Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Animex - Part 02

In this post im going to focus on Rob Dressels talk on the making of Wreck-it-Ralf. Rob is a layout artist which can be described as a cross between cinematographer and screen director. Interestingly enough this poses the fundamental difference between live-action and pure CG - CG has people with specific roles but it is generally under the umbrella of a group of people making group decisions, where as live action will fall to the producer/director calling the shot. Make no mistake, this can be seen as a really naive difference between the two because live action is as much a team effort as CG and CG still has producers and directors who have the final say - but the process these movies take to make them are significantly different. This was a hot topic during the post graduate research day i had attended earlier this academic year. 

Rob showed us the design theme and colours for each world. They were defined by a shape - Fix-it-Felix was square, Hero's Duty was triangular, and Sugar Rush was circular. This informed the camera pan movements which would generally follow the angles found on these shapes. I will list the notes i had taken following a very interesting and relevant conversation between Dressel and David Au during the Q&A at the end. 

- Angelica from Rugrats? We were shown the very early drafts and evolution of the shot where Ralf leaves the game to the train station like exchange in the plug socket. There was a blurred out character because they never used it in the final clearly they did not obtain the rights. It was replaced in a later shot. It looked like angelica from rugrats to me. Maybe we'll never know.

- Layout

  • Translate story from 2D to 3D
  • 3D sets, props, characters, cameras
  • Enhance the story though the visual language of cinemtography (if you break the rules make sure you have a good reason)
  • Clarity and appeal
  • Never be noticed - make camera movement invisible
- Screen direction

Bolt - traveled from New York to California so always move right to left when travelling. 
Tangled - Positive actions move right to left, negative actions move left to right.
Wreck-it-Ralf - positive action move left to right, negative actions move right to left.

David Au asked Rob during the Q&A how he would of tackeld a conversation in a car between two people using the left to right rule, assuming it would have to be broken to keep the spatial space consistant with the viewer. Rob's response was that he would use the eye to move the line of action without making it overly noticeable to the audience. This is significant considering where i am at with my artefact 09. It would seem that the eyes can hold more power with the line of action and potentially that mean that the core of the body is of lesser importance in communication - entirely consistant with the autonomous subtext attached to my artefact. It appears the line of action can be used to aid camera direction as well as a manipulation tool. 

Monday, 25 February 2013

Animex Part 01

I spent the latter half of last week at the Animex Festival at Teesside university. I attended the Ed Hooks Acting for Animators masterclass as well as attending talks by David Au, Murray Barber and Rob Dressel. 

Ed Hooks Masterclass

Having read Acting for Animators a few times over i have to admit this was the reason i found out about Animex and why i subsequently attended. I'll be honest, this was my first animation festival and i cannot speak highly enough of the experience. I will certainly be attending many more. 

Ed Hooks is a very engaging, entertaining, interesting and most of all an inspirational individual. He has had the most positive effect on my outlook on animation. After attending the workshop i felt proud to be an animator and confident to press forward with my own goals and to not be afraid of them. One of his biggest messages was to seek to produce our own philosophy toward animation and not what the major studios expect of us. I have to admit this spoke to a part of my general anxiety as an artist. Deep down i have always had my heart on serious animation, where as my tutor has always been on the other end of the spectrum, where he feels it shouldn't have too serious undertones. 

The following points are from the notes i had taken:

- Animators create an imitation of a moment;

- Behaving believably in pretend circumstances for theatrical purposes. (To do with the illusion of life - Disney said the mind is the pilot. Gave Mickey Mouse a brain thus emotion);

- Emotion = automatic value response - Thinking = Values, Emotion = Reaction;

- Disney made films for children that charmed adults, we now have a hybrid. This is interesting point, think of Wall-e and Up by Pixar. Each of these has two stories in them that Ed feels is the wrong thing to do. One part is for adults the other for children. Think of Wall-e's love story with Eve (for adults) and The baby like humans overcoming 'Auto' (For children). Think of Carl and Ellies relationship (for adults) and the battle of Carl Vs the Explorer and dogs (for children). For me, Up ended as soon as the house arrived in south america. At this point he achieve his overall objective that is established at the start of the film in the exposition. My supervisor concurred and we both agreed that we felt these thoughts but had not articulated them before Ed's input. 

- Acting isn't feeling, acting is doing.

- Emotion is not theatrical on its own. Crying is boring. Crying and reacting (Doing) is theatrical.

