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!