Thursday, 26 December 2013

Skwigly Christmas

Merry Christmas from the Skwigly team. 
We got together for a family photo. 
(i'm the short imp girl at the front)Day 25: Skwigly

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas Everyone

I hope you all had a fantastic day no matter where in the world you were today/yesterday.
Here in Korea it was an odd day as they don't really celebrate it here but we had a big teachers gathering and partied/ate the day away.
We actually tracked down turkey and cheese!!! (these are impossible to find in Korea)

Anyway I hope you are all still celebrating and are preparing your new years resolutions lets all go and watch a good Disney film to make it feel like the real festive season.
Doodlezilla say Merry Christmas

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Upcoming Animated Features for 2014

Upcoming Features of 2014Wondering what you will be watching with your popcorn next year? Go and have a look at the article I wrote for the lovely people at Skwigly magazine.

Top 10 Animated Christmas Specials

If you are feeling Christmassy but are stuck for things to watch I have written a list of the top 10 animated Christmas specials.

Go and have a look-sie


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Monday, 21 October 2013

Character Concept Course

At the moment I am taking part in a course called 'Character concept art: From inital sketch to final design'.
The course only cost $10 and I am enjoying every part of it.
I love drawing but as a CG animator some times drawing can fall below the actual animation itself. Luckily for me I spent my uni years with a fantastic talented bunch of stop mo and 2d animators so it was fantastic motivation to learn to draw but as most things work and life got in the way.
So I thought it was time for some revision. This website is the perfect option. Not only are all courses really cheap but I can do them at my own pace. My plan is to spend the next year doing as many courses as possible but here is what i've been up to so far:

I really struggled to come up with a theme as I have so many things I want to draw.
I chose the carnival theme because i'm addicted to the tv show parks and recreations at the moment which for some reason made my weird mind jump to this. Plus I have a weird obsession with early eras such as victorian times and I thought I could try and include some steam punk elements.
I'm mainly concentrating on weight lifters, snake charmers, bearded ladies, dwarf clowns and siamese twins.
I don't draw much so this is going to be a huge challenge for me so all of the feed back and critiques you guys can give me would be really appriciated.
I am very new to anatomy and real life figure drawing so my lines of action need some work.
It definitley helped me to see which drawings were working better. I picked a few and very roughly started defining  shapes.

I've moved onto a refining stage and I just accidently started to concentrate on these two designs. I added a dog to my grumpy clown and I really like the bearded lady concept so I changed my snake charmer to a steam punk hot bearded lady.

I have kept the big body builder on the sheet to remind me I want to still work on him later.
This is only the first phase of the course but i'm really enjoying it.

Monday, 26 August 2013

An animator without a mouse

Im having withdrawal. People always talk about home sickness but not job sickness. 

I knew that traveling was a good move for me. Its something Ive moaned about since I was younger and unfortunately traveling for animation job requires the money to back your move (which I did not have) so it made sense on a number of levels to take a year or two out and move abroad. I could save money, see the world and experience life.

Unfortunately I never knew how much Id miss it. I still trawl over the animation blogs, read all pieces of gossip in the cartoon world and look at job opportunities. I get excited about movie releases and eagerly listen to Ted talks when my inspiration is wavering. In my spare time I animate, draw and watch films. I cant get away from it.

This holiday I had to fill a visa form to get into Taiwan and I had the horrible moment of filling in the occupation box. I started to write Anim…’ but at that moment a stone dropped in my stomach and I realized I cant write what I really want to anymore because officially (by Korean job standards) Im not an animator right now.
It was a horrible moment. All the long hours, stress and years of wishing suddently seemed liked a waste but then I started to look at it in another way.
Maybe it is good to know that I was upset. Maybe missing the sweat boxes, rigging problems and squiff splines proves how much I love it and that its where I belong.
All of these years Ive been wishing and trying to animate havent been in vain. Theres always a part of you that steps away from things and wishes and thinks that maybe youll realize it wasnt as important as you thought but in my case. It is what I want and I cant wait to be able to fill a form in and put that animator label firmly back where it belongs.

There is also the sad truth that a lot of animators are out of work at different times and need to support their families so take freelance work in other avenues. Animators arent labeled the way you label other professions and thats because its not a profession for us. It really is a lifestyle, one that we stick with through hard times and one that makes us deliriously happy through the good.
Even if I cant fill in a form that says what I do for a few hours a day I know that I am and always will be an animator.

