Archive for the “Animation” Category

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.


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…


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.


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).


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.


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.


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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No, I’m not expecting, nor did I have a kid. Someday, but not today, no.

See, I’ve been doing a lot of freelance as of late, and unfortunately, in that line of work, I often never see the final product. The other issue, is that if you’re working a lot on say Commercials, your name NEVER gets shown on TV really, so I mean it’s cool to see it online, but you have no way to prove someone wrong if they call bullshit.

However, today I found out the game I did some animation on for React! Games has been released. Not only can my resume be updated from “For an upcoming RPG” to “For Helam: A Stripling Warrior Quest”.

If you go to you can see a trailer for the game which looks pretty sweet(reminds me of Crash Bandicoot from a look standpoint). Anyway, If you go about 40-45 seconds in, you’ll see a monkey do this jump attack. I did all the animations for the Monkey as well as a Bat character not seen in the trailer.

So I downloaded the demo to check it out and it looks pretty slick. I saw I could go to the credits from the Demo, so I checked it out, and there it was…my name…

helamcredits I even got top billing! ;)

Nothing is as satisfying as seeing something like that. I’ve never been more proud(career wise, but maybe all time) than I was when I saw that. Just made my day.

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My goal for May is to finish 2 shots. Two shots. I must find time between two jobs to animate. The plan is to finish my Atlas Stone animation, then do another one, and if I’m feeling like a boss, a 3rd.

I need to keep developing because I would like a new reel or at least some new stuff on my reel this year. Let’s go motivation!

Also, Ventura County Rugby Club is going to DIII nationals this year. Hell yeah!

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It’s been a while since ive posted anything on here. Its been very busy as of late. Got some duties at work that have occupied a lot of my time. Im trying really hard to animate everyday…i made it like one week before some stuff at work and freelance on the side took priority. Bills to pay and such. I hope to find more time to regularly animate. Besides that i have just been doing some python scripting too got some rigging related scripts to go on cineversity in the near future.

Anyway heres the shot. Many thanks to charles wardlaw, patrick goski, malcon pierce, joe bowers, and dimos varysellas and some others for their feedback thus far.

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So the weekend has passed, which did not lend itself to much animation work towards this shot, which is looking to become a bit of a short as my initial video reference puts this between 20 and 30 seconds long(oofta!) So because this is getting a bit unruly, I need to wrangle this idea a bit, and REALLY try to refine the idea. On the plus side, this gives me time to work out some rigging kinks(pun absolutely intended) with the hose.

So I did mention I shot a little video reference, but it is not of much use besides letting my mind run about what to do. The lighting was bad, I had to use a comforter as a hose, so it just won’t do. Hopefully on Sunday I can film some reference at my parents house where there IS a fire hose(mwahaha). So now in the meantime I need to nail down this story.

So the hook was “A firefighter with an unruly hose”. There’s a few different ways this can go, but the overall idea in my head is a guy comes in, struggles with the hose somehow, Tries to turn it on, doesn’t work, gets frustrated, discovers the problem and he gets shot off into the sky maybe flapping around.

So this can be broken up into several parts which I have called: Entrance, Preparation for Hydration, Frustration, and Adios. Each one of these is a section of the story. The buildup to the next etc. And each of them can really be handled in different ways, and how I handle each one really sort of affects the next. I have been wrassling with the first part since that is going to set the tone.

So I began writing things down. I wrote 3 ideas and I drew very tiny thumbnails(so tiny there’s no sense in trying to take a photo like before. I really could use a new scanner):

-Runs in and then the hose gets snagged causing him to nearly fall.
-Shows he is frantic. Leads to perhaps klutz-like behavior. Shows urgency, I mean he is a firefighter after all…

-Casually Walks in
-This naturally makes me think this guy is a dick. He is a firefighter, but he’s sort of cocky and arrogant. It leads to a buildup of humiliation so you get a nice pride then humiliation comparison.

-Shuffles in as if the hose is very heavy.
-The hose is heavy and he doesn’t actually walk in it’s more of a pull then shuffle, pull, shuffle. Good mechanics shot, but then he lacks some character.

