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Animation Collaborative Pro tips

Posted on January 19, 2020 
Filed Under Animation, Education | Leave a Comment

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:

“Unless the character is deliberately talking to the camera, don’t break this rule! It can be distracting for the viewer”

Related posts:

dAnimPicker (part 2)

Posted on January 19, 2020 
Filed Under Animation, Education | Leave a Comment

Hiro picker (Big Hero 6)

This is a follow up to my previous post and once again, I don’t have access to the Disney Feature animation tools so those findings and screen captures are only from various popular behind the scenes videos, some of them are posted below. This said…. I never ever managed to see any pickers from BlueSky studios!

Olaf body and facial picker

Disney animation fans and especially animators, are very familiar with dAnimPicker, the Disney animation picker, a good looking and very functional picker with some really cool features (zoom and pan), similar to the AnimSchool picker and the good old abxPicker.

Kristof Picker (Frozen)

The dAnimPicker has some great additional features like the pickwalk, to easily navigate from control to control, and anchors, to quickly jump to predefined position like the face picker, or body picker.

Kristof and Anna facial and body pickers

You can see the interaction between the animator and the picker, 9:03 into the following video:

Having never seen that sort of picker in past researches, I was really surprised when I came across two similar looking pickers: Locus and Character Toolkit Designer.

After bumping on Locus through Pinterest with a totally unrelated research, I was finally able to track a video demo of the apparently commercially available picker from Korean based Locus Animation studios. (there are more demos on the Vimeo channel).

The similarity with dAnimPicker is pretty striking but wait until you see Character Toolkit designer!

The resemblance is stricking right?

I am not sure if ILM TD Davoud Ashrafi, the creator of the tool, is the actual creator of the Disney picker or if he just got inspired by it as he keeps mentioning, but the demo on his Vimeo channel is fascinating. The creation part of the tool very exciting compared to other tools and I especially love the mirroring feature, this would have saved me a lot of time.

Let’s finish up this post with more related Disney behind the scenes videos and don’t skip the Wreck it Ralph videos where you can also see the body controls visible in the Maya viewport. Pickers are good when the screen is too cluttered but on-screen controls are preferable.

In 3:02 of the following video, you will see the eyelashes controls. Crazy right! I already mentioned that the animators shape the eye lids at Disney in a previous article.

In the following videos, we can see how the animators (here Disney guests) interact with the body parts directly in the viewport.

Related posts:

Previous articles related to Tangled:

Disney GUI picker / dAnimPicker part 1

Posted on January 17, 2020 
Filed Under Animation, Education | Leave a Comment

Disclaimer: Much to my regret, I don’t work for Disney Feature Animation but DTVA (Disney TV) so I don’t have access to any of the tools demonstrated here and as such I am not breaching any NDA. The content is just extracted from publicly available material.

If you are interested in dAnimPicker, the Disney character picker, and if you want to know how the brows are controlled at Disney, here is a short clip I extracted from a Moana Behind the Scene video.

I think I am recognizing Disney head of animation Malcon Pierce here, and if you pay attention, you will probably notice that he is shaping the brows using only a main control, 3 secondary controls and probably navigating between them using his keyboard using a pickwalking feature.

The light blue control is the main brow and the darker ones are the secondary (inner and mid brow). The dark circular just above is probably the outer brow.

Maui brows close up

I would be really curious to hear what are the controls right underneath though…. tertiary controls?

Related post:

Tangled / notes on eye lids and eye lashes

Posted on January 6, 2020 
Filed Under Animation, Education | Leave a Comment

I don’t know where I got this from but here are some notes I had buried in my hard drive. I am guessing this is an answer to a Q&A with Disney animators who worked on Tangled.

Having attended Animsquad, I am aware about the importance of eyelashes and I had been told a while back that eyelashes could be animated on a show like Tangled.

Without further ado, here are the notes :

As far as eyes are concerned, for Tangled, We Payed HUGE attention to eye lids. every frame was tuned to Glen’s drawings for the max appeal. Another HUGE things we really spent time on were the eye lashes, Mainly Rapunzel and Mother Gothel. Glen stressed the importance of the lid shape, the tension in the lower lids, the shape of the lower lids, and where the eye lashes were pointing. In Alot of cases we would point the lashes where the character was looking, to help guide the viewer’s eye and boost the appeal of the character. I think the eye lashes and lid shapes are something really overlooked alot of the time, But these are HUGE tools that can be used to gain appeal and to show what the character is feeling.

