Friday, 10 August 2012

Something new...

Hello interweb goers. After taking a couple of weeks off enjoying the sun (what little there's been) and some bowls it's time to get back to work (and blogger).

As I don't have a job yet I've decided to take a step away from just doing animation, and try to do more of a whole VFX shot to improve my skills in other areas. The idea of the shot is to integrate a CG creature into a live action plate, and in the process I can learn tracking and improve my lighting and comp skills. Then hopefully I'll have something good for my showreel that demonstrates my skills for VFX.

So here's what I have so far, a tracked plate with a quick slap comp of the creature.

And here is an image of a better comp I'm working on with no crushed blacks.

The next step is to animate the beast, I plan to have him come over the roof and down onto the paving all gorilla like (so I'll film myself for reference, ha!). I'm really looking forward to the animation and I'm excited to see how this turns out. I might even throw in some dust and effects if I have the time.

As this is mostly new to me I'd love feedback and crits on this as I go along, so feel free to give me a shout if you see something you do or don't like.


Wednesday, 18 July 2012

...3 years later...

Hello again. It's been a while, and in that while I've managed to pass my degree. As surprising as it may be, 3 years after leaving home for the first time and taking the plunge into uni I've graduated with a first class degree in Computer Animation Arts from Bournemouth University. WOOOHOOO!

Anyhow, so now I'm in the process of job hunting, sending out applications etc. It's going okay but as of yet I've had no luck. In my spare time now I'm working on my animation and rigging skills, focusing on my acting performances. I'm also in the near future going to look at doing a VFX shot by myself. Film a quick plate, then track it and animate something to composite into the shot. This will be a great learning curve and will hopefully make me a more suitable fit for VFX houses in London.

Tomorrow is the Computer Animation degree show for me and I'm looking forward to that and hopefully making some connections and leads on the job front. Talking of which, below is my new animation showreel, and my generalist showreel.

Animation reel:

Generalist Reel:

That's it, just a quick update about where I am right now. Hopefully I'll have some work to show once my big PC is fixed, and maybe a job too. Wish me luck for tomorrow!


Sunday, 10 June 2012

Finally finished...

It's done! Yes we've finally finished our major project. As we want to enter it into a few festivals it's not publicly online yet. However we have made a website and trailer for the animation in order to publicise it. Here's the link if you want to check it out -

Because I worked in a group project we each had to produce a making of reel to show our personal contribution to the animation. I had a great deal of fun (and stress) working on the project but it's all been worth it and I'm really proud of our final film. Here is my making of reel:

So now I'm done it's time to take some time off before the degree show and work on some personal animation and rigging projects. Then hopefully in the near future, get a job!


Wednesday, 9 May 2012

All of the rendering, all of the time...

Hello again web goers. It seems I've been quite absent form here for a while, but things have been busy. I finally managed to finish my animation shots on the major project, thought I was done, then re-animated some shots based on feedback, but it looks better now so it's all good. And now, at last, we're rendering! Rendering is going really well, if a little slow, but the results we're getting are good. Thankfully our deadline was extended to the 8th of June, so we're not quite worried about finishing rendering just yet. However with all this rendering I find myself twiddling my thumbs a bit.

So what am I doing with my time? Mostly catching up on some gaming, but when it gets a bit tricky I relax by doing a personal rigging project which I am quite excited about. My house mate and I recently finished watching The Clone Wars series, which is very good, the style and animation is amazing. Obviously I won't be working on that project any time soon (although I would love to), so I did the next best thing - find a model like those from the series to rig and animate. So here it is, this is an awesome model of Starkiller (not official) I found in the style of The Clone Wars.

This is a WIP of my rig, none of the controls are coloured yet so it's a bit messy. But I assure you I know what everything is.

So after some re-doing of the UV maps I've gotten down to rigging. I've done my fair share of rigging before, but I'm trying to make this one right. Including stretchy stuff and dynamic cloth rigging I can't wait to get down to animating this. And hopefully getting myself a job on the show! ha. With any luck I'll have some animation of this bad boy to show you guys in June (after rendering).

