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The journal of an aspiring animation filmmaker. Inspiration, Film Analysis, Animation Art, Student Work, Book Notes, Book Store, Composing Pictures, and much more!

May 29, 2008

What a Dream Scenario!

Read this AWN article on the state of the animation industry. This is what traditional animation purists like myself have been anticipating since the dawn of the "CG obsession." I just hope I'm done school before the new renaissance has passed. Here's an excerpt discussing the possible success of The Princess and the Frog:

So what happens if this film is released to rave reviews and incredible box-office success? As proved by history again and again, the smell of money will travel quickly, the animation predators will smell blood, and suddenly every Tom, Dick and Harry in the animation business will be scrambling to make the next blockbuster 2D animated feature. At least that is a very distinct possibility. And I think it is the hope of a great many animation artists, young and relatively new to the business, who would give their eyeteeth for a chance to actually animate by hand, in the classical manner in which the vast majority of them were trained, before switching over to 3D animation.

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May 15, 2008

Siggraph: Syd Mead Event: Visual Futurist

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting one of the most highly regarded conceptual designers in the world. Siggraph hosted an event featuring Syd Mead; The conceptual designer behind the such stylistically futuristic blockbuster films as Alien, Blade Runner, and Star Trek to name a just a few. I quickly learned that his portfolio includes not only film, but architecture, vehicles, toys, and a myriad of other items that can be made to look futuristic. I must admit a little naivity on my part, as I was hard pressed to pin point how I was familiar with the name, "Syd Mead,"before this event showed up in my inbox. Shortly after the presentation started I was reminded that I had watched a few Gnomon DVDs featuring the design guru a few years back. I'm not big into conceptual design, but I am interested in every aspect of this industry, and respect all the artists within it. Conceptual design is a field that required a tremendous amount of imagination, and creativity. And I always love learning about what makes successful artists tick.

Highlights from the evening were Syd's dry humor, the Q&A session, and the screening of Blade Runner: The Final Cut after the presentation. I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to see Blade Runner on the big screen. The last and only time I saw it was during film school, and it was one of those nights where I was completely fatigued, but too wired with thoughts to go to sleep. I watched it on my computer, and I remember wondering, "What's the big deal about this movie everyone is praising?" Needless to say, I didn't have the best viewing experience back then. And if there's one thing about watching movies that makes them ten times better, it's the environment you watch them in. Check out your local Siggraph chapter, and don't pass up the chance to see this beautiful film full scale on the silver screen.

A fun fact from the night. When asked what movie he wished he had the chance to work on, but didn't, Syd quickly replied, "Fifth Element."

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Final Assignment Critique

So here's the final critique from my instructor. I got an A- on this, which I'm happy with.

So I'm not going to talk so much about the drawing as to address design concepts as we have not talked at all about them. In this I think that it is pretty good in that you have some things that tie it together. The figures are tied together with lines that are somewhat circular you may or may not have planned this but it is a fact. The eye will always be drawn to faces and the faces are close to one another so it puts the focal point in that area. One face is hidden so the focal point becomes obvious in the other. face. It is human nature that your eye will go there.

I'm pretty happy with my progress in this class. I still have one of two more critiques to post, as I just post them in the order the instructor marks them ;)

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May 14, 2008

Self Portrait Feedback

I finally got some feedback on my self portrait. I was quite curious as to how my instructor was going critique this one because up until this point he had reference photos to fall back on. He could directly specify certain features that were off, or just drawn completely wrong because he knew exactly what we were duplicating. With this one, we drew them live, and therefore he didn't have any reference. On top of this, unless we've uploaded a student profile picture, and he's taken the time to check it out (highly doubtful), he has no real idea what I look like beyond my own representation here. So needless to say, I was pretty curious how he was going to tackle this one from a marking standpoint. I should have guess though, seeing as this is an anatomy class, and he's an expert in anatomy, that he would focus solely on that. He can tell when something is off, or needs more definition, simply through his understanding of the forms. And this is what he did, commented on what looked of, and doesn't make sense anatomically. This has got to be one of my favorite instructor critiques for this reason. It has taught me that we don't need to rely on the reference if we have an in depth understanding of the forms. That is where I aspire to be someday.

