Sunday, December 22, 2013

Weighted Tangents

Since I'm still awake, i'll go ahead and put my second one up. This one, all about them Weighted Tangents.

Above is the default way tangents look. As you may see, the curves flow very evenly through the keys. Also, the handles are very tiny boxes on the end of the lines. These indicate Non-Weighted Tangents. To turn on the magic of Weighted Tangents,: Curves > Weighted Tangents.

Now all of the tangent handles have changed to solid spheres, the sign of Weighted Tangents. However, this is just an indication that the tangents now are weighted. If you try to adjust the curves, they still act the same as the Non-Weighted curves. To truly make the Weighted curves usable, there's one more thing to turn on.

The solid spheres on the ends indicate Weighted, but not Free tangents. This means that the actual weight, or influence, of the tangents is still locked at 50/50. in order to start really editing the curves, you need to free up the weights. There are two buttons on the toolbar concerning weighted tangents. One unlocks the weights so you can edit them, and the other locks them back into whatever place you've moved them into.

After unlocking the weights, the tangent handles become hollow squares. NOW you can fully utilize weighted tangents. When editing handles now, instead of only being able to move the handles up or down, you now
have the option of moving them horizontal as well. The handles now have a full range of motion.

Weighted tangents are the easiest tools to utilize when adding the animation principles of Smooth Ins and Outs to your project. Obviously, the point of using weighted tangents is to control how much influence a keyframe will have in an animation. This means controlling how fast or slow curves reach their max values. To make sure that a key frame is slowly eased into, you would pull out the left tangent handle to the left, toward the previous keyframe. This will make the curve's arc occur sooner and the character or prop's movement will snap out of the preview keyframe and smoothly roll into the current keyframe.

To ease out a pose or key, you would do the opposite. You would extend the right handle toward the following keyframe.

One the same token, you can make keys and poses appear and flash by quickly by pulling the handles in toward the keyframe.

You can get some pretty crazy looking curves using weighted tangents, however, you can also use less keyframes and have very smooth animation curves.

I hope these are helping! I know learning about these tools and how to use them has had a BIG impact on not only my animations, but HOW I'm animating as well.

Buffer Curves

So, much like I did before with the Camera Traffic in Nuke, I thought I'd make another blog or two about some more helpful tools that I wish I had been shown when I was first starting out on Gaiaspora. These are tools I didn't even know existed inside of Maya until Animation Mentor. I thought, maybe if someone out there is like me and is following this, maybe I can help out a little! So this week, Buffer Curves!

Buffer Curves are a highly useful tool inside of the graph editor for editing curves with fewer keyframes, but still to fit the curve prior to extra keyframes being deleted. Buffer curves will create a ghost of your curve that you can utilize to better edit curves.

Buffer Curves can be turned on by going through the menus in the Graph Editor: View > check Show Buffer Curves. At first, nothing will appear different inside of your Graph Editor.

However, if you move or delete a key…

Voila! Now, you can see your buffer curve, or your curve ghosts. You can use these curves when editing your tangent handles to make sure that you pull curves back where deleted keys were.

Now in the toolbar, there are two buffer specific buttons. There's the Buffer Curve Snapshot, and the Swap Buffer Curve buttons.

First, the Snapshot button. After you've been editing curves and checking the animations, it's bound to come to the point where you want to change the curve ghost to the newly edited curve before you continue editing it. Thus the snapshot button. It makes the current animation curve the new basis for the buffer curve.

The Swap Buffer curves is a little strange. Its function is to swap the current buffer curve and animation curve completely.

Buffer curves are an extremely helpful tool for animating inside the Graph Editor, and they are easy to use! Have fun!

Friday, December 20, 2013

First semester of Animation Mentor... COMPLETE!

Man, life sure has continued to be an adjustment this semester since graduating! Going back to school has been fun thought. Costly... but fun. I definitely believe I've found the right career path for myself in animation.

So as the title states, my first semester at AM has come to an end. It's been a fun semester relearning and get a more solid foundation in the basics. Even though I've done an animated short already, I feel like I've learned a crapload this semester, and not just about the animation fundamentals, but about animating inside of Maya as well.

