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Texture in animation

Posted on February 24, 2020 
Filed Under Animation, Education | Leave a Comment

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.

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Aardman’s “Early Man” 12 mouth shapes

Posted on February 23, 2020 
Filed Under Animation, Education | Leave a Comment

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
FV

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.

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