Jason Ryan just announced a very cool body mechanics walkthrough by Dreamworks/ex Blue Sky animator/Animation Mentor animator Mike Walling.
Even if I have enough experience with body mechanics, at $29.99, I couldn’t resist and bought it immediately. I just wanted to hear Mike’s approach to that kind of shot and confront it with my own workflow.
The video is also featuring Victor Vinyals and Oli Josman latest rig “Skyscraper” a very good looking heroic rig I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on, it is so appealing! I might actually join Ianimate next term and eventually get that rig.
Reading Victor’s blog I realised that he might give away his old Businessman rig very soon!
This article by Dreamworks animator Cameron Fielding is a very good read for people hoping to one day work in the US.
I just modified the Tutorial category and created an Education section instead. I felt that the last items I posted fell more into a broader Education category since they are more observations than actual tutorial.
This also a tribute to Neil Blevins (Soulburn 3d). With Michael Comet and Keith Lango, he is one of the first CG online educators from whom I learnt a lot.
Do you remember this documentary about Richard Williams in Soho Square timing out motion of people and animals around him? Amazing wasn’t it? This is where this project originates from.
Being able to time out an action just by looking at it can only be done by people with years of experience but with some training you could probably do the same much quicker.
In my quest to gain a better understanding of timing and to share my research with fellow animators, I finally created a video version of my Animation Beat Box.
This video is a beat box that hit a beep sound every 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, 14 frames. Each sequence lasts for 1 minute (1500 frames)
Click on the pic below and enjoy.
oops I forgot to give credit for the timing examples to my friend Andy Knight and some notes he took from a conference hosted by Eric Goldberg back in the days ;-)
Richard Williams documentary
Lip sync scared me for a long time but this was due to my lack of experience more than the actual job of animating lips and expressions to the audio.
For a while, I thought doing lip sync meant to choose a sequence of premade phonems and blend them more or less successfully as led to think by the Preston Blair animation book. To be fair, this is pretty much what you are supposed to do in most TV series but the result will always look very approximative and of low quality which is fine when your audience is preschool.
A good lip sync for feature animation should instead be done by focusing on other elements like the following:
1- open and close of the jaw
2- narrowing and widening of the mouth corners
3- asymmetry of the mouth (Mouth Left/Right, Rotation should blend shapes can help greatly for that)
4- lips roll
5- mouth Up/Down attribute to anticipate plosive sounds and create more contrast
6- lips translation, mainly drag for plosive phonemes such as Bb/Mm/Pp
7- appealing mouth corner arcs
8- good interaction of the tongue with the teeth and jaw
9- drag, overlap, rotation and translation of the jaw
A good rig such as the freely available Norman or Morpheus, despite the collapsing geometry for specific closed mouth shapes, should allow you to handle those criteria.
To illustrate this, here is a video I extracted from the Toy Story3 trailer and animated by Victor Navone. I added on-screen notes and a graphical representation of the audio waveform so you can compare the timing of the audio to the mouth shapes. (thanks Chris Cantero for the animation credits).
To read all the notes, save the video on your hard drive and play it frame by frame. Microsoft Windows users should play the video with KMPlayer to get the audio feedback while step framing.
I think one or two frames are missing for the bottom lip roll overlap but this should make it a very good start to your lip sync learning.
As a side note, the final shot has been slightly altered in the theatrical release with Buzz holding Jessee’s left hand rather than her right, I would be interested to know what the reasoning was behind that decision. They are obviously going for a tighter shot so we can focus on Jessee’s reaction but I don’t like her new pose much as her arm gets in the way and is buried in her silhouette. Here is a screenshot from Victor’s Toy Story 3 showreel.
I hope you like it, I have a James Baxter pencil test coming up next.
[update] Simple tip to break a W pose: Have the character hold a prop!
As Frank and Ollie expressed it in the “Illusion of Life” in 1981, “Twin, is the unfortunate situation where both arms or both legs are not only parallel but doing the exact same thing”. (p.68)
The typical example of a twin is the most dreaded pose in animation, the W pose. A pose where the character is standing straight with both forearms raised up, forming a W with his arms.
Carson Van Osten, a famous Disney comics artist illustrated it very well in his 1973 “Comic Strip Artist’s kit” and the illustration was reused in “The Illusion of Life”
Having been taught by some of the best animators in the industry during my training at Animation Mentor, I always try to avoid the W pose and find it really hard. I sometimes find myself wondering if there couldn’t be some exceptions. Don’t we, “twin”, in real life? Aren’t there any situation where the W would be acceptable?
Ron Clements seems to be thinking the opposite and in the same chapter of the “Illusion of Life” was quoted saying: “If you get into acting, you would never think of expressing an emotion with twins anywhere but somehow, in a drawing, when you are not thinking , it creeps in time and again”.
That’s not of much help is it? So what to do?
Well, when in doubt, I usually refer to my masters, the good people from Pixar and other feature animation studios but doing a fair bit of research I didn’t expect such an outcome. What a shock, their work is full of twins or at least the trailers I found on Youtube.
I made a funny animated gif to illustrate my findings. I hope no one will be offended, this wasn’t my goal, I could probably find similar examples in other studio’s work but those were the only trailers I had on my hard drive. Ultimately who am I to make fun of Pixar.
The most surprising is the Ratatouille trailer where Rémi is twining for a long series of gestures. Wasn’t Brad Bird, Milt Kahl’s protégé, directing the movie?
So what to think of it?
Well if a Pixar director who started at Disney when he was a teenager is not bothered by twins I don’t think they should matter much but I would still refer to Andrew Gordon’s Splinedoctors’s article about cliché gestures.
W poses, with the neck rub and the elbow hold, are some of those cliché gestures that first come to the mind when thinking a performance and we should try to avoid them as much as we can.
If after exploring other acting choices they still feel adequate, then, we can probably use them but they should always, be the last option, not gesturing being the first.
Like listening to music while animating, keep in mind that you should avoid it but if it works for you or if this seems like the most natural thing to do, just do it.