn an walk away from the camera in perspective.  After four strides he had to stop, turn 270 degrees, then run off the screen.  We were to follow the formula on all the walks, runs, and turns, except for the 270 turn we could be creative with.  The emotion I chose for him was upbeat.  I had him walking with a double bounce, where he goes down a second time during an extended crossover.  For the 270 turn, I had him pirouette.  To do this I studied youtube videos on how to pirouette.

Since the assignment I have continued to practice walks weekly.  There is so much of character animation in this motion.  I created another blog for my class to practice walks.  Check them out a The Weekly Walk.