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The Animation Transcript Community

Posted on September 8, 2020  | Leave a Comment
Filed under Education

“If you don’t have time to listen to podcasts, maybe you have time to read them!”

Let me introduce to you, a little project I setup few week ago, a blog where I am sharing transcripts of my favourite animation podcasts.

Why transcripts?

Podcasts have grown massively in the past 10 years and if you are not part of a high-end or animated feature online school, podcasts would be the next best thing to learn what goes on at top Feature Animation studios and hear about the workflow and techniques used in those studios.

Sadly, if you are new to the animation industry, there is no way you will be able to catch up with all the podcasts and fabulous interviews that have been recorded until now. The iAnimate podcast alone, has featured more than 75 guests accounting to more than 100 hours of episodes!!!

On top of this, most of the information shared got lost over the time as it is not possible to share specific parts of an interview, neither can you search or cross examine podcasts.

Transcripts on an other hand can be easily be indexed, searched, quoted. Wouldn’t you be interested to quickly Google search the thoughts of all the animators featured on podcasts and who worked on Hotel Transylvania or Toy Story 4 or How to train your dragon?

If you are into Speed reading, having transcripts of podcasts would allow you to quickly swallow up the whole internet!

Most importantly, if English is not your first language or you are just not fluent enough to understand podcasts, services like Google Translate would allow you to finally access that incredible wealth of information.

The Animation Transcripts Community is a free non-profit educational website aiming at making great animation material more accessible.

At the start of this endeavour, I was willing to pay for the services of outsource Transcript companies to write transcripts of only my most favourites interviews but then, I came across Otter.ai, an incredible app/website that automatically generates transcripts using Artificial Intelligence.

No, the results are not perfect, especially when dealing with animation specific terms. It is however a really great start for indexing podcasts and with the help of a community, we could eventually verify and correct and huge amount of A.I. transcripts. This is why I created, the Animation Transcripts Community or ATC, a community website where I would feature my favourite podcasts as transcripts and sometimes with show notes if I feel I need to highlight specific parts of the transcripts.

As explained, direct A.I. transcripts are great if you are in a hurry to share a specific part of an interview but not so great if you want to completely understand an interview so this is why I separated the transcripts in 3 levels of accuracy.

A one mic level of accuracy is a direct A.I. transcript.

A two mics level of accuracy is a first human review of the direct A.I. transcript. Some possible errors might have slipped and some confusing areas will be marked with several stars (***) but the transcript is already very good.

A three mics level of accuracy is the holy Grail. Several reviewers would have gone through and thumbed up the transcript. you don’t have to wait for a three mics transcript though, a two mics is already 95 percent accurate.

Head over to ATC to enjoy some great interviews and maybe become part of the team!

CG Lexicon

Posted on September 8, 2020  | Leave a Comment
Filed under Education

If like me you have been focusing on the artistic side of animation, focusing on life or just hiding under a rock for the past few years, you might now come across several new words that seem to have come out of nowhere and making you feel stupid. Don’t worry, I got you covered!

I will update this CG Lexicon as I come across or remember new ones.

ACES: To paraphrase Chris Brejon, “ACES is a colour management system developed by dozens of professional under the auspices of the Academy of Motion Picture Art and Science.”. I won’t spend time explaining it, Chris did an outstanding work on his website so go read it

https://chrisbrejon.com/cg-cinematography/chapter-1-5-academy-color-encoding-system-aces/

Albedo: This is the new fancy word for diffuse when talking about materials.

Alembic caches: Alembic is an open computer graphics interchange framework to cache animated or non animated assets. Nowadays in most production, instead of receiving animated rigs from the animators, lighters would receive alembics in the form of .abc files. Alembics is the record of each vertex position in time.

