New shot and some much needed updates!

arg
Wow! The last couple of months have been a very exciting and busy time for me. I finished Animation Mentor at the end of March and immediately hit the ground running to try and find my first  job as an animator. I was extremely lucky in my timing and was fortunate enough to land a position as a Character Animator for Wizart Animation! I am under an NDA so I am not legally allowed to say very much about what I am working on. But, what I can say is that I am working remotely for the TVShows department on an upcoming children’s television show titled “Yoko”. I am extremely fortunate to have this opportunity to work on such an awesome project while living in an area with essentially ZERO animation industry. I am working alongside so many talented animators and it has been inspiring every day to work and learn from each one of them.

During my off-hours I have been slowly starting to work on a new personal shot for my demo reel. One thing I learned while at Animation Mentor was to continue to improve and stay hungry, even after you get your first job. It can be very easy to get comfortable just animating in the style that your job or current show requires. However, in order to stay relevant and competitive for future jobs you need to constantly be improving and working in various styles. It is important to show you can animate in a wide variety of ways because every project is different and you don’t always know what your next project will be. Since the show I’m working on is a much different style of animation from feature film quality work, I have began a new acting shot using a brand new rig from Long Winter Studios called “Argus”. I am really hoping to improve my close-up acting and facial performance with this shot. It has been a ton of fun working with this new rig, and I am really enjoying it so far.

Below is my very first pass of blocking; I have done very little animation on the face, only enough to show eye-direction and get a general idea of some of the blinks. I wanted to get the subtle body animation worked in first. I am learning that animating such a subtle piece is actually quite hard. As animators we often want to have things move a lot, but it is pretty difficult to keep a character still and make sure that they feel alive at the same time. With this shot, I’m already learning how difficult it can be to keep a character alive during a long silence. I know I will learn a great deal from this piece. Stay tuned for a new update, hopefully next week!

First-Pass Blocking:

Animation Mentor: Complete!

blog_picThat’s all folks! 18 months, came and went at lightening speed! It is hard to believe that it is already over. I had such an amazing experience attending Animation Mentor. I met so many inspiring people and was fortunate to learn from the best in the industry. Animators from the most respected studios around the world. Each and every mentor I had brought new and unique views to the art of animation. I learned more in this last year and half about animation as art but also as an industry that I ever imagined. If you have been following my blog from the beginning then you saw as we started with the most basic of exercises the “bouncing ball” and as I progressed through the program we finally finished with multiple character acting shots.

As I prepare to attend my final Q&A session tomorrow evening, I’m reflecting on all that I learned and all the areas where I still need to learn more. Animation Mentor really taught me how to animate. Prior to coming to Animation Mentor, I knew I wasn’t ready to animate professionally, but I didn’t realize just HOW far away from that goal I was. After going through this program, I feel like I finally have a real solid foundation to work with. I plan to start searching for jobs and I am willing to take any sort of paid opportunity I can get my hands on. However, I know that I still have a lot of room to grow as animator and there are so many topics that I wish to delve into and explore. Things, like creature animation, video game animation, and of course always improving my acting shots. One of things about pursuing animation is that you are ALWAYS a student. There is always something to learn, and even many students at Animation Mentor were professional working animators. This industry is always progressing, the characters get more complex, the movies and games get more detailed and that requires that the animators continue to keep learning and pushing the art form forward.

Aside from all the technical and artistic knowledge I learned from AM, I got to make a TON of new friends with fellow animators and artists from around the world! I always loved being in class and seeing animators from India, Brazil, Norway, Germany, USA and countless other countries. This art truly is global and animation can communicate at so many levels. The community at AM is the most helpful, friendly, supportive and inspiring group of people I’ve ever been around. Everyone is always offering feedback, and advice on how to improve or how to fix a problem with a shot or even just sharing great animation with each other. Even though it was an online school, it never really felt that solitary. There were so many opportunities to hop into video chats on google+ and talk with your friends while animating to the wee hours of the morning.

I am eagerly awaiting when I get to meet all my classmates in-person at our graduation in November. The graduation is going to take place at the same time as the CTNx Animation Expo in Burbank, California! I cannot wait to get out there and celebrate and meet everyone.

