May28
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooksInspiration

Tell the story in a “ sequence of juxtaposed images. ” 5 The most important thing to remember when storyboarding is to make sure your sequence of images is telling the same story that you think you are telling. It is all too easy to assume that they are doing so, but you need to pitch the story to people and then see if they got the same story and the message you intended.

Three Little Pigs has a simple repetitive structure that even children learn how to tell easily. It begins, “ Once upon a time, there were three little pigs… ”

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May26
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationInterviews

By Tony Bancroft

Be confident.


This is probably the polar opposite of what you feel when you pick up a pencil to create.  I know it was for me when I was as a young artist.  Feeling confident in your drawing, animating, sculpting, painting or anything artistic can be the difference between success and failure in your work.  For me, I usually judge a drawing as successful if it communicates my intent to myself or others around me.  When I was young, my audience was my Mother.  When she came home, I would hold up a drawing and ask, “Look Ma, what do you think?”.  She would always lavish praise upon my scribbles.  In your professional animation career, success will be judged by an invisible audience who turns on the TV, buys a ticket to the movie or plays your video game.  For this reason, an artist must be able to muster his own confidence as well.

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May21
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationInterviews

By Tony Bancroft

Make friends not enemies.

Every “good thing” I received in my career came because of a friend or close relationship.  Every job, every promotion, every new opportunity.  Every single one.

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May19
2014

By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooksGames

THE GREAT DEBATE

One ongoing and intense debate that has been raging among game scholars and game developers is the question of whether or not games can even be regarded as a form of storytelling. Two warring groups have squared off on this issue. On one side, we have the narratology camp. They say, yes, of course, games are a form of storytelling and they can be studied as narratives (the term “narratology” simply means the theory and study of narrative). Janet Murray, the author of the classic book on interactive narrative, Hamlet on the Holodeck, and a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is a leading advocate of the narratology position.

A screenshot from Deus Ex, Invisible War. The game tells a complex story involving global conflict and intrigue, and falls into the action genre. Image courtesy of Eidos Interactive.

On the other side of the battlefield, we have the ludology camp. Espen J. Aarseth, a professor at the University of Bergen, is the most vocal proponent of the ludologist camp. The term ludology comes from the Latin word ludus, for game. The ludologists argue that even though games have elements of narrative like characters and plot, this is incidental to the things that make them a distinct creative form, such as gameplay. Thus, they assert, games should be studied as unique constructs. This debate has an emotional undercurrent to it, because the ludologists suggest that the academics who espouse narratology are elitist and fail to recognize games as worthy of study on their own merits. Clearly, if sides must be chosen, this book is most closely in allegiance with the narratologists.

NARRATIVE IN GAMES

While the narratology versus ludology debate may rage on through infinity, no one can flatly deny that games, on the whole, do contain story content. This content includes, among other elements, developed characters, plot, character-based goals, challenges that characters must overcome, and dramatic conflict. The amount of story contained in games varies hugely. Some games contain no story at all while others offer richly nuanced narratives. And in some cases, the story content is formed by the choices the players themselves make, rather than being built into the game. This is particularly true of sandbox games.

It must be acknowledged, however, that the kinds of narratives found in games differ from narratives found in other media. Designer Greg Roach, introduced in Chapter 4, puts it this way: “Novels tell; movies show; games do.” In other words, games are all about the things you do, about action. Games are performance experiences. But this focus on action has a downside, as well. Game designer Darlene Waddington notes that “games tend to be all about the ‘hows’ and not about the ‘whys.’” She feels, for instance, that they are good at getting the player into a combat situation, but are less good at probing the psychological or human reasons for getting into combat in the first place.

Waddington’s point about the focus being on action while giving scant attention to motivation is a criticism often leveled at games. While games now offer more fully developed characters and storylines, they generally lack the depth of older forms of entertainment. With few exceptions, they do not look deeply into the human psyche or deal with a full spectrum of emotions. How often, for example, do we encounter or play a character who is motivated by shame, love, compassion, guilt, grief, or the dozens of other emotions we humans feel? Yet such emotions are the underpinnings of dramas we can fi nd in movies or the stories we read in novels.

Most game developers will argue that the story is only there to serve a functional purpose rather than being the prime attraction, which is good gameplay. Yet, without a story, the gameplay lacks a context to be meaningful. Story provides the game with objectives and challenges, meaningful victories and defeats, and an overall story world to play in. Thus, even a minimal amount of story content serves a functional role in a game.