AOV: This is the new fancy name for render passes.

https://docs.arnoldrenderer.com/display/A5KTN/AOVs+for+Image+Compositing

BRDF: This is related to materials and how they react to light. Here is the Wikipedia short description: ” The bidirectional reflectance distribution function is a function of four real variables that defines how light is reflected at an opaque surface. It is employed in the optics of real-world light, in computer graphics algorithms, and in computer vision algorithms “

https://docs.arnoldrenderer.com/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=55705801

Cached Playback: Animators jumping onto Maya 2019 got particularly irritated with the introduction of the Dynamic Cache playback as Autodesk removed the timeline’s Play button and set that preference to on by default. Cache playback is a cool feature but it swallows up all your memory and not all animators are ready to switch workflow yet. It can be really useful when working on a sequence with several characters if you don’t have a GPU toggle script so I am a lot more excited about fast interaction with rigs and parallel evaluation for the most part.

https://download.autodesk.com/us/company/files/MayaCachedPlayback/2020/MayaCachedPlaybackWhitePaper.html

DCC: (Digital Command Control) This is simply an acronym for the word software/package. Since when is it uncool to say “Software”? Let me know in the comments.

Nuke: Before Nuke, Shake was the predominant compositing software but Apple bought it, then killed it. Good bye Shake, hello Nuke. Nuke is the current almighty compositing software used at top companies.

https://www.foundry.com/products/nuke/non-commercial

Parallel evaluation: Until Maya 2016, no matter how many processors or cores your machine possessed, only one core would be used by your 3d animation software (DCC ;-) ). Parallel evaluation is a game changer, with Parallel Evaluation, all the cores available on your machine are now used when interacting with your rig, giving you substantial speed gain, even on rigs deformed by numerous deformers or corrective shapes. GPU acceleration is also available with Parallel but I haven’t work in a production where the GPU acceleration was stable yet, hopefully it will happen eventually.

DG evaluation: well there is nothing new with DG as this is the way Maya has always linearly evaluated mesh deformations but the term might come more often in conversations since Maya might revert to DG in situations Parallel fails.

UDIM: Traditionally when creating an asset’s texture, you would unfold all the parts of the asset tightly into a single square texture. This technique was very memory efficient but had the drawback of complexifying resolution changes on specific elements of the asset . Instead, using UDIMs, you gain a greater amount of flexibility as you are not bound to that single texture anymore as you can now separate the different parts of the asset into separate UV geographic locations (UDIMs). Making a higher res or lower res of a specific part of the asset doesn’t require modifying the entire layout of all the UVs anymore.

Deep compositing: People might compare Deep to Zdepth but Deep is a bit more complex. I will just say that it is a compositing term and working in Deep allows fancy compositing tricks in a package like Nuke. Instead of addressing 2d pixels, Nuke can now sees the scene in 3d and interact with it in 3d. This way you could modify the 3d lighting of a scene without having to re render it. Unlike Zdepth, Deep works fine with motion blur, depth of field or semi transparent object. Obviously this requires a ton of hard drive space so it is not suitable for every production.

Cryptomatte: This is an other compositing term where mattes are automatically generated by the DCC so mattes can be extracted through directly picking objects or entering object names.

Deltamush : Originally a plugin for several DCCs, Deltamush has been integrated in Maya 2016. Deltamush helps to smooth out the skinning of a character.

BakeDeformerTool: This is a tool that can be used in conjunction with Deltamush to bake the deltamush result into a new skin binding, without the Deltamush overhead.

Denoiser: Traditionally when rendering with radiosity, a lot of noise can appear at lower settings and when trying to speed up rendering time. Using a Denoise filter, you can automatically process the picture and reduce the noise to simulate higher settings. It is a cheat but the results are very impressive especially with the Nvidia Optix A.I. accelerated denoiser

https://developer.nvidia.com/optix-denoiser

animBot: well … who doesn’t know animBot? ;-) animBot is the non-free replacement of aTools. Some animators can’t live without aTools or animBot. Personally I only use aTools’ arcTracker and sometimes the aTools Tween machine if I don’t already have Justin Barrets Tween Machine already open, for the rest I already have my own scripts or techniques.

IK/FK match: I worked on some production where people didn’t understand what IK/FK match meant. IK/FK match is a rig feature or a separate script given by the riggers or TD to allow the animators to seamlessly switch from IK to FK or FK to IK without having the arm or leg going back to an original pose. This is a feature heavily used when posing characters as animators would pose an arm in IK for ease of use for example, then do an IK/FK match to start animating in FK.

