Saturday, December 20, 2008

Animation Mentor: Week 112 - Studying Different Walks and Class 1 Review

It's finally here..week 12 and the end of Class 1 of Animation Mentor! It has been an amazing trip and I am so greatful to all my fellow students and buddies at AM, but most of all to my Mentor Victor Navone! He has pushed me and my animation more then I ever thought. I have been honored to be mentored by him and look forward to maybe working with him at Pixar one day! :)


This week was really only about organizing our animations and poses into a Class 1 Progress reel (or demo reel!!). We only needed to piece together our shots together and put a name card on the front and be done, but I wanted mine to look professional and good. So I took a little more time to re-render the shots out, along with trying to make some more fixes to some shots Victor wanted changed. I think i did some fixes, but still not feeling I've nailed all the ball bounces down. I also re-rendered the STU poses so they all had the same feel and color. I actually wanted to do some more with the poses to show the process I went through, but time got away from me. I also had to pack to fly home to South Dakota for the holidays this week...along with some holiday fun with some friends..SO..I did what I could do..but I'm feeling really good about this Class 1 progress reel! :) So without further a-doo...check it out:

Well, there you have it. Class 1 was amazing and I can't wait to get started on the next step on my journey to my animation dreams! Bring on CLASS 2!!!!!!

Until laterz!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Animation Mentor: Week 108 - Introduction to Walks

Hey all! Week eight has come and gone...and man..was it a biggie. I had some more corrections to make on previous work and of course new animation to produce. Here's an overview.


This weeks lecture and assignment introduced us to Walks. I have had some experience with walk cycles, but still, I was reminded of some important things and shown some new things. All in all, reminded how walk cycles are truly some of the hardest things to get correct in animation. Partly because they use ALL the principles of animation. Once again, the week ended burning the midnight oil on Saturday night...but then again..what's new!!


This week had EVERYONE doing the same VANILLA WALK. We were given BALLIE this week. He is a ball (never can get away from the ball and it's bouncing...NEVER!!!) with TWO legs. Ballie is the more fortunate older brother of ONE-LEG from last week. I just happened to wait until after the Q&A this week to start on my actual blocking. I sketched out the planning thumbnails, but that's about it. Here are the plans:

This week's assignment was to animate two complete steps with Ballie, in a side view and in Stepped mode. Basically the blocking stage of the walk. The other thing was that the walk was to be as mechanical and the same...VANILLA. There was to be no variation in anything from step to step. Sounds simple, right??? Wrong...VERY WRONG!!! Luckily, Victor gave us a Vanilla Walk Demonstration in our Q&A. I had been recording our Q&A's for a few weeks now (for my own review and not for distrubution, of course!!), and was SOO glad to have this one recorded. I had to go back and watch it a few times since my notes were not as strong as I'd have liked. Here's what I came up with for the blocking pass that I handed in:

After a couple weeks off from creating poses for the STU character, this week finds us creating a PHYSICAL STRENGTH pose for him. After the difficulty of the DEVASTATION pose..I was kinda glad to get something that was a little easier to visualize. But it also gave a little problem to come up with poses that weren't overused in this Animation Mentor assignment. Here's the sketchbook page of the pose choices:

Here's the pose I chose to put STU in. I had a few poses that I kinda liked..but wanted to a gymnastics pose..once again to use the years of participating in the sport. But the biggest challenge I had in choosing this pose, was the symmetry and "twinning" of the pose. So, I went against my better judgement and made the pose a little more off balance and tried to add interest. Check it out:


Along with the new assignment, I worked on making revisions to the previous weeks stuff. In his E-Critique, Victor gave a more corrections on my REVISIONS of my Week 6 assignment, the Pendulum. This assignment is truly proving to be the bain in my Class 1. Here are the corrections from these latest comments:

I also then had some revisions for the TAILOR animation from last week. Overall, Victor liked what I did and I think I showed some good knowledge of what the assignment was getting at. As per usual, Victor tried to give me some tweaks that would make the animation better, and fix a few things with Tailor's tail. Here's what I did with his corrections.

