20 November 2011

Here we go

The fruit of the last ASA Drawing Class of the year

So this is my last week in Johannesburg, the teets of whom I have suckled on since the day I was born. but now it is time the apron strings were cut, so to speak, and I shall now coerce my savoury milk from the beautiful bossums of Capetown. I fly for the mother city on the 28th, and my last exam for city-varsity will be completed this Thursday the 24th, which leaves me 4 days to party down and leave some love for the beautiful people(friends, family, cats and trees) who have defined my life in Jozi.

Yes guys, you are the tits, and I'll be damned If I don't have those tits in my future, even if I have to wait a little while to have them in my face once again.

31 October 2011


So the varsity got us a semi-nude guy to draw! It's the first class of it's kind we have had the entire year, and cigarettes were smoked in the rain, in celebration. Everything about this piece is oily, the page, the sticks, the model himself (who spent 20 minutes oiling himself up and doing practice poses for his friend) and the "supplements" that give him great big muscles that struggle to hold a 5 minute pose.

I'm starting to get the hang of this pastel technique(breaking off +3cm pieces and blocking in tone with the side), although I know now that you can blend the buggers. I'm going to try that tonight at the ASA Drawing group, we're doing another long pose and this time maybe I will produce something that is almost a finished picture.

25 October 2011


Time for anger.
These are a walk, sneak and run. To let off some steam, I made them an angry walk, sneak and run. We're animating a fight scene now for animation class. It will be glorious and arguably a better vent than getting into an actual bar fight. But I'm keeping my options open.

I'm trying out a new workflow here, essentially it goes like this:

1.) I think about the walk and act it out, feel it out and eat an entire lemon, with the peels on.

2.) If necessary I scribble thumbnails to solidify ideas and to create references I can scream at later if I forget what I'm doing.

3.) I set keys on some of the controls with stepped tangents, animators survival kit style on the extremes, breakdowns, ups and downs, BUT not putting too much into body mechanics as far as posing goes, just blocking in the attitude, so this rough pass is over pretty quickly. I do not key every control, some are just not involved in the poses that intimately. Then I pimp slap a picture of a koala bear taped to a punching bag in my shed. I do this to get in the zone, to take a break, and to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.

4.) I open the graph editor. I focus on individual controls, splining, deleting static channels and getting the curves to resemble the motion I had imagined! It was important to think about it before hand, so that before I see the curves I already know how they should look for each particular channel. (Maybe in my thumbnail stage I should also sketch the graphs, so when my mom sees me working she thinks I am clever.)

While I do this I keep my camera view open, watching to see if my imagination translates well into reality. It often doesn't.

I focus first on hips, and the legs in a glance just to make sure the timing of the hips is planned to the steps. I then check that the shoulders are following through the way I would like them to, then the head. Then I do the feet controls, and if absolutely necessary set keys on the pole-vectors to keep them knees cracking correctly.

I do the arms from scratch at this stage, keeping the poses but deleting the graphs. I first animate the shoulder so it's motion is correct relative to the torso. I do this by keying only the rotation attributes and shaping the curve manually in the graph editor, the only time I click on the control itself is to select it.
After the shoulder's working, I do the upper arm relative to that, then the forearm relative to that, then the hand, fingers, battle-club etc until it acts like the arm I angrily envisaged whilst chewing a lemon rind!


This applies mostly to walks, but I know on a non-cycling shot I would plan it similarly. So try it out, maybe you'll love it. That is, if it works for you. I find it a fast and easily alterable approach, but then again I am the kind of person who would pimp-slap a koala.

A major point of this exercise for me was to produce work quickly, and I did each cycle in a few hours. The sneak was a cheat. I just modified and stretched the graphs of the walk, as well as moving around some controls that didn't have any keys on them. This way i retain the anger, but gain stealth. Perhaps my next post will be less angry, and more stealthy.

So stealthy, noone will even know it's there.

24 October 2011

A Physical Approach

And no, I'm not suggesting ways of getting out of traffic fines. After a talk given by Dan at the Kunjani'mation workshops, it became obvious that a solid grounding in physics (the basics, not the fiddly quantum bits) will go a long way to improving anyone's animation skills!