For starters, I'll put up my reel.

Animation Mentor Progress Reel (Class 01, December 2013) from Nick Arbeiter on Vimeo

The assignments are simpler than the things I had to do on Gaiaspora, but I feel stronger about the fundamentals in these than in those I did on the short. I also feel like I have a better grasp on implementing the principles in my animations. From earlier blogs in the semester, you may see that I've also done poses that aren't in this reel. After I go back and fix up the personality walk animation (the first two pieces in the reel), I plan on re-rendering and touching up all of the poses and adding them to the end of this reel. So by the beginning of next semester, I will have an updated progression reel from AM. I am very thankful to my mentor, Don Kim up in Nelvana Studios, for all of the critiques and demos he gave this semester. I'm looking forward to next semester now!

And then I have a three week break. And what am I doing with it? Working on two other shorts. Haha. I'm getting the chance to do animations for two new shorts, one created by friends of mine from college, Aether Edge; the other is one I've discovered over the interwebs entitled Thin Walls. It's time to see how much I've actually learned from one semester! I'm actually ready to try something a bit more intense because I want to try out my new-found appreciation for the blocking phase.

I say that last bit because I'm fully admitting that I used to not put enough emphasis on the blocking phase of animating a shot on a full bodied character. Even this semester at AM, the only animations I blocked out first were the walking assignments with Ballie. The other animations I did straight ahead. I used to do that in 2D as well, and it worked really well for me. And I still think that I will use straight ahead animation for props and simple characters. However, when using a character like Ballie, or the main character of Aether Edge, I've come to realize just how valuable and how far you can go with stepped animation. Also after seeing a bunch of progression reels, I see how much blocked animation is used for dailies before splines are used to clean things up. I've also come to like posing characters a lot more. Trying to make individual poses read in silhouette and get emotions across at a glance is like a new game to beat. And I plan on mastering this game.

So I'll be keeping busy! Next semester is Body Mechanics. Finally getting into full bodied characters. And my mentor will be Ray Ross, animator at Blue Sky studios.

Speaking of Blue Sky, I just want to take a second to share that I have come to the realization that I want to be an animator akin to Jeff Gabor. I've been watching and re-watching some of his progression reels on Vimeo, and it's just amazing to watch. He can get so into character, and it's hilarious to watch, but I can visibly see how much it helps him when he gets to blocking. I wanna be as fun and as good as this guy!

Here's an example of what I mean:

Epic Comparison Reel from jeff gabor on Vimeo

I love the animation on MK, gaaahh! Full of personality!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Now I'm an Excited Poser

Haha, more poses! This week's assignment, excitement.

With my new-found affinity for stronger poses, I tried to go pretty extreme this week. Super curved line of actions, overly bent limbs, semi-questionable but somehow still believable actions. That was this week. I had so much fun trying to think of crazy poses to put Stu in. First I went after some reference. And  I found a lot of old Animation Mentor students from Google because of it. Haha. It's easy to make a cliche excited pose. There's only so many forms of excitement that you can show. And the generic arm pumps or the hands raised above you are the quickest ways for portraying the feeling. So it's very hard to quickly portray excitement at a glance, without incorporating at least one of these ideas into a pose. That said, tweaking them or showing that at an odd angle is almost a necessity.

With the arm motions aside, a happier pose has a positive power center to it. And usually tends to have a curve in the line of action around the chest or abdomen. Happier people carry themselves higher, their chests puffed out and their head held high. This usually means that the head is tilted backwards as well. Looking at the poses I made, two of them follow both of these chest and head principles. The one in the corner with Stu leaping probably isn't as strong with his head forward, maybe I should tweak that... see, these posts help me to help analyze my own stuff over again! The one with Stu seated however needs to have his head bent inward to maintain balance with his feet in the air/raised. But I think having the arms in the air helps to make the pose read immediately, and the awkwardly bent leg in the air with the toes curled backward heightens the impression. At least I'm hoping this is all the case, but you the viewer are the one who really decides if it reads or not.

