Many red moons ago, Disney partnered with Double Negative to bring to the screen Edgar Rice Burroughs’s novel “John Carter of Mars” and more specifically the character animation of the Tharks under the helm of Pixar brain trustee/ “Finding Nemo’s” director Andrew Stanton.
Here are few behind the scenes videos and a great animation process walkthrough by Patrick Giusiano followed by a series of related articles.
Behind the scenes are very rare those days compared to 10 years ago where you could get 10 hours of extra features on the additional DVDs so let’s celebrate the ones available.
As an animator and hopeful storyboard artist, I am mostly interested in the nitty gritty of animation related stuff and storyboarding and this video happens to have a bit of both.
I find it interesting to see storyboard artist (mostly female yay) working together in a room, with Sharpies on paper, but this makes sense as it probably is a brainstorming session to work on a specific scene. I wonder if they will scan the drawings next or just redraw them on the computer, probably the latter.
Animation wise, except few seconds with fellow Animation Mentor graduate Kira Lehtomaki, there isn’t much to see however, I am still finding some material worth a look. In feature animation it is not rare for animators to use footage from actors reading their dialogue for their acting so I can’t wait to see how much the animators derived from it as the hand gestures here in the video are mostly contrived, symmetrical and unappealing due to the fact the actor are just focusing on their lines.
10 years ago I came across Allison Rutland’s showreel and was surprised I had never heard about her before. Remember back in those days character animation was very small in UK and studios in London mostly hired people from Animation Mentor / Gobelins and Supinfocom so it was very easy to get to know everyone especially if you were an Animation Mentor graduate. Animation Mentor even got nicknamed the “mafia” by some people at that time since we snapped all the jobs.
I was impressed when I saw her reel and especially that last emotional acting shot that immediately reminded me of the work coming out of AAU’s Pixar Class so I wasn’t surprised to hear she landed a job at Pixar.
Finally many years later and after she had a very successful career at Pixar I was very happy to hear the story about that shot and I wasn’t surprised to hear it was a shot that took her close to 2 years to finish. I also have several shot that have been on the backburner for just as long so I totally relate.
Go check it out it is a very interesting interview where she shares the struggles of her journey and she mentions “There will be blood” which also happens to be one of my all time acting favorite movie featuring Daniel Day Lewis.
Thumb up to “On Animation” for providing all the footnotes you might want to check out.
When CG animation came out, it looked so different and so fresh compared to 2d animation that we could get away with a lot but the novelty effect has faded and the bar has been raised very high with CG entertainment. Funny enough, technology is finally enabling us to … go back to the appeal of the 2d aesthetics!
Shaping the mouth corners is one of those 2d tips used in top studios to make the characters look less CG. By moving the outside corner closer inside the silhouette of the character, you will make the mouth shape more stylised and closer to what an illustrator would craft rather than a stupid computer.
Doesn’t the tweaked mouth shape look clearer and more appealing on this Sony’s “Angry Birds movie” presentation? I am posting the picture twice just so you can flip it and the link to the video is below.
Animation rigs normally offer two options when animating eyes: “world space” or “local space”.
“World space” allows you to lock the eyes in a specific world location, and pose your character without having to worry about the correct eyes direction. That kind of space sounds ideal when animating a two character shot as the aim of the eyes will not move.
Instead, “Local eyes” allows you to lock the eyes in relation to the head so when rotating the head, the eyes will automatically follow the head movement which sounds … pretty useless and unrealistic doesn’t it?
Throughout Animation Mentor, I was a “world space eyes” animator. I didn’t understand why anyone would use Local Space but during a Q&A, AM superstar graduate Mike Stern who had already landed a job at Dreamworks, planted a seed in my brain when he mentioned he was using Local Eyes rather than World and from that day on, I knew I would need to get more experience with Local Eyes and see what advantage this method would bring.
Having worked in games mostly in my early career, I never really got a chance to do much acting, let alone testing eyes parent spacing. Going into TV series and taking part in AnimSquad finally allowed me the opportunity to get more familiar with the two methods and I would now mostly animate eyes in Local Space.