So I am looking forward. I am starting to think of new animations to demonstrate where I want my career to take me, get a new showreel up and running and also practice my writing. Story has always been where Ive wanted to take my animation so this year is the perfect chance to brush up on my literary skills and write down all those ideas Ive had in my mind for years.
 Like they say, you are young once, but you can be immature forever. I think people sometimes forget this....
Its hard to step away from something. Its scary to think you might never be able to go back to that time where things were on track but I think that if something is meant to be then no matter where you go or how you get there you will find your way back to it. Even if you didnt think it was possible.
My mum has always said to me:
A year is such a short time to wait but such a long time to waste and no quote has ever been truer. This year as made me look at my work differently. I can see what it lacks and where I want to improve. I have also been able to watch animation without dissecting it into a thousand pieces. I almost became jaded with deadlines, contract details and the day to day work of it all. I use to get upset listening to the animators talk about the industry like it was sucking the life from them. They had lost that spark that makes doing what we do worth it. They were still stupidly talented but they didnt love what they did anymore. I never wanted that to be me so I made the choice to leave before I got to that stage.

I hope all of you, whether you are a student who cant see a career ever happening, an out of work animator sick and tired of the freelance hours and the uncertainty or a paid animator struggling with long hours and balancing a life, can all take one moment to step back, look at what you have achieved and see that you are an animator. You have made it. Even if the pay cheque doesnt reflect that. If you have the creativity and love for what you do you will create great work because you love it and want to do your best.

I definitely dont want to trivialize the struggle a lot of us face as I ,more than most, know how hard of an industry this is but its not the animation you hate so I hope you still can get the thrill when you talk about your industry. Thats the spark that makes you an animator and I hope all of you dont let it burn out.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Subtle animation test

Last month I found I had a little spare time so I started an 11 second club. There was only a few days left till the end of the month so I knew it wasn't going to be something I finished in time but i've been plodding along with it and its slowly coming together.

The clip is from 'Iron Man 2' and is the exact kind of clip I have wanted to animate for a while. I've wanted to animate a man as I think most of my work comes out quite child-like or female. I also wanted to do something subtle. Subtle animation is my favourite kind so I challenged myself to do something new.

It still has a way to go and i'm not a renderer so I have to experiment.

Here are the first few stages:

The block was much too rough and ready but I was struggling with not blocking enough or too much for a subtle animation.
I still need to figure out the edit and I think sections need a little more varietion and definition but its getting there.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Walt Disney

I have been looking forward to this film for so long.
I remember reading about it about 5 years ago before they cast Tom Hanks. I had him at the top of my Walt Disney wish list so i'm extremley happy they have choosen him.


Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The Blocking Stage

I have been animating this week and its like I have instantly found boundless energy. I am excited to get up and start thinking about my ideas. I run over the characters movements in my head and try to picture the scene as much as possible.

I am aiming to get my animation blocking this good!

This is my favorite stage. I am not sure if all animators feel like this but my favorite stage of any animation is the planning. I enjoy the planning even more than having a finished product.

I love delving into the characters psyche. Working out what they are thinking. In fact almost everything I animate is a result of an alternative ‘thinking’ script I have written. I then animate their thoughts instead of their speech.

I also love looking at what their character is like. What quirks they may process. To be honest I go into far too much detail. Obviously in a studio environment you don’t have all the time you want to plan but on my own stuff I have a back-story. I know their allergies, what they are afraid off, that they had a football injury when they were young so now walk with a very slight limp or that they smoke so are use to talking out of the opposite side of their mouth.

Here is a sheet of paper I have been carrying around for 8 years. I made it in my first year of uni to put on my desk and remind me what I was aiming to do. It’s served me well. (The character was a model I built to represent Larry David).

I even love filming reference (as long as no one ever sees it!)

I love trying to reflect what I can see in my mind. Unfortunately for me I struggle to act like I see in my head so thumbnails are normal what I rely on.

Thumbnails are invaluable during my beginning process. I think that your eye is so use to seeing movement that if a pose is wrong you will see it instantly.
Once I have a stupidly detailed back-story, have decided my characters adrenaline moments, power centers and animals likeness (yes I really do love this stage) then I will start blocking. This sounds like it takes a long time but I’m normally so excited to start that I am ready to go after about a day.

One of my favourite animators blocking phases
Then I block. I love blocking. If there was a job where I could plan and block I would be the happiest bunny. I would only block if it didn’t make my cg animation look like the media player wasn’t just jumping.

I block and stay in step mode. Then I put in my hold poses and the keys that aren’t quite key poses but still very important. A new addition to this is doing the face and mouth for these poses as I use to leave these till right at the end of the tweaking stage.
Everything is going fine until right about here.

After I get out of blocking I’m ok through 1st pass. In my current animation the 1st pass is going very well and to be honest it seems to go well as long as I have a reliable rig. I need to be able to select every control to carry on my keying process but this is normally when you discover that although it seems everything is being keyed, its not at all and you spend forever making elaborate selection sets.

But if a rig is good and built for an animator you can carry on having a lot of control of things.

