April 28, 2005

Grease Pencil

Supper awsome animator friend of mine has created a grease pencil plug-in for Maya. If you use Maya I sujest trying this out:


April 25, 2005

Realism Vs Believability

Recently I've been hearing a lot of talk about "Realism in Animation", so I thought I would throw in two cents.

I don't really believe in realism in animation. People talk about making something look more realistic etc. I think it's a load of crap. Actually I'd like to broaden that a bit and say that I don't really believe in realism in all film, not just animation. The line between live action and animation is getting fuzzier anyway so for the sake of this blog entry lets do away with it all together.

If movies were more realistic John McClane would have died in act one of Die Hard, Indiana Jones would never have made it out of that cave and, Frodo would have never made it out of the Shire. But they did, and audiences not only bought it but they ate it up. It's not because what the characters did was real or not real, it has to do with what the characters did was believable.

This may not seem like a big deal at first, but to me the difference is huge.

Take the Road Runner films for an example. The basic dynamic of the film is that the Road Runner will never be caught by Wile E. Coyote. For example, when Road Runner runs off the cliff with Wile E. Coyote hot on his trail, the Road Runner is able to stop in mid air, and so will the Coyote. But the Coyote will notices that he's no longer on solid ground and will fall to the ground. But the Road Runner is able to run off. This is your setup. This is your believable world. An audience would never question whether or not it's realistic because that's the way this world works.

Now lest say if in the next shot, the Road Runner runs off the cliff, notices that he's not on the ground and falls. Or worse, lets say the next sot the Coyote catches the road runner and proceeds to rip his limbs off and suck the marrow from his bones. Now you've broken the rules of the film and you've lost your believability and the audience's attention as well. You can't do that because doing so wouldn't be realistic in the world that you have created.

That's the most obvious example, other examples can be more subtle. Grover on Sesame Street for example, has a child's sensibility. He talks like a child acts like a child. Lets say he started talking about Wall Street and hookers. That might be funny, and it will work for one joke, but you've lost your believability and your audience won't find the character to be believable any more.

Another example, Bruce Willis as John McClane was able to survive Die Hard because at the beginning of the film we established that no matter how bad the situation got he would use his brute force and cleverness to get himself out of the situation. Sure he'd get hurt, but he'd live. The same was true for Indiana Jones. In fact that whole cave thing was to show that he could survive outlandish situations while other people around him could not. This is the same film making technique that Chuck Jones used in Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons. This is Believability over Realism.

Stay with me, I'm bringing this around to animation.

It doesn't end there. It also extends to how you animate a character on a film as well. If you set up your animation from the beginning to be really fast snappy actions, and stick with it, it'll be believable throughout the film. If your character is supposed to interact with real people, he/she has to fit into their world. Your character can still have fast choppy actions, but then that has to be the rules of your film. Sin City shows us that you can have characters mover around with cartoon like speed and durability but still be believable as characters. They were able to do this because they set up the rules of the their world to be this way and they maintain them. Believability is all about how you set it up and maintain it.

So why do I care? What's the difference, is it just semantics? Why am I ranting about this? Because I'd like people to make a conscious choice about the style they choose to make their films. Not just try to blindly imitate real life. I think you can animate any way you want to in a film and still be "realistic". Just as long as you set it up early in the film and obey your own rules tell the end.

April 23, 2005

What's In My Bag

Okay so this is supper geeky and a waist of time I know. Flickr has this thing where people display the contents of their bag and then leave notes about what's in it. If you do a search on flickr for: "What's In My Bag" or "whatsinmybag" you'll see what I mean. I looked at a bunch of them and decided I had to do my own.

Click on the picture to see mine.


April 22, 2005

Moleskline: The Best Sketchbooks!


