The envelope tool can help shave some time off your production schedule. In this case, the Envelope tool was used to deform the head of the Evil Mime character to represent the effect of being hit by a self-imposed upper-cut. Sure, the entire head could have been drawn, but not often do we have the luxury of time to start from scratch when a deadline is looming. It was much easier to start with the head already drawn and warp it to suit our needs.
Lauded as the most important principle, squash and stretch gives characters and objects a sense of flexibility and life. Also, this principle dictates that as characters and objects move and deform, their volume generally stays the same. Some of squash and stretch can be dictated by the object actually smooshing into something, such as a ball bouncing on the ground. With characters, squash and stretch can mean many different things. It can be combined with anticipation to make a character “wind up” for an action in a visually interesting way.
One example would be as a character prepares to move, he may squash his spine, making his figure bulge out. Then as he springs into motion, his form elongates and stretches thin to retain the same volume. Whenever possible, use squash and stretch on your characters to give a sense of strain (a character reaching for something high overhead), or to give a sense of fear (a character squashes into a little ball in a corner to avoid being seen by a predator). Start looking for squash and stretch in professional animation and in life, and you’ll see quickly how much this simple principle adds to the illusion of life we give objects and characters.
When field recording, it is wise to remember that you only have what you bring with you in your kit, so plan carefully. The following is a list of accessories that are useful for the many situations that can arise in the field.
a. Microphone cables come in a variety of lengths. It is a good practice to include cables of varied lengths in your field kit. A three-foot cable is useful for hand-held microphones, while longer cables are needed for boom pole work and multiple microphone placements from varied distances.
b. Field recording without headphones is like taking a photograph with your eyes closed. Headphones reveal sound issues such as handling noise, wind noise, and microphone overloading that are not indicated on the input meters. Headphones also bring to the foreground sounds to which our ears have become desensitized, such as breathing, cloth movements, and footsteps. Headphones should sufficiently cover the ears and have a good frequency response. The earbuds used for portable music devices are not sufficient for this purpose. The windscreens that come with most microphones provide limited protection from the low frequency noise caused by wind.
c. The wind sock is effective at reducing wind distortion with minimum impact on frequency response (Figure 5.7). Wind socks are essential for outdoor recording, even when conditions are relatively calm.
d. There are many uses for a boom pole outside of its traditional role in liveaction production audio (Figure 5.8). Boom poles are thin and lightweight and can be varied in length to overcome physical barriers that effect microphone placement. They can also be used to sweep a sound object, effectively recording movements without changing perspective. (more…)
Build it and They Will Come?
This sensation is vital if we want success for a game as a service. Only a tiny percentage of games succeed in breaking even and even those games that are downloaded, only a few are played more than once. The volume of games available on mobiles, tablets, PCs, and indeed consoles is so large at this point that we cannot assume that players will find our game, let alone that they will be as keen to keep on playing it as we were to make it. As designers we have to give players both a “pull” to want to play the game as well as a “push” to call them back. This is a critical issue, as if we don’t get players back in the game we won’t have an audience and more importantly all our efforts to create a great game will be wasted. Of course if we are using the Free2Play (F2P) model this means that even if we have downloads we won’t be getting any revenue at all. This is why F2P games have (in the end) to be better than other games. It’s a question of survival.
Bionic Commando (1988, Capcom)
Based loosely on an arcade game by the same name, Bionic Commando for the NES is a platform game with a fun hook—and we mean that literally. The character, Ladd Spencer, is a commando whose shtick is a bionic arm with a grappling gun, which he can use to climb and swing. It’s a good thing he has it, too, since (for whatever reason) he is unable to jump. In the original Japanese version, the plot involved Nazism and was steeped with Nazi imagery, all of which was purged for the English localization. Of course, it was the swinging mechanic that grabbed all the attention from gamers and critics, who felt it brought something fresh and original to what was quickly becoming a saturated genre of platform games.
One of the downfalls of most young storyboard artists is a weak use of staging. Staging refers to the arrangement of characters or objects within your scene and the corresponding character and camera movements. Choreographing your shots and characters in an exciting way creates efficiency with the scene and will bring even the dullest script to life. Interesting staging can cover up bad dialogue and give needed visual interest to unappealing characters. Arguably one of the most important skills for a storyboard artist to master is staging.
