I never bothered making a showreel with my VFX work as I haven’t done anything really substantial during my time at Double Negative London but I worked out this could be educational for anyone wanting to join that industry.
In the next few weeks I will be looking back at some of the VFX shots I animated on or contributed to and offer a glimpse at what really goes on at one of the top VFX studios like DNeg.
I have no idea how it will work out in here but we will give it a go as I am not too sure how public I could make those posts. Enjoy while it lasts ;-)
Today we are starting with my first shot on a VFX feature with 2016 Ron Howard’s Inferno.
This is a sequence where Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) and Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) are pursued by a villain in the attic of the Palazzo Vecchio. Brooks and Langdon will escape their ordeal, not the villain.
For that shot I was tasked to animate some planks of wood and debris falling from the ceiling. The planks had to match the start frame of some polystyrene planks present during the stunt and their final posing would need to hookup with the bird’s eye view 24 seconds into the video.
Without further ado, here is the sequence:
That shot was pretty nerve wracking for several reasons:
1. This wasn’t my first shot at Double Negative but that was my first shot in the Feature department.
2. I was the only animator with pretty much no lead or animation supervisor above me and responded directly to the VFX supervisor.
3. The stunt-woman originally only fell from 10 meters when the height of the ceiling and the speed of the camera pan went through several iterations.
5. Ultimately, go on Youtube and look for references of planks falling from the ceiling or anything close to that. Good luck ;-)
Being pretty technical (at least at that time), I quickly worked out that I should try to run several simulations with nDynamics in order to get some good references and possibly reuse the result for my final animation. This was a really good move as my CG supervisor only appeared after 3 days and I could see he was glad he caught me doing some R&D rather than checking cats videos on Youtube or checking the stock market. Interestingly enough the later is a cause for dismissal according to the contract but not the former.
I eventually constrained and baked the planks and debris to the simulation, but this was only for starting the animation as eventually the camera motion got totally cheated and I had to hand key the whole thing frame by frame because of nasty gimbal locks and to better relate the speed of the planks to the speed of the live action . The final version wasn’t my favorite one as the planks lack some residual energy but it looked the less jarring as I had some really funky ones with some plank of wood doing some fun business on their landing. Something that really helped for troubleshooting the shot and discuss the workt was to have each plank numbered and colour coded.
I hope you found this article interesting and let me know if you have any questions. Next are some drone shots from Inferno again.
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.
Here is a nice presentation by “The Big Bad Fox” director: Benjamin Reinner
“This is a video capture of the Masterclass that took place on the 20th of October 2017 in Walt Disney Toons Studio by Benjamin Renner and Patrick Imbert. It depicts the different steps of creation of the film “The Big Bad Fox and other tales”. It is followed by 2 clips edited from the film.”
Despite all the great online animation trainings available those days, I feel there is still space for a more individual approach to the animation education in order to answer the specific needs of students or junior animators so I decided to resurrect the “Pick My Brain” mentoring program with the help of several “new brains”.
Go check out the newly redesigned website, it is shaping up nicely.
If your animation training didn’t start with bouncing balls, there is no point starting acting.
Professionally I have had numerous shots where I had to animate “simple” bouncing objects: from planks of woods detaching from a ceiling in “Inferno”, to metallic cans and lids bouncing off the floor on “Grizzy” or even “Grizzy” himself bouncing off a van and the pinnacle of my career: animating “Wonder Woman”‘s God-Killer sword being knocked off her hands.
Those shots might lack the appeal of talking characters but they will almost certainly expose animator’s weaknesses. No wonder Pixar interns start their internship animating bouncing “lifesavers” before graduating to Pixar production characters.
Except maybe the water filled ballon that seems to be sliding on the floor, here are some excellent and fun bouncing ball examples by Tomáš Jech who I think I have already featured here for a great TED talk.
Here is a selection of :
2. Illustrations and work doodles
3. Long life drawing poses
4. Short Life drawing poses
5. Sketches from life
Thanks for viewing
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!!! ;-)
A movie based on a game, yeah I know. Has anyone seen Sony’s “Angry birds” movie though? I eventually did!
I wasn’t too excited about it originally but being directed by Clay Kaytis I knew I HAD to see it even with a 46% at the Tomatometer. I was sure the animation would be top notch, served by great visuals (I love the character designs) and a story that would still have some fun gags and it did.
The movie has become a great inspiration for me lately I have to say, it is a lot of fun and unlike most CG movies those days, they didn’t try to cater for a maximum audience and specifically parents of young children.
Great job guys!