Also some people think its the rigging. The rigs for these characters were very simple when it came to mouth and eye shapes. For the eye lids we only had three controls for the edge of the top and bottom lids, two corner controls, and open and close rotation controls. sometimes Less is more with controls, It makes it harder to get lost in the rig.

Hope that helps!!! On behalf of the crew, Thanks for the great comments!

Related posts:

Scott Clark showcasing Pixar’s Presto

Posted on January 5, 2020 
Filed Under Animation, Education | Leave a Comment

I don’t think I ever posted that old video where Supervising Animator Scott Clark, takes us behind the scenes and quickly features Pixar’s animation software, Presto, and Sulley’s dance shot from Monsters University.

I love the little aparté on Motion Capture and I can only agree:

“It isn’t realism that we are trying to get in animation, I would just be a Mocap artist (otherwise), I wouldn’t be an animator.”


Related posts:

Lip sync observations Pixar “Onwards”

Posted on June 3, 2019 
Filed Under Animation, Education | Leave a Comment

If you have liked my old Toy Story lip sync article, you will love this little video where I am studying the lip sync of a shot from Pixar’s forthcoming movie “Onward”.

Ideally, you want to download the video and play it frame by frame with a media player like KMPlayer, Keyframe MP or RV for the lucky ones.

Download link

Related post:

Raph breaks the internet – Behind the scenes

Posted on December 1, 2018 
Filed Under Acting, Animation, Animation Mentor, Education, Story | Leave a Comment

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.




Related posts:

Rich Moore “Wreck it Ralph” talk a Google
L.A. Times Roundtable Discussion: Animation
Annecy 2012
Have you ever been tempted to use…



World space head

Posted on November 30, 2018 
Filed Under Animation, Education | Leave a Comment

I don’t understand how people can animate heads in local (parent) space. Here is a great example on why you want to animate the head in world space rather than local space.

Our vestibular system acts as a gyroscope allowing us to keep our head’s direction independent from the rest of the body.

Using local space for the head also requires so much counter animation work, hindering granular refinement of the motion.

The motion of the body is so complex and requires a lot of finessing when the head seems so still. In production you want to have the freedom to add more layers of complexity in the body without having to counter animate the head.

Journée mondiale du jaguar 2018

N'est-il pas magnifique ?! 🐆💛Aujourd'hui c'est la journée mondiale du jaguar ! Le saviez-vous ? Le jaguar est le plus grand félin du continent américain. Mais il est menacé. Protégeons-le ➡️

Posted by WWF-France on Thursday, November 29, 2018



Related posts:

World orient head and shoulders

Local eyes vs World eyes

So you want to be a rigger huhh? version 02


Giving dimension to a sequence

Posted on October 12, 2018 
Filed Under Animation, Cinematography, Education | Leave a Comment

“Asterix and the Mansions of Gods” by French directors Alexandre Astier and Louis Clichy has become my bedside table movie this month, trying to adapt to cartoony animation and as I was analysing a sequence, I just realised something.

Slow motion shots are fun aren’t they but we have to recognize that they do stand out a little bit too much those days and might come across as lazy editing especially in animated feature so how one can avoid them?

First we should have a look at the way the action has been cut in this sequence to highlight the amount of frames being borrowed from shot to shot. Usually we accept that it takes between 3 to 5 frames for the eyes to adapt to a cut and therefore borrow that amount of frames from the preceding shot to make the action look seamless over the cut. Here are the start and end frame of each shot just so we can see the amount of overlap.

This established, have a look how they cleverly edited the sequence. Instead of using the overused and boring slow motion, they used several cuts on the same action, borrowing just enough frames from the preceding shots to give more dimension to the sequence! Very very clever.


That’s it for today, I hope you enjoyed this post.

Shot walkthrough – Inferno – “the fall”

Posted on July 26, 2018 
Filed Under Animation, Education, VFX | Leave a Comment

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.

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