Sunday, December 18, 2011

Class 4 Week 12: End of Class Progress Reel

Well, officially 2/3rds of the way through Animation Mentor now.  Time for a holiday break and catch my breath!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Madagascar 3 Trailer and Poster!

The first images and trailer for the next film I'm working on came out - check them out!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Class 4 Week 10: Dialogue Polishing

Spent lots of time getting some life and good arcs into the elbows.  Also started to play with the timing, but ran out of time before I could final a good solution.  Good thing I have one more week.

Hand assingment for this week was Surprised

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Class 4 Week 9: Adding in the Eyes and Mouth

First pass at really addressing the eyes and adding in the mouth basic movements


Also, the hand pose assignment for this week was Relaxed

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Class 4 Week 8: ReBlocking the Dialogue

Some big changes to the ending this week.  Suggestion was to find "the moment" when he realizes what a doofus he was. 

Also had an assignment to find an angry pose with just the hand.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Class 4 Week 5: Final Donut

At the end of the first acting assignment.  Had a lot of fun getting into the little details this a hand releases and apple (and having it settle on the plate) to refining the arcs of the hands.  It felt like a luxury this week to have the time to go in and fine tune each and every curve - something essential, but that I honestly rarely get the time to do.  

One of the notes/tips from my mentor, Wayne, is that no curve should be left flat...the body is always moving or shifting or settling somehow.  So it was a fun challenge this week to "keep it alive" at all times.

Looking forward to our next big assignment....the start of dialogue acting - and we even get face controls in the rig for the first time.  Hooray!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Class 4 Week 4: Polishing up a Steal

Well, felt like a lot of effort to get this weeks assignment out.  Had that moment of possibly overworking the animation, to the point that it took a lot of time to get it back to its same quality.  The changes I made seemed small going in; a different look here, a new focus there...but they added up to some significant changes to the acting of the shot.

Where before the character seemed more paranoid about his surroundings and who was watching, now he seems almost exclusively focused on the donut debate.  Only at the end do we see that concern about who was watching.  I think it makes a simpler stronger statement, although it was hard to give up some of those other moments.  Really looking forward to this last week on the assignment, when it's mostly just cleaning up all the curves and really making the animation sing!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Class 4 Week 3: Refining the actions


Had some really great notes from my mentor this week.  Lots of little touches to the body mechanics that make a world of difference.

Most of the beats here remain the same.  The most significant change to the blocking is I have him tossing the apple in the air for a minute instead of the shrugging movement I had before.  I did this to 1) keeps his focus (and the viewer's) more on the apple, which 2) gives him a moment of contemplation before carrying out his attempted steal.  It's the moment he makes the decision.  That bit was actually something I noticed in one of my video ref outtakes - I really thought it made a nice storytelling moment.

He also begins watching the donut from the first moment he appears on screen.  This really helps set up his intentions from the very start, and by having the donut 'draw' him in the entire time really adds to the characters relationship with food.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

MvA Halloween Special on DVD

Finally got to see the dvd release of the Halloween short I worked on way back about two years ago - MvA: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space!  Aliens, monsters, mutant pumpkins stealing kids' candy...what's not to love?

This short sets up the events for MvA: Night of the Living Carrots that came out last week.  It's a good year to have worked on some Halloween specials!

Also be sure to check out the great B-Movie style posters one of the show artists created here

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Class 4 Week 2: Blocking It Out


Lots of fun blocking this one out.  After a month of not animating it felt good to get back into the swing of it again.  I started out by getting a good walkcycle going on Stewie, and then making adjustments to give him some personality.  

A big lightbulb went off when I decided to make him overweight - instantly there's more motivation to his character and gave some insight in approaching his walk and movements.  I see him as a character that's never in much of a rush and takes his time to get places...until he sees something he really wants.  When it comes to the donut, he has more quick sudden movements.

This was also a good exercise in getting more comfortable with props/rigging/contraints.  The apple leaves his hand twice, and the donut is passed between both hands.  So it was great experimenting with the different ways to accomplish this and learn the pros/cons of each.  I think it really helps the animation feel more natural, with the almost casual way Stewie interacts with the props.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Night of the Living Carrots released!

My new halloween special is out!  Well, kind of - it was released as a download for the Nintendo 3DS.  I got to work on this at the beginning of the year and just had a blast!  It's also the short where I got to animate a Zombie Carrot cycle (what's not to love about that?).  Hopefully they'll release it in some other formats too...but in the meantime enjoy the publicity still.

I really have had the best time on these halloween specials - by the way, Mutant Pumpkins From Outer Space, the first of these Monsters vs. Aliens specials - finally gets it's DVD release this week.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Class 4 Week 1: Acting begins!

