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Sketchtravel shortfilm

Posted on October 29, 2011 
Filed Under Animation, Painting | 1 Comment

Dice Tsutsumi is a machine!!!! Look at the pretty cool Sketchtravel short film he created while working full time and preparing for the Sketchtravel auction event.

I was able to see some real size reproductions of the pages at Pixar few days ago and it looks great. That Miyazaki’s double spread is pretty sweet I must say…

I have been told the book is sold out in France and I am not sure when it will arrive in the US and other countries. Who was lucky and already bought one?

Here is some further discussion and infos on the Cartoon Brew blog.

Cartoon Brew Sketchtravel film

Related posts:
Sketchtravel – Frederic Back
Dice Tsutsumi on the Chiu-stream
Lights and colours

Low polygon modeling

Posted on October 28, 2011 
Filed Under Education, Modeling | 6 Comments

Low polygon modelling, opposed to “high frequency modeling” (the stuff done in Zbrush or Mudbox), is the basics of modelling. Any software can handle that type of work nowadays, from the free Blender to the extremely expensive Maya, 3dsmax or XSI packages.

There are two approaches to low polygon modeling:

1. A top-down approach where you start directly with a square plane whose edges you extrude following the final edge loops.

2. A bottom-up approach where you start modeling from a cube that you gradually subdivide by adding edges or extruding faces.

Both techniques are so simple that they only require a subdivide toggling hotkey (3 in Maya) and a handful of tools which I featured in my ‘Low Polygon modeling tools’ post.

The Edge extrusion method was extensively demonstrated by Kolby Jukes back in the days he used XSI as his primary modeling software. All his videos are offline as he only does Mudbox “High frequency sculpting” nowadays but the Edge extrusion technique is the technique I featured in my latest modeling timelaps video based on Brave’s Lord Macintosh character so have a look at this:

If you are not familiar with modeling, what I did here was to put the original concept art on a plane in the background then create a second smaller plane whose edges I extruded following an edge flow mental picture I had. The edge flow being the minimum amount of flowing edges necessary to describe the muscles, skeletal structure or deformation of the surface. Whaooo that was complicated! Well instead of just projecting a grid of edges on the surface of the head, I am creating a minimal amount of edge loops and rings that follow the creases facial expressions will produce. Makes sense?

Bay Raitt was probably the first one to fully demonstrate the Cube approach in that ground breaking 1999 “One afternoon with Bay Raitt” Mirai timelapse video.

This is the one I used in my Rickshaw modeling timelapse video:

I think the video is self explanatory, if not, post a comment and I will add more explanation in my post

Related posts:
Pixar “Brave” concept art and teaser
Jason Schleifer interview – Speaking of animation
Posts in the Modeling category

Dr Seuss’ “Lorax” first trailer is out

Posted on October 27, 2011 
Filed Under Animation | 1 Comment

Interesting, the first Illumination’s “Lorax” trailer finally came out. You will probably find some visual similarities with “Horton hears a Who” as “Lorax” is also based on Dr Seuss’ illustrated books and Maurice Nobel’s interpretation in that 1972 short film.

Now “Lorax” seems to have a more lighted tone that the book and short film but it definitely looks much more serious than also Mac Guff produced “Despicable Me”. I hope it gets a good reception by the public. As noted by Sergio Pablos in that recent “Frame by Frame” interview, comedies are much safer to market and sell to investors and the wider audience.

Illumination is taking a gamble by adapting the long time seen controversial Lorax book to the screen, let’s see if the aura created by Despicable Me and soon coming Despicable Me 2 will help to propel “Lorax” and Mac Guff to the level of an other studio known to regularly take similar gambles, namely Pixar, and establishes Mac Guff as a new solid player in that feature animation top 5.

And here is the Maurice Noble’s art directed short film if you haven’t seen it yet.

Related posts:
Sergio Pablos – Frame by Frame interview
Despicable Me triumph
Mac Guff tour

Aardman “Pythagasaurus”

Posted on October 26, 2011 
Filed Under Animation, Character design | Leave a Comment

Check out that great and probably new Aardman CG shortfilm, it is so funny! Great visuals, funny quirky dialogues and sounds (cavemen with zippers, who would have thought!). I hope they do more like that one.

“Outside a volcano has happened!”

