Viewing entries tagged
Animation

Differences between Animation projects

Animation is a vast subject with a lot of opinions, mediums and formats. You have cartoons, you have high-end CG, computer games, corporate animation, feature animation and infographics (to name only a few). Not every animator is equipped to casually do all of them well, in the same way that an athlete isn't equipped to compete in every althletic event. Although you might think a humble infographic animator has no shot at animating a feature film performance shot, it's also equally unlikely that a Pixar animator would be able to handle the harsh schedules and daily expectations of a corporate project. How would Glen Keane react if a project manager told him his time was up, to export what he's got and move onto a new shot?!
 

Credit: Nintendo

Credit: Nintendo


Glen Keane, for those who don't know, is a highly acclaimed Disney character animator, known for his work on films such as Beauty and the Best, Tarzan and Tangled. Keane will have months to prepare for a character he is animating. He normally has a hand in designing them and thinks carefully about how they will perform in each shot before even drawing a single image.

Credit: Glen Keane, Disney Animation

Credit: Glen Keane, Disney Animation

Top end feature animators are known for researching their characters in great depth, sometimes going away on trips to the jungle, to the zoo, or hiring in biologists to lecture about anatomy. A feature animator's priorities are to achieve highly believable performance animation which the audience can empathise with and which moves us along a story or character arc effectively.

Animation shots are reviewed by the director and other colleges and often work is altered, reenvisioned and reshot in the pursuit of perfection. Of course, feature films have schedules and budgets too and not all feature projects are so wealthy in time and money!

Infographic animation is an entirely different art. Character performance is rarely an aspect. Instead, the priorities in an Infographic project include presenting visually clear and concise information (that works congruently in design and colour) and inventing engaging transitions from one scene to the next.

credit: tympanus.net

credit: tympanus.net

The focus is on creating the most memorable and engaging ways of conveying a piece of information (which is harder than it sounds), which then needs to be cleared by your client and their brand manager, (which is also harder than it sounds). It often turns into a huge rush of waiting for renders, editing sound effects and sending clips to often none creative clients for a final thumbs up. A very different environment for an animator, though, Surprisingly, good follow through, anticipation and other animation principles are important for animated infographics as part of their charm is fluid animation and other 'pretty' graphics.

Then there is corporate animation, which I am classing as character animation for corporate projects. Corporate projects are all about efficiency and working smart. Ideas are looked at not only from a creative perspective but from a practical perspective too. Cinematography is carefully thought out with off-screen space and sound effects being used to suggest actions rather than someone having to animate them. Long shots are avoided and close-ups and insert shots are utilised well where ever possible to keep the work load down.

Credit: http://www.vidwonders.com/

Credit: http://www.vidwonders.com/

Riggers stick to human IK rigging systems to allow the use of animation libraries which often include previously animated walk cycles, jumps, falls, and runs which can simly be imported and customised rather than animating new ones from scratch.

Performance is kept to an animator's gut instinct rather than exquisite planning and much like stop-motion animation, ideally, you only do one take. No retakes, no searching for a better way, just get the shot done and move on.

puppet@Aardman Animations Ltd 2013

puppet@Aardman Animations Ltd 2013

Your character's thinking must be clear and they must lead a viewer through the scene, but it won't matter if their hair doesn't follow through perfectly, if their hand animation is floaty or if they don't have the most convincing sense of weight.

Each type of project brings is own challenges and has its own sense of reward. You establish different workflows and different techniques to optimise each job and you always come out of a project having learnt something new. I look forward to exploring television animation very soon and the challenges and adaption that will require from me and my team. I'm sure I will be blogging about it, if I have the time, of course!

Thoughts by
Gary

 

 

Tell a Great Story

Anyone with children knows that one of the best ways to keep them quiet (for more than five minutes) is to read them a story. A well made book with great illusions will always help, but with my little girl I find that I can also make up stories (using trick-of-the-trade storytelling formulas) that keep her equally as engaged. Well told stories in any form, moving image, music or written will have this effect.

(Image - http://montgomerymoon.com)

(Image - http://montgomerymoon.com)

It doesn't stop with children either. Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Staffordshire Business Festival which had loads of wonderful events and speakers that gave talks about their businesses. Now some did give sales pitches, some were more engaging than others, but the ones that really stood out, told great stories.

(image - Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce)

(image - Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce)

One man in particular, told a compelling story about how his business started up, how it grew, how it almost fell and how they saved it in the knick of time, with risky choices and brave decisions; resulting in the success it is today. It wasn't until the end of his presentation that I broke my attention and began to appreciate what he had done. The room was watching, listening, and engaging with this man. He didn't give us any more or less information than the previous speakers had, we just heard every word this time, because he told us in a storytelling format.

Good stories always have one key thing in common. They always show a journey of change. They go from good to bad, then back to good again. They show a normal day, throw in a problem, then show the audience how that problem was overcome, resulting in an improved situation and a learning curve that we can understand.
 

