Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Trouble Shooting, Lessons Learned

Gosh, you stumble upon so many problems and technical difficulties through this course. I remember when I first started Animation Mentor, almost 6 months ago, and trouble was about all I had back then. I had my full time job at Psyop going and no time for HW. I would finally get my few hours on the weekend to jam through some bouncing balls and it would be a no go cause of some silly Maya problem. I was in deep, deep trouble with no where to turn, with the clock ticking away at the deadline. Since those harried weekends six months ago, my working pattern has changed completely. I have set up a workable schedule for myself that helps me on the right track, helps get stuff done (or at least close to done, Derek?) within the deadlines. Every week I am learning more and more about workflow techniques and trouble shooting. Once upon a time I would go nutzo when my squash and stretch broke or some other horrific rigging problem happened, but now it's no biggie cause learning how to deal with these problems and coming up with solutions of your own IS part of your assignment. And it just feels so good when you can fix things yourself and know what causes the problem in the first place. I figured out a way to not get my squash and stretch on my arms to break (until this project the squash and stretch would always break on me, and I would wind up not using this useful tool) And I've also streamlined my work week.

MONDAY:
-watch the new lecture, take notes
-watch Bobby's walkthrough of the assignment
-check the syllabus for info on this weeks lesson/what is due in assignment, revision, sketchbook
-brainstorm ideas for new project, write down a sentence about each idea, explore all possibilities
-search for reference movies or clips online, work on an edited reference quicktime
-cruise the campus, leave critiques on student's work

TUESDAY:
-begin to narrow down ideas for new project
-watch Ecritque from Derek, my mentor, take notes
-take notes from student crits on my workspace
-film reference for a few options for new project
-ask for help in the critique forum, upload reference capture

WEDNESDAY:
-choose an idea for new project
-take notes from the critique thread from Tues
-Film more refernce of the final idea
-thumbnail and sketch possible animation using reference as a guide
-thumbnail revision ideas from previous assignment
-watch reference movies

THURSDAY:
-study reference capture and thumbnails
-block out a rough first pass in maya or using the GPT
-work on revisions in maya
-upload WIP movies to a new thread in the critique forum
-send my mentor a link to WIP before the Q and A
-live Q and A w my mentor at 8pm, get feedback on WIP, take notes, ask questions

FRIDAY:
-take notes from the critique forum thread from Thurs
-review your WIP and decide what needs to be improved
-thumbnail revisions
-2nd pass at blocking in maya
-cruise forums, ask for help in the forums if needed

SATURDAY:
-keep working in maya
-playblast and review often
-make necessary changes, may mean cutting parts out

SUNDAY:
-wake up for a few hours of last minute tweaking in maya
-HW due at noon!, upload QTs
-email my mentor about this weeks assignment
-cruise campus and leave crits
-back up work, email .mb files to myself
-rest of day off!!!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Also Week 10, Emotion Test Revision















Is this ever going to be done?? I have spent longer than I should have on this project, with the decision to start over half way through, it's to be expected that this was going to cause a problem. I did hand in yet another new bocking for the ending (after the tomato hit in the face) for last week's assignment. Last week this assignment was supposed to be completed, polished and wrapped up, mine wasn't! I think Derek wasn't happy about how many times I futzed with the ending resulting in a "dinger" of a grade, and a crit that says "you just gotta do it". So I decide to change the ending yet again. In this weeks crit Derek told me that it might be better for him to come up on the stage left leg after the tomato hit, so I blocked out yet another version and had him look at it in the QNA on Thursday. Since then I have been freaking out about how I am going to get this one done and polished. This is what I'm handing in, I don't think it's done or polished in any way but it is hopefully a step in the right direction.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Week 10 "Single Idea" Blocking















This Weeks single idea project blocking is due tomorrow. I got a chance to revise it this week a few times due to the fantastic "Critique" Forum at AM. I am so happy that I finally found and started using this forum to get practically instant feedback, allowing you to make another pass at the project before handing it in to your mentor. I used this forum about 4 times this week on every stage of the project, from reference capture to 2nd pass at blocking. It's a great resource.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Q and A Delay

Boy do I love face of the day. We had some technical difficulties logging into our class QNA last night. SOme frantic phone calls were made and Bobby "on the fly" Beck was able to get us up and running with only a small delay. Some of us in our class were chatting on MSN group chat before the class and Jeff gave me a mini chat crit, that was awesome, live crit from one of my classmates. I emailed my work in progress to Derek again and got some much needed feedback at the QNA. I have come to rely on the mid week QNA feedback to help me see if I am on the right track, that way I can change things and keep moving in the right direction, as opposed to winging it all week and then finding out the stuff I had been doing for the last 4 days was all wrong. The mid week mini crits are super helpful. Plus I have been heavily using the Critique Forum we have, this is a great place to post a link and get feedback on your WIP. I even posted the reference footage and got great feedback on what to choose. Once again, the AM site has been an amazing tool, what a great idea, now I am cruising the critique forum constantly, a very powerful tool indeed.

