Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Adam's Rib

Some excellent and powerful acting in a sequence from "Adam's Rib", starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. First 5 minutes is some of the best stuff.

Book by Miyazaki, you should buy it. Starting Point: 1979-1996 (9781421505947): Hayao Miyazaki: Books

Buy this book. I'm going to, and I haven't even read it yet... Here's a quote that hit me posted by Mayerson on his blog...

I like the expression "lost possibilities." To be born means being compelled to choose an era, a place, and a life. To exist here, now, means to lose the possibility of being countless other potential selves. For example, I might have been the captain of a pirate ship, sailing with a lovely princess by my side. It means giving up this universe, giving up other potential selves. There are selves which are lost possibilities, and selves that could have been, and this is not limited just to us but to the people around us and even to Japan itself.

Yet once born,there is no turning back. And I think that's exactly why the fantasy worlds of cartoon movies so strongly represent our hopes and yearnings. They illustrate a world of lost possibilities for us. And in this sense I think that the animation we see today often lacks the vitality of older cartoon movies. Economic constraints in production are often said to be the main reason, but it seems to me that something spiritual is also missing. It would be stupid to turn my back on the times in which we live and act arrogrant about it all, but I always find myself thinking that the old cartoon movies were indeed more interesting and exciting that we have today.
I've always had this thought, and yet Miyazaki NAILED it. Have you ever thought about every bit of possibility and potential you have left behind? I have. I could have gone into the military, I could have become a politician with aspirations for the presidency, I could have started an indy band and become the next big thing (for a little while), I could have gone into culinary arts and become a restaurant owner, I could have been born 50 years ago and been a scientist, I could have been born 100 years from now and gone out in the first mission to deep space... The possibilities were limitless, and, out of my own choices and the parameters set around me, I have endeavored to pursue the art of animation, in order to birth these worlds and present them to others to see. Whenever I tell a story, it's a little bit about me, and thankfully, I'm satisfied with that prospect, despite all the lost potential for greatness in other areas. Can you speak with the same satisfaction and resolution?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Delays, delays.

Sorry I haven't posted in a while, hopefully once I get into the rhythm of classes again I'll hopefully be able to get into a better posting schedule.

I'll go ahead and post a raw vid from my drawing trips. It is an epic duck fight.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Quotes, and words from the wise...

Great art can't be made without making rules and limitations
-- Andrew Stanton (quote from Spline Cast interview)

The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.
-- Orson Welles

I feel like its our job is to know better, than the audience, what they want.
-- Andrew Stanton (quote from Spline Cast interview)

So I'm a fan of finding some good quotes whenever I can... Recently I've been listening to all of the Spline Doctor's podcasts, and they are good stuff, really. Their interviews have been some of my driving inspiration as of late. One of the most cutting ones was a quote from Brad Bird:

"To animate means to give the appearance of life, and you can’t create the illusion of life if you haven’t lived one."

It's tough being an animation student. You struggle from some of the toughest of things to learn about: there are really no "secrets" to animation. You either know how to do it, or (more importantly) how to learn how to do it, or you can't do it at all. The important thing is being a constant learner, something that isn't stressed enough anywhere. You never stop learning in any field, and animation is no exception. For instance, think about how many ways one could pick up a fork. A simple act, no? But that person could be upset, so would he pick it up, hands shaking with fury? What changes that from hands shaking in fear? What if he is bawling? Wouldn't his hands shake too in that situation? What makes each of those different?

Animation is such an intense study of subject matter: You can't just know the technical side of squash and stretch, and all the principal's of animation from the Illusion of Life... You need to have your eye's open recording everything around you constantly. I've noticed something recently: I don't hang out with people anymore, and if I do, I'm talking about animation. If I'm not talking, I'm watching the subtle cues of body language and taking it in as if it was a fine wine. I don't play video games anymore JUST for enjoyment, I do it to observe the story telling practices (A good example is Braid. The storytelling in that is brilliant). Learning the bouncing ball isn't enough. Learning the walk cycle isn't enough. Learning what makes things tick is what is important. Looking at the way someone swaggers is what is important. Observing the way people talk is the true secret to learning animation. The technical side of everything comes with time and patience. The hard part is observation and learning. In order to be an animator, you can't just be an animator. You have to be...

