Category: Character Animation


Well, if the first month and a half of this year is any indication… it’s going to be a wild ride! Lots of work and lots of plans for personal projects. In that regard I finally finished my Steampunk challenge entry for CGSociety. You can check out the link to see the final video. There are sooo many things I would change/fix/add… I really pushed myself in the last month and I wish I had put that kind of energy into it the entire time, but alas live and learn. I don’t know how well I did in the contest, but it was a great learning experience.

EDIT: I didn’t win anything, but I had a great time creating it and pushing myself! I’ll post some details of the trailer as time goes on… assuming of course, you guessed it, that I don’t forget!

The Animator’s Survival Kit – Animated

Richard Williams, animator extraordinaire, has now released his Master Class on 16 DVDs. I attended Richard’s class back in 2000. I had to drive to Los Angeles (about 25 hours from where I live) and pay a small wheelbarrow-full of cash, but it was one of those classes that was a ‘eureka’ moment in my animation career. I believe that his master class allowed me to move on to the ‘next level’ in my animation.

After I attended the class my head felt like it was going to explode, so much information in so little time – and all I had for reference were my notes and drawings from the class. I was certain that 1/2 of the class leaked out of my ears before they could make an impact (or even reach the notebook). During the class Richard taunted us by waving a stack of papers around which he claimed was going to be published. One year later he did exactly that and “The Animator’s Survival Kit” was born. For me, this book is an indispensible reference and, next to the “Illusion of Life”, one of the best animation books published.

Only one thing was missing, to be able to replay the master class. Even if it was 6 months later – how I wish I could have simply rewound a tape and watched it over again. For me, repetition is king. I need a pile driver to get it through my thick skull, and repetition is a good pile driver. Now, with the release of this set, that wish comes true! I can’t believe what an amazing resource this is… Dick is the link between some of the best animators in history and he’s passing that information on to us. It doesn’t get much better than that.

This DVD series is the master class and then some. It includes animations that explain the principles he expounds. The set is expensive, but so is/was going to the master class. As far as I am concerned it is well worth the cost. Even though I took the class, I have still ordered a copy – remember, repetition (and now with examples!).

Some people on CGTalk have been complaining about the cost. I guess it depends on how badly you want to learn from a master animator. There is no way you can get this kind of training from your local animation college (unless they buy a special group copy!). The internet is a wonderful thing, but unfortunately it seems to be breeding an attitude of ‘give it to me for free (or real cheap)’. This can easily devalue people’s work and achievements. So is it expensive? Yes, and so are many other things of value.

Happy Birthday to me (belated)!

A few days ago was my birthday (and the next day was my wife’s birthday – how cool is that!), and I received some pretty cool presents. Presents I definitely have to blog about.

The first, I got from my most awesomest daughters (all four pitched in to get it):

Too Funny For Words
“Too Funny For Words, Disney’s Greatest Sight Gags” This is a book by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, two of my favorite ‘Nine Old Men’ who worked (played?) at Disney. It gives visual examples of the 8 different types of gags that were common categories of gags in the Disney Studio. Very interesting, informative and full of great art! The extra cool thing about this copy is that it’s a signed copy by Frank and Ollie!! Woot!

My second present, just as cool:

Bambi“Walt Disney’s Bambi, The Story and The Film” Another awesome book by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. This was a gift from my amazing wife! This was a brand new copy (sealed in original wrap) full of great art and film background, it comes with a little flip book. A flip book (in case you don’t know) contains consecutive images that when flipped create the illusion of motion (you know, like drawing little pictures in the corner of your textbook at school and then quickly flipping it to see it move). The flip book has an animated young Bambi, older Bambi, Thumper, and Friend Owl. The most amazing, to me, is Thumper rolling around laughing – it was animated by Frank Thomas. Amazing… simply amazing – I think I’m going to wear out this flip book watching it over and over. Maybe I’ll scan it in so I can view it on my laptop.

Oh, I got some other cool presents, but those two were definitely the highlights!! The other present worth blogging about is the Nintendo DS lite! It has minimal graphics (not as good quality, me thinks, as the PSP), but good enough to run a bunch of fun games and, get this, a paint program! I have it on order so I’ll have to see how it runs once I have it all installed. The DS is cool in that it has a stylus and pressure sensitive screen – that will, hopefully, make it a great mini mobile sketchbook! Boy am I spoiled rotten! Happy birthday to me… happy birthday to me…

Surf’s Up Book!

Surf’s Up: The Art and Making of a True Story. This is an amazing work of art. I just got it and it’s full of amazing art and information on how the movie was made. It comes with an additional DVD video called ‘Making Waves’ (which I haven’t checked out yet, but man – I didn’t even know it came with a DVD… and even if it didn’t I would have still bought the book!). I give it a definite 6 stars out of 5. If you don’t believe me ;o) make sure you read the reviews on Amazon! Chicken Joe is the best!

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!

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!!


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!

A follow up… and update

Sorry I haven’t been posting very much lately. Work, life… they seem to get in the way. Anyway, this past weekend I was doing bathroom renovations (something you need to do rather quickly when you have only one bathroom and 5 women in the house). All this with a cold and fever… so the weekend was a doozy (I sure hope I installed the plumbing right). I’m not sure what made me feel wonkier… the cold medicine or the tub surround adhesive.

Anyway, on the animation front be sure to check out this great little interview with Nancy Beiman, the author of ‘Prepare to Board’. It’s definitely worth a visit. I haven’t checked out the rest of the magazine, but Flip is looking interesting. Here is a quote from Nancy (I’m not alone!!):

I’m surprised that you have not asked me about Motion Capture. I feel that this has the same relationship to animation as paint-by-numbers kits to the original artist’s painting. We all had those kits when we were kids. Well, I never painted them; I used the cheap oils to customize my toy plastic animals. Paint by numbers did not contain any challenges. Art comes from interpreting reality through the artist’s subjective lens. Mo-capped animation anchors the characters firmly to the physical movements and limitations of the human body. Worse yet it turns animation artists into machines.

Prepare to Board!

Prepare to Board! by Nancy Beiman

This is a great book. Go buy it now. Well… only if you are interested in ‘creating story and characters for animated features and shorts’ that is… I just wish it was a bit more detailed (but then again I’m only 1/3 of the way through it).


Modern Animation History

If you are interested in Modern Animation History here is an article: part 1 and part 2 (a bit dated, from 2006) that is an overview of animation history from the ’70s to the early 2000’s. An interesting read…

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