Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy 2015!

Wow, its a New Year already and I can't believe there have been 4323 visitors to this site over the past 2 years from all over the US and the world. Hopefully, you found something of interest here and will feel free to send a comment now and then.

Last year, I attempted to document a small freelance job which I thought I was going to be working on. Unfortunately, this project fell through, which happens a lot in animation, but It looks like I have another project I can document in the new year.

Rockademix is a really cool educational program for teachers to help kids learn different subjects using music and dance. I will be animating a 2 minute promo to explain this concept to interested educators. So, join me in 2015, as I take a storyboard and a narration track and go from pre-production to final animation in making this explainer video. It should be a fun little project which we both will learn from.

Happy New Year 2015! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

WatchCat Up and Out there!

Hey Cats and Kittens,

Wanted to let you know that WatchCat, a project that I have been working on, is finally out on Youtube. I wanted to let all my European, Asian, Polish, Indian, Eskimo, Russian and even a few Down Under Cats, just to name a few, know to give us a paw up and let us know what you think.

I'll be teaching animation production again in the new year as well as working on episode 2 of my Watchcat project. I'm wondering if anyone had any animation subjects they would like me to cover in upcoming blog posts? I have been taking a look at Famous Felines of Animation, starting with Krazy Kat and wandering through early animation cat characters, cats from literature and going up to modern day cartoon cats. If you would like to see what I recently found out about Felix the Cat, check out the WatchCat Files.

Our New Year's Resolution is to make at least two more episodes to see if you dig what we're doing. And if you are into it as much as we hope you are, please subscribe to our WatchCat Films YouTube channel

Have a Happy Holiday and a Great New Year!


Monday, December 1, 2014

Animation Backgrounds

Beginning animation students tend to stage their shots as if you were watching their characters on a stage from the back row. The character enters in profile from the left and walks to the center of the field of view. This is usually all done in one establishing long shot. We then cut to a front view, usually a closer shot to see the character looking or reacting to something. Then we cut back to the same profile long shot as before. 

There is a lot of this Side,front, Side type of cutting, because its easier to animate a 2D character in profile than it is in a 3/4 view or in perspective. I try to have my students start with the profile walk in, but then have them cut to a 3/4 view and not to return to the same profile long shot again if they can help it.

While working on my own short, I discovered that I needed help with making backgrounds since I tend to prefer a simple white background, so I didn't have to deal with making one. This type of non-background can be seen here from a short I did years ago.

The best way to become an animation background artist is to study old cartoons to see how the backgrounds were made . I found an excellent blog source for animation backgrounds by Rob Richards' called simply, Animation Backgrounds. Rob has selected still frames and removed the animated character to show only the backgrounds making it easier to study the framing, the tones, the lighting and all those other details.

Here's an interesting and very dynamic view from The Alley Cat (1941), where our hero is trying to impress a feline in a window ledge high above. This is a vertical image with a background pan from left to right as the cat dances on the fence and the girl cat above is also moving in a simple dance cycle. When I first found this image, I thought the background artist had added a still pose of the girl cat. If you scroll down, you will see the original cartoon this shot came from.

But first, let's take a look at how perspective lines and shapes help direction our attention to what is important in this scene. Beginning with vertical lines from the fence, up the building and to the sky.

Next, we have angled horizontal lines, showing a second vanishing point from screen right. Together both vertical and horizontal lines create a frame around the cat in the window above.
Also, The girl cat is in the top one third area, while our dancing Tom is in the one third area to the left. All this makes for a nice composition.

The Background Artist also has created a spotlight of light effect to draw our attention to the tiny character above to make sure we see it. Notice all the lines of window frames and other shapes also are used to point towards the same small character.

Even our hero has an eyeline aimed up at the other cat to help the audience notice the other character and to show how far apart they are not just in social class, but in physical distance.

And then there are all the other details. The closer the object, the more detailed and in focus, but the farther away, the color gets lighter in tone and the details are thrown more out of focus.

And so, start collecting interesting background images and add them to your reference file. This comes in handy when you are trying to create a background for your next project. If you have any background tips, please forward them to me. 

Until next time, enjoy this classic MGM cartoon and then study it by watching it again without the sound. And be careful, you might learn something new...


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Reference Footage

For all those occasions when you want to animate a real action, you really should research it by shooting your own reference footage and study it frame by frame. Here's an excellent collection of reference footage already for you to review.

Check out all the overlapping action which occurs when you get punched in the head!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Animation Principles class at Woodbury University 2014, Guest Lecturer: Tim Burton.
Plus, Can you pick out the student who also works as Mickey Mouse at Disneyland?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

WatchCat in Progress!