- Sympathy (feeling for) = Audience doesn't share experience and if kept here too long will pull out. Empathy (feeling into) = Audience shares experience and share the emotion thus experience. A good example of the 'pull out' can be found in the Lorax. The Once-lers story starts with him as the protagonist. We at first empathise with his want to change his fortunes and escape the environment from his family and his low regard from them. The shift happens once he has succeeded in his objective - to invent an invention that will see him gain financially and potentially gain acceptance from his family. He becomes arrogant and becomes the antagonist once his family move in to cash in on his success with excess and greed. We start to sympathise and this mixed with his actions causes us to drop in and out of favour with him. The process happens again, much bigger as we pull out back to the main story. The audience becomes disengaged with his actions completely before a constant stream of sympathy is created before finally the audience withdraws a final time. This is a clever process which allows the audience to accept him as an aide to the main narrative, leaving enough empathy to accept his support but not enough for him to replace the main protagonist. 

- If a character does not change to make it better - 'get it (his shit) together' - The audience will pull out. S/he has to at least try to succeed. Examples Ed gave of films that lack this are Treasure Planet, Over the Hedge and Leaving Las Vegas. This exactly what im talking about above with the Lorax's Once-ler. He fails to get his shit together.

- Action in pursuit of an objective whilst overcoming and obstacle.

- Look at something from the characters point of view. 

- Male objective becomes female obstacle. Obstacles can only be one or multiples of being with self, environment or other person.

- Ask the right questions. What is the character doing?

- Higher power center is faster than lower.

- Blink when thought process ends. Blinks happen when someone finishes speaking. Blinks happen when something is understood by the other person.

- Acting has almost nothing to do with words.

- Wiley Cyote had what Mizyaki calls 'ma'

- Sexy eyelids Monroe and Jessica Rabbit represent the moment of orgasm = gives them sex appeal.

- Drama = Mans potential
Comedy = Mans limitation

- Chaplin realised failing to get your foot out of the bucket is funnier than getting it in there in the first place.

- Keaton = sympathy
Chaplin = empathy

- Hero = Exceeding expectation
Villian = Fatal flaw

- Older the audience the more realism needed of the villian
Younger viewers need more obvious indications

- What is important to the tribe is how the character feels the emotions.

- The avoidance of failure is different than the pursuit of success. 

All of these ideas can be found one way or another in acting for animators. Despite three editions the book conveys these ideas differently to how Ed puts these ideas across in person. I do hope that he eventually decides to make a dvd. Ed presented a series of questions an animator (or artist in general) should ask themselves. He backs the assertion which i posted about previously where Meyerson commented Pixar were in the decline stage. Ed said something similar but referred it to the industry as a whole, that they should be tapping into the purely adult market. He said that we should answer the following questions. 

What do i think people could learn from me?

What do i think we need?

What do i care about?

More to follow in a another post tomorrow. Until then, enjoy...

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Artefact 10

Artefact10 from Adam Weaver on Vimeo.

Here is the refined version for artefact 10. This process reflects a similar process to before where i transmuted narrative ideas to a reduced form, though in this instance it is self defined and not needing support from other abstraction in itself, although we do have support/influence from other characters. The purpose of this artefact was to test the a) if the convex and concave relationship could be used b) limits of  the rig set up and c) if it can be used as primary character.

I have been able to convey a narrative that uses both of the extreme elements of the rig - completely manual key posing and completely dynamics. Occasionally, and subtly, a blend of both. Some of the gestures are limited by curve size. Because the geometry is connected to bones which is driven by the IK curve, which itself is then driven by another IK driven by clusters and also another IK driven by the Dynamic input. Getting the blend to work smooth is a fragile relationship. 

The shrug gesture proved problematic. I had planned for it to act link a spring down and to stretch up. The curve would not stretch the geometry with it and the spring shape could not accomodate the geometry cleanly enough. I then tried to make what resembled a head shake which did not work. It looked ugly, emotionless, unreadable and killed the shape of the geometry.  The solution was to add some subtext. The over hanging arch when the hair shrugs adds emotion to the character. I think it is the only time during the piece that we emote with the hair. Which i think is okay, as this is the most important part of the narrative - his confusion. The supervisor sessions this week has been cancelled as we are all attending Animex to see Ed Hooks. It may have to wait until two weeks for our next session for feedback.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Feedback - Artefact 09

The questions that I asked post viewing exposed the weakness of the artefact in the terms of the question. However, it did lead to responses which give hints as to where the next stage of development may lie. For those not familiar, here is a re-post of artefact 09:


Which do you prefer?
Which version do you think communicates the narrative more effectively?

Feedback: My Response:

1) It was to hard to tell because there was just enough action to suggest narrative. 

In future i'll be sure to make the narrative clear prior to showing, particularly if they happen to be as short as this piece. 

2) There were many issues raised with the concave to convex, particularly with the eyes looking up as he asks the question. The thought process stops being internal and starts to ask autonomous questions. Generally what is the purpose of this in regards to the narrative? 