Finally, keep your eyes peeled in June for our major project, it's coming together and I can't wait to see it rendered and share it with you guys.


p.s. Don't worry, I have his lightsaber ready for animation.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

So... nearly... there...

Well hello again fellow interneters. It's been over two weeks since my last post, so I think it's time for a good old fashioned progress update (and maybe a cheeky plug).

First of all, the major project! It's going well, as of today I only have 6 more shots to animate. So by the end of next week (fingers crossed) I should be done with my shots and ready to set my computer rendering. Talking of rendering we have nearly finalised our characters. We just need to tweak a few displacements maps and turn down the glossyness of the Doctor's gloves. But here you are, two rendered tudor London gentlemen.

And here is a quick turntable with a bit of animation to show the blend shapes of the sick man in action.

I obviously can't take credit for all of the hard work that's gone into these characters. So if you're interested about who did what:

Jenesta Smith - Modelling, Blend shapes, Displacement & Specular Maps.
Agatha Gomes - Character Design & Texture Maps.
Lewis Haley - Hair, Sub Surface Shader & Render set-up.
and Myself - Rigging & Pose/Animation.

...(Cheeky plug coming up)

In other news it's getting close to the end of my time at university and the reality of job hunting is looming over my head. So with my new show reel up and running I've started to apply for various internships out there. One of which is the CGSA awards, you can check out my entry here. I'd be very grateful if you could check it out, and if you like it please vote and share it with others. Thanks!

Finally, since putting my show reel together I've been mulling over what kind of animation I'd really like to hone and focus my skills in, creature animation or more performance based character animation. I know they share a lot of similarities, and I love doing both. But I really feel like I need to have a better grasp of one in order to focus my job applications. I might go more into this in another post, but I'm still going over it in my head and I don't want to waffle too long.

So that's it for another blog post, hope you liked what you saw/read.

Take care,


Saturday, 24 March 2012

three down, one to go...

Hello internet goers. I've finished three projects now and that only leaves the major project to go. We've still got 5ish weeks working on that, but we've got to get cracking with it, other projects have taken priority over the past month or so.

The latest project I've done is the animation assignment for our AAT unit. Our brief (simply put) was to pick a 10 second clip from any film and then reinterpret that performance in an animation. Once we had picked a clip we had to analyse the performance based on what Ed Hooks taught us, highlighting the objective/action/obstacle and the conflicts within the clip. With this information we could then go ahead and reinterpret the performance.

So I chose to do a clip from the first Harry Potter film, where the sorting hat is sorting Harry into a house. I chose to reinterpret the performance of the hat for two reasons. Firstly, the hat goes through a lot of thoughts during this clip, and as Ed teaches, thoughts lead to conclusions which lead to actions. With this in mind I knew I would have a variety of options in regards to acting choices. Secondly the hat is... well, a hat, so my view of how the clip could be acted would not be tainted by any live action acting choices. I don't want to say too much about my analysis of the clip, but my main aim was to make the situation seem a little more sinister than it is in the film. I wanted the character to be like a clever villain playing devil’s advocate as he tests the hero's worth. One last thing I must say is that the reason there is no detailed facial animation is because we are not marked on it, we are only marked on the body performance.

And without further ado, my animation:

Now that the animation project is done it is all hands to the pump on the major project. I've done half of my shots on the animation so far, which is great, but I've got some pretty tricky/important shots left to do which will take some time. It is going well though, and overall we have a third of the piece animated now. Below is another sneak peak of some of the W.I.P animation I'm doing. (The last shot is still in blocking).

That's it for now, I might go a bit quiet for the next few weeks as we work flat our on the major project, but I'll try and keep everyone posted on progress when I can.


Saturday, 3 March 2012

while the going is good...

Hi again people. Just thought I'd write a little post while everything is going good to show you what I've been up to.

First off, the innovations project is due in soon, so I've finished that. It's about the process of fantasy creature animation, and how a company would build a creature document to ensure continuity of movement when a creature is animated by more than one animator. The main point of my project was the report, but the bit i can show you is my final bit of creature animation. The model and rig are not my own work.

Here you go, short and sweet.

