Thursday, February 28, 2008

Creature Comforts - Aardman Animation

Did anybody watch the Academy Awards on Sunday?

Well, despite being what some would call a movie enthusiast, I almost never watch the Academy Awards. I find most of it to be pretty boring, with the occasional exception of a Will Farrel / Jack Black moment, so I typically just check the winners the following day and wait for any funny bits to be filtered through the internet comedy colander that is MM.

This year, I thought that I would post the Academy Winning short here on the blog. "Peter and the Wolf" by Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman won this year, and it's definitely worth a watch. However, since it's 30 minutes in length, I'll let you catch that some other time. You can find it here.

What's intriguing about this years winner is that it taps into another form of animation I haven't show on the ol' blog yet - claymation. Essentially this is what most people call "stop motion animation". You place a character, snap a shot, move it a little bit, snap another shot, move it a little bit.. etc. Difficult and time consuming stuff (like most animation I suppose).

One animation studio that has specialized in this type of animation for quite some time is Aardman Animation Ltd. You've probably seen some of their stuff. Examples of their feature films include Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run, and Flushed Away, just to name a few. In 1989, they won an Oscar in the Best Animated Short Film category for their claymation, "Creature Comforts." The animation appears to be a series of interviews with animals at a zoo, however in actuality these responses were taken from people living in low incoming housing and retirement homes, as well as one family residing in a local store somewhere in Britain. So as always with anything Academy Award related, there's a bit of social commentary in there too. Enjoy!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Mustachioed Machismo

After the initial unveiling of the "Dan" character, I had a pretty good response from my readership. I started incorporating him in my comics more often, eventually phasing out the "Chad" character altogether.

Turns out there was a reason that I used Chad instead of trying to draw myself when this all started. He was easy to draw. "Dan" on the otherhand, was/is not. Initially I tried to redraw Dan every week so I would eventually become proficient, but as you can see by exhibits "A", "B", and especially "C", I wasn't getting the best results.

So I started cutting and pasting the "Dan" from previous comics instead of drawing him every week. I have to imagine this is frowned upon in the cartooning world, (it definitely is if you want to improve as an artist) but I'm certainly not the only one who occasionally falls into this bad habit.

At any rate, after my laptop died last week, I realized that I had lost all of my previous comic work - and thus, I didn't have my "cut and paste" crutch to lean on.

Relearning to draw myself was ... troublesome.

Thanks again to Mr. Mueller for helping me hash out the details of the comic this week.

Also, for those interested in Apple's customer support, I took my busted laptop into the Apple store on Saturday, and by Thursday morning I had a package containing my fixed laptop in my hands. Not too shabby.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pyrats - Gobelins l'école de l'image Students

It's Thursday, and time for an animation from the wide world of ... well, animation.

Today's is another student film,"Pyrats", by a group of five from the Gobelins l'école de l'image school in Paris, France. "Pyrats" was made as an opening short for the Annecy 2006 International Animation Festival. According to the students' website, it was completed in 7 months, including the screenplay, storyboard and designs.

This is a 2D animation for the most part, although apparently some Flash as well as Maya was used to help out with certain elements. And we all know how much I love Flash.

The fluidity of the animation just astounds me, and the camera cuts which follow the action from person to person are just, well... cool. From the technical side of animation everything is really well done, and not only that, it's entertaining to boot. Enjoy!

"Pyrats" - By: Yves Bigerel , Bruno Dequier, Ben Fiquet, Nicolas Gueroux, and Julien Le Rolland

Facebook users and feed readers - click here to see today's video.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Of Macs and Men

My laptop died on Saturday. The fella at the Apple "Genius Bar" tells me it's my hard drive, I can't recover anything, and I'll be without laptop for about a week. It kinda felt like he was punching me in the stomach when I heard the news.

As far as gut checks go though, he was pretty cordial about the whole thing.

Fortunately, I only lost a few files that were "mission critical" for classes on Monday, and they were something that could be redone in a day. In that respect, I consider myself extremely lucky. I did lose quite a few files I would have rather held on to (like the original Photoshop files these comics y'all enjoy and my school work from the last year) - but all in all, things could have been worse.

On the bright side, I get a free upgrade to Leopard, whose features might come in handy. And from this tragedy I feel like a decent comic has been born, if I do say so myself.

Have a good week everybody. May your data stay undamaged and accessible to you in the coming months.

Thanks to Mr. Curry for letting me borrow his laptop in the interim.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Gentleman's Duel - Blur Studio

Today's animation is from a studio that is somewhat beneath mainstream radar when it comes to computer animation. California based Blur Studio does work mostly for television, so unless you're one of those people, you've seen at least some of their work whether you know it or not.

Recognize this guy?

He's the dancing robot near the front of the screen on the FOX NFL broadcasts. Blur Studio was responsible for that.

But I'm not going to link you to a commercial, Blur also does animation shorts such as the one I'm sharing today, "A Gentleman's Duel." Thanks to Mr. Fenley for pointing this out to me a while back.

See what I did there? romance AND robots in the video. Neatly tying together that dancing FOX thing and Valentine's Day.

Man I'm good.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Job Really Well Done

Friday marked a fairly significant day in the life of the Weilands. While I have been documenting my journey learning a craft and finding a career on this very blog, my parents have been closing out their own careers and moving on to a life without alarm clocks.

On February 8th, 2008, my Dad retired from his management position at JCPenney. For my entire life and longer both Mom and Dad have been working at JCPenney, going along my idiotic Christmas wish lists as well as my life changing decisions with love and support, and I couldn't have asked for better parents. Now they can just kick back and relax.

I guess some other things happened in the news on Friday too, but I haven't really been keeping up. Doubt it was anything important.

Happy Retirement Dad. Love you.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Doll Face by Andrew Huang

So far in the Why Not Animation Thursday, we've done big studio funny 3D stuff (The ChubbChubbs! by Sony Animation) and some independent funny 2D stuff (Cat Man Do by Simon Tofield).

Today I'm going to share an animation that focused more on social commentary than straight comedy. "Doll Face" is a student made animation that garnered quite a bit of acclaim when Andrew Huang released the short in 2006. Andrew had this to say about his inspiration:

"My concept for 'Doll Face' stemmed from a series of drawings and paintings I did in high school that focused on robotic yet organic tree-like bodies. Some of my early artistic influences include musicians Björk and Radiohead, as well as artists and directors Chris Cunningham, Eiko Ishioka and Jan Svankmajer. I loved watching music videos and films that seamlessly fused actors with CG makeup/effects (for instance Björk’s 'Hunter' video or the makeup effects in The Cell) and I knew I wanted to direct a short film that incorporated that same kind of CG interaction."

In this short, Andrew fused real life acting with his mechanical CG elements through hand done compositing. This is essentially the equivalent of Photoshopping somebody's face onto somebody else's body, but over and over again for each frame in the video, at 24 frames per second, for about 3 minutes. Painstaking work - but I feel like the final product justifies the effort. Enjoy!

For more on the "making of", check out the rest of the interview with Andrew at AnimWatch.

Facebook readers, click here to see the embedded video.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The New Chivalry

–noun, plural -men.
1. a man of good family, breeding, or social position.
2. a civilized, educated, sensitive, or well-mannered man: He behaved like a true gentleman.
3. a man of good social standing, as a noble or an armigerous commoner.

Hey - make sure you check out my friends Johnny and Kevin's joint web comic and comic art site here. That's thrice the home grown web comic goodness every Monday!