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.
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
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.
Pretty close but Nik Ranieri kept pushing and like Baxter, he ended up also, writing his name on Disney’s history books!
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:
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.
And here is a more advanced character turnaround demo by the great guys at Bam Animation
Back in 2008, I was privileged to attend Ed Catmull’s keynote at Siggraph as a Microsoft/Rare representative.
During his talk, Ed Catmull looked back at the mistakes Pixar did in its early years and the secrecy surrounding their technologies was one of them.
Instead he explained, everyone would benefit if studios became more open about their projects and technologies.
Fast forward to 2020, Ed Catmull stayed true to his words and everyone is now fully acquainted with Disney’s Ptex and other Pixar’s USD but did you know that Blue Sky and Dreamworks have also embraced the idea of sharing their ideas?
Few days ago, I shared an old article from the Blue Sky’s tech blog on Linkedin and I was astonished by the success it received. In the space of few days, my post, received a little bit less than 3.5k views on a blog post I had assumed everyone had already read and no, the article became viral.
Most animation related websites are too mainstream those days and not technology focused enough so it is easy to fall out of the loop. When using a 3d software, yes you can pretend you are working like a 2d animator but realistically, you are more like the pilot of a fighter plane and need to keep an eye on your memory use, processes and autosaves.
For anyone wanting to stay up to date for at least what the main Feature animation studios are doing, I would highly recommend to bookmark the following links and keep an eye on what is being discussed.
The Blue Sky tech blog is a fairly new one and I read some really interesting articles there, one of them regarding the gamification of Quality Checks (Introducing achievements into QC).
This is the historical animated feature tech website that goes all the way back to 2009.
Last year’s “Optimizing rig manipulation with GPU and parallel evaluation” Siggraph paper doesn’t appear though. It will eventually I am sure so use the link just above to read an abstract and watch the accompanying video.
This is the Dreamworks treasure cove. Loads of information about their proprietary software and other tech.
Where it all started!
I hope this is useful to you. Don’t hesitate to share.
Short but insightful video where Sharon Calahan and Adam Habib walk us through the cinematography of some of the sequences from Pixar’s latest movie “Onward”.
March 1909 came to life my favorite Disney animator. It has been a really long time since I last spoke about Disney legend Milt Kahl on this blog and at a time of political correctness where people are afraid to ruffle feathers, I think it would be a good time to make March 2020, Milt Kahl’s appreciation month!
Milt Kahl was one of Disney’s Nine old men. A vocal animator, well known for his razor sharp comments and stunning performances on characters like Rescuers’ Medusa, Jungle Books’ Shere Khan, Merlin, Aristocat’s Edgar, or even Bambi and Alice.
Let’s start Milt Kahl’s appreciation month softly, with his Disney Family Album portrait and then we will quickly move to a series of interview with his sharp criticism on the industry … and on his colleagues, and to finish with the excellent CalArt tapes!
The most important concept in animation to me is “Contrast”. Contrast can be applied to anything in animation. Contrast is what separate two characters when we talk about acting, contrast is what will make the difference between two styles of animation when we talk about posing, so what about timing?
When it comes to timing, contrast will be your strongest ally to generate excitement, especially for pantomime and body mechanics shots.
When it comes to timing, contrast will be your strongest ally to generate excitement, especially for pantomime and body mechanics shots.
Dialogues are pretty straightforward to handle as you already have an audio to base your performance of. With pantomime, approaching timing is frightening if you don’t have a method to approach it.
Texture is, the way you organise your contrast, texture is how you manage your timing.
Personally, what I always try to do, is to create “texture” in my performance. What the hell is texture you might ask. Texture is, the way you organise your contrast, texture is how you manage your timing. Think about a music score or picture a drummer performing!
If you were to create a performance where all the beats fell at the same pace, you would undoubtedly create a monotonous boring piece. If instead, you give contrast to the beats, alternating slow downs and accelerations, you will create much more exciting shots. In music, you could refer to legato and staccato.
But wouldn’t this feel too forced and unnatural?
Well, this is where we getting to the meat of this article!
