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It’s been a while since I’ve posted. But I’d just like to recap what’s gone on lately. My time at Disney has been going swell. I’m learning a lot and having a blast. I love going to work every day. The Talent Development program is a 3 or 6 month program. I was fortunate enough to make it past the 3 month mark and so that meant I would get another 3 months to work there. Awesome. However, it was around early July I was told there was probably not going to be a spot for me or my coworker Mary(also did the Talent Development program with me), at the end of the 6th month(ie end of August). That was a shame. But I kept thinking there was a chance still so we just kept working hard.

So then August rolls around. A few different awesome things happened in August. First was Siggraph, and while it wasn’t necessarily awesome it was cool. I meat some contacts at other companies which was cool, plus I got to hang out with some of the MAXON folks. I would have gone more than one day, but I had other, bigger plans.

You see, I have been engaged for 18 months. And I was set to get married on August 10th(the Friday after siggraph.) So I had that stuff going on that week. I’m happy to report the wedding went off without a hitch. It was wonderful and all that jazz, just too short, and too much of a blur. We all had a great time. Here’s a picture from the wedding:

married

So after that awesomeness, we went on our honeymoon. This meant a week away from work which was nice(as vacations usually are) but not nice, because I was needing to focus on finding a new job. So there was a little bit of stress and anxiety the whole honeymoon. We went to the Bahamas, which was fun and relaxing. It’s beautiful there, but it’s hot as hell. We just relaxed in the warm pool, warm, beautiful ocean, and drank some nice bahamian beers and fruity drinks like Bahama Mama(libbys choice) and Strawberry Daqueri’s(my fruity drink of choice).

So when I got back from that, I got good news. Not good news, GREAT news, that my time at Disney would be extended! So I mean, Week 1 was awesome, Week 2 was awesome, then Week 3 we(Mary and I) found that news out. Then Later that week, I set the high score on Fix it Felix Jr and I felt like a badass. Of course Steve Weibe is at PAX and he probably just absolutely CRUSHED my score, but still. I was feeling good.

So I sit here on Labor Day weekend, so thankful. Thankful for my new wonderful wife. Thankful for our trip. And thankful for still having a job. Because I could have been sitting here today, unemployed, but I just managed to dodge that bullet.

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I just wanted to share a preview for a plugin I have been working on in my spare time. It’s currently called Marker Manager. Sorry if the colors are all funky. I don’t really know why that is.

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So in the last part of this discussion, I had mentioned how the major problems of building a rig, reusing a rig, etc. etc. and sort of left it that CINEMA 4D R13 basically squashed those problems.

Very Nice!

However, it didn’t solve every problem. Yes, it made it so upkeep on the rigs was simple and easy and only needing to be done once. However, it’s not a perfect solution. First of all, building a rig was significantly faster, which was a huge plus. But fitting the rig to the character still took some time. Somewhere around the 6-10 minute mark, and I think that may have not included the face rig(which at the time was not done). And because I didn’t trust the updating, that meant having to rebuild and adjust the rig for each change. So those minutes, can add up.

goober Damn fingers. Difficult to navigate around, place joint pivots, and they don’t even FING!

So there needed to be a way to sort of automate that rebuilding process. So what ended up happening was a few python scripts were made. They are actually several scripts. The first script, generates a null object for each handle which I define in the template file. So I only need to put my adjustments in once(so 6-10 minutes) and then I can run this script to generate the positions and orientations. Then there’s a series of scripts that go through each component(i.e. spine, legs, arms, hands, face etc.) and looks at the handles for that object, and snaps it the null. This is done using a suffix at the end of the name for the null object, making it easy to use python to search for each handle+the suffix. Then you just snappity snap it into place. Bing bang boom. 10 minutes adjusted down to like 30 seconds(including build time).

This alone was huge for me. Because I would make change after change after change, I was just dying from adjusting so much. I should kick my own ass for not automating the process sooner. In fact, If I could I would automate the build process as well, but presently, I do not know how to do that so 30 seconds will do.

