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.

Where’ve I Been & What’s New?

So I disappear from the blog for over a year and then just start posting again with no explanation? How dare I?

To be fair I actually started blogging again last year, but I’ve been doing it over at because, well, people actually read that blog. So general animation stuff goes there, and things that relate to me, but are also probably somewhat animation related will go here – but probably not as often as at the other site so go subscribe to that blog for more regular doses of animation goodness.

There’s a lot of stuff I’ve wanted to post, but now it’s sort of old news, so here’s one giant brain dump about everything that’s new in my life since I posted my 2010 demo reel last June. Continue reading “Where’ve I Been & What’s New?”

Old Yeller

My computer just went to the big render farm in the sky.

The timing is pretty crappy as I was in the middle of a personal project, but I’m pretty sure all the HDD’s are fine – just the mobo has gasped its last. Looks like I’ll be replacing it a year earlier than planned, but considering this thing was already 3yrs old when I bought it used 3yrs ago and it could still do a good job of running simple Maya scenes I’d say it didn’t go quietly into the night.

R.I.P. Old Yeller.

Perhaps a trip to will help me come to grips with my loss.

Better yet, Animate with your DS!

Shortly after I learned about the amazing paint application, Colors! DS, two more DS homebrew applications came to my attention that are even cooler!

Animanatee is a simple, easy to use animation program (not to be confused with this guy) that allows you to export your scenes into .avi files. It has a very intuitive interface and once I loaded it up I was animating right away without needing to read any instructions. It supports 1 BG layer and 1 animation layer. It also has limited onion skinning, which only shows a ghost of the previous frame. You can’t zoom in to draw at higher resolutions so it gets tough to make consistent drawings and inbetweens, but for very simple things it’s ok. Here’s a quick bouncing-ball test that I made using Animanatee:

Flickbook is another pencil-testing software for the DS and I think it’s been around longer and has more users. I needed to read the instructions before I could make sense of the UI, but it does have some features that are more advanced than those in Animanatee. It has onion skinning for three frames in either direction, the ability to zoom when you draw, and the ability to cut/paste. I suppose I could deal with the clunky interface if I really wanted the extra features, but the deal breaker for me was when the application froze on me, but told me not to turn off my DS. I looked up the problem online and some people said that turning off the DS after a freeze caused them to loose data on their memory card. I’m not going to risk all my game saves because of a buggy application. I turned mine off with no ill effects, but I’d rather just stick to Animanatee. I’ll support the underdog with the fantastic usability, and hope that the features get updated.
UPDATE: There is, in fact, a slightly newer version of Flickbook (0.2.1) with some small updates that make a big difference. The interface is WAY better looking and the buttons are more recognizable for the functions they perform. Also added was the ability to flip through your drawings with the d-pad just like in Animanatee which makes it just feel SO much more natural. It didn’t crash on me either. It’s getting tough to decide which app I like better.
There is a third animation application for the DS that has my attention, but it is being developed for retail so it isn’t a homebrew application. It’s called Inchworm and it has VERY impressive drawing tools. It has a lot of the basic features found in Photoshop and Illustrator along with some basic animation tools. It looks like it will make it a lot easier to create full colour animation on the handheld, but it’s animation tools are not any better than the existing homebrew applications.

Even with their limitations these applications have gotten me excited again about animating traditionally. I can’t work up the effort to get my pegboard out of storage, punch paper, scan all the pages, and compile it. I also don’t have a tablet to be able to use some of the great PC applications. But I DO have a DS and I likes me some homebrew animation apps! There are better ways to animate, but having a pencil tester in your pocket makes it easy to get a quick animation workout while you’re on the plane, waiting for a bus, or sitting through a bad Hayden Christensen movie.

Paint with your DS

From the official website:

“Colors! is a simplistic digital painting application for Nintendo DS based on modern
painting-techniques developed for drawing tablets in programs like Photoshop. By
taking advantage of the pressure sensitivity of the DS touch-screen it becomes a
perfect portable digital sketch-book.”

This is what homebrew is all about, and frankly it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen on the DS. For those of you who have never heard of “homebrew” or thought the DS was only capable of playing games, check out the Colors! official website. There is a FAQ explaining what this homebrew stuff is all about and a gallery where you can see more really impressive paintings created with a DS and this brilliant bit of homebrewed software.

For another brilliant example of homebrew check out this video of a kid controlling his computer with his DS.