A.I.: as far as I know, A.I. can’t do quality keyframe animation so we will ignore it for now!

Viewport 2.0: For years it was just a joke, as soon as you started at a company, you would be told to disable it or Maya would crash. It got stable on my last gig and Maya relies on it a lot nowadays so give it a try again. My friend Mariano is the one who reintroduced me to VP2 as he uses it to make most of his renders

https://www.artstation.com/mtazzioli96

That’s it for now, let me know in the comments if you think I should add more terms to this lexicon.

Breaking the fourth wall

Posted on July 3, 2020  | Leave a Comment
Filed under Animation, Education

While watching that fun video, I thought about the “Breaking the fourth wall” concept.

As noted on the AnimC Pro Tips few month ago, you always want to avoid the character looking straight at the camera.

To me the most believable characters in that video are the ones that just, “live their life”.

The “hot grip” was okay as it was just the introduction to the skit but as soon as the “Crafty” looked at the camera, this took me away from my “voyeuristic” experience and I immediately became aware I was watching an actor performing for the camera rather than actual characters evolving in their natural habitat.

Related post :

Technically inclined animators

Posted on June 13, 2020  | Leave a Comment
Filed under Animation

Yes animators can switch 3d software after a bit of training but there is no way an animator can be proficient in Maya, 3dsmax, AND Blender, when I would highly recommend to gain software specific knowledge, especially if you work in a small production or at a studio with no animation production experience.

Back in 2014, I joined Doodle Productions for the production of “Messy the Monster” season 01.

The company came from Architecture 3d visualisation so we had to use 3dsmax when most animators were Maya users. It didn’t take too long for the animators to get acquainted with 3dsmax as we used regular Euler based rigs and not 3dsmax’s proprietary “Character studio” (“biped”).

One issue we faced though, was the fact that we only had one rigger so it was close to impossible to get additional features and after all, there is no way a character TD can anticipate all the needs of the animators. Most of the time, I wouldn’t even bother and added the missing features myself.

In the following shot, the prop had absolutely no rig. I went ahead and added a bend deformer to make the motion of the trumpet look a bit more smooth, and a “lattice” deformer to visually convey the sound of the trumpet.

On that show, “Messy”, the main character, had two fluffy ears and a massive tail with no dynamics. At a quota of 6 to 8 seconds a day in 3dsmax, most animators gave up on animating those appendages which looked very jarring. Instead, the most technically inclined animators started using a script to simulate dynamics as we felt it was a good compromise to soften the stiff pose to pose look.

The script helped massively but like most simulations, the result needed some additional work to art direct the result and get the tail to resolve in Messy’s question mark trademark posing.

6 years later, I am still mesmerized by the tail animation and if you are curious enough and browse other animators showreels, you will quickly see the difference with shots where no simulation was used.

Don’t forget to read this article about David Gibson’s fantastic use of deformers on the first opus of Sony’s “Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs”.

Thanks for reading.

Ton Roosendaal, Blender philosophy

Posted on June 7, 2020  | Leave a Comment
Filed under Animation, Education

Being my professional workhose since 2007, I have been naturally promoting Autodesk Maya on this blog, with some occasional foreays into Blender when enraged at the price of Maya’s license/subscriptions, then back to Maya when Autodesk introduced the free “Maya and Autodesk softwares for Displaced professionals” back in 2012. to support professionals during challenging times.

That scheme gradually disappeared without much noise and recently Autodesk introduced various options on top of the classic educational subscriptions.

Currently, you can get Maya LT, a 300 dollars a year cut down version of Maya that unfortunately doesn’t allow you to run most of the free animation rigs available on the market so for animators who want to focus on character performance this is a no-go. Python is not available either when everybody in the industry uses Python and scripts like AnimBot or any Phython scripts won’t run on it. Rendering is not possible, dynamics are not available, referencing is missing….

Then in some selected countries, you might have access to Maya Indy which is the full feature Maya, for “artists earning under $100,000/year in revenue.” This would perfectly cover hobbyist living in those 5 countries if only there wasn’t a catch! So what is the catch? The catch is, that this scheme is only valid for … one year .. then your subscriptions automatically gets renewed at 250 a month ;-)

With my inclination for education and support for struggling populations in the light of the murder of George Floyd, I just can’t continue predominantly posting articles related to Maya.

