Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Another Note on Posing

Just wanted to throw in another resource for ya. This book Simplified Drawing for Animation by Wayne Gilbert is another great resource for learning and really constructing poses for your animation. He breaks them down in really easy to follow ways that make sense and it seems to be an invaluable resource to add to your collection. Here are a few inserts from his book that you can find on the site. You may remember him from the free Animation Mentor webinar not to long ago. If you missed it here's the link.

So check it out...some of the best $$ you'll spend.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

So...... I met my hero this weekend !

Me and Glen Keane at the San Diego Comic-Con!

Pretty awesome right?! This was right before the Walt Stanchfield Panel. After waiting in line for long while, the panelists start to show up in the front. With my eagle eye, I spot this dude from afar in shorts and a cap, and I realize Oh sh*t its Glen Keane! He looked like a kid with his little backpack!

I muster up the courage to approach him and ask if I can get a quick picture. I turn to him, a little verklempt, and go, " Man, You're my hero Glen." He stops , takes a moment to look down at my badge and goes "Well thank you , Bobby." Like, super sincere y'know? So I told him his work was the reason I aspired to become an animator, which is true. He shook my hand, and my friend Tirzah took the picture. I said thank you one more time, made sure the picture wasn't blurry, and squirmed away. Aw man, I didn't think I would geek out like that but I felt like a little kid.

Check out more of my pictures from the comic-con here !

Posing in Animation

Today I'd like to talk a bit about posing. I recently was given a great lecture on posing. I know for me, when it came to my learning process in animation, not enough emphasis was placed on posing. I mean, really drawing and figuring out your poses before even getting into the computer. Also really pushing your poses. I always get feedback saying push those poses further.

I always seem to contain my posing. It seems that the best way is to push too much...because then you can always dial it back some more.In my experience it is to push the pose, step back, look again,then push more. It's like when they say, "It's always better to be overdressed than under-dressed". Never go with your 1st pose, ask yourself, "Can I push it further?" In the lecture I received he discussed 3 Main Principles of Posing.

1. Staging of the Shot
2. Line of Action

3. Pose Design

As animators we are exposed to staging all the time. Before we were animators it was planned out for you to see in all of the films that you watch. If you stop on a frame of animation, you can really study the staging in a shot. Where the characters are placed in the scene also in relation to the objects or even other characters. Most things in a shot as you might notice in many great photos do not lie perfectly center but are slightly offset. Take a look at this still frame from Foghorn, you can see the staging set up clearly and direct. All of the action and staging leads the audience directly where they want you to look.

This is discussed in John K's Blog as he takes this shot and breaks it down frame by frame. John's Blog is a great resource for this as he seems to do this type of stuff alot. He examines different shots of classic animation all the time and breaks them down. Check it out.

Now the Line of Action in a character is one of the most important aspects of posing. How you pose the character I believe will determine how much smoother your animation will flow from one extreme to the next. I never realized it early on but having really strong poses can actually make your animation easier when you go from your blocking to splining. It will also help your animation read clearly. You can convey just about every emotion with your posing. It also ties in with your framing of the shot in that many elements of the shot will follow your line of action. Think...if your character was just a line...Would it be clear?

These are a few poses of Louie from the Jungle Book drawn by Milt Kahl. I saw this post on Michael Sporn's Splog. There are many frames from this animation, so check it out cause they are amazing examples of how you can get good weight and character through Line of Action. Next time that you see a great piece of animation I encourage you to pause it on a single frame that best describes it. Then frame by frame it from pose to pose and see how clear the animation really is. This is all made possible by these types of poses.

There are a few elements within Pose Design that were covered in the lecture I received that I would like to bring up. Simple vs Complex and Straight vs Curve. They run hand and hand but you will see it. It is mainly all about balance in the pose when you are constructing it. Ask yourself what it is that you are trying to say. What emotion are you try to sell? Then you can start with your line of action and in that line of action will fall your attitude. Here are a couple of from animation and one from real life.

The 1st example is a Glenn Keane drawing for the prince of Rapunzel.
If you look at the left side of the Prince then you see Simple and Curved. The right side is Complex and more Straight up and down. Same with the pic of the the kick boxer his left side is Complex and the other side is Simple. In any good pose you can find these. Please check out Glen's site The Art of Glen Keane. There is always great examples of posing on there.

