AM Class 6 – Polishing


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!

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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!
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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!

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AM Class 5 – Refining Pass

After an extremely busy week animating I’m back here with an update! This week you should notice some pretty substantial progress on the shot from the last update. My mentor wanted us to move into adding more facial performance and lip-sync to our shot and also be out of stepped keys and well on our way into refining the shot. I also had to implement some pretty big notes that I got during the previous week’s eCritique. My mentor really wanted me to get more of stepping action into the opening shot with the female character. She wanted her to start further away and step up to the male character. This made for some serious work on my end. I essentially had to re-block and animate a good 60-70 frames of the shot. It’s something that is never really fun but in the long-run you have to do what is going to make the shot the best it can be, and honestly I think after doing it, the shot feels better.

One of the big concepts they teach us as AM is that you have to do whatever the director/client tells you when you are a professional animator and in our cases, our director is our mentor. In a studio setting you should never get too attached to work because there are always going to be changes and big notes even late in the progress of a shot. Luckily, by having a pretty clean workflow it made addressing these notes not a total nightmare and I was able to get it mostly worked out in about 1 day of animating. Her other notes were to really play up the amount of flirting these characters are doing. The class is all about advanced acting she wanted to see my characters really act and not just feel like they were going through the motions. So I worked really hard to add in more flirty emotions and thought to both characters. Finally, I did a rough first pass of the lip-sync.

It was a very busy week for me, and I’m sure to have many more until this class is over. That’s all for this week, take a look at the latest update and let me know what you think!

Refining Pass

AM Class 5 – Rough Blocking

This past week’s assignment at AM was to create a Rough Blocking Pass. The rough blocking pass is focused on getting the main idea of the story across in as few poses as possible. Our mentor wanted us to really just rough in the poses and not focus on too much detail. We will get more detailed and broken down with next week’s assignment as we move into actual blocking. For this shot I am also trying out a new workflow where I more frequently switch over to spline’s even during blocking to help me figure out which areas need more breakdowns and also to get a better understanding of my spacing.

Anyway’s I am very busy already blocking away for the current week’s assignment but I wanted to get this post up before it was too late. I’m going to keep it short, but stay tuned as my progress will keep getting further each week!

Rough Blocking & Proof Concept

AM Class 4: Complete & New Progress Reel

Well it has been a very busy few weeks and I have not gotten around to making an update post. Last time we looked at my shot it was in the blocking plus stage. This time, it is the final version of what I had to submit for the end of the term. I do plan on going back in and polishing a few more pieces of it after getting the final critique from my mentor. I also will be practicing my lighting skills eventually to make all my shots lit and rendered for my demo reel.

Working on this shot taught me so much. This was my first attempt ever at doing a full acting shot with dialogue. I learned how important having a clean and focused workflow really is. One of the biggest challenges for me on this shot was incorporating facial animation into my workflow. Prior to this assignment the faces of our characters were very simplistic and limited so having to think of all the minute details like eye darts, blinks, lip curls and everything in-between added a whole new level of difficulty and fun! As I move into the next Class (5), with a two character dialogue shot I will be tweaking and refining my workflow even more. Below is progress reel for Class 4. As for now, I’m going to go and enjoy the rest of my vacation before Class 5 with begins!

Class 4 Reel:

Classes 4-1 Progress Reel:

AM Class 4: Dialogue Planning

Week 5 has come to an end for Class 4 of AM and we had to complete the initial planning for our dialogue shot. For the assignment we had to pitch three different dialogue choices to our mentor. However, for brevity of this blog, I am going to only post the planning for the clip that my mentor chose for me to do.

The planning consisted of video reference, thumbnail sketches, facial pose tests and a phonetic breakdown of the dialogue showing where the emphasis of certain words are. Choosing dialogue for a piece is actually rather challenging, because it needs to be interesting, have nice cadence and rythmn, tell a story, and also not be so iconic that it takes the viewer out of the piece.

The planning process of this piece is much more in-depth because of how much more detailed this shot has to be. The video reference is probably going to be the most useful piece of planning because I am going for very naturalistic style of animation. Adding in facial animation brings a whole new level complexity and problems to solve while animating. I will be tracking my workflow on this piece quite closely to learn areas I can improve and which areas worked well. It is going to be a really challenging yet fun assignment and I am really excited to tackle it!

Below is my video reference, thumbnails, facial poses and dialogue breakdown.




