Nov24
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: General

We asked our legendary author, Mike Mattesi, to draw an ad for the CTN Animation Sketchbook. The concept: What does Focal Press mean to aspiring animators?

We were thrilled when we received this back…

Now, we are going to ask you. What does Focal Press mean to you?

___________________

Learn drawing skills from Mike Mattesi by checking out his Force books! His latest book with Focal Press is Force: Animal Drawing.

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Nov19
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimationBooksGamesGeneral

Roger’s top 10 reasons why you can’t select your object


MY GOOD FRIEND Roger Cusson is, like me, a longtime instructor on 3ds Max. One day we got to talking about the challenges of teaching such a large and complex program, and we agreed that the biggest barrier new students have is confusion about selecting objects.

Roger proposed that since we go over these pitfalls in every class, he should publish a list of Roger’s Top 10 Reasons Why You Can’t Select Your Object. The list never actually got published until the first edition of this book. Here is the list, printed for the first time in the first edition of this book and back by popular demand, including a cutout reminder list that you can tape to your laptop or monitor for easy reference.

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Nov17
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooks

The term intellectual property refers to a collection of laws that protect products of the mind or personality, such as:

–        Copyrights

–        Trademarks

–        Rights in ideas, and

–        Rights of publicity

The laws that protect patents and trade secrets are also part of intellectual property, but these are generally less important to the comic book creator.

IP

Intellectual property is often referred to by its abbreviated label, “IP.” So when you see IP in this book it means intellectual property, NOT internet protocol (nor Iberian Peninsula, incontinentia pigmenti, nor ice pellets).

All comic book deals are built upon the foundation of IP. When you design a costumed hero, you own more than the drawing in your sketchbook: you own the copyright to your drawing, the potential to trademark that character’s name, and the legal rights to control how that character is used in comic books, merchandising, films, and beyond. In other words, even though your copyright registration certificate is not as pretty as the drawing it represents, it may potentially be worth a lot more than even your most valuable signed original sketch!

It may be helpful to think of your IP as the “heart” of your creative rights.

INTERVIEW “By and large we see that a lot of the new, ‘green,’ creators, want to be part of this business . . . but they don’t understand what the actual business is. They are very weak on any of the legal, any of the IP, any of the copyright stuff. [. . .] If you want to make this your living, if you want to be a professional, you’re going to need to know how to copyright something. What’s parody? What’s not? Can I get sued for this?” – MIKE ARMSTRONG, Sales Manager, New York Comic Con (NYCC)

Excerpt from The Pocket Lawyer for Comic Book Creators by Thomas Crowell © 2014 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group.

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Nov10
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooksGeneral

Sande Scoredos was the executive director of training and artist development at Sony Pictures Imageworks. She was committed to working with academia, serving on school advisory boards, guiding curriculum, participating on industry panels, and lecturing at school programs. She was instrumental in founding the Imageworks Professional Academic Excellence (IPAX) program in 2004. Sande chaired the SIGGRAPH 2001 Computer Animation Festival and was the curator chair for the SIGGRAPH 2008 Computer Animation Festival.

Sande produced Early Bloomer, a short film that was theatrically released. Her other credits include: Stuart Little, Hollow Man, Spider-Man, Stuart Little 2, I Spy, Spider-Man 2, Full Spectrum Warrior, The Polar Express, Open Season, Spider-Man 3, Surf’s Up, Beowulf, I Am Legend, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Before the Pitch: Register Your Work

Before you pitch your idea to anyone, your family, friends, your uncle Joe that works at a studio, or even random strangers, protect everyone—and your idea—by finding out who owns the rights to your idea. Do not talk about your idea until you have gone through the registration process or have an agent. You never know who is listening at Starbucks. If you are pitching for a school project you may find that your school already owns the rights. Likewise, if you work in the entertainment industry, your company may own the rights to anything resembling intellectual property. Ask your career services advisor or legal department about ownership rights and be sure to read your deal memo and contract agreement.

Most studios will only take pitch meetings through an agent. That is to protect you and them against copyright claims. For information on copyright filings, check the United States Copyright Office website, http://www.copyright.gov/. Read the guidelines carefully and follow the procedures.

Know Who Will Hear Your Pitch

Now, prepare for that pitch.

Successful pitches are carefully designed and orchestrated. Many brilliant ideas have fallen by the wayside due to poor pitching skills.

Whether you are pitching a 30-second short to your animation professor or an epic to a studio executive, find out who is going to hear your pitch.