Today's post is for animators, so if you like to come here to look at the pictures you are welcome to look at older posts with less blahblahblah in them :D

So I picked up an e-book from a friend, Conceptual Physics, which is available under a creative commons license. Soon after reading the first chapter I realised I've been thinking about overlap and follow-through quite, well, wrong. (That, and preservation of energy in a bouncing ball, but I'll save that for a later post.)

So, I did some tests: a mass accelerates, reaches a constant speed, then stops. With a dangly thing underneath. I know, very animation mentor. Sue me.

The video below shows a common misconception (one I've held as a rule of thumb since I started animating): The faster an object  is going, the more drag there will be in it's dangly bits. Sounds pretty believable, right? Wrong, because of the principle of inertia!

This next video illustrates the more physically accurate pendulum. According to the principle of inertia, one frame of reference can only be measured relative to another, and that without this frame of reference no motion is actually happening (kind of trippy, eh?). My point being, when you jump up, the world(the surface of which is moving at 400m/s relative to it's centre) does not slip away under your feet. You land in the same spot. You appear to be in the same spot, but actually the ground has imparted you with the complementary initial velocity of 400m/s! This is the same reason that an unfastened seatbelt will send you flying through the wind shield of a car that suddenly stops, but if the car keeps a constant speed, it is quite possible to juggle balls normally, given sufficient elbow room.

So, the way this applies to overlap in animation is this: Acceleration and deceleration cause the overlap and follow through, but when the object has reached a cruising speed, objects attached to it will come to rest, relative to the object itself(affected to varying degrees by air resistance and other kinds of friction, say, an inconveniently positioned metro-cop). And of course, none of this would work without gravity, so I reckon applying this rule to your animation will go a long way to improving that sought after illusion of weight!

And yes, I did get a ticket today at a roadblock. No, I wasn't drunk. Yes, my passenger side seat belt was broken, and no, it wasn't far to give my friend a lift to the station, nor was he juggling.

Yes, I will get it fixed officer.

23 October 2011

The time limit of foregone conclusions.

Stepped out of our comfort zones at this week's drawing group, and I never thought I'd say I prefer 10sec poses to 2 hour ones. I never finished this, but I'm quite pleased with the result, and I actually had loads of fun, those 2 hours went by far too quickly.

Merry Sunday Humans.

20 October 2011


Is going to be OK.

This one's for Glen and Katya, I love you guys.

This took a month or so, first hand drawn, vectorised with toonboom, painted in photoshop, and the music is the intro to an Edith Piaf song, "'y Avait Du Soleil"..... Ok, so I need to hold back on the Frenchness a little. But only so you can try it for a while.

16 October 2011

Kunjani'mation #1

What a weekend, with absolutely no room for anything but pride for the Southern African animation community. The Kunjani'mation festival is a collaboration between Animation SA and the French Institute of Johannesburg, aiming to put film makers from all over Southern Africa under one roof to really get a perspective of where we stand in this crazy industry.

Kicking off on Friday at the beautiful Alliance Française in Parktown with a screening of local and French short films, as well as a new feature film from France, "A Cat in Paris", the first evening was a show of force of the raw talent of South African animators, featuring Mike Scott's "We Come Together" music video, Martin Sen's "New Diggs" and the Black Heart Gang's "Tale of How".

The audience was then blown away by a selection of French Short films from the Annecy festival in France, followed by a new French animated feature, "A cat in Paris", a beautiful story about a cat who lives a double life between the houses of a thief and a police officer. 

It was a lovely night under the stars with good friends and seriously inspiring films. 

The contrast between SA and France put things in perspective for me, about where we stand in the global industry and the exciting potential we have as the South African animation Industry, but the serious amount of hard work we have to put in to push ourselves and our art to compete with an industry such as France(In my opinion the strongest industry in the world). I think a lot of animators who were there would agree with me on this, and I personally think we have the potential.
Alliance Française

Saturday opened up with an all South African  animation art exhibition coordinated by Shannan Taylor, featuring the work of such machines as Daniel Clarke, Ernst Du Plessis, Judd Simantov, Charl Smit, Shannan herself and many others. I had the honour of putting together the student section of the exhibition, featuring works by Kearatwa Sedidi, Nkanyezi Thabethe, Neo Moloto, Wandi Abrahamse and Myself. I also had the pleasure of exhibiting several sculptures, along with the set and puppets used in "We come together".

