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  • 27 Sep 2016
    Books a great source of information and for any aspiring animation student here are a few beginner animation book recommendations that every student beginning animation should have; and books I generally keep by my side and refer to often. 1. The Illusion of Life, by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston Two masters of animation put together a fanstastic 'animation pipeline bible', this book is a most have on the bookshelf. You will learn everything there is to know about the animation pipeline and process for making feature animation from a studio like Disney. Even thought it General focuses on traditional animation, and is more historical all the techniques, principles and methods still apply to today's CG animation pipeline.  2. Cartoon Animation, Preston Blair Like the Animator's Survival Kit, by Richard William Preston Blair's cartoon animation specifically focuses on the cartoony style of animation, with walk cycles and line of action reference this book is a much for understanding the appeal, silhouette and extremes and much more.  3. Animator's Survival Kit, Richard Williams This one is a true in-depth approach of animating characters from any form of animation: be it 2d, CG, cartoony, or realism. It's another huge must have! With examples of how to create work cycles, runs, jumps, weight, human and animal locomotion and more.  4. Funny! Disney, Pixar Animation isn't just about breathing life to inanimate rigs and drawings, it's about story too. Any animator needs to understand storytelling and know how to key storytelling posing to plan a shot. 5. The Alchemy of Animation, Don Hahn This could be thought as an update to the Illusion of Life, as it is similar in how it focuses on the animation pipeline; but unlike Frank and Ollie's book CG has a place within these pages. It's a short read, briefly going through every aspect of the pipeline from story to final mix; 2d, CG, and Stopmotion.  
    524 Posted by Tyrone Owens
  • 23 Jan 2017
    At the moment, I've been reading Ed Catmull's book Creativity Inc. and I have been enjoying it very much. Here I am copying 7 core principles from Pixar that have helped them shape a creative culture with the work they do. I think it is something never much discussed in most studios how to creative a positive environment for its employees and this book is an essential read in bettering your own self-improvement.   For nearly twenty years, Pixar has dominated its industry, producing fourteen consecutive #1 box office hits, garnering 30 Academy Awards®, and generating $8.3 billion in worldwide ticket sales. The quality of Pixar’s product is obviously unparalleled. But how did a small hardware company struggling to stay afloat turn into the creative powerhouse it is today? The essential ingredient in the studio’s success is the unique environment that Pixar’s president and co-founder Ed Catmull and his colleagues have built. Based on philosophies that protect the creative process and defy convention, these principles should be at the heart of any work environment that strives for originality, fosters problem-solving, and pushes its employees to new heights. Here are 7 of his core principles:   1 Quality is the best business plan. Quality is not a consequence of following some prescribed set of behaviors. It is a mindset you must have before you decide what you are setting out to do. You can say you are going to be a company that never settles, but saying it isn’t enough: You must live and breathe it.   2 Failure isn’t a necessary evil. It’s a necessary consequence of doing something great. Uncouple fear and failure. Making mistakes should never strike fear into employees’ hearts. When it comes to creative endeavors, a goal of zero failure is worse than useless. It is counterproductive. The truth is, the cost of preventing errors is often far greater than the cost of fixing them.   3 People are more important than ideas. When hiring, give an applicant’s potential to grow more weight than her current skill level. What she will be capable of tomorrow is much more important than what she can do today. Why? Because if you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. But give a mediocre idea to a great team, they will either fix it or come up with something better. That’s why people matter.   4 Prepare for the unknown. Unforeseen, random events happen. And when they do, don’t waste time playing the blame game. To think one can control or prevent problems or guard against randomness by making an example of someone is naïve and wrongheaded. Instead, empower employees at every level to own the problems and give them the freedom to fix them without asking permission.   5 Do not confuse the process with the goal. Making the process easier, better, faster, and cheaper is something we should continually work on—but it is NOT the goal. Making something great is the goal.   6 Everybody should be able to talk to anybody. Communication structures should never mirror organizational structure. A chain of command is essential, but making sure that everything happens in the “right” order and through the “proper” channels is not efficient.   7 Give good notes. Truly candid feedback is the only way to ensure excellence. When giving notes, be sure to include: A good note is specific. A good note does not make demands. Most of all, a good note inspires.   Reference Ed Catmull. (2014) Creativity Inc. Available from: http://www.creativityincbook.com/7-core-principles/
