WARNING: Not Suitable For Work due to offensive language, shoot-outs with Ronald McDonald, and excessive amounts of brand recognition! We’re serious about the language and shoot-outs…
Today’s inspiration comes from French animation collective H5 – François Alaux, Hervé de Crécy and Ludovic Houplain. They must’ve gained their inspiration after being bombarded with one ad too many. Logorama takes us to a fantastic world where the scores of logos and trademarks we encounter daily take a life of their own.
This piece reminded me of words from last week’s interview with Yoni Goodman – where he discussed the difficulty of CG as opposed to traditional animation. “In traditional animation it’s really easy, because the eye is really easily fooled. As an extreme example, South Park, which is really rough, works – the eye is fooled because it accepts the “rules” of that world. It takes a few seconds, but then you accept it for its visual simplicity and focus on the story.” With the help of a strong story, we quickly accept that this world of animated logos makes sense and it allows you to become invested in the characters.
Kudos to H5 for delivering some true creativity. I’m glad this piece received its share of love with appearances and wins at Cannes Film Festival 2009, 2010 Sundance Film Festival, and the 2010 Academy Awards. The only critique I had was the snub of that sexy red Focal Press logo. Maybe she’ll make the sequel!
The countdown to Game Developer’s Conference (GDC) begins and Focal Press will be back in the house on March 5th (first time for me). I’m excited to hit San Francisco next month and see what GDC is all about!
As always Focal Press authors will take the show by storm. We will also have all of your favorite game design and development books from Focal Press and our sister publisher Morgan Kauffmann at awesome show discounts. Make sure you stop by booth # 2311 to browse books, win great prizes, and meet some amazing people – did I mention I’ll be there…
Don’t forget that time is ticking on the early bird discount rate (9 days left as of 1/24) – get updated info here. Also, check out the latest update on seminars and events our authors are participating in.
Adam Mecthley (Maya Python for Games and Film)
The Odd Couple: Maya and Python Day / Time / Location: TBD Description: Maya TAs with a history in MEL are accustomed to the quirks of Maya’s architecture and how to develop for it. Unfortunately, dealing with these quirks the same ways in Python obviates many of Python’s advantages. This session investigates what it means to program “pythonically” in the context of Maya. (Read more)
Tom Bancroft, author of Character Mentor has worked on The Lion King, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Brother Bear. He’s created characters for numerous games, children’s books, and comics. To say he is talented is an understatement.
Tom has been helping budding animators with their characters’ emoting and movements for a while now at his blog and at Deviant Art. He’s taken drawings submitted by artists and has layered comments and suggested methods on them to aid in making characters more emotive. His new book, Character Mentor, captures these assignments and explains why Tom makes the tweaks that he does. Included with the assignments are celebrity assignments by such greats as Bobby Rubio, Terry Dodson, Sean “Cheeks” Galloway and more. But I’ve said enough already… I’ll let Tom introduce himself. Below his intro, you can also find some great tips for all things animation, from creating the perfect portfolio to protecting your sketches from smudging. Enjoy!
Check out Character Mentor for more helpful tips and guidance from Tom. The book is available for pre-order and comes out in April.
Do yourself a favor and read the post below. It’s an interview with Yoni Goodman done by Judith Kreiger, author of Animated Realism. This gives great insight into Yoni’s inspirations and animation techniques, which really helped him form Waltz with Bashir.
Yoni recently created a short for the Global Health Media Project. I’ve posted it below. “The Story of Cholera” is an educational video designed to help educate those about the disease of cholera, where it comes from, how to help someone who has it, and how to prevent getting it. The story is simple: The father of the narrator, a young boy, becomes ill. The boy goes to the village nurse who helps the father and then educates the boy on how to prevent it. The boy shares this information with the rest of his village, and with this information, #SpoilerAlert, the village grows and thrives.
The story is simple; the visual aspect is top-notch. I particularly love the use of color here. The only color shown in the beginning is neon green, representing the cholera germ. As the boy explains where cholera goes and how sick it makes people, we see neon green everywhere. It’s in the water, in the vomit, on the father’s sheets. The next bit of color we see is the red cross, a universal symbol for health. As the nurse educates the boy and the boy helps the father return to health, more colors begin to show up. First, there’s a healthy blue that represents the clean water. Then the river is blue. Then the sky. Soon, a healthier, more natural-looking green colors in the plant life. Even the soil gets a robust look to it by being shaded in brown. Not only is the father healthy, but the whole village is. By the end, the people, their clothing, and their surroundings are in full color. It’s a great and subtle way to represent the town and its community thriving with this new found information.