I would like to say that the top pose with his butt above his head was a pose I may have seen from a previous student. However, I didn't straight copy it, because I'm not like that! I recreated an identical pose because I wanted to see how it felt to shape in Maya with a rig, and then I needed to see if it was still readable. Excitement I think definitely comes across, but it's not quite the definition of excitement. I do still think thought, that inside of the right sequence, this pose can definitely be achieved believably. In a real, overly cartoony fashion, this pose works. A lot of people seem to like it. I give full credit for this pose to Juan Carlos Navarro Gomez. He's an alum of Animation Mentor, and a new-found inspiration for me work-wise. I definitely want to be as good as him.

The first rendered pose on the page, the one far left, is an amalgam of poses I found while searching reference. I wanted to try something with the head bent low to be level with his chest. Then I chose to have him seated since most of my poses were either standing or jumping/in air. Well, kneeling. And then I fist pumped because I had a few arms out poses already. I was pretty happy with this pose as well, it was my runner-up choice for final pose for the assignment. It has a strong LOA, and each appendage is legible in silhouette. I made a very big priority to avoid any form of twinning. That's why the legs are splayed, one knee up, and one on the floor. I did my best with the rig to keep the line of the hips continued through the thighs. Same with the shoulders and arms.

Side not, I tried putting the silhouette of the poses with the renders this week. I like it a lot. It helps soooo much. And it's really cool to see them side by side. Now, the final pose, the one I used for my assignment.

WOOOOOOOOOO! This was how I felt when I got this one finished actually. Curved, LOA that's strong. No twinning. Almost instantly recognizable as excited. And according to someone who's taken my class already in AM, not as cliche as the regular excitement poses! Hearing that from someone farther along than me was a big comment! I also chose this pose because it was more me than the others. Most of these poses where spawns of other poses I found online. This one was something I sketched free of reference on my screen. I just used all of the other work I was doing, and the research I'd done, and this pose was just, there on my page. I really hope my mentor likes this one. And anyone reading this as well!

I think that's it for tonight... later!

Monday, October 7, 2013

I'm Such a Poser

But most animators are even bigger and better posers than me! My first Animation Mentor assignment was all about capturing poses and recreating them. We were to go out and sketch some poses that we saw and then choose one, and use the Stu rig to remake that pose in 3D.

I wanted to get some more action oriented poses, so I had a friend of mine get me into UCF's Rec and Wellness center. I really wanted some tennis poses, but no one was playing when I was there. Bummer. I still was able to get some racquetball poses, which were half as good. Then I found some rock climbers and basketball players. And decided to do a couple of weightlifters, but they have mostly straight and twinned poses. But, if you can make some of those poses interesting, good job! It's more  of a challenge for sure.

I ended up making three of the sketches in Maya. I showed the three poses to my fellow classmates, and they helped me to decide on the one I would follow through for the actual assignment.

I think I'll definitely start changing the figure I use for my sketches when I have more planning capabilities and actually put some meat on his "bones." But for quick poses and gestures, I found that I like this little stick guys. I draw the shoulders, hips, spines, arms and legs as a stick figure. But for the shoulders and the top of the leg/hip joint, I've taken to drawing circles. This way, I can show overlap if the shoulders or hips are tilted toward the camera. To somewhat of the same effect, I can change the size of the circles to show foreshortening. This also allows for my stick figure man to illustrate the twist of the body. I know it isn't always easy to tell with some of my quicker sketches.

I also think this was my strongest use, so far, of line of action. In almost all of my sketches, I was able to get the figure to follow the curve. Thank goodness for letting go of some mental rigidity. I realized that I was basically holding myself back with posing. In the future, I'll definitely show this more, but now I realized what I can actually do with poses! Crazy cartoon poses all by accentuated curves. The line of action really is the energy of a pose, and using it actually will strengthen your poses. Who would've thought?

