Perhaps it’s Fall in the air, the candy corn strewn about our desks or the barrage of “Scary Deal” e-mails we seem to get in our inboxes, but at Focal HQ, we are getting into the Halloween/Samhain/All Hallow’s Eve spirit with two Animated Shorts this week- one geniunely creepy and the other a brillant parody!
First up… putting the clay back into claymation, Cal Art Experimental Grad Allison Schulnik’s short ”Mound” is filled with incredible claymation techniques, seamless movement from one frame to another with a soundtrack of creepily cheerful crooning of Noel Scott Engel’s “It’s Raining Today.” It’s a beautiful done short that allows the beauty of clay to shine through as a medium. I also find it so incredibly haunting with half formed faces, clay bodies absorbing other clay bodies, decaying flowers and oh yea, a cadre of boneless dancers.
In need of a little 1950′s horror film parody after being thoroughly creeped out by morphing mounds of clay and cheerful crooning, check out A Large Evil Corporation’s ”The Gawper.” The exaggerated animated walks of the characters and smoke effects alone make this worth the view.
Focal Press authors Catherine Winder and Zahra Dowlatabadi along with editor Tracey Miller-Zarneke have released a second edition of the highly praised Producing Animation. Their impressive credits include senior roles at HBO animation, and Fox, as well as production credits for the hit animation series and movies: Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Aeon Flux, Spawn, Land Before Time sequels, and Kung Fu Panda.
I caught up with Catherine and Zahra in Vancouver and broke out the trusty flip cam. The two authors took a few minutes to discuss why an update to Producing Animation was needed, who can benefit from reading Producing Animation, and they even provided a quick tip before you jump into your next big project.
Also, check out the trailer for Luna – an animated short produced by Catherine’s Ranimaker Entertainment. The animated short was featured in SIGGRAPH’s 2011 Animation Festival. Luna is also featured in the new edition of Producing Animation as a case study.
Meet Catherine Winder, co-author of Producing Animation.
Meet Zahra Dowlatabadi, co-author of Producing Animation, second edition.
Co-authors of Producing Animation discuss the industry need for the book and updates in the 2nd edition
Catherine explains who would benefit from Producing Animation
Catherine Winder and Zahra Dowlatabadi provide a quick tip before you jump into your next big project.
Luna trailer – Rainmaker Entertainment
Catherine Winder has worked as both a producer and an executive in feature film, home video, short films and television animation. She joined Rainmaker Entertainment in the summer of 2009 as President/Executive Producer. In this role, she is responsible for all creative, production and operational aspects of the studio including the development of a slate of feature films, the creation of a shorts program, and producing the company’s first movie, Escape from Planet Earth. In her prior position as Executive Producer for Lucasfilm Animation, Winder wrote the company’s business plan and set-up their wholly owned studios in Singapore and Marin, California. As George Lucas’ producer, she then developed and produced the first animated Star Wars movie and highly rated television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Zahra Dowlatabadi has produced both animation and live-action projects. Currently Dowlatabadi consults on animated theatrical features, direct-to-DVD and television projects. Her client list includes Cartoon Network, Lucasfilm Animation, Disney and Rainmaker Entertainment. Her production credits include; Warner Bros.’ Quest for Camelot, Universal’s Land Before Time Sequels (II, III & IV) and 20th Century Fox’s Once Upon a Forest. She received an Annie Award in 1996 for her work on Land Before Time IV.
Tracey Miller-Zarneke launched her career working in publicity and film production. She began as a public relations account executive at an agency in Beverly Hills, working with entertainment, retail and non-profit clients. Tracey Miller-Zarneke next joined The Walt Disney Company for a stint in Buena Vista Pictures Marketing, working on the opening publicity campaigns for feature films such as The Lion King and Toy Story. During her run at Disney, she also helped produce a documentary film about animation production entitled The Sweatbox, a project helmed by Trudie Styler and John Paul Davidson. She has since been published as an author of “art of” books in support of five animated films.