“Learning 3d at home is a way for modest populations and kids, to potentially gain access to employment and revenue streams”

Learning 3d at home is a way for modest populations and kids, to potentially gain access to employment and revenue streams, outside of expensive institutions and without incurring lifetime debts or adopting piracy habits.

Sorry, that’s a long winded introduction to finally explain that I will start covering Blender more and more on this blog ;-)

This first Blender post is a two years old video but a major one as Blender founder Ton Roosendaal, will cover the history of Blender, its philosophy, and its challenges with some interesting comparison with Autodesk and Zbrush.

I never dug too deep into Blender in the past as the interface and the Right Mouse Button (RMB) slection really annoyed me. Unlike some other software creators (TV Paint, Zbrush…), they realised that they shouldn’t force users to their philosophy and accept that some user interaction have now become standard, the left mouse click (LMB) for selection for example.

There are plenty of interesting bits in that video and 1 hour into it, Ton reckons there are just below 20/35k paying Maya customers and less that 20 developers working on it. This could explain why we get so many half baked features every releases and makes me wonder how many companies might be using pirate copies.

If you are in a hurry, Andrew Price was nice enough to include timecodes in the video description.

Enjoy

Related posts:

Patrick Osborn FX Guide interview

Posted on May 10, 2020  | Leave a Comment
Filed under Animation, Education

Being mostly interested in Animated Features and Animated TV series, I don’t visit FX Guide much but I just found a series of interesting interview I will be posting in the next few days.

Here is a very interesting one with Disney “Feast” director Patrick Osborne where he goes into a bit more details about the unique visuals of his short film.

Via : FX Guide

The humbling encounters

Posted on May 4, 2020  | Leave a Comment
Filed under Animation, Education

Nik Ranieri

Once in a while in your career or just even at the start of your studies you will meet some unique individuals that will feed your self-doubts.

Whilst studying at Animation Mentor back in 2006, I was marveling at the work of several students that eventually became CG animation superstars, then later during my animation career, I came across few profiles that could animate three times better and three times faster than I could, so I just kept at it, with the belief that it might take me longer, before eventually succeeding.

If it is not just procrastination stirring us away from our goals, some of us just need to work harder to succeed.

Do you think Nik Ranieri gave up animation when he first came across 21 years old James Baxter while working on Roger Rabbit?

Pretty close but Nik Ranieri kept pushing and like Baxter, he ended up also, writing his name on Disney’s history books!

James Baxter line tests

Listen to this fun Nik Ranieri’s recollection of that encounter in the third part of an other memorable Animation Podcast interview.

I am posting a direct link to the interview as the libsyn link in the interview page is now broken, the main page works though or click below.

Direct link to the podcast:
http://animationpodcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/AP_2005_09_05.mp3

Related posts:

Character turns made easy

Posted on April 27, 2020  | Leave a Comment
Filed under Character design, Education, Portfolio

As I was doing it for myself, I thought I could share how I go about turning my designs.

If you are having trouble making your designs “turn”, here is a simple trick that might help you. Click on the pictures to zoom in.

Step 01
Step 01
Step 02
Step 02
Step 03
Step 03
Step 4a
Step 4a
 Step 4b
Step 4b
Step 5a
Step 5a
Step 5b
Step 5b

And here is a more advanced character turnaround demo by the great guys at Bam Animation

Disney CG “Robin Hood”

Posted on April 12, 2020  | Leave a Comment
Filed under Animation

Disney just announced a Disney+ exclusive feature and I know exactly what I would like it to look like! ;-)

Wouldn’t you want to see Zootopia’s Nick Wilde taking on the lead of the 1973’s “Robin Hood” remake? I do!

‘He died in the war to save people like you’

Posted on March 25, 2020  | Leave a Comment
Filed under Acting

I was watching this great documentary about British comedian Marty Feldman this afternoon. Too bad he died so early. A great talkative Buster Keaton.

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