Wednesday, 5 December 2012

We Want Your Thumbnails!

That's right! We want your animation planning thumbnails!

I've been planning a blog post about animation thumbnail planning for quite a while. Only, I thought I could make things more interesting. I want to include examples of other animators work, as well as their opinions so that I can offer a larger overview and more visual candy. 

So, if you're an animator (2D/CG/Stop Motion/Mocap) and you plan your shots with thumbnails then I'd love it if you could share an example of your work for others to see. It doesn't matter if you're a student, a professional or an animation God. If your thumbnails show clear planning and a thought process then you're good to share. Please, please, please don't worry about the quality of your thumbnails. You don't have to be Glen Keane or James Baxter - I'll be sharing some of my own and they're extremely basic.

What we want
  • Animation thumbnails - It doesn't matter if they were drawn traditionally or digitally.
  • Opinions - Do you have any strong feelings about planning with thumbnails? If so, feel free to speak your mind so that I can share some of what you think on the blog. (This is where people who don't thumbnail can chime in if they wish. If you don't use thumbnails then feel free to write in and tell us why.)
  • Additional info - If you're sending something, please include your name, blog, website or twitter details so that I can link back to you in the post. 

Where to send

  • The deadline has been thrown away. I'll stop accepting any more once I've made the post.

That's about it. Please feel free to pass on this blog to any animators you may know so that we can show off loads of awesome thumbnails!

[Awesome art provided by Robin Frenchhttp://www.robinfrench.com - She's currently taking commissions so go throw your money at her!]

Friday, 30 November 2012

Christine Phelan from VALVE at BAF 2012

I'm not sure where I found this but thanks to whoever led me to it. I feel what Christine talks about in this video is very important for people to know, especially students. She's very honest and to the point, no sugar coating. Also, that's the room that I graduated in...crazy!

Anyway, it's great to watch/listen to if you have the time. Christine talks about her time at school, getting into the industry, internships, working as an animator and then ending up in one of the best studios out there.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Glen Keane CTNX 2012 videos

Sadly a lot of animators couldn't make this years CTN, one of them was me. But luckily, there are some great people out there who are willing to share some of their experience with us. I was so happy to find some videos of Glen Keane's seminar.

I honestly can't think of many things more enchanting than watching this man work. Sit back and be inspired:

Saturday, 24 November 2012

LEGO Lord Of The Rings Released

Long time no real speak! The lack of posting has mostly been down to what I'm about to post about:

LEGO: Lord Of The Rings has finally been released. I've been working on it for the past 7 months and it's been a truly awesome, inspiring and exciting experience. It's currently sat on shop shelves across the world. Exciting times, especially as it's the first project I've worked on to be released (DmC is out in January).

Here's an obligatory picture of the game and myself in a giant warehouse of goods:

And a screenshot of the credits provided by Matt Phillips (a programmer at Tt). Additional in-game animation is the second credit I have, after cutscene animator:

It's a very fun get to smash LEGO stuff up and watch entertaining/funny cutscenes, what more do you need? If you play it, then I hope you enjoy it!

I'll be posting about my time at Tt Games very soon, just as I did with my time at Ninja Theory. So keep your eyes peeled for that. 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Dan Pozo's Podcast

This first (of hopefully more to come) podcast record by Dan Pozo is with Daniel Fotheringham - a highly skilled creature animator. The podcast gives a great insight into Daniel's workflow, how he approaches quadrupeds and loads of other interesting things.

Please go over to Dan Pozo's blog and tell him to release more of these. I'm sure he'd appreciate the support.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

bhGhost tool

bhGhost is a great new ghosting tool from Brian Horgan. Unlike other tools available for 3D ghosting, this one doesn't create an opaque duplicate of your model/rig. It creates an outline of your mesh, it looks like 2D ghosting! It's very fast and doesn't cause my ancient computer to chug, which is great! Give it a go, I'm off to play with it some more on my new shot!

Download bhGhost

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Paranorman animation tests

Sadly David has had to take his videos down but I'm going to keep this post up here in case he's given permission to put them back up.

I've just found some more Paranorman animation tests floating around the internet. These are from David Vandervoort. Sit back and watch some beautiful stop motion tests and a great dialogue test/guide.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Cold Day In Hell

Exciting news time! I'm going to be working with some very talented people on an animated short called Cold Day In Hell. Here's a description from the CDIH blog:

Cold Day in Hell is an animated short project being made by a bunch of animators/artists/general creative types in the UK. Most of us are a bit tired of doing work purely for showreels so we wanted to do something a bit more fun. Cold Day in Hell is a story about fun, a story which is at the same time sweet and just a little sad. It'll be about three minutes long and it'll be CG animated by folk who genuinely love animation. 

Behind the project is my good friend and co-worker Robin French. She's created a wonderful animatic for the short and if the finished thing is anywhere near as good then people are in for a treat. We're planning to have it finished by Christmas 2013, and will be posting production logs along with art and other bits as it's created.

So folk, please follow the blog and keep your eye on our progess. It's going to be tons of fun and we hope you enjoy our progress and the final film.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

DmC, LOTR and some of my work

Gamescom 2012 is at full speed and currently throwing out trailers all over the place. A few videos have been released for projects I've worked on/am working on. Two of them even feature some of my work. Here they are:


No specific shots from my cutscenes were used in this there are other peoples shots in there that I did the facial animation for.

