Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Overview - That 'Aha' Moment ... Part. 2

The Third 'Aha'

Eye Shapes.
I was always not sure with eye shapes. I have heard some advices that we should not overdone the eye shapes. Bishop has quite a lot of attributes on his eyes controllers that i was not sure what i should do with them. My mentors (i had a sub mentor last term! :D) explained this matter really well to me on their critiques about how to make the eyes look more appealing. I thought i want to share the information with you all. So.. here we go! :)

We all know that our eye ball shape is not perfectly rounded. It kind of has a tiny bump in front of the iris area :

This bump will gently 'push' the eye lids, therefore this will affect the eye shape.
We can start reshaping the eye shapes by drawing a vertical line in the middle of the iris. You can see it on the picture below:

The idea is to determine where the bump is pushing the eye lids.

Now that we have these lines as a 'bump indicator' (yeah .. i just totally made up the term hehe :p), we can start drawing new eye shapes:

Eye Line and Eye Direction.
I always thought that we should never ever move the left and right eye controllers on Bishop to avoid a risk of getting the wild eye look. I did not adjust the left and right eye position at all when i did my first one person dialogue shot and as the result, i got a crossed eye direction; one was facing to the right and the other one was facing the opposite direction. This was also one of the main feedback that my mentor told me.

A tips that i got from my mentor is try to treat the eyes graphically:

I struggled a lot with adjusting an eye line as well. I think it becomes hard for us to notice this because we have spent a lot of time staring at our shot. As I'm writing this, I think we can use this very same trick to fix this eye line issue:

My mentor told me that I needed to make the lady a bit higher for this shot to fix the eye line mishap.

Eye Darts.
This is the fun part. Eye darts can give a lot for our shot and it is definitely not an easy one as well in my opinion. I remember that my mentor explained this to me on his critiques for a couple times and it was really tricky to achieve the right eye darts movement (Not that i am really good at it now! It's still very tricky!).

I often hear that we should not ease in or out the eye darts because it basically has a staccato movement. I was quite surprised when my mentor explained that we actually can give an 'ease-in' for it. However, it is not really an 'ease-in', it would be best to use a term: Cushion.

The idea is if we have an eye dart that moves from A to B, we can reduce the snappiness by adding 1 more key around 80% of the eye dart:

Once we added A', B 'becomes' the Cushion.

It took me quite awhile to process the concept. I have to say that I had to do a lot of experiment to finally understand it. I also have the eye dart keyed on every frame so that i have a better control of the eye position. One thing that helped me a lot was by framing through the camp fire scene from Tangled. I would suggest to take a look at one of the shot in this scene and check out the eye movement:

Eye Controller Attributes.
There are couple eye attributes -the inner,mid,out controllers- that we can use to tweak Bishop's eye shapes. As i carry on with my shot, i actually don't use a lot of these eye attributes if i didn't need to and i pretty much keep them in stepped or linear mode, depends on the situation. I only use them to shape the eye into the shape that i want and to layer in the tiny movement that the bump of our eyes make during eye darts. I also have them keyed on every frame. I know that it is very tiny and super subtle movement, but i feel that maybe it is a good idea to add it in and even though it can't be seen, hopefully it can be felt by the audiences.

So, i guess that is all for now. I hope this helps and if you guys have tips or ideas about this or anything else, i'd love to hear it as well! :) Huge thanks to my mentors for sharing their knowledge, they're awesome! (seriously :> )
Thank you guys for reading my post! :D

Have a great week and Happy Animating! :)


Update: There was multiple images uploaded in this post, i didn't know what happened but sorry for the inconvenience!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Overview - That 'Aha' moment ... Part.1

Most of the shots that we have up until now is obviously involved a lot of body mechanics. We push the poses, make our characters jump off a cliff, climbing, swimming, and do all the cool stuff that we probably can't do! This is of course a really cool thing. In class 5, i decided to try out a very subtle acting since i did such a broad shot in class 4. I feel that the shot opened up my eyes, it introduced me to a lot of new and exciting thing, and there were a lot of 'aha' moments!