Well..there's the update on Week 108 for ya. Next week we'll really get into the cleaning up of the walk and making it really look like a VANILLA walk...come back and check out what happens!!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Animation Mentor: Week 107-Arcs & Path of Action

Hey all! Week seven has come and gone. My workflow is getting refined (which means I just have booked Friday night after work through the deadline of noon on Sunday as my main work time! Here's an overview of Week 7.


This weeks lecture and assignment dealt with Arcs and Path of Action. Our featured character this week was a ball with a tail named TAILOR or ONE-LEG, which was a ball guessed it..ONE LEG!! This really is the first week that we get a character that has "character" possibilities with it. We have another week off from a new emotion pose for STU, so my full attention could be given to the animation assignment. Once again, I worked right up to the deadline, continually finding tweaks to try and make the shot better. Sometimes it was really hard for me to ask others to look at my stuff, especially my circle of good bros..cause they ALWAYS could find something I missed or could change to make it better in there eyes. But in the end..USUALLY it was for the good!


We had another choice this week; choose ONE-LEG and have him do a single jump or choose TAILOR and have him bounce a minimum of three bounces. Some fellow classmates chose One-Leg to get ready for the future character we'd be using for our walk cycles. Others chose to use Tailor..since they were use to the bouncing ball which Tailor is created. Still others, like me had set out to use BOTH characters. I soon learned this was more then I wanted to take on, so I just went with Tailor..but decided to finally use some of my gymnastics knowledge to good use. Here are the plans:

I originally blocked in a version that had Tailor doing a flip AFTER he jumps off the mini trampoline. After getting some feedback on this version, I decided to take out the flip...but later added in a smaller flip ONTO the mini trampoline. I have to give some massive kudos to my bro, Jeffrey, for his hard-nosed crits...and for his amazing work on his Tailor animation. It turned out awesome..I'm both inspired and jealous at the same time! :) Check out my final submitted version here:


I had some MAJOR work to do on last weeks PENDULUM shot. This was actually the worst e-critique for me. I was really bummed out. I had thought I was really getting overlapping action, but Victor had a drawing on almost every frame of my shot.

So, after walking away from the e-crit and computer totally, I came back and made the needed changes. This is another reason I was glad we didn't have a pose for this week, so I could spend some of my time on these revisions. Here's this weeks revision on the Pendulum assignment:

He also made a few more minor suggestions on the DEVASTATION pose. Here's that RE-revised version:

In this weeks Q&A, Victor was at the wrap party for the "Cars Toons" shorts he'd been working on recently. Because of this, we were honored to have a sub in our Q&A time. Morgan Kelly, a Dreamworks animator and campus mentor, was said Substitute. It was kinda cool hearing from another mentor. He gave some great info on the weeks topic of Arcs and Path of Action, along with answering some of our questions about his time in the animation field. It was kinda interesting, cause Morgan had been an animator at Dreamworks for as long as I'd been doing animation since leaving AI..about 5 years. After hearing from a "veteran" like Victor, it was great hearing from someone that was a little closer to my time in the industry...the only difference was his was at a big time studio..and mine was at slightly smaller, little known places! But overall, great Q&A with Mr. Kelly! I hope to hear and talk more with him in the future...either through Animation Mentor or elsewhere.

Well..there's the update on Week 107...once again..a few weeks late, but's at least up on here now for all to see! Week 108 is next..and it's the start of walk cycles...WOOF! One of THE hardest things to do in animation! Bring on the torture...and FUN! ANIMATION MENTOR is moving along and I'm LOVING it!! Until laterz, faithful viewers!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Animation Mentor: Week 106-Overlapping Action

Hey all! Week six meant I am halfway through my first class of ANIMATION MENTOR. I've started getting into a workflow..or trying too get into one. The assignments are going deeper into animation and also building in difficulty, but that's partly my own fault. I want to really challenge myself. I just gotta make sure I am fulfilling the assignment and then not making mistakes in those advanced decisions. But let's get into this weeks stuff!