During the production of the concave to convex piece i was consciously aware of aligning the pose consistently to a convex position in order to not break the central purpose of the artefact. A result of this clearly appears to be an neglect of the other areas of staging, framing and relationship between the elements (and this actually counters my initial intention.) I concur that there is a break in the thought process's internal representation and this is having autonomous influence on the narrative. The questions this artefact exposes shows its value. The question for me at this point, being that i wanted to see the influence of dynamic positioning, use of core and line of action, is at which point do they become silenced by other elements of information signals with the audience? In terms of line of action, which is stronger, arm/hands or eyes? do we need a combination of both or just the eyes? Its clear that hand and arms alone in this instance do not work when separated and cause conflict. So should the line of action be considered with eyes as much as the body in staging?

Picuture showing line of action and the breaks causing the conflict in the test.

You may of noticed in my notes on the sketchbook pages my thoughts express whether the change in of  concave and convex shapes doesn't change meaning but can delay it. I still feel that this is the case, but this experiment hasn't been executed efficiently enough to test it. The eyes, it indicates, also plays an influential role in directing the audience. Before i set about testing the eyes against the arms, i am going to re-attempt this experiment to ensure it tests the question efficiently. Before that though, i am going to continue with the re-rigging of the strand of hair.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Artefact 10 - model test

So i have rigged a strand of hair that is able to either be controlled manually, dynamically or a blend of both. Since i was learning to rig this the actual model of hairs geometry was neglected as was the resulting bone size structure. Whilst i created this quick blocking pass it was clear the issues that resulted from the poor design. I will be reattempting this tomorrow afternoon/evening so hopefully over the weekend it shall be completed.


Hair Design

An extension of this exploration of use of core, line of action and dynamic shape is to re-apply the information from gestural design to character design for enhanced performance. Here are the rough shapes and scenario to show this idea...

I worked out the core movements using my finger on a train journey. These may change when i move onto animating.

Artefact 09

Here are the two versions. I will post my thoughts and the feedback tomorrow. But for now, which do you prefer?

Artefact 09 from Adam Weaver on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Sketchbook Development: 'So what is it?'

I am trying to put more of my sketchbook development on my blog to hopefully express more of my internal and unrefined ideas (although they have been edited in a fashion). The next artefact uses a line from one of my favourite scenes in Red Dwarf -

Character Mentor: Chapter 1 - Drawing basic poses and expressions

Tom Brancroft highlights the following as the key principles for basic posing and expressions in Character Mentor:

- Twinning;
- Using perspective to create depth;
- Clothing: depth killers?;
- Using the core
- Line of action
- Drama is not vertical

Of these, although all relevant to animation, i am already aware of twinning and i feel the clothing section is relevant to drawn animation, as 3D (virtual or stop motion) is made on behalf of camera location. I feel the perspective to create depth is also possibly a staging issue but i think it is relevant as it ties into the last three points.

Looking back at artefact 8 i can see how these could have improved the staging and storytelling poses quite dramatically for enhanced performance. The following examples have been copied by myself from the book: 

For my next experiment these areas will be my point of focus. These design elements should improve the quality of the performance and will be the first step to answering the PGD question.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

PGD Stage Plan

For the PGD stage of the MA i intend to answer the following Question, 'How can you design confusion?'. Having looked at audio and narrative structures in the PGC stage, i intend to focus more on the performance and aesthetic elements. My starting point for this was to take a brief overview of some 'how to' texts and highlight what they perceive as being essential for creating mainstream production animation. 

Ideas for the Animated Short by Alexander, Schumer and Sullivan contains chapters on the following topics: (I have highlighted the chapters i feel will be significant)

- Story background and theory
- Building better content
- Acting: Exploring the human condition
- Building Character and Location
- Building Story
- The purpose of dialogue
- Storyboarding
- Staging

Character Mentor by Tom Brancroft

- Now What? Drawing basics for posing and expression
- The face: Breaking down the elements of expression
- Posing your character: What are you trying to communicate?
- Acting: Characters acting and reacting the way you want them to
- Staging your scene: using the elements of your scene to create a composition
- Leading the eye: prioritizing by design
- Putting it in action: Create a character-driven illustration from start to finish

I have also purchased the first volume of Drawn to Life (many [100s] of small chapters) so i won't be listing them here and will probably be read through gradually due to the nature in length.

From these and the other texts i have, it is easy to see two elements that combine in producing animation. These are:
- Design of character and location aesthetically (see previous post), and
- Design of movement and action.

So my starting point will be to explore how confusion could be presented in each type, gradually forming synthesis in order to produce some findings about the relationship between them. 

I have come across Jason Ryan Animation who provides tutorials (for a fee) by animators such as Ken Fountain who has worked at major movie studios, the excerpt below looks like it could be a valuable asset. I shall purchase a little later on when I look into the design of movement and action. 

"Attitudes & Acting Beats" Sample Clip (10 min) from Ken Fountain on Vimeo.