Aug26
2015

By: admin                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimation

In live action, casting means choosing which actors will play the roles in your film. The right cast can make the film hugely successful. Similarly, casting is key to an animated film’s success. Once you know who your team is, the next step is to assess their skill level and what they are best at. I like to spend some time in the beginning days of production looking very closely at portfolios, animation reels, paintings and any other past work of all my crew. It takes time, but knowing your crew’s skill sets is crucial in setting them up for success.

Just like live action actors, animators are cast based on the character types they have connected with best in the past. Some animators are better at comedy sidekicks, villains, the heroic male or some the heroine. You can call it type casting, but when it came to casting an animator to lead the role of Mulan (for Disney’s Mulan) for Barry Cook and me, there was really only one clear choice: Mark Henn – “Disney’s Ladies Man.” Now, I don’t know if Mark likes that nickname (although I think it’s probably better than Disney’s “Girlyman”) but it is his performance type for sure. He is responsible in large or small part for Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Mulan, and Tiana. At Disney anyway, there is no better animator, male or female, at connecting to the elusive and sophisticated feminine mind than Mark Henn.

Tony Bancroft, Mulan Supervising Animator Mark Henn and Barry Cook.

Tony Bancroft, Mulan
Supervising Animator Mark
Henn and Barry Cook.

Casting is important in every facet of your creative team. If you need help in bringing more comedy to your script, it is a good time to look for a comedy writer that makes funny dialogue come to life on the page. If you know you will need a production designer that will bring a unique take on the visuals for your project that is dark and graphic, then look for someone that is the next Tim Burton for design. Every creative resource you will need is available out there somewhere. These days, you need not look past the Internet for your next big creative talent. I spend much of my week looking at blogs and websites by some of the top talent around the world. It helps me know what’s popular style-wise and think outside the box when looking for the next new design star for a project. If you are a young artist, it is mandatory that you have a blog or at least, a website showcasing your work. Links to your digital portfolio is what employers request the most these days. Hard portfolios that you have to lug around to studios and that could be damaged or lost by employers are a thing of the past for the most part.

Excerpt from Directing for Animation by Tony Bancroft © 2013 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group.

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Aug19
2015

By: admin                Categories: Animation

We get a shadow when an object blocks the path of light as it travels away from its source. The shape of a shadow is determined by the angle of light, the shape of the object in its path, and sometimes the surface upon which the shadow is cast. Let’s examine these ideas in more detail:

Light Source – The location where light originates. In perspective, there are four ways of describing light: positive sun, negative sun, parallel sun, and radiating (artificial) light.

Shadow Vanishing Point (SVP) – A specific point directly below or above the light source. It acts as the vanishing point for our shadows. Its location is determined by the type of light source being used.

Light Angle – The angle or direction the light is moving in as it travels away from the source. The light angle determines the length of the shadow.

Cast Shadow – A shadow projected onto an adjacent surface by a form.

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To understand how this works in perspective, let’s examine a simple pole, its shadow, and a light source, shown below. The general setup for casting shadows is a simple one. While there are a few variables, you’re ultimately managing three different lines that together make up a triangle drawn in perspective. The one constant will be the need to keep your light source and the shadow vanishing point (SVP) aligned vertically. As we move forward, remember that you’ll always fundamentally be drawing a version of one of these three triangles:

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With the shadow setup, where you place your light source and shadow vanishing point are key. The light source will always intersect the top of your form, creating the light angle. The steepness of that angle will define the length of the shadow. The shadow vanishing point, in tandem with the bottom of your form, dictates the path of your shadow’s direction.

Excerpt from Simplifying Perspective by Robert Pastrana © 2015 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group.

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Aug12
2015

By: admin                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimation

Despite the advances in technology for animation production, animation is usually a slow, labor-intensive process. Shots lasting a few seconds can take months to execute. Unlike live-action films, animation editing is mostly done up front. Animation shots need to be carefully planned so you know what you want to see in the film before many hours are invested in creating it. Storyboarding is how this planning is done. Good animation storyboards also propel the entire process by inspiring the other artists in the production pipeline. Storyboard drawings of action poses, facial expressions, and environments may become the first “key poses” of an animator’s scene or suggest background and layout possibilities.