Up until here I’m by the book. I have listened to endless pod casts, interviews and ‘making of’s’ to get to this stage but after the 1st stage I start to lose track of things. This is where you have new ideas that sometimes complicate things.

From watching animators at the same stage in the process as me in their animation growth I think we all suffer with the same problem. We do too much. We get excited that we aren’t newbie animators anymore and know our way around a rig so we start to throw every idea we have ever had into the mix.I have posts all over my screen to prevent this. ‘Less is more!’ ‘Why are they doing that?’ ‘The body’s main focus is to be efficient’.

All of these thoughts are aiming to keep me focused on the planning I’ve done.I am hoping that this new animation I am doing will be a stepping stone into the next stage. I am a strong believer that there are defined stages of becoming an animator but I’ll talk about that another time as this hair brained theory and rant is enough for one day.

So in conclusion, if anyone wants me to plan their animations for them and needs help tweaking ideas….I’M IN!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Skwigly Article : Advertsing in Animation

The lovely people at Skwigly have been kind enough to let me write even from the other side of the world.
Here is an article I wrote about Advertising. It doesn't even slightly touch on all the things I wanted to talk about but I didn't want to bore you all to death (more!)


Advertising in Animation

Drawing on experience

I remember being in life drawing when I was 17. I was struggling so much to draw what I could see. It frustrated me to the point that I wanted to throw my pencil down and give up.
After seeing my frustration I remember my teacher telling me a fascinating fact. At the age of 12 our brains have reached a stage where we understand the world around us. When we cant draw that world exactly as we see it we get angry. 89% of people give up on drawing at this hurdle. That is why most peoples drawing skills are the same as they were age 12. We never tried to improve.

I was in my life drawing class trying to push through this barrier when my teacher showed me a famous sketch of a lady. I have no idea what it was but it was beautiful.
He told me to take it home and copy it. This shocked me. Surely copying is wrong!

This is when I discovered the artist secret. Everyone copies. Not original work obviously but to learn how to do those fantastic drawings even Adres Deja copied the greats to harness their skills when they were starting out.

It seems quite obvious when I read it written down. As a young children most artist spend their days copying comics or the cartoons on TV but as a (almost) grown up it didnt seem like an option I could use. It seemed weak and sneaky.

Of course there are still problems with this method. You can become too use to someone elses style and not create your own and you might also rely to heavily on seeing the drawing instead of thinking about what it is you need to achieve but as long as you use it as a teaching aid it will improve your drawings beyond belief.

During University I was lucky enough to live with a lot of 2d animators. Each one possessed drawing skills I would have killed for. I started off the year being determined to improve. After drawing every day and copying my favorite artists I could see a noticeable difference. My drawings no longer represented something a drugged monkey would do.
Unfortunately as time went on and my job became hectic drawing took a back seat.
I look at the drawings I was doing a few years ago and I wish Id kept up with the work since drawing is definitely a skill that needs practice.

Since living in Korea I have had a lot of free time to draw and although my level is still awful, Im getting there slowly.

One of my favorite things to do, especially if Im going on a long trip, is I print out drawing mood boards.
In Word I copy and paste photos, illustrations, logos or even clothes I like the look of.
I carry it in my sketch book and when I get the chance I use it to firstly, help me practice and secondly to inspire me to draw something I can be proud of.
Its my own personal printed Pinterest.

My advice to anyone whos itching to regain or gain their drawing skills is to print out some of your favorite images. You wont have to waste time wondering to yourself what to draw on that daunting blank page and most importantly it will be a guide.
A silent teacher there to help. It is something Ive done ever since I was 17 and I would recommend it, even to great artists. If you know you are in the mood to draw animals then print of a collage page filled with photos of animals and maybe some different artists representations of them.

P.s Make sure if you are copying that your practice drawings are just for you. Once you are only using them for inspiration then share share share.

Good Luck

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Scenes I wish I'd animated

As an admirer or all things animated its sometimes easy to wish you could put your name to greatness.
Someone recently asked me what I wish I had animated and to be frank, It was a pretty long list.
So I have decided to attempt to narrow it down to my favourite 5 animated scenes.
I am only going with CG today. Mainly because its my field of work but also because 2D and stop motion are even more of a beautiful mystery to me and it was much to hard to narrow them down.
So the scenes I wish Id animated are:


1.     The Incredibles Dash, Violet and Mrs. Incredible in the sea after the crash.
This scene makes the list simply for Dash. Dashs WERE DEAD is not only a genius piece of writing but everything about the way he sounds, the way he moves and the build up are perfect pieces of acting. It makes me giggle every time.
Even though there is so much panic in the kids eyes his reaction is still somehow over the top and makes light of the situation. Its a great way to show they are ok from the crash.
The closed eyes raised head on Dash compared to the anxious Violet is a great comparison.
My brother was a similar age to Dash when this film came out and it is easy to see him reflected in all of his movements.