Moving onto the major project. I've been putting off starting animation on this because of other projects, but now I'm fully into animating my shots on the major project. I've been starting with some of the smaller shots, just to get used to the rigs again. It's going quite well at the moment though. We have a sick man in our animation who coughs a lot. I've been dreading animating coughs, but so far with a lot of reference it's not been too hard. All of the coughs for the sick man have been provided by one of our group mate's dad - Phil Smith. We also have a good few sound effects for our animation, and people working on the music. So overall it's going very well. Below is a sneak peek at one shot I've animated.

In other news, we've now been given out AAT2 animation project. It is basically to take a 10 second film clip, analyse the performance based on what Ed Hooks taught us, then reinterpret the performance in an animation of the same length using the film audio. I've found a nice clip I am going to use and I'm looking forward to getting my teeth into some nice physical animation. I say physical because we're only marked on the body animation, not any facial stuff.

So that's it for now, good progress everywhere, just got to keep at it.


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

animators are actors?

As you may have seen in one of my previous posts, in the last week and a bit we have had Ed Hooks lecturing us at Bournemouth Uni. Now his lecture series has come to a close I'd thought I would share with you some of my thoughts about his theories, and expand a little bit more my previous post and the question are animators actors?

Psychological Stuff

First of all I'll talk about the last of his lectures. We started looking at psychological stuff, more specifically status transactions and negotiations. Ed Hooks says that status transitions happen all the time through 'negotiation'.

A conversation is a perfect example of status transition. For example students give a lecturer high status by listening to them, then when a student asks a question the status is transferred to the student as people are listening to them now. A good example of a negotiation is eye contact, we do this all the time, when people catch you looking at them and you look away quickly. You are 'negotiating' at this point, if you hold their gaze you're engaging them in some way, whether it be showing you're listening or challenging them. When you look away you are saying 'fine you caught me I don't want anything to happen'.

He went on to talk about how as humans we see 80% and hear 20%, therefore what you show the audience carries more power than what is being said. This is where 'psychological gestures' come into a performance. This is when an actor makes a gesture that contrasts what is being said, and by doing so adding some more depth to a performance.

For me personally this is a really fascinating way of seeing our social interactions, it's really interesting how quick negotiations can be and how our body language can contrast what we're saying, it definitely puts a new perspective on things when I'm people watching. As Ed says, if you're an animator, you have a licence to stare!

Animators & Actors

There was some more stuff Ed talked about regarding heroes and villains, human emotions and micro expressions, but I'll save that for another day. I am now going to delve into the are animators actors debate once again.

I said in my previous post that I believed animators were actors. I wrote this post after coming out of the lecture, and I had my stubborn head on. After posting I had a discussion with a course mate about the issue and it really got me thinking.

My course mate (who isn't an animator) agreed with Ed on the issue of the present moment vs the illusion of the present moment, whereas I've always gone with the whole 'animators are actors with a pencil' argument. The case I was making was that Hooks' argument lies solely on one point, a big point, but still just one part of a larger process, and if the process is almost identical then I don't believe the two areas can be so definitively separated. Hooks' argument essentially boils down to spontaneity and that animators cannot really achieve this as an actor would. Anyway this debate left me thinking for a few days about my stand point on the whole issue.

So some time went by and i had another discussion with an animator this time. We discussed some more things Ed talked about, in particular delving deeper into the present moment argument. I mentioned Ed made a point about eyebrows. That an actor is not concentrating on his eyebrows during a scene, but as an animator we think about them for every frame and what they're doing and when exactly, emphasising his theory of the present moment again. He believes the characters are the actors, which is fine, they are technically the ones 'on stage'. But surely just as a live action actor would get into the character, an animator does as well. It just happens to be for a significantly longer period of time.

My animator friend then came back and said that an acting choice is an acting choice no matter how long it takes to arrive at that decision and if you're not a performer you'll never "get" the character enough to convince people. This is exactly what I agree with, to create a convincing performance you have to 'get' the character, regardless of the medium you are using to create the performance.