Anyway, that’s my wordy take. I’d love to see your comments and thoughts. Also, you can find more about Yoni and his work at his website.
Focal Press Author, Judith Kreiger recently interviewed Yoni Goodman, Animation Director of the Oscar Nominated Waltz with Bashir for her book Animated Realism. Animated Realism examines how both the animated and documentary form of storytelling can be combined in uniquely powerful and imaginative ways.
In the book Judith and Yoni speak in-depth on his career, Waltz with Bashir, and the state of the industry. The full interview can be found in Animated Realism along with interviews and insight from Bob Sabiston, John Canemaker, Marie-Josee Saint Pierre, Dennis Tupicoff, Chris Landreth, and Paul Fierlinger.
View the trailer of Yoni’s Oscar Nominated Waltz with Bashir and read the interview below.
Born in 1976, Yoni Goodman began his career as an illustrator and designer for Maariv and Haaretz, two major Israeli newspapers. While studying in the Department of Visual Communication at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, Goodman fell in love with animation and hasn’t stopped making it since.
After graduating in 2002, he worked as a freelance animator and illustrator for numerous TV shows and commercials. In 2004, Goodman worked as Director of Animation for Ari Folman’s documentary series, The Material That Love Is Made Of, creating three five-minute animated shorts that were used in the series. Goodman’s successful connection with Ari Folman led to their next collaboration, Waltz with Bashir (2008). Goodman was Director of Animation and developed the Adobe Flash cut-out animation technique needed to create this feature.
Goodman has taught animation in the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and lives in Israel with his wife Gaya and their children Anat, Itamar, and Noa. He claims to suffer from a mild addiction to chocolate and coffee, which he
says he can quit anytime he wants.
Judith Kriger: How did you first get involved with animation?
Yoni Goodman: After my military service, I started working at a newspaper. Afterwards, I went to an art school called Bezalel when I heard they had an animation course there.
JK: Can you describe what the program is like at Bezalel?
YG: When I was there, I studied in visual communications, which meant I was involved with graphic design, illustration. At that time [around 2000], animation was more of a specialized course, not a major. Nowadays, animation at Bezalel is a very developed, structured department, and has won a few prizes. Up until two years ago, I taught Flash, animation, and mentored some of the senior projects there. I had to give up teaching, though, because it became a bit too much with all my other [commercial and feature] jobs.
JK: Who or what influences you?
YG: A lot of things. All sorts of animation. Early Disney work, Milt Kahl’s work, stuff like that. For the next feature, we’re researching the Fleischer Studios’ work. This is probably my favorite animation studio. The art in our next feature is going to be loosely based on the Fleisher cartoons & the “old school” style. They did some amazing stuff in their early cartoons.
JK: What attracts you to their work?
YG: It’s interesting because at that point in time, Disney and Fleischer Studios were pretty much equal. Disney, of course, made Steamboat Willie, and then they went on to make Snow White, and Fleischer Studios eventually collapsed. They made some really wild, crazy animation. It’s interesting – the period when those two studios were at their highest – I think about what animation might have looked like today if the Fleischers had won the “fight,” so to speak. Disney always went for the very emotional cartoons, and the Fleischer cartoons were really hard-core, crazy.
JK: That is an interesting thought; think about how different Pixar would have been today if that had happened.
YG: That’s the ironic thing about Pixar, actually, because they are “dropouts” from Disney. Disney said, “we don’t want you; you’re too wild and crazy,” and now John Lasseter controls all the creative aspects of Disney. I’m sure he’s laughing about it constantly, because you know they kicked him out. He showed them!
JK: He sure has!