I've been trying to draw every day. Either through life observation or ideas in my head. As I said in a previous post, I've gotten really lazy about drawing and it shows. Right now I prefer to use a large cheep sketchbook, one that I'm not intimidated ruin with my drawings. But when I can draw again I plan on going back to my favorite sketchbook: Moleskline (mol-a-skeen'-a). I really like these sketchbooks, they're light, good paper, have elastic to hold themselves shut and a silk bookmark. They have a lot of different designs. Check it out they even have pocket size storyboard sketchbooks.


April 21, 2005

Howl's Moving Castle


I'm looking forward to the American release of Miyazaki's: Howl's Moving Castle. (see the trailer here) I've been a big Miyazaki fan ever sense a friend of mine lent me his laserdisk copies of Nausicaa, Laputa,Totoro, and Kiki's Delivery Service. Back then it was very difficult to find his films with any kind of english translation, so we watched them without understanding a word of what was being said. Years later when I watched fan-dubbed copies, I was impressed to find that except for a few small details, I had understood his films completely. That's a big credit to Miyazaki's visual story telling skills.

Miyazaki is great at capturing what something feels like. He has a sequence in Kiki's Delivery Service where the main character Kiki is lying in the grass. He really captured what that feels like, or when one of the little girls grabs a hold of a fuzzy Totoro tail in My Neighbor Totoro. It really feels like a big soft tail on a big huge creature. Great stuff.

Miyazaki story boarded his films by himself. I have collected the Japanese DVDs where you can step in between Miyazaki's story boards and the final film. To my surprise they look almost exactly the same. Same timing, same posing, almost the same drawings, just cleaned up a bit. You can't say that about most animated films.

Disney has been re-translating and re-dubbing his films and have been re-releasing them in the states. Unfortunately, they have not been doing the best job of it. I don't have any real complaints about Disney's dubbing job, their casing of the voices is pretty weird, but I kinda expect odd voices in a dubbed foreign film. My big complaint is with Disney's translation. Disney has become more concerned with how long it takes to speak a line how important the line is in the film. Disney's translation of Kiki's Delivery Service is the worst translation I have ever seen in any foreign film. Somehow they decided that kids wouldn't be able to understand what is happening on screen, so they decided to add a lot of lines to describe the visual. This is the biggest cardinal sin of film making (not just in translating films): You either say something or you show it, you never say and show it, ever! Disney should know better.

They have gotten better at translating some of Miyazaki's later films, but if your looking to watch any of Miyazaki's films the best rout is to buy the Japanese Studio Gibli DVDs. They have a lot more extras then the Disney DVDs and the subtitles have a much better translation (no dub, sorry). You'll need a reign free DVD player, but it's worth it.

Even with Disney's terrible translation I think Miyazaki is a great visual story teller and I think I'll enjoy Howl's Moving Castle quite a lot. I can't wait until its out! It hits America June 10th!

April 19, 2005

Jamie Hewlett and the new Gorillaz video


This may be old news to some of you, but I finally got around to seeing the new Gorillaz video "Feel Good Inc". And it is so very good! (Video Details)

I've allwase been more of a Jamie Hewlett fan then a Gorillaz fan. In fact, I'm a bit lukewarm about the Gorillaz music in general. Sometimes I think it's good, sometimes I don't care for it much. But that didn't stop me from collecting every Gorillaz CD ever put out, including all the singles and crap. I can't say that about any other band I listen to. And its all because they put their videos as quicktimes on the CDs. At the time, there was no other way to get a copy of them and I just had to see them over and over again. (Later they put out a DVD)

Jamie Hewlett can draw like no one I else. I've loved his work sense I was first introduced to Tank Girl. He has an amazing sense of draftsmanship and character design with a strong attention to detail. I love the fact that Jamie is involved in animation, but Passion Pictures should be given a lot of the credit. They produced the animation for the Gorillaz videos. True the animation is limited, but I have to say this is the smartest thing they did with the videos. They were smart enough to let Jamie's design sell most of the work, only animating what needs to be done, and and animting it well. The results are fantastic.