The face is very good here Dan. It has a bit of a Deco look to it. The hair needs work if only to fine tune the skull a bit. The neck needs some work as well. The face is the strong part. I would look at the upper lip to be darker if the light is coming from from above. Look for specifics of the forms of the features. For this I would recommend further reading into Stephen Pecks anatomy book that gives such a great education about the forms of each. The ear on yours is very good which is rare. Get the Peck book. You deserve the information as you have real ability here and should push it. X is the wide point of the head and the line from the back of the jaw is the wide part in general.The values are quite good. The lips are too pale and the upper is most likely deeper . You can make the lashes a soft tone I would look for a few highlights as they will give you an indication as to the tone of the flesh around it. The red and full part of the lips do not come all the way to the corners of the mouth. I would look for the area immediately above the eyebrows to be thicker. There is an area where a sweat band is worn that is thiner. There is a sort of bump at Z which is the frontal eminence

Grade: A-

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May 12, 2008

Clay Tree

Created for my final experimental animation assignment. This was to be the scenery for a short featuring the lion puppet I created earlier. The base is made from balsa wood, the skeleton is aluminum wire, the body is Van Aiken clay, and the foliage is from a local craft store.

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Ugly Face Critique

My final critiques are upcoming, and I think these are the ones I need the most. I clearly had trouble with the face and skull. I will have to practice lots in the summer. I have Vilppu DVDs, and I've also purchased a 3B Skull off of Ebay. I would suggest you do the same if you're looking to improve. Here's what my instructor had to say about the ugly face:

You have shrunken the skull as you have been focused on the face. The face will not look right as the skull does not back it up. Look at the areas HL. These are the highlights. In some areas you have made these the whole area. As around the nose and cheek. Look at the highlight and then look around it to see the value that is around the HL. Look at the side of the jaw at I. This area is the square form of the massetter. muscle. It is deeper in value than you have done. The shape is right but the value is off. No amount of fixing the form will change the fact that the value is off. You need to get the values better to have the form right. It is as if the form is turned in the wrong direction.

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May 6, 2008

Intro to Anatomy Final

This week was the final week for Anatomy class. It was a chance for us to show off what we have learned this semester. I think I've learned a lot, but there's so much room for improvement. There were no exercises this week, just one assignment, and a tough one at that. We had to take two different full figure poses and compose them into one drawing.

I chose to work on toned paper, as the module examples used it, and I still had some left over from previous drawing classes. I was pretty excited to use toned paper again, because I really liked the result I got the first time I used it.

There's a few errors in anatomy, but for the most part I would say it's pretty accurate. I don't think I could have done this three months ago, which is a testament to what I learned in the last few months. If I had to guess I would say I spent about 3-4 hours on this. I did it over the course of the day, from early morning to about four o'clock in the afternoon, as I can't sit still for too long. I could easily spend another 2 or 3 hours on this finishing it up, but I decided to stop here.

This was done on Canson Mi-Teintes Dark Grey #345 paper with black and white charcoal. It's about 18x24. What an amazing class! I can't wait to learn more about anatomy and improve on my drawings.

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May 5, 2008

The Ever Ellusive Traditional Animation Desk

I recently went through the process of obtaining and restoring my own animation desk. I'm always busy with school, so this was a welcome breath of fresh air, even though it still concerned animation. I guess I never stop working, whatever.

Anyway, I remember how difficult it was for me to find any kind of resource on the internet on building or even obtaining your own traditional animation desk like this without spending ludicrous amounts of money; Making animation desks a luxury that students can't afford when factoring in the ever increasing tuition fees of a decent education. For example, a desk like the one I have now will run someone at a minimum $300 anywhere you look. While the full size animation desks, complete with drawers, and enough work surface to make any aspiring animator drool can run into the thousands of dollars before you even consider purchasing a decent disc or any paper. So I thought I would document the process I went through as a sort of resource, one of the very few out there, on getting up an running.

First things first, I did not build this desk. I would have if I had to, but fortunately I did not. If you're interested in building your own desk, I'll cover that at the end of this post. Before I resorted to that, I gathered a list of all the animation studios in town that have or were currently producing 2d animation. I figured since traditional animation seemed to be going through a dry spell, perhaps some of these studios wouldn't be needing all of their desks.

Unfortunately, a lot of people had already beaten me to the punch. A lot of the studios said they had already sold all of their traditional animation equipment! But I didn't give up, and eventually I found one last desk available at Bardel Animation Studios in Vancouver. The receptionist said I could have it for a mere $50. Fifty bucks! So I drove downtown and picked it up the next morning. Here it is in the condition it was in when I first got it:

It was covered with all sorts or wear and tear. Signs of the rigorous animation industry I guess. Now some people would be deterred by this, and want something brand new, but I saw passed it. Others might like the worn look, and want a desk with some real animation history behind it. I chose to sand it down, because of some ugly scars, and I wanted to make the desk mine. Take a look at this close up of the desk. It looks like the previous animator had a frustrating time animating his/her scenes, because s/he carved this into the desk! Yikes!

So I was already into my desk for $50. I spent another $8 on some sandpaper and a sander.