This reminds me a bit of an old but great shorfilm by an other British studio “Studio AKA”, for the Natwest campaign.

I can’t stand Flash websites…. how am I supposed to embed anything?

Here is a link then… very sexy…:

Marc Craste’s “Mr Lucky”

Related posts:
Studio AKA keyword search

My Maya settings and preferences

Posted on October 24, 2011 
Filed Under Animation, Education | 4 Comments

[update, I have a new post related to my Maya hotkeys with a great downloadable hotkey map over here]

Out of the box, Maya is probably the most animation unfriendly software ever so every animators have their own set of scripts and hotkeys to palliate for Maya shortcomings and speed up their workflow.

To be fair, I don’t use many but the following ones are true “life saviours”. Some of them are shelf script, others are triggered by Hotkeys.

my Animation Shelf

I haven’t cleaned up my Maya animation shelf for a while, the two first buttons were customized windows layout but I don’t use them anymore. LLuis Lobera’s make button, Justin Barrett’s Tween Machine, Zoomerate and Xsheet are the ones I mostly use. Michael Comet’s Auto-tangent is now a Hotkey as follow (bare in mind this is with my french keyboard, I use A on english keyboards).

Auto tangents and other scripts triggered by Hotkeys

As I have been travelling a lot lately, I can only carry a 17 inch equipped laptop with me so full screen viewport and Hotkeys are a must.

Here is my current full screen viewport when in Blocking and first pass spline, I would normally create an other set of selection buttons for the eyes and facial controls when polishing. As you can see I don’t use any GUI but instead I toggle the Nurbs controls (avars/movers) with a hotkey (alt+c)

Full screen viewport

This is the script I use for Full screen switching by the way, the Maya built in hotkey (CTRL+spacebar) has been buggy on all the Maya versions I have used so far. The Hotkey is alt + z on french keyboard, alt + w on english keyboard.

Full screen script

This is my working window layout on a 17 inch screen in 1440×900 (yep it is a cheap laptop, no HD res here ;-)). Camera view on the top left, Graph editor top right and perspective view underneath. The TweenMachine window is taking a bit more space than required but hopefully Justin will soon post a leaner version or maybe Autodesk will pay Justin to integrate his script to the next version of Maya ;-) The graph editor channels column is also taking more space than necessary, Maya doesn’t allow dragging the divider further (antiquated Unix legacy….).

Right, that’s all I have time for today, I will add a Hotkey description in few days.

update with some of my hotkeys

Related posts:
Rethinking Maya hotkeys for animation
Maya, Mel scripts for animation
Wacom settings
Animation hotkeys

Spare parts cute designs

Posted on October 15, 2011 
Filed Under Animation, Character design, EA | Leave a Comment

My ex-coworker Ross Burt posted some of the character designs he created for Spare Parts.

The cute robots weren’t selected for the final game but I really loved them. We did model one of them and I got lucky to animate the green one with spray can nozzle head on the far right. Those who know me will rightaway understand why I fell in love with that little fellow ;-)

Spare Parts Heroes and Villains

Related posts:
BAFTA Young game designers
EA (category)

Things change, new opportunities arise

Posted on October 14, 2011 
Filed Under Education, Miscellaneous | 4 Comments

I was reading some articles this morning and realised few things.

Five years ago, a successful game career involved joining a big corporation like Microsoft, EA, Sony.
Five years ago 2d animation was dead.

With the current recession, gaining full time employment at a major studio is pretty unlikely nowadays. At best, most of them prefer to stick with contract workers as the market doesn’t allow a long term strategy at the moment but on the other hand, thousands of independent game developers are producing XBLA and smartphones games and applications, creating hundreds of jobs for senior and even fresh graduates in the field of, 2d animation, UI and concept art.

As recalled in that ex Rare employees interview, if it wasn’t possible to make games for less than $10 millions and a team of 70 and upwards in the past, things have changed. Even the tools are now available and affordable making it possible for anyone to make their own independent games. What an exciting time!

Most of those companies will soon grow to become the next leaders or get bought by the former ones hoping to get their glory back.

Not all big corporations are taking the back seat though, Microsoft with XBLA was probably the first one to create an independent game developer ecosystem and empower creative artists and programmers. Without XBLA, Behemoth’s “Castle Crashers” would have probably never known the success it received. How many people had heard of Alien Hominid before Castle Crashers?