Game writer Christy Marx made an interesting observation about storytelling and games many years ago, in an article she wrote for Written By magazine (December 2003). She noted that games began as a programmer’s medium, and since they were text based, they didn’t require a writer or artist. The one essential element these early games did require was code. Marx theorizes that this early game culture, with the dominant role of the programmer and the non-existent role of the storyteller, continues to permeate the game development world. Nevertheless, the game industry is increasingly aware of the importance of good storytelling in games, and top Hollywood screenwriters are often hired to work on games. But even today, many of these screenwriters are only asked to write dialogue, thus bypassing their abilities to make significant contributions to the projects they work on.

Veteran Hollywood writer Randall Jahnson, who successfully made the transition between screen writing and game writing, told the Hollywood Reporter (November 23, 2005) that the process of writing for the two media was like apples and oranges. He compared writing for games to writing haiku, because the plot points and dialogue had to be far more compressed than in a screenplay, where you don’t have a player itching to jump into the gameplay. On the other hand, he found that games gave him the opportunity to explore subplots and tangents of the story that there would be no time to develop in a screenplay.

NOTES FROM THE FIELD: WRITING A GAME IS LIKE WRITING AN OPERA

An extremely savvy game professional recently compared the job of writing a game to that of writing an opera. Why? Because in both cases, the stories are painted with a broad brush and the plots often lean toward the melodramatic. But, even more importantly, the storytelling in opera needs to leave room for the music and performance, and the storytelling in games needs to leave room for the gameplay. This observation, quoted in the UK version of Wired magazine (March 4, 2013), was made by Margaret Robinson, managing director of Hide and Seek, a UK game design company. She said: “the libretto shouldn’t have to tell you everything you need to know about the character or the setting or the underlying scene … There’s a little bit of that in games, to leave space for the action and the player.”

_________________________________

Excerpt from Digital Storytelling, 3e by Carolyn Handler Miller © 2014 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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May14
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimationBooks

The first stage of 3D pre-production is deciding what should be created and what can be purchased or downloaded. Remember, your main consideration is finishing the film, so the first question you must ask is whether you can create the asset yourself in the time that you have, not whether you could make something better. On a long enough timeline, of course you could model something that is better than the freely available version on Turbosquid.com. Give me a couple of years and I’ll model you all of Manhattan, but the one available online for $50 will suffice. The next question, even more crucial than whether you could create the asset in less time or better than what is obtainable online, is how important is the asset to your film.

If you are talking about the main character of your film, then it is risky to use a distinctive downloadable character for the role. CreativeCrash.com has dozens and dozens of character rigs that are free to use in non-commercial projects, but just because they are free doesn’t mean that you should be using one of them for your main character. Your short film is your calling card, and if you aren’t making a strong design statement with at least your main character, your short is only going part of the way to show the world who you are as an artist. If it comes down to a question of your not being able to create your main character yourself and you cannot get help from a friend, it is time to go back to your story and figure out if there is a simpler way to tell it. Another reason that using a downloadable character for your main character is dangerous is that there may be hundreds of animations floating around on the internet with that character animated poorly, with a different voice, or worst of all, animated in a distasteful way. As beautiful as your short may turn out to be, if your main character suddenly shows up in a viral video humping a fi re hydrant, your film’s success has been severely undermined.

Remember, I pointed out in the story chapter that your story does not have to be told with a bipedal human character. The story about the kids playing soccer is told just as well with simple box characters or flour sacks. Think long and hard about how complex the characters really need to be to tell the story you are trying to tell. In the end, my hope is that this first film is just one of many that you produce and finish. Each successive fi lm can be more detailed, complex, and ambitious.

Booty Call ’s Downloaded Assets

For Booty Call there were only a few assets that I determined would not be economical for me to create myself. The biggest consideration was how much screen time was going to be allotted to the assets that I needed to create. After hearing that, you might have already guessed which assets I downloaded. If you guessed the pirate ship and the rowboat in the first few shots, you would be right.

FIG 5.1 The pirate ship is hugely detailed and perfect for what I needed. But since it is only seen in its entirety in a single shot, it would have been a huge mistake to work on it myself.

Take a look at this ship. It’s actually beautifully done. I found it on Turbosquid.com for $200, and it’s called “Jolly Roger Pirate Ship” by MantifangMediaPro. It needed to be retextured and a little bit of topology changed for my film, but altogether it took perhaps two hours to get this asset in shape for production.

Compare that to an estimated 40–50 hours to model the ship and it was a no-brainer. However, if the film took place on the deck and there was a huge amount of interaction with the ship itself, it would be a totally different story. I might have opted to build the ship myself and be sure that every plank was in the right spot. Imagine how disruptive to production it might be to discover that a problem with a downloaded model is holding up your shots.

FIG 5.2 The rowboat was also downloaded from TurboSquid. Why reinvent the wheel (or the boat, for that matter)?