Student Work

Daniel Snaddon and Shannan Taylor at the Exhibition

The rest of the day was spent the way most animators like it: In the dark, staring at a screen watching and hearing awesome stuff, and of course, making stuff. The stuff in question that was made was not typical animator stuff, but stuff in the form of conversation and questions that have not been asked in our industry before. The workshops covered everything from business to students and schools, as well as how to throw together an awesome walk cycle on a tight dead line.

Speakers from Zimbabwe and Namibia showed off some of their work and gave some background on their industries, and it's really inspiring what a country like Zimbabawe is capable of despite their economic and political struggles. 

Representatives of Southern African animation, Namibia(Robert Scott), Animation SA(Canda Kincses) Zimbabwe(Solomon Maramba)


 The day ended with the final screening at Alliance, featuring more SA shorts, including Kentridge's "Felix in Exhile", followed by more mind blowing French shorts and finally the Triplets of Belleville. It's the first time I've seen it. My friends laughed at me, and now I understand why. What a treat.

All were welcome at the Alliance Screenings

Many many many thanks go to Daniel Snaddon of Animation SA, as well as the collaborators and co-conspirators at the Alliance Française. You guys pulled it off and made it look easy all at once, and if the pride I feel for our industry after this weekend is anything to go by, it was nothing short of a great success.

02 October 2011

01 October 2011

Good grief

So I've set myself a challenge. It's a sculpting challenge, to keep my hands in practice, but it's also more than that, and that's why this guy looks so worried. 

This sculpture and the rat devil from the last post are speed sculpts, finished within 90 minutes each. It really is alot of fun. But the challenge is not the time limit.

The challenge is to my ego, and that with each successive speed sculpt, I destroy the last. So, bye bye rat-satan, you taught me loads.

Relax, they're only plasticine. It melts eventually. Or gets dusty. So this way I don't run out of clay either!

And yes, you're absolutely right, there is a lemon on my desk.

29 September 2011

Oh Dear

Rat Devil.

Houdini v1.1.0

I had Sunday afternoon all to myself this weekend, and under the guise of engaging Spring in polite conversation, I rigged a cat made of cubes. His name is Houdini, after a cat who decided it is nice to live at my friend Edward's house. Ed tells me Houdini catches pigeons and eats their brains, and he smells like he does so I believe him.

Download Houdini at CreativeCrash for FREE, he works in maya 2011 and up, but let me know if he works in older versions so I can tell my grandfather.

I'm doing lots of animations with him, they're all terrible so I'll only upload the least terrible ones. Have a good afternoon and when talking to strangers be sure that they don't realise you are a stranger too.

(update* Houdini is still pending moderation on creative crash, so it may be a little while before you can download him.)

19 September 2011

Violence is often the answer

Last week (or was it last-of last?) at the Animation SA drawing group, animator and lecturer Ben Ward decided to jump around and wave a sword in a completely un-threatening way. The other animators were absolutely delighted!

For this session we worked in 5, 10 and 30 second poses, then several 1 and 2 minute poses, then regressed back into shorter poses ending with 5 seconders again. The group was divided about whether they preferred the first or second half of the session, myself personally falling into the group that found the second round of progressively shorter poses more fun. I worked with a nifty little Copiic BS brush pen for the first half, then for the second half a 100 Artline permanent marker, brandished in the way a toddler grasps a crayon or a serial killer grasps a bread knife while he frustratedly stabs a loaf of bread into manageable slices.

5 seconds Round 1

10 seconds Round 1

1 min Round 1

1 minute Round 2

10 second Round 2, the rest are just as unintelligible as this one :D  This is the single greatest drawing I have ever done.

In the time between now and the drawing class, I have been offered a job at Triggerfish Animation Studios in Cape Town, South Africa. In the spirit of entering the rat race, I drew this while waiting around in the Dutch colonies before my interview. 

And so I will be a Junior Animator on their second feature film, "Khumba" starting 1st December, and I solemnly swear to be a good rat and race my little rodent heart out in the name of helping to make South African animation awesome!!!