Here we go again!  Starting the second half of Animation Mentor!  Now we begin to explore acting.  I've got a great class and a great teacher, Wayne Gilbert (I actually already have his book that I got back in Class 1).  This entire class we're only going to have 2 projects, one with the usual character we've been using, the second will actually have facial features for the first time.

For this project, I went back to an idea I had in Class 3.  Actually, I had gone so far as to film all the reference of me up on the roof acting it out, before I switched at the last minute to the 'pumpkin lift' shot instead.  I really felt like this could provide some real nice moments to focus on the acting. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Class 3 Week 12: Progress Reel and Halfway Point

Back from vacation!  Wow.  A week to unplug with no computers or internet.  Plus a week off now until Class 4 begins.  It's been a long haul so far trying to balance work and school (and as much a home life as I can manage - thank god for a very patient wife).  But here we the halfway point of Animation Mentor.  Time to relax for a bit and enjoy the "normal" life - see ya in a few weeks! :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Class 3 Week 11: Pumpkin Finale

Spent the most time this week working on the fall.  Tried to make it a bit bigger/stronger - really worked on the arcs of his body and limbs, and get them all to reinforce the movement.  Adding the little double bounce on the body was a happy accident that I loved and built up.  Really focused on using overlap on the arms/hand/fingers and leg/foot/toes to sell the fall.

Speaking of fingers and toes - also spent a lot of time adding those little details throughout the shot, from gripping the pumpkin, catching himself, toes on the weight shifts....took a lot of time, but it really helps.  One of those where you tend to "feel" it more than "see it" the first time through...but really gives life to the character.

On a side note - taking a tip from one of our lectures, on the beginning I combined his actions.  That is, he looks around and walks forward at the same time, and even starts to reach at the same time.  So far most of my actions have been very 1, 2, 3....look, pause, move....etc.  Having this overlap of movement AND intention really was a little revelation.  So, I look forward to keep exploring these more natural and complex and interesting way of telling the story.

But now...I'm looking forward to my vacation to Alaska with my wife! 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Class 3 Week 10: Pumpkin Polish

Well, lots of big improvements this week, especially in terms of storytelling.  Got a lot of comments from classmates about "Why?" is he picking up the pumpkin.  So I add the beat of him looking around and now choosing the pumpkin.  Having that one little bit of acting (the act of making a choice) REALLY helped inform the animation for the entire shot.  My mentor gave the idea that he should have the shaking knees and looking side-to-side.  Again, this really defined the character and made it a lot of fun to work with.

Just look at the amount of blinks alone!  I feel like this is the first time that I started to get some real character and personality conveyed thru the animation.

Otherwise, spent lots of time on technical fixes - biggest is I lessened the big breaking/stretching of the arms from last week.  Worked on fixing some out of balance poses in the first half, and starting to fix some interpenetration issues between the pumpkin and Stewie.  Started to block in some more specific hand and foot movements.  Lots still to polish - and I have to pack for an Alaskan cruise too!!!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Class 3 Week 9: Re-Blocking the Pumpkin

Well, once again some big changes.  Got some great feedback last week - and decided I really needed to push the animation a lot more, it had too many subtle things crammed into it.  So, this week was about simplifying and giving enough time to the one or two big actions.

Also, my previous video reference wasn't all that helpful, so I filmed new reference this week.  That also changed quite a bit of my staging.  Really happy with the new changes and direction.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Class 3 Week 8: Blocking Pass on a Pumpkin

So, this week took a bit of a left turn.  I decided to change my project at the last minute (which seems to be a pattern for this class).  I went back to my Mentor from last class, Jeremy Cantor, gave us a list of what shots he thinks every animation reel should have.  This is why my last several assignments have had jumping, running, pushing/pulling, etc.  The one thing on his list I haven't taken a crack at yet is "lifting a heavy object" - so here it is.

There's actually an earlier pass of this one I like better - it just was a bit cleaner, not so much overlap built I think simplifying out the animation curves on this one will really help next week.  I have a big vacation looming on the horizon that will interrupt part of this project, so I'm really hoping to get ahead of the game this week.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Class 3 Week 7: Elevator Final

Last week on the Elevator!  Had some really good comments from our substitute mentor this week, so actually made little changes to just about everything in this one.  The one problem with that is I think I was starting to overwork some things...and I definitely broke a lot of stuff in the process that I had to go back and repose frame by frame.

Biggest change is the feet doing a few baby steps skidding to a stop rather than the big slide I had before.  Really tried to make the timing snappier too, so he falls a bit faster, jumps a bit quicker, etc.