This weeks lecture and assignment dealt with Overlapping Action. This weeks "character" is a pendulum, a root object with a three joined tail hanging below it. This week we have to choose outta two assignments, one harder then the other. Being the glutton for punishment I sometimes am, I chose the more difficult one, but not before I did the first assignment to get some of the basics. The pendulum is to help teach us the principle of overlapping action..which is seriously not as easy as it looks!


The assignment I went with was to show the pendulum move through the shot with some movement, such as a figure 8. I wanted to do something that was fun to watch (and animate) and took the idea of the falling blocks from the obstacle course.
Here are the thumbnails and plans:

I modeled the blocks and then started animating the root of the pendulum. When I had the blocking of that done, I started on the tail part. Luckily, I was given a link to a blog that gave some helpful insights on overlapping action. I had some awesome help from some fellow classmates. Every time I thought I had it right...I'd have something pointed out to me that wasn't quite right..but, by the end of a long Saturday of working on it, I uploaded what I had in time for the Sunday noon deadline. Here's that version:


This weeks e-critique had a few small changes to my DEVASTATED pose...

...and then there were a few changes to make the obstacle course better. I was really glad to have a good response to this assignment. I was really worried I was gonna get nailed for going soo far away from the usual obstacle courses most everyone else in the course do. But overall Victor liked what I did.

Here are the changes based on last weeks crit:

Well..there's the update on Week 106 for ya. Some of you might have realized this is a few weeks late...but I have good reasons. Those reasons would be the lack of time between coaching and each weeks assignments workload..I haven't even had time to hang out with friends or see any recent films. Hopefully that'll change..or not. lol! But now we are onto Week 7 and all the fun that brings! Check back soon for the 107 week in review! Until laterz!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Animation Mentor: Week 105-Anticipation and Squash and Stretch

Hey all! Week five has happened and was it ever hard. Between battling a cold and sore throat and coaching and this weeks assignments, I wasn't sure I'd make it. I got a really late start on work. Sunday wasn't as productive as it should be. Then a buddy of mine came into town from back home on Monday. I spent much of Monday with him and another friend. I spent much of my week working to get my animation done by the deadline. It didn't help that Halloween was Friday night and I was invited to many parties. I did take a couple hours to attend a friend's party, but then came home and continued working. After a full day of work on Saturday, I got everything uploaded in time. I'm just glad this week is done! Here's an overview.


This weeks lecture and assignment deal with anticipation and squash and stretch. We are now given controls for the ball that allow us to add squash and stretch to our animation. This weeks animation assignment is to take the ball through an obstacle course. The ball is to show anticipation and squash and stretch as it jumps into the course.


We had three different courses we could choose from, or take elements from and create a new course. Of course I couldn't just do the basic courses. Early in the week, I came up with the idea of a video game type feel, inspired by Super Mario Bros. or Sonic (although Sonic was a reference that came up after people started commenting on my work). I started out with the planning stage along with constructing the course. Here are the plans:

I had a whole course planned out and built..even had the animation finished, but then I started getting feedback that "it's great, but I don't think it fits the assignment." I really liked what I had completed, but started really looking at the assignment. One thing about Animation Mentor is how interpretation of assignments really comes down to each mentor. Here is the first version I created (I realize that the timing on a couple things don't quite match..but this is the last playblast I did of this this is what you get!!):

I decided to try to create a shot that was closer to the assignment, but still felt like mine. I loved the beginning part, but some close AM buddies suggested making the ending more like a basketball. After some huge stress moments and some real frustration about what I was doing and why I had chosen such a huge idea, I completed the shot in the wee hours of the night on Saturday night. Here's the final submitted version:

I'll see how Victor goes for it and make any changes next week!