This video shows how long it takes to build a rig

So now creating rigs, updating, building, and adjusting have all been streamlined a fair bit. Theres still a few little glitches(adjusting controller size is the current bugabooo), but it’s not incredibly easy to work on the rigs. The Character Object/Component Tag of R13 makes it easy. The modular design of it, allows me to build components as I need them. For instance, when the body and face were finished, we still found that we would need specific rigs for certain characters clothing(as we were not planning on simming everything). 3 of the four characters have some sort of jacket or poncho, or whatever. Each one different from the next.

tooberJust a sample of some of the various components, and how some can be for specific characters

Well, what this means is I can build a jacket that’s specific to the Ottoman, or the Son, or the Wife, and I can choose when to build it. So when I’m building the Ottoman, I don’t need the Son’s jacket. So with the template and my scripts, once the rig is made, I generate the snap handles, and then building and adjusting it is easy too. The clothes essentially do not add any time increases for building and adjusting the rig which is nice. Well it adds maybe one second to build since its one more thing to click on.

So at this stage, the rigs are in a banging place. They are ready for the next great pipeline bottleneck: Skinning/Weight Painting/Binding, whatever the hell you want to call it. I call it a pain. But I’ll save that pain for another post…

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A lot has already been said and shown regarding the art of The Ottoman short(http://www.the-ottoman.com/blog/). Concept art, models, textures, all have been shown and discussed, but nothing regarding the rigging action that has been going on throughout this short. I hope to do a series of posts discussing our rigging pipeline, in an effort to perhaps be of use for other groups or studios using CINEMA 4D and wanting to tackle some deep character work.

A little bit about my role with the project. I joined…shit I don’t really even remember, 2009 sometime if I recall correctly. I was just beginning Animation Mentor. I had met Dimos through a beta team, and since he’s a mentor at AM, we got in contact. This lead to me making some previs rigs that would make me cringe if I looked at them now. As time went on, I had a lot more time to work on the project and others, so I was given more things to do. Previs rigs lead to previs mech rigs which lead to the production rigs, which lead to the face rigs, which leads us to where we are now. I’ve done the vast majority of rigging on this project. As such, I want to share some of our pipeline.

ottoman-ensemble

With four characters to rig, that sounds pretty light by some standards. All four characters are more or less the same. Bipeds, five fingers, no toes, yadda yadda yadda. This meant they would all be very similar. More or less the same apart from some minor things. The Ottoman has a jacket that needs controls, the Son needs one, the Scorpion Driver has a goatee, the wife has dreadlocks. So they can all be based off the same rig with some minor differences between them on top of the base biped.

Now, when I began working on the production rigs, this was around R12, and was already taking way too long. I had to build four separate rigs, all based on more or less the same rig. I had slaved over the Ottoman rig. Getting it good and the sign off from Animators. It took a long time. And eventually, once that one rig was done, I blasted through the other 3 characters. When I say blasted, I mean I just locked myself in a room in a weekend, worked like all day on a character and rushed through them to get them done. Sounded good at the time…

screen-shot-2012-06-17-at-104821-pm Yeah, great, now, repeat all this 4 more times, by hand, that’s a good workflow aye? Nearly 2000 objects is hard to display.

Here’s the problem with this. Since all the rigs are based on the same thing. That means, when you find a bug in one, you got a good shot at a bug in the other ones. Then that means if you fix a bug in one, you gotta fix it in all other ones. Ontop of that, you have to make sure you built each one each properly, and you have to have some sort of solid system to maintain each bug, and be able to track it. Such a system, I sure as hell did not have.

r13And then Release 13 came out. And the world rejoiced.

But, then Release 13 came out. And with it, the character object. And while it wasn’t at all a surprise to me(since I was a beta tester, and had devoted nearly 2 years of work into that system) I knew that it was going to help solve these problems. What this system allows me to do, is make one template. This one template can be reused on each rig. This solves the biggest problems: 1. It’s easy as pie to rig each character. What took me a full day non stop going balls to the wall rigging(this is excluding weight painting mind you), has been condensed down to like 10 minutes. That’s insane in it of itself. 2. If there’s a bug in the rig, I fix it once in the template, and then it’s done. It can be propagated down to each rig. There’s an update feature in the Character Object. This was huge. It was huge for me, it was huge for this project, and it’s huge for any potential studio wanting to do character work. Make one template, reuse the hell out of it. This is standard are most studios.