I have two cutscenes in this video. The one before the tower comes to life and the second is the long scene between Bob on the TV and Dante telling him that he's "going down".

LEGO Lord of The Rings

Aaaaaaaaaand last but not least, there's this new trailer for LEGO Lord of The Rings. This is the project I'm currently working on, however as far as I can tell none of my work is featured in this trailer.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Paranorman Smears and Rambling

I found this one the world wide webasphere today and had to post it. I can't say I have ever seen/noticed a smear in a stop motion animation before but this is a great example of technological advances. Not only is it awesome that they're planning and animating smears in Paranorman but these replacement heads are being created using 3D printers. It's awesome to see a technique that came from 2D migrate over to stopmotion (and CG).

I don't know what it is about smears and multiples that gets me to excited. Well, I think I do - recently at work I have discovered that I love tricking people and getting away with things. Whether it's having characters doing unnoticeable things or getting away with smears, breaking limbs or just plain camera trickery...I love it. It's almost as if you're going beyond your requirements...which is simply to give the illusion of life and throwing little fancy things in there to really make your shots/scenes entertaining.

I fully understand that I'm very lucky to be in a job with so much creative freedom, it's definitely not the same in every studio. And, that considering the project and franchises I'm working with it's a lot easier for me to do these things. But it's very interesting because I don't throw such techniques around in my personal work. Obviously I don't have the advantage of spending 8+ hours a day on my own projects, therefore not having the opportunity to produce as many personal shots but I have only played with smears once in my own animation. I had an awesome time with them and learned a lot. The main thing I learned was that they're damn difficult to pull of well and should only ever be used when completely necessary. Looking back on what I wrote earlier, I may have made it sound like I pack all of my shots at work with smears, multiples, broken limbs and squash and stretch but the truth is...I really don't. I've had the opportunity to use special tools in places that would benefit from them. Sure I've over-animated a few things and gone a bit too cartoony a couple of times but I know when I've done it and when I am asked to change it I do it knowing that it's going to improve the shot.

Anyway, I hadn't intended on writing a load of nonsense about smears and "animation tricks" but it came out of nowhere. In conclusion, what I'm probably trying to say is:

Animators have these awesome special moves, much like video game characters. But they can only use them exactly at the right an equinox...Only, if we get it wrong we have to travel back in time to fix it. Otherwise the intent and sincerity of a character can be completely false and taking the time, to fix time wasted getting it wrong the first time still has a cost of time.

Which goes to show that a great deal of planning has gone in to the smears in Paranorman. The animator probably didn't simply think about doing it whilst animating the shot. That would never happen in a stop motion feature film...unless your director and supervisor really loved you. There must have been a perfect chance to use a smear and I bet that during the entire duration of the film...maybe an hour and a half? 90 minutes, that's 5400 seconds which is 12, 9600 frames of animation...that probably only a minimum of 10 of those frames contain a smear. I could be totally wrong, there could be 100 of them...which to me is a LOT but still...there'd be another 12,9500 frames of "normal" animation.

Ok, I'm going to stop there before I dig a deeper hole for myself. Either way, these real life smears are awesome and I hope they trick me when I see the film!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Paranorman Behind The Scenes Footage

These videos popped up online the other day and they're absolute gold for animators, especially stop motion folk. There's no quirky music or commentary, just background noise as these amazing artists do their work. Check them out, you get to see parts from different processes and a glimpse of the enormous effort that goes in to making an animated feature film.

The last two are pretty much all actors recording dialogue but still fun stuff.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Why Animation?

HARK! Another blog post is upon the internet.

Wow, it's been a long time...apologies to anybody who actually visits and reads this blog. I've been really busy with both personal and professional work, mostly professional recently but it's all fun and the game is looking completely awesome and packed full of amazingly entertaining and funny cutscenes.

Anyway, on to the topic. I have an awesome animator friend who sends me gigantic emails and he recently asked:

"I was wondering about how you came to be an animator? Was it something you always dreamt of doing or did you 'discover' it later in life?"

Awesome question, and one that I have a very specific answer for. The answer is, from the age of three - yes, I've wanted to be an animator. Obviously, being that young I didn't know what animators were but I wanted to be a part of what I was watching on TV. What first got me hooked was an advert for golden syrup created by Aardman. Here it is in all it's glory:

Don't ask me why, but I was OBSESSED with that advert. I loved it more than anything, and whenever it came on it made me hugely happy and excited. Ever since that advert I was addicted to stop motion and Aardmans projects in particular. I grew up with Wallace and Gromit, Creature Comforts, Rex the Runt and Chicken Run. I especially loved anything that Richard Goleszowski was involved with (Rex the Runt, Ident).

As you can tell, this was all stop motion. In my early teens my father bought me an awesome Sony camcorder that I used to film some stop motion tests. I used to make my own models with the same plasticine that Aardman used, complete with armatures too. Sadly, at that age I wasn't very good at teaching myself...even though I had folders and folders full of printed off information that I found on the old stop motion forums as well as owning the old version of Aardmans "Cracking Animation" book. I decided to give that a break until I could go off and learn it properly in higher education.

