• Happy New Year

    I hope everyone had a great New Year. We hope this year will be a good year for animation and the Spline Doctors Blog. This year we will have a new site with new articles and lots of new Spline Casts. We really want you to post who you want to be interviewed. Also, please send us any topics of interest you want to see on the blog.

    Happy New Year.


  • End of the year thoughts

    Sorry for the lack of posts. Its the end of the year, and everyone is working alot. I know Adam is in crunch for Wall E and I’m cruching on the short that will be in front of the feature.

    We are in the process of redesigning the Spline Doctors web site. Hopefully it will be alot easier to navigate and all the past posts will be better organized. A really talented guy named Ben Lew is helping us. Also, all the Spline Casts will have their own page. In the upcoming year, we have alot of new spline casts coming. This blog will move more towards podcasts. We will still give tips, and write about animation, but we want to focus on creating useful podcasts for you to hear.

    On an Animation note, there was a lot of animation this year. I saw a bit of Enchanted and really enjoyed it. Hats off to all that worked on it and to Baxter Studios. I am curious to see Beowulf, but the eyes on the characters really weird me out. I have to ask why they just did not decide to do this film live action? I appreciate the work, but I really just want to know what is gained by doing cg humans? I can understand doing penguins, or Gollum or giant apes. When I look at the cg human, the uncanny valley effect sets in and I just disconnect. I’d be curious to hear what people thought. One thing I also dont understand is why the film is being considered for academy consideration for animation. Ok, there may be some animation, but the film is not animated by hand. Apparently, the Academy and the powers that be, do not agree with me.

    Education in animation is really gone through the roof. Students have so many choices these days when it comes to learning character animation. On-line schools like Animation Mentor, as well as many brick and morter schools are out there to choose from. The bay area is booming for animation education. One thing that I still feel is a big issue is how students go about making thier own films. If you are doing a film in cg, either you have to do it very simple, use pre built rigs or have an amazing amount of knowledge of 3d software to build a good piece. Schools like Cal Arts does great 2d films, but when it comes to 3d, they struggle. The opposite happens at places like the Academy of Art. The Academy has an amazing program, if you are talented enough to get in the track with all the guys from Pixar teaching. They turn out amazing animators and the teachers are all awesome. Its just that you don’t see alot of student films. Places like Animation Mentor are using pre built rigs to have students do films. I think its a good idea and at least it gets students immersed in film making. The last thing we need is for schools to just pump out animators, much in the way technical schools pump out electricians or mechanics. I sometimes wonder if the industry is large enough to support all the animation students that will be coming out every year.

    Have a great new year and expect more to come next year.


  • Way to go OHIO!

    I’m sure many of you have heard about FJORG at siggraph this year. An Iron Animator event in which 16 competing teams from around the world had 32 hours to create the most impressive character-driven animation of at least 15 seconds in length adhering to at least one of two themes and using at least one of 16 sound bites. A couple months ago, I went to teach animation for a few days in Ohio. The guy who invited me to BGSU was head of the computer animation department at BGSU, or so I thought. His name was Jim Levasseur. We corresponded for a few months to actually set this thing up. When I got their, he picked me up in an old beater car with two other guys, Tomas Jech and Jacob Gardner. They looked really young to be faculty. Turns out they were not faculty, but students. Jim and the other guys were part of a computer animation club. They totally orchestrated the process of getting me out to BGSU. These three guys were totally driven. They really wanted to learn animation. At the very end of the class, they showed me a short film they were working on to get into the Fjorg thing. I thought it looked great.

    Anyhow, they went on to win the FJORG competition! Three guys from Bowling Green State University. A true Cinderella story. Competing against professionals from places like Polygon Pictures and Tippet Studios. I did an email interview with them.


    Great jobs guys. Any studio would be more than lucky to have you working with them. Especially, now that you proved that you will work long hours… :)

    other links:

    FJORG documentary
    The film the submitted to get in
    The Film that won

  • When The Dialogue Ends, The Character Keeps Talking.

    I’ve been planning a lecture recently on dialogue and I was trying to grab some images as reference. I did a Google image search for “mouth + lips” in the hope of finding some diagrams of the mouth and it’s mechanics and the image of the Mona Lisa popped up. I stopped dead in my tracks. I have a point in some of my notes addressing the importance of “inner dialogue” and keeping a character alive when they’re not talking, but this simple image search made me think of the concept on an entirely new level.

    Most of us are familiar with the Mona Lisa and it’s significance in history. Having said that, anyone I’ve talked to who has actually seen this piece in person at the Musee du Louvre, the first thing they usually say is, “I never knew it was that small.” What an amazing statement that is if you analyze it. Why does that surprise people? Because of how large an impact that picture has had on people for centuries. It’s amazing to see what a sideways glance and the upturned corner of the mouth can do to inflame the imagination of an audience. I don’t mean to raise the bar too high, but that’s the exact kind of thing you should be thinking about when animating your dialogue. When the track ends, you must keep the character alive. Thoughts need to remain engaged, and it’s amazing sometimes to realize how little it takes. I find myself also being reminded of the power of a single, motionless pose.

    What is truly amazing to me is that the piece transcends the artist. I’m a big fan of Leonardo, but when you think about it, this piece is far greater than the artist who created it. Why? Because after more than 500 years… it’s still alive.


  • Where are all the US animation festivals????

    Being here at the Annecy Animation festival really makes me wonder why the US does not have any animation festivals anywhere near the scope of Annecy. Sure, there is Siggraph, but I’m talking about animation, not just computer animation. There are so many films represented here from all over the world. Every medium of animation as well. I just find it odd that the country that in some ways invented animation does not have something like this. Maybe the US views animation in a much different way than the rest of the world. Anyway, its really inspiring to see so much animation going on. I’ll try to post some of the films that I thought were great and where they can be viewed.