For the Ottoman, we started with the Advanced Biped, which I made. However, it’s not as simple as that. We changed bits of business here, the hands are completely redone, there’s components for jackets and stuff, as well as a Face rig. So everything is much better, but things are still not perfect. But I set out to try to remedy that.

But that will wait til next time…

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So with my new job I have been working a lot more in Maya. I can’t necessarily say I enjoy it just because I’ve been working non-stop in CINEMA 4D for the last…6 years? Anyway, I’m making my rounds with it, and I’m learning to get by with it. One of the things that’s really nifty is the ease of being able to isolate what you are looking at. In Maya, by default, if you select something and press SHIFT+I it will hide everything but that object. Nifty. However, for all that niftyness, you still gotta either go into the menu and turn it off, or deselect everything and hit the shortcut again. So I thought I could probably use that in C4D. So I made a little python script that does this.

In a nutshell, select your object(s) run the script. Boom, only those are visible.  Run it again, everything is back to normal. If you hold CTRL and run the script, it will include any children of whatever you have selected. The other nice thing is that it should preserve all of your existing layers(see, internally, it’s doing this magic through layers), so when you de-solo everything, your layers are back as they should be. No Muss, No Fuss.

Well, maybe a little fuss. I think if you solo something that is being animated via a deformer, if the deformer isn’t active, the animation wont be either. You don’t lose your animation, it’s just not capable of scrubbing your animation until you deSolo. I think that may be a limitation.

Anyway, do what I did. Map it to SHIFT+I, and CTRL+SHIFT+I(did you know you can do two shortcuts for one command? Awesomeness) and use it at your hearts desire. Feel free to donate via the pay pal on the right if you feel inclined. Otherwise, enjoy.

SoloSelected

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I have news. BIG news. News that ends one thing but begins another…

I’ve been selected to be part of the Walt Disney Animation Studios Talent Development program. I got a call on Friday, and could not believe it, and Monday afternoon, I found out I was offered a spot. The program is a 3-6 month paid mentorship/internship. It’s basically 3 months of mentoring, and if you do well, you get another 3 month period, and then if their is space at the end, potentially a job.

I’m surprised. I’ve wanted to be in Animated films for many years, and when I went to Disney’s Inspire Days back in 2010, that is where I wanted to go, so to be able to go there, is kind of mind blowing, even if it is just for 3-6 months. However, joining the program means I have to leave my current position at MAXON.

The whole thing is bittersweet. I want to work at Disney, but my whole professional, post-college career has been MAXON, so making that jump is weird, and sort of scary in a way.

I just wanted to say thank you to MAXON, namely Paul and Rick for giving me an internship back in 2005. Then for hiring me after the internship. Thanks to both of them and Kai for getting me a job in 2008 again. The shit hit the fan that year economically, and having a job out of college was pretty huge. Thanks for trusting me to handle some trade shows here and there, and for just trusting in me to get things done. I know a lot of my growth in rigging is due to Kai being there every day for me to pester with questions. Pretty much 100% of my python knowledge is because Rick let me pester him with questions. Without those two, I wouldn’t be where I am in this industry. I am who I am because of their mentoring. And Paul has been one of the most understanding, and helpful bosses ever. That is the Babb way, helping others when they can, and they’ve helped me out a lot, and taken me in as part of the family, and my fiance as well(although, she was more in the family first then I joined in).

The rest of the MAXON crew, thanks for the fun memories. I’ll always remember staying late after work for some sporting competitions. I can say that I’ve drawn blood and had blood drawn from playing air hockey. Never thought that happened, but I’ve seen it happen first hand. I was also a part of the destruction of that air hockey table. Then playing a REALLY stupid looking/sounding game, but all we had were balloons, and we made it work. Then the ping pong. A lot of that is due to mine and Andy’s competitive nature. So thanks for that Andy. It was a blast.

