Friday, 20 November 2009

A Blast from the Past!

My real interest in animation sparked during the second year of college where a friend and I decided to create an animation for our synoptic project in applied art and design. Neither of us were experienced nor had we ever researched into the technical aspects of animation so it was new and fresh to us.

A great starting point was to look at the professionals. To save time I looked at Aardman whilst my partner, Matt looked at the works of Tim Burton and we developed a unique style that was a clean cross between the experience of Aardman with their stop frame animation and the quirky, extraordinary ideas of Tim Burton..

Me and Matt both developed our understanding in animation as we grew through experience and simple trial and error. We touched up on the basics of animation, began understanding basic principles such as squash and stretch, walk cycles were investigated and it was the first time I ever created and brought to life such a distinct and unique character.

Skills were developed through simple tests and experimentation starting off with a slithering worm which was barely storyboarded with no pre-planning whatsoever to spending over 2 months planning and organising a 1 minute animation complete with a set, a narrative and 2 very distinctive characters.

So here it is, T3AM Animation Proudly presents Schliptenstein.....

Monday, 16 November 2009

Animatics, Performance & 180 Degree Rule

The best animations are the ones that really have a way of portraying emotion through actions such as gestures, facial expressions e.t.c. I think one of the best ways to do this is by stepping into the shoes of your character and really feeling their emotion.... this has been done many times to achieve realistic references for the animation.

A particular one we looked at was a reference video created for 'Horton hears a Who' in which four versions of the same animation are shown including a live actor compared to the final animation. This video really gave an insight into how important it is to sometimes just jump into the characters shoes.

I couldn't find the Horton hears a Who video but here is another one which shows Andy Serkis acting out Gollum from Lord of the Rings.

I had already tried this technique which you can view under the 11 Second Audio clip Animation and although it was credited as working very well in terms of gestures and emotion, it brought up the issue of the 180 degree rule.

'The 180° rule is a basic guideline in film making that states that two characters (or other elements) in the same scene should always have the same left/right relationship to each other. If the camera passes over the imaginary axis connecting the two subjects, it is called crossing the line. The new shot, from the opposite side, is known as a reverse angle.' (Taken from

My understanding of this rule is that in order to mantain sense when two characters are interacting with one another, they must be kept in the same place in relation to each other otherwise the viewer becomes disorientated. Once this rule can be understood, it can then be broken. 'Crossing the line' can indicate that the same character is possibly talkin to him/herself or that there is an alter ego to the character.

(Again im going to use the example of Gollum) Sorry but I couldn'nt find a better quality video.

This scene with Gollum/Smeagol is a prime example of how the 180 degree rule can be broken to show an alter ego, the scene from The Two Towers where Smeagol tells Gollum to 'GO AWAY!, We don't needs you anymore'. The camera is seen cutting from one side, which is shown as Smeagols side, to the other side which is Gollums.

Aside from the use of cinematography to help with a characters performance, there are other things that we must bear in mind as we try to animate a characters performance. Although the notes will be shown on a different post, you may not be able to read them out of my sketchbook as my handwriting isn't the best in the world so I will also write them up in this post...

Thinking leads to conclusions, emotions lead to actions.
- Acting is reacting. Acting is doing. Every action has a reaction & every reaction has an action.
- The character needs an objective.
- Characters should play an action until something happens to make him/her/it play a different action.
- All actions begin with movement - gestures.
- Empathy - The audience empathises with emotion.
- A scene is a negotiation, conflict is essential. Conflict with others/himself/situation.

This leads us to think on how does a characters actions portray his personality? By thinking on this level and trying to feel out your character, good performance can be achieved.

One of the ways to test an animation with the sound without doing too many frames is to create an animatic. An animatic (depending on how much you want to visually include) is basically a pre-visualisation that is done in the pre-production stage to see how the scene works with the sound. An example we were shown was the animatic of the chase scene from 'The Incredibles'. This level of detail is not expected of us as of yet however this is an excellent example and best way to describe what an animatic is.

I couldnt manage to embed the video but the link is directly to the video. Animatics are a great way to visualise the scene without having to do the CGI only to realise it doesn't work out the way you thought it would, in a way its like a moving storyboard working hand in hand with the audio.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Critical Studies - I Met the Walrus

Just something that was looked at in critical studies today, a short animation directed by Josh Raskin and produced by Jerry Levitan and I quote 'The film is based on an interview of John Lennon by Jerry Levitan in 1969. Levitan, then 14 years old, tracked Lennon to his hotel room at Toronto's King Edward Hotel after hearing a rumour that Lennon had been sighted at the Toronto Airport. Jerry inveigled his way into John Lennon's suite and conducted an interview. The animation is based on Levitan's recording of the interview, which was edited down to 5 minutes. Josh Raskin's focus was on the interview itself. "I just wanted to literally animate the words, unfurling in the way I imagined they would appear inside the head of a baffled 14-year-old boy interviewing his idol.'

What really intrigues me about this animation is how the narrative is constructed entirely from the audio as opposed to the audio engineered to fit the visual. I love the flow and the quirkyness of this animation and I have noticed how this style has been used for adverts, particularly Microsoft.

Check it out...

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


I Finally managed to find it as it was left on the university system but here it is....

This is the first animation I have done whilst studying at university. It is a very simple animation worth a few seconds with no real narrative, simply a toaster that jumps around.

I like the way that the wire seems to flow as the toaster umps around really giving it a sense of movement. However the actual animation of it seems very blocky and rigid. To solve this problem I would've used a lot more frames to give it a smoother outcome.

