Aug26
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooks

As this book is not focused just on background design but rather on background design aimed toward storytelling, I thought it would be best to take this section and, just as we studied our layout grids to better set up our environments, take the time to set up the building blocks of visual storytelling to start understanding how to better connect these layouts with narratives. In doing so, I hope you get a better sense of purpose in terms of the layouts presented previously and have a sense of confidence when applying them within your work.

Before we jump into the subject of storytelling with layouts, however, let’s go over some of the fundamentals of visual (or for that matter, all forms of) storytelling. To do so, I’m going to make some assumptions about you and say that, at some point in your life, you’ve experienced (either through reading, watching on TV/film, or through the evolving narrative of a game) at least one story. There are many different types of stories—some scary, some funny, some tragic—yet all of them have a similar purpose and structure, which makes them understandable and relatable to their audience. Therefore, a lot of the following will definitely be familiar to you, even if you don’t know these concepts by name.

First of all, it is important to know that all storytelling derives from conflict, which is a specific issue or concern that provokes the entire action of a story to take place. Basically, it’s a motivation that causes your main character to react to the world and either set things right within his/her world, or change his surroundings and his/her status quo. In superhero stories, for example, those conflicts are usually expressed physically (bad guy shows up, does something bad, hero hears about said bad thing, hero engages bad guy to stop bad thing). These are called external conflicts. There is also a different type of conflict that is called an internal conflict, which is more of a personal, philosophical concept, and it could motivate your character beyond the physical issue presented in the story (usually it’s traumatic or concerns a situation the character either has trouble overcoming or uses his/her new role in society to try to remedy).

Well, I can hear you chiming in from the back, looking all frustrated, saying “Okay—we were doing well, just learning about layouts and horizon lines and all that crazy stuff and then you got all English Lit on us! What gives?!” Allow me to explain:

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Aug20
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooksGeneralInspiration

This is a drawing of a male skeleton, with the muscles overlaid on one side. Study the sizes of the bones in relation to one another, and then notice how the muscles fit over and attach to them. When parts of the skeleton are moved, this has an effect on the shape and form of the muscles relating to that area. This can be seen in the drawing of the arm muscles as the arm bends at the elbow; the bicep contracts and bulges as it pulls the lower arm up, but the tricep located on the back of the arm is stretched and so appears flatter. This is essentially how all the muscles of the body work, they contract or stretch, and as each muscle deforms one way, there is another muscle deforming in opposition to maintain balance and physical stability. It’s an amazing system, well worth taking lots of time to study.

RIGHT The body split into a skeletal half and a muscular half.

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Aug18
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooksInterviews

What is a storyboard? Author, Mark Simon, explains that it is the “visual blueprint of the director’s vision that the entire crew uses to be able to work towards that one singular vision.” Check out this interview where he explains AND shows the art of storyboards.

Check out the book here.

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Aug13
2014

By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooks

Pixilation is one of the most popular techniques for anyone who wants to jump right into animation with little or no experience. Having a camera is about all that is necessary to begin this process. Naturally, there are more possibilities if you have a well thought-out idea, a computer, capture software, and a tripod, but capturing images on a compact disc in the camera and the ability to sequence those pictures into a movie is all it really takes to shoot a pixilated film. Even an experienced stop-motion animator can pare down his or her equipment to a single camera and create an interesting film. Having some knowledge of how to take advantage of this technique makes a huge difference in the final outcome. The early trick film artists, like Melies, knew how to utilize the unique qualities of single-frame manipulation. We explore some of these “tricks” and advantages of pixilation in this chapter, and it is not just the equipment that we explore but the ideas and execution of your next pixilated film.

What exactly is pixilation? Remember that Grant Monroe, who worked with Norman McLaren on Neighbours, coined this term. Monroe and McLaren used the human body as the animated subject. Unlike model animation, pixilation, the animation of humans, requires no intensive model building, armature building, or even character designing. Everyday objects like kitchen appliances, cars, books, or any premade physical form can be moved or animated frame by frame, and this would also be considered pixilation, which is a subdivision of stop motion. Animating humans appears to be the most frequently used subject of pixilated films. As you can imagine, the variations are limitless. (more…)

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Aug11
2014

By: admin                Categories: Games

We are are at one of the  premier gaming conferences – GDC EUROPE! It is our favorite time of year!  We are excited to meet and spend time with Focal fans old and new.  This year, we are co-exhibiting with CRC Press – Come by our BOOTH #162 and check out all of the new releases, receive 20% discount (25% discount on select titles!), enter for a chance to win free prizes, and say “hello!” to the team.

This year, we have teamed up with AtGames and are giving away a load of free prizes, including:

- 1 Sega Mega Drive Classic Game Console

- Atari Flashback 4 Classic Game Console

- 5 copies of MXGP on PS3 and 360

- 5 copies of MotoGP on PS4, PS3 and Xbox 360

We hope to see you soon!

Here are some of the books you will see at the conference:

Can’t attend? Well you see have a chance to win some free loot. Sign up for our newsletter, and we will select one person to win a free book of their choice. Also, feel free to take advantage of our 20% discount! Use discount code FOC20 when ordered directly through www.focalpress.com.