I found a great rowboat on Turbosquid for $15, called simply “Boat” by Panait George Dorin. It was highly detailed and even included the piece of rope dangling on the bow. The main consideration again was time and energy. I don’t know how the boards actually go together on a boat or really anything at all about hydrodynamics and boat design. I could have faked it, but that would still have taken hours and hours. For $15 I was almost 90 percent done with this asset. All that needed to be done was rig the oars to move correctly in the rowlocks and add Babinsky’s lantern. Overall, maybe three hours of work, saving another 20–30 hours in total.

There’s no rule that says you can’t download a free asset and take a closer look at it. I do not want my advice in this section to discourage you from experimenting and exploring the offerings of the free online model repositories. On the contrary, you should be downloading all of the free models you possibly can! Amass a gigantic model library and see how much easier it makes it to populate your film with sets, props, and characters.

Excerpt from Finish Your Film! Tips and Tricks for Making an Animated Short in Maya by Kenny Roy © 2014 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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May12
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimation

Software Used: Photoshop

Using Photoshop, we have all had this thought at one point: ‘’Man, wouldn’t it be great if there was a brush that could do all this, instead of me wasting my life on it?!’’ Well, in this tutorial, I will explain how I create my own custom brushes and how I use them in order to save me an incredible amount of time when I paint.

We will first try to mimic the stroke of a pencil – one of the main brushes I used to paint Sky Machina, along with a textured dry brush. At first, the brush creating process seems a bit tedious, but as soon as you get the hang of it you’ll pretty much fall in love with it. You can create a brush out of everything you paint! So first, let’s open a new file of about 500 by 500 pixels and draw whatever you want (let’s draw dots for the sake of this tutorial). Now go to Edit > Define Brush Preset (Fig.01 – 02). And that’s it! Well, that’s not exactly it, but following that the only things left to do are to rename your brush (Fig.03) and tweak it to get the effect you want, in the Brushes tab on the top menu.

Fig 01

Fig 02

Fig 03

Fig 04

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May07
2014

By: admin                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimation

One of the benefits of using ZBrush is how it speeds up the production process. For example, it is becoming common to skip creating concept art using pen and paper, or 2D software like Photoshop and jump right into sculpting a concept model directly in ZBrush. It is easy enough to try out several variations in ZBrush, and if the concept is approved you’ve already created the basic model! Using DynaMesh is one method for creating a fast sculpt; another is using ZSpheres.

To create a model using ZSpheres, start by selecting a ZSphere (the red twotoned ball) from the Tool menu and drawing it on your canvas. Now go into Edit mode (T key) and press the Q key to get into Draw mode.

Place your cursor over the existing ZSphere and draw out another ZSphere.

Press the W key to go into Move mode and move this new ZSphere around by clicking and dragging it. Notice how ZBrush adds more in-between ZSpheres to fi t the distance between the two? When you are working with ZSpheres, the normal draw, move, scale, and rotate transpose brushes take on different behaviors. You will no longer get the transpose action line when invoking these functions. Instead, simply clicking and dragging on any of the active ZSpheres will allow you to directly transform it. Try the different transform brushes out now. Press the E key to use Scale mode and click and drag on a ZSphere to scale it. Now try the Rotate mode by pressing the R key. Notice the difference between rotating a ZSphere and rotating one of the connecting triangular links between the ZSpheres.

Active ZSpheres show up as two-toned red spheres, while linking ZSpheres that create the ZSphere chain show up as a dull red color with a white triangle-shaped bone superimposed upon them. You can rotate the entire chain of ZSpheres without changing its shape by going into rotate or move mode and clicking and dragging on one of the white connecting triangles. If you move one of the active ZSpheres, the ZSphere chain will expand or collapse to adjust, adding or removing linking ZSpheres as needed. Using a very small brush size when moving, scaling and rotating ZSpheres will make it a lot easier to edit and allow you to be more accurate in your selections.

FIG 8.1 Draw a ZSphere on canvas

FIG 8.2 Draw another ZSphere on the first one

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May05
2014

By: admin                Categories: Games

History

In 1989, Nintendo was at the height of its fortune and fame, enjoying a near monopolistic hold of the videogame console industry. As we saw in Chapter 2.1, the Nintendo Entertainment System had overcome the skepticism of American retailers still reeling from the Great Videogame Crash. With a combination of hit games, cheap technology, and effective (if controversial) licensing policies, Nintendo had not only resurrected the moribund industry, but greatly expanded it, defining an entirely new generation of gamers. Competing with this behemoth would take great technology, slick marketing, and a lot of patience.

Sega had two of these qualities.

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