After a week off from creating poses for the STU character, this week finds us creating a DEVESTATION pose for him. This was much tougher to do then the excitement one last time. There are so many cliche poses and ideas that have been done, and I tried to stay away from it. But also, I really didn't spend a ton of time on the pose this week. The animation took priority for me. So, I'm glad that I got what I did this week. And I didn't get very much feedback on the chosen pose before handing it in, so I'm hoping the crit isn't too harsh! Here's the sketchbook page of the pose choices:

Here's the pose I chose to put STU in. Not the best work..but still think you get something close to devestation, at least:


Along with the new assignment, I worked on making revisions to the previous weeks stuff. In last weeks E-Critique, Victor gave a couple tweaks on my Week 3 EXCITEMENT revision, so I took those tweaks and RE-revisied the pose.

Here's that RE-revised version:

Then I also got some feedback on my weighted ball assignment.

I have tried to make the corrections that were pointed out by Victor. We'll see what he says in this week's critique. Here's that revised assignment:

In this weeks Q&A, Victor gave a Squash and Stretch lecture showing examples from several films, including the T-Rex from Jurassic Park and the butler, Edgar, from Aristocats (the scene where Edgar hears about his employers plans to leave all her wealth to her cats and not him). He also gave examples about Anticipation. He used some footage of a squirrel and the bird that chased Flick in "A Bug's Life". He also pulled some live action examples from George Clooney in "Intolerable Cruelty" and Jack Lemon in "The Apartment". These examples were more facial anticipation then full body stuff. And then of course, the examples of some of the BEST Anticipation/Squash & Stretch, Wile E. Cyote and the Roadrunner! Victor then gave a Squash and Stretch demo for us. It's always great to get a demo from Victor, if only to see how veterans would approach the assignments.

Well..there's the update on Week 105 for ya. It was a massivly stressful week, and I'm amazed I made it through without a major breakdown (there might have been minor ones..but no major!!). Hopefully Victor will have some good feedback in the E-Critique. Make sure to check back and see how Week 6 goes! NO MORE REQUIRED BOUNCING BALLS!! Bring on the PENDULUM!!! Thanks for joining me on this journey closer to my passions and dreams, and this adventure called ANIMATION MENTOR!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Animation Mentor: Week 104-Intro to Timing

Hey all! Week four flew by super fast. I was able to keep the late nights to a minimum, but it was still a tough week. I did get everything finished on time..with work all night long on Friday and pretty much all day Saturday. Here's an overview!


It was the first week without a STU pose to do. Besides revising last weeks pose, our only assignment was to create two balls bouncing. One that showed heavy weight and the other light. I chose a cannon ball and a playground ball (which turned into a beach ball). Of course, I couldn't just do the basic ball bounce..I had to find more to do and make life harder. Doing more then the basic assignment isn't advised, unless you can nail the basic mechanics of each assignment. I have found myself doing above the assignment more and more, and I feel like it might backfire sometime. But here's the planning of the assignment and the final animation I submitted to my mentor:

I got many comments about the creative idea, and the weighted ball was good, but I had a major issue with getting the ball to do what I wanted and come to a complete stop within the frame limit we were given. This is a huge thing to understand and be able to do. Because in a studio, animators will be given a set number of frames to create the shot. I'm not sure directors really like when you can't make it happen within that time frame.

Sunday night, Victor got our E-Critiques done and uploaded. He liked my poses and my choice to pose STU..and he picked out "Singing in the Rain" directly! :) For the most part, I was on track with my bouncing ball, but still had some things to fix.

Here are the revised Pose:

And here's the revised bouncing ball assignment:

Week 4 has ended and Week 5 is starting. Next week is gonna be crazy with another pose for STU and the famous Obstacle Course. Check in again to join me on my journey through ANIMATION MENTOR!!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Animation Mentor: Week 103 - Planning & Blocking Methods

Hey all! Week three has come and went and I'm starting into week four. It was a really long week for me, with a few nights of early morning bedtimes, but I got my assignments finished and pretty happy with them! Here's an overview!