You have just a few seconds to grab their attention and convince everyone in the room that your story is worth telling. How you describe it, visualize it, sell it, and sell yourself will all work for you or against you.

First, be honest and decide if you are the best person to make the pitch. If you get flustered speaking to a group, then let someone else do the talking. Not everyone needs to be part of the formal presentation so play to your strengths.

Talk to the “gatekeeper,” the key contact who is setting up the meeting, and ask him or her to tell you who might attend. If you can, find out their titles and what influence they have on the process. Then do your homework.

The World Wide Web is a wealth of information. Check out the backgrounds of each person who may be in the meeting.

• Try to get a recent picture of each person. • What types of projects do they like? • What projects have they worked on? • Where did they grow up? • What college did they attend? • What projects are in their catalog? Do they already have an animated film about two talking zebras? Oops, your project is about two zebras so think about how your project fits into their plans. • Get your facts straight and then double check them. Just because it is on the web or IMDB does not make it true.

Why is this important? If you can find a relevant personal connection, then you can tap into that with a casual chat, discover mutual acquaintances or interests. But be careful. You want to stand out just a little more from the other pitches and be remembered in a good way. Your pitch should always be short and to the point, not too deep or detailed or it can get boring. You want a balance of wellrehearsed but not memorized, engaging and delivered with enthusiasm but not clownish, and delivered with confidence and passion for the project.

This business is all about relationships so you want to connect with the people in the room.

Preparing for the Pitch

Make sure you know your story. Research your idea and know what else is out there that remotely resembles it—is there a character, city, situation, movie or game that is similar to yours? You can bet that someone at the pitch will say this sounds like XYZ, the classic film from 1932 directed by some obscure foreign director. Assume that anyone in the pitch session has seen it and heard it all. Nothing is worse than the silence you hear that follows the comment, “What else have you got?” A potentially embarrassing moment can turn in your favor if you can intelligently discuss the other work, and its relationship to yours. You will look good if you not only know of this piece but can intelligently discuss this reference.

You also want to make sure you have the rights to the properties and characters. Say your story centers around a landmark building in downtown New York. Believe it or not, you may not be able to obtain or afford the rights to use that building. Same goes for characters and music. If your story cannot be made without that specific Beatles song, consider the reality and cost of acquiring the rights.

If your project requires getting the rights, be prepared to discuss the status of your negotiations in the meeting. If you do not have an original concept and cannot afford to obtain rights for existing properties, check out the properties in the public domain.

Photo by Bradley Gordon

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Nov05
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooksInspirationInterviews

The following is an excerpt for Digital Arts Masters: Volume 4. In Digital Art Masters, you will meet some of the finest 2D and 3D artists working in the industry today and discover how they create some of the most innovative digital art in the world. In this excerpt, Jelmer Boska walks you through his creation of his own personal work, Portrait of Keith Richards.

Introduction

It all started in a Vancouver theatre around May 2007 where I watched the third part of the Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End for the first time. About half way in, Keith Richards made his introduction in the role of Captain Teague. When he appeared on screen I had goose bumps; the way Keith looked in his red pirate costume reminded me so much of an illustration of the infamous pirate, Blackbeard, in a children’s pirate book I used to own – I loved that image and have kept it in my head ever since. A few months later, Disney released the book The Art of the Pirates of the Caribbean where I once again met with Captain Teague. This time he appeared in the form of an amazing drawing done by one of my heroes, Mark “Crash” McCreery. There the idea was born.

I felt it was time to add something new to my portfolio, and this would be something I’d very much enjoy doing. Although I started off with the intent to create a portrait of Keith Richards as Captain Teague, he never made it to that state. I changed my mind during the process and decided to go for a realistic portrait of the man himself instead. Well … at least it got me a good “piratey” introduction for this article – Yarr!

References

I started off the way I usually start any project, which is by gathering related reference imagery. I found a couple of decent photos of Keith and also took some screen grabs from the movies, where I had the opportunity to see him from more specific angles. During my search for references it was inevitable that I came across some of the famous caricaturist, Sebastian Krueger’s work. He has portrayed and caricaturized the Rolling Stones, and Keith personally, quite a few times. Throughout the process I constantly had to be aware not to caricaturize my portrait too much. Keith has got a lot of characterizing features in his face, and sticking close to his real proportions, instead of caricaturizing them, was a challenge!