YG: I’m not overly fond of the later Disney work; I like their earlier stuff. Maybe it’s because I’m now trying to get back to the core of animation, get back to where it all began. I’m really studying the early days of animation; all the Winsor McCay work. There’s some amazing stuff there. That’s the difference in early animation, you can see that the animators were exploring. For example, it’s the difference between The Jungle Book and . The Jungle Book, for me, is one of the top five animated films ever. When you look at it closely, you see tons of “mistakes” not truly mistakes, but what I mean is that you can see that some of the characters are not drawn perfectly anatomically correct, and you can see the roughness of the line. You can also sometimes see the brushstrokes in the backgrounds, and it’s real magic. In Jungle Book 2, everything is so perfect . . . and so boring! I’m not saying that to criticize Disney animators, because they’re amazing craftsmen – it’s just that it’s a little too “perfect.” I find pleasure in the imperfection, and that’s exactly what I see in the early cartoons.
JK: Yes, it’s similar to watching, for example, Aardman Studios’ work and noticing fingerprints in the clay. This is one of the things that attracted to me to Waltz with Bashir: the story is very personal and so intense, and you’ve made it look like it’s hand-drawn, and you see the imperfection in the line. You can therefore see the human being behind the “camera” – this, to me, is one of the reasons why it works so well.
YG: I’m very pleased with the way the animation turned out. It was like a solution to a problem. It is actually very technical, because we used Flash to make it look like cut-out animation. Doing the animation on Bashir was like solving a riddle.
JK: What are some of the other movies in your Top 5 list?
YG: One of my biggest influences was Joanna Quinn’s Britannia. It’s amazing – I saw it as a kidd ans it was one of those things when you say, I want to do that for a living! It has the look of rough pencil, and everything is very alive. Another movie that really influenced me is When The Wind Blows, made in the 1980s. The story describes an elderly couple who experience a nuclear holocaust – but they don’t get the blast, they get the radiation. For 90 minutes, you watch them dying in front of you. This movie really showed me the power of animation. I saw this movie as a kid, and I think it actually affected me more than I knew at the time. You can see drawn human figures and really relate to them; you can really feel them. It’s a sad, melancholic movie, but it also has its high points and definitely is worth seeing.
Also on my list . . . The Incredibles. I’m a big Brad Bird fan. I like all the Pixar movies except Cars. This was also a big lesson for us on Bashir: it’s not about the animation; it’s about arriving at the story. It’s about making things fit for the story and not making the story fit for the roller-coaster ride. This is one of the main problems with 90% of the CG movies. In almost every CG movie they have these crazy camera movements and everything moves. Pixar’s movies, on the other hand, hardly ever do that. They focus on the story, and if there’s a roller-coaster scene, it serves the story. In general, CG bores me a bit.
JK: What about it bores you?
YG: Of all the forms of animation, I think CG is the toughest – except, maybe, clay animation. Clay animation is hard because it’s very physical and you can make tons of mistakes. You move your elbow the wrong way and your whole day is ruined. But clay has the magic of being of an organic nature, and that goes a long way. But CG is like a blank page, and you have to fill it with everything. Animation is all about fooling the eye – making the eye see what’s not really there. Nothing about it is real, but you make the eye think it’s real. In traditional animation it’s really easy, because the eye is really easily fooled. As an extreme example, South Park, which is really rough, works – the eye is fooled because it accepts the “rules” of that world. It takes a few seconds, but then you accept it for its visual simplicity and focus on the story. They intentionally make it look simple and mechanical so that the story will come through.
On the other extreme . . . is CG. You model something in CG and it has a mass; the eye picks up the mass. The more you give the eye, the more it demands. This is why I think realistic CG animation will never work. I see all these technological advances, but when you try to get close to reality, that’s when the eye starts to pick up the small details, and it ruins the illusion. In CG productions, in order to achieve a level of believability, you need to have the budget of a major studio like Pixar, Blue Sky, DreamWorks. They are able to get you interested, and you don’t look at the characters just as modeled polygons. The reason is they have tons of money and tons of people working on these; they have budgets of 100 million dollars per feature. I think only about 10% of the potential of CG has been properly explored. Every studio, every animation student wants to be the next Pixar. I recently had an interview with a few guys in Madrid who said: “We’re going to be the next Pixar!” How? You have a budget of 2 million dollars – how will you beat Pixar?
JK: Do you think it’s possible to make animated documentaries with CG?