Have a look at their site: Triggerfish

And the work of Daniel Clarke, a concept artist who works there: Daniel Clarke
I met him briefly, and gibbered silently in an unflattering manner. 

Envy? Never.

27 August 2011

Natomies 2

And then some.

All of these but the man with the glasses are from a drawing class hosted by Daniel Snaddon of Bugbox animation. Check it out on facebook if you live in Joburg and want to improve your skills while meeting awesome people!

19 August 2011

31 July 2011

Parkour that

This is more or less finished now, and I believe a work all night; party all morning; sleep all day approach has paid off, and I have obviously run out of 2 minute noodles. I have a lot to post here, it's just a matter of deciding what order and how often I aught to do so.

On Friday the 29th July 2011 we said good bye to a great artist, teacher and human being who we had the privilege of being mentored by in our first year at City Varsity. Jeffrey Fineburg lived far more than most ever will in what we know was far too short a life, and he is and will be missed by everyone lucky enough to have known him.

19 July 2011

Parkour this

Don't you just love redoing stuff?

This is my second time around blocking in this project, and I've just finished my first major blocking pass. Done first with the famous MooM rig, my feet, shoulder and head controls glitched out, leaving my hyper-intelligent filing system to do the work of nailing my foot to the floor. The circles I walk are tight, bloody and fast.

Well, with one week and a bit to go before the deadline, I've completely over hauled the entire animation, faster, with more heroic poses. And yes, Max. What a sexy boy he is.

This is an obstacle course designed and animated by our lecturer, Ben Ward.
Yes, those are swinging slicers shortly followed by a smasher of doom. No, that gentleman is not standing on the swinging blade, don't be ridiculous.

29 May 2011

R&D Willomee

Some research and development, and fun with Maya Fur. This is the beginning of a fairly large project, and I'll share what I can as I can. I'm excited. :D

28 May 2011

Skootabaloo bah

Final polish complete, and a schweet three-point light set up. I'm happy with how it came out, despite the terror of the first spline. Aroo? Our lecturer made us shoot reference before we started, and was kind enough to let us use his camera. I've attached my reference, so you can see what madness went into planning this.

And the reference footage:

24 May 2011

The Way, Blocked

Second block pass finished on Monday, a great deal more time spent on breaking poses down and adding overlap where needed!

And below is the nightmare I have been presented with when I hit Spline. There is much work to be done still. So far I've progressed past this stage, removing hitches from the head, hips and kick-flipping chest. Now I'm re-blocking the hand poses to accommodate the quadrupedal movement, locking the knees and elbows where they contact and smoothing out all the arcs. The deadline is Friday, so hopefully I can pull all the repairs with enough time to polish!

And this is a personal experiment. Thinking about flight, artificial and natural, and simplifying it to a few cubes. My rigging skills are clearly non-existent, but parenting the wings to the middle-beam seemed to do the trick. Too bad about the gimbals... My frustration, it evades description. Any body know how to get reliable rotation out of parented geometry?

21 May 2011

Fish Beats and Heavy Sh***

Whew, I've been quiet about this for far too long. Alluded to in a previous post, I had the privelage of working for Mike Scott (bruandboegie.co.za) earlier in the year on a shot in the latest GoldFish Animated music video! My section was done in clay-mation, and appears at the veeeeerrry end of the video.

I have too much respect for the amount of work that Mike put into this, and have to say he is a great director as well as a talented animator.

So yeah, here's the official web release of the Goldfish, We come Together Music Video!

(It's available in juicy 720p HD on YouTube, so watch it there and share it with your friends ;)

In other news, we're doing the "Boxlift" project in 3D animation class, so here is my first rough blocking pass of that! Moom makes a great quadruped rig, because his legs are so very short :D

20 May 2011


A modelling and texturing project for varsity. All textures hand painted in Photoshop, modelling in Maya, rendered with mental ray! Hope it is creepy, I am, as previously stated, freaking out.

18 May 2011

Iettle 3, The enVis

The Verastinchanter have this to say on the topic of the enVis:
Although they may not be called crude, the enVis may certainly be called brutal. They exist in a model of perfection that is constantly fluctuating, but in accordance with it's fluctuating laws, justice is severely felt amongst it's people. The perpetrators of lesser crimes are immediately condemned to a proletarian life of workers in the City. As an impoverished proletarian, you are just as likely to starve as you are to be eaten by another starving proletarian. The perpetrators of more severe crimes are stretched on a rack, fed to the townsfolk, strapped to test rockets launched inexpertly into space or some combination of the above."