When everyone was critiquing my poses, most people enjoyed number 36 the most. However, and in my eCritique these were pointed out, when sketching the gestures of people, I literally attempted to capture what I saw. I didn't try to overly push anything or make what I saw make more sense. That said, my mentor called me out for having some very linear or twinned poses, which I do. The comments my classmates gave in addition to liking number 36 best, was that he felt too lazy and that there was no power behind it. I didn't know if it would be wrong for the assignment or not, but I decided to go with all of the crits and push Stu farther and make it a more powerful wind-up.  Above, you can see the progressions 36 went through. The final version was the one I actually submitted to my mentor.

By the way, my mentor is Don Kim of Nelvana Studios. Haha, guess maybe I should have mentioned that sooner. He critiqued my pose yesterday, and after speaking with him, I went back and tweaked the pose a little further. Pushin' the limit! Here's what I came up with after my mentor's eCritique.

I think I will honestly say, cheesy as it may be, I legitimately did learn a decent amount about posing and gesture. I'm using the line of action a lot more in my gestures, and I have a greater appreciation for the posing and blocking process of animating. I definitely want to get better at overly exaggerated poses. Those crazy cartoon poses that are still believable are what I hope to achieve! I'll have more posing assignments incoming, and the first 3D animation this week! Let's do this.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ok, So...

So it would appear I haven't held up my end of my word about posting once a week. Life hasn't been kind these past couple of weeks, and I've had a lot to deal with between my family and myself.

But despite these horrible past couple weeks, there is one ray of hope for the future. Starting next week, I will be taking classes with Animation Mentor! So not only does this mean that I'll have the opportunity to greatly expand my animation knowledge and prowess, but I will also have much more work to share with the world!

I'm really excited for this, even if I have no idea how I'm going to be able to cope with this monetarily, I'll make it work. I'm going to take AM and I'm going to then get a job in this industry. That's the bottom line. I'm gonna get there soon. All of these things that are against me are just going to make it that much sweeter when I finally get that first studio job. So here's to this next year, hopefully filled with better and better animations coming from my computer. *Cheers* Also, I still hope to work on my own stories if I've got the time to spare! So this next year is going to be hardcore and epic, one way or another.

This is my dream and I'll make it happen. No matter what. Here's to animation!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Scene Replacements, Take One

Anyone doing anything is aware of the fact that things never truly go according to plan. Except, maybe for theives... but not even then most of the time. The same is VERY true for animated shorts in production. It's almost like a gamble sometimes when you hit the render button on a scene.  Things just kind of... happen, that were completely out of left field. Or, it will become painfully obvious that one setting or item wasn't turned off when it needed to be.

It's especially rough when these mishaps happen in animated productions. In live-action, if necessary, you can go back and reshoot something to fix what's wrong. In animation, re-rendering is almost a last option most of the time. Because rendering is so time intensive, it's usually called upon the compositors to try and "edit out" what might be wrong with a shot, if possible. Here, I'll detail one such time where in compositing, I needed to cover up a tiny goof.

Here we have shot 039_01, the last shot of our film to actually get rendered. Everyone was all "Yes, all the shots are rendered!" And then our small team that was still in the studio put the EXR file into nuke to see how it came out... and we noticed something that shouldn't have been there.

Frame from shot 039_01 with those rotten numbers showing. (post composite)

NOOOOOOO!! Our camera rig's timecode appeared in the upper portion of our picture. It was almost suggested we leave it, as it wasn't the center of attention in the shot and not necessarily as noticeable. But those of us that couldn't stand it won out quickly. However, a full re-render of the shot, or even just the frames that the numbers appeared on, would have taken too long and we were already too close to the premiere to take another step backward. So, I was asked to see what I could pull together to hide the rogue numbers in Nuke.

The answer was simple enough. I could just cover up the dirty area with a clean slate that was correct. It was SO lucky that the numbers came in after the slight camera move in the scene. It would have been way more problematic if I'd have to move the patch with the camera. But since I lucked out, I could merely take a simple patch and place it over the affected area.

So first things first, the clean plate. Like I said, the numbers appeared on screen after the camera had completed its motions. From that frame on, the camera was motionless. And also, the numbers came down into frame, floated for a moment, and then lifted off the screen again. So after the numbers left, voila, clean slate!

A frame with no numbers visible that could be used as a clean slate to
hide the numbers from view. (pre-composite)
Now I had my solution: replace a piece of the clean slate over the dirty area of the renders. Here was the solution's execution.

Shot 039_01's Node Tree
First, I made a Roto for the area that I'd be using as a replacement.

And then I made it into a mask.

Next, I applied the mask to the full EXR of the shot. Applying it before the composites meant I could make changes to the whole shot and wouldn't have to do them separately.

Tree and Viewer with the rotomask deactive...
...and then turned on.
Yeah! Replacement successful! However, the replacement process wasn't complete. There was a camera move in the shot, and the roto was a single frame. The frames prior to the camera's move would then bee wrong. To rectify this, I altered the read node's properties to make it begin reading on frame 331 instead of 139, like the EXR file.

Later on , we discovered that our foolproof plan wasn't as bulletproof as we'd first thought...

NO! More numbers! However, there shouldn't be any more numbers on the EXR file, and even if there were, the clean slate should be covering it. Then I discovered that this assumption was correct, and that these new numbers were in fact coming from the EXR for the Ambient Occlusion pass, which had been rendered separate from the rest of the shot.

That bugger. Well, now there needed to be a second cleaning solution for the shot. The cleaning slate wasn't working because I decided to apply it before the scene went through the composite tree, and the AO pass is added later on down the tree. If I wanted to move the clean slate behind the AO pass, I would have to make a second set of nodes specifically for the slate, and that would get very cluttered pretty quickly. So instead, I decided to make a little "fill light" to cover the numbers.

The first image is the node tree used to create the light. The input of the merge is connected into the colorspace node of the clean slate. The RotoPaint node masking the slate is a repeat of the original RotoPaint, giving the new light it's shape. The CC node does exactly what you think it might. I left the panels on the right side visible to show you that I also have the Merge node animated.

This was an unexpected and quick fix I didn't know I would need to make. However, when it came to judging how to place the light, I had to make it at least somewhat believable that there could actually be spill light there coming from the window. Not to mention, a matching color.

And there you have it! Replacing an area of a shot with a still image in order to quickly hide some of the unfortunate goofs that occur when you least expect them too. And I say quickly because this method took maybe an hour or so to get completed, whereas a re-render of those woe begotten frames would've taken an overnight rendering shift!

Final Composite!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Where I'm At, At Present

So, I feel like I've been neglecting my site and blog, and that I haven't been working on my projects, but this isn't true! At least, the latter isn't. My month of storyboarding is complete, and while I don't have a lot digitally to show for it, I've got a lot of stuff upcoming. I thought I'd share what I'm currently working on so that it doesn't seem like I'm not working and being lazy!

Storyboarding and Story Development:
     I'm currently in the process of writing two other stories on top of my first script, "FACED." These two stories are entitled "The Nightmare Creator" (a more dramatic story) and "Wanted" (my first venture into a comedic tale). My month of storyboarding was mostly focusing on trying to get "FACED" well through the process of being boarded. I have at least half of the story now in various stages of boarding, and I'm a little upset at how slow I'm progressing at it, but now that I have a second job and because I'm still learning to get more comfortable with drawing digitally with a tablet, it's taking me longer than I thought it might. However, I'm farther along with the project than I was a month ago.

     "FACED" is now in the process of being boarded, yes! I've also made up a Shot List for the short, and I've made overhead maps of each of the environments with full camera movements and positions. This is exceedingly helpful with boarding, since the hard part of deciding how the shots will be set up is already taken care of. I'm also working on Model Sheets of the main characters so that I have official reference for each of the boards. The Boy's model sheet is almost complete. Two more main characters remain.