A Scientist - To study how things happen, and observe things through experimentation.

An Actor - To understand the methods of evoking emotion, and expressing it to the audience.

A Storyteller - To understand the methods of delivery, in order to tell the most effective story.

A Musician - To understand the painstaking process of rhythm and timing.

A Designer - To understand the points of composition, and what makes good compositions.

A Filmmaker - To understand film language, and cues to the audience.

A Linguist - To understand the rules of social interaction and speech.

And almost any other field applies. As an animator, you simply cannot know too much: you ALWAYS know too little. That's why its important to be able to practice finding resources. That's why youtube is one of the greatest inventions known to the modern animator: almost limitless resources for the taking, reference footage for almost whatever you need! And for a small cost of a digital camera, you can record your own references, cheaply and easily. Animator's now have more resources than ever. And yet, sadly, I have seen nothing as great as an accomplishment as what Frank Thomas did in Pinocchio. This is borrowed from Michael Sporn's Animation Blog. I'd suggest you read his full post, along with all the images on it... It's magical stuff that Frank Thomas accomplished. I'd also watch Pinocchio if you have the chance, they did a rerelease of it with some great featurettes on the old days with Walt.

Hope you other animator's find this inspiring, or interesting, or at the very least informational. All other readers, I hope you learn to appreciate what a fine and intricate art that animation is. Animation is the illusion of life, and that is one of the hardest things to master.

My next editorial will be on advise from peers, professors, and industry people.

Friday, March 13, 2009

10 Things They Don't Teach You in Design School (Link)

A friend of mine, Kevin Trehan, put this article on advice for designers up on Twitter. Good find Kevin!

Good advice even if you aren't doing design, but are in the creative field.

SuperGo! by Alex Butera, Lindsay Small (Video Link)

Somehow this student film charms me exponentially every time I watch it.
Created by Lindsay Small and Alex Butera. Enjoy!

Git Gob by Phillip Eddolls (Video Link)

Somehow this little story charms the soul. Here is the synopsis: In this animated short, two creatures wonder, “What is a hole?” They have different points of view. Their debate leads to an idea, an idea that changes the world.

Article and interview about it here.

Happy Up Here by Reuben Sutherland (Video link)

This trippy music video gets me moving some days. Good music too.

Happy Up Here from Röyksopp on Vimeo.

Please Say Something by David OReilly(Video Link)

This film won the Golden Bear for best short at the 2009 Berlinale, created by David OReilly.
Prepare yourself for one of the most unorthodox of storytelling methods. The film consists of 23 episodes, 25 seconds in length, telling the dramatic tale of a cat and mouse in love in a distant future setting. Watch, digest, and enjoy! It is unorthodox, but heartwarming and excellent in storytelling. Hope you find it inspiring and enjoyable! I've seriously watched this 5 or 10 times... Trying to catch everything. *Note* some coarse dialogue, if this offends you do not watch.

Please Say Something - Full Length from David OReilly on Vimeo.

Links for Animators

Just in case any readers don't already check out these sites, these are all excellent for animators, or CG or entertainment in general. Or enthusiasts. Enjoy!

Animation World Network
Excellent news source for the animation industry. Excellent forums and careers page as well.

The Animation Guild Blog
An excellent way to keep up with the industry, this site is posted by the animation union. The author makes frequent visits to many of the local industry companies, allowing for a decent amount of insider info. Also gives a close glimpse of the industry, as many comments are posted by animators.

11 Second Club
Essential for novice animator, this site posts a challenge each month to animate an 11 second audio clip, and the winner receives a professional video critique on the animation as a prize. Forums are very active, and the resources page has some excellent rigs up for free, for Maya, 3DS Max, Blender, and SoftimageXSI. Indispensable website.

Cartoon Brew
One of the best blog sites out there, Cartoon Brew provides many links for animation info, as well as excellent videos for inspiration.

Drawn! The Illustration and Cartooning Blog
Great blog for... well illustration and cartooning. Many videos posted frequently.

Great site for videos and articles, all about animation.