Next week we move on to the last project of the term...right now its a toss up between a guy trying to get a soda out of a vending machine, or stealing the last doughnut sitting out at work :)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Class 3 Week 6: Refining Elevator Shot

The big note coming out of last week was that the camera was too far away.  So I pulled in the camera fairly dramatically - however, that meant that my little running guy was out of frame for most of the beginning frames.  Since I need at least 100 frames of animation for the assignment, my wife Heather had the idea to add a second person in the elevator.  It was a lot of fun to have some conflict added to the shot and play with the personality of the new guy.

One other change that might not be noticeable at first -  the set is about half the size it was last week.  Once I added the second guy (and added elevator buttons) I realized the doors were about 12 feet high.  With their smaller scale and the camera pull in, they look almost the same.

Before the suggestion of adding the second guy, I had just planned on doing a camera move to pan across and follow the run (therefore keeping the 100 frames of animation).  I'm posting that video too, just because I really liked the dynamic the camera pan gave.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Class 3 Week 5: Blocking Pass on New Assignment

Here's my first pass at our next assignment.  I changed the idea a bit from my initial plan (which was a guy falling off a treadmill).  Basically, that idea felt way to much like a good ol' crowd cycle.  And I'm trying to use this class as a chance to explore more dynamic movements than that. 

My last mentor, Jeremy Cantor, gave a list of shots he thinks every animator needs under his belt.  This is why I did a big jump on the last assignment.  One of those he suggests is to have a character running.  (The last one on his list I'm lacking is to lift something heavy...guess what my next project will be...)

So I kept with the running idea, but had Stewie run after something - gave him a goal.  Since my last assignment had a bit of an Indiana Jones inspiration, I went the same route here again.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Class 3 Week 4: Final Pass on "Idea"

Another crazy weekend, another assignment in the bag.  I had a lot of fun on this one.  I really took the time to get into the details and perfect the animation curves.  I haven't gotten that detailed into one of my assignments since way back on the "Ballie Stairs" assignment.  Felt good to get back into that mindset.

Now it's on to planning the next assignment.  I quickly posted an idea to the class that had one of the Mythbusters comically falling off a treadmill...but I still my change that if I think of a more dynamic idea in the next day or two.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Class 3 Week 3: Refining Pass - now with more Swing!

So, decided that this shot needed a bit more dramatic action.  After falling asleep to Indiana Jones a few nights this week I decided a nice swing off the lamp would be a fun addition.  I'm really happy with how this turned out so far...finally a good foundation to the shot.  I also like that it adds even bigger movements into my animation experience, this is one of the most fun weeks I've had animating so far.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Class 3 Week 2: First Blocking Pass on New Idea



Well, this was an "interesting" week.  I was really unhappy with my initial plan for this shot (the stage swordplay).  I felt that idea would be 1) too similar to the sword in the stone shot from last class, and 2) would involve lots of complicated movements that still wouldn't have the WOW physical action I want to try my hand at.  Since the first class, I tend to gravitate towards more subtle actions, so I wanted to open it up with this class.

This idea came to me really really late in the process - so what you're looking at is what I was able to block out between 10pm and 5am (before heading in to work).  I really like the idea and I'm anxious to get in some more time on it.

I like that this shot can be viewed as a metaphor for me in this class - struggling to find an "idea" (i.e. lightbulb goes on) that's just out of easy reach...

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Class 3 Week 1: One-Third of the Way There...

Class 3: Advanced Body Mechanics

Finally had a week off!  It was much needed :)

Moving on to the third class now - which means I'm officially one-third of the way thru the Animation feels very fast and very long at the same time!  My next mentor is Raquel Rabbit, who's worked at some of the studios up in the Bay Area and is now a full time college professor.  As always, it'll be great to get a new perspective on animation.

My plan for the first assignment is to involve an actor on stage doing some stage combat - ending up falling over the scenery after doing his sword flourishes.  Dug into the good ol' Thesis to get some stage assets to potentially use for this assignment.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Class 2 Week 12: End of Class 2 Progress Reel

So here's my Progress Reel updated with the Class 2 assignments.  Yup, 6 months of animation = 1 minute of animation.  Humbling.

And now...for a week off of classes!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Class 2 Week 11: Final Assignment Done!

Whew!  Made it.

The new schedule idea really helped get this project done at all.  The last part of this class was a real struggle with time management, but all's well that ends well I guess.  We'll see if I can keep it up going into the next class...