Animation, Action and Exaggeration

Pushing action is the essence of animation and of storyboarding. The drawing has to “emote” as much as the animation and more since it doesn’t move around.

—Jim Story, former Disney Feature Animation story artist and instructor of story, University of Central Florida

 

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Much more than live-action, animation storyboard drawings often need to show exaggeration and caricature. Animated characters can move at lightning speed or have their eyes pop out of their heads, perform impossible physical feats and defy gravity. The storyboard artist is bound only by his or her imagination and ability to draw. Animators have been making animals talk and characters fly long before the live action guys figured out how to do it. Even something as primitive as Pat Sullivan’s first animated short of Felix the Cat (1919, Feline Folies) shows Felix pulling musical notes out of the air and making them into a scooter in which he rides away. Today and in the future, digital film technology will be providing more choices to every aspect of film, so limitations keep disappearing for the filmmaker. This is where the storyboard artist’s creative vision can excel.

Excerpt from Ideas for the Animated Short by Karen Sullivan, Kate Alexander, Aubry Mintz, and Ellen Besen © 2013 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group.

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Aug05
2015

By: admin                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimationGeneral

There are so many moving parts in the construction of a story that it is easy to lose your way. I have worked with directors that have forgotten that a gag in the storyboards, that now seemed flat, was actually funny once. It’s a good thing there are others on the team to remind you that you once liked an idea even though now it seems contrived. I myself remember my head spinning at a certain point on the film Mulan when we had made so many changes to the script that I could not remember if we had chosen to take the story in direction A or direction B. Thank goodness for my co-director Barry Cook whose mind remembers all those details.

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There comes a point in the early days of a film’s story development that things seem to lose their way. I have seen it time and time again. The key is to stop and remember what it was that you originally loved about your story. Don’t lose track of this. This is the element that your audience will fall in love with also. Learn to channel your character and see the journey through their eyes. Don’t have the characters do what you, yourself would do in a given situation, but instead what is best for them and their story. Soon the solution will present itself. The path will become clear again.

This will sound farfetched but when my partner and I were directing Mulan there came a point when we realized the story was “telling” us what it needed. Of course this was a visceral feeling that would occur when we were imposing our own desires upon it but it was real none the less. For example, there is a scene in the film when Mushu first introduces himself to Mulan. Mushu needs to sell himself to Mulan that he is her magical and powerful family guardian and without his help she would no doubt dishonor her ancestors, disgrace her father and get herself killed. Since the movie was designed to be a musical we, logically, thought this would be the perfect point for a Mushu song. And of course, not just any song, but a big production number that was part Aladdin’s “Friend Like Me” and a rhythm and blues James Brown number. And why not? Since Mushu was designed to be a dramatic (and humorous) contrast to Mulan’s more reverential Chinese world, Barry and I felt justified in bringing this big number to life. It’ll be fun, right? Were we wrong! The very first time we screened the film with the fully storyboarded Mushu song in place we felt it. The moment the song came on the screen it was like fingernails being scratched on a chalk board; it was so piercingly obvious that it did not belong. It wasn’t the right tone for the film and it was too big a moment for the scene.

Excerpt from Directing for Animation by Tony Bancroft © 2013 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group.

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Jul29
2015

By: admin                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimationGeneral

During the golden age of animation, familiar songs were routinely quoted instrumentally, and the implied lyrics were integral to the sight gags. Original songs such as “Some Day My Prince Will Come” from Snow White (1934) blended narrative lyrics with score to create a musical monologue. Walt Disney Studios was largely responsible for the animated musical, developing fairy tale stories around a series of songs performed by the characters. These songs are pre-scored, providing essential timings for character movements and lip sync. In animated musicals, it is not uncommon for a character’s speaking voice to be covered by a voice actor while the singing voice is performed by a trained vocalist. Great care is taken to match the speaking voice with the singing voice. An effective example of this casting approach can be heard in Anastasia, where Meg Ryan’s speaking voice flawlessly transitions to Liz Callaway’s vocals. A more recent trend in animation is the use of pre-existing songs as the basis for the score. This is known as a song score; examples of this approach include Shrek (2001), Lilo and Stitch (2002), and Chicken Little (2005). It is sometimes desirable to create a new arrangement of an existing tune as a means of updating the style or customizing the lyrics. An example of this occurs in Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001) in a montage sequence where Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me with Science” is covered by Melissa Lefton singing “He Blinded Me with Science” to reflect the POV of Cindy Vortex (Jimmy’s female adversary/love interest). Songs continue to play an important roll in short form independent animation, especially if the film does not incorporate dialogue. However, there are potential risks associated with the use of songs in animation. Songs can give a film a dated feel over time, which is why the accompaniments of songs in animated musicals are primarily orchestral. They also introduce the potential for copyright infringement.