Mayerson on Animation

A critical but well written blog by a veteran animator and instructor, all about the mechanics and fine art of animation. Excellent articles. Definitely a good site to check out frequently, particularly for his analytical articles.

Keith Lango Animation
Keith Lango has many critiques and tutorials for animation, as well as an APT (Animation Personal Trainer) service. Great posts very frequently, all examining aspects of animation. Read and watch all of his tutorials and videos! They hold a wealth of valuable information.

Victor Navone's Online Gallery Blog (VNOG Blog)
Victor Navone is a Pixar animator, and although he posts infrequently, his work is good to look through, and he regularly posts excellent articles in relation to animation techniques and concepts.

This is the student organization I've recently become a part of. Our goals entail collaborating with fellow students to enhance our education in any field towards the creative ends (i.e. 2D, 3D, Animation, Web, and almost any New Media field). The blog has many posts about the group, as well many video links. Frequently updated.

Hope these help my fellow animators and enthusiasts! Most of these have RSS feeds, so they are all rather convenient websites.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How I got started doing this whole "art" thing.

I've noticed it to be a common theme amongst most professors to have as an assignment "Write about how you decided on your major.", or something to that effect. Many people ask me, "How did you get started on art and animation?". Well... Here's my origin story. Here is the story of how I got bitten by the radioactive pencil.

I've always been a fan of animation and the drawn work... I was huge manga reader in high school, along with anime (I partook in many a fansub in my time). Something about the entertainment caught me better than anything else... I loved my fair share of animated films as well, particularly those from the wonderkinds at Pixar, and of course I watched my fair share of Saturday morning cartoon

s (Genndy Tartakovsky is of particular note). None of that gelled into me wanting to draw it though.

I have ALWAYS had a creative urge, from reenacting dramatic scenes as a child with stuffed animals, to building tremendous structures with legos, to constructing battlefields out of little more than twine, paper, and scotch tape. I was a HUGE fan of the Lion King, did some tracings of those, but for the most part, it was nothing big. At one point, I was taking art lessons while home-schooled, with a Mrs. Whetstone, through whom I learned the basics of drawing. This was the beginning, but I didn't really have a passion for it at the time. It was just I think I did, another thing I was good at.

I did doodles at the time, but they were simple, rudimentary... They were poor imitations of what I saw. And I wasn't that serious about them. Then one, magical day, I was reading one of my manga... Crescent Moon, by Haruko Iida, published by Tokyopop in 2000. Most likely, you have NEVER read or heard of this one.

Now, I know there are a lot of naysayers over the manga style, but honestly, despite whatever complaints or arguments you may have over the artform, you cannot deny that the following page is a work of art. (Or at least something that the artist slaved over for hours.)

There was something particularly stunning about this page that caught my attention... The intense nature of motion that you can see clearly depicted in this page. And most of the pages in the manga are like this, intensely detailed and heavily worked on, each a work of art and storytelling combined in a seemingly effortless fashion.

At any rate, just the way it was depicted, how an artist could make something as still as lines on a paper seem to be alive and move? This astounded me. I had never had that come to mind as being possible before. I was stunned. And I wanted to know more.

Naturally, I drew work of my own. It was... well they were all VERY rudimentary. But it was around then that a sketchbook was always in my possession. Something that all creatives should do: keep a notebook or sketchpad with you at ALL times. At the very instant a half-way decent idea pops in your head, you will have something to solidify it for all time. Honestly, the tiny one I have is about 3 bucks. I think you can afford it. Anyways... Here is some of my work from those days... Just so you know this is from... about 4-5 years ago, before any really firm study in the true art of drawing. Just a warning. They aren't that good. Okay. Here we go.

Yep, I was one of them anime freaks who could ONLY draw this style. Thankfully, somewhere along the line I saw/was told/discovered that learning to draw this way, although fun and offers quick easy results to feel proud of, completely and utterly destroys your actual abilities to draw. Sorry, but its true, it stunts your growth as an artist. That's why currently whenever I sketch a page of cartoony characters, they span an infinite variety of art styles, all attempting to be different from the next. I don't like getting into ruts, and the anime style is a dangerous but alluring one. End rant.

