Brad Bird Interview

This is a great interview with Brad Bird (director of ‘Iron Giant’, ‘Incredibles’ and ‘Ratatouille’). I love this quote (he’s talking about how little respect animation receives as an art form):

People see it as a childish sort of hieroglyphics. They connect it with the comics on the funny pages, as something that’s only meant to be silly and can’t ever represent anything deep or serious. And while I make no apology for wanting to make a comedy that’s just plain fun on the surface, I think the underlying art film is actually a magnificent art form. Some people inadvertently keep pressing my buttons by saying, “Oh, I’m so happy I had children so that I can go and see your film.” As if they couldn’t see it on their own, without children to act as their beards, you know? It’s a big tent, this art form, and everybody’s allowed in, even the childless! Enjoy it! Take a date! You’ll have a good time even without kids!

Wii!!

This is incredible news for independent game developers… “independent developers armed with small budgets and big ideas will be able to get their original games into the marketplace…”

Ratatouille and Mocap?

So, apparently the final tagline in the end credits of Ratatouille say the following:

“Our Quality Assurance Guaratee: 100% Genuine Animation! No motion capture or any other performance shortcuts were used in the production of this film.”

Now, that’s what I’m talking about!!

Softimage/XSI

So I took the plunge recently and purchased a copy of Softimage/XSI Foundation. I already have Maya, Max, Lightwave, Project Messiah and Cinema4D – so it’s not like I needed another 3d tool, but I do require it for a freelance project – so I guess in a different way I need it. Anyway, I’ve only played with it for a weekend and I’m liking it. I modeled, rigged and animated a biped character to see what the workflow was like and it was very similar to Maya’s.

The built in auto rigging is pretty ’standard’, but it was nice to be able to do that out of the box. I did find a weird bug while trying to bind the mesh to the skeleton (the UI method kept ‘cancelling’ on me, so I had to figure out the command equivalent and execute that instead). I still have to play more with weightmapping, UV mapping, dynamics and rendering, but so far so good. I did a bit of surface material assignment and final gather rendering which turned out nice.

For character animation I still like Maya better. For example, Maya seems a bit more intelligent in showing you the character set keys in your timeline when you have a character set selected, while with XSI you have to go and change that manually. Also, in Maya when you select a curve in the curve editor it will highlight the object name/channel in the object list – I couldn’t see XSI doing that. Not a show stopper, but definitely stuff that gets ‘in the way’ and slows you down… of course I may be missing an option or setting that lets me do exactly that, but I haven’t found it yet.

So for now, from a character animation perspective I’d say my favorite is still Maya, with XSI a close second – of course that may change since my preference for Maya may be more because I’ve used it more than XSI… time will tell. Happy animating!

Safari

So this is pretty cool. You can now have Safari on your Windows machine. That is if you want to… if you are interested check it out: http://www.apple.com/safari/

Almost…

It seems like the governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have tweaked the requirements for the rules for animated feature films. According to the AWN article:

The significance of the change emphasizes the importance of frame-by-frame character animation, and now rules out such films as A SCANNER DARKLY and WAKING LIFE for qualification. According to Jon Bloom, chairman of the Short Films and Feature Animation branch as well as a governor, the branch was concerned that the digital rotoscoping technique utilized in these two features was not crucial enough in shaping the animated performances. And although Bloom added that both THE POLAR EXPRESS and MONSTER HOUSE would qualify under the new requirements, the branch is keeping a close eye on how motion capture/performance capture technology evolves.

So now rotoscoping is not animation. Well and good. But don’t they see that mocap is the same thing? Don’t they see that mocap is not crucial enough in shaping the animated performance? Oh well. Time to get off my hobby horse and get back to animating.

Theater Attendance

Jim Hill posted an interesting article recently regarding theater attendance.

The gist of the post is a theory that Hollywood is getting a little bit nervous because families are not going to see films at the theater or, as individuals, they are not seeing the movies more than once. Apparently there used to be a larger number of people (mainly young men) who went to see a feature film at the theater more than once – driving up revenue for the films.

Hollywood is surprised at this? Technology has improved the home theater experience, DVDs are released quite soon after a theatrical release, the theater is often noisy and interruptive, gas prices are up (here we have to pay over $4 a gallon) and it costs more to get to a theater, and the cost of taking an entire family to the movies is quite expensive. So what exactly is the benefit of seeing it on the big screen?

I’m actually surprised that people go to the theater at all (let alone more than once). You can’t pause the movie to get a snack, you get the annoying ‘crowd’ responses, you get the annoying individual hecklers, you get sticky running shoes… and you have to pay for this? Moreover, why on earth would I go see a movie at a theater more than once? Because I didn’t get it? If that’s the case then someone needs to work on story or their story telling technique. Because it was eye candy? I’ll wait for the DVD and watch it on a large screen plasma. You know, when I watch a film, be it on a 27″ old style CRT television or on a large screen – if the story is good, then I get so caught up in it that I don’t notice that I don’t have 10000 Watts of sound or that I don’t have a two story screen. Think about it, when you are totally into the story, do any of those things matter?

In order to minimize those ‘annoying’ aspects of seeing the film at a theater, we went to see one of the Star Wars Episodes, but we waited till the crowds had their fill (about a month or so after the release). We were pretty much alone at the theater. It cost about $60 for all of us to go (ouch!). We sat at about the 1/2 way mark in the theater so we could see most of the screen and experience the sound. You know, it wasn’t much different than watching the DVD on a plasma screen – and I paid $60 for this? That was the last time we’ve been to a theater and it’s probably going to be the last time. It just doesn’t make any sense to me, financially or aesthetically. So there.

A few links…

More miscellaneous bits and pieces today. Here are a few places to stop by (if you haven’t already):

Mark Kennedy has a nice post on ‘Space and Form‘.

Shorpy is a neat reference site for old photographs. Nice high resolution images.

A great place for online digital art pdf tutorials is ImagineFX Workshops.