The water effect on the render and the composition also help to create a fantastic mood in this shot.

I love it. Teach me your ways Pixar!

2.     Cloudy with a Chance of Meatball (any scene but lets narrow it to one)
Dock scene, Flint makes it rain burgers.
This film had me mesmerized from start to finish. It makes such bold acting choices without ever alienating its audience. It seems very simple when you watch the animation but I can only imagine the time and effort that went into making these shots look effortless.
This scene lets Flint do what he does best and be Flint. The feet in the eyes is genius. I would kill to get hold of these rigs.
The denial from Flint shown through his closed off body and straight face are animated really well. Steve is just a genius character. His reaction to every situation makes sure to keep audiences laughing. The key poses in these frames are genius with lovely silhouettes. I might have to go frame by frame through this anytime I want to animate some action shots.
When I animate I over animate. I Throw too many ideas at the problem and then try to integrate them all. In this film less is more. The confidence to pause and keep things still is one skill I need in my repertoire.

I can not wait to see the next film. (Part one) (Part two)

3.     Up Ellie meets Karl
 Okay so its not a shot but more of a 9 minute section of the film but it breaks my heart every time. Even just hearing the music by Michael Giacchino gets me these days.

The colors, the characters and the simple loveliness to this film hurt my animator muscles. I have no idea where you would start animating a woman whos just lost a baby, in under a minute, without any dialogue. Yet when you watch it on screen you never question how she feels or the pain thats associated with what shes experienced. The same goes for so many parts of this film.

Karl placing his hand on hers while they read says more than a 2 hour dialogue could.
Some of the reasons I love this clip:
Karl's cheeky grin after he breaks his leg
The tie to bow tie montage
The way Karl only stares at Ellie when she's told about the baby.
The way Karl makes Ellie belly chuckle while they are driving in their car.
The way Ellie lets the wind hit her face after she loses a baby.
The way Ellie makes Karl giggle when she snuggles in to kiss him.
The way Karl's hat falls off as he drops to his knees to see if Ellie's alright.
The final adjustment of Karl's bowtie in the hospital. 

I recently saw a survey of 300 people from 12 to 100 that asked if you cried at the beginning of Up the result was 100% yes.

I would be happy forever if I could create one piece of animation that touches people the way this does.

4.     Presto Once again I cant pick a shotI just wish Id done it all!

       This is a master piece both in timing and story.
The design is fantastic. The concept is simple and the comedy in this is frequent.
Im a very big fan of music based story. Less words allow for better animation and this slap stick comedy is a hark back to the days of Chaplin.
The introduction of the rabbit is lovely. The use of silhouette and line of action really allows the action to flow. In fact the line of action throughout this film is brilliant (even when the characters are completely broken) the anticipation of every movement from the magician adds the flair for entertainment and is reminiscent of what we expect from a performer.
Ive framed by framed this animation many times and I still dont get how its done.
Id kill to see the reference footage they used for this. 

5.     Toy Story 3 the furnace
This is yet another sad clip but I think that if animation can make you sad it has to be good. If you can make an audience empathies with some spines and verts then you are a genius.
I love films but I pride myself (like a lot of geeky people I know) on being able to spot the plot quite early on. Toy Story 3 shocked me. Yes I realize its crazy but I didnt see it coming. I couldnt work out how they were going to get out of this situation and it upset me beyond belief. I had my mum with me who could barely keep it together from the first scene when Andy went to college (my brother was leaving for university at the time) and we both blubbed like children when they headed to their doom.
It might be the post poignant moment of a film. A childrens film full of plans and action suddenly smashed into reality. Up until the point that buzz holds out his hand for Jessie in the furnace youve never ever questioned a plan is going to save them. Its Toy Story after all. These characters dont discuss how to get out of situations, they just do it. Buzz opens a door so effortlessly you forget the physical feats hes demonstrating.
So to see Jesses desperation when she asks Buzz What are we going to do to only be responded with a long stare and a look that shows he has nothing left but his hand is heart wrenching. The animator has communicated the line We die with a supportive smile and a simple gesture.  In that long pause Jesse understands, accepts and instantly turns to comfort another friend Like every other stage of their lives dying will just be something they do together..
Im welling up just thinking about it. To present death in such a way in a childrens film is why Pixar is great. They know when to fold and they know when to show their cards. If the story requires the characters to deal with death they will. Im sure there were many talks with many boards about this topic. Luckily story won out.

Over all these scenes are just shots handed to an animator on a random day, they were thumb nailed, acted out, altered , fixed and changed but once they reach our screens you can only see a story.
I think its important to watch animation as if you could achieve it. I cant right now but I want to and thats at least the first step. You have to aim for something I suppose or what am I attempting.