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Picture from Flickr user Meri Amber.

Excerpt from Designing Sound for Animation, 2nd Edition by Robin Beauchamp © 2013 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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Jul22
2015

By: Sarah C                Categories: AnimationGeneral

Reflections occur when a particular material is able to visually reproduce the surrounding objects on its surface. They can be tricky, especially when drawing from imagination. Luckily, we can use perspective to figure out what our reflections should look like. Before we start, we need to address a few new vocabulary terms.

Reflective Surface – An object capable of reflecting its surroundings.

Mirrors, bodies of water (especially when still) and many polished, glossy objects are all reflective surfaces.

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Reflective Plane – An imaginary continuation of the reflective surface in perspective.

Sometimes we need to temporarily extend the reflective surface so we can accurately plot a reflection. The reflective plane infinitely extends the reflective surface.

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Reflective Edge – The dividing line that creates the symmetry between the reflective plane and what’s being reflected.

We use this line to transfer a reflection into perspective. When reflecting something onto a vertical surface, the line is represented by the intersection between the ground plane and the reflective plane. On a horizontal surface, these lines are described by the footprint of the object being reflected.

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Reflective Path – Lines whose lengths are symmetrically repeated, in perspective, into the reflective surface.

These lines represent the space between the object being reflected and its reflection. The intersections between a reflective path and the reflective edge are used to recreate the object as a reflection in perspective. In a horizontal reflection, the vertical lines of our object together with their reflection describe the reflective path. Think of the reflective path as a group of lines that extend into the reflective surface.

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Excerpt from Simplifying Perspective by Robert Pastrana © 2015 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group.

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Jul15
2015

By: Sarah C                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimationGeneral

Ginny Kopf is well known throughout Florida as a voice, speech and dialect coach for actors and singers. For over 25 years she has been a college and acting studio instructor in Orlando. She has given thousands of workshops nationally and has done extensive coaching for Disney and Universal Studios, and for numerous theaters, drama departments, films and television series. She holds a Masters degree in theater voice and an MFA in vocal science. Ginny has authored two audiobooks, Accent Reduction Workshop and S Drills, and her textbook, The Dialect Handbook, has received international recognition.

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Q: What is the importance of finding the perfect voice for a character in an animated film?

Finding the perfect voice for the character you’ve drawn on the page will complete the transformation of making him, her (or it!) leap off the page and come to life. Through exploration, you want to create a voice that not only fits the look and personality of the character but is also compelling and thrilling to the listener.

Sometimes the voice is an archetype, or even a stereotype: a voice we’d fully expect coming from a person, creature, machine, or inanimate object. But sometimes you want to give the character a voice that is opposite of what the audience expects: a fearsome, scary-looking dragon with a sweet, soft voice, or an adorable, fuzzy bunny with a dark, gruff voice. It all depends on the effect you want to make on the audience, and the style you’re going for—comedy, irony, satire, suspense, or maybe the element of surprise.

Just as your pen and brush pioneers the page, you can explore what your voice can do. Play freely and fearlessly. Try all kinds of things with your amazing vocal instrument. To get you started in the right direction, here are some vocal tips. The ABCCCs of voice and dialects for animators are: contrast, consistency, and clarity.

(more…)

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Jul08
2015

By: Sarah C                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimationGeneral

Postproduction on a fully animated film, commercial, television show, or short is limited to the final few weeks (for a short or commercial) or months (for a feature) in your project’s schedule. This is often the fun part for the director. By this point, you should be done with most all of the scenes in your film and in postproduction you are concentrating on “sweetening” your project. If there are minor dialogue changes to make a scene funnier you can re-record it over the animation in ADR. If the impact in the animation doesn’t quite feel hard enough in the visuals, then you can give it more psychological boost in the sound effect you choose. If the emotional mood isn’t as strong as you need in a scene, you have the magic of the score composition to stimulate the moment. If the dialogue is not coming through over the sound effects, you have the final sound mix to tweak for audio clarity. If the colors are not what you approved in color models, then you have the final color timing to bring more contrast or saturation to your team’s beautiful work. If all has gone well in production then postproduction is all about adding the icing on the cake.