Happy Friday All! I promise I’m not posting this because I have a not so secret craving for a Chipotle burrito right now. I find this animated short or animated advertisement perplexing in a completely great way. The short is very well done with a strong thematic and creative approach that greenwashes commercialism. Why yes, Chipotle, I will support your sustainable business practices by eating a delicious burrito-double rice and beans please.
All joking aside, the animated advert challenges consumer food choices, forces us to consider the humane treatment of animals and naturally pushing viewers to Chipotle for free range, organic and locally grown food Now, there are lots of ways to categorize the food industry in America- the fast food industry in particular (I’m looking at you Fast Food Nation and Food Inc.) and even the growing boon of the organic movement, both with very vocal proponents and opponents. What I like about this short is the subtle emphasis on a sustanible food system depicted in a way that is tangible for many short attentioned viewers. I do have to admit that I half expected the advertisement to end with the family of farmers hugging a pig. I could easily see this animated advertisement going one step further encouraging viewers to consider their food choices in a tamer version of a PETA announcement.
Beyond the message, which can be debated, deliberated and decried is a simple animation style with lots of really dynamic elements, a really lovely country twang Willie Nelson remix of Coldplay’s The Scientist and a geometric animation style akin to children’s blocks. I shudder to think of a live action version of this advertisement. Animation and Willie Nelson save the day!
What other advertisements have you seen that either through necessity or design really use some great animation techniques or approaches?
Posted by Katy, Associate Acquisitions Editor, Animation and 3D at Focal Press. Interested in writing for Focal Press, reviewing a proposal or just chatting
From the hallowed halls of Disney came twelve principles of animation that have shaped contemporary and traditional animation techniques and workflows. Roland Hess’ Tradigital Blender bridges the gap between the twelve principles of animation and your own digital work in Blender. Previously, Roland discussed using the classic animation principles Squash & Stretch, Anticipation, and Staging. Today’s post will cover Overlap and Follow Through, Slow In and Out, and Arcs.
Overlap and Follow Through
Although they are used for different effects, both of these terms demonstrate the physical principle of inertia on the character. Remember Newton’s first law of motion (paraphrased): stuff wants to remain at its current velocity (which could include zero velocity—standing still), unless something happens to it. Kind of obvious, but the implications in animation are immense. Inertia is simply an object’s desire to just keep doing what it is that it was doing before. A block of wood on the ground isn’t going
anywhere by itself. Give it a kick, and it takes off.
Think about the foot that gave the kick for a moment. It was just happily planted on the ground a moment ago, when all of the sudden the hip rotated, which pulled the upper leg along with it, which put torque on the knee joint, which transferred that energy to the lower leg, on again to the foot which finally moved. In real time, it didn’t take long for that chain of motion to reach the leg, only a fraction of a second, really. But each part of the leg experienced inertia and wanted to just stay where it was until something else made it move. If you were to slow down a karate kick with high speed film, the effect would be obvious. At first, the foot and lower leg drag behind the rotating hips and driving quads, only snapping forward at the end like a whip.
FIG 1.8 (a–d) A Leg with Overlapping Action Demonstrates the Inertia of the Body.
Fig. 1.8 shows Junot’s leg doing just this. When you make your characters move this way, it is called overlap. One other aspect of overlap is to make sure that your character’s limbs (and other assorted bits) do not move perfectly in sync with one another. Motion professionals like dancers or magicians may do this, but in general if you reach out to grab something from a counter top with both hands, they will not hit the object at the same time. There will be only a fraction of a second of difference between the two, but in animation, you are responsible for those fractions. Only machines move in perfect synchronicity.
The second part of this principle comes into play after the motive force of the event is over. After the kick, what happens? The character doesn’t simply withdraw its foot and return to a standing position. Weight shifts. Momentum probably carries the body forward into a new stance. If the character has long hair, loose clothing or pockets of fat, it will continue to move after the rest of the body has stopped. This is follow through. If you’ve ever played sports, you’ll have heard your coaches encouraging you to follow through and finish your motion. You need to do that in CG as well.