Modeling

I mocked up a base mesh for the bust in XSI fairly quickly, with the idea to get working on the likeness in ZBrush as soon as possible. I kept the base model very simple, since it would be used for still purposes only, and wouldn’t have to deform (Fig.01).

Fig 1

Sculpting

When doing a likeness, details hardly matter; it’s the main proportions that matter, and in particular the visual triangle indicating the relations between the eyes and tip of the nose. I found that once you nail those proportions, the character usually starts to become recognizable. You do start to stare blind after a certain amount of time, so I tried to get as much of the main work done as possible within the first hours after starting work on the model.

I tend to start off by subdividing the model about three times right after importing it into ZBrush. From there I start to refine and build the main forms. I have become a big fan of the Clay Tubes tool, which allows me to change and add volume in certain areas in a very natural way. After getting the bigger primary forms down I carved in a couple of Keith’s most characterizing wrinkles, which are formed mostly around his mouth and cheekbones.

Having a dual monitor setup was most helpful for this project: I find that being able to have my main reference images up on one screen, while working on the other, is almost mandatory for this kind of work. Once I started sculpting it was just a matter of constant refinement: looking at the reference photos and comparing them to the model. I didn’t really find any shortcuts or tricks doing a portrait – it seems to be just a matter of training your eye and trying to sculpt what you can see (Fig.02 – 03).

Fig 2

Fig 3

Texturing & Shading

The texture painting was completely done in ZBrush as well. Using the polypaint tools I quickly painted a diffuse texture directly on the model. Knowing the final image would be black and white, I didn’t spend too much time on this.

After having exported the diffuse map from ZBrush, I hooked the image up in a pretty simple shading tree using Mental Ray’s standard fast skin surface shader (Fig.04). I applied this to the high-res model, right out of ZBrush. The model sits at about 2 million quad polygons at its highest subdivision level, and I sadly wasn’t able to render this in XSI without crashing my machine. I ended up exporting the second highest resolution mesh and generating an additional map, based on the volume differences between the highest two levels and applied this as a bump map to the model in XSI.

Fig 4

Hair
The hair was done in XSI, too – the hair tools are great and pretty easy to use. I grew about eight different selections of hair to form his haircut. I looked at sections and strands that characterized his hair most to base my hair selections on, and focused on those specific areas. The hair was very much modeled to the camera, and looks rather ridiculous from any other angle (Fig.05).

Fig 5

Lighting & Rendering

The final light rig was made up out of a standard threepoint light setup using area-lights. The key light was placed on a sharp angle high above the model to create deep shadows under his eyebrows – something I found to help sell the likeness a bit more. A bright rim light was placed directly behind Keith, to separate him from the background a little. To soften out some of the shadows on one side and generate some nice contrast in the lighting, I placed a soft fill light on the left side of the model (Fig.06).

Fig 6

The image was rendered in 4 passes, those being two specular and beauty passes for the head and the hand plus the cigarette. The beauty pass showed the model lit and fully shaded, but without any specular highlights. Those were rendered out separately in a specular pass, so that I could have a bit more control over it later on in Photoshop.

Compositing & Finalizing

There wasn’t too much work left to be done in Photoshop besides combining all the passes, desaturating the image, adjusting the levels a touch and adding a depth of field effect using the blur tools. The smoke was painted in later, and to finish the whole thing off I added some grain, which I found added a lot of character to the final image (Fig.07a – e).

Fig 7a

Fig 7b

Fig 7c

Fig 7d

Fig 7e

Conclusion

And that’s about it! I very much enjoyed working on this portrait and am happy to call this one done. I hope you like it.

Excerpt from Digital Art Masters: Volume 4 by 3dtotal.Com © 2009 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. Digital Art Masters can be purchased Amazon.com,BN.com, and wherever fine books can be found.

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Nov03
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationGeneral

The following is an excerpt from Animated Life. Written with wit and verve, Animated Life is a guided tour through an entire lifetime of techniques, practical hands-on advice and insight into an entire industry. Here, Disney animator, Floyd Norman teaches you the step you need in order to climb up the industry ladder.

The Assistant Animator

You’ve finally finished your animation apprenticeship, and you’ve learned the ropes as a fledgling inbetweener and breakdown artist. Now that the cartoon basics have been instilled, you’re ready to take the next big step. No, don’t get too anxious. You’re not an animator yet. You’ve another important role to fill before continuing your climb up the ladder. It’s time to become an assistant animator.
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