YG: Of course. You know . . . there was a big discussion about whether or not Bashir was a documentary. At one point, Ari was giving numerous interviews each day, and they kept asking him, “Is it a documentary?” By the end he got fed up and he said, “You know what? It’s whatever you want it to be.” CG can be anything. It’s a tool; it’s nothing more than a tool. I don’t mean to come off like I hate CG – I don’t hate CG, I just hate what’s being done with it because everyone is trying to do the same thing. I don’t think traditional or clay animation has been fully explored yet, either. With clay animation – you have Aardman as one example and Jan Svankmajer as another these are crazy examples of the extremes in styles of clay animation. CG can go much, much further. Animation is not just a kids’ medium; it’s an art field. And as an art field, it can deal with anything, any topic. This is something that really pissed off Winsor McCay. He saw animation as an art form; he was an artist and was frustrated that his work became known as something only for kids. Kids are a great audience, of course . . . but animation can be anything, I think.
JK: Do you plan on making any more animated documentaries?
YG: No, I try to do as many different kinds of projects as I can and not confine myself or limit myself.
Past, Present, and Futurological
Folman and Goodman are teaming up again on a new feature that’s loosely based on Polish science-fiction writer Stanislaw Lem’s novella called The Futurological Congress, which focuses on a futuristic drug-enhanced society. Best known for writing Solaris, Lem’s themes include satirical looks at future utopian societies and are the source of inspiration for the creative combination of live-action with animation.
JK: How far along are you in the production of The Congress?
YG: The live-action footage was already shot in Los Angeles and in Germany and it stars Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel, and Paul Giamatti. The Congress is very different in every aspect from Bashir. I have my team in place and David [Polonsky] has his in place. We’re currently working on the animatics.
JK: What’s the style of the animation going to look like?
YG: Right now Ari’s editing the footage, and I’m deep in the look development stage. Nothing is set yet – it’s not going to be released until 2013, so it’s still too early to have any finished images. The images that have already been put online are a more advanced version of what we did for Bashir, but they don’t feel right so we’re still exploring.
JK: What sorts of things are you exploring?
YG: Mainly movement. We’re exploring traditional, frame-by-frame animation from the Thirties and Forties.
JK: What’s been your favorite project so far?
YG: All of them. It’s hard to say – well, Bashir was amazing. It was an amazing ride because I was part of creating a feature, and a fantastic subject. It was a dream come true in every aspect, and Ari’s really amazing to work with because he gives you your space. You can have your say in almost anything, and it was an amazing process. I learned tons from it.
Waltz With Bashir - Courtesy of Bridgit Folman Films Gang LTD. 2009.
Judith Kriger is a Los Angeles, CA-based independent filmmaker and animator. She has worked professionally in the entertainment industry for over 20 years on various projects for film, broadcast, video games and the web. Ms. Kriger’s credits include: Cats and Dogs, Antz, A Simple Wish, Bebe’s Kids, South Park, Ren and Stimpy, The Family Dog and various Doughboy commercials. Ms. Kriger produces, directs and animates her own independent films and is currently working on an animated project about the Hebrew alphabet. She is an Assistant Professor of Film and Television at the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University. Ms. Kriger teaches introductory and advanced courses in 3D animation and visual effects production. Animated Realism is available now at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and wherever fine books are sold.
I’m a nerd. That’s long and short of it. Not the high-pants, taped-glasses, Save-by-the-Bell-stereotype nerd (although I was pretty close to that in high school)… no. I’m a nerd in that I nerd out about certain things. I love movies of all types (just watched The Long Goodbye the other night; 4 out of 5 stars). I like games (currently playing Uncharted 3 and Demon Souls for PS3). I’m a sports nerd (although some trivia nights would prove otherwise). I’m also a huge book nerd. I like reading them. I dreamt of writing them once. And now I have the good fortune of making them. So, when a video like the one below pops up, showcasing most of my nerdy loves (I also like cats, btw), I get a little excited, account for about 20% of the video’s views, and won’t shut up about it until the next video shows up on my monitor. Take a gander and tell me you don’t like this video. Or, don’t tell me, because I’ll get upset and wonder what’s wrong with me.
This must have taken forever. So kudos to Lisa Blonder Ohlenkamp and Sean Ohlenkamp for animating this. The use of stop-motion is incredibly effective here. It really brings the books to life. That was a real “duh” statement there, wasn’t it? I’m going out on a limb here and saying that was probably the point. Anyway, I really like the personification of the books, having them move around, bark orders, play. The idea has been done before (Toy Story, those elves in that cobbler’s shop), so this one is really all in the presentation. It’s a great, fresh look on an old story using an old technique with new technology.