Years were spent floating around with different ideas of what I wanted to do for a living. Animation was always at the top of the list but there were times when I wanted to be a comic artist, guitarist, editor (live action) and whilst going through my angsty/"goth" phase I rather fancied the idea of studying 19th century literature. But, and here's the bit that interests me - when I was much younger I wanted to be a magician, puppeteer and a ventriloquist. It seems that I'm driven by the desire to trick people into believing that something I create is real. And to perform, but to perform through extensions of myself...not to actually put myself on the stage, but to have people focus on things that I create and to be amazed or to believe that they exist.

There was a point when I had to make a decision about what I wanted to do. I loved animation but couldn't do it and needed to learn. I was young and heavily influenced by all of the scare stories going around about 3D killing off 2D and stop motion. I went with what seemed like logically the best decision, a computer animation course. I must stress, that when Toy Story was released, I loved it. So so much! My Dad took me to see it at the cinema 3 times and once it was released on VHS I watched it every morning before school (I knew every line). I had a love for 3D animation too, I didn't simply jump onto a band wagon. Stop motion was my first animation love but CG stepped in and offered me the same joy from moving things around frame by frame.

Animation was always something I wanted to do, but I explored many other creative areas along the way. There are more parts to my story but that's all the important stuff. I didn't ever believe that I could actually do it until I enrolled with iAnimate - they really set me on my way (no, I haven't been paid to say that).

Perhaps the shorter answer to this question would have been "Yes, thanks to syrup."

Recommended viewing:

(This film was released after a successful TV series made in Wales, awesome at the time and still pretty fun)

As if this needs any introduction:

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Lego: Lord of The Rings

I've been at Traveller's Tales for abut 6 weeks now and was placed straight onto a great project. It's loads of fun and very challenging. I haven't been able to share anything until now, so here it is:

Note: I wasn't responsible for any animation in the trailer

Friday, 25 May 2012

Animation gif

This is the only animation gif you'll ever need:

And if you haven't seen it, it's from an awesome montage video that the animators from Dreamworks made called Push It. Check it out:

Thursday, 24 May 2012

iAnimate Lab #1

iAnimate have started a series of short videos that showcase some of the lectures that their students receive on a weekly basis. The first one is of Jason Ryan talking about how to avoid over animating whilst keeping broad action within a piece. Watch to the end for his awesome 2D planning and polished 3D render of the new turtle rig!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Crayon Dragon

I had to share this on the off chance that you lovely folk may not have seen it yet. Such a beautiful short!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

FMX 2012: An Animators Tale

Behold! This is a bit of a monster post but I thought it would be really interesting to share. Before I start, I'd like to point out that I did not write any of this and that I have never visited FMX. Therefore, I cannot agree with or promote the views put forward in this write up. I can only observe the experiences of Mr.Anonymator (we'll call him that for now) and hope to one day draw my own conclusion to the festival (I would really love to go!). 

A good friend from iAnimate sent it to me in an email and agreed to let me share it with all you lovely folk. However, he wishes to remain uncredited as some of what he says could be seen as negative or taken out of context. Especially since the animation community and industry is so small and everyone knows each other.

For anyone who doesn't know FMX is an animation convention held in Germany each year. There's a ton of things that happen there; workshops, seminars, industry recruiting booths, screenings and other events. If you went to this years FMX or any others and agree or disagree with anything here, please do share your thoughts in the comments section. Let's begin...

Ok so I arrived at FMX at around 10am for the 3-hour class, 'Ed Hooks' Acting For Animators Pt 1'. Ed was a really cool and fun guy, brimming with enthusiasm. Everything he said was pretty damn interesting (but I had already read most of it in his book - but it's good to get a refresher course nonetheless). There were also two spontaneous guests from Blue Sky, being Jeff Gabor and Nick Bruno. They chatted for about 45 minutes about their process and we looked at some of their work. The workshop on the whole was a bit more on the lecture side, although Ed took questions throughout and was happy for discussion to take place. But there were no acting exercises (phew!). However, I did find that a lot of what he talked about applied more to constructing a story rather than specifically animating a character, so I suspect a few people might have found that a bit frustrating.

After the workshop I hit the recruiting booths. I had my iPad in hand with my reel on it as well as 3 DVD copies. The room itself (called the recruiting hub) wasn't huge and the booths were pretty small, all being packed in close together. My expectation before I got there was that there would be long lines of people queuing up at each booth, with people holding onto their reels or portfolios. So I was pretty surprised when I got there and just saw the odd person here and there just wandering around, maybe having a chat. No portfolios, nothing. So I was kinda confused as you can imagine. (Oh one thing to note, not every company was there on every day of the conference. Some were, but others were there just for one day). So my first stop was at Animal Logic (Happy Feet, Legend of the Guardians). They were only there for Tuesday, and they're an Australian company so I thought, well that's something to chat about and plus they can't say I'm not good enough to get a working visa ;). So I chatted to the woman there, and she was cool and friendly. Eventually I showed her my reel and she said I had some nice stuff but my dinosaur shot lacked a lot of weight, which I think is a very fair comment. And I should probably mention now that I always introduced myself as a student animator and that I just wanted their feedback on my weaknesses and how I can push myself more. I never said outright that I'm looking for a job because I think it's just easier to not put them in that awkward position where they have to say 'no' (and I will say that everyone I talked to was pretty damn friendly and down-to-earth).