The First 'Aha'
(Wow, i can't believe i just wrote that as a title haha.. i hope you guys don't mind.. :p)
The first 'aha' moment was when i put a gesture on my character and my mentor told me that it was not necessary. So here is what went through my mind. It was weird to have my character sat on the sofa. It felt like she was just there, staring at me.. *gulp... At that very moment, my mentor also mentioned in his critique that i should try out couple more acting choices. So, I shot a new video reference right away with that advice in my mind.

I'm obviously not a pro in acting out an audio clip, but i kind of figured out where i went wrong. I was thinking a lot if i should put my hand on my forehead or if i should holding a cup while i was acting the audio out, where i should have thought about what will my character do and what is she feeling right now instead. As the result, I had a reference where i rested my cheek on the back of my hand and looked very sad. I would say it was one of a really cliche idea. I brought this gesture to my blocking without thinking anything else. You can check out the playblast below:


My mentor explained to me that it was an ok gesture to add for the shot, but Do I Need ItAnother thing that he pointed out was that the gesture felt like it did not show the right body language, that i wanted to show in this shot. This body language is probably more proper if the situation in my shot is more casual. In this case, my character is seeking an approval from her senior, which is why this gesture and body language did not suit for this shot.

The main lesson is always think what our character feels and what our character will do. I have found that by asking this question to myself right before I shot the reference is always very helpful. This really helps me out to put myself in their shoe. I also believe that shooting a reference with props is a really good idea. However, i feel that maybe we should think it twice if we need them or not, especially if we are shooting a subtle shot.

I recently polished this shot and i did an eyebrow pass for the girl. I realised that i really don't need that gesture when i watched the shot again. The reason is simply because the audience will look at her face right away and they probably will not realise the body movement. This is something that my mentor has mentioned too, but for some silly reasons this just really hit me recently. (Not that i did not trust his advice! i think it just takes me some time to really process it :O )

I should say that the temptation to move the body will always be there, but when it strikes you, maybe we can try to ask ourself if we need it or not.

The Second 'Aha'
This goes back to my first one person dialogue shot. I had a very hard time blocking the shot! :D My mentor explained that we should have basic mouth shapes and basic facial expressions when we start blocking a dialogue shot. Long story short, i was unable to understand the concept. It sounds very simple, but I had a hard time to apply it on my blocking. Worry not, i will not discuss about those difficulties again, let's carry on with the now and not the past :O

The assignment which we had to pose our the facial expressions on bishop was the one that taught me what this concept means. I spent more times to listen to my audio file and really tried to find the main beats on the audio. I started from here and once i got them, i marked the words on my note. I went through my video reference and i checked out the facial expressions on the words that i had marked. Instead of posing the expression on bishop directly, I used a mirror. I feel that if you posed the expression that you see on the mirror, somehow you will feel the words too. I think it is very important to capture that feeling, this way we will not just simply pulling the controllers and mimic the facial expressions. 

I figured this out when i re-blocked my shot. Below are the playblasts of shot 1 re-blocking process :


Re-Blocking the facial expressions and mouth shapes. Keyed all the main beats.


Added some breakdowns on the body and gave some breakdowns for the facial animations.


Added more breakdowns and in betweens for the body. At this point, i ignored the facial expression and focused only on the body. I wanted to see if the body movement alone worked well or not.


At this stage, I was unsure with the lip sync. It felt weird to see her mouth shapes did not match with the audio, so i decided to 'pose' the syllables too. I kind of feel that she is a bit chattery here.


This is the second shot. I kind of found out that i actually did not have to 'pose' the syllables. I posed the lady based on the main beats and i continue to work on her body animation.


*Tips: Proxy mode can be a good way to refine the body since it does not have facial expression, which means less distractions.


