Thursday, 27 February 2014

Learning to Model: Day 8

Obviously this is in the middle of skinning..look at those horrible arms

Day 8
I have finished my skinning, hazzah! Once again I can see all of the mistakes I made with the rigging more clearly but surprisingly there aren’t as many as I expected. Its just great to see him move. Only one more stage and I can get him animated.
The blend shapes is the next thing to conquer but I’m at a loss at how to separate the mesh from the bones to make them. I fear I forgot to separate them at an earlier stage but I need to do a little more research. Its frustrating as I just want to get to it but since he will be a character in a short that teaches kids English I fear blend shapes will be very important.

Time to research!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Learning to Model: Day 6/7

Day 6/7
These two days have blurred into each other. I realised as soon as I started skinning that I’ve made a mistake and put the arm bones the wrong way up so I needed to go back and re-rig but it was very satisfying to have learnt enough over the last few days that I could just fix it myself.
The skinning process is normally something I do in the paint tool but I’ve really started to enjoy skinning purely in the component editor. I think it’s the way forward for me as I understand where I’m headed with it. I can clearly grab a very that’s bugging me and read what’s influencing it. It’s a little bit of trial and error but it makes more sense to me the more I am doing.
I have almost finished skinning now. I just have arms and feet to go (which is still a lot in hindsight)                     
I have unfortunately had a bout of food poisoning from some live squids I was forced to eat at a work function (yuck!) but I have dragged myself onto the computer to get as much done as I possibly can but its been a slow two days.
Let’s hope the rest of the week is more productive and I can start animating soon.
I think I’ll do a quick walk or run test with him to see how everything is working and then start building my next character.
It is so satisfying to be this far into the process. I think its very easy to have big ideas but never do anything about them. Now that I’ve forced myself to do this I think it will be a lot easier in the future to keep pushing forward. Well that’s the general idea anyway.                  

Learning to Model: Day 5 - Skinning

Day 5
Today I finished off the rig. I followed a fantastic tutorial here** and at the end felt confident enough to even go a little further and add my own additions to the rig (such as eyebrow bones and ear bones.) This is something I just wouldn’t have done at uni so I already feel more confident in the process. Obviously a project like this is a kind of ‘time will tell’ situation as its only once you start animating and skinning that you see all those faults come to life.
This of course leads us to skinning. Skinning goes hand in hand with rigging for me so when I let out a groan at the idea of rigging I am in fact imagining all of those tiny verts just waiting to be weighted. I also have to apologise as I am writing this as if the people reading this will know what these processes are. In case you aren’t familiar, skinning is the process of adding the model to the bones. This is the process that tells the computer how it is meant to move. In theory it sounds fun, you get a paint brush and you paint on the weights you want using a nice colour graded system but realistically there are thousands of verts all reacting off every bone and it’s a fiddly pain. The advantage of this type of work (in my opinion anyway) is that its one of the rare jobs in Maya that you can bung on a podcast or some music and just listen away while you work.
This is normally the part of the process where all the little mistakes you’ve made along the way start to show. I am prepared for a long graft but I am already excited to see how he’s moving. He is currently block weighted which means I grab each section and give all the verts a value of 1 for the main bone that controls them in the component editor. Now that’s finished I’ll be able to go into the intricate process of painting a middle ground onto other verts. The tricky part of skinning, like animation is that no one notices when its right but every person sees when its wrong. If you were to move your wrist up and down its amazing how much skin moves, it’s this tricky balancing act that makes skinning so hard but ultimately so satisfying. Unfortunately I will have to leave it at the block stage today as my travel blog (so that I don’t bug you lovely people with my Korean and Asian travels at has a header that I am not happy with and its in need of changing. Did I mention how much I love desk warming?                        

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Baking Gentleman

This past week has been a little slice of heaven. I have been paid to sit at my desk for 8 hours. In Korea they call it 'Desk Warming' and its the name given the to school holidays when foreign teachers still have to come to work. This means I had a chance to make a bit of a dent in my to do list.

One of my lovely friends is starting a business soon so he asked me to design a logo for him. He is a fantastic chef and was willing to pay me in bagels so I was all in.