So I then went to the Framestore booth and was told that they don't look at reels or portfolios. They just gave me an email address to send my work to. Next stop was Axis Animation, who are from Glasgow. The women there were again really nice, but didn't want to look at my reel, but they did want to take a DVD version to look at later. So those hours of making the DVDs was worthwhile in the end (evidently, it was the only DVD I gave out). And then the last stop was at Lucasfilm Singapore. Another really nice woman who was more than happy to check out my reel and she gave me some great feedback. She really liked that each of my shots had a bit of a story to them, and weren't your typical walk-cycle, box-lift, etc, so that was nice to hear. She did say that the dinosaur shot lacked a lot of weight, so that one came out of my reel as soon as I got home (I replaced it with my weight lift shot - unfortunately the DVDs had to stay as they were). And that was it for Tuesday. There were other companies there that I didn't visit because they were very Visual Effects oriented and it was clear that I didn't have the kind of work that they would be remotely interested in.

Before I continue, I'll just quickly say that I got the strong impression almost immediately that very few of these companies were interested in seeing reels and artwork. They seemed more interested in promoting themselves and collecting email addresses from people. One company (Pixomondo) had a bench with iPads and a big sign saying 'Apply Online Here'. So that was a bit disheartening. Anyways, after trudging around the booths, I went to a Pixar presentation about Renderman which also had a screening of La Luna. That was pretty cool. Then I went home as I was beat and the presentations that remained didn't interest me at all.

Back at Acting for Animators (Pt II) for another 3 hours. The room was packed full this time, and some people were standing for the whole workshop. Again, it was fun and interesting but combined with the previous day, there was certainly not 6 hours worth of content. I think he could have easily gotten through the whole presentation in just 3 hours if he streamlined it and organised it a bit better. But maybe he also expected a more interactive audience. Overall though, these two sessions really drained me. If I go back next year, I'll skip this workshop (as I doubt there'll be anything new) and go to some other presentations instead. 3 hours is a looong time to sit and listen without a least it is for me.

After this, it was back to the recruiting booths. Same situation again...hardly anyone there. No portfolios, maybe a reel here or there. First stop was Crytek games. The guy there was super-friendly and really honest and down to earth. He seemed to like my reel, but felt that it was too geared towards film animation and that if I wanted to work in FPS games, I should really focus my reel on that.

Then it was onto Blue Sky, and luckily (or perhaps unluckily), the two official recruiters weren't there but instead it was Jeff Gabor and Nick Bruno. So they both watched my reel simultaneously and I gotta say, they were not impressed. Overall we had a nice chat, and they were nice guys but probably the harshest (or perhaps most honest) critics at FMX (unsurprisingly). It was also quite a thrill to chat to Jeff and Nick and they seem to be fans of iA (Nick said Mike Walling got him his job at Blue Sky).

But it was around this point that I realised that visiting recruiting booths is probably the worst way to hunt for a job. It was becoming more and more clear that most of the companies were more interested in promoting themselves rather than finding talent. I guess if they came across a particularly exceptional person (a programmer perhaps), then they would make special note of that. But in general they just pointed you towards their website and maybe took a business card so they could add you to their database or mailing list (which you can do by yourself through their website anyway). And I don't mean this as in, "no one liked my work, so clearly it wasn't me, but it was just them not wanting to hire anyone". It just seemed that I had to ask them to look at my work, rather than have them asking to look at my work, if you know what I mean. I kind of had to push it on them, which made me feel like they weren't there specifically to find future employees but rather to just have a company presence there. I hope that makes sense.
So at the end of Wednesday I was really tired and kinda feeling down about the whole process. Not down about not being offered a job on the spot (I had no illusions about that happening), but rather that I was left wondering why most of the companies were even there. It seemed like a lot of wasted time and energy to just have people sign up to your company's mailing list. So afterwards, I headed to another Pixar lecture (Shading and Lighting in La Luna - so I saw that short again) and then went home feeling pretty meh.

No more 3 hour workshop session for me, so that was a change of pace. I got to Stuttgart early to catch the Disney Recruiting Presentation (their one and only day at FMX). On my way through the city I was stopped by a couple of police officers for a drug search. They asked if they could look into my backpack. I said no problem, to which they replied 'Are you sure?'. 'Absolutely' I said, and started to open it....they quickly asked if I smoke (which I don't ... and I still don't know why that's relevant) and then just as I unzipped the bag, they said 'nevermind' and walked off. So there ya seems like I'm gonna have to start looking more respectable in public.

