Feminine traits

February 16, 2010

When ever I see an unusual or defining gesture other people make, I’ll make a note in my sketch book for future use. Problem is I never use them. Maybe because it’s too troublesome to flip through a couple of books just to find the one thing I saw a couple weeks back. Anyway I’ve recently reorganized some of my notes I’ll share them here, also as a way to keep them tidy and accessible.

Feminine Traits

Knees typically points towards each other

More shoulder movement

Head tilts to expose neckline

Fingers are typically more extended (not as curled up as guys)

Higher center of gravity

Looser hips (more movement on the hips)

More relaxed wrists

Forearm swings in a bigger arc away from body

These are not rules, and it would be dangerous to treat them as such. Instead they should be treated as guidelines or a foundation to be built upon. Example: A strong woman wouldn’t sway around as much when she talks,  she has a lowered center of gravity.

All of these trait need not apply just to women, they can also be used to make a macho guy look weaker. Imagine a barrel necked muscle man marching around with an exaggerated hip sway, or tilting his head and exposing his neckline every time he talks.

See what I mean?

iPhone app for animators

February 16, 2010

FPS calculate is an iPhone app I’ve been using for a while now. It allows you to covert frames into time and vice versa, but the coolest part is a secondary function that works like a stopwatch, except that it outputs the results in frames at either 24,25 or 30 FPS. There’s also an option to specify your own frame rate.

This is super useful for figuring out frame count for actions, walk cycles, ect ect. It’s only .99 cents on the app store, I highly recommend this!

Ed Hooks has written up an interesting review on Avatar, for those not in the know, Ed Hooks is the author of Acting for Animators. A fantastic book I must add, this book sits right between Illusion of Life and Animator’s Survival Kit on my shelf.

An excerpt:

Sigourney Weaver plays two versions of the same character, which is unusual.  She is Grace Augustine, the lead scientist on the Avatar mission, and also her own Na’vi avatar.  The first read of the script indicates that she behaves a bit differently when she is her avatar self than when she is her human self.  When she is her avatar, she is friendlier, more sensitive than her ballsy human self.   Maybe she can’t display her true feelings when she is on the spaceship?  She smokes and drinks and acts a lot like a sailor when on the ship, but that may be just a protective cover for her real feelings which emerge when she is her avatar.  If true, then she surely has feelings about having to live a counterfeit life most of the time?  There are no scenes in the script that might answer that question.
When a good actor cannot find justification in the script for character behavior, he will just make it up. Even if the behavior is illogical, the audience must never know that the actor thinks that.
James Cameron also recently remarked on how he disappointed he is that none of the actors were nominated for Best Actor,

“People confuse what we have done with animation,” director James Cameron said at the recent Producers Guild Awards, where he and fellow producer Jon Landau lost to “The Hurt Locker.”

“It’s nothing like animation. The creator here is the actor, not the unseen hand of an animator,” he added.

The Oscars snub is “a disappointment,” said Landau, “but I blame ourselves for not educating people in the right way.”

Frankly , I don’t think this has much to do with the perception on whether it’s animated or not.  As Ed Hooks mentioned in his analysis, the script doesn’t support a performance worthy of an Oscar, the characters change their ideals and principles through the film. When done correctly it’s called character development. When they change too fast, without sufficient time for transitions between vastly opposing ideals, it’ll come across as insincere and false.

Oscar nominated shorts

February 10, 2010

Watch all five nominated shorts online now!

French Roast

Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty

The Lady and The Reaper

A Matter of Loaf and Death


And the nominees are…

February 4, 2010

Only twice ever has an animated film been nominated for Best Picture, once for Beauty and the Beast, before they created the Animated Feature category. And now we have Up, nominated for both Best Picture and Best Animated Feature.

Incredible! I’m hoping this will educate the public further in animation – we’re not just sitting in front of computers and clicking , there’s acting and performance involved

Workflow methodologies

February 2, 2010

Of the many methods used for blocking animation, stepped mode is probably my favourite. You concentrate on making strong poses, then getting the timing right, then getting the breakdowns to read clearly, and even before you get into spline, the whole performance can already be finessed to a high level, all without even touching the graph editor.

Its linear, predictable, and gives me all the control I need.

Things get trickier once complex movements kicks in, because the weight and force of the motion is critical, and despite the amount of control stepped mode gives me, it can be hard to judge how the weight reads when it goes into spline. This is when I use a combination of layered and stepped mode for the quickest results.

Starting with the root of the character – typically the hips, I’ll animate the entire motion in spline. Just the hips, nothing else. I’ll have the legs hidden and concentrate on getting the force and weight of the motion right. Because it’s in spline there’s no surprises later, whatever I see now will be what I get when I get the rest of the body moving. It’s a simple matter of placing the feet where it needs to be for it to sync with the hips movement, there will be some back and forth of course but most of the work (the hips) is already done. There’s no need to second guess yourself if you’ve screwed up the weight or not.

The video reference comes in next, at this stage I’ll usually key every control on the character every 4th frame, then convert the whole animation to stepped. Back to stepped? Yes, the whole point of animating the hips first in spline is to get the weight right. Now that that’s done I move back into step and make sure that all the strong poses I have in my video reference is in, and push those poses that isn’t strong enough more. This doesn’t meant this the first time I’m actually referencing my video, I use it when animating I’m the root of the character in spline, just to be sure I don’t veer too far off from what I want. I’m simply pushing the poses and adding in the rest of the character, having the whole piece in stepped mode is just the way I do it. I could do it in copied pairs too, I’m just more comfortable with stepped in this case.

Once that part is done I’ll move the whole animation into spline, if I haven’t screw too much with the hips in stepped, it should look fairly close to what I had previously. This is critical, losing the weight and force of the movement after going into spline is very common if the blocking wasn’t done properly. And even then chances are it’ll still be a little off, you’ll spend most of the time trying to fix this. If you’ve done it properly in spline earlier, that’s a lot of the work done. It’s mostly just the legs and making sure the torso has enough torque, compression, and decompression. And unless you have the arms playing a large part in the animation (climbing and whatnot) it’s just polishing and finessing it from here now. If the arms are important to the overall motion, I’ll start getting them involved during the hips animation. Not the whole stretch of the animation, just the part where the source of the force changes from the hips to the arms. Earlier I mentioned animating the root of the character, now that the arms are pulling the character up, the root is no longer the hip, its the arms and we need to readjust the animation accordingly.

I still prefer the full stepped mode method for performance, usually because you don’t move around as much, hence easier to get the weight right even in stepped. I’ll be animating a new piece of animation for my next assignment from Animation Mentor soon, maybe I’ll experiment using the spline/stepped combo method for that. It’s a two character performance piece, but it should still work well enough. Lets see how that goes.

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