I am more inspired and more eager then ever to keep animating. I already have tons ideas that I want to animate and get to work on to improve my reel. Getting into this industry can be extremely tough and it takes a lot of determination and hard-work. I plan to keep treating this blog as I did while I was in school. I am going to keep posting regular updates on my new shots as I develop them, because I enjoy doing it and it keeps me accountable and motivated!

I could probably go on for days about my experience at Animation Mentor, but I don’t want to keep rambling and I’m sure you are all eager to see my graduation demo reel! I just wanted to thank Animation Mentor and all my mentors for such a great learning experience. I also couldn’t have done it without my super supportive fiance who has put up with all my late-night classes and days spent animating. Finally, my awesome parents and sister who have always supported my dreams and goals.

Finally.. here it is, my graduation reel (I highly recommend you watch it on vimeo in HD):
Also – the 2 person acting shot was lit by a good friend of mine from Purdue, Andrew Kennedy – check out his work at www.andrewkennedy3d.com
[vimeo https://vimeo.com/89750510 w=720&h=405]

AM Class 6 – Polishing

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First let me say, time sure flies here at Animation Mentor! It is already the end of week 9, which means I only have two more weeks until Class 6 is complete and I am officially done with the Classic Character Animation track at Animation Mentor! This past week was spent really focusing on cleaning up my arcs, refining the face, tweaking the lip-sync, and addressing a lot of the arm issues I was having in the previous weeks. Based on my mentor’s feedback I still need to push the smile during the laugh to really sell it, and I still have some spacing issues that need to be cleaned up with the head near the beginning of the shot. One of the goals I have had for this class was to improve my facial animation. My mentor, Sean, has been doing an awesome job in helping me really get the most out of my facial poses. He always has such great advice and tips on how to push my poses even more and it has really forced me to improve on my facial animation a lot in a short amount of time.

Once I tackle my mentor’s notes and make sure they are all reading, I want to start working in some more subtle hand and finger movements, and I am also going to be testing out Animation Layers to try and incorporate some more shoulder overlap and torso squash and stretch. I’m hoping this will help get the laughs to read more in the body and not just in the face. I have also been keeping track of my hours on this shot to stay updated on my workflow process and in total I clocked around 32 hours from the blocking stage until now.

Here is the progress for this week. Be sure to check back soon for another update and eventually a my finished demo reel!

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/88547987 w=720&h=405]

AM Class 6 – Refining Pass

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 5.14.09 PM

This was another fast, yet productive week! I took my shot into the next stage – refining. I moved out of stepped keys and into splined and got to see the real power of the workflow that my mentor has me using. It was really eye-opening to see my shot in splined curves without a lot of guess work needing to be done on my part. By having the shot blocked on 4’s it really limits the computer’s ability to give you bad breakdowns and in-betweens. It still happens but, it certainly make the clean-up and refinement process a lot smoother. Based on my mentors advice, I need to exaggerate some of the posing and timing but for the most part needed to stick to my reference and focus on cleaning up the motion and curves.

As for my workflow in the cleanup/refining stage, I started with the core and center of gravity controls of the character, then worked up through to the head and out to the arms. I still have some issues with the arms that need to be worked out. It is rather difficult to get nice smooth off-set circular motion with FK arms because it requires a lot of counter-animation between the shoulder and elbows. I’m thinking switching the arms to IK this week and seeing how successful I am with it. I then also did another pass at the face and lip-sync working in more detail into the brows, eyes, and mouth. In keeping up with my workflow journaling, I also spent a total of 14 hours cleaning it up this week. I’m hoping to get pretty close to final by the end of this coming week so that I can focus on some really detailed polish work and finessing some more of my older shots.

That is all for this post, take a look and let me know what you think!
[vimeo https//vimeo.com/87437430 w=720&h=405]

 

AM Class 6 – Blocking & New Workflow Notes

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 5.14.09 PM

This was another busy week, with a lot of good progress on my shots! On top of polishing up two of my older shots, I also got my blocking completed for my new shot. My mentor was really happy with it and gave me some really great feedback on where I can exaggerate it some more when I start to move into the refining stage.