Slow In and Out
CG animators often use the term “ease in” and “ease out” for this principle. It refers once again to the physical principle of inertia. If something is stopped, it can’t just be moving rapidly in the next instant. It starts out slowly, gaining speed, until it has reached “cruising velocity.” Then, before it stops, it slows down, unless it does something disastrous like smashing into a concrete wall, in which case it stops almost immediately and probably exhibits some extreme squash and stretch. Wiley Coyote, please call your doctor. This was a big deal in the days of hand-drawn animation, and many beginners think that since the computer handles this for you, it’s not relevant any more.
FIG 1.9 Two Balls, Moved in Time (Ball Bouncing along a Floor).
FIG 1.10 Two Balls, Moved in Time (Ball without a Bounce Point).
While it’s true that computer interpolation can generally handle ease in and out, the way that it does so encodes a lot of information for the viewer. Check the very standard “bouncing ball” diagram above in Figs. 1.9 and 1.10. The Fig. 1.9 demonstrates a standard ease in/out for a moving ball. Note how the more widely spaced balls near the bottom of the figure suggest that the ball is moving rapidly there, while the closely spaced ones near the top of the arc indicate slower vertical motion. It looks like a ball bouncing along a floor. In contrast, Fig. 1.10 shows a different motion path, one without a “bounce” point where our intuition tells us that a floor would belong in the other illustration. It certainly doesn’t look right for a bouncing ball. Perhaps it’s an overhead view of a ball weaving back and forth across a plane. Really though, the only difference between the two motion paths of the ball is the way that slow in/out has been handled. Properly handling this slow in/out is crucial to the perception that your motion is physically correct.
FIG 1.11 Smith’s Arm, Moving Only at the Shoulder
This one’s pretty simple, and not as much of a problem in 3D as it is in traditional animation. Fig. 1.11 shows Smith’s arm moving at the shoulder. Note the arc that the fingertips make. It’s pretty obvious why this happens. Your arm is more or less a rigid figure. If you brace the elbow, your arm will be the same length no matter how you position your shoulder. In traditional animation, artists called “In Betweeners” had the job of drawing the frames between the key frames drawn by the lead animators. Figs. 1.12 and 1.13 show two different ways to draw the frame midway between the extreme arm positions. Clearly, Fig. 1.13 is the correct way to do it, but apparently the industry had enough people silly enough to do it the other way that this was worth including among the principles.
FIG 1.12 Tweening Arm Positions the Wrong Way.
FIG 1.13 Tweening Arm Positions the Correct Way, with an Arc.
As a wet and chilly Autumn season sets on Focal Press HQ, I find my mind wondering across the globe for a mental reprieve. France may not offer me sunny beaches and 80 degree weather but there will surely be fine sights and spirits flowing this time of year. Today’s animation inspiration takes us on a tour through Paris. In Benoit Millot‘s A Day in Paris, a rollerblading robot explores the Illuminated City with child-like curiosity.
Millot is extremely effective in integrating the live action and 3D elements. He must read Focal Press animation and film books… I must admit, partway through the short I found myself jealous of the metallic rollerblader as he whizzed through the city, taking in the sights, playing games with the Parisian children, and taking part in the community.
Millot’s execution is skillful and understated. He has a way of delivering an impressive short that appears effortless despite the painstaking attention that has obviously been taken. The shooting equipment is listed simply as a Canon 7D, Maya, and Maxwell Render – all can be purchased for a reasonable investment. Of course Focal Press has many fine books to help you master Maya (hint, hint). I hope you enjoy A Day in Paris and are inspired by Millot’s fine short.
Posted by Cedric, Marketing Manager, Animation, Gaming, and Web.
Opening image is a still from Ltd. Film Production Company, Jaromir Kallista and Jan Svankmajer. Courtesy of Jan Svankmajer.
