Thursday, May 17, 2012

This Semester is... FINAL!

All semester long, we've been playing this clip after someone's shot got finaled in dailies. So, in that spirit, I want to commend the entire crew for this semester's work and declare this semester FINALED!

Crew, thanks for all your hard work this semester. This project would not be where it is without each of you! To those of you that are leaving, we wish you well and would gladly have you back, so in that spirit, I have this for you:

And for those of you staying on board for the summer, rest up and recharge your batteries, because when we get back... well, I'll let Europe tell you:

Either way, happy summer, everyone!!!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Keep Calm And Carry On

Production has a tendency to get crazy from time to time. You just got to keep the faith and do as the British did. To everyone on the "Just Looking" crew, and to anyone who's going through finals and reading this, good luck with finishing the semester strong!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Being Versus Doing: A Happy Artist Is A Productive Artist

West and myself signed up for this class in the Acting Department this semester, ACT 620 - 01: MS: Movement: The Alexander Technique. The class is taught by Constance Clare-Newman, who is fantastic, and focuses on learning the specific Alexander techniques that actors use to optimize movement and voice.  The class has been one that has give me more than I could've ask for. Not only have I learned how to see and approach movement, posture, and voice in new ways, but I've been able to keep my focus better and keep my cool more in HIGH stress situations.

Part of our work for the class was to do a book report on a book relevant to the Alexander technique. I, by fate, luck, or both, end up with this book:

"The Art of Effortless Living" by Ingrid Bacci has helped me personally in multiple ways, but I never thought it would help me with directing the way it has. 

WARNING: This is an over simplification of the book and I highly recommend it.

The book describes that so many of life's conflicts come from us being obsessed with "doing" versus "being". A good football metaphor for this concept is being focused on running into the endzone before you've caught the ball.  If player is too focused on the future goal he's trying to achieve, it jeopardize what he is currently doing. On the flip side, if the player stays in his body and in the moment, he'll have a greater ability to adapt and actually realize his goal. And if the player is actually enjoying him or herself, they can perform to such a high level, they make it look easy, or effortless.

That's where the book instantly change me as a director. In dailies, I decided to not focus on results or deadlines. Instead, I shift my focus to my artists' state of being. Instead of saying things like "Can you get that done?" I would say things like "How's it going with this shot?" and "You feeling good about this?" The results from this approach were visible within one week. Dailies, the week after I started talking to my animators like this, were awesome. The quality of everyone's work jumped dramatically! I could tell they were enjoying themselves and taking ownership of their shots. I have been fully convinced that a happy artist is a productive artist, and my job as a director now is to keep my artist happy and feeling good about what they do. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Animation Collaborative

This production would like to take a moment to thank the Animation Collaborative. Located in Emeryville, California, across the street from Pixar, The Animation Collaborative is an amazing new animation school ( Five of our animators just finished taking the Animation Demo class with Mike Makarewicz this last winter session, and the things we learned didn't just benefit the animators who attended the class, but helped improve the animation quality on the whole film. That being said, "Just Looking" would like to show our support and highly recommend The Animation Collaborative.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Listening to the music while animating.

I usually listen to the music while I am animating ( I'm sorry I know I shouldn't...) BUT one thing I found it interesting was that music (especially Jazz music) has a lot of patterns and rhythms, which seems to be similar to the timing in animation. It sounds funny but sometimes I get interesting timing from the music. Actually, me and Sean had talked about the relationship between music and animation before. I think there are a lot of things in common music and animation in terms of timing.

Coincidentally, Tom was explaining "Who is the Star?"(it is I think all about making contrast) in the dailies last week. I think music is one of the ways to think about it more. You may be surprised (or have already known) there's a tons of interesting patterns and accent in music.

so....Don't listen to the music while animating, focus!!


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Be Vulnerable

As artists, we are constantly looking at each others work, giving critiques, and receiving critiques, which can sometimes be difficult and painful to hear. We spend so much time and effort on our work, that when we receive critiques, we have a natural reaction to defend ourselves and our work. But if we can suppress that urge to defend ourselves, and let ourselves be vulnerable, be open to what others are saying, and know that they are not trying to tear you down, but to help build you up, you will be on your way to becoming a better artist.

That's what we are all doing here right? Striving to be better, to do better, to grow and learn as men and women. If everyone is working towards the same goal of becoming better, and if you can let yourself be open and vulnerable when you are receiving a critique, there is no telling how much you will be able to grow and learn.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012



I know some the animators started using layered approach, I think it's really fast and efficient way to animate THEN why not using layers?