Anyways, I got to the Disney presentation late, and that was quite interesting. I also saw a recruiting presentation which was from a local Stuttgart VFX company as well (called Luxx Studios). They showed off their VFX work, which was nice but clearly they would not be a company that I'd be visiting at the recruiting booths....until at the very end where they said they were just nominated for a prize for a script they'd developed for a feature animated film which they hope to start producing next year - hazzah!!! So I went straight to the recruiting room again and, holy crap, it was like another world. Masses of people in there with portfolios and demo reels in hand. This was what I had expected the past two days. Just having all these people made it so much easier for me to approach booths confidently because previously it felt like I was just bothering them. Now this time it felt like they were expecting me to show them my reel. So first of all I queued up for Luxx (well 'queued' is a stretch as I was first in line...and I was first in line for about 35 minutes!!) This was particularly annoying as I saw queues at other booths constantly flowing along, so I gave up when I saw a chance to chat to Trixter (who are a German visual effects company that also work on animated features). So I chatted to the recruiter and showed her my reel, which was an amazing waste of time as she then just brought up their company website and told me to go there and create a profile - (she had no feedback for me). Oh and she also told me that animation is a very competitive industry - so there's a pearl of wisdom for you. No one's told you that before I bet ;) - But I did get a snazzy bag from them, so all's well that ends well ;)

I then managed to finally get back over to Luxx and chatted to the guy there. He was without a doubt the nicest guy I had spoken to at FMX. Really friendly, was sincerely interested in checking out my work (which he also seemed to like, so that's kinda cool). We chatted for a pretty long time about what they have planned for their feature film and how it's not a definite yet, but if it goes ahead they'll certainly be needing animators. So I'll keep an eye on their site over the next year and will apply to them (hopefully with an updated reel) if something comes up. Then it was over to Sony Imageworks Animation (and I should mention that this day involved long periods of queueing. So it was a bit tiring but I finally felt that this was what recruiting booths should be like. Seeing other people have their work reviewed really helped my confidence. It was always super awkward the previous two days where I was just strolling up and saying, "Hi, I'm a student-animator and well....ummmm I got like this reel thing..." and all that kinda stuff.)

So yeah, the Sony Imageworks guy was again nice, quite relaxed and easy going. I asked him about what they are looking for and he said, "well, we get asked that a lot by students and to be honest, we don't care if it's cartoony animation, or serious or whatever, we just want to see good animation. And we want to see detail and nuance in there." So that was some cool and genuine advice I thought. He checked out my reel and said there was some nice stuff in there although he didn't quite understand the Dennis sneak at first. He thought he stopped to scratch his back on the pole. So that was interesting to hear... cause even though the idea is clear in my head, that doesn't mean everyone will get it. So I'll pay a bit more attention to that in the future.

I should also mention that prior to this recruiting booth visit, I had gotten the feeling that the recruiters saw my reel as being generally good but not great and there was clearly no way a company was going to hire me from FMX. I think one particular reason for this was that most of the companies that were there, were the 'big boys'. Very few of the smaller and more local studios were there. Luxx was the only one that I talked to and they were also the only one considering animation, and not surprisingly, they seemed more impressed with my work than anyone else, and that’s probably because animation isn't their primary business. So this really confirmed my feeling that FMX recruiting booths are the worst way to go about getting a job (or at least for a student looking for an entry-level job). And just another quick thing, I rarely left a business card or DVD with a company after they viewed my reel. It becomes pretty obvious pretty quickly that they have no interest in hiring you...although the Sony Imageworks guy did give me his business card, so that was a nice gesture to keep trying in the future.

The last stop was the big one, Disney. A lot of people were lined up there, but I eventually got to chat to one of the recruiters, who again, was super friendly (it's very easy to tell the pro recruiters from the poor bastards who got sent there by their company). As soon as I said I study at iAnimate, she instantly said 'Oh Jason...I know him...we had to visit Europe together for Disney" and so we chatted about iA and that really helped put me at ease and it kinda made me feel like I stood out a little more from everyone else (woo for iAnimate! ;). She said getting a letter of recommendation from him would really help in getting into the training program at Disney (which I think all students get anyway when finishing Workshop 7). Anyhoo, she looked at the reel and one of the things she said was 'well, obviously you can animate', so that was certainly nice to hear. Her criticism though was that my reel didn't feel very dynamic and that most of the shots had the same tone to them (which is something I've feared for a while). She really liked my Dennis shot and said that that should be the first shot, which was interesting to hear after the Sony guy said he wasn't keen on it. And then she basically chatted about how I could rearrange my reel in order to give it more impact. Then I was signed up to the Disney recruiting database (as everyone was) and I was on my merry way. And that was the final recruiting booth that I visited and it was a nice one to end on.

I went to three presentations. One by Dr. Stuart Sumida on animating dinosaurs and reptiles. That guy is awesome! So entertaining. Then there was an Aardman presentation about their work on Pirates. That was pretty dry with the usual statistics but they showed two long scenes in 3D and those were great fun. I was dying to see that film before, but now I know for sure I'm gonna love it. Then after Aardman was Laika, and they talked about Coraline and Paranorman. Again, lots of statistics about how many mouth shapes they made and props and all that. It was interesting but again, a bit dry. However, all these presentations were in a cinema, so there were super-comfy seats compared to all of the other presentations I saw previously in the week. And then I went home after that. I could have stayed and watched a presentation from Blue Sky (Nick Bruno and Jeff Gabor again) but that would have meant a 90 minute wait, hanging around Stuttgart in the stinking heat. I considered it but I was just so dead after the whole week that I got on the train and went home (it's about a 90 minute train ride one-way as well, so doing that twice a day also wore me out)