6 Week Animation

The 6 Week Animation Task had to reflect all the principles that I had been studying during those 6 weeks. It was a requirement that the animation was between 10 and 20 seconds and that it showed atleast one principal of animation. To start with, I brainstormed a few ideas into my sketchbook. The idea I went with was very simple with the classic 'good guy & bad guy' scenario, all I had to do was character design them both. Using keywords such as 'innocent', 'childlike' e.t.c I designed a very simple 'good guy' character. The basic plot is our 'good guy' character is bullied by the 'bad guy' character, he decides that he has had enough so he does a 'Rocky' style workout and turns the tables around. This is the final design of the 'good guy' character in which it shows his original self and his bulked up form. I think this character works particularly well as his innocence helps the audience empathise with it. All that was left was the design for the 'bad guy' character. I used inspirations from other characters and tried using keywords such as fearsome and menacing. After a few rough sketches, I had a basic idea going. Ideas for the 'bad guy' character was inspired from all sorts from a Red Devil energy drink to the character of Jack Nicholson in The Shining. This is the finalised design for the character with a front and side profile. To get the movements correct fo the training sequences, I referenced the training scene from Rocky 2 in which I drew the poses and then drew my character in the same poses. Using these drawings I can make some quick tests based on these poses.
I dont think this test works particularly well, most probably due to the fact that it was not referenced from anywhere. I think that in terms of muscle tensing, I would need to look at anime such as Dragonball Z or Bleach e.t.c as they have a very realistic style of showing muscle...
This test is the most sucessful and portrays lifting weight quite well in my opinion. It is based off the drawings that I referenced from Rocky 2 although I did cartoonise it slightly.
The push up test works well, the only criticism I have against it is that it needs ALOT more frames and the feet cannot slide as the character does the push up as it is the rest of the body that moves up and down and the feet should remain firmly on the ground. Using these tests I had a rough idea of how to animate the actions so I could now create the final...

And here it is, the final......

11 Second Audio Animation

As I've progressed through the Illusion of Life Module I have gone through the basic principles of Animation such as Squash and Stretch, Exxageration e.t.c Using the basic knowledge of these principles combined with personal knowledge, I can begin looking at the peformance of the animated character. The key to this task is to delve into emotion within a performance and try visually portraying that. I had a choice of 6 audio clips in which I chose one to work with. A good point to start would be trying to feel the emotion of my clip and look at other performances as reference. One way of creating reference is to act it out myself and record it so I did just that and using Windows Movie Maker, I put the video clips with the audio clip to get a very vague understanding of the clip as something visual.

This will help me visualise the audio clip and give me a very slight look into emotion and performance... The first thing really however was to just write down the words in script form and try using words to describe both characters. I have done this in my sketchbook

and the quarter and three quarter profile...

Now that I had a script in front of me to see and the clip to listen to I could start putting some ideas to paper. I brainstormed a few ideas thinking about what my character(s) would be, what kind of background would work for this clip, I needed o think about performance in the character and how to animate that and the process of lip-syncing.

From the brainstorm I pretty much doodled a few ideas just to see if I could spark any ideas, I thought about things such as how I was going to draw the eyes and certain features I wanted the character to have. I also considered having the character as a mouse but my doodling eventually led me to a character that was a cross between a Kaminoan and Rayman.

I also thought it would be appropriate if the character had the 'beard of a professional' and a very wild hair style so I took Jim Carrey as inspiration for that leading me to a character that looked like a cross between a Kaminoan, Rayman and Jim Carrey with a very professional looking beard.

Urmmmm..... :S... Well anyway the character was created...

and the front and side profile of the character of which by this stage I ended up naming Jim after his/her beloved father...

and here is the quarter and three quarter profile...

The notes on acting which are at the top are covered in another post so I wont go into detail with them. I think this character works well as a boss/teacher and the way the elongated neck gives him the advantage of height which can be used to intimidate which will be needed at certain times. I also decided to only give him 2 fingers instead of 3 as a time saver so I could concentrate more on the performance and the lip-syncing.

Speaking about lip-syncing I wanted most of it to be lip synced so I had to go back to basics with that. Looking at the basic mouth sound shapes known as animation phonemes. My reference was taken from legendary animator Preston Blair's book 'Advanced Animation'

Preston Blair animated during what was known as the Golden Age of Animation (Mid 1930's - Mid 1940's). His style was very cartoony and surreal as he worked on the Looney Tunes. This is even seen in the way he animated speech as you can see he uses exxagerated squash and stretch for speech aswell however I decided to go with this style.

Gong back to what I had learnt about the 180 degree rule and the idea of the second character being the alter ego of the first one, I decided how that could be achieved and began to look at certain ways. I considered a character with 2 heads, the idea of the second character being in a mirror or continuos morphing from character to character. I looked at many references for this idea such as Fode and Beed from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

I thought this would be too complicated to animate and so I looked at other ideas such as the personality of Norman Osborn from Spiderman or the way a Hollow forms from Ichigo in Bleach.

Going with the morphing idea I decided how to make my character morph from Male to female so I decided to just draw the keyframes which in this case was the male character and the female character and draw the inbetweens. It ended up being 5 drawing which at the fp/s Im working in would mean it would take less then half a second to morph.

It was now time to move onto the technical planning stage of the animation process. This means constructing the storyboard and the use of the dope sheet.

The dope sheet and storyboard now covered in a different post it was ready to begin drawing the frames accordingly to the dope sheet with all mouth shapes, expressions and actions. Heres a test for the transition in the mirror from Jim to the mirror Jim.

The second test video is two seconds worth of animation with the sound also added just to see if the direction on the dope sheet was accurate.