So those are the sort of things running through my head. I need to do some video reference and maybe some more thumbnailing.  The hard part is trying to do this in my free time only.  We will see how this evolves, but I will take these ideas in with me when I do my video reference.

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It’s time to get back into the Animation swing of things. Which means I need to animate something. My life has been pretty well occupied with rigging, and scripting, both great things to learn, I highly recommend anyone try to learn them. CINEMA 4D is a great package to do both in because it’s quite easy to learn.

So, if I am going to animate, I need something to animate. Not just a rig, but an idea. So that is part one of this journey. I need an idea to animate. This leads to a very important question: What am I going to animate?

Animation always needs an idea to start. It could be something as simple as a walk, or as complex as a love triangle or something. My initial thoughts were on simple ideas like picking something up. But I get bored with those. So I deferred to Charles for some ideas, and he whipped up a lot of interesting ideas in a very short amount of time.

His second Idea was “A firefighter with an unruly hose” was the hook and I liked the thought of it, and I think that’s what I plan on animating. I chose it because it has a few interesting challenges to it. Namely, the firehose rigging and animation will be an interesting challenge. So we are back in the first part of animation: Planning.

Immediately it popped in my head “Wasn’t there a Mickey Mouse cartoon where he was a firefighter?” Sure enough, and with the power of Google, I managed to find it. 1935′s Mickey’s Fire Brigade. If you have 8 minutes to kill I suggest checking it out. The creativity in this short kind of blows my mind since I have been in a bit of a creative funk lately. The treating fire like a character and giving it arms and such is classic.

So I figured there was some playful interactions with the hose. They come in around 2:15, and so I looked at that for ideas, and I also started looking on youtube for some reference of how a loose fire hose would behave. I found many thanks to that being what seems like a fairly common firefighter academy test.

So with some ideas in my head I took to doing some thumbnails. Drawing is not my strong suit anymore. I have not dedicated as much time to it as I’d like and it is now pretty poor, but to do some thumbnails you really just need a circle for a head, a rectangle that can bend, and 4 lines for limbs.

So with some scratch paper from a notepad, I whipped these up. Sorry, I don’t have a scanner :/.



So the idea has become, a firefighter, is running with the hose to put out a fire. They are pretty heavy so he lugs it out(some nice mechanics action here I think). Then, he assumes the “power stance”(yes my notes on the thumbnails even mention the power stance), gives his colleague the thumbs up. He then tries to release pressure to spray(usually you can do this at the nozzle). But nothing comes out He is checking it out getting frustrated with it. He turns around and notices the hose is very buldgey. He doesn’t realize it’s his fault, and the buldge scares him. Well him taking his foot off causes all the water to shoot out, and he is launched around holding onto the wild hose.

So the idea has some cool bits to it, some heavy lifting/pulling, some acting(confusion, frustration), some comedy[if you think it's funny that is], and some technical challenges with the hose. But it’s also good because I have never animated anything that wasn’t a Biped, so now’s my shot.

The idea is there…now it’s time to get it to work. Next step is to film some reference.

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…Thankfully, doesn’t require any medical attention. No, the burning sensation I’m feeling is the urge to animate. I have been rigging or scripting stuff since like November I think. Basically, once CTN-X came and went, so did all my time to Animate. Be it work, freelancing, etc, I just haven’t had the time. It’s been rigging scripting. I’ve had to re-create the Face Rig for the Ottoman since Orestis has moved to Japan. That took some time, but was really good because now I can rig faces(painting weights for faces is another story). So, with my last piece of animation, I had a nice looking(although now it looks crappy) animation, I had no way to animate the dialog.

But, I have been snooping around, found a rig called Max for Maya, and I took his mesh, and have re-rigged it to CINEMA 4D. It’s not feature for feature,  just wanted a simple sturdy rig to animate with. And I think it’s about animation ready which means I need to do some planning.

I plan on documenting the process, hopefully more thoroughly than the last attempt(read: failure). So hopefully I will be on that very soon to satisfy that burning desire to animate something new.

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Hello again. So let’s catch up on life shall we?