I like to watch people falling on their ass
I am obsessed by body mechanics and can’t help looping videos of controlled and uncontrolled motion. Basically, I like to watch people falling on their ass or their face as long as they don’t die! This curious habit started when I worked in VFX.
In VFX, animators will often be questioned about the physicality of their animation by people who don’t study motion so it is a great practice to bookmark such videos as they will come very handy, if you need references for a specific stunt.
So where was I…. Ah yes! This morning, a friend posted what appeared to be simple fun gag which I started looping few times until I realised how perfectly timed the piece was! Not only does it start and ends with a decisive walk on twos but it also features an amazing arrhythmic section in the middle with sudden accelerations and pauses, all that at 110 bpm. If I were to recreate this in animation, people would say it is totally artificial but there it is!
Just to make the texture clearer, I overlayed a drum box with musical annotations from quarter to sixteenth, mixing notes and rest values. Even if you are not musician this should make sense.
As a preamble, in case a buddying CG character TD was reading this article, please pay special attention the specific “Mouth shapes” term I am using here.
A Mouth shape IS NOT a blend shape. Blend shapes are single predefined shapes that can only go from 0 to 1 and as a result, it is impossible for the animators to make successful transitions between phonemes or make the lip sync look organic.
“Mouth shapes” are instead built by the animators by moving/rotating individual controls like the mouth corners, the lips, the lip rolls, the mouth Up Down, the “sneer muscle” control (Levator Labii Superioris) and their secondary and tertiary counterparts. (see Malcolm rig v2 demo for reference https://youtu.be/h3YKuj6qjAM?t=3325)
Now that we have cleared this up, let’s get back to the specific topic.
As I what I was watching the “behind the scenes” section of Aardman’s “Early Man” Bluray last week, I was particularly interested by a section showing the 12 mouth shapes used for lip sync at the Bristol studio.
Once I have a bit more time, I will share on this blog a little presentation I made at work for the animation team. In the meantime, let’s use my recent findings as an opportunity to talk about mouth-shapes in general.
Here are some screenshots taken from the Bluray followed by a recap.
The specific the shapes used are:
MBP / FV / DST / EE / AH /
OO / OH / CH / RR / KRN / TH / L
As CG animators, the first difference we can find is the lack of sad and happy shapes. Instead, Aardman animator seem to only require neutral shapes.
An other interesting thing is the lack of the UW shape, the lips are missing for the O shape so I could guess this is what the OH shape is or possibly what the RR shape is for?
The shapes look a lot like the ones used in CG except that in CG, it would be very easy to move the corners in and out to adapt the Submissive shapes (MBP / SDTK / L and FV) to the following or preceding Primary shape (O / U / E) in order to smooth out the transitions.
Stop motion features being, mostly, shot on twos, animators can probably get away with it as this is the charm of the medium. Having no control over the corners in CG would make the result very poppy and undesirable for most productions.
Just for comparison, I am reposting the Sony’s “Chester V”‘s mouthshapes and the Blair chart I featured a while back. (a link to the original article is posted below)
For “Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs 2”, Chester V had a lipsynch library of 16 shapes.
M / M2 / S / E / EH
I / L / A / AH / AO / OU / O / Th / U / U2
Personally, my library is closer to the Preston Blair chart as most shapes can easily be reconstructed from the following basic 10 shapes and a smaller library is easier to use and mamage.
A / E / O / U / NDTCDKNRSZ / W / MBP / L / FV / Th
I once came across a complex Kung Fu Panda lip sync library that would be useful for this article, let me know if you have a link somewhere.
Animation Collaborative or AnimC for short is the brick and mortar animation school situated right opposite Pixar in Emeryville.
Having personally witnessed the awesomeness of the school in the past, I mentioned the school few times already on this blog and what some of you might not be aware of, is that Pixar’s Directing Animator Michal Makarewicz and the AnimC crew, post a series of insightful tips on the AnimC facebook page which you might want to check out:
Having been out of animation school for quite a while now, I tend to forget or might not be aware about the latest tips and tricks of the industry so it is great to be able to stay in the loop from the comfort of social medias.
Here is one of the latest tips AnimC posted and that people might not be aware of: