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!