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Aug06
2014

By: admin                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimationGeneralSIGGRAPH

We are are at one of the  biggest computer graphics events – SIGGRAPH! The  team here at Focal Press is hard at work on last minute preparations.  It is our favorite time of year!  We are excited to meet and spend time with Focal fans old and new.  This year, we are co-exhibiting with CRC Press – Come by our BOOTH #1213 and check out all of the new releases, receive 20% discount on our books, enter for a chance to win free books, and say “hello!” to the team.

This year, we are giving away a 1-year license of Toon Boom Harmony software at our booth… in honor of our new book coming out, Animate to Harmony. Don’t miss out!

We hope to see you soon!

Here are some of the books you will see at the conference:

Can’t attend? Well you see have a chance to win some free loot. Sign up for our newsletter, and we will select one person to win a free book of their choice.

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Aug04
2014

By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooksGamesGeneral

At Focal Press, we believe that learning, improving your skills, and enhancing your careers is often a team effort. We are dedicated to helping animators of all skill levels take their next professional step.

As part of this commitment, we are have made a selection of our books freely available to view during the month of August. Simply click on the book you would like to read – then click on the “View inside this book” button on the book’s page and become a master in your field today!

Here are some of our titles that are free-to-view:

For a full list of our full-to-view books, check out our catalogue!

Loved the book and want to read more? Receive 20% off your order of the print version with discount code FTV14 when ordering directly through www.focalpress.com. Valid until September 15th.

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Jul30
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: BooksGamesGeneral

Remember: most video game agents don’t rep writers; they rep development studios, and “we’re approached every week by studios” looking for representation, says Minton. “We’ve frequently had publishers call us up and say, ‘Hey, we just had this studio come in and pitch us. They have most of their stuff together, they’re just not quite in sync. [But] if they had an agency like you who would help them, they could be rock stars.”

On infrequent occasions, video game agents may represent a particularly high-profile writer, but this is rare—although not for writers’ lack of trying. Many agents are approached by writers with ideas for story-based games, and agents have to discourage them from pitching. First of all, most writers fail to understand that video games aren’t about story, they’re about gameplay. And unless the writer has invented a new technology—or has the technological know-how to engineer a groundbreaking technique—a simple story-based idea isn’t usually sellable. If you’re Christopher Nolan or J.J. Abrams, you can get some meetings, but unless you have a name that’s a marketable brand, you’re probably not getting through the door.

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Jul28
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: BooksGames

No matter how much experience you have with coding, there are some errors that will drive you insane and take many minutes if not hours to debug. While logical errors will allow a program to run but function oddly, syntactical errors will stop you dead in your tracks as the program will refuse to compile. The former requires a lot of play testing and code tracing to debug, the later just requires your own understanding of proper coding syntax. If your program will not compile here are the ten most likely common errors.

1. No semicolon at the end of a statement

If you leave a semicolon off the end of a statement, the compiler will consider the next line to be part of the same statement. This will cause compiler errors. Errors will appear in the Console window and at the bottom of the Editor window with a red exclamation mark as shown in Figure 2.7.

When a semicolon is missing the error does not necessarily reflect the exact line where the semicolon is needed. You will need to inspect the code above and around the error to locate the missing statement end marker.

FIG 2.7 Errors in Unity

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Jul23
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: BooksGames

We are going to create a simple but elegant particle system in Unity. To do this, we will create a game object with a Particle System component attached, and then use Unity’s Shuriken editor interface to customise that particle system to our requirements. Specifically, we will create a trail of ‘magical dust’ – something that could come from a magic wand, or from a spell book, or from any similar spell-casting entity. Though the system itself will be ‘simple’ it will nonetheless use a wide range of Shuriken features, demonstrate the power of the editor and equip you with the crucial knowledge you need to build your own systems for your own projects. Like many issues in game development, there is no ‘single correct way’ to create and configure a particle system. For this reason, don’t be afraid to experiment and to deviate from what I am creating here, especially if you prefer your edits and amendments. The basis to work on is: if it looks right, then it is right. So let’s get started.

1) Create an empty Unity project and save it, naming the current scene. Details on how to do that can be found in Chapter 1. Following this humble beginning, let’s import some graphical assets that we can use for creating our particle system. To import these, select Assets > Import Package > Particles from the main application menu. From the Import Dialog, accept the default values and click the button Import to add the assets to the current project in the Standard Assets folder, viewable from the Project panel. It should be noted that these imported assets are not essentials or prerequisites for creating particle systems generally – particle systems can be created without them. Nonetheless, the imported assets do feature a range of convenient pre-made textures and materials that we will use here for creating our particle system.

2) Create a new Particle System object in the scene. This can be achieved in at least two main ways. The first method (the one-step method) is to select GameObject > Create Other > Particle System from the application menu. The alternative two-step method is to first create an empty game object with GameObject > Create Empty, and then to add a Particle System component to the object with Component > Effects > Particle System. Either of these two methods achieves the desired end result of creating an object in the scene with a Particle System component attached. (more…)

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