Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Whittle and Spit

Inbetween film work I've been going back and working on some assignments from last semester. This is one of them, I've tied it down a bit and worked on some of the issues it was having a couple weeks ago.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Glen Keane Guest Lecture

Just got out of the lecture and my head is spinning from the past few hours. So because I'm a little too tired to actually go animate(which I'm dying to do after watching Glen animate), here are my notes/summary of the night:

A quick introduction for those who might be new to the name, Glen Keane. He attended CalArts before there was even a Character Animation department--at that time it was Film Graphics under the Experimental Animation department---and has spent the past 35+ years animating at Disney. He has been the supervising animator on characters like Ratigan(Great Mouse Detective), Ariel(from the Little Mermaid), Aladdin himself, The Beast(from Beauty and the Beast), Tarzan himself, John Silver(the cyborg from Treasure Planet), etc. There are so many scenes that he's worked on that have had a very big impact on me. Some of the first pencil tests that I found online were his and that really opened my eyes to the notion of pursuing animation as a career(along with a couple other incredibly talented artists).

Tonight, he came and drew/animated for us. My notes are primarily when he'd emphasize a point or just say something I wanted to remember while I animate on my own film. So here are these points and I'll do my best to put them in context:
"Push boundaries or you're not taking advantage of being an animator." Essentially, don't settle for what has been done before, or "safe." These are drawings, you can animate your wildest fantasies----you're not bound by any rules of real-life reality(or even live-action film), and as an artist you're able to "become" a savage beast, or a princess with 70 feet of hair! These characters can inhabit any habitat whether inside a wall, or in some deep region of the Twilight Zone. So shoot for the moon!
"The more action is related to the emotion, the more interesting it becomes." Always think of a way to put a more interesting perspective on an emotion. Glen had us shout out various emotions, then actions, and he randomly combined a few to create far more interesting descriptions. One of the example he drew out was, "fear"--well it's very easy to just go with a run of the mill pose--sweat, teeth chattering, eyes bugged out, shoulders hunched up to the ears. Usually something everyone has seen before. However, when "Eating" is added, in this case, "Fear of Eating"---you get a very character specific scenario...Glen drew a guy cringing at the very idea of actually eating a scorpion that was on the end of his fork. Much more fun to watch right? So find ways to link an action with an emotion and the animation will benefit greatly. Another one that Glen drew out(just one drawing that summed up the whole idea) was, anguished dancing which was hilarious---just think of Seinfeld and Elaine's spaz-like dancing and you come close to what was drawn out.

A very key point that came up, and is something that definitely applies towards this year's film is: Setup a goal and hold it back from the audience for as long as possible. Let it be known what the character(s) is after and just milk every second before they achieve their desire. The example Glen shared was a scene from Avatar---when Jake is trying to tame/fly those flying creatures. First Jake has to find the beast, keep it from killing him, connect his hair to control it, and then actually fly. That whole scene is prolonging the ultimate goal of that final flight scene between Jake and the creature--the goal is clearly established, but every task is difficult, nothing is easy and it makes the audience feel very satisfied once Jake succesfully achieves his first flight. Another example that I found that I think fits this idea is from ol' Wile Coyote(aka. Road-Runnerus Digestus):

Just a short segment from the full piece, but the artists are just playing with that gag. It's a little different then the scene in Avatar. Everyone knows the roadrunner will never be caught, however everyone knows that the coyote's attempts at catching that roadrunner always fail. The coyote doesn't just plummet straight to the ground like he does in some other gags, but instead has a very round about way of falling--and that whole time you know what's coming, all the setup is there---the rocks, the ground that's coming up(though off-screen until the very end, you know it has to appear), etc. Very fun to watch and think about.

At this point Glen sat down at the animation desk with a huge ream of animation paper and started animating. He was still following the point I mentioned above about prolonging the goal. In this case, it was a baby going from a seated position to learning how to stand. He worked out what poses would really hit home for the audience---to really feel the baby's struggle. Absolutely amazing to watch.

Anyways, that pretty much covers the night. I'm still soaking in everything he talked about. It was a fantastic way to start the weekend---myself and I'm sure the rest of the department will be spending tomorrow hunkered down and animating like crazy! Thank you again to Glen for the lecture and to everyone who helped make tonight so memorable. :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

First Week Report!

Well the second semester is under way, so far it has been a bit bumpy and exceedingly wet(several storms have been hitting the SoCal area since Sunday and will continue until the weekend.) This is my schedule, which I couldn't be happier with.
Advanced Animation IIIWright, ScottT Th 7pm to 10pm
Film WorkshopKelly, MorganM 7pm to 10pm
Directing for AnimatorsPetkov, RumenF 9:30am to 12 Noon

This year the department is trying something new with the third and fourth year classes, we're getting credit for our films(which was never done before). That's what the "Film Workshop" class will be focused on. The whole point is to have more time for our films. Also, we're getting a lot of one-on-one time with the faculty/visiting industry people. I'm getting the feeling that this semester is going to serve quite the jolt to my animation. Both Scott(who I had last semester and already did a really great job of kicking the classes' animation butt) and Morgan are animators and the department is working on scheduling other artists from the industry to sit down and critique our work. Character designers, story artist, animators, etc. Seems to be a really great plan, hopefully will mean an awesome semester for everyone.

I've been working out a schedule, getting a list together of the scenes in my film, etc. and during an average week(weekly zoo trip included)--I'll be spending about 40-45 hours per week just on my film. I'll be starting official film animation this weekend...34 scenes to do. 96 days remain until it's all due(April 26th by 4pm to be exact)--I'm aiming to have a first pass on all my animation done by mid-March so I can spend the rest of the time going back and finessing certain scenes. Anyways, it's going to be an intense semester, but I'm ready to dive back into the madness.

