Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Thursday, September 20th, 2018

Animation Students: Do you know about THE BIG LIE?

The Big Lie

ANIMATION STUDENTS: Do You Know About The Big Lie?

You’ve chosen a good school to go to. You’re doing well in your classes… Once you graduate, you’ll get a job and be started on your career in animation. Can you spot the huge error in these simple statements? If you’re an animation professional, I bet you can! If you’re an animation student and you don’t see it, read on…

The biggest misconception most animation students have is that school is preparing them for a job. Nothing could be further from the truth. You can go to the best animation school in the world and graduate with honors and still not have what it takes to walk into an animation studio, sit down at a desk and go to work. It just isn’t possible in a school situation to teach students everything it takes to be a functioning professional in four short years.

Many students think of college the same way they thought about grade school. You sit at your desk and you do the assignments and your work is graded. But there’s a big difference between grade school and college. In grade school, if you are an A student, you can get into a good college. In college, grades are meaningless. A potential employer doesn’t care what grades you got on your assignments. Odds are the employer doesn’t even care if you graduated from college. All the employer cares about is whether can you do the job in a timely manner with quality results.

If an employer doesn’t care if you went to school or not, what is the point of going to school?

Now we’re getting to the heart of this issue… What is school for? School isn’t a place that spoon feeds you training to get a job. It’s a FORUM FOR LEARNING. A good animation school can do two things… It can put you in an environment where you are surrounded by educators who know their subject, and you’re part of a large group of students who all have similar goals. This is a very supportive environment to learn in. Secondly, school can provide you with resources that may be more difficult to get access to in the “real world”. University libraries are packed with books on important subjects. Colleges host uninstructed life drawing sessions, screenings and film festivals and lectures by top professionals. These extra curricular activities may not be accessible to you after you graduate. You need to take advantage of them while you can.

The Big Lie

Schools provide a rich environment for learning. But it’s up to you to GET AN EDUCATION.

There just isn’t time in four years to go over everything you need to know. There are skills that need nurturing and developing, and there is a level of experience and awareness you need to gain to widen your frame of reference and get your creative juices flowing. Animation schools expect you to do these things on your own time. Instructors may encourage their classes to study and work on their own skills outside of class time, but many of the students are still stuck in grade school thinking- if it isn’t being graded, it doesn’t count. The truth is the work you do outside of classes is MORE important than what you do in class.

A tradesman may learn how to use his tools and then be ready to work on a job, but being an artist requires disiplined thinking and creativity forever. Your current level of skills and experience may get you that first job, but if you want to move up to greater responsibility, you’ll need to work on developing the skills that are required to advance. You might be comfortable creating in a specific style, but if you want a job, you have to draw in the style of the show, not your own style. Even if you do get a job on a show that happens to match your particular artistic sensibilities, times change and styles change. Five or ten years down the road, the look of animation will be different and employers will be looking for something current. You have to be able to reinvent yourself creatively if you want to survive. Ask anyone who has worked in animation a decade or more if they have had to reinvent themselves in their career. They’ll tell you.

OK, the bubble is burst. You now know about the Big Lie. You’re on your own to deal with it. Say you re going to animation school right now… It’s a lot better to be told all this BEFORE you graduate than to find it out the hard way afterwards.

What can you do in school to be as prepared as you can for a job in animation?

You need to LEARN TO LEARN- learn to set your own goals, determine a curriculum for yourself, buckle down and work to improve your skills, push the envelope of your creativity by exposing yourself to different ways of thinking about your art, learn to GROW. Look at what the college is offering you, talk to professionals and ask them what you should be learning, supplement your college work with SELF STUDY. Don’t just do what you want to do. Do what you NEED TO DO. It’s very hard and very time consuming to gather together the skills and frame of reference you need to be a professional. But it’s a lot easier to devote time to that while you’re in school. If you wait until you graduate, self study is going to have to compete with paying your bills and fulfilling your responsibilities as an adult. Your college years are a WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY to learn to learn. Don’t waste it!

But that’s not all… Learning doesn’t end when you graduate from college. It’s a life-long responsibility for artists. Get in the habit now of pushing yourself to better yourself. It will be the most important lesson you learn from college.

The Big Lie

Where do you look for resources to help you in your SELF STUDY PROGRAM?

Every one will need to create their own curriculum to open their mind creatively and build their skill set. Every student is different. Every school is different. There are a million online courses and books to study from. But even those aren’t enough. The world of creativity is wider than you can possibly imagine. Animation Resources has gone to successful animation professionals like Ralph Bakshi, Will Finn and Sherm Cohen and has asked them what resources have been useful to them in their work. Every other month, Animation Resources publishes a downloadable reference pack filled with the material these advisors recommend. This Reference Pack will help you with your self study program and open your mind to possibilities you didn’t know existed.