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In the world of a live-action visual effects film, the entire animation process is considered part of the postproduction. I discovered this oddity on Stuart Little 2 when I was told by a pompous live-action producer that the three months spent on the live action set shooting the real actors was considered production and the 10 months of hard work that I was supervising was the back-end of the film or postproduction. The attitude was that the “effect” of adding Stuart Little and the other CG characters were on the same scale as adding the sound effects. This on a film where the main character was animated!

Entire books have been written about the process of making an animated film that I just breezed through above. My intention is to outline the major steps in the process so that as you grow into the role of director it will not be a surprise. Know the process. Love the process. Work within the process or it will be your doom. Knowing when you have to make a change within the production process will help you in your decisions. Why get upset about a temporary sound effect in your reel when you have months to make it perfect in postproduction? Worry about perfecting the production stage that is in front of you. Understand the process to anticipate the next stage and prepare for it. If you know animation is gearing up soon, then you should be sure you are happy with the props that will be in those forthcoming scenes. If you are moving into scoring, then make sure you have thought through where you want your cues to begin and end. Success is a matter of preparation and planning. Make the schedule and the process your friend!

Excerpt from Directing for Animation by Tony Bancroft © 2013 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group.

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Jul01
2015

By: Sarah C                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimationGeneral

Track reading is an art unto itself. The waveforms displayed in a digital track-reading program represent more sonic events than need be represented visually. Phrases like “Olive Juice” and “I love you” produce similar waveforms unless one places the em fah sis on a different sill ah bull. Animators learn to identify the important stress points and determine what mouth positions are needed to convey the dialogue visually. Track readers map the dialogue on exposure sheets like the one shown below. They scrub the audio files and listen for these stress points, marking specific frames where lip sync needs to hit. At the most basic level, consonants like M, P, and B are represented with a closed mouth position. Vowels are animated with an open mouth position. Traditional animators use exposure sheets or applications like Flipbook to mark specific frames for mouth positions.

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In 3D animation, the animator imports the dialogue audio files into the animation software, key framing the timeline at points where lip sync needs to hit. Many animators begin lip sync by animating body gestures and facial expressions that help the audience read the dialogue. They view these gestures and facial expressions as an integral part of the dialogue. When effectively executed, this approach leads the audience to perceive tight sync regardless of the literal placement.

Excerpt from Designing Sound for Animation, 2nd Edition by Robin Beauchamp © 2013 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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Jun24
2015

By: Sarah C                Categories: AnimationGeneral

From a legal perspective, creating a comic book by yourself is the easiest route . . . if you don’t consider the countless hours of writing, drawing, inking, coloring, lettering, proofreading, and coffee-fueled soul-searching.

But once all of the hard work is done, all you really have to do is register the copyright to your work, and try to get it published. Couldn’t be simpler, right?

Almost.

Believe it or not, the toughest legal aspect to creating a comic book solo may be ensuring that you really did, in fact, create all of the work that went into your book. Because the minute you work with another illustrator, base a part of your work on somebody else’s story, include somebody else’s trademark, or even develop your comic book plot and characters in the context of a writing support group, well then you may have legal issues.

Let me be clear: it doesn’t mean that any of the above is impermissible, in fact there are fairly straightforward contractual methods for dealing with all of the above scenarios. Furthermore, some of those situations—like developing your concept in a writer support group—may not even require any contract drafting all.

What it does mean, however, is that as you’re developing your solo opus you must periodically analyze how you’re creating your work to ensure that your final creation will not be derailed by unexpected third parties demanding a seat at the bargaining table with your publisher. In other words, even if you are working alone, you have to take time to think of the impact of your creative relationships as well as the sources of all of your material.


Excerpt from The Pocket Lawyer for Comic Book Creators by Thomas Crowell © 2014 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group.

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