Monday, April 21, 2008

Team Fortress 2: Meet the Scout

This stuff is awesome. No more explanation necessary.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

New York Comic Con 2008

This weekend I went to the (3rd?) Annual New York Comic Con! I have to say that I was pretty impressed. I haven't been to Comic Con in San Diego, I'm sure it's bigger and there's more going on, but even so this was a pretty big show, and a ton of people were there. The highlights of the show for me were the previews of Wall-E, and the panel of Battlestar Galactica actors. Before you laugh, if you haven't seen Battlestar Galactica go read all the glowing reviews in the media, it's an amazing show. What we got to see from Wall-E was incredible, so insanely entertaining without any dialogue! It gave the impression that the animators could really play around with entertaining acting choices and it seems so fully owned by the animators. Of course I don't really know, but that's the impression I got by watching it.

Michael Trucco (Anders), Rekha Sharma (Tory), Michael Hogan (Tigh)

I have to say, the Battlestar Panel was one of the best panels I've ever been to (granted I haven't been to many). The actors were so professional, extremely grateful to be given the opportunity to work on a great show like Battlestar, and talked a lot about their craft, their views of their characters, etc. The questions from the audience were overall pretty good too. Michael Hogan is an absolute professional, you can tell by the way he presents himself, how seriously he takes his work, and by just watching him on screen. He's a really amazing actor. Michael Trucco (Anders) was the comic on stage, and I don't think him or Rekha Sharma (Tory) had been to a panel before.

I'm not really a comic book fan, so I didn't know a lot of the artists who were there, but it was still cool to see their incredible talent and to see them draw characters (for a charge) for other people. One of the good things about not knowing a lot of the artists was that I wasn't shy to talk to anyone because I didn't know if they were famous or not! One person I did know and actually got to meet was Peter Laird, one of the creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! The 10 year old in me really geeked out, I was one of those kids who watched the old cartoon every week, had a ton of toys, and loved to yell "Kowabunga" :P He was just sitting at a table, very few people around him buying drawings, no big displays behind him or anything. Really friendly guy, didn't talk to him much but had to get my picture taken with him.

Me and Peter Laird

I also met and talked a bit with David Mack, artist of "KABUKI", and, un-beknownst to me, writer and artist of Marvel's "Daredevil". A book he had on his desk, called "The Shy Creatures", caught my eye because of the similarity in style to Dr. Seuss drawings. I noticed the rest of his work was very naturalistic, and he explained to me that "The Shy Creatures" was actually a part of an issue of his comic "Kabuki", where one of the characters reads this book. He actually created the book in the comic, drew it out page by page through the character's point of view. He said that he thought the contrast in styles between the naturalistic world of his comic and the fanciful style of the book the character was reading was interesting. As I was flipping through his other comics, I saw how his page layouts were very creative, not your normal comic panels, one had a blueprint of a house roof and descriptive text outside of the comic panels. He was very friendly, (not all of the artists were), I really enjoyed talking to him and wish I had gotten a picture with him.

I also went to a few of the other panels, one was on "The State of Animation" with J.J. Sedelmaier and another man (I can't remember his name now, he said he has done Garfield shows for the "last 150 years"), and also one on storytelling in comics, with Klaus Janson and Marc Guggenheim. The storytelling one was my favorite, they didn't talk necessarily about story, but about the differences between writing and drawing for comics, and the difference between writing for comics and writing for film. (Marc Guggenheim has been both a writer for comics and tv, most recently co-creator of Eli Stone.) I found it interesting how so much of what they said was the same thing we talk about in animation, just in different vocabulary. Klaus stressed the importance of using reference, Marc talked about finding your unique voice, both talked about the necessity of re-doing work to make it better, among other interesting topics. It really was a direct way for me to see that what we strive for in animation isn't that different from other commercial art/storytelling techniques. Though I have never drawn or written for a comic book, I could relate to almost everything they talked about through my experience in animation. Once again, my lack of knowledge in comics paid off, as I wasn't shy to chat with Klaus for a bit afterwards...not really realizing how well known he is in the world of comics for his work, and his work with Frank Miller.

Anyway, New York Comic Con was a good time, and I was pretty impressed by it since San Diego is the one that gets all the glory. Anyone who's around NY next year should definitely check it out (and get the weekend pass, much cheaper!)

I thought this guy was a great look alike to Obi-Wan ;) It was funny how serious he was when I asked him if I could take a picture. In complete Ewan McGregor tone, he said "Yes, of course..."

Had to take a picture of Mickey!

You wouldn't like me when I'm angry...

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Union Square Drawings: Day 3

Here's another drawing from Union Square. I feel like I should be producing more, but most of what I do is quick sketches that don't look so great. Half of me thinks I shouldn't post these cause they're not great either, but eh, hopefully that will encourage me to improve. Besides, I really just like sharing these images of the people at Union Square, for those of you who aren't from New York. The weather this week has been amazing to get out and draw! I've spent so much time there that it's kinda starting to feel like home.

