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.

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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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Jun18
2015

By: Sarah C                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimation

Not all character models are created equal. A model that looks great in a still rendering is not necessarily going to animate well. This is why, when you’re modeling a character, you need to pay attention to how you construct it in addition to how it looks when rendered.

Characters that animate well have these attributes in common:

The model consists of three-sided and four-sided polygons only. These types of polygons are necessary for smooth edge flow, but that’s not all. Many game engines work only with three-sided or four-sided polys, and the TurboSmooth modifier itself behaves correctly only with these types of polygons.

Polygons are evenly sized and spaced. Long, thin triangles are bad news in a character model. Remember that when a character’s arm or leg bends, the polygons themselves don’t bend. You need enough evenly-spaced detail to make smooth bends at the character’s joints.

Edges follow natural bend and crease lines. When you sit, there’s a natural V-shaped crease where your thighs meet your hips. When you bend your elbow, there’s a natural crease where the wide part of your lower arm meets the upper arm. Make edges on your character to follow these natural creases.

Both visible and hidden edges flow smoothly. The Editable Poly is the form of choice for many character modelers because of its toolset, as compared with Editable Mesh. The catch is that a four-sided poly has a hidden edge that, if turned in the wrong direction, can wreck the smooth flow of faces.

Subdivision is used intelligently. If the model has three-sided and four-sided polygons and uses creasing where needed, you can create it with a low number of polygons, skin the model with ease with the Skin modifier, then put the TurboSmooth modifier above the Skin modifier on the stack. The result will be a model that animates easily and accurately, updates quickly on screen, and renders beautifully.

Excerpt from How to Cheat in 3ds Max 2015 by Michael McCarthy © 2014 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group.

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Jun11
2015

By: Sarah C                Categories: AnimationGeneral

What if you’re not working solo? Perhaps you’re working with a buddy—you’re writing the script and she’s illustrating the book. Maybe you’re both writing and illustrating the book with several other artists. Either way, you are creating the comic with collaborators before you bring it to a publishing company (or publish it yourself).

Working with somebody is a wonderful way to reduce the workload, get a fresh perspective on creative issues, and open up new artistic vistas by combining divergent talents.

It can also be a recipe for disaster if the relationship is not carefully outlined in a written Collaboration Agreement or a Services Agreement before the work starts. Without the right agreements in place, you could be on the hook for debts your fellow artist incurred while making the comic book, or liable for any copyright infringement committed by your partner in the course of making the book. You could even lose control over the exclusive copyright to your comic book.

• If you plan to work with other artists, it is critical that you have a written, signed agreement in place with all collaborators before they start working with you.

• Is the idea or concept to your comic valuable in and of itself? If so, before you decide on working with another artist or writer, you may want to have them sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), in which they agree that the idea is your property.

• If you want a partner who shares in the profits and losses of the comic book project, someone who is willing to put in “sweat equity” (in other words, work for free and get paid only if the comic sells), then you should have a Collaboration Agreement of some kind.

• If instead of a partner, you’re looking to engage an artist to perform specific services, like penciling, inking, lettering, etc. in exchange for money, while you keep the copyright, you will need them to sign an Artist Services Agreement.

Collaborating with a Partner

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Jun04
2015

By: Sarah C                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimation

MAXScript is 3ds Max’s scripting language, which is very powerful and pretty simple to use. With MAXScript you can automate tasks, create new tools, and extend 3ds Max’s functionality greatly.

There are also a large amount of free and commercial scripts out there in the community if you are not a scripter yourself. At Scriptspot.com, you can search and download a huge amount of useful scripts. In this chapter we will look at a few scripts that I find useful in many of the projects I work on.

It’s hard to imagine the world of 3ds Max without the ScriptSpot website. A vast community of MAXScripters contribute to and utilize this website on a daily basis.

What’s even more amazing is that they do it all for free! That’s right, just about all the MAXScripts listed at ScriptSpot can be downloaded free of charge. This might seem too good to be true, but MAXScripters seem to enjoy sharing and exchanging the scripts they’ve written for themselves. There’s even free training on the site for learning how to write MAXScripts.