Two weeks ago, I went with my parents and my brother back east to the village of Pulaski, NY to attend the funeral for my Grandparents. It was a good trip. We stayed at a place called Brennan Beach which is right on Lake Ontario. I gotta say, having seen Lake Ontario up close, I can understand why my mom and other New Yorkers call lakes here in CA ponds. The damn thing is HUGE! It literally looks just like the Ocean, even with some waves.

Anyway, I got to see my Cousins, Hank and Katie, and my Aunts and Uncles, and 2nd cousins and such. It was a good service, I was tearing up and my bottom lip was quivering the moment I sat down. I tried to keep it together, but I didn’t do so well when I saw the urns. They have a stone in the Pulaski Cemetary near their friends of many years and other family members.

We went to The Elms golf course for the celebration of their lives and my mom and her sisters scattered their ashes on the golf course they were both so fond of.

Once I returned home, it was busy busy busy as MAXON Released R12. So we have been busy making tutorials for 12 days of CINEVERSITY. I’ve got 4 up there now, 1 on the new Camera Deformer, and a 3 part series on rigging a Marionette with Dynamic Connectors. Check them out if you like.

In the meantime, I have also been working on the Ottoman Project, we are close to being able to say the Rigs for the characters are done. We’ve rigged up the hero Character and have been working on his clothing for the time being but the actual body rig might be done. So soon perhaps I might be adapting the rig to some of the other characters.

I’ve set a bit of a goal for myself to Animate 3 scenes by Christmas(think of it as a little present for my demo reel I guess). So that gives me more than 3 months for 3 shots which should be plenty. Now it’s about finding the time to do it. I’ve been working on a rig for these shots and it’s almost done, and then I have to think of ideas for the shots. I’ve also been doing some walk cycles as of late which I will be posting sometime soon hopefully.  But I need to make sure I come up with ideas and make it happen. I can’t sit around waiting for animation studios to knock on my door. I need to make things happen.

If you have any ideas(I’m thinking like 5 seconds long max) for shots please let me know. Hopefully I’ll post a demo of the rig soon as well.

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Sorry, time has been a blur, and I’ve progressed quite a bit with the shot since last time, so I will try to recap a bit. I had hoped to get a bit of feedback from the one and only Dimos Varysellas, but Dimos is going through some medical troubles, so I want to wish him the best of health. He did actually give me a few notes between Part 2 and this. What some would probably call Blocking Plus, he gave me some input and I was happy to get it and so I treked on.  Thankfully, I still managed to get some feedback from peers on the Animation Mentor Alumni Website. So I took my blocking and kept working at it.

I for the most part was good about doing a new video file each time I started  new animation session. I say for the most part because apparently I do not seem to have an intermediate file between blocking and first going to spline. So I’m sorry for that, but it’s ok, because it all changes anyway.

So, if I remember correctly, this is me taking it out of blocking and converting to Spline. I’ve progressed much further in this shot and I look back on this and shudder a bit haha. So I believe I uploaded this on the AM website for some feedback when Jeffrey Star, a former classmate of mine gave me some good notes, including wanting to see the brows and eyes give the “Wait, what?!” a bit more pop. So I began refining things a bit. This would sort of be like when you get the green light, I guess. The story is being told through the poses, now it’s time to finesse it and make it look good.

So this video shows me bringing in some of the facial expressions while still refining the body mechanics of the shot. Some of the notes received from this shot were that people werent really feeling the emphasis of the “W” sound in both Wait, and What? as well as some of the leaning back looking/feeling stiff. So onward I kept pressing.

This next iteration was again, just more and more refinement. As I said, whenever I would start working on it I would change the render number and go at it. And the amount of time being worked varied so sometimes a lot of visual progress would be made, but other times you might not notice anything. However, you’ll notice the character is textured. I was just playing around with Bodypaint and got all of that in there. Maybe I am the only one, but I really think a well lit, textured scene helps your animation. I know, I know, I’ve heard the “You can’t polish a turd” speech, and I fully agree with it, I’m not saying They will hire you as an animator for your texturing abilities, but some places do appreciate the effort. And while, you cannot polish a turd, if you texture a turd to look more like corn on the cob, well, I bet you it would be a lot more pleasing on the eye than the other. Still a turd of course, but a step above a normal untexturered/unrendered turd, no? I think the jeans look great if I do say so myself, and one of my favorite movies/characters is on his chest. The one and only Walter Sobchek from The Big Lebowski with the phrase “You are entering a WORLD OF PAIN” on it. I relish the ability to do that right now because I know that if I’m at a studio I won’t have that freedom anymore, so enjoy it while you can!

