Thursday, September 20, 2007

Animation Mentor-The Story so far; The abridged version

Animation Mentor - lot of work, but I love it!


Animation Mentor....The Story so far

So, i've just completed Class 3 of Animation Mentor, but I don't want to put my work up just yet because it's not really finished and I'm a little embaressed by it :(

Don't get me wrong, I don't think it's rubbish or anything, I'm actually quite pleased with the standard of it, I'm just not happy to post something that I haven't finished polishing yet. Trouble is, it's the same with all the shots I've had so far :(

Class 1 was pretty straight-forward, The Foundations of Animation, as my old-Lecturer and now good friend Chris Webster said, if I did have any trouble with that stuff, I may as well pack up and go home now....bless him. As it was, it went fine....the hardest part was adapting to animating with Maya after nearly a decade of on and off animating with Max, but after a few days it felt like second nature. My mentor was Ryan Donoghue who works at Rhythm & Hues ( and used to work on!) He was great, really good attitude, nice guy, super talented animator. I hit a a bit of a rough spot at the end when it came to animating a walk, which bugged me a bit because when I worked in games, I thought walks were one of my stronger areas. I was in a great class, had to get up every Friday at 4am for my Q&As but that was cool, my son was 6 months old so any sleep at all was a bonus in those days....I bet Mr. Rees would agree with me there :) The other good thing about Class 1 was that it slotted in nicely to my work schedule. It kicked off in July and finished 1st week of October, which meant that I had no students and also had a 5 week Summer of the perks of working as a College Lecturer :)

Class 2 was Body Mechanics. Started great, cool little rig, just a ball with legs and had to do a side-step animation. My Mentor for Class 2 was Michelle Meeker who at the time was a Lecturer at UCLA and had worked at PDI on Shrek, Weta Digital on Lord of The Rings and at Pixar on Geri's Game and the THX ad with the Robot and the Cow Can. She was great, used to have some great Q&A sessions with her, felt a bit sorry for her sometimes as my class was full of guys and she was the only female, but she more than held her own. Plus my Q&As were at 7pm GMT so that meant I actually was getting some sleep. 'Course now I was back in school full-time, which is 9-4 which sounds pretty easy, but the amount of 'after-hours' work that you have to put in is phenomenal, so I was trying to fit in full-time work, some quality family-time with Kel and the little un' and then start AM about 9pm and work until 1-2am every night. I wasn't complaining tho'...I kind of knew it was going to be like that when I signed up and at the end of the day I was animating which I don't get to do as much of as I'd like these days. I did an animation of Stewie jumping across some poles and Stu pulling a heavy box, which were ok but I just haven't had time to really apply some quality polish too. They're really close to being finished actually, they just need a really good 'adding the sauce' pass. I took a break after Class 2, wanted to spend some time with some family members who were ill and have now passed away, so I'm very glad that I did.

So Class 3...Intro to Acting, the main reason that I wanted to do Animation Mentor. I worked in games for a few years after graduating from Art College, but have never worked in Features and haven't really done much animation that involved any 'acting' as such. I really missed AM while I was off, the whole community thing was great and although I kept in touch with a lot of the guys from my class, it wasn't the same. Features is where I'd like to be at some point of my career. Class 3 has been wicked. learnt an absolute shed-load. My mentor was Kevin Koch, who worked at Dreamworks for years, originally as a Traditional Animator on films like Road to Eldorado and now as a CG Animator on films like Madagascar and Over the Hedge. He was a great mentor, very inspiring, on of those guys who you can just tell that he knows what he's talking about. Very harsh bit fair critiques. I experimented with some different working methods, tried working with Copied Pairs on the Pantomime project and then working stepped on the dialogue with my key-poses on successive frames before timing it out. My first hand-in was disasterous, Kevin ripped me a new one (in a very nice way tho'). He was absolutley right with what he said, there wasn't enough information in the blocking. Looking back I approached it a bit naively and rushed it last minute, mainly because of the lack of time I had to spend on it.
Then I had a major panic attack when it came to splining it, I don't know what the hell was the matter with me but I just didn't know where to start and when I turned everything to flat tangents all the animation just went mushy and, well, shite! Mr. Rees was a big help tho' and talked me out of jacking this whole animation thing in (Thanks bud!)

So my dialogue shot went much better, the blocking and everything was a great improvement over my pantomime shot. It just bugs me that I have about 3 to 4 hours a night to spend on it. I start to get a bit knackered after 12 o'clock and no amount of coffee can get me going at that time of night. Kel actually found me asleep in front of the computer one night..cliched I know but it happened, there was drool and everything! It isn't finished yet, it just needs a really good polish pass and then we're starting on the facial stuff at the beginning of Class 4. I have learnt a ton this class, but I've also learnt (and been told, thanks Kevin) where my I need to improve my game: basically body-mechanics, showing motivated movement and my work-flow.

I used to think that I was ok at Animation, not brilliant, after all I wasn't working at Pixar or anything, but I was doing ok you know? Now, I think what the hell was I doing animating when I didn't really know what I was I moving and why I was moving it.

The one thing that's really come out of AM for me so far is it's confirmed to me how much I love animating. One night in particular I was near suicidal after I'd spent 4 hours animating an arm and then realised that it didn't work at all. I went to bed and couldn't sleep, just hated myself and realised how crap at animation I was. But the next night I was back in front of that computer at 9pm ready to start again and nailed it in about 20 minutes. After that I knew no matter how hard this stuff is, how much I beat myself up over how rubbish my shot is, I'm still going to be back in front of that computer or reading the Illusion of Life (again!) or re-drawing my scene thumb-nails again.

'cos I love this stuff!


ps: by my calculations, I'll probably post again at the end of July 2008 :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Return of The Mack!.....honest!


Forgot my log-on details again, really got to start writing them down somewhere :)
If anyone is interested, I'm just finishing Class 3 of Animation Mentor and about to start Class 4 in a couple of days time. I want to post some of the work of I've done but they all need a real good curve clean so I'll see how I feel next week.