And that is it!! The FMX experience (well mine anyways). I don't know if I'd do it again next year...if I do, I don't think I'll do all four days and I might even avoid the recruiting booths altogether (except if Dreamworks are there. I think it would be much easier talking to them than any of the others seeing as iA is so connected to them). But I certainly learnt a lot, especially, as I said before, that 1) the recruiting booths are probably the worst way of trying to get a job and 2) my reel at the moment is decent but not even close to great, so there's a lot of work to do there. Oh and a third thing is, as I mentioned before, I noticed different people responded quite differently to my shots. The Animal Logic recruiter liked the subtlety on my last dialogue shot, whereas the Blue Sky guys felt it was all pretty bland. So I guess that makes crafting the perfect demo reel pretty damn tough. But my feeling is that the different reactions I got might be a result of my work being generally unimpressive. For example, I think the Animal Logic recruiter was just trying to find good things to comment on, and not be completely negative, and so she mentioned the subtlety in that dialogue shot. I think if I had a more solid and impressive reel, the responses from different people probably wouldn't vary so wildly. That's my theory at the moment anyway. So my goal now when it comes to my reel is to throw all of it out and have three, maybe four at most, super strong shots that are different in tone and style. And I don't mean this in a defeatist, giving-up kind of way, but rather that I now see that my reel is still just assignment work and it's going to be hard to impress the big boys with that kind of stuff. Plus I've never liked the idea of clinging on to old work. The idea of having a fresh new reel this time next year is really exciting to me and I think with the next 3 iA workshops, this should be within the realm of possibility.

So it's onwards and upwards, and generally I feel it was a worthwhile experience. Plus I'm obviously far more aware of what FMX is all about so that if I go next year, when I'm closer to finishing iA, I'll have a better idea of what to expect. 

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Creative Person: Richard Williams

I found this great documentary yesterday on my lunch break. It's from way back in the black and white days and it's about Richard Williams (Animator's Survival Kit) and his commercials studio in Soho. If you're into the history of animation and behind the scenes stuff then you'll definitely enjoy this:

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Beauty and The Beast

Last weekend, my girlfriend and I watched Beauty and The Beast. I hadn't seen it for around roughly 15 years and couldn't remember anything about it at all. Now, I must say that for what ever reason, I wasn't expecting a huge amount from this film. This is probably because the marketing I've seen for the DVDs and 3D version seemed to be mostly singing teapots and characters dancing. Obviously singing teapots don't appeal to me all that much but...OH MY GOD! I LOVED IT! 

What an absolutely beautiful animated film! The Beast just oozes appeal, how he looks and how he's posed is all completely beautiful. The animation throughout is stunning, and you can definitely tell that Glen Keane, Andreas Deja and James Baxter worked on it.

One thing that was particularly interesting was the range in character styles. It almost looked as if different universes were hanging out together. For example, Belle was pretty normal and realistic looking, Gaston was a huge caricature of a muscle man, Beast is well...a huge awesome beast and Lefou is completely cartoony. Not to mention the wardrobe, candle stick holder, clock and foot stool. I don't think that they'd even attempt that kind of thing these days and it's a real shame because it really holds up.

You could really tell the animators had fun too, just check out this facial expression:

And oh my lordy, feast your eyes on this line test that Glen Keane animated for the end sequence when Beast transforms (maybe don't watch it if you haven't seen the film):

Anyway, this blog is already 95% longer than originally intended so I'm going to end with recommending that you watch Beauty and The Beast if you haven't seen it yet and if you have then please do revisit it. But before I go, here's an awesome sketch that my girlfriend drew of Beast:

If you like her art you can visit her blog or sketchbook. Oh, and she's freelancing so if you're after any art then please do get in touch.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Brave trailer

There was a new Brave trailer released yesterday. I don't want to sound band wagony but I've not been a fan of the trailers for this film so far. I think it's looking absolutely awesome/amazing/beautiful but the trailers aren't hitting the spot...yet. However, I'm making myself believe that Pixar are hiding a lot of things from us so that the film has full impact and nothing is spoiled.

Anyway, look at the amazing animation on display here...I'm currently in the process of watching it frame by frame:

Fishy man thing

I've been taking a short break from animating in my spare time due to needing some space away from what I was working on. So instead I decided to doodle a little bit, this guy came out:

New Job

Hey, anyone who reads this blog!
This is some pretty late news as I've been there for almost two weeks now but I have a new job! I'm currently a Cutscene Animator at TT Games in Knutsford. I literally get to play with lego all day, it's awesome! So far everyone has been super nice and friendly and I've hardly met any of the animators yet. Myself and three other new starters are on the second floor but we should be moving down with the other guys soon. I can't say which game I'm working on but it's an AMAZING franchise and I'm sure it'll be something to get excited about.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Some Of My DmC Work

Even though the trailer was leaked I left it until the official release to post the video up here. Mainly because the official video is much better quality. Anyway, this trailer has a lot of cutscene footage in it and some parts are from my cutscenes! Check it out:

All of the shots of Bob (the newsreader) and the last clip of Dante are from my scenes. Really looking forward to getting my hands on this when it's released. 