An other thing I wanted to mention today is a very interesting move by Valve and Jagex. With the release of Team Fortress 2 for free to the public, I was wondering how the company could still pay for their servers but their strategy seems to be paying off as they recently announced a hefty profit for items creators.

But what is in for the very independent artist?

Well check out this article featuring legendary Bay Raitt. Ok there is nothing groundbreaking like his work on Gollum but one sentence at the very end of the article raised my interest for Team Fortress 2.

Making of a Skull hat.

“If this was a community-made item, the money from item sales would get split between Valve and the item maker!”

As much as I love the art style I don’t have time to play the game. Creating items for it could however become a source of revenue for the most successful artists. Imagine if your item became viral as Bay’s hat probably became?

Unemployed 3d artist? Make CG hats! ;-)

Interesting read:
This is what the Transformers MMO will look like
Why the Next Game From Braid’s Creator is Skipping Consoles the comments are funny as usual
Steam Workshop

Related posts:
Jason Schleifer interview – Speaking of Animation

“Paper fox”

Posted on October 12, 2011 
Filed Under Animation | Leave a Comment

Paper fox

Check out that cool project from one of my australian subscribers, Jeremy Kool. Jeremy is looking for funding for “Paper fox”, an interactive short film with a very non CG look.

You can also follow “Paper fox” on Jeremy’s blog

This is looking really nice. There has been several project in that style lately but I can’t get enough of it.

Also check out that fun TV show teaser that emerged on the internet half a year ago. A really nice show in a similar origami/cut out style with a pop-out twist: “Quick Quack Duck”

“This is what you need”, blocking

Posted on October 10, 2011 
Filed Under Animation, Education | 2 Comments

Here is the blocking for my “This is what you need” shot. I also shot some new video reference footage for Anakin as the previous video wasn’t very strong or interesting.

I am incorporating Blender more and more to my workflow as it has some amazing tools really suited to the Animation pipeline. Here I am able to write some notes on the video reference to single out some elements of interest. Other people like Jeff Gabor would edit their video reference in Premiere but I find it simpler and cheaper to use the Grease Pencil keys in Blender’s Dope Sheet editor.

New video reference, no sound (yep I am a cartoon but you knew that already):


The box at the beginning is a placeholder for the boxed Darth Vader outfit. I might add 12 frames at the very beginning it just so the first cut doesn’t come so early. I ran out of time and didn’t manage to fully flesh out Anakin or even the facial poses but with the help of the video reference, I think we know exactly what I am aiming for.

Related posts:
“This is what you need”, planning
“This is what you need’, gathering references
Jeff Gabor webcast recording online

Sergio Pablos – Frame by frame interview

Posted on October 6, 2011 
Filed Under Animation | 1 Comment

Christian Dan Bejarano from the great “Arte y Animacion” blog just informed me about a recent 11 minutes interview they recorded with Sergio Pablos.

It is a very refreshing interview where Sergio explains what triggered his leaving from Disney. He talks about how animation is perceived in Spain vs the USA and how much of a challenge it can be to set up your own studio but as long as you take action, show persistence and learn from your mistakes, you should be able to reach your goals and Sergio Pablos with his involvement in Despicable Me, Titeuf, Rio and other secret projects is definitely proving this.

He also mentions the kind of movies he would really like to make, using the Iron Giant and Ratatouille as examples, but explains that comedies are probably the easiest stories to market and sell. The failure of the beautiful Framestore feature “The Tales of Despereaux” could prove him right actually.

Right, go on, why don’t you listen to the full interview now? It is only 11 minutes but it is packed with great insights by a guy who has been involved with many of the recent successes of the past several years from Tarzan, to Rio…

While we are at it, here is a link to a previous interview with Sergio Pablos on the Character Design Blogspot

Hables espanol? I do!

If some of you also speak spanish, you are in for a treat. Arte y animacion also recorded some podcasts with other talented spaniards currently officiating at Disney and Dreamworks, here are few links for you:

Abraham Meneu modelador en Dreamworks

Daniel Peixe Disney Animator. Daniel is also tutoring at AnimatedBuzz by the way. The website seems to be in shambles right now but here is the link anyway

Espanoles en Blue Sky

via: Arte y animacion

Related post:
Pocoyo creator interview
Jeff Gabor webcast recording is online

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