I've noticed this guy hanging out at the park a couple other times. Today he was beating on this drum (is it a djembe?), just jamming with another guy who was on guitar. Visually his hat and hair struck me as interesting, and emotionally he was really feeling his music. Looking at it now I see I messed up his proportions--his head looks huge :P So from now on I know I've gotta make myself see the whole pose and sketch that in correctly first.

Slowly shaking off the rust...

Farewell, Ollie

In case you haven't been around the animation blogs in the past day, Ollie Johnston passed away. As someone who greatly admires not only his work, but his contribution to creating the artform we know today, it's sad news. I can't say anything too personal since I of course I am nothing more than a fan, but if you check out Cartoon Brew's post, they have a great list of various blog posts, a note from Brad Bird, and the official story from the Walt Disney Company.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Union Square Drawings: Day 1

I always say "I want to draw more", "I want to get better at drawing", etc. Yet, of course, I rarely make the time for it. Now that the weather is getting nicer I want to get out to draw people in New York more often. There are so many interesting individuals in NYC, and if there's one place to see where a lot of them converge, it's Union Square. Here are 3 that I thought turned out a bit better than the rest. Now, I'm not kidding myself, I know I have a long way to go, and there's a reason these are being posted on my blog and not my portfolio site ;) But I'd be a fool living in this city, surrounded by so many people from all walks of life, if I didn't get out there and draw every now and then.

I used to try to draw an exact figure of what I saw, but since I've gotten further into animation, (and since it's been forever since my life drawing classes), my main goal is to find and represent the soul of the people I see. After all, that's really my goal as an animator, and I've always heard that when drawing people, you should "cut to the heart". I still have a problem with getting too detailed, and I have a lot to learn about anatomy, but I think that will improve with practice. Besides, it is much more interesting and fun for me to just use the people around me as reference, and to read their emotions, than to try to exactly replicate everything--especially since these people are always moving.

The girl with the dog is a drawing based on a gesture sketch I made when I saw her, in the other two I was trying to capture the attitude and character of the person, without much emphasis on an exact pose.
I'm pretty happy with this one, would have never drawn something like this had I not seen her. That bench needs a bit of work ;) I was really struck by how much she obviously loved her dog.

This guy was one of 2 singing songs together. They were pretty good, I really wanted to show how loud he was singing by exaggerating how wide his mouth was open. These guys were singing for everyone to hear, and weren't shy in the least.

No, I did not make this guy up! He kinda shuffled down the sidewalk, then suddenly started screaming loudly. Not fearfully or painfully or anything, just this odd, half happy/half angry yell. It was pretty impossible to draw the outfit he had on in detail, I even forgot the feathered boa he had around his neck, and I have no idea what that pillow like thing he was carrying was. But come on, how could I not make an attempt? :)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

NYC ACM SIGGRAPH: Industry Spotlight

Tonight I had the pleasure of checking out the NYC Industry Spotlight, courtesy of the NYC chapter of ACM SIGGRAPH. I wish more of these types of events happened around New York, because it was a lot of fun to see what everyone is producing around here these days. The event was held at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), and featured work from Framestore NY, Pysop, Nathan Love, Charlex, Curious Pictures, among others. It was only a couple of hours long, but it's a great way for professionals and students alike to keep up to date with the CG industry in New York. Basically representatives from each studio give a short talk about their company and work, and then show off their latest and greatest! If you're around NYC and missed it this year, I highly recommend checking it out next year, whether you're a student or professional. If nothing else it's fun to run into some familiar faces!

Congrats to everyone who showed work, great job!

Fed Ex Carrier Pigeons, Framestore NY

Cellular South, Nathan Love

Coke Happiness Factory, Psyop

Monday, April 07, 2008

Lasseter and Jobs on Charlie Rose

Yeah, I know that's a picture of David Copperfield in the preview still, but the first interview in this episode is in fact of John Lasseter and Steve Jobs.

I stumbled upon this video while searching for Toy Story clips. It's a great glimpse back a few years, as it takes place right after the release of the first Toy Story. Lasseter is a young film director, Jobs has not yet returned to Apple for the iPod Age, and Pixar is still a name that people don't really understand. While that sort of nostalgia is fun to watch, what I find the most interesting is how these 3 different characters, Rose, Lasseter, and Jobs, interact with each other. Each one of them comes from a completely different perspective, and hence uses vocabulary that they are comfortable using.

Charlie Rose is the outsider, the journalist, trying to use what he has learned over the years about businesses and computers and apply it to the making of Toy Story. He asks a lot of questions about how the computer makes the process "easier", "faster", "cheaper". Lasseter is the filmmaker trying to explain his craft, using an explanation that makes sense to him, which is that the computer is an expensive pencil. Steve Jobs is the computer business man, once referring to the story/production process as "beta testing" the film before release.