There's also another one of my cutscenes in this walk-through video. It's at the very start of the video and was the first cutscene I was given to work on:

Monday, 9 April 2012

My Time As A Ninja

No, not that kind of Ninja...THIS kind of Ninja:
That's right! My time as a bearded, serious faced Cinematic Intern (Ninja) at the multi award winning Ninja Theory

I will warn you now, I haven't planned out this post so it could get lengthy. 

The Beginning
It all started on the 12th of April last year. I sent off a rather wobbly showreel to Ninja Theory to apply for their Cinematic Internship program. The showreel comprised of most of my workshop 1 assignments from iAnimate (character walk, character jump WIP, animations of Tots jumping and a ball with character) and some old university work (lip sync, basic acting and a cartoony walk). The programme was a six month contract within the studios cinematic department where successful candidates would be working with motion capture as well as hand key to create cutscenes for DmC and import them into the game. 

I received an email asking me for an interview to which I replied "YES!" and ran off to Cambridge some time later. It was my first proper interview for a job in the industry and I was suitably terrified. Luckily enough, a tutor from my old university found out I was interviewing and sent me a wealth of golden information. Even though I did all my research, I was still asked a couple of questions I wasn't anticipating. Nothing too crazy, just about my favourite films and what I knew about cinematography. But everything went well, I had a great time talking with the lead animator and a senior cutscene animator.

Obviously, this part is no surprise...I was offered the job and accepted it without a doubt. I moved down to Cambridge and had an amazing 8 months (my contract was extended by an additional 2 months). Working in a games studio amongst heavily talented and creative individuals was a dream come true. I couldn't believe that I was being paid to work on cutscenes all day. Not that my focus was/is ever on money but I had never been paid for doing something I was all very new and exciting.

The first few weeks, despite being great were also terrifying. I was worried that I wasn't learning Unreal and Motion Builder quickly enough and that I might risk lagging behind. Luckily I was just worrying more than I should have and everything was fine after a few small bumps during the training weeks (we had a few weeks of training before we started to receive the mocap data from Giant - I actually got to play with some Andy Serkis performance capture from Enslaved. ANDY SERKIS!!! My head exploded at the time). 

The following weeks were very exciting as we received the data from Giant and started to work on our cutscenes. We were given full responsibility of any cutscene we were given. This meant that we set up the cameras as well as the characters and saw our scenes all the way through to signing off on facial polish. Working with mocap was an eye opener, I had never thought of trying it before. To be honest, I hadn't had much interest in it at university. I turned down the opportunity to take a mocap module and instead chose a module that required me to learn about music and create a song because it meant I'd have more time to animate on another project and I could already play guitar and write songs. I also hadn't thought much about working in games but I am seriously happy that I had the chance to. 

Thoughts On Motion Capture
Mocap was something that I had fun doing. It was never boring for me and I learned a lot about body mechanics from it. however, after some time it did become very obvious to me that it wasn't exactly what I wanted to do. I am in no way ungrateful for the opportunity I was given but it was always going to be a new experience that would reveal its self to either be life changing or unappealing. This is how I feel, and completely my own opinion but I didn't feel that same feeling of creativity whilst editing mocap data. I enjoy creating and bringing things to life, seeing them develop and hopefully sending them running off into the world all nicely polished and such. Editing mocap, for me, felt like constantly polishing something that was already made. That is essentially what it is. However, you can definitely plus a performance if need be (this is why animators weren't happy about Andy Serkis wanting an Oscar for his efforts in Planet of The Apes), but I didn't get that buzz. That's not to say that that buzz doesn't exist for some people. Mocap is awesome if you like seeing results fairly quickly and doing a small range of jobs (if the department in your studio allows). For example, depending on the scale and difficulty level, you could sign a scene or two off in a week. And the way it worked at Ninja, with setting everything up yourself, it felt like you were putting short films together. That's what I really liked about mocap. 

Please don't take this negatively, just because editing mocap wasn't on the top of my list of ultimate dream jobs doesn't mean that it didn't help me in any way. In fact, I learned a ton about body mechanics and how the face works. I've heard quite a lot of animators say the same thing and it's true. Watching rigs move around naturally every day for months really helps you understand how things work. Polishing facial animation was another big one, I learned a ton about how the mouth really moves, as well as the eyes and how they blink and dart. This was my favourite part of the pipeline, I absolutely loved facial animation. This was mainly because it was the closest thing to raw hand keying. Finally, it helped me really tie down my career path. I knew I wanted to be a hand key animator above anything else...and for this, I thank you Mr. Motion Capture. 

An Interns Life
Now, enough about my personal feelings on motion capture and onto being an intern. There's a lot of bad press about studios treating their interns unfairly. This was NOT the case at Ninja Theory. We were paid and treated as normal employees. This might sound like a given but not all studios pay their interns and there are horror stories of interns being unfairly treated. In my opinion, taking an internship was a great way to get my foot and a couple of fingers in the door. I'll always be hugely grateful to Ninja Theory and the cinematic department for taking me on and giving me the chance to work on such a fantastic game for 8 months. It definitely got me into the swing of working in the industry and I learned a lot about working with others and how games are created.