Our character rigs are really heavy and really hard to play in real time 24 fps unless hit playblast. I used to do that all the time, but think about how long we waste just waiting for letting computer do their jobs.

So I put everything in layers.

I put all the clothes, body and hands in a layer when I am working on facial. I put legs or any other body parts in a layer when they are not showing in the main camera. I hide Catherine when I am working on William. I usually make several layers depending on where I am working on then. so now I can play my shot by 24 fps(or at least look like). Of course, there are several situations that we can not avoid to deal with heavy stuff but at least I usually try to make it faster. Faster means I can try different ways more, and it means quality to me. Work efficiently, quality and sleep well.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Animating William


Start with head, hands or facial expression not ROOT

I don't know if this works for everyone but I came up with some tips for animating William since after I learned layered approach. What I found it the most interesting thing was to start with the BIG movement, and which is kind of interesting for animating the particular type of character like William. He is really stiff, and spine is aligned pretty much all the time, it seems to mean the biggest movement is not ROOT but maybe head, hands or even facial expression sometimes look bigger.

Whenever I was asked "What is the biggest movement?" "Which part of the body does start moving first?", I tended to say ROOT even before I think about it. I think this is one of the reasons why animating William is so difficult (at least to me). It's easy to be off model if William moves his spine as we move usually. 

So I tried to start with big ones not ROOT as I used to do all the time. There are a lot of different approaches and personal preferences, so I don't know if this works to everyone, but anyway, it works to me to avoid moving the spine too much.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Operation Fail-Safe! (Finding the right workflow)

When working with many artists, the relevance of a streamlined pipeline is extremely important. I've spent many hours researching and developing lighting workflows so that even the "entry level" lighter is able to light and extract render passes with minimal effort on our film.

When the film first commenced, I wanted to use RenderMan due to its certain caveats. But due to my own lack of RenderMan knowledge and the availability of people who have that knowledge, I decided to use Mental Ray. After starting, I realized that even though I know how to create and extract the passes necessary for compositing, maybe others wouldn't and maybe it wasn't even necessary to do all that work by hand. Upon further thought, I remembered that V-Ray is able to render all the necessary passes at the click of a few buttons. Upon that thought I took 2 days and converted all my Mental Ray shaders to V-Ray shaders. There was only one problem at this point. And that was the "artistic tweak-ability". I was finding it very hard to get away from that "V-Ray" look... especially with skin. So again I dug a bit more into the cave of internet research wonders. To be honest, I started to feel like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole, thinking to myself "what am I going to do?". A few days later, I stumbled upon a phenomenal shader pack written by Ledin Pavel (aka Puppet) called puppet shaders. These shaders are extremely useful and are capable of rendering out to passes just like the V-Ray nodes. So yet again, I took a few more days and converted all my old Mental Ray shaders to puppet's shaders. After I finished and completed some more "tests", I realized that I had made a great decision and that all the research was well worth it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Importance of Planning

Our team has been learning a lot about animation this year, especially how to animate clean and quick in Maya. But knowing how to animate clean and quick isn't enough to get you all the way there. I have found that planning, knowing what you're going to do before you even touch the computer, is key. For some people thumbnailing their acting beats works best, while others like to shoot reference and study their timing, posing and acting choices, picking and choosing what works and what doesn't work. Which ever way helps you visualize your animation before you start in the computer, go for it. The important part is that you take the time to think before you act, that way you won't get lost in between planning and polish.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fresh Blood

We've had some amazing new crew members join the team this semester. After being almost two years into this project, it's easy to be fatigued with the film. Fortunately, the new flesh blood, with their fresh eyes and enthusiasm, has proven to remedy that. But between the lack of sunlight and the new, fond taste for "fresh blood", can't help but think we're starting to turn into this guy.

Animation is in full swing, so posts maybe light for a while, but we're hoping to share some stuff soon!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Leveling Up

A group of us animators on the film are about half way through our Demo Class with Mike Makarewicz, at the Animation Collaborative, and our animation skills are leveling up like we're Goku, from Dragonball Z, training in 100x gravity. Our knowledge on animating in the computer has increased so much, that when we "shop talk" on the project now, it feels like this:

Iron sharpens iron. Man sharpens man.

Also, I apologies for the lack of posts for the past few months, but there has been A LOT going on on the production. We've been working on somethings that we will be sharing on here soon...