     As for the other two stories, they are both still being written. "The Nightmare Creator" is my official second story/script. I've gotten at 3/4 of the story completed and written out. One scene has been sketched out in my Moleskin already (to see it, go here > This story I'm creating differently than I did "FACED." With my first story, I had a distinct idea of how the story would play out and how I would proceed from beginning to end. With my second story attempt, I'm letting the story create itself. The scene I've already sketched out was the first scene/idea I had for the story. I was looking through a digital painting book when I came across a painting of an artist's idea of a nightmare creator. After reading how the artist worked through the story of his image, this scene came to me. It was so vivid I had to sketch it and write it out. Then I set it aside because I was working on "FACED," and I had no thoughts to where the story would go or how this scene would play out in it. Then, randomly while working, a new idea came to me for the story, and with the new character, a new scene popped into my head. This too I wrote down to come back to later. Then two other scenes came to me this way. I feel as though the story is basically here now, and I have most of it inside my brain waiting to get drawn. I've pretty much let the story guide itself, and because of this, I have a grand idea for a specific vision of the film. Soon I'll have the script completed as well as the model sheets, and I will begin storyboarding it!

     "Wanted" is my most recent concept, and this one began with a T-shirt design I saw. I thought that the idea behind the shirt was funny, and then later on that night found myself thinking about it again. Over the course of the night, I had a full story idea and the main character. I've also made a few sketches for this story and drawn up a few of the boards in my Moleskin.

     I've got a few stories lined up to work on, and eventually, I will have animatics of each of them to share. I've got my work cut out for me here!

     I'm back in Maya! Right after August began, with my month of storyboarding at a close, I could return to Maya! I'm currently working on a two character interaction animation. In it, a character two of my friends created/modeled and rigged curiously sneaks up on a cute rig of a cube character I found, Johnny the Box. The creature scares Johnny, and he proceeds to yell at the monster, causing it to cower in regret.

     I'm currently helping two of my friends with their personal projects. For one friend, I'm editing for promotional materials for a Collectible Card Game "The Spoils." I'm editing clips as well as doing a little first time blue screen work in Nuke.

     I'm also helping another friend on a pilot for a show he wants to pitch to Adult Swim. It's mostly compositing work, attempting to remove some green screen from footage.

     Lastly, while scouring the interwebs for digital jobs where I could animate, I came across the Animation Collaboration Group on LinkedIn. Going to it's Google+ page, I found out it was an entire short being created by people coming together online. The ACG is an interesting idea to gather people interested in working inside this field to give them more experience and pieces to boost their portfolios. I'm currently helping the production UV objects so that they can be textured, and will be animating on it once it makes it to the animation phase.

     I've recently started working a second job in order to make money to maintain my living situation as well as meet the need to save up as much money as possible for a future move to a more industry conducive area (namely Cali or NY). This has definitely eaten into my time, but because I'm making tips now, I'm actually getting saving money!

Damn, writing it all out like this definitely shows me I've got a lot on my plate at the moment! But I'm the type of person that always needs to be working on something. I think I'm doing that! But, I'm hoping that all of this will pay off with new connections and portfolio pieces that will eventually earn me the job I've been looking for!

I also feel as though I should be keeping up with this blog, and doing a bit more like my first post within it. So, in an effort to do so, I'll attempt to write at least one blog a week on more compositing pieces and hopefully an animation one or two (now that I'm back into it!). And that won't include this one! So come Friday, I'll have another new post for anyone checking this out! Until then!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Something New: A Despicable Comic!

So in going along with my self-induced Month of Storyboarding, and to celebrate the release of Despicable Me 2, I'm doing something special!

I was a big fan of the first movie. And I was a big fan of the Minions! As soon as I saw the first one, I realized there was tons of potential for short stories involving them. And being the person I am, the gears began turning, and I started writing down ideas for shorts or comics (since at the time I couldn't animate yet). So that was a few years ago now. And the second movie just came out! So what better way for me to celebrate the movie's release than scrounge up those ideas and turn one into an actual comic!

So here you go! I thought of making a series back then called Despicable Comics. They would be the shorts I came up with and I would make them periodically and put them online. Well, in essence, this is the first run of that! Below is a link where you can find scans of my mockups or plans for the final pages of the first Despicable Comic! I hope you enjoy!