I really enjoyed my time with the mentor Jeremy this class.  Just found out that it was his last class at Animation Mentor (moving on to a job at Ringling School).  I'll miss having him around - he was that perfect (for me at least) balance of support and bluntness, of enthusiasm and healthy cynicism.  Great times - I'm glad I got the chance to learn from him.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Class 2 Week 10: Refining

This shot keeps going and going.  We have one more week on this shot than our previous ones, so lots of time to dial in on the details.  I spent a lot of time getting the hand positions better and the grab/release added in.  

One big change this week is a new schedule for me.  I'm now trying to work on my homework in the morning before work, rather than facing it after a long day of being on the computer and commuting the hour home.  So far so good.  Honestly, the dog wakes me at 6am anyways.  It also means I get to enjoy the precious few hours of evening time with my wife guilt free.  She's been VERY patient and supportive with me and my crazy new student schedule.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Class 2 Week 9: Reblocking the Sword

Some significant reblocking on this one.  Really struggling with how to get some nice poses and silhouettes with the orientation of character/prop/camera that I have right now.  I changed the camera angle to more front-on trying to address this. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Class 2 Week 8: Blocking Sword in the Stone


Sword in the Stone time!  This is my take on the Push/Pull assignment.  Really wish we still had our annual pass to Disneyland to go film my own reference!

This is also my first time trying out a new iPad app I purchased called Animation Desk.  So I was able to block this out in 2d - and interesting experiment.  It's really nice to get a sense of the timing while planning this out in this way. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Class 2 Week 7: Wind Final

I lied last week.  I said I was going with the non-rotating version...well, I ended up uploading the rotating version late instead.

Ultimately I'm glad I stuck with the rotation.  I really enjoy working with the environment and animating the boxes too.  Can't wait to move onto a model with arms now :)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Class 2 Week 6: Refining Wind - A Shift in Idea

Well...the big decision this week was what version of my shot to focus on.  Going after a suggestion by the wife, I thought it'd be fun to see the ground shift (rather than the original "wind" concept).  Also, looking at some upper classmen's websites...I found a few versions of this shot were already done with an identical giant red button on the ground.  Lame.

My mentor said he was okay with the idea...but warned it was going to be pretty difficult to pull off.  Since getting my demo reel (started AND finished) this weekend is sucking up a bunch of my time, I decided that simple was best.  To quote one of my favorite quotes:  "Done is good"

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Class 2 Week 5: Second Project Begins!

Well, no rest for the weary, on the next project!  Again, we had a big list to pick from - I chose "walk in a heavy storm/wind."

Got a bit of a late start on this one - I was struggling with the setup for the shot.  Considered having Stu (as the guy is affectionately named) walk down a city street, having to avoid flying debris.  Thought about having him round a corner and getting hit with the wind.  At one point even planned him struggling to make it into a bus stop.  In the end, simpler is better - and what's more simple than a giant red button on the ground :)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Class 2 Week 4: Stairs Final



Well, the final version of my stairs assignment is turned in. Had some spare hours this weekend, so I took the time to render it proper. So, the bottom is the version I see within the software, and above it is the nicely rendered with lighting, motion blur, etc. I'm happy with how this turned out.

We've already started planning next weeks homework, so it's back at it tomorrow...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Class 2 Week 3: Refining Stairs

Two all-nighters on this one.  I need better time management....

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Class 2 Week 2: Blocking Stairs

You've seen the reference, now see the blocking animation!
Try humming the theme to The Dick Van Dyke show while watching it :)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Class 2 Week 1: New Class!

Class 2: Pyschology of Body Mechanics

No break this week!  But it was a glorious two days without homework.  Mostly involved recovery sleep.
Really excited about this next class - it's going to consist of only 3 assignments, spending four weeks on each one.  We're given a list of about fifteen actions to choose from, and my idea incorporates a few of them: walking down stairs, a side step, and for the hell of it, a bit of a walk at the end.  I've been waiting for a chance to use Dick Van Dyke for reference, and here's my perfect chance.  We're also encouraged to film ourselves acting out the movements, so here's my best go at being Van Dyke.

According to my previous mentor, I tended to be "subtle" in my animation and poses, and he encouraged me to really push my animation more.  Hopefully this is a good project to push things.  My new mentor Jeremy Cantor, comes from the live-action visual effects world of animation, so I'll be excited to add his perspective on things.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Class 1 Week 12: Revisions and Final Progress Reel

So this should have been an easy week.  The homework was simply, put together all your clips from the term and upload it to the website.  However, as my teacher says "change = pain" - so this week wasn't so easy.  I went back and read all the critiques from my Mentor, and went and revised every single assignment with the feedback i got.  Some are big changes, some are pretty small, but you can feel them all helping make the animation better.  And it was really interesting to revisit some of these first projects, and to feel so much more comfortable and confident now in tackling the animation.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Class 1 Week 11: Refined Walk and Finding Balance

A finished polished pass on my personality walk.  Also some poses on Balance.  This was a great chance to use some of the lunchtime figure drawings I've been doing at work over the past few months.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Class 1 Week 10: Personality Walk 1st Pass

The beginning of the end.  Another two week pass at this animation.  This is the blocking for a pretty open ended assignment - walk with personality.  I decided to do a guy sneaking around a corner.  There's a version of this where he also jumps over the opening and keeps walking off screen.  Luckily the school gives strict frame lenght limits, so I cut it down to just this.  I say luckily, because sleep is a rare commodity these days...