The concept was icon and simple. The name of the blog and shop will be 'The Baking Gentleman' so I had lots of fun coming up with ideas.
Here is the process and the final product:

Kiddie's logo design

A local charity that my lovely friend works for were  looking for some logo designs. It was a very quick project and they wanted a 'child like' style but nothing too far away from their old design so they were still recognizable.

Here is what we came up with:
Website header for the site and facebook page
first draft

final colour concepts

Learning to Model: Day 4

Day 4
After texturing yesterday I hit myself as I had forgotten my facial edge loops. I went back and added all the necessary items to give my Ape his smiling features. Then I gritted my teeth and got ready to begin my least favourite stage. Rigging.
Rigging is something you either love or despise with a fiery passion. I remember being faced with a board in university that had so much writing on it to teach us IK that I couldn’t see the white in the background anymore. It was daunting.
When I first started rigging I couldn’t see any artistic talent in it what so ever. It was maths and a process of following a weird recipe to get my character moving but as I have worked with different riggers and seen their skills I completely take back my old opinions. Rigging is a beautiful thing when done right. The facial rigs that you see online these days blow me away and I dream of animating them. It does feel, when you’re learning to rig, that you are fighting against the computer at every stage but once you pass the initial terror it is very satisfying.
Obviously this is a refresher course for me and probably the most important one. I have rigged in the past at different companies but the sheer dread that enters my chest when my boss would even mention me and rigging in the same sentence showed I needed more practice. Its something I plan on practicing a lot this year.
 As the day has gone on I’ve really started to enjoy rigging my character. It might be because I put rigging on a terrifying pedestal, scared to attempt it after the nightmares of uni but it was so much easier than I remember.
There is always a feeling of copying when I rig. I watch a tutorial and copy every word but I feel like a cheat so a lot of the time I try to work it out myself when it goes wrong. When it comes to rigging you can’t copy enough! (As long as you give 100% credit) It’s a little similar to learning to draw, copy until you make it.
The rig currently has ik legs, ik arms and hands. I am yet to attempt the spine and test it all but so far it’s been enjoyable. A little like playing on a frozen lake*. You know it’s frozen (because old men fish on it every day) but there’s still a tiny part of you looking at the shore, even when you are having fun. Fingers crossed it all goes to plan.

*Last weekend I was on a frozen lake in the middle of a forest, this analogy might be because of that, but who knows the mysteries of the human m

Learning to Model : Day 3

Day 3
So today is my favourite part of modelling, the painting. Putting colour to a character always seems to make them jump off the page. I had forgotten every part of uv-ing, or so I thought until I started watching the tutorial and it all came flooding back. My uv-ing was horribly messy and the perfectionist in me is realising more and more as this process happens that I will definitely be redoing King Konglish because the learning curve has been so steep. I want to get all the mistakes out of the way so I can do it properly.
My concept for this character and the short is really simplistic, Pocoyo like colours so I only needed to block colour him in but it was still really fun to get back into painting and uv-ing.

Learning to Model : Day 2

Day 2
Well I started off on the wrong foot , being a fool I followed a tutorial that was just to build a still model and not an animateable one. So none of the limbs were connected. I made them all separate before realising the error of my ways. This means I’ve had to start again and also learn to merge verts again. It is probably a little more annoying retraining than starting from scratch because you know and remember tools but have no idea where they are located. It’s a bit of trial and error at the moment but i'm getting there slowly. The more I practise the more I learn so even if I do end up re creating this fellow about 5 times it will all be worth it.

Learning to Model all over again

The secret to an animators success (unless you are a university prodigy) is to get yourself noticed but with the same rigs doing to rounds on the circuit the best way to get noticed is to build your own unique characters and ideally create a short that will entertain people
That’s what I’ve set out to do.
I have lots of ideas, too many sometimes, but I’ve always needed to rely on someone else to build them before I can animate them so I’ve decided to take the initiative and create my own characters.
Now I am definitely not a modeller. I spent a week creating characters in university and I took to it like a ton of bricks to water. Since then I have managed to feel pretty at home in Maya so I’m excited to give it another shot.
The modelling part I’ve always enjoyed. I like forming characters the same way I love playing with plasticise but the rigging and skinning have been my downfalls, but I am determined to learn.

