Monday, April 28, 2008

Fallen Art - Baginski

Stay with me folks. My class this months end Wednesday. We're almost back into sanity and with it, new comics. Just a few more days.

Today's Featured Animation is "Fallen Art" by Baginski. You can find the official website here.
In today's feature animaton world, it's rare that you get anything that's not kid friendly. "Fallen Art" is certainly not that - I'd say it falls in the realm of 'dark comedy'. Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rejected - Don Hertzfeldt

I'm really sorry. I truly am. I WANT to make a comic, but this month is just killing me with school work. I know when I say "Don't worry - comics will come back as soon as possible" you may be skeptical. After all, I don't have the best track record with this sort of thing. However, I really do plan on coming back with more comics. Just... after this hectic class thing is over with.

In the meantime, I'll share another hand picked Featured Animation. Many of you may have seen this before, but I doubt that those who have seen it will mind seeing it again. But since you don't come here for looking for just the same old stuff, here's some information that you might not know. Rejected, by Don Hertzfeldt, was released in 2000. Although it has the feel of something made for the internet masses, it actually won quite a few film festival awards, and was nominated for a 2001 Academy Award for Best Animated Short.

No joke. It's an Oscar nominated film. It's also been described by some as the "A Hard Day's Night" of our generation.

It's a little risque, as far as things I post on this blog goes, so be careful as the audio in particular isn't necessarily safe for work (ANSFW - the "A" is for Audio). You can find Hertzfeldt's website here. And now, "Rejected".

Since you did come here for a comic there is a bit of new Wheezy comic work floating around the internet today. In another collaboration with Enliv, today's comic by Kevin Chibar was a concept written by yours truly. Go check it out.

Monday, April 21, 2008


So I'm a little off my game this month. Kinda hectic classes going on. So this week we're pulling another switcher-oo. Featured Animation today, comic on Thursday. Thanks for understanding.

Today's featured animation is more of a featured animation company, Animusic. This company, started by Wayne Lytle, is unique in that they don't animate their zany computer generated instruments by hand. Instead, they create fanciful and original instruments that are then animated by music they write themselves. In essence, the music drives the animation automatically, without the need for a person to hand animate to a music track. Pretty innovative and cool.

Today I've embedded "Resonance Chamber", but if you just type "Animusic" into YouTube you'll find a ton of these things. They also have quite a few DVD's available at your nearest Best Buy. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Vincent - Tim Burton and Rick Heinrichs

Last week I shared "9" by Shane Acker, a short film that is being turned into a full length feature film by Tim Burton. This week I'm sharing some of Tim's (that's right, we're close) early work.

This short stop motion film "Vincent" was made by Tim Burton in 1982 with the animating talents of Rick Heinrichs. Even that early in Burton's career, he had a very distinctive style. "Tim Burton-y", I think would be the best way to describe it.

Here's a little Tim Burton trivia for ya. Burton used to be a Disney Animator. Not surprisingly, he didn't get much of his character design stuff in until after he left Disney to work on his own projects. I dunno how well a Jack Skellington type would have fit in with Bambi's mom.

And now - Vincent.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Coco the Dog - Explained

I imagine that most of you have heard of the long standing comic strip "Marmaduke." Somewhat dated, but certainly one of the most popular comic strips of all time, Marmaduke has developed something of a cult following at a blog called "Marmaduke Explained". That site provides the extremely useful and hilarious service of explaining exactly what is happening in a given Marmaduke strip in layman's terms, in case you didn't understand the, typically obvious, premise of the gag.

Check it out. It's good for a few (not always family friendly) laughs.

My boy Ross pointed out that blog to me a few months back, and in tribute to Ross and his dog Coco, I am proud to present "Coco The Dog."

If you'd like, please leave your own custom "explanation" in the comments. Fan mail for "Coco the Dog" can be sent to:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

AD isn't coming back, is it?

Have any of you ever been involved in some sort of Nielsen Media Research? This is the company that decides what shows get made, and as far as I know they're in charge of figuring out ratings once a show has been put on the air.

I've been involved in some form of their data collection twice. The first experience I had was with Ross, Maggie, and emily while we were in Vegas. We saw a sign for "Free Starbucks to Watch TV!", which, of course, I immediately decided was a good idea.

Turns out I was wrong. The girls didn't fit the demographic they were looking for, so they we subjected to a rerun of "The Biggest Loser" while Ross and I were subjected to the pilot for "Blade: The Series."

I think the emily and Maggie got the better end of that deal.

Not only that, but the "Free Starbucks" was a coupon for $2 off any single purchase - which means that we might have been able to get a cup of water.

Well recently while I was at the mall getting my laptop taken care of, I was pulled aside and offered $20 to do the same thing. Apparently I rarely learn from my mistakes because I immediately accepted the offer, and bore witness to yet another pilot. The following comic is based on those events.

No joke. Jurassic Fight Club. To make a long story short, I gave it a thumbs down. If it manages to get on the air, remember today's post.

Did I mention that "Blade: The Series" was canceled?

My boy Mueller has a post with his opinions on the WNBA. You could go check it out.

Monday, April 07, 2008

9 - Shane Acker

Facebook readers, click here to be able to see today's Featured Animation

Ok, I know I promised you a comic today, but unfortunately my laptop is still in the shop. I won't go into the details, but I am having something bothersome fixed with regards to the screen, and Apple hasn't given it back to me yet. So blame them.