Ok, I think that's enough from me on the subject. And I didn't even mention the amazing, amazing, amazing friends I made during my time there, team lunches, the evolution of my taste in music, Christmas presents, fire alarms, CAKE, coffee, snow, cycling, parties and the time I was able to spend in one of the most beautiful cities in England.

Don't forget to check out DmC when it is released. It's an absolutely beautiful game!

If there's anything you would like to ask me then please leave a comment. Or if you'd like to voice your opinion on mocap or anything else then go for it!

P.S. Here's a treat for making it to the end of the post - TREAT

Expect More

The truth is, I haven't been altogether satisfied with this blog lately. Somehow, a decent amount of traffic is coming in and hopefully you guys are enjoying my posts and finding them useful. However, the unplanned changes that have occurred whilst I've been blogging aren't quite what I'd like to see.

I've realised recently that my posts have started becoming less and less personal. This is something I'd like to, and will change from now on. The whole reason that I started in the first place was to document my journey as an animator and at the moment there's not much about me on the pages. Not that I want all of the posts to be "Me, me, me!" but I'm sure there's a lot of helpful information I could share about some of my experiences. This lack of personal content has also meant that I haven't been posting my views on current animation happenings/trailers/films and so on.

So, long story short. I'm going to change this. I'm going to post much more often and talk about things that are going on. of course, it'll all be animation/art related but I'm hoping that I can rope some of you guys in to comment - to offer your own opinion on subjects.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Getting Noticed

This video contains some awesome information for anyone in the creative industry. It's all about the advantages of having a portfolio and how you can go about creating one. Sadly, I can't embed the video but if you click on the image of the video below, it will take you straight to it.

Please don't be put off by the length of it, the content is pure gold!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

2D Planning/Timing & Spacing

Hey people!

Sorry that it's been a while since I've posted, things have been busy but there'll be more about that in another post. So, onto the topic...

After looking through my old iAnimate folder the other week I found a few of my 2D planning files for some of the workshop 1 assignments. Not only did they remind me of how much fun planning in 2D is but they also allowed me to remember how I managed to fully understand spacing. As well as to differentiate between timing and spacing but to also figure out how they work together. I think a lot of beginner animators can get a bit confused with this area of animation. Timing and spacing go hand in hand but they are both their own seperate principles that need to be understood.

Here's the assignment that really gave me my "AHA!" moment with timing and spacing:

Use this link to frame through the video -
From watching this first video you should see flashes of lines every now and then. These are visual representatives of my balls spacing. They're called timing charts and mostly look like this:
They help animators to break down movements between extremes/key poses into inbetweens. Not only can they help you to figure out where breakdowns will go but I found that you can use them to draw out your spacing whilst working on a ball bounce. As you may or may not know, the smaller the spacing the slow the object will move and the larger the spacing the faster it will move. 

Take this frame from my video and you can see that when the ball reaches its apex the spacing is drawn on the chart as being close together and as it falls it gets larger and larger. This means my ball slows out of it's highest position and increases in speed as it is pulled down by gravity.
If you're struggling with timing or spacing, or the two I'd definitely recommend trying something like this. But before that, check out Jason Ryans free rampup tutorials for Timing and Spacing HERE.
Here's a similar one for a ball with an anticipation before the jump:
Use this link to frame through the video -
Animation principles aside, I found that planning in 2D was a ton of fun and that it's a very quick way to find out if something works. I used Flipbook to make these videos, it's very easy to understand and use. Here are a couple of other 2D plans for assignments:
Quicktime video -
Quicktime video -
Quicktime video -
When I started working on assignments that were more complicated, shots where I was animating a biped doing something more complex I would use my video reference to plan. I didn't only watch it but I imported it into Flipbook and watched it over and over frame by frame. Whilst doing this I could draw over the top of it and make notes. Mainly I'd write notes to remind myself of certain things I was doing as well as drawing stronger poses over the top of the poses I was already creating. This helped me to push things in 3D, to look more appealing.
Now, I'm no 2D animator and these tests are pretty old now so I don't blame anyone for screaming at their monitor whilst watching these videos. But I do hope that this blog post will spark someones interest in planning in 2D and its advantages. I see it as being quite close to thumbnailing but with a 2D test you can really throw ideas down quickly and frame between them to see how they work/their relationship.
I hope you guys find this post useful or interesting!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Coraline puppets

I just remembered that I have a load of pictures of the Coraline puppets that I haven't uploaded. I took these during BAF in 2009 when I met Brian Van't Hul (Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline, King Kong, Lord of The Rings). He was giving a seminar about the use of 3D stereoscopics used in Coraline and the effects. Clair Jennings (Producer of Coraline) was there too and took part in a Q&A session.

Here are the pictures:

(Some guy, Brian and André

Stop Motion Timelapses

I absolutely adore these stop motion time lapses! They show the time, effort and love that go into making these short clips of animation that ultimately are only on screen for a few seconds. Beautiful!

Tchaikovsky Timelapse

Animating Coraline

Holidaze Timelapse

And then there's this which I've seen all over the internet. Couldn't find a nice quality video of it though:

Coraline Pupper POV (my favourite one)

If you know of any other animation time lapses, please send them my way.