There are so many examples of great posing out there so do your research. I have put together a few more resources for everybody. So really take the time and think about your posing it will make a world of difference in your animation.

The ones above are from a great site called The Animation Art of Bobby Pontillas that has plenty of great examples.

This one comes from a Pose Tutorial I found on Deviant Art pretty sweet. Deviant Art is also a great resource for good posing.

And here is a few other links
Keith Lango's Life after Pose to Pose

Victor Navones Tutorial on Posing

to be continued...


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Destination Woody

July 20 is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. To commemorate it, Turner Classic Movies is running films relating to the moon for the entire day. At 1 p.m. Eastern time, they are running Destination Moon (1950), which is of interest to animation fans for an original segment where Woody Woodpecker demonstrates rocket propulsion.

The segment is available on YouTube, so if you're not interested in the entire film, here's Woody.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Thank you!

Oh man, thanks so much everyone for checking out my film!! It really is a great feeling to get some positive feedback after working so hard on something.

I don't know about anyone else, but for me, it's extremely nerve-racking the minute you make your film available for everyone to see. Its like, you take a deep breath, press the "Post" button and either people might get a kick out of it, or everyone will just go silent and be like,".......The hell was that?" And maybe I still got a lot of those, but I dunno, this thing was about 2 minutes and took me just under a year, so I can't even imagine a director, who has spent 4-5 years working on a 90 minute film, on opening day. Scary.

Anyway, if I'm gutsy enough, expect more posts where I ramble on about more of that stuff, but I 'll try to at least include a drawing.

BTW, I also posted a few pictures of my Bay Area trip last week over in my photos section (flickr) !

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Human Resources

Updated below.

There was a time when companies owned the resources they used to produce their products. A company was its factories. However, in more recent times, companies have rebelled against the idea of overhead, so they simply contract out their needs to suppliers. In the past, the onus was on the company to keep factories and workers busy or they faced the possibility of financial losses. With subcontracting, companies only pay for the work they need when they need it, and it is the subcontractor's problem to meet overhead. You could say that companies have downloaded their overheads to subcontractors.

When companies owned the means of production, they were not necessarily better behaved. The movie studios of the 1930s treated their employees so poorly that they unionized in self-defense. The concentration of production in Hollywood, with its high overhead of buildings, cameras, lights, props, costumes, etc, gave workers some degree of leverage. It was not financially viable for studios to relocate any time there was a labour problem.

Subcontracting has been a financial boon to the studios. Where they once owned everything themselves and were stuck with fixed costs, they now have several companies bidding to supply what they need and the competition forces prices down. Subcontractors have their own overheads to meet, so they cut their margins as low as possible to attract work.

Subcontracting has allowed studios to do business over a larger geographical area, which has reduced worker leverage. While it was difficult to relocate a movie studio to escape a labour problem, it is simple to redirect work to a subcontractor somewhere else.

The Los Angeles Times has an article about local suppliers who are suffering as the studios redirect work to other places in order to save money. By no longer employing these people directly, the studios feel no obligation to insure their survival. Governments outside California want to attract film and television production to their locales and Hollywood studios are only too happy to take advantage of financial incentives governments offer them. If that results in hardship for local suppliers and workers, that is not the studios' concern.

Still from Live Music

The New York Times has an article about a 5 minute cgi animated short called Live Music, produced by Mass Animation. The short was crowd sourced. Mass Animation supplied software to interested contributors, who competed to get their shots accepted for the film. Each accepted shot earned $500. The short has been picked up by Sony for release in front of their feature Planet 51 on November 20.

(You can see the trailer here. The story looks to me like a rehash of the Silly Symphony Music Land.)

17,000 people downloaded the software but only 51 people had shots accepted. The Times doesn't report how many of the 17,000 actually submitted a shot. It is impossible to know how many uncompensated hours were spent to create the film or how many minutes of footage were created to arrive at the final five.

(If only 5% of the 17,000 submitted a shot, that's 850 people. Subtracting the 51 who were accepted, that leaves 799 people who worked for free and it means that roughly 85 minutes of animation was created and 80 minutes was thrown away.)