Just like the others, I'll be picking up the new CD when it comes out his May. (Of course it will have to wait until I get back from Denmark.)

If you like this kind of thing, you should check out Pictoplasma Conference on Contemporary Character Design and Art. It's a cool conference with Gorillaz type design work. It was profiled on Cartoon Brew here and here. Cool Stuff!

April 14, 2005

Glen Keane Gallery

Check out some of the amazing drawings from the Glen KeaneGallery:


That guy can draw!

April 13, 2005

Google Video

Google video upload program is up and running. You can upload your video on Google and then people find it and watch it...but not right now, it's still in beta. This looks like it could be a cool little program once it's out in ful, as well as a direct rip on Yahoo's websearch. It could be a good place to shocase your demo reel, or to look up refrence. Mostly I like the idea of downloading TV shows and watching them any time you want to.



Wow, thank you Cartoon Brew for pointing me to ToonHub. ToonHub is a great archive of animation magazines, especially Fanzines. This is an amazing collection of stuff. I especially liked this page, that shows you all the different animation magazines that were published. Some even have the articles in them. There are a lot of magazines that I've never heard of including one with a familiar sounding name. (I knew I couldn't have been that original)

I'll be keeping an eye on this website hoping that a lot more articles show up. Cool stuff.

April 12, 2005

Rust Remover

Back in January I made two new years resolutions. One start exercising and loose some weight. The other was to keep a sketchbook again. I've done really well so far with the first. That part hasn't been that hard to do. I just get out of bed earlier and use the gym at work. I don't know if I've lost any wight, but I have found that I have a lot more energy. This really helps when it comes to playing with and taking care of my daughter. The second resolution has been a lot harder for me.

I've gotten really bad about keeping a sketchbook since leaving school. I know how important it is to have one, so that's why I'm trying to get back into it. First I went out and bought myself a new sketchbook, I bought my favorite kind. I like the hard cover black ones with the elastic band that keeps it closed, and the silk bookmark to keep your place. I like my paper to have some tooth to it as well, I can't stand smooth sketchbooks. I still have that sketchbook, it's still as clean today as the day I bought it. It's so nice, and I'm so rusty I just can't bring myself to draw in it.

So I went and bought myself a second sketchbook, this one was one of those spiral bound books with the cardboard cover. A lot less fancy, but also a lot less intimidating. Apparently it's not un-intimidating enough, the only thing I've found I can use it for it shopping lists and phone numbers with the occasional doodle. Again I'm so rusty that I'm intimidated by the book.

Now I've finally resorted to steeling a 3-ring binder and some 3-ring paper from the copy room. So far, that seems to work for me. If you find the right kind of binder, with the rings on one side, not in the back, you can flip the cover over and use the angle like a drawing desk. The price of the book, the fact that it looks a lot less like a sketchbook and the fact that I can take out/put in paper as much as I want to makes me not so intimidated. Plus I can take it out in public and draw people with a lot more ease. I think it looks like I'm working on something important like a script or my taxes, this way people don't think I'm drawing them. There's noting like a sketchbook to bring attention to yourself.

I've started to call it my rust remover. I'm using it to get all the rust out of my drawings so that when I get my confidence back I can go back to that fancy black sketchbook with the silk bookmark and draw for real again! At least that's what I've been telling myself.

A couple sketchbook resources I've found on the web:

A lot of drawing books teach you drawing tricks, like start with the head, use crosshairs, or the line of action, end with the feet. These tricks are great for when you are first starting out, you tend to loose them as you develop your own style. Walt Stanchfield was the life drawing instructor for Disney's studio. He was also really good for breaking people out of their drawing tricks. He really pushed the idea of really observing people and start with what's important to the pose. He left behind a series of notes. The notes are hard to find but the website Animation Meat has a few of them for download:


Everyday Mattersis Danny Gregory's weblog. He keeps a lot of his sketchbook notes on his blog. Mostly I find his blog it to be an inspiring website to look at. I don't believe in keeping an “animation only” sketchbook. There's more to life then just gesture drawing and it's not good to keep yourself in such a wedge. I find this website to be a big inspiration for keeping a sketchbooks in genral. If anyone knows of more sketchbook blogs I'd love to hear about them.