Live Action and Single Framing
We already mentioned how important it is to exaggerate images and actions with some of the alternative stop-motion techniques. Time-lapse photography usually does not include acting or contrived scenarios, but it still requires a sense of drama if you want to capture an audience’s attention. Choosing the right subject matter that reveals real transformation over time makes this technique effective. Setting the camera so that the composition is dynamic becomes important to a time-lapse study or any form of filmmaking. This can be done by utilizing foreground and background elements in the same shot, thinking about the use of diagonal lines in the composition to lead the viewer deeper into the composition, placing the camera in an unusual point of view, playing with scale, and including an interesting color and lighting palette.
A series of shots showing dynamic composition elements (foreground/background, diagonal lines, unusual POV, and color palette).
An artist also has to consider how a composition changes over the course of a shot. Knowing where your camera will move and what will transform in front of the camera is critical to maintaining great dynamic compositions. It is usually more interesting to have a subject enter the camera composition from a diagonal direction than directly in from the side. There are many ways to build interest in your animation, and many of these principles apply equally to live-action filmmaking.
Good art direction is critical to any film, but two elements are even more important. The first element and the one that everything rotates around is the idea. We touched on this in preproduction, and Focal Press has several books that cover this immense subject. The next element is performance. Having good actors can make or break any film, and the same is true with animation. When it comes to animation, you, the animator, are really the actor and what you do with your inanimate object, person, or artwork in terms of perfor mance is pivotal to the success of your film. Live-action filmmakers know that there are two kinds of realities. First, there is the way life unfolds from one event to the next. We live this reality every day here on Earth. Sometimes, it is exciting and usually it is not. Life is full of dull tasks and activities that are necessary to our survival. When we go to see a film or a stage production, we do not want to be reminded of these mundane tasks and realities. We are interested in the compressed, interpreted high and low points and emotional expressions of an event. We want the icing without the cake. This is true for animation as much as any other sequential art form.
One example of this reality in animation is the use of the everyday walk. Walks can be very revealing about an individual. When we observe a walk, we take cues about the energy level, determination, and attitude of an individual. If this is essential to understanding that character, then animating a walk is an important element in the storytelling process. Normally we do not need to see a character walk from point A to point B. We want the filmmaker just to get us to point B and move the story along. We are interested in the emotion and highlights of the story, not the everyday realities like a long walk. There are some exceptions to this premise, but for the most part, this is the dramatic reality that animation should consider.
PES describes his approach to his 2003 pixilated film Roof Sex . Even though he is approaching this film in a documentary form, there is still a great sense of drama and compressed and interpreted shot sequences.
“Would the idea of two chairs having sex conceptually work as a drawn animation? Yes, definitely. In CGI? Yes, definitely. But, in my opinion, the execution gains power when using real objects on a real location … it’s much, much closer to real life and it hits a more absurdist note. I believed that stop-motion was the best technique for Roof Sex because my intention was to treat the idea like a documentary. I fancied myself spying on these two specific chairs that escaped from their owner’s apartment one day, and almost as a voyeur, I recorded what they had done for posterity. There are no cartoony sound effects; everything was done with an eye to being as believable as possible. As in much of my work, there is humor to be found in the earnest—almost documentarian—approach to the fantastic. For me, photographic images combined with absurdist, yet oddly logical, ideas are like rubbing two rocks together to create a spark.” – PES
Tom Gasek has over twenty-five years of award winning stop motion animation production experience as an animator and director, having worked with directors like Will Vinton, Art Clokey and Henry Selick. At Aardman Studios, he contributed Nick Park’s Wallace & Gromit short, “The Wrong Trousers.” Gasek co-directed and animated, “The Inside-Out Boy” (Nickelodeon), which is a part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Most recently, Tom has worked on Aardman’s “Creature Comforts America”, Sony Bravia’s “Play-Doh”, and Laika’s “Coraline.” Tom is currently an assistant professor at the School of Film & Animation at Rochester Institute of Technology.
Posted by Katy, Associate Acquisitions Editor, Animation and 3D at Focal Press. Interested in writing for Focal Press, reviewing a proposal or just chatting
This week, I find myself noticing the heavy use of animation in music videos. These are music videos that were conceptually developed as animated projects from the start, not live action music videos that have animated techniques. From stop motion and timelapse techniques to 2D and 3D hybrid animation, these animated music videos feature a broad expanse of animated and musical talent, all developing musical drama. Most are dynamic, innovative and interesting and all visually encapsulate expressive lyrics and muscial crescendos. Below, check out some examples of really different videos in both animation style, technique and muscial genre.