Sunday was the start of my week, but I had some work to do up in Pasadena in the afternoon, so I didn't get as much done as I'd wanted too. Monday, I watched the lecture and looked over the assignments for the week. I also watched the video news to see if there was anything of importance for my class or the program in general. The video lecture was given by Bobby Beck this week, talking about good planning and blocking in your animation. When I got home after work, I went to work sketching out poses for the "EXCITEMENT" pose we had to put STU in this week. Here is the page of my sketchbook of those poses (Click on the image to see a larger version):

As in last week, I took two poses I thought were strongest (and others supported too) and put CG Stu into them. I was really wanting to get a pose that wasn't your typical cliche poses for showing excitment (hands up, pump fisting..etc..) One of the poses was a little of the cliche poses, but still loved the pose. I also wanted to make sure that if the other pose didn't fully work out in the CG world, I had one that would for sure hit the assignment requirements. I was just wanting to really push it and not take the easy route. After much tweaking and some AMAZING critique and ideas from some future co-workers, I decided on the strongest pose (and this week was my favorite pose to begin with). I uploaded it, along with my sketches, to my mentor. Here is the pose I submitted, Pose "F"(which I just realized is the same letter of LAST weeks submitted pose!):

And here's the safer pose, Pose "I":

I also took Week 2's STU pose and made improvements based on Victor's e-crit. I've also figured out how to use mental ray to render out the images. gives it a nice "endless background" feel. I also felt the fence posts were too distracting (even though I loved having stuff in the picture to play with depth of field with), so I took them out and made him lean on a single post. We'll see if my mentor feels the changes were for good or not. Here's the revised pose:

This week we also had our FIRST ANIMATION assignment...the one..the only..the BOUNCING BALL!!! The assignment was to create in a side view (no perspective) a basketball or soccer ball bounce, within 50-100 frames. I shot some video reference of a basketball bouncing in my room and out on the porch. Here's an example of that:

Then I took that footage and planned out the shot on paper. The only real bummer was that this particular ball character AM gives us doesn't allow you to add squash & stretch to your animation yet. So, even though my sketch has given some reference to it, I wasn't able to actually add that. In a week or so, we are given more controls of the ball, but right now they wanted to keep us limited, so we didn't get overwhelmed. Here is my planning of the shot:

And after some major procrastination with this part of the assignment, I finally jumped into Maya and worked this out. Here's the final animation I uploaded to my mentor:

In our Q&A session with my mentor, Victor, he gave examples of his planning on some of his shots at Pixar. It was an amazing thing to see his work flow and to see how the "big dawgs" do things. Victor then went through a bouncing ball demo to show how he would do the assignment. I was glad I hadn't gotten into doing my ball before that, because his guidance allowed me to have a better grasp at doing it. I've done this assignment before back in my AI days (both traditional and in CG), but this time I understood so much more of the CG process. Hopefully it will be well received and I won't have a ton of corrections from Victor's e-critique.

Well, Week 4 has already begun and I have some reference footage to go shoot! Come back next week to find out how my journey through ANIMATION MENTOR is progressing!!!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Animation Mentor: Week 102 - The Principles of Animation

Hey all! It's been an amazing first two weeks of Animation Mentor. I didn't post anything last week, cause there wasn't a ton to show...but tons to tell!


The first week's assignment was simply to explore the AM campus and to fill out our profiles and post a photo so we could start to know people by there faces. We then also needed to introduce ourselves to our mentor. Did I mention that my mentor is Victor Navone, an amazingly awesome Pixar animator! First quarter and I hit the lottery. My weekly Live Q&A with my classmates and our mentor is on Weds. nights. The first one was amazing and we just each introduced ourselves and we got to know more of what we would be doing in this Class 1. I spent much of my extra time last week, getting to know other Class 1 students and reconnecting with people I'd met who are in higher classes. I also watched MANY Maya training videos and other videos around the AM campus.


