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.