Hopping Ball (3ds Max)

I’m learning to animate in 3ds Max for an upcoming freelance gig.

It’s a little like that episode in every superhero TV show ever where the main character loses their powers and has to go back to doing everything the hard way. They have an existential crisis, but then they realize that it was never their powers that made them a hero, it was their character…

…or maybe it’s just a matter of putting the right keys on the right frames. Could be that.

It’s actually a pretty comfortable transition thanks to 2014’s new “Maya Interaction” mode so I can use the Alt+Mouse viewport navigation that is so committed to muscle memory.

Simple Ball Rig courtesy of Cláudio Escobar.

iAnimate Podcast with Robert "Darryl" Purdy (Far Cry 3)

The folks over at iAnimate have started podcasting every week or two for the past few months and I only recently noticed. While I was catching up I listened to their December 21st interview with Robert “Darryl” Purdy (Animation/Cinematics Director for Far Cry 3, now at Warner Games) and I just had to share it.

I’ve listened to a lot of animation podcasts over the years: The Animation PodcastSpeaking Of AnimationSpline Doctors10th Muse. I haven’t listened to every single episode of these but those I have listened to are almost always about film animation or animation as a general art form or games as a general topic. This is the first time I’ve heard a podcast that was exactly about the things I deal with every day and I couldn’t stop nodding my head “yes!” as I listened to it.

Don’t ask me why the blurb description says he worked at Bungie and Lucas Arts in the past because as far as I can tell he didn’t, but whatever. Give it a listen.

Blocking Technique by Kevin Jackson (Updated)

Kevin “KJax” Jackson shares this fantastic tip on a quick blocking workflow that is not only fast and simple, but keeps your blocking very easy to edit up until you commit to move on. The technique uses one of the many tools included in MGtools which comes in both free and paid versions. I already have a tool that my genius friend Anthony made that does the same thing so I haven’t checked to see if you need the paid version of MGtools or not.

Kevin was a year behind me in school and whereas I only had a brief stint at Rhythm & Hues he’s been there for about 5 years and has earned the role of supervising animator. His animation is not only imaginative and well polished, but he works quickly so it’s worth listening to any advice he has to share.

Update:Kevin has uploaded Part 2 in which he shows how the technique works in an actual shot with more complexity. He also shows off a few more of the many fantastic functions of the MGtools suite of MEL scripts.

Keith Lango "Retires" From Online Animation Instruction

The original online mentor for animation, Keith Lango, is going dark. Oh he’s still animating and even teaching, but he’s closing the book on his long-running online instruction and blogging.
Ten years ago, when I was in school, there wasn’t the plethora of awesome online animation resources there are today. If you wanted to print out some classic animation notes there was (and still is) AnimationMeat.com; If you wanted a forum to meet people, get feedback on your WIP, be inspired or get some practice there was 10secondclub, CG-Char, Digital|Rendering and a few others; If you wanted really clear and practical tutorials about HOW to animate there was Keith Lango.
Over the years he added even more resources like videos that explained things even more clearly, or personally tailored 1-on-1 online animation mentorship.
Today, there’s a lot of competing online animation instruction options available and Keith leads a pretty full life as it is so he won’t be creating any new online material, but all of the old stuff will be kept online so if you haven’t benefited from it yet, you still can.

The Classic Tutorials
The Video Tutorials :`(
Keith’s YouTube Channel

So thanks a bunch, Keith. I never met you, but I learned a lot from you about animation, dealing with disappointment gracefully, and remembering that there are a lot of things in life that are far more important than animation.

For those of you who don’t necessarily want to sign up for the much larger commitment of time and money that schools like Animation Mentor, iAnimate, or AnimShcool require but really want quality, on-going animation wisdom rejoice! KennyRoy has picked up the torch and is doing a fantastic job of carrying it forward.

Demo Reel Feedback from Animation Mentor Jean-Denis Haas

Animation Mentor hosted a contest at CTNx 2010 for a free eCrit of two randomly selected demo reels. I submitted my latest reel and was one of the winners! I found JD’s critique useful and there’s no sense hogging all of the wisdom to myself so it’s about time I shared it here with the rest of you.

Here are the notes that I took away from JD’s eCrit:

Fortunately for me, my reel had already done its job by landing me the job that I wanted. I didn’t have the time (or in some cases didn’t have the Maya files) to edit any of the actual animation, but for educational purposes I decided to re-edit my reel based on his feedback. Here’s the shorter, more focused result:

I think it’s better, but I accidentally killed the audio – oops! So thanks JD and Animation Mentor. Hopefully this info will help me, and any readers I may have at this humble blog, make better reels in the future.


TJ Phan’s Animation Workflow

I love this!
Earlier I posted about Cameron Fielding‘s fantastic in-depth explanation of how he created the intense, physical action in Turok. Now TJ Phan jumps into the mix, with a great explanation of how he animates. He talks about thumbnailing and video reference, but I think the most important thing he does is treat each key like a drawing.

When you key every control of your rig on the same frame, and then do that not only for your Key Poses, but also for your Breakdowns, Extremes, Eases, and Overlap you wind up with something much akin to a traditional hand drawn style of animating. If you do that and wind up with shots as polished and dynamic as TJ’s then you can be certain of at least two things:

  1. You know what you’re doing
  2. You’re pretty darn good at it

Just don’t let it get to your head.

This isn’t the first time I have heard of computer animators working this way. Thinking back, I remember seeing a W.I.P. version of Kyle Mohr‘s dialogue exercise, “games” that was animated with stepped keys down to nearly every frame. I can’t find that version now, but you can see the final product on his website. Justin Barrett posted some really sweet examples including this shot of Puss in Boots.

I think it’s high time I scrounged up the discipline and confidence to try it myself. Thanks, TJ!

PS: Don’t you just love animating in a time when there is so much easy to access advice and instruction on the Internet?

Holy Hyperlinks, Batman!

New Iron Man Trailer
First of all, the new trailer for Iron Man looks seriously bad-ass. One of my best friends from school is working on it over at The Orphanage so it’s possible that I’d be biased, but the general consensus at work is that this looks frickin‘ amazing. I can’t wait to see this movie, and then re-watch all of Andy’s shots. I suspect they’ll be a tad better than my Chipmunk shots.

Next up is a link that came through my RSS feed today; I already forgot which one. It’s a cool experimental animation created by cutting out stencils and then filming them in layers to create a sort of practical onion skinning effect. Very cool.

In the vein of cool, “outside the box” animation I’m sure you have all seen the classic Duck Amuck (which is apparently being made into a DS game!). Well the idea of an artist fighting his cartoon has been revisited a couple of times since then. Most of you have probably seen Animator vs. Animation and Animator vs. Animation 2 done in Flash, but until recently I had never seen this Oscar winning take on the concept.

Cameron Fielding has posted a breakdown of his process while animating on the Turok video game. His work is fantastic and it’s always great to read about how another animator approaches the problem of bringing a character to life. It’s a must read.

Animation Buffet
Animator and teacher Jean Denis Haas has a great blog setup for his class at AAU and I subscribed to it so I can eavesdrop on the critiques. It’s a great way to learn. He has recently created a new resource for animators called Animation Buffet. It’s your one-stop-shop for all of your free rig needs – well, it’s only Maya rigs so far, but there will be more in the future. There are a whole ton of rigs there and many that I haven’t seen before. I’ve added it to the list of animation tools in the sidebar.

One last thing. Why didn’t this win the 11 Second Club competition last month!? Seriously people, open your eyes. It has translation AND rotation. It’s cutting edge! It’s Skater Matt!