Today is day one of modelling. I have a few tutorials that are awakening my memory at every step and its exciting to see the character I’ve imagined animating actually start to appear. I suppose the key to modelling is the same as animating. Know where you are going.
I’ve known some extremely skilled animators who can sit with a cube and add vertex’s until their model resembles something beautiful but for us newbies , I need to know my character inside and out before I start or I can stray. The best tip I can give for new modellers is grab a lump of play-doh or clay and make the shape you want in the computer. Having a 3d model in your hand really will help you to see where it is you need to get to. Drawing a turnaround is hard but stitching those drawings together can be extremely hard.
King Konglish is starting to take shape.

Time to build a Showreel.

 Its that time again when the familiar animation cogs start turning and the future starts to rear its beguiling head. It’s time to make a new showreel.

 For the last year I have spent my spare time fiddling with different animations just for fun with no pressure but as 2015 grows closer and I am ready to set out into the Australian animation market I want a brand spanking new showreel to take with me.

Showreels are a mysterious object. They have endless rules but also no rules at all. In preparation for my preparation (yes I definitely am an animator) I listened to countless podcasts and read endless articles on ‘showreel tips’.
There are reoccurring rules we all know:
  1. Don’t make it too long
  2. Show your best stuff first
  3. Aim it at the job you want to get

But I feel like we all listen to these podcasts trying to find that one mysterious ingredient we can all add to our reels to make it stand out from the crowd. The honest answer is, the only way you can stand out is to work your comically kitsch socks off.

So I have put together a rough years plan for getting back in the old showreel saddle.
I should also mention that my showreel method is based mainly on the way I was taught at uni. I had a fantastic bunch of tutors and the layout has always felt right but there are many ways to set out yours.

A Showreels Beginnings

Stage 1 content
(Stage 1 is what I would call mechanical animation. Runs, walks, jumps and animal movement are all counted in this category)                                                                                               Finish by early April

Stage 2 content
(Stage 2 is a shift in emotion. This is animation that shows a clear separation of two different emotions. A lot of this stuff will come from past work that I’ve done but I’d love to get a few new ones in there two. Think pantomime for this stage )                                                                                Finish by early July

Stage 3 content
(This is my favourite stage by far. This is dialogue and interaction. I love animating emotion and dialogue pieces so I will try to do a few new pieces in this stage because in a dream scenario this is the work I’d love to be doing                                                                                                     Finish by early September

Stage 4
(Work done in previous jobs and under strict deadlines)

Personal shorts and other skills
(This is a new area for my reel but I’ve spent the time out of the animation field to learn new skills so I can create my own shorts. Modelling, rigging, skinning and animation ideas will be demonstrated on the reel)
                                                                                                                    Finish by early October

The edit of the reel will take time because it really is one of the most important parts of a reel. I really enjoy this stage of the process but if you are new to editing there are lots of helpful tutorials on line that can help you.                   
                                                                                                                  Finish by early November

CV,Website, CD’s and breakdowns
Self promotional materials need to be ready to support the reel. When you are applying for jobs you will be expected to share all of these things so I need to have them as polished as the reel or there wasn’t much point spending a year working on it J
                                                                                                                   Finish by early December

I will be moving to Australia early April 2015 so this will give me a very large chunk of time to apply for all sorts of jobs. In a perfect dream scenario I’d love to do cartoonie animation but sinking my teeth into some realistic animal’s animation would also be a great way to spend a few months. Unfortunately my VISA for Australia only allows me to work for 6 months in one job so I may be the only animator ever to not complain about short free lance contracts.

Anyway that is my plan. I will be aiming to keep an online diary of events. I am currently doing lots of design work for people here in Korea which I will share with you soon. Other than that I’ll be keeping you up to date with my reel diary , pulling my hair out and drinking more coffee than Korea can hold (And that’s a lot of coffee…I’ve never seen so many coffee shops in my life).

Happy Feb everyone x

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Podcast with Cloudy Creators

Today is a podcast day and a drawing day.
I realise there is many people that disagree (sorry Dick Williams and Milt) but I do listen to things when I draw. When I animate I am just music that captures the emotion in the scene but if its just recreational drawing then I 'Podcast it up'.

Todays choice is a round table from one of my favourite sites from one of my favourite films:

After listening to this podcast I realised why I love this movie with every element of my being.
The influence was:
. The Muppets
. Presto
. Burning Safari
. Pocoyo
....need I say more!
If I listen some of my favourite things that would be if you have some spare time then have a listen.