Ok, so flash forward(really, it’s backwards now) to Saturday Morning the weekend before SIGGRAPH. It’s time to get my Demo Reel ready for Burning(an infuriating process to be discussed in the next post). So I decided to light the scene(as well as refine some other little bits) and texture the walls. I rendered the bad boy out and added it as the first shot in my reel. A risky move, but I liked it, I thought it was good, and I think it was the right decision(more on that in the next post). I figure I’m all said and done, but then I get some very good, detailed notes from another AM Alum and current Walt Disney Animator, Malcon Pierce. Just as I finished my DVD Burning I saw them. I thought I was done, but you know what? I think I agreed with everything he said, and am now still working on refining the shot, even with the damn thing on my reel now.

This profession is a learning process, and I am enjoying learning. So that will do it for part 3. At some point, there will be a part 4, and God willing, it will be the last part. And next time I do this on a new shot(and believe me I intend to) I will be a bit more dilligent about it.

I want to thank the people who gave me notes and feedback. They were Andy Runyon, Libby, Jeffrey Star, Stephen Orsini, Lauren Wells, Malcon Pierce, and Dimos Varysellas(Get better buddy!).

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Alright, so it’s time to get moving with this shot. SIGGRAPH is only a few weeks away so I need to get this shot done so it can go on my reel for the job fair. I had a nice relaxing weekend with my family and a couple days in Vegas with the rugby guys, and with Libby away for the day, time to work some on this shot.

So now that the idea and our reference looks good, what’s next? Well, first it’s creating the shot and getting a bit of a scene. But since we are still very early in this shot, and only focused on Animation, well, I don’t need it to be some amazing looking environment. I’m actually terrible at that, so I focused on 2 main things. 1. He’s inside someplace, so put him in a room. Then, he needs a cup and something to put the cup on.

So a cube scaled up a lot, and a table preset from the CINEMA 4D Architecture Edition, and one Cylinder edited a bit gives me all three things. So now I can focus on blocking in the animation. When I’m blocking my animation, I look to my reference to try to find some of the key poses. I think of about which are my key poses, which are interesting, which ones are good breakdowns and such. Below are some of the key poses(The start, The Choke, Putting the cup down, and then the end).


So I focus in on some of those first. I’ve found that I work more in a straight ahead fashion when blocking in a shot. I start at the beginning and work towards the end, adding some breakdowns right at the beginning as well as I strive to make the motions looks pretty good and to really understand how I got to those poses.

This proves to be a bit of a double edged sword for me as I find that poses towards the end suffer as I begin to think less about animating and making good, strong, clear poses, and more about just getting it done. I WOULD ADVISE ANYONE STARTING IF YOU FIND YOURSELF THINKING “JUST GET THIS DONE” TO STOP AND THINK MORE ABOUT THE SHOT AS IT WILL LEAD TO MORE WORK PROBABLY.

When I’m blocking, I key EVERYTHING except for Facial controls and I work in Step Mode and I just go to town. What I sometimes do is work on my poses in layers a bit. Focusing on getting the body and limbs right, and then I go back and focus on things like fingers. I playblast a lot, and CINEMA 4D rules here because I can just render to the picture viewer and play it in there with sound and see right away how it’s looking.

With Blocking, I think that all I want is for it to tell the story and for nothing to be too distracting. I aim for this, but I cannot say I always make it. When I say distracting, this typically means popping from one pose in an unclear way that doesn’t really make sense. It typically means there’s not enough breakdowns for it to be clear. So I try to block it out and I keep it light at this stage because I want to make sure I’m heading in the right direction.  That’s the stage I am at now. I have done some blocking and I need to get some feedback from others before continuing, which means this post is finished for now. Below is my blocking:

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