Charlie Rose is in some ways entertainingly ignorant of "computer" animation, and no matter how much Lasseter tries he just can't seem to get the point across that computers didn't make the movie faster, easier, or cheaper. And even though he gets the point that the ideas come from the artists, I don't think he ever quite gets to the point of full understanding that computers are just a new tool and not creators in the process. I found it very interesting how at around 5:20, when Lasseter is trying to explain the differences between 2D and 3D, Rose seems completely lost and almost tunes out as he starts shuffling his papers and looking at his notes, maybe for the next question. In all fairness, how can he understand? To him, a picture is a picture, he doesn't seem to understand the difference between a flat drawing and a virtual 3D environment, he seems to still be stuck in the mindset that somehow the computer can just draw things faster and do them better...somehow...

Steve Jobs is also incredibly interesting to watch, especially if you consider the point at which he is at in his life. I'm not extremely knowledgeable on his business history, but I think the general summary is that at this time he had been fired from Apple, and was working for (or started?) "Next" Computers. This is well before he became one of the top CEO's of the country, well before the iPod and Apple became a status symbol on the streets of SoHo and 5th Avenue, and everywhere else. He seems a little like a broken man, though he tries to hide it, especially when Rose asks him for his thoughts on the fall of Apple. Jobs breaks from his normal catchprases of "We're about (blah blah)" and relevant cultural examples that support his topic, and instead takes a moment to think, and kinda quietly states that the innovation he made at Apple lives on in other forms, even though the Apple Company may not be succeeding, and he might not be a part of it. He seems genuinely proud of that, not in a boasting way, because he has to admit that he failed in other ways. There are many times when he still talks as he does on those Apple Keynote addresses of today, but somehow it's really only the words and his strategies that are similar. I'd have to study it more to see exactly what it is, but he doesn't seem to have the same confidence as he does now when he addresses his theatre of fans waiting with anxiety for him to reveal their new toys. What an interesting comparison between then and now! He's definitely the same person, but his life is changing as he speaks.

Jobs is also interesting to listen to because he seems to be at a point of understanding well past Charlie Rose's (concerning animation), but shares a similar point of view as having been a bit of an outsider to the filmmaking process. Jobs has obviously embraced the filmmaking process, no doubt in part to his view that it will continue to be a success for him, but the way he explains how the product, in business terms, continues to live on (read: is profitable) for decades in contrast to computers that have a very short life span--shows a deeper understanding of the product. He also seems to have an understanding of the inherit value of the creativity of filmmaking. I think that's the paradox of Steve Jobs--he's an incredibly saavy business man and of course his products are results of decisions he thinks will make his business succeed. At the same time, he comes off as someone who understands creativity and innovation. He has a great talent of speaking to both left minded and right minded people, and you've gotta admire his talents.

I was asking myself earlier today why I animate. What is it about animation that draws me to it?
It seems silly to ask that now, but sometimes I wonder. When I look at this, I think I know one reason. I found the juxtaposition of these three guy's distinct personalities very interesting to watch, and I really love analyzing personalities and characters. If you're the same, take a look at the interview. If you have more time, the David Copperfield interview is fun to watch too. He talks a lot about his goals as a performer, and how his inspiration comes from films and stories.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Don Bluth Books

Now, I hope I haven't lost touch with the animation learning material that's out there now, but I'd never even heard of these books by Don Bluth until I went to Barnes & Noble today! Am I crazy? Maybe some (heck maybe I'm the last) of you guys already know about them, but in case you don't or haven't bought them yet, it's worth posting. Seeing that the copyright says 2005, I guess they are relatively recent publications.

Don Bluth's The Art of Animation Drawing and The Art of Storyboard are now a part of my permanent animation library, and as useful and necessary as The Animator's Survival Kit and The Illusion of Life. Books like these don't come along often. More often than not in the animation section of the bookstore you find a giant book that claims to have everything you need to know in one spot, and when you actually look through it you see horribly unappealing characters in Maya screenshots, and pages and pages of information overload. Not so here.

Don Bluth's book reads with the simplicity of Preston Blair's Cartoon Animation, and the personal anecdotes of the Illusion of Life. It takes the complex process and personal feelings of the animator and summarizes them in an easy visual book. Every now and then he adds little bits of advice that have more to do with working on the job than technicalities of animation, and gives a broader picture of what it means to be an animator, an actor. He has stories of his experiences at Disney with Milt Kahl, John Lounsbery, and his own lessons he takes from the lives of Walt Disney and Freddy Moore. He ends the book with an interview of Marc Davis' wife Alice. If you're looking for another Survival Kit, that's not quite what this is, though there is plenty of discussion on analyzing action.

There is no silver bullet to great animation. In fact, even in my few short years of animating, I've figured out that the more I animate, the more I see myself rediscovering what is referred to as "the basics". There is SO much to learn about animation, it is impossible to read a few books, know it all and immediately put it into practice. That's why critique and learning by doing is so important. Don Bluth gives his personal take on the art, acting, storytelling, and job of animation in this book, that I feel is a fantastic blend of the technical and emotional sides of animation (and animators). He covers all the bases, and then some, quickly and easily. After that it's just up to us to practice. And practice. And practice. (And get critique.) And then get the book out again and remind ourselves of what we've forgotten.

**SCAD students will notice a quote by a familiar name on the back of the storyboarding book! Didn't Larry work at Bluth Studios?