It was nice to hear that someone shared my original views of Ed Hooks' theory, and after some more time deliberating I've decided I am going to disagree with Ed Hooks, and I'm going to stick with my original belief that animators are actors. But it is nice to now have a deeper understanding of why I believe this.

Well that was a long post, I hope people out there find this stuff as interesting as I do, it's nice to get into discussions about these things, it gets you thinking. If you made it to the end congratulations. :)


Tuesday, 14 February 2012

acting for animators...

Hello again! It's been a while since I last posted, but I've been quite the busy bee with my innovations project. Its coming along nicely, but this post is not about that. This is about the very interesting lectures we've had so far this week from Ed Hooks. (Brace yourselves, this might be a long post).

Ed Hooks is the author of 'Acting for Animators' and has taught all over the world in all of the major film and games studios. He is obviously teaching us about the art of acting, and in particular acting from the point of an animator.

One of the first points Ed made was that animators are NOT actors. I do believe that animators ARE actors, however Ed makes some interesting points against that. Mainly that the animator has 'no present moment', they just have '24-frames-make-a-second, or the illusion of a present moment'. This makes sense, although I still believe that as animators we prepare in the same way as actors, and although our 'present moment' might be different we go through a very similar process from start to finish. This includes researching the role through to taking directors notes and changing the performance accordingly.

Throughout the few lectures we've had so far I have learnt an awful lot about acting, Ed has clearly spent time crafting his teaching of animators and has given us some very useful concepts to think about. Something which should stand me in good stead before tackling some of more important major project performances. Ed defines the role of an actor/animator as having to create empathy within the character they portray. I've always understood that, but have never been completely clear on how to achieve that empathy. We empathise with emotions, but how do we show emotions? Ed's formula is that 'thinking tends to lead to conclusions, conclusions tend to lead to emotions, and emotions lead to actions'. We have emotional responses to the conclusions we make, if we think someone looks threatening, we might come to the conclusion they will attack us, which leads to fear.This was a revelation moment for me, I now understand in a practical way to approach the thinking of my characters, and in turn, their emotions.

The second major point Ed made was that at any given point in any film any character should be 'playing an action in pursuit of an objective whilst overcoming an obstacle'. This really made me think about the animations I have done in the past and how I could improve them. As Ed said the reason characters become compelling is because they aren't just moving, they have a brain, they are thinking, and acting based upon their thoughts.

The most impactful point I've taken away from the lectures, is that you should animate the thought, not the word. He said it was a classic new animator mistake, and one I have fallen into. I've done several lip sync exercises purely thinking about the words, and not looking deeper into the thoughts behind those words, and the reason the character is saying them.

I'm sure that's quite enough of waffle for one post. As you can see, I've learnt a lot, and my animations will certainly be better for it in the future.

I promise my next post will have more moving stuff and maybe even a flashy image!


Thursday, 2 February 2012

One man, four animations...

IT'S DONE! I've finished all four of my master class animations, and handed them in. It's nice to chill for a bit before getting back to the grind tomorrow.

Overall it's been a pretty good learning experience. I purposefully went for a more cartoony style of animation because I've never tried that before and it was nice to get away from realistic stuff. I've had a lot of good feedback from Kevan Shorey who has helped me out a lot throughout the process. Talking to him and getting notes has definitely opened my eyes to my work process and how to improve it. A general note he gave me in all of the animations was that I needed 'more'. I need to push poses and keep the audience interested. I improved my animations a bit on this front, but not as much as I'd like. It'll certainly be at the forefront of my mind in the future.

So, here they are, hope you like them:

The Clone Trooper Sting

The Sneaky Guy

The Angry Guy

The Depressed Guy

I think on the whole I was too timid from the start. I had some good ideas but was afraid to try them because I wasn't sure I'd have time to finish them, so my blocking passes were a bit dull. I think in future I'll follow the advice of Kevan - 'If a shot is daunting, pick the single most important moment/pose and begin to visualise around it. Pretty soon you'll have a shot!'. I think I would've had a lot more success if I'd have chosen the moments where the character interacts with the gate and worked around that. Having said all that, I am actually quite happy with the animations, they're by no means perfect, but I feel the perfectionist in me would make being 100% pleased with it impossible. There is always something I'd like to do better.