Anyway, this week we're going to pretend Monday is Thursday and Thursday is Monday. This, of course, means today you get another featured animation! (And if your boss is on board with the whole switch-a-roo concept you'll have Wednesday off.)

"9" is a short film by Shane Acker that was released in 2005. It won a boat load of awards (see the full list on Acker's website), and was nominated for an Oscar for best animated short. Acker worked on the film part time for approximately 4 and a half years. During a portion of that time he was also working at WETA on a little movie called Return of the King, animating Mumakils, among other things.

From an interview in 2005:

"Technically I think the biggest hurdle I encountered, as silly as it may sound, was trying to get 9's zipper teeth to behave! In the end I had to do a lot of hand animation tweaks to wrangle it back in order. Its funny how you can obsess over the smallest of details. That's why I think animators are all insane!"

It's about 10 minutes long, but if you don't have the time right now make sure and come back later to check it out. Although the story itself is rather simplistic, the style and sound effects are fantastic. "9" has been picked up by Focus Features and is being made into a full length film by none other than Tim Burton (not to mention quite a bit of voice talent from the likes of Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, and Elijah Wood). It's currently scheduled to be released in December of this year.

Again, sorry for the comic delay. Come back Thursday for a nice short 10 second chunk of visual entertainment. Or if you didn't catch last week's featured animation, make sure and see it. It's about 20 seconds, and, in my humble opinion, worth your time.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

A Tennis Game - Jose Estrella and Dan Weiland

Facebook readers, click here to be able to see today's Featured Animation.

It's Thursday, and of course that means that you get another featured animation from around the world. And since I just finished up my Animation Production class, today's featured animation is from none other than yours truly.

For our class this month, we worked in teams of two to create a short (extremely short) tennis match. Each person was to animate two shots, the first animating the serve and one return, and the other person animating two returns. All of the models, rigs and textures were provided for us, we were to concentrate on just the animations.

"Two tennis shots? That's like... 4 seconds Dan. Tops. Sounds pretty easy."

Well it's not exactly Toy Story, but we were to try and make these animations look as close to "production quality" as possible. We weren't going for absolute realism, just something that's believable and entertaining to watch. Also, if we wanted to be an "Animator" for our demo reel, we needed to score a 90% or better in this class. So the pressure's on.

"Ok enough yammering. Let's see some animation!"

Woah there bud. Not so fast. First, we start with some real life reference. This will be used as a starting point for our animation. Here are the references for my two shots.

After we do some rough thumb nails (hand sketched storyboard type things) of what we think the action will be like, we go into our first animation pass. This early on, we basically block in the important poses, just enough to "tell the story."

At this point we're trying to match poses between the real life reference and our scene.
Here's a few screen grabs for comparison.

Continuing on from there, we'll block in some of the "in betweens" - basically filling in the gaps and hammering out the details of what's going to happen.

Keep in mind, at this point the animation is just skipping from pose to pose. Even though it might look somewhat "fluid" it's just a slide show. Your mind is filling in the gaps. Between that pass and the final animation the computer will fill in some of those gaps, although I'll have to make a lot of adjustments to the way it does things to make it look better than just moving from point A to point B.

At this point in my animation career, it's very much trial and error. If something doesn't look right, you tweak it a little bit, try to find a better pose, and create another quick "playblast" (real time video to see the animation as it will look full speed), and assess if the changes you made are working or not. After any series of changes I'd make another video like this one, then watch to see if what I had done made things better or worse.

As the animation progresses, you start to move away from the reference a little bit, exaggerating certain areas and completely overhauling others. For example, in the Andy Roddick reference he kind of shorts the shot - he was in too close to the ball - so when he swings his arm is kind of crammed up against his body. In my animation, I chose to pull his arm out further away from his body so that it would look like a more powerful swing. That's just one example of the many eventually differences between the reference and my final scenes.

Also for this final pass, I have to go in and tweak all of the different animation curves. For this particular model, there were approximately 20 different controls (elbows, hands, feet, hips, etc), each with anywhere from 6 to 20 different variables that could be adjusted for any moment in time (translate x, y, z, rotate x, y, z, etc.) In the Graph Editor, you go into each curve and smooth out things, adjust the timing, add or remove keyframes, and so on. Here's a picture of all of the curves for each of the two shots.

You can isolate the different curves of course, and zoom in and out to concentrate on particular areas. I'm not working with that mess as is!

All of that leads to the final animation. There's certainly more to be done here, (there's no facial animation for example), but with the time constraints of the class this was where I had to leave it.

Once the animation was finalized, I rendered out the final image. This is when all the textures are applied and and motion blur is added (to make things FEEL faster). Each frame (at 24 frames per second) took about 5 minutes to render. To give you an idea of how simple this is, one frame of Transformers, if rendered on a single machine, would take 38 hours.

That's why they use more than just a single Macbook Pro for rendering over at ILM.

Once my partner and I had rendered out our separate scenes, we combined them to form "A Tennis Game." Enjoy!!

(Jose animated the blue tennis player, while I animated the red clad guy).

So that's it. A combined two months of work for 18 seconds, most of which was credits or titles. Still, I really enjoyed working on it, and hopefully you found the breakdown of the process at least a little interesting.

If you just came here just wanting a comic, come back Monday. I'll have one for ya. But in the meantime, the boys over at Enliv have switched to a Monday / Thursday schedule. What's today again...?