The Times also reports that the budget for the short was $1 million. Unfortunately, the Times doesn't say how many shots are in the finished film. If we assume that the average shot length is 3 seconds, that would be 20 shots per minute or 100 shots in the film. At $500 per shot, that's a total of $50,000. That figure does not cover overhead, script, board, soundtrack, modeling, rigging, or any post-production costs, but I'm a little suspicious that animation and lighting cost only 1/20 of the budget. That suggests to me that the animators were underpaid.

Where studios once had subcontractors competing for work, they now have individuals competing. Furthermore, while a subcontractor only had to create a bid (and perhaps a sample), the individuals have to create finished shots.

I'm in favour of artistic collaboration and the idea of crowd sourcing a film over the internet is exciting. However, the long term trends disturb me. Animation production, which was already too fragmented for my tastes, is now more fragmented than ever. The 51 animators who worked on Live Music come from 17 different countries. Corporations continue to use their leverage (the fact that they have money that other people want) to externalize their costs and disperse work ever more widely. The one constant is the drive to pay as little as possible. In this case, the majority of the animation created was done for free.

I haven't seen Live Music. I have no idea how good it is or how the people who competed to work on it feel they were treated. While the internet presents unprecedented opportunity for creative collaboration, it is also the ultimate tool to divide and conquer. I worry that individuals won't have the knowledge or the strength to protect themselves from companies focused so singularly on the bottom line.

Update: A former associate of mine had a meeting with Yair Landau, the founder of Mass Animation, and was given different figures than the N.Y. Times used. Here's what he told me:
2,500 Maya downloads (vs NY Times 17,000). This was 60 day license
200 different animators (vs your 850 guesstimate)
107 shots (winners) pared down to 97 in final edit (vs your 100 guesstimate)
50 different winners (vs 51 NY Times)
Obviously the winners did an average of 2 shots each.
He said the average number of submissions per shot was about 4.
(so about 400+ submissions) Cutting ratio of 3:1
Other: animators did NOT do lighting.
Lighting, rendering, compositing and editing was all done at ReelFX who didn’t get a mention.
The above figures make the production a lot less wasteful than what the N.Y. Times implies. It also looks like typical Hollywood hyperbole is at work here in terms of the number of downloads. It's interesting that fewer than 10% of the people who downloaded software actually submitted a shot. I wonder how big a pool of downloaders would be necessary in order to do a feature?

I would also point out a comment by gregizz, who was a contributor to Live Music and who offers his thoughts on the process.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Astonishing World of Tezuka Osamu

Kino Video will be releasing a collection of Osamu Tezuka's work on DVD on July 28 to customers in the U.S. and Canada. The DVD contains the following films:
  1. Tales of the Street Corner / 1962 / 16:9 / 39:04 / English Subtitles
  2. Male / 1962 / 4:3 / 03:09 / English Subtitles
  3. Memory / 1964 / 4:3 / 05:40 / English Subtitles
  4. Mermaid / 1964 / 4:3 / 08:17 / No Dialog
  5. The Drop / 1965 / 4:3 / 04:18 / No Dialog
  6. Pictures at an Exhibition / 1966 / 16:9 / 32:56 / No dialog
  7. The Genesis / 1968 / 4:3 / 04:02 / English Subtitles / B&W
  8. Jumping / 1984 / 4:3 / 06:22 / No Dialog
  9. Broken Down Film / 1985 / 4:3 / 05:42 / No Dialog / B&W
  10. Push / 1987 / 4:3 / 04:16 / English Subtitles
  11. Muramasa / 1987 / 16:9 / 08:42 / No Dialog
  12. Legend of the Forest / 1987 / 16:9 / 29:25 / No Dialog
  13. Self Portrait / 1988 / 0.13 / No Dialog

Also includes:
Interview with Tezuka / 1986 / 4:3 / 18:19 / English Subtitles

The pre-order price is U.S. $20.97 with the eventual price to be $29.95. You can see two minutes of excerpts (from Jumping and Legend of the Forest) at the above link.

Kino is also releasing a DVD of Phil Mulloy's work. Details here.