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Blocking and realist acting

Posted on May 13, 2017 
Filed Under Acting, Animation, Education | Leave a Comment

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!!! ;-)

Angry Birds the movie

Posted on December 18, 2016 
Filed Under Animation, Character design, Education | 1 Comment

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!






Overwatch – Animated Shorts Explained

Posted on December 14, 2016 
Filed Under Animation, Character design, Education, Modeling, Painting, Rigging | Leave a Comment

I don’t play games much those days but it is the second time I am posting about Overwatch as they are doing all the right things to me at the moment!

Great animation, great behind the scenes, sharing knowledge and upping the game! Thanks Blizzard!

Today is an exceptional free 1 hour behind the scenes about Overwatch’s animated shorts. Look at those rigs, definitely on par with the ones from animated features or even the Kayla rig since I am studying that one at the moment.

And few stills from the talk followed by one of the animated shorts “the Last Bastion” (gorgeous):






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The Dreamworks Feature Animation Pipeline

Posted on November 6, 2016 
Filed Under Education | Leave a Comment

CG Meetup posted a great video showing the different departments involved in the making of animated features at Dreamworks.




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Scared as hell references

Posted on October 21, 2016 
Filed Under Acting, Animation, Education, Reference | Leave a Comment

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”.

Buzzfeed link

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.






Milt Kahl animation

Posted on October 20, 2016 
Filed Under Animation, Education | Leave a Comment

I just found this link, posting this here to watch it later. Hopefully it is a good collection of animations by my favourite Disney animator Milt Kahl:

Cartoony eyes – How to

Posted on October 19, 2016 
Filed Under Animation, Education, Reference | 3 Comments


Eyes vocabulary

After few month working on Okido, I felt there was a lack of consistency between all the animators and decided to make a compilation of examples from my favourite animated movies.

Cartoony eyes are usually so massive that unlike realistic eyes, the appeal is very quickly lost if you don’t know how to handle them. Clarity and appeal are the keywords when working on eyes so the first rule of cartoony eyes posing is :

1. Centering:
Never, ever, have both eyes (pupils) centered on their respective orbital cavity. Instead and to avoid the zombie look, get the pupils closer to each others and have more space/white (sclera) on the outside of the eyes. This will create a more appealing pose.

2. Favouring:
When a character is looking sideway, one eyes should be centered and the other one much closer to the bridge of nose or even intersect with the orbital cavity:
Flash Zootopia

3. Focus:
As the character focuses on an object really close, you might want to increase the space on the outside of the eyes but when the character is looking far away, again, do not center the eyes! (see rule 1)


4. Surprise
Even when trying to communicate surprise, we still revert to rule #1 and have more space on the outside of the eyes.


5. Sideway
If your character is totally sideway, cheat as much as you can just so we can still see a sliver of the Iris

Bonus tip:
Pay attention to the way the top lid is shaped on half lidded character in Zootopia, especially Nick. This will be included in a forthcoming article about stylised animation.

I hope this will help some of you, the following images are for education purpose only and copyrighted to their respective owners Disney and Pixar:

Toy Story_05






maxresdefault (1)



























Toy Story_01

Toy Story_02

Toy Story_03

Toy Story_04


Motion capture worthy eyes


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Make it organic_Overwatch D.VA “Game On” emote

Posted on August 18, 2016 
Filed Under Animation, Education, Video Games | 1 Comment


To make a character or an animation more appealing you need to look for ways to make it more alive, more “organic” by adding more details, very often a simple reaction to a main action would be sufficient


When robots and mechs are usually characterized by their stiffness, the animator here added a nice little touch by making Overwatch D.Va’s mech react to her fun idle (emote) and moving as Hana goes side to side stuffing her face with crips and fizzy drink alternatively while focused playing a holographic shmup.

The animation and Mech are definitely more alive and we still buy it is a mechanical object that could spring up to action anytime.

Great work Blizzard!

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Impressive fan made Elsa rig

Posted on July 14, 2016 
Filed Under Animation, Education, Modeling, Rigging | 1 Comment

Youtube user Spiel Kind is sharing a walkthrough of his impressive fan made Frozen’s Elsa rig.

It is so impressive that even Disney temp worker Josh Sobel thought it could have been “borrowed” from Disney animation but luckily Spiel Kind documented the entire process from modeling to rigging on a CG talk thread .

He breaks down the rig by explaining how many blend shapes went into the making of that rig:

“27 blendshapes, which I divided up and/or mirrored into 90 total shapes. On top of that I also have a joint-rig though, which is responsible for the jaw/lips- and eyelid-setup.”

The explanation on CGTalk is a bit more detailed:

“It’s made up of four rigs in total. The first is a joint-rig, which drives the eyelids, eyelashes and the jaw/lip setup. Marco Giordano’s eyelid setup has been a big help for this one. The zipper setup is built after Stefan Ehrenhaus’ instructions a few pages earlier in this thread.
The second one is a blendshape setup, which drives pretty much all expressive shapes. Been using some techniques from Jason Osipa’s book Stop Staring for this one.
Both of these feed into the third setup, which is another joint-rig with just a few joints with very broad weighting … basically a poor man’s lattice.
The fourth is the eyeball setup, which works independently from the rest and only drives two joints to which the eyeballs are skinned.”

and page 5 of the CGTalk’ thread he explains what his original idea was:

“The mouth is going to be driven by a joint-rig and a blendshape-rig. The joint-rig will open the jaw and provide freeform controls for lips, nose and cheeks. The blendshape-rig will contain wide, narrow, smile, frown, lip-roll out/in/tighten, mouth up/down/left/right, upper/lower lip-puff, cheek-puff and whatever cheek-puff’s opposite is called. Each shape will be broken down into at least lefts and rights. The lip-shapes will be broken down even more and divided among the joint-rig controls with some global ones above.”

Well I guess this will tie nicely with my previous article about mouth shapes!

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Elsa rig

Mouth shapes – Chester V

Posted on July 11, 2016 
Filed Under Animation, Education, Modeling, Rigging | 5 Comments

Don’t you find it frustrating every time you join a new project to find out you have only been provided with a pose library or worse, blend shapes that only contain random mouth shapes? Haven’t people ever seen the Preston Blair book?

Preston Blair

Let’s make poorly thought out mouth shapes history!

Today I was doing a bit of cartoony animation research and came across that very enjoyable “Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs 2” behind the scene video featuring Chester V.

The camera panned very quickly through Chester V’s mouth shape library but it gave me enough frames to reverse engineer it and make a nice pose library you should share with your modeler and rigger next time you get involved in pre-production. Sorry we couldn’t see the last mouth shapes but you get the idea.

On a side note, ideally those shouldn’t be blend shapes but shapes the mouth rig and controls allow you to create and smoothly transition from and out of to the next shapes. Simple per phonem blend shapes don’t allow for smooth transition and should be reserved for low cost animated tv series.

As you can see, the mouth shapes are divided in 3 emotions or groups: Happy, Neutral and Sad where the corners move vertically in conjunction with the teeth corners and for each emotion the animators are provided with 16 shapes derived from the Preston Blair simplified phonems: M(BP), S(DTNXK), E, I, L, A, O, TH, U(Q), and F(V).

Enjoy and feel free to share and print, the file is huge enough to please everyone! ;-)


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