Anyways, I eventually came under the tutelage of a good fine arts teacher, Theresa Wisehart, and then the results turned rather beautiful rather quickly. Although, I must say that a lot of this all stems from a good and simple piece of advice that was directed to me by Mrs. Whetstone.

"Draw what you see."

Yup, simple, but it was extremely helpful and it actually is excellent guidance. NEVER draw what you know (at least at first), because what you know is rusty and tainted. If you first can draw what you see, then what you see in your head will make its way to the paper. But almost never will you be able to do the reverse. There are always exceptions to the rule, but I will say for most, do NOT draw what you think an object looks like. Draw what the object looks like by having it before you. The first one of the following was a still-life. The others were developed from using references.

So here is a simple still life. Nothing too fancy, but this was one of the weirdest perspective challenges I ever faced. And somehow, I made it work.

Over here is an Escher inspired work. This was done mostly developed from my head, but the key reference I used was a looking glass ball, that I used to analyze how light reflects on a curved surface. If you have never done this before and would like a good challenge as an illustrator, trust me. Grab a mirrored ball, and have the time of your life trying to wrap your head around the patterns of reflection. Particularly when you have objects reflecting upon other objects that reflect upon themselves. It gets confusing. Really quickly.

This last one was mostly developed by me staring at my hands. A lot. It gets really frustrating when your model is your drawing hand, which is why cameras are of the essence. Yup, I know, crazy stuff.

So yeah, draw what you see. Most definitely. But from here... Well basically my enchantment with drawing progressed from here to the comic book form. I decided, well, since I really liked the moving stuff, I liked telling stories, and the fine arts thing... Well, it gets too weird for me sometimes. I've co-developed a really good practicing method for comic art, alongside a friend, Travis, in which basically I'd ask him to tell me a random story idea, and a number. The story idea would have to be worked into that many number of frames. Eventually, this developed into a simple challenge. Either...
A. Take a complicated story, and tell it in 3-5 frames.
B. Take an obscenely simple story, and tell it in 15+ frames.
First assignment was the sinking of the Titanic in 5. Not too hard. A samurai fighting a crocodile in 3. Really difficult. A person eating an apple in 15 frames... This is getting kinda tough (trust me, try to figure out how to make THAT an interesting story, and draw it). Eventually, if you actually do this sort of practice, ideas and concepts to develop and embellish stories come really quickly to you.

The comic art form was fun, but eventually my interest in making things move drifted into the animated sector. From there... Well first I muddled with 2D, I dabbled in stop-motion, and then quickly became enchanted in 3D. My teacher through all of that was Danni Brayer, and excellent graphics instructor, under who's guidance I met my most improvement. Everything basically hit the fast track then, and after spending hours slaving away on a light table, I knew that this meticulous labor of love was my passion.

That's my story in a nutshell. Eventually I'll post a few animations that I've done for you guys, but hope you'll enjoy what's here thus far. And... I'll post something that I never got finished, but was proud that I even tried to do this: a short little animation about a dog and an alien. Took me over 80 hours of work during senior year in about 2 or 3 weeks. I never kept good track of the work time.
My tools? Pencil, Animation Paper, Light table, Scanner. That's it. I also used Premiere to make the frames a video, but for the most part... Yeah. Basic, rudimentary, old school.
Maybe at some point I'll put it to music, but there isn't any sound, and I apologize for the hilarious frame gap that happens midpoint. Maybe someday I'll return to this, but I'll probably redo the whole entire short.

One thing I will leave you with is a few good books to read. Any of Scott McCloud's books are excellent for comic or graphic novel artist. Even if you aren't, you probably should read it anyway, because it will challenge you to think more about what you do already. The Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston is a must read if you are an animator, along with the Animator's Survival Kit by Richard Williams. If you look up to Pixar's work to be inspired, I'd definitely watch the Pixar Story, a documentary that you can find nestled in the special features on the DVD of WallE, and then also read The Pixar Touch by David A. Price. That, and read and absorb and observe EVERY piece of artwork you can get your hands on. Be literally drenched in the stuff. Even if you hate the art style, still, study and observe the thing to death. Anyways, hope this answers the question for how I started into this whole shindig.

Oh, and interesting trivia bit: my full name? Nathaniel Arthur Moody. "Art", in fact, IS my middle name.