...see this weeks pose - Exhausted.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Class 1 Week 9: Walkcycle Refined

The polishing pass.  Big trick on this one was getting it to work from both the front and the side.  A bit of side to side movement changes everything.  Really happy with how it turned out though.

The pose is to show Concern.  This is basically what I look like in the middle of the night on Saturdays doing homework at 3am.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Class 1 Week 8: Cycles, oh cycles....

This is the "Vanilla Walk" blocking.  It's your essential walkcycle, which is actually something I've done for work before.  It's harder than it looks to do a basic walk with no personality - really tempting to add in little personality movements.  But this assignment was about the body mechanics.  It's just a blocking pass, so we lay in the essential key poses and get the timing down.  Next week will be all about smoothing it out.

The Pose this week is to convey Strength.  After doing the walkcycle homework, it was a relief to have arms to work with again.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Class 1 Week 7: Tailor

The first time we get a bit of character going!  This is "Tailor" - and he's just a bouncing ball with a tail attached.  Lots of fun to put some personality into what's essentially the ol' bouncing ball.  Luckily, it's squirrel season around the neighborhood, so me and the dog get to see LOTS of reference each morning.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Class 1 Week 6: Pendulum

Alright, I'll admit it.  This one came in at the last minute.  It was interesting to do the secondary animation of the "tail" on the pendulum - like the bouncing ball, it's still mostly just executing physics.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Class 1 Week 5: Obstacle Course

Lot's of work this week.  Very open ended assignment - just an obstacle course (we could pick from 3) and a frame range to stay within.  Planning this out was the hardest part.

As for the Pose, this week it was Devastation.  Had a lot of ideas for this one!  Couldn't decide, so I just did all three.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Class 1 Week 4: Double Bouncing Balls

New assignment was to animate two balls, one heavy and one light.  Lots of fun with this one.
Also had to do a revision on last weeks assignment.  Who knew so much analysis could go into a ball bouncing.  It's almost purely mathematical at this level, which is fascinating.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Class 1 Week 3: First Animation - Bouncing Ball

Our first animation assignment is the old reliable bouncing ball.  The most basic way to start talking about timing, spacing, and key frames.

The Pose this week was to convey Excitement.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Class 1 Week 2: First Pose

So, here it is.  First week of homework.  The assignment was to go out and observe people and do some quick sketches of them.  I spent a lunch at the Los Angeles Zoo, and here's my result.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Class 1 Week 1: One week down, 72 to go...

  Class 1: Basic Foundations

First week was pretty much like the first week at any class.  Introductions and going over the syllabus.  My mentor is Anthony Wong, a traditional 2d animator that's worked at Pixar for awhile now.  Going to be a good class.  Next week will begin blog postings with pretty pictures!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Once more unto the breach, dear friends...

Today I once again become a student.

Why?  Did I miss having weekends and free time?  Miss having my worth assigned a letter grade?  Just felt like student priced movie tickets again?

After four years doing crowds work, I had the chance to try my hand at some real animation...and I was hooked.  It was a bit of a revelation - I realized that whenever I had free time at work, I was attending animation workshops and classes.  So, the path was clear - I was to be an animator.

Oh yeah, small detail.  That whole knowledge and skills thing.  I've been lucky enough to have quite a bit of classes held at work, taught by the animators.  But animation is a big crazy mountain to scale, and I'm still at base camp.  It was time to go back to school.

I had heard a lot about Animation Mentor.  A bunch of folks at work either came from there or have taught there.  Also, the Animation Guild union has a program in place to help pay for part of tuition.  I asked some of the Heads of Character Animation at work about it - and everyone couldn't recommend it more.  So, with a new year comes a new school and hopefully a new job path.

It's going to be a 16-month program when all is said and done.  It's all online, and done through videos and webcams.  The biggest benefit is that all the instructors all from the industry, from visual effects studios to animated features.  You can read more on the program here:

So, wish me luck dear interwebs.  My goal is to update this blog with each weeks homework assignment.  Time to start climbing!

Animation School