April 11, 2005

Sony Acquires MGM

As you probably know by now Sony has now acquired MGM. It's been in the news for a while. But what I didn't realise (untell this moring when I heard it on NPR) is that this means from now on Sony will be responsible for 40% of all feture films made in America. That's bigger news then I thought it was!

(That also means that 40% will end up on the PSP:)

April 8, 2005

Kartoon Kocktail

Going go APE? Live in San Francisco? You might want to check out Kartoon Kocktail this weekend. Ben Catmull, one of the guys who sits next to me here at work, clued me into this show. I wish I was going to San Fran this weekend to check it out it looks pretty cool. It's a bunch of independent animated shorts by some pretty cool guys. Check it out, I wish I could:(

It's at:

Friday, April 8th, 6:30-8:30pm

El Rio

3158 Mission St (at Cesar Chavez)
San Francisco
(near 24th Street BART)

Animation Mentor and Denmark Announcement

I have to say that Animation Mentor has turned out to be a lot better then I expected. And I was expecting it to be really good. The variety of students and their work is inspiring. There's a bunch of stop motion students, some traditional sstudents as the computer students. I really like the way the classes focus on the basics. I look forward to logging in each day.

Also teaching has given me such a buzz. I've made a few comments to students work. And to my surprise it actually made the students work look better!

Also, unrelated to Animation Mentor, I was invited to teach a class on lipsink at: The Animation Workshop at the University College of Western Denmark. So it looks like I'll be going to Viborg, Denmark in May. I'll post some of my lipsink notes here as soon. Hopefully I'll be able to post some video examples. I'll also be posting pictures of my class and the whole Denmark trip. I'm looking forward to it. To find out more about the school go here:


April 7, 2005

25 Greatest Moments in Sesame Street

This is a bit of fun. I'm a huge muppets fan. I think Jim Henson and his crew were some of the greatest character designers ever. Here's a website that lists 25 of the greatest moments in Sesame Street. I have to say I agree with most of this list. Near-Far still cracks me up. And I re-enact the yep-yep-yep-nope-nope-nope scene with my daughter all the time. Check it out for a bit of fun:


April 4, 2005

5 Stages of Learning Software

I know, I know, for someone who says that software doesn't matter I sure seem to bring up the topic of software a lot. But this has been rattling around in my brain and I thought I should let it out.

Sense coming to Sony I've had to learn Sony's new software. They use Maya here at Sony. I've used Maya in the past, but I haven't used it in a long time, so it's almost completely new to me. Most of my career has been on Proprietary software. And as I've said in the past proprietary software can be very, very, very different then other software. You'd be surprised. So Maya, with all of it's user friendly interface, and buttons, handles, etc, seems really foreign to me.

This is something I've noticed that happens with myself and other people I've worked with. There are five stages to learning new software:

  1. Denial "The software can't work like this, this is not happening"
  2. Anger "How dare they use software , I've used much better stuff"
  3. Bargaining "Maybe I can convince them to switch, or change what they have. Once they see my way, they'll have to change"
  4. Depression "I can't believe I'm going to have to use this crap"
  5. Acceptance "I don't want to struggle any more. I guess I can use this."

Some of you might recognize this list from the 1969 book by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross called On Death and Dying. I have to say it's all true:)

April 1, 2005

Inspiring Artwork from Ben Balistreri and Stephen Silver

Wow, if you're looking for some inspiring animation art work then you should run over to Ben Balistreri and Stephen Silver's websites. They're a couple of amazing character designers. I'll let the artwork peek for itself:



(Thanks to the Wubblog)