I thought I would let you know about a new web series I'm working on called "WatchCat". Every Wednesday, I am posting a "Making Of " blog entitled: The WatchCat Files. Without spoiling our first webisode, Its a little behind the scenes and attempt to document the animation progress of this project.

So take a look and see what you think. Any comments or suggestions are always welcomed and appreciated...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

You are the client! : Your Choice

Last Week, I invited everyone to pick one of 10 possible rough cartoon character designs. I promised not to mention any names, only which number got the most votes and asked, "Which Cartoon guy do you like and why? " The real Client already made their choice and Thanks for all the emails, Wow!

Ok, here are some of the results...
 Choice #   1  =   42 picks
 Choice #   2  =     5 picks
 Choice #   3  =     0 picks
 Choice #   4  =   28 picks
 Choice #   5  =   37 picks
 Choice #   6  =   13 picks
 Choice #   7  =   94 picks
 Choice #   8  = 138 picks
 Choice #   9  =   17 picks
 Choice # 10  =   12 picks

Thanks again to all 387 of you for sending in your choices. It was great to hear from all of you. One person chose the guy in the middle, under #4, which I completely forgot to give a number.

The real Client chose....

And as soon as I receive my first payment, I will clean up this choice and have a final design for the Client to approve. And so, as they say in France, " Le chèque est dans la poste !"

Friday, October 3, 2014

You are the Client!

Does this ever happen to you? You are working on your own project with a deadline you hope to reach when suddenly, an outside job opportunity comes along. Now you have to drop everything again and work on this other project, which is paying for your time and expertise.

Recently, a short commercial has driven up to my front door and needs my animation help. Its a small car commercial spot which involves two important things. 1) Design a cartoon version of an actual car dealer and 2) Animate the entire :30 spot in October.(ha!)

First, when starting a job you need to find out all the information you can about what they want, when is their deadline and how much will they pay. Once you have some of this info, you need to put together a bid or an estimate of how much time and labor it will take you to accomplish the project. I'm skipping over all this stuff since this is not a business blog and going right for the animation process stuffing.

I will mention that when I bid on this job, it was a totally different idea when my bid was approved. Luckily, even though its was a different idea altogether, the new idea was a lot simplier than the first, but does involve some character designs and rough storyboarding.

Most large studios or ad agencies have a storyboarded concept and character designs already to send off to the chosen animation studio. Smaller places don't.

The client sent me a photo of a real Car Deal guy, who I'm suppose to create a cartoon version of and so, experience has taught me to draw a bunch of rough ideas, number them and let the client decide which one they would like me to do more work on.

And now, You are the client!  
Your Deadline is Friday:10/10/14

Here are 10 possible cartoon characters, perhaps the next Homer Simpson! Which Cartoon guy do you like and if you can tell why? 
The real Client already made their choice, but I want to hear from you!!! You may send me a comment and let me know which number you like and I won't mention your name.  
Vote Early, Vote Often!  Submit by 10/10/14

Friday, September 26, 2014

24 Hours has Begun...

Moments ago, from California State University_Long Beach, Aubry Mintz announced the theme of the 2014 24 Hour Animation Contest will be:
From Animal Farm...
"All Animals are Created Equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

The list of participating schools this year has grown and are CSUF (Fullerton, CA), CSULB (Long Beach, CA), CSUN (Northridge, CA), Kendall College of A/d (Michigan), MTSU (Tennessee), Seneca College (Canada), Sheridan College (Canada), SJSU (San Jose, CA), Queensland (Australia), Westwood (Anaheim, CA) and Woodbury University (Burbank, CA).

Within minutes, the students assembled into smaller groups to attempt to figure how to come up with a short, simple and effective idea. As the teams began to brainstorm to form a solid storyboard, the Faculty must sit on their hands and not help out in any way. They are only there to make sure the equipment is running correctly and that the students are working away.

Last year, I basically worked on my own stuff and occasionally overheard the students discussions and watched their progress. After the 24 Hours were over, 2 projects came out of Woodbury and one of them won first place. It was a real boost to the Seniors who had worked together and were able to make an animated short which tested all the learning from the past four years.

Last year's theme: What if you had 24 hours to live?  Ryan Tengel and her Woodbury University animation team answered the question with this winning short.

From Woodbury University located in Burbank, CA. 4 teams working away on a Friday night.

The next day, the teams are tried, but continue to work until the final deadline at 5pm.

The Freshmen team are hanging in there too...


 If you have any comments for the animators, please let us know...  And now, here are their films.

 The Pink Ladies, our Freshmen entry... Curious Rendezvous

Team Evil entry...  Angus and Arthur

Team Magma entry... Just Another Day


The Coffee Owls with: Painful Equality

Now that the results are in, take a moment and vote on your favorite. Any comments are welcomed and will be posted for the students to learn and improve from.