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  • 12 Oct 2016
    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... refine poses, take the time to think about your drawings have the character fall on his butt - for comedic effect 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!  
    547 Posted by Tyrone Owens
  • 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.  
    525 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
Animation 163 views Oct 22, 2016
Level Up! Animation Student Reading List

 

                                                   

Level up! Now that you have made it passed the beginner stage... what next? What books do you choose to progress your skills and learning further? The next set of books will help you.

  1. Walt Disney Studios: The Archive Series - this series of books might take a while to collect, as you need to own all four and they aren't cheap; I own three, at the moment, and hope to get the last in the series soon. I will say, these books cover a lot about the pipeline of animation from story, design, layout and Animation. And you don't need to read a thing... except, of course, the introductions written by John Lasseter; which is only a page or two long, and I will say before flicking through the pages read those introductions first. The pictures in these books will blow your mind!
  2. The Writer's Journey: Myth Structure For Writers, Christopher Vogler - yeah, this one isn't an animation book, but has come in very useful over the years and still is by my side. As animator's, directors and filmmakers it is important to know how to tell a story and how to tell it well... Vogler takes influence from another resource of books that innovated storytelling, from the creator of the Hero's Journey Joseph Campbell's The Hero with A Thousand faces and The Hero's Journey.
  3. The Nine Old Men: Lessons, Techniques and Inspiration from Disney's Great Animators, By Andreas Deja - I got this book recently, and it was a fantastic read I loved it! It explores the works of the Nine Old Men, individually, and has great tips on their methods and how they structured their animation shots. Wish I could have been alive to see that happen.. but this book is close enough.
  4.  They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney's Golden Age (The 1930s), by Didier Ghez - This book is awesome if you want to learn more about your animation history, but this series this one is the first and the rest are still to be published. With amazing never before seen sketches by the artists forgotten in the golden age of animation, finally, resurface through this book. Like the Nine Old Men book, the chapters address each artist's work individually. Oh gosh, the pictures in this one are unbelievable and so cool!!! What imaginations these people had. The book also gives an insight of their lives and how they came to work at the Disney studios, which for me when I was on placement came to very useful -  one reason was an example of a job application letter one artist wrote to Disney.
  5. Harry Potter: From Page To Screen Complete Filmmaking Journey - honestly this book is so huge that I haven't read it entirely, but, the images are so incredibly inspirational. Plus it's a heavy book too... where do I sit comfortably to read it! This one isn't entirely focused on animation, though there are some amazing images of how they made the special effects and creature designs which you just have to see. There is a lot of costumes and set design photographs to look at while the book explains the ideas and use of the scenes created for the film. It covers all eight films and then characters; then finally the props. 
  6. Film Directing Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen, by Steven D. Katz - this book is a good one for both animation and film, and if you want to tell a story you need to know how to tell one visually. 
  7. The Art of Ray Harryhausen, by Ray Harryhausen and Tony Dalton - Ray Harryhausen was a genius and his movies are phenomenal achievements that have inspired both animation and film for ages now. The book looks at his life and the masterpieces created by Harryhausen, and it's written by the main man himself. (Funny story: I think someone bought me the same book one Christmas, so, I have two versions of this book, another title for it is Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life, both books cover the same content... which isn't a big deal to me because I usually buy two version of books any, if they have different illustration covers. One I like to preserve the other I use a lot). Also one of the books has a foreword by Peter Jackson and the other book has a foreword by Ray Harryhausen.
  8. Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, by Neal Gabler - I've had this book for ages, I bought it on a trip to Disney World Florida and I've loved it ever since; it's a reminder to me and a big inspiration. It covers the entire life and career of Walt Disney, and it is so informative in its research, definitely an incredible read to learn the history of animation's biggest innovator. You probably think you already know Walt Disney's life story from documentaries... but in fact... you don't until you read this book. It covers the trials and tribulations of his success story - the ups and downs - in great detail. It will inspire you!

 

           

 

I will stop here for now and continue with more books in another post. What I've learned when it comes to searching for books on animation, is that you don't need read only the how-to books or the making-of books; any form of a book focused on animation or not, has something truly worthwhile to read and you learn so much from them. Knowing what came before helps to inspire and motivate our own projects and creativity is the first step to being original. So, like my lecturers tell me (all the time), read everything and anything you can get your hands on!

I hope this post will inspire and interest anyone who reads it. Definitely give these books as try and take note of what you learn from them. I hope you enjoy! :)



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