But you have to be a member of Animation Resources.

Animation Resources is helping students studying animation, cartooning and illustration by offering a discounted dues rate for student and educators. For $60 a year, students can receive full benefits of membership- the same benefits that professional members receive. $60 a year is just $5 a month. Of course you can afford it. Don’t expect your parents to pay your dues. Do it for yourself. You’re spending a great deal of money on tuition, books and supplies and student loans to get your degree. But now you know about THE BIG LIE and that knowledge is worth a lot more than just $60. The truth is that your degree is only HALF of your education. Don’t cheap out on the half that matters- the half that will be continuing for the rest of your life.

JOIN ANIMATION RESOURCES TODAY… https://animationresources.org/membership/levels/,

You’ll thank us for it on the first day of your new job in the animation business.

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Friday, September 7th, 2018

Learning To Animate: Simplicity vs Complexity

simplicity vs complexity

We had a question from a Facebook follower… It was in reference to the motion studies Nicholas John Pozega has been posting every day… “What kind of relevance do the the motion and principles of cartoons like Popeye and Mickey Mouse hold to contemporary cartoons or cartoons with more realistic designs with anatomy and different styles of motion?”

That is an excellent question, and it goes to the heart of how we as human beings learn.

When you start out to master any difficult skill, you should learn it in a progression from simple to more complex. If you try to juggle too many complexities when you are just starting out, you end up making a high splat on the wall and you end up learning nothing.

The great jazz pianist Bill Evans discusses this idea in relation to musical improvisation in this video. Please watch this video before reading further. Don’t just skip by this video. It’s very important to what I am trying to explain here, and it gives an astoundingly clear demonstration of this particular principle in practice…


Bill Evans: The Creative Process and Self Teaching
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MSCReTIeH8

When you begin to play a musical instrument, you start with scales. You don’t start out playing Bach or Liszt. Animation is no different. Drawing volumetrically and solidly is difficult. Drawing a complex realistic human form volumetrically and solidly is extremely difficult. Animating a realistic human form volumetrically and solidly is completely impossible for someone just beginning to develop their animation skills.

The animators who created Snow White and Pinocchio all started animating in the rubber hose style. Using simple forms allowed them to focus on learning how to convey the spirit of a walk cycle or express personality through rhythms, gestures and expressions. The simplicity of the model allowed them to refine and perfect their basic principles… line of action, clear silhouettes, control of volumes in space, appealing proportions… without having to add the compounding difficulty of complex planes, anatomy, musculature and turning highly organic shapes in three dimensions.

When you have learned the principles one by one through experimentation and practice using simple forms, you can begin to add complexity a little at a time, and over a period of years, perhaps you will have the experience and understanding to attempt to animate a realistic human form. Milt Kahl and Mark Davis weren’t born with the experience and draftsmanship to be able to animate realistic human characters the way they animated them in Sleeping Beauty… They worked their way up to it by animating characters with more basic shapes and built their chops. They animated rubber hose characters. And the rubber hose animation in the early 30s Mickey Mouse and Popeye cartoons is drop dead brilliant. If you can’t see the genius in the Popeye walk cycles Nicholas has been posting, go back and look at them again and analyze them for the principles of motion, posing and staging they embody. I bet you’ll find that you were looking at the surface level- the model of the character- and not even considering the way it’s posed and animated.

Students are always impatient and they want everything now. That’s only natural But if you allow your impatience to prevent you from learning in a logical, orderly progression, your impatience can cripple you. Keep your eye on the ultimate goal, but keep putting just one foot in front of the other until you get there.

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Thursday, July 26th, 2018

Instruction: Animation Reference

Muybridge_race_horse_gallop

Muybridge – Horse Gallop

Today I’m going to be showing everyone my planning process for using photographic reference to plan and execute a naturalistic horse run cycle. This process has been used by generations of artists to help analyse and capture the motion patterns of real-world objects and creatures. This type of study is invaluable for building an internal “motion library” in your mind, so that when you have to make guesses about how something impossible might move, those guesses can be as educated as possible. For the beginning animator, doing motion analysis can also help give a stronger sense of what motion details matter, and which are best to remove to get an optimal stylistic motion.

First up, here is the finished animation: Horse_gallop

In a complex cycle like a horse gallop, there are many things to understand, and without experience animating similar creatures it would be difficult to plan ahead for this animation considering that we have so much to keep track of.