Before you get into a downloading frenzy, you need to know that MAXScripts come in a few different forms. The ScriptSpot website has a great article that explains how the different types work as well as how to install them:

http://www.scriptspot.com/3ds-max/tutorials/script-installation-in-3ds-max

Here is a brief summary of the file types and how to install and run them. There are a few different types of MAXScripts that you will run into when you download scripts from Scriptspot or other places. The most common file types are .MS and .MCR, and you will also sometimes encounter .MSE and .MZP files.

-The .MS file is the original type of maxscript and should be run by using the Run Script command under the MAXScript menu.

-The .MCR is a newer style of maxscript called a Macroscript. Macroscripts are run by loading them as you do with .MS files, but then you must assign them as an action in the Customize UI dialog.    You can assign them to a toolbar or quad menu, or as a standard menu item.

-An MSE file is an encrypted maxscript. These files are encrypted for security to protect the author’s code. Usually, these are commercial scripts (meaning, they cost money).

-Finally, the .MZP extension is a Zip format that allows you to more easily install the script. With these files you can install them by dragging them into the 3ds Max viewport or by using the Run Script command.

An important note on MAXScripts is that they aren’t the same as plugins. While some plugins started out as MAXScripts, plugins generally come with an .EXE file for installation, and you can’t see the code. With a MAXScript file in .MS or .MCR file, the code is stored as plain text. You can look inside and see how it was written, and even customize it for your own needs.

Use any text editor such as Notepad to edit MAXScript files. You can also download the free Notepad++ program, which numbers the lines of code for easier editing.

Never done any programming? Afraid to try? To get familiar with MAXScript commands, open the MAXScript Listener from the MAXScript menu, choose Macrorecorder > Enable, and watch the commands pop up as you execute them in the user interface. This is a great way to learn the MAXScript equivalents of 3ds Max tools you use every day.

Excerpt from How to Cheat in 3ds Max 2015 by Michael McCarthy © 2014 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group.

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May28
2015

By: Sarah C                Categories: Animation

Intellectual Property may be the heart of your work, but a contract is the engine that drives the deal. Without a contract to define the duties and obligations of each party, a collaboration can quickly spiral out of control, ending up in a thicket of thorny legal problems. And like an engine, unless you understand how one works, you’re not going to be able to build or fix one when a working relationship starts to sputter and seize up.

My goal is to give you the tools to help you navigate your agreements, so you can understand your contractual obligations well enough to steer clear of those scary areas that would put you in breach of contract. Hopefully, you’ll find that the better able to read a contract you are, the less boring they will appear. I don’t want to oversell it—you’re not going to find reading a license agreement as adrenaline-spiking as the latest Marvel/DC/Archie crossover, but you will find that when you know what each clause in your agreement means and how it functions, you’ll be able to see how exactly it applies to you. It will become personal . . . and that will make it interesting.

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What is a contract?

A contract is a legally enforceable agreement that determines the rights and obligations of each contracting party.

• In order to be a valid contract you need:

– An offer that is accepted.

– Terms that are definite and specific, not vague or ambiguous (although sometimes these terms can be implied).

– Consideration—something that each party gives or gets for entering into the contract. – Legal capacity—each party must be competent to enter into a contract.

– Legal purpose—a contract to do something illegal is no contract at all.

• An express contract is one where all of the terms are stated, as are the contract formation steps of offer, acceptance, and consideration.

• An implied contract is one that is formed through the behavior of the parties, or assumed by the circumstances. When certain key terms are not discussed in an implied contract, a court may fill them in with “reasonable” terms. For the most part, you want to be very careful to avoid creating implied contracts, since by definition, their terms are uncertain. However, if you’re pitching an idea to a publishing company, you may want there to be at least an implied contract for its protection.

Breach of Contract: When one party does not perform their duties or fulfill their obligations under a contract, they are in default or have breached the contract.

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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