    268 Posted by Tyrone Owens
  • 19 Jan 2017
    To make sense of the disparate while retaining the ability to function. - F. Scott Fitzgerald    Brief Note: I'll keep this entry short and provide some excellent resources that you can look into further, part of learning is the reward of discovering the facts for yourself. Just like stories never give you 2 + 2.    I am not an expert of storytelling, but I have always had an interest in learning what makes a great story work and how to execute the perfect formula. I used to write my own short stories... however, I feel they were never any good mainly because I never fully understood how to tell a story before; in my course, I collaborate with a team to create student films... some good others not so good. I recently watched a video on YouTube called "There Are No Film Prodigies", (there is a link below if you're interested) straight after completing yet another student film. After finalising my research for a report, in which I investigated the potential of immersive storytelling in VR as the new form; I collected a lot of interesting research that has broadened my mind to telling stories, and how we conceive them. I am still an amateur, excited to continue my journey and explore even further down the rabbit hole.    Here are some interesting books specifically on storytelling that I have learned and gained knowledge from:   The Writer's Journey: The Mythical Structure, by Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them, by John Yorke.   It's one thing to have a good idea, but without a strong execution, your ideas can fall flat. This is something I've learned when telling my own stories is that ideas are easy to come by, everyone has their grand idea of the stories they wish to tell... but 99% of the time those ideas will not become successful without a plan to execute them.   An artist to follow: Matthew Luhn [ex-Pixar Story Consultant], has a twitter page you can follow. I do and it is great, his tweets are helpful tips that explain how a story works and also explaining full-proof formulas of execution for successful stories.          Have you ever read a book and really felt like you were there and that the characters were real... watched a movie and dreamed you could do exactly what the hero can and achieve the impossible. Yeah, me too... a story can connect us consciously or unconsciously. All life is a story, as experiences we share with one another every day of our lives, which is later passed as oral storytelling. Storytelling is as old as human communication, itself, and was conceived from our understanding and making sense of the world.  Why it matters to us is because it encourages a sense of purpose, understanding, and moral values which make us aspire to be great and do better. Or, simply why stories matter is because it arouses the pursuit of happiness, and the belief that the impossible is possible - it plays off our desires. My favourite combinations are good food and a story, that is why I love Ratatouille so much, I think it's genious... these were the same reasons why the director made the movie too.     Recommended Blogs to follow: Mark Kennedy, Story Artist for Disney, this is his blog covering every topic about film and story - sevencamels.blogspot.co.uk   Lastly, I will leave you with the words from an expert storyteller, John Green Why Stories Matter - John Green (NerdCon: Stories 2015)   References:    Matt Luhn, (2017) Flashbacks. [Twitter] Available from: https://twitter.com/MatthewLuhn/status/819958766770667520 The Art of Storytelling, (2017) Why Story Matters. Available from: http://theartofstoryproject.com/the-story/why-story-matters/  The Royal Ocean FilmSociety, (2016) There Are No Film Prodigies. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ei5oatPaCI  
    214 Posted by Tyrone Owens
  • 03 Oct 2016
    Key Storytelling Poses Planning for a shot is an essential process of an animator, give every step of the process time and explore your ideas down on paper first by creating short hand sketches (thumbnails) that illustrate KEY STORYTELLING POSES. CG Animators don’t need to worry about how the rig will function at this stage. This way you solve problems faster!  Transfer your ideas into Maya, don’t worry about copying those thumbnail poses exactly, capture the essence of the pose/spirit of the pose. Think About Character and Story: Who is this Character? What is the Character Thinking? What is the Story? First step Thumbnailing Process: Storytelling Poses Think about Body Mechanics Explore Acting Choices Next Step Bringing It All Into Maya: General Blocking Pose Second Blocking Pass Refine I am relaying these notes by Disney Animator Mario Furmanczyk from personal mentorship lessons, which I feel completely lucky to have the opportunity to do; the advice relates to shots/animation work I have been practicing on the side, and I find his advice is really helpful and I have wanted to share them with other aspiring animators in the same shoes as me. He's cool with me doing this. :D     
    180 Posted by Tyrone Owens
Animation 546 views Oct 12, 2016
Notes from A Disney Animator: Rhythm, Clarity and Entertainment