Despicable Comics: Water Balloons
Let mayhem ensue!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Currently Preparing Boards

Victory! After three days of work, last night's lasting until six this morning, I've finally finished the shots for FACED! At present, I've designed 105 shots for the short. Everything is now ready to continue moving on towards an animatic. Now, let's see how many of these shots I can pump out in the next month! Here's to staying busy!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sneak Peak: The Nightmare Creator!

So here's a little bit of a preview for something that I've been working on recently. As I've said before, my first passion is animation. My third is compositing. And I've shown examples of both of these so far in my blog. I haven't been able to show anything of my second passion, Story and Story Art. So here, as a sneak peek to one of my personal projects, I will get to show you a bit of my ability to storyboard. Here is a scene from a story entitled "The Nightmare Creator." I hope you enjoy!

Test Sequence- The NC: Basin Scene from Nick Arbeiter on Vimeo.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

An Animation Motif

Before animators begin animating a character, the animation leads and higher ups have to define what makes the character. If the character is fat and fluffy, how does this affect his movements? If she is tall and lanky with a hunchback, how does this affect her overlap? Does a character lean to the side? Anything like this is deemed an animation motif that the animators have to follow in every shot of the film. This assures that even though many people are working on all the shots, the characters will move the same in each one.

We had a lot of motifs for Bob based on his unique "C" shape. But this blog is going to be about a more focused motif that I created for a sequence of walking shots of Bob in the film. The sequence shows Bob traveling home over the vast expanse of his ravaged world. He is carrying his oxygen tank and a filled pack from his daily scavenges. The idea I had for these shots was I wanted to show him becoming more and more fatigued or tired as the shots continued. Then I needed to figure out just how I was going to do this.

I came up with several themes that I would use throughout the sequence. You can see them illustrated below. One of them was way he held the oxygen tank. As the shots progress, he can't support all of the weight on his shoulders and it begins to slip back until his hand is resting on his shoulder and his tank is bouncing off his sides as he walks. Another idea was the length of his strides. At the beginning of the sequence when he first decides to head home, his strides are marked and full of purpose. After climbing the bus and having walked miles, his steps are labored and there is more frames in between each step. 

So I thought I'd share some of my more in-depth research sketches here. I tried to really flesh out the point of how he was holding his oxygen tank and how that would convey Bob being fatigued as he made his way home.


Notes: A Glimpse Into the Animator's Mind

Animation is a process. A long, thought-provoking, layered process. Most people don't realize how much goes into the process of creating a shot before a mouse and keyboard is even touched. The process changes for every animator because it's a "what works best for you" kind of thing. Sketching and thumbnailing poses that a character may go through is one of my first steps when handed an animation.

Sketching out the characters actions helps me to see how the character appears apart from the 3D scene. See a character away from everything allows an animator to tell if the poses he's choosing read. And by read, the characters actions should be able to convey their emotions or an idea/thought all by themselves. Also, the poses should be appealing, and should be lively!

So, as you may have pieced together by now, this blog entry is gonna be about the types of notes and sketches I use to create and plan out my animations in 3D.

 Here are the sketches I made of our character Bob from Gaiaspora climbing up the side of a bus. These were the basis for the poses I would eventually use in the actual scene. I tried to make marks for curves, or arcs, for turns, anything that may be used to define the key poses of the shot, or the first set of keyframes. It was surprisingly difficult to find any decent reference videos of someone climbing up a ladder, more difficult than I was expecting. Unfortunately, I also didn't have any access to a ladder to take my own reference for the shot. So these sketches were really all I had to start creating the feel of Bob climbing up the side of a bus, while lugging an oxygen tank, and tired from his miles and miles of walking.

Bob tripped and face-planted, losing his oxygen tank and causing it to tug on his gas mask. As he regained his senses, Bob became flustered and began to check to see if his tank's hose was still securely fastened to his mask. These little sketches were an idea for how he could check that. Beneath the sketches are critique notes for the shot. I try and take detailed notes as much as possible, and when I do, I can go step by step through the list to try an make the animations better.