“World Space” allows you to accurately lock the eyes in a specific direction which seems great at first but the eyes often end up looking totally disconnected from the head and requiring just as much finessing than Local Eyes.
People might get angry at me as this is not what is normally done in education but sometime ago I had found a great example of unsuccessful eyes animation that clearly showed the use of World Space Eyes instead of Local Eyes and it is time to bring the example back!
Don’t worry I have already told the animator about it and hopefully he will take my comments in consideration in his next pass.
The shot I am referring to is the first one and specifically what is being done on Bishop.
Using this method, the eyes are perfectly locked in space but since they are not reacting to the motion of the head, they seem to be floating around the orbital cavity and totally disconnected from the head which looks very odd and inorganic.
Now that I have more experience with acting and having had Malcon Pierce insisting on eyes focus for literally HOURS during an Animsquad expert workshop, I have fully grasped the necessity to lock the eyes firmly on the head rather than on the environment.
Eyes direction in relation to the head and eyelids is the ultimate component of acting after all. Aside from the exception of blinks, even though I will talk about this an other time, a slight variation in the position of the eyes will convey a totally different emotion so you want to keep a tight grip over the positioning of the pupil and iris.
I hope this article was useful to you and I will leave you with a little something to test your … eyes ;-)
This is a shot I animated some time ago. Do you think I animated Bishop’s eyes in Local space or World space? People with experience will have no trouble spotting the space used but see for yourself!
A friend who is a professional TV series animator was telling me yesterday that he wants to attend a body mechanics workshop rather than an acting one. My answer was unequivocally to do an acting one instead.
Acting is the most difficult skill in animation and being a professional animator, one already have a grasp in body mechanics, substantial enough to support any performance.
If what you want to end up doing is acted performances and you are already a professional animator, don’t waste time and focus right now on producing shots that will show the recruiter you can do the job you want to do. With all the feature animation gigs going on right now, there is an urge to jump on those opportunities. In one year time, those productions will be finished and it is very likely that you will be facing the competition of hundreds of seasoned feature animators who took those opportunities when you didn’t.
I just came across that video by pure luck some time ago and it showed me how little I knew about acting. Too be fair we don’t all want to create that kind of performances in animation but it is a good wake up call. I am adding the Captain Underpants theme song as ….. we don’t all want to end up doing serious animation after all!!! ;-)
Using yourself as a reference when animating is great but can be very limiting as we can only refer to ourselves and our experiences. Also, people react very differently when in a crowd like in the following examples so there is nothing better than going online to look for ideas.
A while back, Buzzfeed posted some amazing references of people being scared at when visiting “scariest world famous haunted house attraction in Niagara falls”.
Here are just three examples. See how some people use their friends to shield themselves by grabbing them, have a gander, it is pretty hilarious.
Some time ago I was asked to animate kids and I know how different kids move compare to adults or teenager but I didn’t dare looking for references on Youtube and risking to be flagged by the Internet police ;-)
Fear no more! I just found “Hajimete no otsukai” a great TV show featuring kids asked to run some errands for their parents while secret cameras are recording them ;-) Perfect reference!
Here is one video and you can find several episodes at the following link:
I had never seen such a good example of how much the ears can move up and down when the face stretches. We are talking about nearly 1 cm here!!!
I just discovered some really fun and catchy music videos based on News footage with very colorful characters and doing a bit more research on how those were done, I realized they were using a music software plug-in called Auto-Tune which allows to tweak the pitch of an audio clip.
So I am not going to talk about Auto-tune, instead, I want to share with you a nice video clip where X-factor’s Simon Cowell does a great “Take” following a contestant’s attack on one of the jury. This is almost a “double take” and it is so cool to be able to see his thought process so clearly and more than anything, the fact that it happens at the same time he was finishing his previous action (he was lowering his “cold pop”).
Obviously, I also have to share those other fun music videos I found. Those are real characters!