First, let’s talk about staging in a single shot. Depending on how close an object is to your camera, or how it is framed by the other objects, will affect the emotional response of your audience. One basic rule of composition is to never have two objects with equal importance in the frame. Two things with equal importance divide the interest of the viewer and make the picture look flat. Give one object more visual weight by making it bigger. Use this compositional staging to support the emotional beat of the scene. (Figures 7.1 and 7.2)
You are invited to the UK launch of the much anticipated, Games as a Service: How Free to Play Design Can Make Better Games. Please join us on March 7, 2014 at the UKIE offices in London.
What people are already saying about the book…
“…a thoughtful, intelligent and timely study of the dynamic and emerging area of games as a service…”
– Chris Kingsley – Rebellion
“…the fundamental business model changes we’ve got to embrace in order to create magical and commercially successful gameplay…”
– Henrique Ollifiers – Bossa Games (more…)
SPECIALIZATION REELS VERSUS GENERALIZATION REELS
A smaller company or boutique shop is going to be looking for more generalized talent, because they cannot afford to hire as many people to fill specialized areas. The larger the company, the more specialized you will need to be. A specialized reel should show work in only one area. If you have work that fits into other areas, put those on your website, or edit together a general reel in addition to your specialized reel. You could even have several different types of reels based on the amount of work you have, such as an animation reel, a rigging reel, and a general reel as in Figure 3.4.
Figure 3.4 Opening Titles of Two Amazing Reels From the Same Talented Guy, David Bokser
Just because you are specialized, however, does not mean you should not have experience with all aspects of the production pipeline and process. The more you know, the more hirable you are and the more likely you are to keep a full-time position if you have the ability to transfer to a different department when the project you are working on moves on through the pipeline and your specific job is finished on a project. Your ideal goal would be to become a specialized generalist, who understands and can work in all aspects of the production pipeline, with at least one area of specialization.
WHAT TO INCLUDE OR NOT TO INCLUDE?
ORIGINAL BEST WORK
Putting together a demo reel is really much simpler than most people make it out to be. Only put your best original work on your reel. That’s it. Very simple.
The problem is that most people, especially when starting out, want to put everything they have ever done on their reel. Every project becomes like a child, and you become like an annoying stage mother. They are so proud of what they have created that they are blind to see that it’s really not that good.
Or they are the exact opposite. They become overly critical. They think that everything they have done isn’t good enough, so they never get around to putting a reel together and continue working at their local retail job making minimum wage.
The ideal situation here is to put on a critical eye, review what work you do have, and choose the best three pieces to put on your reel.
Showing that you can use industry standard software is a must. Most of the larger studios use proprietary software, which means it is software that has been developed in-house. However, some of them do use off the shelf software as part of their production pipeline. Be sure that you keep up with what is being used in the industry. For example, Shake was the industry-standard software for compositing not too long ago. Now it is Nuke. Tomorrow it may be something different. The most important thing however is that you can demonstrate proficiency in the area in which you are applying.
Many of the software companies provide student or educational versions for a discounted price compared to professional licenses. However, in order to get the student pricing, you must be registered as a full-time student or teach at one of the acceptable schools. Is very important to note that if you are using an academic license, you are not allowed to use that software at a freelance or contract position.
Excerpt from Reel Success by Cheryl Cabrera © 2013 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.
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Cheryl Cabrera, Assistant Professor of Digital Media – Character Animation Specialization, University of Central Florida; on Board of Directors, Animation Hall of Fame; Autodesk Certified Instructor in Maya; member of SIGGRAPH, Society for Animation Studies, and Women in Animation.
Version control has two faces. For the individual artist, it provides a safety net: no matter how badly you mess up a particular file, you can always get back to the last version. For the team, it’s a way of keeping a project’s resources up to date—you only need to sync up to the server to be certain that you have the latest version of everyone else’s work.
But if misused, version control can turn on you very quickly. If team members aren’t disciplined about making sure the assets they check in are functional, every morning becomes a nail-biting rollercoaster ride as you wait to fi nd out what has been broken this time. And once shared assets turn ugly on a regular basis, more people will start avoiding the version-control system.
This keeps the staff working—but now they’re working in little private universes disconnected from the flow of the production. They make esthetic decisions based on assets that have already changed, and technical decisions based on features that are no longer there. This leads to even more breakages when they submit their own work, and the whole production spirals down into a vicious cycle of mistrust and recrimination. The artists don’t trust the pipeline, the tools team is sick of hunting down bugs caused by out-of-date files, and nobody is getting anything done. (more…)