These pages have a bunch of different kinds of notes on them. It's pretty hectic to just look at them as a whole like this, but at the time they were in the order of doing/receiving them. The left page was dedicated to Bob's walk cycles. I made a profile that roughly fit Bob's shape, and used two lines to represent the shoulders and his hips. By drawing all of the main poses of a walk like this, I could determine how Bob's unique shape should overlap and coil/uncoil as he moved. Underneath that are math notes I made to figure out the exact keys each step of the cycle would be on. On the right is an assortment of other notes for some of the shots I was assigned in the film. The top sketches on the right page are more working-out sketches for Bob climbing the bus.

Ok, I know this was supposed to be mostly about sketches used to create a scene, but I also wanted to show a real process to how I work. You look at this image here, and will probably understand some of it... but chances are not all of it will make sense. This is the perfect example of what I meant when I said everyone's process is different. It alternates which one I do first (sketches or notes like these)(it's dependent on the animation), but because of my logical, slightly OCD organized side, I need both the visuals and notes like these to make something happen. It's just a way I've found helps me work. I really try to break down shots as much as possible to fully understand what is needed of them, and then I move from there to figure out how best to achieve that end.

Here's another way that sketches can be used in creating a shot. Each set of these three sketches was made for the same action. Bob notices that a plant vine has snaked across the floor of his home and is climbing up his machine. He is surprised at the development, and his gaze travels up the length of the vine to see where it has gone. Both of these sets of sketches represent possible ways for Bob to react. In the left set, Bob is looking down, arms raised, with his head darting back and forth over a short portion of vine for a moment, then he slowly lowers his arms and lifts his head  to travel the length of the vine. This has a completely different feel from the right set of images. Bob starts off in a different pose. He scrunches and then extends out farther as he views the vines path, stretching out his body along the path of the vine. Both ideas cover what the shot needs to have, but have two separate connotations. I had these sketches and had to take them to the anim leads to get a decision how the shot would need to go.

It's kind of funny, now that I'm looking at some of these, I'm noticing how many of these shots got changed or they were cut from the film. Curse you time restraints.

And there we have some of my animation notes! Hope this was insightful!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Multiple Background Plates to fit a Camera Rotation in Nuke

While working on Gaiaspora, I used the CameraTracker in Nuke to put background matte paintings into several of the shots. For some of the shots I needed to stitch multiple versions of the paintings together to create the entire background for the scene. The biggest example of this was used in the second shot of the film. The shot was a large exterior shot that involved over a 100 degree camera rotation followed by a camera pull-out over a vast expanse of 3D environment.

Scene with the background cards deactivated
Here is the scene without the background cards visible. And then below you can see that the camera is tracked to the scene already.

Now the normal process I would go through for adding a background painting into a scene is to create a Card node and attach it to the Scene node, with the source image being the matte painting. I did that when starting out with this shot before I realized the matte painting wasn't big enough to fit all of the camera moves in the shot. 
Turning on the original Matte Painting in the scene.
The first matte painting card in 3D space. As shown, it didn't exactly cover all of the motion of the camera's cone.
In the actual shot, this is the first matte painting card. This is for the first  portion of the camera rotation.
The end of the camera's rotation doesn't have any background in it with only one card in the scene.
And the camera pull-out doesn't have any background in it either.
After seeing this, I duplicated the first card and translated it in 3D space. It was never meant to be a wrap-around image, but I needed to make it seem seamless in this expansive scene. Trying to attach the two by an edge while making it wrap around the scene was fun. Here's the fruits of my labor.
The two cards in 3D space. More of the cone angle is covered, meaning the camera's pan now has background.
The camera pan is now complete, however...
The original shot still had a hole in it, as well as the pull-out not being fully filled.
These holes still meant another card was needed. True, it would have also been possible to scale the cards and then re-translate them to fit the edges together again, but to save time I decided to just create a third card and use it to fill in the space still open in the background.

The third card in the 3D system in Nuke. 
And the final composite of the background paintings for this shot.
The full and active node tree for the background setup of this shot.
And here we have a fabricated fully seamless background painting!