AM Class 4: Pantomime Refining

It is the end of week 3 and I have just turned in my blocking plus/refining pass. My mentor wanted us to take the shot out of stepped keys and transition into splines because the final shot is due at the end of next week. This week I had a good amount of notes to address from my blocking, most of them were tweaks in my posing and overall idea of the shot. My mentor, Joe, gave me some great feedback during the eCritique. The biggest changes I made were switching the hand which Stan uses to grab the beer and toning down the overall grabbing of the beer. The other biggest change I made was to remove the wiping of his mouth. Joe’s comments were that for this assignment we didn’t want to make it too complicated. Simplicity is key, this is something we continue to hear in our lectures and throughout the curriculum at AM. By removing and making these changes, my shot has a more naturalistic feel and is not quite as “showy” which is really what I was going for.

Workflow Notes
Once again, I kept a close eye on my workflow for transitioning over to spline keys. This is usually the area where many animators including myself struggle. I took my mentor’s advice and kept my shot in it’s blocking stage and added as many breakdowns and ease in/outs that I could while staying in stepped keys before switching it over to splines. This really helped make the transition go a lot smoother. I also made sure when tweaking sections of my animation to work in smaller chunks of frames at a time — roughly 20-40 frame sections. This was actually a workflow tip that I received from my class 2 mentor and has really helped me not get too overwhelmed with a shot.

That is all for now, below is the first pass of refinement on my shot.

Refining Pass

AM Class 4: Pantomime Blocking

Week 2 has just come to an end and I have just finished my first pass of blocking on my pantomime shot. After getting some really excellent feedback and notes from my mentor during my eCritique. I managed to come up with what I think is a pretty solid start for my shot. The biggest notes I addressed from my planning and video reference were that it was too long, and I needed to shorten it even more to make it as simple and clear as possible. Joe offered some really good suggestions of ways I can simplify the shot to really make the characters internal thought process read more clearly.

First Pass Blocking:

Workflow Notes:
Throughout the week, I also paid very close attention to my workflow on this shot. As I continue to grow as an animator, I’m always trying to perfect my workflow to make myself a faster and more efficient animator. On this shot, I took the advice of one of our lectures by Dave Burgess (Head of Character Animation at DreamWorks). His method was when posing the character to really take the extra time and pose every part of the character, even in the blocking. He encouraged going into the details of the fingers, the eyes, face etc. I tried extra hard to make it so every single pose in my blocking was very clear. I didn’t worry about timing at first, I just posed the character out every 4 frames very evenly, then after I was happy with my poses, I got some feedback and tweaked them some more. Next, I went in and did a rough timing pass, where I took the poses and shifted them around on the timeline adding holds where they needed to be. Then I sought more feedback and continued to tweak away until you see what is above.

So far this workflow seemed to work really well for me in terms of getting work done faster. I was only thinking about one stage at a time, first posing, then timing, then spacing.

AM Class 1: Week 3 – Excitement & Bouncing Ball

Week 3 has already come to an end, and it surely was a busy one. The assignment this week was a combination of a couple different tasks. The first part consisted of a set of sketches conveying the emotion “Excitement”, we then had to turn one of those sketches into a 3D pose of our Stu character.

The next assignment was to animate a bouncing ball that mimics the weight of either a basketball or soccer ball, using no squash or stretch and in a frame limit of 50-100 frames. (Side note: 24 frames = 1 second of animation for film) This was our first true animation assignment, where we got to really hammer in the principles of timing,spacing, and how to work with the graph editor.

This assignment was a lot of fun to think about and attempt, I feel like I am really starting to get a better understanding of how timing and spacing are used to create a realistic and believable animation. As part of the Ball Bounce assignment, we had to show our planning for the animation, because it is extremely important to have a clear end goal in mind for your animation before you ever sit down at the computer and try and animate. This is a habit that Animation Mentor really tries to hammer into their students, always PLAN before you Animate. This is something I used to not do very much before coming to AM, I used to kind of just hop in to Maya and animate without much of a plan except for what was in my head. AM has been really great about teaching a strong and structured workflow to make animating a shot much less confusing and manageable.

Below are my sketches for my Excitement Pose:

and here are 3 images; consisting of my original pose, my mentor’s critiques and suggestions on how to improve it, and the revised version of the pose. My inspiration for this pose came from seeing a commercial with Tiger Woods in it.

Animation Mentor - Class 1 - Week 3 Poses

Now here is my planning for my bouncing ball (I did a basketball):

And below are two videos; the first, is my original ball bounce and the second, is the revised ball bounce, fixing the very minor comments my mentor told me to address to make it more believable.

That is all for this week, but stay tuned for my next update which will cover all of the work for week 4 – Bouncing Balls with different weights!