Turn up the speakers, view full screen and enjoy a Friday full of dynamic animation and great music. If you weren’t already happy at the approaching weekend, I highly recommend watching the Chocolate music video. How can you be unhappy when faced with a cheerful song and an animated video featuring candy?
As creatives, what song would you yourself make into an animated music video? What elements or creative techniques would you use to represent the lyrics? Feel free to share some of your favorite animated music videos with us as well!
Posted by Katy, Associate Acquisitions Editor, Animation and 3D. Interested in writing for Focal Press, reviewing a proposal or just chatting about all things animation? Visit Katy’s Linked-In page.
While at SIGGRAPH 2011, I bumped into Kenny Roy, Focalite and co-author of How to Cheat in Maya 2012. He and co-author Eric Luhta recently released a new edition to the successful How to Cheat in Maya 2010. He wanted to give upcoming animators insight on his latest book from Focal Press. Kenny took the time to talk about who would benefit most from the book, what is new in this edition, and he even took the time to give a quick tip before jumping into your next Maya project. I guess I should shut up and let Kenny speak for himself…
Kenny Roy has animated TV, feature films, commercials, and games since 1998. His most notable credits are Scooby Doo 2, Garfield, and King Kong. in 2007, Kenny founded Arconyx Animation Studios, a boutique studio in Los Angeles, which works with clients like Mattel, Disney, Nickelodeon, FOX, and SyFy. Kenny mentors full-time at AnimationMentor.com and offers online animation training at KennyRoy.com.
Co-author Eric Luhta is an animator at Pixar Canada whose recent credits include Bioshock 2, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Horton Hears a Who! and numerous television commercials. Eric has extensive experience with Autodesk’s Maya, including teaching it as an instructor for the Maya Training Program at AnimationMentor.com. He currently lives in Vancouver, with his wife and three computers.
Posted by Cedric, Marketing Manager, Animation, Gaming, and Web.
LonelyGirl15 is a self-made venture that was produced on a shoestring budget and yet thrust its creators into the limelight. This faux video blog was released at first as individual videos on YouTube. (The series now has its own website.) The project is the joint effort of Miles Beckett, a young doctor who dropped out of his residency program to do something more creative, and Ramesh Flinders, an aspiring screenwriter. The two met at a karaoke bar birthday party and discovered they shared a vision of producing a new kind of entertainment specifically geared for the Internet, one that would use the kind of video blogging found on sites like YouTube, to tell a fictional story and that would seem so real that it would pull viewers into the lives of the characters. Together they created LonelyGirl15, shooting it in Flinders’ bedroom with a cheap webcam, inexpensive props, and unpaid actors. They planned their strategy carefully, giving the episodes a rough-hewn look like other YouTube amateur videos and even having the main character, Bree, refer to recent videos posted on YouTube to make her seem all the more authentic.
Staking Out New Territory
LonelyGirl15 has been a huge hit, and not even the discovery that Bree was not a real girl has managed to derail it. As of this writing, 328 episodes have been released, and Beckett and Flinders are now represented by a major Hollywood talent agency. Interestingly, although they have had meetings with top TV producers, they steadfastly refuse to turn LonelyGirl15 into just another TV series, preferring instead to stake out uncharted creative territory. As Beckett told a writer from Wired Magazine (December, 2006): “The Web isn’t just a support system for hit TV shows. It’s a new medium. It requires new storytelling techniques. The way the networks look at the Internet now is like the early days of TV, when announcers would just read radio scripts on camera.”
Christy Marx has an eclectic writing career in the fields of TV, fim, animation, videogames, comics, graphic novels, manga, non-fiction books, and educational writing. Visit www.christymarx.com for sample scripts and other files associated with the book.
Posted by Lauren, editorial project manager at Focal Press. Follow me on Twitter @FocaLauren