Also, to kick off the semester in style and really get everyone into "animation mode" Glen Keane is scheduled for a visit this Friday night! Here are some of my favorite pencil tests that I love to watch:
An animation test of the Beast from Beauty and the Beast:

Glen Keane - rough penciltest - BEAST from Alex Petreski on Vimeo.

And a surprising find---a pencil test from Treasure Planet that was also animated by Glen Keane:

Real quickly--going to share this scene from Rescuers Down Under, which was(at least some parts, I don't think he did the whole thing) story boarded by Glen and then the eagle was Glen's character on this film:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Calm before the storm....

With a new semester about to start, a zoo trip was in order to get back in the groove of things....

Monday, January 4, 2010

Winter Break Summary

Winter Break is wrapping up and I should probably make a post(though it's a long one. Lots of words ahead. Ye be warned.). I start the 600+ mile drive back to Valencia on Thursday and should be right back to working in my cube by the weekend. Being back home has been amazingly relaxing, and I can't believe how ridiculously fast the time has gone by. However, while I'm back home, I haven't taken too much of a hiatus from le film and had a little "lockdown" this past week to make sure I got some work done. I literally had nothing before Christmas, and then starting on the 26th I hunkered down. As of last night at about midnight, I can officially say I'm ready to animate! Which I'm very jazzed about. I still have several other film-related tidbits to attend to, but those can wait til March.

That's some of the work I've done towards the film. Trying to get some color ideas worked out(super simple, nothing "flashy"--and I have no idea what this looks like on other monitors. My Macbook can sometimes be wacky with color.) But like I said, I'll give these types of things more attention in March. Also, as you can tell, that stringy green-bean isn't an elephant. I had a change of film ideas towards the end of November....and I've gone with a completely different character/environment. I actually was developing/boarding this idea and the elephant idea at the same time--and ultimately I chose(with the help of some great critiquers) this lil story. It' s even simpler then the elephant idea and the animatic is coming in at a delightful 2 minutes--with plenty of room for animation. And I can't wait to start moving this lil guy around. Enough film-talk--with only 104 days remaining that's all I'll be talking about in the coming months....

So, just a quick re-cap on last semester. Fall '09 was a very full semester--while I didn't have that many classes and technically I didn't have as much homework as first year or even second year, this semester definitely kept me working some long hours. It has really been more about pushing myself and trying to conquer a lot of artistic hurdles. I've always struggled with drawing in general, and then when it came to animating just about everything was up for a re-do. This year I made sure to leave lots of time for my animation assignments and kept trying to always push-it more--sometimes spending an entire weekend just animating and breaking it apart trying to improve it. Thanks to my animation teacher this year, I definitely feel like I've improved since Sept. which makes me even more eager to get started on my film and apply everything I've learned to this year's moving-picture.
This past semester has also just been interesting from a film standpoint. I've boarded a lot of possible ideas. During the summer I had one floating around, but dropped that one once I realized it was getting out of hand. In late September I had that epic film idea I posted about earlier---obviously after realizing what I was getting into, I had to shelve it and start from scratch in early November. Which eventually led to developing this new idea with the "stickly green-bean" character. In the previous two years, I had a pretty final film idea by the end of the summer. So I certainly had my moments of panic whenever I thought about how "behind" I was compared to the previous years. One thing I do have to comment on is how everyone around me has really had a hand with helping me stick with the goal of "SIMPLE film, with every focus being on the character animation".....both faculty and friends have pitched in and it's really this group that has made this year really awesome/enjoyable--definitely helped keep my head when I would have to start from scratch. So a big thank you to those guys. :)
Otherwise, not much else to say. The semester had its fair share of ups and downs, but overall it was a darn-good time and I'm certainly looking forward to returning for round 2. Just am still dazed at how fast the time is whizzing by, it's very slowly sinking in that I'm graduating. And at the rate this year has gone, it'll be much sooner that I thought...

Well that's pretty much it. A good part of Winter Break has been spent up in my room getting all this film work sorted out. But I did get out, spend lots of time with friends and family, and even do a little drawing at the mall. I also saw Avatar with some friends---as a quick review, I went in with not exactly the highest of expectations and came out of the theater very entranced by the film. While the story has certainly been told before(*cough* Pocahontas. Fern Gully. Atlantis...I like how I went right for animated films. ha *cough*), the visuals set a new bar. The motion capture was really seamless and showed, how in the right hands, it really can avoid uncanny valley(Peter Jackson/WETA team are also fantastic at this. Gollum/King Kong are reigning kings of good mo-cap). Also, the way James Cameron used the camera in 3D was very eye-opening. So fairly cheesy dialog, pretty "safe" storyline, and kind-of stereotypical characters aside....it's a really enjoyable film. I certainly would be up for seeing it again and encourage anyone to go see it.

Can't make a blog post about being home without including Annie. She and Kiwi were my two sidekicks while I was in film lock-down last week. The picture above is literally what she looks like from where I work. This is also the most flattering angle--she looks about 5-10 pounds lighter in this photo. Kiwi and Annie will also be contributing their voices to my film. I got a nice videocamera/recorder for Christmas and have taped a few trademark noises these two are known for making, they'll probably be mixed quite a bit in the final sound track...but they're there.

This photo just makes me laugh. It was taken on the very first day I was back. I had gone outside to grab the last bags from my car and as I rounded the corner to go upstairs, this greeted me. A very classic Annie sighting.
Well, this post is long enough. I hope everyone had a Happy Holiday/Merry Christmas and are off to a good New Year. Until the new semester starts...ta ta for now.