Sunday afternoon found the beginning of Week 2! I watched our assignment video and the weekly news video. I spent Monday watching people at coffee shops and at my work (a gymnastics club) and sketching poses that I would then choose the strongest poses to then pose our CG character STU in. One of the big things about AM is the ability to give and get comments and critiques on the work students do. I took full advantage of this feature. I was posting my sketches Monday night and asking for feedback from fellow students. Tuesday morning, I woke to find many comments and "votes" for my poses. I began taking a tally of what poses people thought were the strongest. With everyone's comments, I would then try to comment on their work. Here is the "one page" of my sketchbook of poses (click on the image to see a larger version):

This process went on throughout the week as I took the pose sketches through to a few CG Stu Poses. I kept going back and forth between a couple poses. One that many people really liked and one that was a close second..but one I liked better. I was getting tons of great feedback from other "freshman" as well as some "upperclassman". I felt early on I was pretty close to pushing the pose as far as I could, adding as much "life" as I can in the pose. This is key to a good animators job. Finding those golden poses and making them read clearly. Finally after a week of tweaks and comments and more tweaks, I decided on one of the two poses, uploaded it onto the site and wrote my mentor a note to go along with it. Here is the one I submitted, Pose "F":

And here's the runner-up pose, Pose "D":

Now I have a few hours till the start of Week 3!! Come back next time to see the next step on my journey through ANIMATION MENTOR!!!!

Until laterz!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Sketchbook - Week 1: Alien Pet

Here's my submission for a forum on Animation Mentor. Each week there is a theme for sketches. Anyone that wants to (totally optional) put up there sketches. Keeps our creative juices and drawing skills going!

(Click on the image to see a larger version)

Until laterz!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

And the Mentor is.....

..."Alien Songs" creator and Pixar animator, Victor Navone!!!!

After the longest wait in my life (or what felt like it), I finally am an Animation Mentor student. I have started Class 1 and am in the middle of the first week. I just had my first Live Q&A time with Victor and the 9 other students under Mr. Navone's guidance. It was fantastic. I thought I wouldn't be able to take part in the webcam aspect of the Q&A, but at the 11th hour, I was shown what was wrong and made the change. So at 8:30pm, I joined the other animators in introducing myself to our mentor and each other. It was a blast and super surreal. I'm sure I've had moments like this where I feel like this is truly the next step in my life, but never with the ability of being able to actually SEE the next step..and then the next. So amazing and I wasn't the only giddy one. We all were in this "dream" state. I can't wait for next Weds night's Live Q&A, along with getting on with the assignments. This week is really easy. Just update the profile, upload an avitar photo and then talk with my mentor. All of which I have done. So now I just need to explore the campus and get to know other students and see the "older" student's work.

I'm gonna try to give updates weekly, but I've seen others greater then me say the same thing about their AM journals and fail after Class 4. But I'll try hard at least until Class 3 or 4!

Thanks for your loyalty in my humble blog, all seven of you! Hopefully you'll enjoy seeing this animators dreams come closer to being reached!

Until laterz!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Drawing Club x2

I'm two weeks behind with posting from the Drawing Club. So I'm posting two in one post, from Sept. 4th and Sept. 11th. The Sept. 4th theme was the 80's Aerobic Instructor. The music was classic 80's music and they had Jane Fonda's workout video going on in the background. Here are what that produced:

(Click on the image to see a larger version)

The Sept. 11th theme was the gangster fall guy. I'm not sure what music was playing and can't remember what the movie was exactly. But the model was an old guy that appeared to be the guy the mobsters had on call to do the dirty work. He was physically different then any of the other guys we've drawn. But his choices of poses weren't that great. I really didn't have that many drawings from that night. But here are what I do have:

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Drawing Club - Aug. 28th

I know I'm late in posting these, but with the holiday weekend I just didn't get around to it. So now I am. This week's theme was a Japanese Gangster. It was the same guy from the Kung Fu Master. He did a little better, but not sure I'll go the next time he's the model, just don't feel his poses are worth the $20. But I tried to do the best I could with them. Anyways, here're the results!

(Click on the images to see a larger version)

Until laterz!