Also, a post-video suggestion is “Cat vs Piñata”. Check that out, too. What a tubby cat!
Today we offer an excerpt from Luke Ahearn’s 3D Game Textures, Edition 3. Luke discusses creating wood textures for an Urban Warehouse setting in Photoshop.
Textures traditionally come in sets: base, wall, floor, and ceiling variants as well as fill, trim, and so on.This chapter focuses on breaking out the materials that need to be created for a scene and then the details that also need textures created for them. Even though this approach is changing somewhat with technological advances, it is still a skill that is applicable to many games and applications and a good skill to have when you are required to work with more advanced technology. We always start with the basics to build a material (shape, color, texture) and build detail on top of that. What you end up with is a full texture set that is easily altered and built on. By the end of the chapter, you will have created all the textures needed for the urban environment concept sketch on the facing page. We will use the standard urban environment so popular in many military, sci-fi, driving, and other game genres in this chapter, since it offers a good variety of materials and objects. (This excerpt only discusses wood textures)
Our next material is wood. There are several places where wood is used in this warehouse, so we will start with a wood grain and create various versions of wood from there. One of the new features of Photoshop CS is the Fibers filter, and that comes in handy when making wood grain.
Basic Wood Fill
1. Open a new file and make it 512X512. Name it Wood_Fill_001 (you might want to create more than one version, so using a number helps).
2. Create a new layer and name it Wood Grain.
3. Fill the layer with a brownish color (RGB: 85,80,70). I chose this washed-out brown, since this is older wood. Normally I would have made a more saturated version and simply copied it to a new layer, then desaturated it. This way I would begin building up different versions of the wood grain.
4. Make sure your foreground color is the brownish color and the background color is just a darker version of it (RGB: 61,58,50).
5. Filter>Render>Fibers: Variance 16, Strength 4.
6. This filter doesn’t create a tiling image, so you need to copy this layer and offset it by 256 in both directions.
7. Use a big, soft brush and erase most of the top layer except for the edges. Keep an eye open for any hotspots you might want to remove.
8. Use the Offset Filter again (Ctrl+F) and look for any seams or corners you might have missed and hit them with the Clone brush.
Figure 6.20: Basic wood fill. Subtle, understated, and oh-so-useful.
You should have an image like Figure 6.20. This is a basic wood fill. As you use it in various places, you might need to desaturate it, make it smaller and tile it, blur it—whatever works in the context where you are using the texture. Our first variation of this basic wood grain will be to create the wooden panels that compose the ceiling of the warehouse.
The ceiling of this warehouse is composed of dark wooden planks. The steps to create planks are easy.
1. Open a copy of the wood fill and name it Wood_Planks_001. Create a new layer and name it seams.
2. Set your grid to 128.
3. Use a small medium brush (5 pixels) and draw vertical lines along the gridlines using the darker background color from the last exercise. Remember to get the edges of the image, too, or you will have one wide plank when you tile this image.
4. Use the Bevel and Emboss layer style with the following settings:
Style: Outer Bevel
Size: 6 px
Highlight Mode: Vivid Light
Shadow Mode: Overlay
5. Make a copy of the Wood Grain layer and link it to the seams layer. Merge them (Ctrl+E).
6. When you merge these layers, the formerly adjustable layer styles are now permanent and the image is fixed. As a result, there are pixels outside the canvas area, so you need to use the Crop tool to remove them. Simply drag the tool completely across the image and press Enter. Check your image size and make sure it is still 512X512.
7. N ow you can use the Offset Filter and offset the image by 256 both ways.
You might have some small edge imperfections, so you can fix those now. Your image should look like Figure 6.21.
Figure 6.21: Basic wood planks. I can’t think of anything else to say, but they’re cool.
Figure 6.22: Some quick adjustments and our wood planks are ready for the office structure. Here they are on the office structure.
Wooden Planks, Office
The small office is also made of wooden planks. These are nothing more than a copy of your current planks altered.