" All enVis are hermaphroditic, seasonally switching between three observable genders. All three are involved in courtship, and only one survives, neither male nor female, but a dominant child bearing third gender, larger and stronger than the other two, with a veracious appetite. An enVis will bear a clutch of three to four offspring in it’s pregnancy, starting at around 16 embryo. Like sharks, the fetal enVis consume one another in the womb, only the strongest make it to birth."

"The enVis have had technology for hundreds of years, but are presently reaching a renaissance in their world-view and social structure. For example, they have only recently discovered that the stars are not imprinted on a sphere surrounding their tiny asteroid world. They have instead concluded that the marks are light-years distant points of light, not unlike their sun..."

 "...The only problem remaining with this theory, as far as we see it, is that the enVis still believe the sun is simply the unimaginable mass of a hibernating space aphid, and it will awaken soon to scour the asteroid now so abundant with life. We, the Verastichanter, know this to be false, and have had numerous debates on the matter with the photo-synthetic aphids of the forests of Iettle, who share the same belief as the enVis.
The enViss tradition of smoking dried and cured masses of aphid carcasses in elaborate water-pipes has been theorized as one reason for this analogous religious superstition."

"The enVis build their homes as massive communal cities. The structure typically consists of few taller buildings, constructed just as organically as the undercity. The taller buildings are covered and tied at their bases by the constantly fluctuating home-making and taking habits of the lower-middle class enVis.  These will literally eat one and other for possession of a property, however this is not considered punishable behaviour..."

 "...True crime is rather more complicated, and involves chiefly the expression of un-approved ideas. A small offence, say, proposing an intermediary meal between lunch and breakfast, is punishable by life time slavery in the undercity. A larger offence, (say, proposing to school children that super-hot gaseous formations surrounding epicenters of nuclear fusion could be a slightly better explanation of what the sun really is,) could easily land you being tortured and made to read children’s stories to large crowds of infant enViss. You will then likely be consumed as part of their daily brunch."

There are many more sketches, which I will share when I feel like it. I hope you enjoyed my rambles and pictures!

Iettle 2, the Verastichanter

"The trees and plants occur in many shapes and forms, in habitats ranging from swamp to high-and-dry forest. The most interesting plant on Iettle is by far the Vestra plant, which is home to the Verastichanter people. They make their lives in complex dwellings in the cork-like bark that peels in curls on it's trunk. The plant itself is tall, tapering and winding to a large red pinnacle of a flower with fern-esque leaves surrounding."

"These are but an idea of people, a fleeting "may be" or "in all probability" of communal beings. They may be described as the metaphysical projection of societies, existing in absolute knowledge and absolute dispute over the nature of the universe. The argument goes like this: It is undeniable that, imprinted in the fabrics and pattern of the universe, what is is a result of what was, and that what will be is a result of what is, and it only logically follows that due to our mortal perception of what order this all actually happens in (time), we cannot know any of these things at all and the previous statement must by it's very nature be false."

"The Verastichanter have the most accurate universal understanding of any sentient being in existence, and this they know and vehemently deny. They also have trunks, are a nano-metre in height and live in cork-bark on the side of trees in the forests of Iettle, where they spend most of their time debating the nature of the universe with aphids." 

"They exist in male and female forms, but romance is not found within one tree. Once the season is up, the males ride in baskets tethered to pollen grains. They leave to germinate a new generation of Vestra trees, and to get it on with the neighbour’s daughters."

"Thereafter, their life tends to follow the story of Agnathes, who remained in the new tree, watched his children grow, watched his wife grow, wrote treatise on the nature of love and its logical absence, declined into alcoholism and attempted, in futility, to convert the secular youth to a lovely new religion he'd invented. His novels are very popular among the middle aged Verastichanter men."

"They are well meaning, peaceful people, who make no war and create art, scripture and music in abundance. By their very interactions with the world, in a sensory fashion, they designate themselves, the universe and their own philosophies as a figment of somebody else’s deranged imagination."