ZBrush

I have a number tools in the toolkit that I really enjoy using. ZBrush is one I haven’t had a lot of time to play with, but the other day I was just freeform sculpting and came up with this head. It’s a really fun tool to use. You push and pull and smooth the object like you would clay. I also use it for texturing existing 3d objects. I understand that there is another tool that works along similar lines that is on its way called MudBox. I guess we’ll have to see what it costs and if it brings anything new to the table.

The latest motion capture…

Here is a link to the latest attempt at realistic emotive digital acting using a facial motion capture system. The model work is nice, the lighting is passable, the environment is okay, but the motion… argh, why can’t people just film people if they want acting that works?

I can see the use of motion capture for certain things, but I believe it is oh-so-limited. Some of my least favorite films use this technology (Final Fantasy – Spirits Within, Monster House and Polar Express). I can’t imagine watching this for any length of time… I couldn’t even finish watching the clip. It says this on the site:

“With this proven approach, the realism of facial and full-body performance is only limited by the quality of the actor and the director’s vision.”

Are they seeing something I’m not? As far as I’m concerned their attempt lies deep in the Uncanny Valley.

Bazoo The Elephant

Bazoo the Elephant
This here is my friend Bazoo the elephant. He’s a character I have designed and drawn for a children’s book I’m working on. If you are going to draw, you need a goal, right? So that’s my goal. The book will be aimed at children ages 4 to 6. He is the main character among a number of characters that are still in development. The story is done and he’s ready to be seen by the world.

He’s gone through a number of different iterations (and perhaps I’ll show those a little later), but I think I’m finally satisfied with his design. I’m sure that as I draw him from all sorts of different angles that I’ll be tweaking him and modifying him until he feels just right. But I think he is close. I will also probably create a 3d version of him so that he can end up in a little 3d game the kids can play (I had a 3d version of a previous design, but that design didn’t feel quite right).

I used Expression 3 to ink him in. This is a very neat tool that is a cross between Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. It allows you to create vector graphics, but with a more painterly style (this image doesn’t do the program justice). The outlines are strokes in Expression which you can tweak like a bezier curve, but it maintains its painted or inked effect. I like it a lot. I think Expression was bought out by Microsoft and they have been reworking it for a number of years now, but nothing has been delivered yet.

The obligatory disclaimer: Please note (as all things on this blog) this is copyrighted 2006, Lost Pencil Animation Studios Inc.

Updates

So I’ve finally updated some of my permanent blog pages. I have added most of my blog drawings to the Daily Doodle Archive. I have also added entries to the Video List, Art Reading List, and Tools list. Nuthin like a little house cleaning :)

Drawing #4306

Ken Hultgren, a former animator for Disney, wrote (drew?) a book called “The Art of Animal Drawing“. If you can get your hands on a copy and you are serious about learning how to draw… well this is a great book on animals. It isn’t just your regular anatomy book (though it does have anatomy), it isn’t just a book full of drawings (though it does have a lot of drawings), but it also has a lot of tips and tricks on drawing critters. I just love this guy’s style. Moreover, not only does he draw realistic animals, but also caraciturizes each of them. It’s an inexpensive Dover book and it is at the top of my drawing book list. The image above is my drawing based on one of his drawings… of course it doesn’t do his drawing justice.

Making Comics

I just received this book yesterday, and I’m totally enjoying it (well… at least the first 45 pages). I’m not really a comic book or graphic novel fan, but Scott McCloud has, I think, done a good job. It is well organized, has good content and is well written. I’m gleaning things from it for story book illustration and animation. After all, comics are simply stills taken from animation… or vice versa, animation is simply more poses strung closer together… or something. Anyway, they are related. Good posing, for example, will help your animation.

Over the Hedge

So I finally got around to seeing this movie yesterday. I had ambivalent feelings about this film when it was first released and those feelings continue. Dave Burgess who was one of my temporary mentors while at Animation Mentor, was one of the Supervising Animators on this film – so I was looking forward to some good animation. It wasn’t bad, there were a lot of good clips, some not so good (which is to be expected I think). But I think that I enjoyed the animation more in the movie Madagascar.

The story itself wasn’t anything to write home about… I mean, c’mon, RJ the racoon so deserved to get eaten by the bear – why would you feel bad for him? It also felt as if Dreamworks couldn’t figure out who the actual ‘bad guy’ was… Lastly, I didn’t have much empathy for any of the characters.

The real gotcha in this film was the attempt to move characters over from a comic strip to a feature film. They had a bunch of hurdles to overcome in order to do this successfully, but I don’t think they cleared any of the important ones.

First off, when you’ve read a comic strip for awhile you sort of form voices for each of the characters in your head (well, I do). When those voices that correspond to the comic strip characters in your head don’t jive with the voices on screen… well… it certainly doesn’t help you to suspend your disbelief. Second, there is a world of difference between the visual design of the characters in the strip as compared to the movie. In the special edition section of the DVD they mentioned they were going to have trouble with this, and that they opted not to try to re-create the look of the strip. Big mistake. There is just something in the 2d version of the strip that adds so much to the humor. They didn’t capture this in the 3d version. Third, the actual personality of the characters didn’t correspond between the strip and film. For example, Hammy is depicted as a squirrel on a constant sugar high. Zipping this way and that. Well, if you’ve followed the comic strip, he sure doesn’t come across that way. Bottom line? It just didn’t work for me. It was like a totally different movie that had nothing to do with the strip.

A good example of a comic strip that was made into a film/tv show that worked for me was the Peanuts gang (Charlie Brown and gang). Somehow they made the voices pretty close to what was in my head (at least not so different that I noticed – I mean Bruce Willis as RJ??) and moreover the look of the show was exactly like the look of the strip. It rocks. The animation is simple, but I feel the comic strip come to life. After all, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? The illusion of life.

Drawing #4298

Ok, so the drawing number is bogus, but I think I’m about that far into my 100,000 bad drawings (remember, the 100,000 drawings you need to do before you get any good?). So I’m trying to pick up the pace and drew this little beastie while practicing drawing animal anatomy. He’s part dog, horse and dragon – I think. Does drawing a single line count for a drawing? If so, maybe this is drawing number 23,462…

Line Thickness

I have recently been trying to improve my drawing skills and I’ve discovered that line thickness has a lot to do with how well an illustration reads (among other things). So I went ‘a-hunting’ on the net and found this cool pdf article that deals with the use of thick and thin lines in illustrations.

Curious George

This movie was a pleasant surprise. The animation was enjoyable (i.e. nothing really was so bad that it pulled you out of the film), the design was good (I think it matched the original), the monkey wasn’t annoying (which I thought might happen since he doesn’t acutally say anything), the story was fairly decent, and Ted’s character (the man in the yellow hat) was a bit more developed than what I recall from the story book. I actually had fun watching the movie and I don’t think I fit the demographic it was originally aimed at. I think my main criticism would be that some of the characters were a little too flat. But I understand the time constraints and also the style dictated some of that. Anyway, Matt Williames was one of the many animators on the film and he has a pretty neat blog. He has some very useful posts and a rough of one of the shots from the movie. Great job!

One other note, here is another blog entry by one of the supervising animators on the film. It sounds like things could have been much better. Even after reading that I think it still worked out fairly well.