When creating your storytelling poses for your animation character, the most import elements to remember are Rhythm, Clarity, and Entertainment. Think about: what your characters is doing? What is the story?

Feedback on my thumbnails from a previous lesson with animator Mario Furmanczyk:

(images of my early thumbnails)

 

  • boxing in the mirror
  • confident in himself, then embarrasses himself
  • keeps a smile on his face to show determination
  • Line of Action -  this gives the character appeal in the pose
  • explore a variety of poses (think simple) - make it read
  • watch out for silhouette
  • act out poses in front of a mirror to yourself, this will allow you to understand the action and how it will behave, and solve body mechanics early on; making the process easier and faster
  • draw simple (it can be a simple stick man figure, just to get your ideas across)

When thinking about the personality of this cat character, Mario and I discussed the idea of the characteristic for the character as being clumsy, a bit of a fool, but optimistic and determined with what he is doing - we decided he would be an amateur boxer, for simplistic reasons to practice the thumbnail and key storytelling pose process. Every animator, before they even touch their computer, firstly, have to get inside the mindset of their character they are animating. I have always been intrigued about this area of character development for animation; and having this opportunity to observe, take note and advice given by a Disney Animator is really beneficial to me.

When animating a character it is important to take time and analysis you shot; at Disney animators either use thumbnails or video referencing when planning out their shots. Mario's advice on this is that both are very important, and serve in the process of solving problems that you will face later on. 

Task:

My last task from the previous lesson was to...

  1. refine poses, take the time to think about your drawings
  2. have the character fall on his butt - for comedic effect
  3. tell a story of him going from confident to humiliation

Usually, the time an animator give's themselves for thumbnailing is about 45 mins.  

My Thoughts on Thumbnail

Animating a character isn't easy... I used to think that it was and I was wrong; having performed as characters on stage from an early age, portraying characters to me felt like second nature. However, what I've quickly come to realise is that acting as a character and animating a character are not so much the same thing. Frank and Ollie's quote "an animator is an actor with a pencil" is much clearer to me now... I thought I had a better understanding of this phrase before, but now I see I didn't truly understand it at all. 

An actor does not worry about line of action, balance or weight shift; the actor's mindset is to focus on staging himself forward so the audience can see him, an actor will usually use broad movements on stage this is so the audience at the back of a theatre can read what is going to happen; and an actor's biggest worry is to remember their lines. An actor only rehearses, an animator creates a performance from nothing... that's why I love animating so much more than acting on a stage. 

How to bring life to a character? How to create a personality out of a performance that would be relatable and understandable to the audience? This was what I was curious to know. Feedback on my work in the past, people would always point out how floaty the animation was, that there was no line of action, improper balance or weight to the character, etc. Trail and error, I would try to improve this, but I knew I was missing something... that was proper planning for my shots. Reading books about character animation and watching many tutorials, all would mention the importance of thumbnailing but these were not in-depth discussion or explanation/demonstration of the subject. 

Observing Mario's methods for thumbnailing and taking his advice on board, I now understand the steps needed to in order to solve problems quicker and faster so that animating a rig will become easier. I am beginning to see an improvement on the work I draw; I am building confidence with my thumbnails which I did not have before. Also, these lessons have opened my mind to thinking about better ways to planning a character's performance, thinking about: Who is this character? What is their story? What is the character doing? These kinds of questions, I have never thought about... before the only question, I would ever ask myself when creating my thumbnails was: how to animate the character's emotion? My confusion came from thinking that thumbnails were just about the emotions of the character, not the story.

Finding a proper workflow, I know every good animator has one; this is my goal and one I feel I am getting closer to achieving.

I will upload my story poses in my next blog update, which will be soon. I am relaying these notes to members of AnimatedBuzz, solely recorded from lessons once a week given by a Disney Animator; Mario Furmanczyk. He is cool with me sharing his methods and process (which I feel are fantastic); in the hope they will inspire and inform many others in my shoes, seeking to improve and learn the art of animation. I hope you enjoy!

 



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