1. Copy and paste the plank layer and name the new resulting layer
2. Desaturate this layer.
3. Take both the Brightness/Contrast settings up +30.
4. Set your foreground color to RGB: 120,118,131. This is the washed-out blue of the office boards.
5. Use Hue/Saturation (Ctrl+U) and check the Colorize box. The saturation will be way too high, so take it all the way down to 3.
The crates are yet another variation, only this time we need to give the wood grain more detail, add knotholes, build the frame around the crate, and create seams.
1. Open and duplicate the Wood Grain image. Name it Crates_Wood_001.
2. We will first add knots and detail to the wood that would be undesirable for a tiling texture, but for the face of a crate they will look great. Use the Liquify tool (Ctrl+Shift+X).
3. Start with the Bloat tool with a large brush between 100 and 200 pixels and drag it a little in a few places to create the knots.
4. Then use the Forward Nudge tool with a 200 brush and subtly push the grain around. You don’t have to do too much here. You can maybe make the grain contour to the knotholes. Your image should look similar to Figure 6.23.
Figure 6.23: Wood grain made in minutes with the Liquify and Bloat tools.
5. Set the grid to 128. Before we start making planks, we are going to flip and rotate sections of the wood around so that the planks look like they are cut from different boards. Turn on the grid, then select the first and third columns of wood. Use the Free Transform tool (Ctrl+T) and right-click and flip this selection vertically and horizontally. You can select and flip or rotate the boards more later as well.
6. Add seams just as you did for the wooden planks by creating a new layer named seams and drawing lines down the grid-lines. This time use a 3-pixel brush and change the following settings in the Bevel and Emboss layer style:
Style: Outer Bevel
Size: 1 px
Highlight Mode: Vivid Light
Shadow Mode: Overlay
7. The wood needs to be colorized as well to match the crates. Set your foreground color to RGB: 167,140,82. Use the Hue/Saturation tool and Ctrl+U to move the saturation up to 37 and the brightness to 17.
8. Now we can make the frame. Set the grid to 64.
9. Use the Polygonal Lasso tool and make a selection like the one in Figure 6.24. These sections are simply copied and pasted into their own layer and can be copied from any section of the wood grain. A vertical selection tends to work best.
Figure 6.24: The shape you need to make with the Polygon Lasso for the crate edges.
10. Make four different sections and arrange them like a picture frame by flipping or rotating them.
11. Make sure that the frame layer is above the seams layer. Turn the background wood layer off so that you can see the four pieces. If there are small gaps, it’s okay. Link the four layers and merge them together.
12. Zoom in with the grid on and use a 1-pixel brush to erase a small gap between the corners of the image and the inner corner where the boards meet. Remember that you can click once in the corner to start a line and hold Shift and click where you want the line to end. This will give a quick and perfectly straight line.
13. Add the Layer Style Outer Glow with the following settings:
Blend Mode: Normal
14. Add the Layer Style Bevel and Emboss with the following
Style: Inner Bevel
Technique: Chisel Soft
Size: 1 px.
At this point your image should look like Figure 6.25.
Figure 6.25: The crate base is a starting place for many variations.
Figure 6.26: These crate variations were made quickly from the base.
You can add a lot of detail to crates in addition to variations of the wood (Figure 6.26). You can weather them and add decals and even a stencil, as in the concept sketch. The stenciled letters fragile across some of the boxes are simply a text layer. Add a text layer, size and position it using the Free Transform tool, rasterize it (right-click), and add a little noise. Set your background color to black and run the Spatter Filter. Zoom in and select the black splotches on the edge of the letters (then right-click and select similar) and delete them. Set the Blending Mode to Color Burn and take the opacity down a bit. Now they look painted on.
These crate textures are the one texture in this scene that would benefit the most from the use of a reference photo of real wood either to build the texture or use as an overlay. Here are the versions of the crates I did using a real wood photo. The steps are the same as this exercise, only you don’t spend your time making the wood grain; you spend your time cleaning and preparing the wood grain.
Figure 6.27: Sometimes there’s nothing like the real thing. Woodbased textures like these crate textures often benefit the most from the use of a reference photo, either to build the texture or to use as an overlay.
Luke Ahearn has over fifteen years of professional game development experience as designer, producer, and art director on seven published game titles including Dead Reckoning and Americas’ Army and worked as a background artist at EA. He has authored six books on game development.