Much better! A little elbow grease, and nobody is any the wiser. It's as good as new:

Whoever made this desk, included the option for a light, so I wanted to take advantage of that. I've been told not to rely on the light as flipping and rolling is the best way to become a better animator. But I still wanted the option of having a light. And I didn't just want to put any old light bulb in there. I wanted to light up the disc uniformly. I decided on this light, as it used a circular fluorescent light bulb, called "circuline", which would work perfectly. This ran me $34, a little expensive, but I think it was worth it. Here's some pictures of the light:

As you can see from the picture above, all I needed to attach this bad boy was a couple of screws. The picture below shows the newly sunken screws.

Once I had the light attached firmly, I needed to supply it with some power. For convenience I wanted a switch, so I didn't have to reach down and plug it in every time I needed the light. For these steps I relied of the expertise of my father. I would suggest you consult someone familiar with electrics if you intend on doing the same. Hey were just animators right? Let's not go crazy! I ended up going down to the local hardware store with my dad where we picked out all the parts for under $20. So if you're counting, were up to $112. Here's a couple of pictures from the wiring process:

Whoever built this table, also considered portability. With the addition of the light, it didn't fold up as well as it could before, but hey, that's still pretty compact!

The first electrics trial almost fried the plug! I guess the part I wired was done incorrectly. I tried to help out, and look where it got me. Like I said, I'm only an animator! Anyway, after that it worked fine. Here's a couple pictures of the light in action:

I decided to finish my desk surface. My parents lent me this stuff, which worked out nicely:

Here's the finished desk as it sits in my room. It's so nice to finally have something I can do some pencil tests on this summer. I ordered some animation paper from Lightfoot, and it arrived last week. My main focus this summer will be gesture sketching, but I hope to crank out a few tests on this thing as well. These are the only pictures with the disc, but it was included with the original desk for $50. So all in all, a nicely finished desk, with disc, light,and 500 sheets of animation paper only ran me $129. What a bargain!

Now if you're interested in building your own desk, and like the look of mine, I will be happy to post the dimensions of this desk. When I was considering doing the same, I noticed the lack of this information online, so I will be more than happy to provide it, if you want to build your own based off of mine.

I also cannot forget to mention the one good resource I was able to find on creating an animation desk, Brock Gallagher's blog. I emailed Brock when I first got started on this project, and he was very helpful. I didn't build my desk, but he did, and documented it here.

Anyway, I hope this post helps someone out there. If you have any questions, just post in the comments.

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May 4, 2008

Allow Myself to Introduce...Myself

So here's the much anticipated self-portrait. A much better effort than the previous portraits from this week, and a much more accurate representation of me than I expected to render. This will be the first of many self portraits to come.

It's the classic 3/4 pose and 3 point lighting setup, so I'd like to experiment with different angles and lighting. I also want to loosen up a lot and have a little more fun with the next ones. This one was ridiculously intense, and I am soooo tired now.

This was done live, as in I setup a mirror, which is what the assignment called for. This was probably one of the most daunting aspects of the assignment. It took me a while to get my pencil moving, but once I realized it was just a picture like all the other assignments I was fine. But for anyone that hasn't done a self-portrait before, they are HARD. So I thoroughly recommend giving it a try. I can't wait to do my next one. But for now I need a rest. I did this one over the course of day, but I would guess it took me 3 hours. 18x24, Charcoal.

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May 1, 2008

Another Ugly Face

Here's today's effort. This is the first assignment from this module, and I've already had three cracks at it. It is such a hard portrait to draw. This is way better than the first two, because I took the time I needed to block it in. I have no idea how long this took me, somewhere around 2 hours is a good guess. It's pretty off model as you can see.

Portraits are something I'm going to have to put some real work into after school. Right now I just get really intimidated by them. I've got high hopes for the self-portrait, which is next.

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Not Feeling It: Head and Neck Anatomy

This week we're doing the head and neck. Portraits have always killed me. I can't even block them out correctly. Clearly I need practice in this area. I was planing on doing a lot of self portraits at some point after school ends, but it looks like my first one will be for this week's homework assignment. I'll have it up here by Monday. Hopefully I'll get better at figuring out the anatomy of the head and neck by then.

I shuddered when I finished this assignment tonight (left). After failing miserably three times at the first assignment, I moved onto this one in hopes that I could at least get something done today. And while I'm glad I did just that, I look forward to forgetting all about this one.

But I promised myself I would post everything I produce, no matter how bad it is. How else am I going to prove to myself that I'm getting better?

Here's the final ecorche assignment. I'm glad we did this on a weekly basis, and not all at once. I really feel like I learned a lot this way.

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