• Who opened the flood gates?

    Sorry guys,

    Now that I’m on this “Illusion of Life” rant I just can’t shut up. A couple of posts ago I mentioned that there is a section I would read before every shot I did on Toy Story 2 and Monster’s Inc. Combined that’s about three years worth of production and about 60 to 70 shots, worth of reading. The section I would read and still do although not as much, even though I should, was chapter 16. “Animating Expressions and Dialogue”. Now there was a comment made somewhere that said “The Survival kit” told you how to animate and the “Illusion of Life” told you why. I don’t know how that comment came about because this chapter is all about how to do it not why you should animate. I’ll agree there are not a bunch of pictures showing you every frame exactly where it might be on a given frame, but there are still a bunch of great pictures that relate to the text. Like on page 454 and 455, the animation drawings of Stromboli by Bill Tytla. Where they talk about the face and how the elements of the face work together when creating expression, or just being animated that everything is related to each other. Or on page 465 Frank Thomas’ drawings of the door knob from Alice and Wonderland and how he used the design of the lock to create new and interesting mouth shapes while still creating lip synch and how this mouth keep the viewer still believing it’s a door knob and lock. Well there are too many wonderful drawings that tell you more about how to animate than why to animate.

    I agree the book does do a great job of giving you history and the art behind animation the heart and passion of the individuals working in animation at Disney during the early years but that is just one part of the book. I see the Illusion of Life as an animation manual not just a great source of inspiration.

    Just a note the principles of animation section is at chapter 3 that’s a whole 13 chapters before chapter 16 so if you just keep getting stuck there maybe you should move forward in the book there is a whole bunch of how to animate chapters beyond that one.

    -Dr. Stephen G.
    My belief’s may or may not reflect those of my fellow doctors.

  • The Power of Silhouette

    Anyone who has read “The Illusion of Life”, or went to a half-way decent art school has been drilled with the concept of “silhouette value” as it relates to the graphic strength and clarity of a pose. Being a student of classical 2D, we would sometimes be encouraged to visualize or actually color in our drawings to get a sense of our pose’s silhouette value, and thus judge whether or not we had pushed a pose to it’s fullest potential. One of the great things I’ve come to learn, now that I work on the computer, is the ability (in many animation applications) to render out work in silhouette. What an amazing tool!!

    Mike Wu and I recently did an assignment in our Pixar 2 class at AAU this semester where we had students block out a dialogue assignment and render it in silhouette. As the students are just beginning to work with dialogue, we wanted an assignment that made the point that performing to dialogue is not about mouth shapes or lip sync, but about the global performance as it relates to body language, phrasing, and clarity. The students were amazed to find how much more aware they were of their posing and choice of gesture when everything was “blacked out” and the readablility of a pose was represented in such a pure form.

    For those that have the luxury of using a software package that has such a feature, use it to your advantage. What does it take to block out a shot and playblast a silhouette render to see if your poses are as strong as they could be before moving forward? If the application you’re using does not have such a feature, or if you’re doing 2D work, take a moment to look at the graphic elements of your pose and ask yourself if it does justice to the character, the moment, and if it inspires your audience to feel what you want it to feel. Revisiting such a basic principle can not only inspire young minds learning animation for the first time, but also reinvigorate the work of the most seasoned veteran. I know at least one animator that will be looking at his work in black & white with a little more frequency from now on. Thanks for visiting the blog.


  • Being Directed – part 1

    Someone emailed me and asked me to talk about being directed. A good topic. I guess there are alot of things you could say about this. It always starts with clear communication. When you get a bunch of scenes given to you, you need to take good notes about what the director wants. What is the point of the scene, where is the potential entertainment value etc etc… Afer you get the shots, the next thing you need to do is present the director with clean shots. Clear blocking will close the gap quicker. The last thing you want to do is show bad blocking. The director will not know how to comment on the scenes. They may direct you in a totally different direction. If you show to much animation, you risk having to tear it up if you get big changes. I guess the key is to hit it somewhere in the middle. Every director has his or her own style. Some directors let the animator search for the idea and other directors know exactly what they want. You need to be able to accomodate both. Some problems may arise when either the director or the animator does not have a clear idea of what they want. Another problem is when the shot is directed by commitee. I can’t really answer how to get past this because I have not experienced this for quite some time. All I can say, is try to really have a clear idea, before you get directed.

    Hope that helps.


    part two – dealing with big changes…