(Image - /sivers.org/drama)

(Image - /sivers.org/drama)

We love this familiar format because we learn easily from it because that’s how we have been learning since the dawn of time. We sat around campfires and heard about how Dad got bitten by a saber-tooth cat, but managed to escape with his life after doing something clever. We learned about how when the crops started to inexplicably die, somebody had the courage to try something new and saved the town from famine. We read about how even in her darkest hour, the entrepreneur didn't give up after losing everything and how the unassuming friend she had shown kindness to years before, saved the day, turning the situation around through trust and good teamwork.
 

(Image - www.pinterest.com/pin/367395282081412916/)

(Image - www.pinterest.com/pin/367395282081412916/)

Stories were the original lessons, the original form of education and we as humans instinctively engage with them. This is why my daughter loves stories so much and this is why the key to effective communication, education, marketing or even sales is to figure out what information you need to get across and then do it with a great story.

Thoughts By

Gary

Your Future Careers Fair

Being Stoke's only Animation Studio we take a large responsibility to work with the youth of Stoke. We have an open door policy on work experience. We believe that Stoke has a real creative opportunity to compete with London and other UK creative hubs. In relation the geographical location, cost of work and living quality is much easier to sustain. One of my favourite savings is that it only costs £5 to go to the cinema in Stoke, rather than £15 in London where I grew up! 

Stoke is an area where creativity can thrive and we hope the City of Culture 2021 bid will help showcase that but we want to play a part in raising local aspirations and increasing creative jobs. One of the largest problems locally is creative talent. As a company we have to train our own employees as we struggle to find people who have the skills we need.  

We really want to work with locals and help make sure Stoke creates new generations of creatives. This is why tomorrow we will be present at "Your Future Careers Fair" at Kings Hall, Stoke. 

Please do come along and say hello and for more information head to: http://staffordshirebusinessfestival.co.uk/events/your-future-careers-fair-kings-hall/ 

Thoughts by,

Daniel

Monsters Inc is 15

Today Monster’s Inc is 15 years old. I celebrated the anniversary by watching both films recently (Inc and University) to see how animation has changed in the past 15 years.

The technology has of course improved. Pixar are using vastly more advanced computers and software now, their render farm will have no doubt quadrupled in size and their overall experience and knowledge will have developed a great deal as their staff stay hungry and keep learning.

The ‘graphics’, as most people would say, have improved. Most notably the fur generation is way more advanced today. From having around 1 million strands of hair in 2001, in Monster's University Sully had up to 5.5 million strands of hair.

The rigs were clearly a limitation back in 2001. If you look carefully (and I do!) you can see that Pixar’s skin weighting was limited by the poly-count their computers could handle. It also wouldn't surprise me if they hadn't quite perfected the ideal model topology for a clean, flexible mesh that deforms beautifully when bound to a rig. Put that together with the fact that interactive paint weighting, dual quaternion weights and heat map binding weren't around and you start to appreciate how well they did with the 'state of the art' technology they had in the day. Mr Waternoose stood out in particularly, because he had such a jowly face that really would have benefitted from today's rigging advancements.

Even the animation performance has improved. Back then, Toy Story was only 6 years old and computer animation was still considered ‘clunky’ in comparison to traditional animation. It certainly wasn’t an art form like stop motion can be. But the guys at pixar we’re seriously improving their performance skills shot by shot. They knew the essence of a great film was story and emotion and they did everything they could to make their characters stand up as actors. The likes of Doug Sweetland, Glenn McQueen, Scott Clark were pushing the boundaries of their CGI medium, looking at the principles left by Disney’s Nine old men in traditional animation and battled with the rigs to make them work. You can see they used a layered approach on a lot of their shots, the stark character poses of the ‘Pose-to-Pose’ work flow method are not always there. They probably weren't using video reference material very much either (like they did on Finding Nemo), so the essence of acting wasn’t as potent in every shot as it would have been today. I’m not saying it wasn’t good animation, though -it was! The scene near the end where Boo is terrified by Sully's scare demonstration, almost makes me cry every time.

 

Something I find interesting is the fact that Mike and Sully are the iconic characters of the film and are the first thing you think of when somebody say’s ‘Monsters Inc’. Why isn’t Boo the first thing you think of? Normally baby characters are hugely popular in animation, they often outshine the adults, even if they arent lead characters - but not in this case. Is it because boo is only ‘human’ and we prefer/ expect exciting characters in animation? That's another blog topic. 

Anyway, despite officially being an older film now, Monsters Inc is still one of my Pixar favourites. Peter Doctor made sure the most important ingredients, the story and the characters, were the best that they could be. Stories and emotions are timeless, technology doesn’t play a part in those areas.

Twenty years from now people may look back at Monsters University and realise how dated the render and animation looks, but I bet they enjoy Mike, Sully and the story just as much then as I did last night.

Thoughts by

Gary Carse