Link to Thursday WIP

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

anthea hearts reference footage

Boy this single idea project has really been bugging the hell out of me. I usually have a hard time deciding on one idea, but making sure it is done in 2 weeks and under 100 frames, not that is a near impossible feat! So I kept brainstorming and coming up with idea after idea, sketching and planning out in my head. My boyfriend helped me to get my micro mv camcorder to capture my reference so I would be able to frame by frame it for sketching and posing inspiration. I decided to film myself acting out 8 of the ideas I was considering, this is surely faster than sketching thumbnails or blocking out stuff, and easier to show someone the clip to ask for advice than trying to explain your idea to them. I think I am leaning toward the cold pool idea of dipping a toe into a freezing cold pool, it is a simple idea that I should be able to finish in 2 weeks. My mentor Derek suggested I choose this idea, and I will tape more reference tonight of some more ideas for this one. I am also hoping to get some spare time for revisions of the emotion and the push before the end of the semester, only 2 weeks to go.

Video Reference Capture Clips

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Week 9, Still Emotional














Week 9 Started out good. I was still feeling good about my adventures with breakdowns. I was pretty happy with the direction my emotion test project was going in but I knew it still needed a lof of work. This week we were supposed to be finishing up the emotion test, splining and smooting, but first I needed to fix the comments Derek had given me in my crit and all the great suggestions the students at AM had. I also started adding in more breakdowns, and playing around more with the timing.

Things were looking good by Thursday and before the QNA w Derek I emailed him a link to my WIP so far last Thursday. He ended up doing a mini review in the QNA which was great and very helpful. I made the small changes and took out the looking at the tomato part which was an extra beat I didn't need. The ending still wasn't done and I needed some ideas fast. I had decided against the sulk walk off stage,it was a great idea but I would not have time to finish it so it had to go.

I had an idea to do a stumble backwards after the second tomato, this way Stewie would be farther away from cam for his rejected pose. I sketched some ideas, filmed reference and used the GPT, then tried relentlesly to block out this part of the animation. I was doomed, it looked horrible after working on it for 12 hours on Sat. I decided to trash all that blocking and start again on the ending. I had already started the ending over 5 times so once more wasn't going to hurt right? So I splined up the beginning which is looking alright and blcoked out a rough version of the new ending. I am just plum out of ideas for now on how to make the ending work. We will see what Derek says. Can't wait for the new Face of the Day on Thursday.

We also had some sketches due in preparation of our next assignment. The next assignment is to come up with an animation that shows a single idea, 100 frames max. Pretty vague huh? Well it's pretty cool to be able to choose anything you want, whos to say what is or is not a single idea? I think the real assignment is to come up with an animation you can actually finish in 2 weeks, since that's all we have for this one. I had some ideas and sketched out a bunch of them.

-Lost, looking at a map for directions and having no idea where you are (I've, uhm done some research on that one...being new to LA you get lost tons)

-Temper Tantrum, stomping up and down

-Good news in a letter, jumping for joy

-Sadness, Stewie crying over a picture of Stewette

I'm not sure which one or if any of these ideas I will choose. I am still not done with my emotion test so that is going to take a lot of time in revisions this week. I never finished my heavy push and walk as well, they were in an almost finished state but I was never satisfied with them and there were always things I wanted to fix. Who knows if I will ever have the time to fix up those old projects, the priority is always what is on my plate at the moment and that is the emotions, and idea project. The semester is almost ending and there is so much work left to do.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Week 8 Emotion ReBlocking WIP














We are in the third week out of 4 weeks for the emotion test. A perfect time to start over from scratch right? Well that's what I decided to do. I was so unhappy with the way my blocking turned out from last week that I decided I needed a complete overhaul.

After my session w Rebecca I was energized and motivated to try the Grease Pencil Tool to reblock my new ideas for the project. I decided to get rid of the mic stand since I felt it was hindering me from getting the dynamic poses I wanted. I also was terribly unhappy with my sorry excuse for breakdowns, meaning that I definetely did not have a plan for interesting and entertaining breakdowns. So it was back to the drawing board, to start new thumbnails and play around with ideas in Maya using the grease pencil tool. Plus new fun breakdowns are a great excuse to try a zany cartoony style and really amp up the entertainment factor.

So Wednesday I planned my thumbnails and timed out a rough version w the GPT. Thursday I posed out a rough new blocking using my thumbnails as a guide, Fri, Sat, and Sun I refined the blocking, adding arcs and overlap and timed it out. I ended up running out of time Sunday at the noon deadline since the decision to have him walk off the stage came very late on Saturday night. My boyfriend Marko suggested the walking off stage idea, and I think it could really add to the performance, although it is definetely NOT keeping it simple.

There is a line somewhere between keeping it simple which is what we are supposed to be doing and keeping it boring which is what I think I was doing last week, I have not found that line yet. Well I managed to pull the brand new blocking together in less than a week, the planning stage was crucial and also allowed me to see it in my head where I wanted to go with this shot. It still needs a lot of work, and my crit from Derek was awesome, he said it was a big improvement and had tons of suggestions to improve it even more, so I'm psyched to keep working on it. It has been a really fun project so far. Plus I got tons of great feedback from the AM students, something like 15 comments before Sunday night, which is just a terrific boost and I am so greatful for them taking the time to leave comments to help me improve. OK, still lots of work to do, wish me luck.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Cause you gotta have friends...