Thanks MAXON. You always  Thank you for everything. I wish you all the best. I’m sure I’ll see you guys around.

…Now onto the next chapter in life…

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So, I’ve been doing some freelance from time to time over the last year, and I checked out my resume page…I hadn’t updated that in a substantially long time. So I have updated it here(and on LinkedIn) with some more information on some of the projects I have been fortunate enough to work on over the past year.

In addition to that I’m not sure I ever made a noise about my new Demo Reels. The animation reel has a couple of new shots from 2011, and there’s also a rigging reel! oooooh. I never had one before, but now I do. Shows some cool shit from The Ottoman project. Hopefully I’ll have some more soon! This has been a hectic crazy ass week including getting my ass kicked by my allergies, but I managed to update these things just so we’re up to date.

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As part of my 2012 resolution to be more creative and study animation more, I want to take some time to write some posts dissecting bits from movies. This past Christmas, my fiance bought Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs on DVD. There’s story here, let me blast through it real quick.

Libby and I work together, and we became really good friends for a year and a half before we decided to just give dating each other a shot. Our first date(I’m still not sure it was a clear date but she assures me we both knew it was) was to the movies to go see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. We work at a 3D software company, and she knows I wanted to be an animator, so she didn’t mind going. Like a true jackass, I didn’t pay for the date(something that irked her badly at the time). So our first date, I just flat out blew it. However, she let me stick around, and now we’re getting married this year. Anyway, she bought it on DVD with a little note that said something like It’s a good thing I decided to keep you around.

Now about the movie, I think it’s a great movie. I never read the book, so I only know the movie. I remember when I saw a pic of the movie the style of the characters bugged me. However, I’ve seen the movie many times. I really love this movie, I think it was the best movie of that year(The year of Up), or at least the most enjoyable. It’s goofy, off the wall and great. If you haven’t seen it, get off your ass and go watch it. It’s got a beautiful rendering going on, funny gags, snappy timing, just very cartoony.

So let’s take a look at just 1 frame.

starting-frame

This is a great frame. It’s clear just by the poses, that Flint on the left is hiding something(poorly) and that Earl on the right knows something fishy is going on(if you know the movie, you know that that was just an excellent pun!). Let’s look at this frame in depth. This pose, is held for like 16 frames before he lowers his arms a little bit. So it’s quick(It’s from a sequence of jumpy poses). But let’s look at this a bit more.

silsThis is the silhouette of each character. Oddly enough, when I look at them, I think Earl’s is clear, but I don’t think Flint’s is all that clear. We know he’s hiding something but this pose, at least in silhouette, seems not quite as clear. It seems like it could be pushed, maybe his spine is curled a bit and hes like really trying to hide it. Now, I don’t mean to sound like a prick, saying a silhouette isn’t very clear, but after looking at it, I realized why he’s posed in such a way. Let’s go back one shot in the film though…

prevshot

Earl has just startled Flint and said “WHAT’RE YOU DOIN’ FLINT LOCKWOOD!?” He knows something is up, but is not sure what. If you look at this frame in silhouettes, it’s pretty clear. And sure enough, Flint is leaning back a bit more like I would expect.

prevsils

So, why would they have him like that there but not on the other scene? Well, a few reasons. First, Earl is really all up in Flints grill. Earl is big and buff, so Flint’s a bit scared, so he doesn’t want to be very close. That’s why he’s leaning away. But the intent of this whole shot and the next one is that Earl is watching Flint.  Check out some of these flowlines(as I see it).

prevarrows

Everything about Earl, is focused on Flint. Everything about Flint is saying “Get Me Out of Here”. So this whole scene, is Earl saying I’m watching you(flint) so Flint is his focus, and he’s making him the audience’s focus. His mass, his size, the amount of space he occupies compared to Flint is making the viewer focus on what he is focused on. Everything is about Flint now. So let’s look at the flow of the first shot we looked at.

