Thursday, December 21, 2006

Scene in Progress

Here's a scene in various stages of completion, featuring a luchador, a piñata, and some starving children. I do things in several passes working from very crude to the final details. For some reason this particular scene has elements of all stages, so you can get an idea of how I'm fleshing it all out. I could go into more detail on the process, but if you're already familiar with Flash, it's pretty obvious just by looking. If you're not familiar with Flash, I would just bore you.

On top are three of my chickenscratch storyboard thumbnails. Down below is the corresponding animation. You can hear the click track and the temp music in this shot as well.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My Laziness Quotient

When I was a kid, Mad Magazine defined the Laziness Quotient as something like "the amount of work you do to avoid having to do work." This little clip reminds me of that definition.

One of my characters is a piñata. He gets yanked around a lot and the candy inside him needs to jiggle around. Rather than actually animate all of the little bits of candy, I tried to figure out a way to automate all the secondary action. My solution was to use Maya's jiggle deformers to get the candy to bounce around. I still have to animate the containing mass to follow the body, but it's less work than animating each little candy separately. At least I think it is.

If any Flash experts out there are reading this, and know of a way to make collision detection work within a boundary shape, and also how to make actionscript results renderable, please drop me a line. If I can keep this all within Flash, I'd be much less lazy.

Note how the character animation is pencil line. This test was done early on, about three years ago, when I was still drawing everything on paper.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Once I got all the little thumbnails sketched out, I strung them together with a temporary soundtrack to get a rough idea of shot durations and timing. The soundtrack consists of music that I chose to suit the mood of each scene, ranging from Wagner to Henri Mancini to Slayer. I brought the volume way down and added another audio track of metronome clicks derived from each piece of music, so I have a really prominent click track playing over top muted musical tracks. I cut the thumbnail sequence to this click track. Then I rendered each scene out as a quicktime movie to be used as a template in Flash. More on that in another post.

Where I'm Calling From

Rumor has it that Jeffrey Katzenberg reads The Illusion of Life every year. I can relate; as an animator, I make it a point to curl up with Robert Appleby's Modern Business Administration every Christmas.

Seriously though, I kind of wish Mr. Katzenberg and his peers would read John Culshaw's
The Virtues of Flatness instead. A mere five pages, it's shorter than the even the index of Frank and Ollie's book, but it masterfully articulates how engaging animation can be if it weren't so hung up on apeing realism. Published in The Fortnightly in 1953, it's uncannily prescient in its discussion of the "Third Dimension," a term Mr. Culshaw used to describe the extent of Disney's rendering quality
at the time. In the context of today's animation, it's pretty easy to apply that term to another, more current technique. Does this fifty year old argument still hold up? Take a look:

Monday, December 18, 2006


Since I'm the only one working on this film, the boards are pretty loose. Put another way, they're illegible to anyone but me. Below are some spreads from a Moleskine notebook, so you get an idea of how tiny the drawings are. When I'm boarding, I usually think for a good long time before I draw anything. Then when I'm ready I will run through sequences in my mind and make tiny thumbnails in the panels as I go. When finished, I end up with little visual bookmarks for the sequence that's knocking about in my head. There's room to flesh things out more when I do the blocking and keying passes later on. But for a first step, I get the broadest of the broad strokes down in these little thumbnails.

2 Pop...

Great. Just what everyone needs. Another animation production blog. Turn back now if you want. But if you stick around, you'll probably end up seeing some pictues and some line tests and probably some final scenes for my MFA Thesis Film, peppered with some random thoughts that I can unload here to clear my head once in a while. You'll get to see how I work. And you can virtually point and laugh at me. So here goes:

A brief recap:
I was/am a student in the MFA Animation program at USC. I was in the midst of production on my Thesis film when I took a full-time job at Cartoon Network. I practically stopped working on my own film for over a year. Now I'm re-assembling all the pieces and filling in the gaps to get it completed. In addition to seeing current progress charted here, you'll get to see how the process has evolved over time, from fully hand-drawn to a paperless digital approach.