Yesterday was amazing, I went over my AM friend Rebecca's house for an animation pow wow and lunch. First of all she lives in West Hollywood which is totally cute neighborhood, there were tons of restaurants within walking distance, it reminded me of NYC. Then Rebecca showed me tons of her little animation secrets and tricks she keeps in her back pocket. Since she has had animation experience before starting AM she really has developed a great workflow which allows her to focus on her animation without all the technical glitches I seem to get into, and boy has her stuff improved, she has just taken off in a major way! And I was right there to soak up some animation goodness from theis ninja in training. She really reminded me of how important the planning stage is. I always plan, but somehow I end up changing a bunch of ideas mid project, which forces me to backtrack and waste time. And the main event was Jason Schleifer's GREASE PENCIL TOOL!!! Rebecca has been using it religiously and now I know why, it totally rocks. It is a great way to plan out your blocking before going to your 3d model and spending tons of time on a pose that doesn't work. Thanks Rebecca, and Jason! You guys rock!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Mime Allstars

This weekend was my super fun Mime Theatre Workshop. The experience was amazing and I learned a lot about Mime history and practice. It is amazing the things that mimes are able to do and the positions they are able to keep for extended periods of time. It made me see that this dramatic artform which is a mixture of the oldest form of storytelling and dance is one of the most beautiful, unique and misunderstood artforms around. We learned about some of the most famous mimes like Marcel Marceau and Etienne Decroux. We even learned how to do a type of mime that is so exact and difficult that I had a hard time with it. It has to do with the degree you can bend any part on any axis. It is a tough thing to master and my instructor Lorrin Salm said takes years of dedication and practice. Hmm, I think I am more of a mime historian and fan and mabey not cut out for the performance side. It was great just to hear all the stories about the history of Mime, back in the day in Europe there were laws and restrictions on story telling through words in theatres, so many theatres had to develop a way to tell stories without speaking. Another fun part of the class was displaying an emotion through a single pose or "statue". This idea totally stuck with me and reminded me of the many pose assignments we had in the first semester of AM. Really shows how the body is saying more than the face and words do. I also learned that in mime you have to be aware of the entire body and what every part is doing, can't leave any part "unsuspended" or without life, this is true for our 3d characters as well, you have to make a decision on each part of the body, not just let it do whatever it wants. This workshop was lot of fun and I can't wait to apply all that I learned into my animations!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Week 7 Emotion Test Blocking


Even though I didn't have much time this week with Siggraph and Hugging and Mime Theatre (more on this later), I feel I learned a lot about blocking. I think I am getting the reason for the blocking stage and learning to embrace it. I finally feel like the blocking is going to start helping me, not turn into something I have to clean up at a later time. Also it seems I may have missed a huge story point in the original poses, the point where the guy gets hit w the tomato and reacts to it, so thanks Derek for pointing that out. I think the story is a lot stronger now. I am still learning tons and having fun!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Best Siggraph Ever!

I can't believe it's over. There were so many amazing experiences this time around. I got to see a lot of new faces and some old friends. Many parties and functions later, it is kind of blurry, esp the Blur party where much fun was had.

Some of my favorite moments have been:

-Meeting super awesome mutton chop wearing mentor Derek Friesenborg

-Meeting also awesome and fake mutton chop wearing featured student Brian Nicolucci.

-Dancing all night with my favorite AM students like Rebecca and Super Mentors like Bobby and Carlos.

-Doing Maya animation homework with Aja on Sunday morning.

-Inspiration Abounds, thinking of many ideas for animations, the energy and enthusiasm was everywhere.

Chillin with the Ninjas

Monday's giant lunch with the ninjas and future ninjas

Tuesday at the CG World booth for a special Q and A session with Shawn, Bobby and Carlos.

Monday Animation Mentor Birds of a Feather






This Monday's Animation Mentor Birds of a Feather was the best way possible to kick off Siggraph 2005, or what I like to call THE ANIMATION MENTOR CONVENTION.

For starters I had a great weekend with my new friend and AM Featured Student last month Aja B. I had a great time showing her around LA, the good (beautiful beaches) and the bad (getting lost on the freeways at 1am). Then we headed off bright and early Monday morning for our much awaited and anticipated birds of a feather. The guest speaker ILM 's Rob Coleman who shared some choice stories about Shawn and his fixation with throwing lightsabers ("Yeah they do!!")

It was so great getting to meet all the mentors and students in person and searching their name tags for their screen names. We really needed pics of each person's avatars, it goes to show you what a branding the avatars have been. It was amazing to meet my own personal mentor and this month's Featured Mentor Derek Friesenborg!, There was a Q and A and prizes and inspirational speeches and yelling and clapping and hugging, lots and lots of hugging.

AM is big on the hugging, remember, we're not a cult, we're a family!

As if the day couldn't get any better, just being at Sigg with all my wonderful new/old AM friends was great. We walked around and saw some of the neato stuff like animation theatre and the geurilla studio.