chararrows

Everything is pointing at Flint. Again, he’s the focus of Earl. So He has this unassuming position  If he’s leaning more in the spine (for like more of a Reverse C Curve) he’d be directing your eye OUT of the shot(to the left). So he’s standing there just being the focus. and Earl is just directing the viewers eye to Flint still. The other cool thing is not only is Earl, but the perspective directs your eye towards where Flint is, both sides of the building converge to where Flint is.

curved

The image above, shows a rough(because im still no good at drawing) drawing of how I naturally wanted his pose to look. A sexy curve and line of action, smooth and a curve are always better I think sometimes. But knowing what I think I know about this shot and it’s sort of intent, Seeing that pose is kind of…jarring.  It absolutely doesn’t fit and it breaks things up. I mean even his almost vertical pose, the straightness of it, coincides with the straight lines on the building the ground etc. Flint’s side of the screen is mostly straight lines. So him being curved would just kill that.

So what does this teach me? Well, it tells me that sometimes, you don’t need a pushed pose. Sometimes your line of action can be vertical or straight, and it’s ok, as long as it supports the story. This is the benefit to working in a studio(so I hear). You get a brief or a treatment, so you know where your shot is in the grand and smaller scheme of things. If I had no idea about the previous scene, I would have made a bad decision to that wouldn’t fit the story. The director, and sup would probably give me five across the eye! So, when they say story is king, they mean it. Make your animation, your poses, your animation follow the story, and you’ll be in good grace I imagine.

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Happ new year. My resolution is to be more creative, draw more, study animation more than just practice, and hopefully not lose my shit as I get ready to get married this August!

I also hope to do more posts here more regularly. Happy New Year! May 2012 be prosperous and fruitful for us all.

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CTN Expo has come and gone once again. CTN is a show that I was looking forward to, ever since…well last year. CTN is like just a small condensed amount of talent/awesome-ness, that It’s almost spoiled that I’m stuck in a booth all day. But let me recap my experience.

The perk of being an exhibitor is I just got to waltz right in mwahaha! So I walked in, and did a quick walkthrough. There’s just so many talented artists there, some people I’ve heard of ans some I haven’t. My regret is that I don’t have enough money to buy everyones book and enough time to talk with them about their progress. But alas, I did not.

So I got in on friday and I was starting off the show on the mainstage. Things were rocky. They didn’t have R13 on the bitchin Cintique, so I had to run it off of my laptop, which kind of sucked balls, because I was stuck working in 1024×768…I don’t know if you’ve tried to do that anytime recently, but it’s a real pain in the ass. But I made the best of it, just worked on an animation, and got some people to at least stare at the screen for a bit.

After that it was back to the booth. One of my favorite things about CTN, is you don’t get all the stupid “So what is 4D?” questions we often get at other shows. Though you still get the people who see stereo anaglyph glasses and assume what’s on the screen(the MAXON demo reel) is stereo as well. Well, surely everyone knows what an anaglyph preview looks like…but no they don’t. However, to combat some of that, I get props to the CTN folks for recognizing the fact that they are actually Steampunk. Two people said something and that’s more than any other time at a show for me.

The cool thing is that we were right next to Disney and Sony and just down from ReelFX. Three studios I would love to work at someday. I actually got to talk to some guys from Disney. Bobby Pontillas gave me some good feedback on my animation reel, and Chris Gallagher and I got to talk a fair bit and I got some feedback there about my rigging reel, which is cool. Turns out he actually was a C4D user way back in the day.

Last year at CTN I got a book by Tony White and Glenn Vilppu. Both were back again this year. But again, I’m poor, so I can’t buy everything I want. I’d buy more stuff from the both of them. All I ended up buying was The Art of Character Design by David Coleman. It was only 10 bucks and I have been eyeing that DVD for some time. I skimmed it that night and it was looking pretty good.

If you can afford it next year, you should go because the amount of creativity there is mindblowing. I saw so many talented artists, it just pushes you to try and grow as well to keep up.

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