Get Video Reference

If you can film your own reference, then that’s a great first step, but if you can’t, the first place I search is the BBC Motion Library at Getty Images. This collection has thousands of real-time and slow-motion shots of sports, nature, vehicles, and much more. It’s free to view and download, which is ideal as we will need to carefully go through our shot frame by frame in order to analyse it.

Here is the shot I used for reference. As stated above, it’s free to download (non-commercial use of course) by right clicking the clip and choosing Save as.

A few notes about the shot:

  • It is playing in real-time, not slow motion, so we can use it for timing information
  • The shot isn’t stabilized, so we can’t use it to track body parts necessarily
  • The whole body is visible, including the feet as they touch the ground
  • The speed of the run is relatively stable for a few seconds, ideal for a cycle

Use A Frame by Frame Video Software

Next we need to be able to see each frame of the video one at a time. You can do this by importing the footage into any video editing software if you  have it. I prefer to use a much simpler method by opening it in QuickTime.

quicktime

QuickTime interface

To my knowledge, QuickTime is the only freely available video software which allows you to step through a video one frame at a time (using the left and right arrow keys). Many others allow you to skip several frames, but none that I’ve found allow this level of precision. Another benefit of this software shown above, is the ability to switch the timecode to frames, so we can easily count and locate keyframes in our action.

Before using the shot for any timing information, you’ll need to know the frame rate of the video. I figure this out by going to 1 second in the timecode, the switching to frames to see how many have elapsed. This shot is in a standard 25fps for european PAL broadcast. This will effect our conversion to our frame rate. In my case, I’ll be animating at 24fps (see the conversion math later on at the bottom of my Xsheet).

Get Additional Reference

Although we could use a single source of reference, it’s better to have several similar sources to draw from, and the plates from Edward Muybridge’s animal studies have been a source of inspiration to animators for a century. We have an extensive library of Muybridge here. These images (shown at top) are invaluable because they show a flat sideways perspective of a horse galloping with extracted frames to display the entire cycle of motion. The only problem with this is that we don’t know how fast it should be moving, a problem we’ve already addressed with our video reference.

Here is a playback of the muybridge_horse set to a realistic 40fps.

By comparing the frames to our video, I determined that the approximate speed of the original Muybridge shot was a brisk 40fps. I also adjusted the frames to stabilize the ground, put vertical and horizontal lines in to help track key parts of the body, and finally tracked each hoof with a colored ball. All of this information provides almost everything we need to put together our plan.

Horse Gaits

basicsGaitsGallopR or basicsGaitsGallopL

The last bit of information we need is an understanding of the pattern we hope to find and reproduce. This information I found easily on an equestrian website, along with footfall patterns of all the primary horse locomotion speeds.

muybridge_tracking

Path of feet shown in color code through cycle duration.

Record Observations and Refine

Finally we are ready to utilize all of this information into a formal plan for animating our horse. By stepping through the video and referring to the Muybridge plates, I record all of the pertinent information I can onto an Xsheet.

xsheet3D_Horse_Gallop-1

Modified Xsheet for planning CG animation

By examining the sheet above, you can see that I’ve sought out the most important aspects of the motion and spaced them out in time so that they flow fluidly. Here is a list of the things you should look for before continuing:

  • Key Frames – These should be the most informational single images for the action, without which, none of the remaining actions can possibly hope to illustrate the action properly. In my case, I chose the Squashed mid-air position, and the Stretched leaping position of the horse.
  • Extremes -The foot contacts must all be present, as well as the maximum and minimum vertical positions of the chest and flank.
  • Breakdowns – Wherever necessary, plan for the passing or half-way positions of body parts and poses, so you do not miss the nuance of the motion pattern.
  • Small patterns– Note the path and notes about the head, these patterns are important and shouldn’t be missed. Make notes of any details you might easily forget later.

For one reason or another, the use of Xsheets has never fully translated over to computer animation, which I think is a major loss. Although these sheets were originally used to plan for the exposure of cell levels in traditional animation, they can find a valuable second life in helping to plan body part motions and musical timing.

Execute Plan

With all of this preparatory work, the only thing left to do is to use this roadmap to complete your animation. By this point, you should have such a solid idea of what your animation is going to look like, that the actual work of animation is almost an afterthought. In The Illusion of Life, as well as The Animator’s Survival Kit, the authors tell stories of their lengthy and strenuous planning procedures, and how once planned out, an animation scene was practically complete before pencil ever touched page. This method allows you to keep a solid focus on your scene even between work sessions, and frees you to focus on the details without becoming lost in the larger patterns of motion.

 


 

Taber Dunipace
Director of Membership
tdunipace@animationresources.org

 

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