Happy animating!


Thursday, 26 January 2012

A lot of animation...

It has been a while since I last posted. I've been working flat out on my master class animations, and as much as I am enjoying doing it, it's a lot of work. I need to get it done asap as well because I have innovations and the major to be working on. Also soon we'll be given the yet unknown AAT2 animation project. Hectic times and late nights ahead I feel.

Anyhow, I posted my blocking passes for the master class animations a while ago, unfortunately those videos are no longer on line, however I do have one of the animations nearly finished. Here was the first pass of splined animation I did - The Sneaky Man.

I was pretty happy with this and would have been happy to hand it in. However it was of course still worth getting feedback. So I asked some people and sent it off to Kevan at Dreamworks for some notes and critique. He was very helpful and gave me some good notes (as well as a telling off for not including frame numbers, haha). His main points were that the beats in the animation felt a bit separate from each other. I tend to agree with this, looking back I think it was my response to my animations being too 'floaty' in the past. So I made a concious decision to add pauses to the animation. Secondly he suggested that I look into making the piece more energetic, particularly after he does his tip toe run, as the animation slowed down after that and I risked losing the audience's interest. Finally he suggested I remove some of the fence so people can see more of the animation. Which I did.

So, after that feedback, this is my re-worked version (with frame numbers):

Hope you enjoy!


Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Dreamworks?! YES... Dreamworks!

Since I last blogged a lot has happened. Uni has actually properly started, and its hectic. Lots of animation for me to do this term, it's a bit daunting really.

Other than that we had the week of animation lectures from Kevan Shorey and his wife Robyn who work at Dreamworks in San Francisco. The whole week was a great series of lectures and talks about Kevan's process and approach to animation, it was an invaluable insight into how another animator works and I certainly came away from it having learnt a lot and will be applying a lot of what he taught us to my own process. On top of that Robyn talked a lot to us working in the US and the studio's pipeline and departments as whole, after hearing everything I was sure that Dreamworks is where I want to work one day. Overall it was an amazing week and it was shame we couldn't kidnap Kevan and keep him as a full time lecturer, haha.

As for my projects, everything is plodding along nicely, I'm currently finishing up doing the layout for our major project. Once that's done I'll be focusing my attention on the Masterclass project and it's impending 3rd of February deadline. I had a good meeting with Mike Wyatt who set us our Masterclass brief. He says I seem to have a good sense of animation, I just need to push my poses more, which I agree with, it's come up a few times so I need to work on that. My innovations has been slow to get going, but after a meeting with my tutor this morning I've got a clearer idea of what my plan is and I'm really looking forward to that one.

Kevan mentioned when he was talking to us that animating a horse was hard, he was right, you can see my attempt here in my latest showreel edit. Hope you like it, let me know what you think.


Friday, 6 January 2012

Busy, busy, busy...

Hello again. I've got a lot to show you in this post. Here we have the environments for our major project. But this time we can see all of it as we fly through the Tudor streets. The (not so) stealthy cube in the posher street (1st video) is where the Doctor's surgery will be, however that is still to be modelled by Nesta.



Moving on. Next up we have the final and re-worked rig tests/walk cycles for both of our main characters. The sick man I've only done recently. But the Doctor I went back and started again after taking on feedback from one of our screenings. People generally said he looked a bit stiff and had no character. So I gave him his cane and tried to give him some more swagger. I decided he needed to look more posh and dignified, so I slowed his walk down from 16 frames a step 20. Which I think helps, it makes him look more deliberate and less in a hurry. I also added more shoulder movement because it helps loosen characters up and make them look less robotic. I don't think its quite there yet, however the Doctor only has to walk once in our animation, so for now I think I should concentrate more on the acting side of things.



I am very much looking forward to having some Dreamworks animators, Kevan and Robyn Shorey, coming to talk to us next week. It will be nice to learn from animators from one of the best studios in the world.

For now though the Christmas holidays have come to an end and I'm back to uni tomorrow. It seems like it's been non stop work for the whole of the 'holidays', however I'm sure it will be worth it in the end.