Last week I mentioned that I was following a new workflow on this shot. The new workflow was one that my mentor really wanted us all to try out on our new shots because he thought that it would really be beneficial for all of us and that we would like it. He was absolutely right! His workflow involves having very good video reference, and really taking the time to plan your shot and your reference so that you can follow the reference very close in the blocking stage. On top of it allowing us to get the performance nailed down clearly in the blocking stage, it also forces you to study the reference very closely. Sean likes to compare the process to that of life drawing which makes total sense. Now that I have a strong foundation in the blocking stage, I will be going in and pushing the poses even more and the spacing in certain areas to get more of a cartoony feel to the animation. The other part of the workflow that my mentor suggested was that we try and get the lip-sync animation to about 90% complete and covert it over to splines then in the polish stage go back and really finalize the lip-sync.

Lastly, I started a workflow journal on this shot. I am closely recording how long I spend during each stage of the shot’s progression so I can have an idea of how long it takes me using this new workflow compared to my previous workflows. I also hope to use it as a gauge so I can learn to speedup my process. Up to this point, I have spent a total of 12.5 hours to get to this level of blocking.

Here is the blocking, stay tuned for another update next week!

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/86835434 w=720&h=405]

AM Class 6 – Updates!

layoutWow, so I have neglected making a post on here for far too long! I have been very busy focusing on my work for my final term at Animation Mentor. This class is called Polish & Portfolio, which is pretty much exactly how it sounds. It is all about creating the best demo reel/portfolio of work we can by the end of the term so that we have a good foundation to start looking for jobs. My mentor for this course is the Sean Sexton from DreamWorks Animation. Sean is absolutely awesome, he makes every Q&A super informative and packed with great information, advice and stories to keep us motivated. I also really enjoy the personalized nature of this class. On the first day of class he talked to each of us individually and assessed our previous work as well as what our goals are for the future. He took notes and then has made individualized plans for each of us to get the most out of the class with him. After assessing my previous work, he determined that I had some good work to use for my demo reel and we would spend the first 4-5 weeks really polishing and improving a few shots even more for my demo reel. On top of that he had me start planning ideas for a new shot, one that involves a good showcase of acting, body mechanics and has some cartoony style to it . He said that all studios want to see an animator that can really make a character move throughout a scene and act on top of that.

For my blog updates this term, I am going to only be posting about my progress on my new shot and at the end I’ll post up my graduation demo reel which will also include previous shots that you have seen if you have followed my progress over the last 18 months. However, these older shots should look more refined, after doing some really detailed polish on them.

This week, I’ve got some video reference and my rough layout pass to show you. The layout pass is used to figure out things like camera staging and to get an understanding of how the character will move throughout the scene. This new shot is also a new style of animation and workflow for me. I am following the workflow Sean demonstrated for us in class which involves using video reference very closely during the blocking stage. I will discuss this in more detail when I post my blocking pass.

Video Reference:

Rough Layout

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone and I hope that you all had a great 2013 and will have an even better 2014. I wanted to make a post reflecting on 2013, because I think it is important to look at all the positives and negatives that happened throughout the year and see where you are. I had two very big changes happen in my life during 2013, the first being that I got engaged to my beautiful fiance who inspires me every single day to keep pursuing my dreams of being a successful animator. Having her and my family’s support means the world to me. The second change was that I moved across the country to Florida from my home in the big city of Chicago. I certainly miss Chicago, but I’m getting the opportunity to live in a new and exciting city, in the beautiful state of Florida. I’m taking in all the new experiences and hoping they will be a source of inspiration for me. I’ll always be a Chicagoan at heart and it will always be “home” to me, but I’m excited to see what life is like down here.

As 2014 begins, Animation Mentor will be coming to an end in just a few short months and I will be onto my next journey in pursuing a career as an animator. I know it is a long and often challenging journey but I know as long as I stay positive, and keep pushing my work to a new level, I will achieve my goals. My main goal for 2014 is to keep growing as animator and land my first paid job animating(on anything). I decided on this goal based on the final Q&A I had with my previous mentor at AM. She said we should all set a 1 year goal and to really make it realistic. She also suggested that we write it down so that we know what we are working towards each day. I’m not really one for resolutions but I do think that having goals is important in life.

Well, that is really all I have for now. I am looking forward to starting my final term at Animation Mentor in just a few more days, so check back soon for more updates on my work! I wish you all a very healthy, exciting, and fun 2014!