*Hit the spline button... uh oh D:


Shot 1 Refining stage and blocking+ the second shot

I feel that i got more familiar with the process when i started refining the second shot. My workflow for the second shot was:
  1. Find the key poses and key expressions.
  2. Blocking : Body only.
  3. Blocking plus : Body only.
  4. Layered in extra facial expressions and mouth shapes.
  5. Keep refining the body.
  6. Refining the lip sync.
Below are the playblasts up until step no.4 above :


Refining the body.


Shot progression up until step no.4.

During these weeks (it was around week 6-ish) i started to feel that everything starts to make a lot sense. It just clicked in a lot of ways, the shot was so difficult but i was overflown by joy at the same time! *tears of joy :')

I'm gonna wrap this post here since it's been a really long one O_O. More about my findings on the next post! Thank you everyone for reading this post, i hope i did not bored you guys! :O

Have a great week and Happy Animating everyone!


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Overview - From Audio to Paper...

I kind of overlooked something on my last shot. It was that very first step that we should all do before we start our shot; getting to know our character. I did not put a lot of details about my character, not until i found the advanced planning packet video training. Long story short, i regret that i did not invest a lot of my time for this at that stage. I made sure that i did not repeat the same mistake this time around. Below is a snapshot of my planning :

My mentor told me that i probably did not have to go this extreme for this dialogue shot, but i'm glad i did it. This really helped me out to understand the characters. I did not do a lot of thumbnailing for this shot. I'm still wondering if this is all right or not. I felt that I should approach the shot in more storyboard or comic panel way. All right, as I type this I realise that I probably played it safe because I avoided my biggest fear, which is Drawing a Face! -A note to myself, try this out next time- Here are my early planning for the layout, they are quite similar :

Layout 1 + Playblast


Layout 2 + Playblast


Another thing that i should look out next time is I should treat layout pass just like first pass blocking. This pass can be said as the step where we set up the shot; the framing, the set, etc. As we can see here, I just put my character in an unknown space, that has window on its wall :| .. I have to admit that I had a quite a hard time on my first pass blocking because i did not plan this very well. I had to change the camera angles for a couple times until finally my mentor agree with it, but it's all good cause I learn something from this. :)


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Overview - About The Audio...

I kept thinking about how to write an entry differently at the beginning of class 5. Well, this kind of caught me off guard cause I ended up did not write anything at all for last term! I had always felt that this shot would be really important for me. We were going to work on this one shot for the whole term and i could feel the pressure since the beginning.

Researching The Audio File

I often hear advices about try to find an audio file that inspires us. I, like most folks in class 5 am obviously still a baby in this field. This is our second dialogue shot and it's going to have two people talking in it. It surely sounds very exciting and as Barney Stinson said, "Challenge accepted!" .. [yes, i'm a fan of HIMYM ;) ].

Back in class 4, i spent my times browsing audio clips on the internet. I focused on other factors such as the timing, contrast, beats, and many other things that we should consider when we're browsing audio clips. One thing that i tried not to do is I avoided to watch the original source of the audio clip. I was scared that this would effect my thoughts and ideas as this would make me keep thinking of the original actors.

A question that came up to my mind was; how am i supposed to get inspired if i don't know the characters who speaks the line? To be honest, it would be quite stressful for me if i had to do the same audio browsing process. So, i decided to do it differently this time. I watched some of my favourite old school movies, couple of new ones and watch a movie that has my favourite actor in it. A simple tips, always have notebook, pencil or your mobile phone nearby to write down some notes, this will come in handy. I find this method is more fun, i really love the rush of taking notes when we hear the good line on the screen. :) However, i did not mean that browsing an audio file on the internet is not effective. I do believe that each of this method has its own pros and cons.

Before I continue, i forgot to introduce my class 5 mentor, his name is Malcon Pierce ! He's really awesome btw! :D 

There is one great advice regarding audio clip that i got from my mentor. I will try my best to paraphrase his advice. We may encounter two types of audio clips during our audio hunting. The first type would be an audio clip that kind of mentions some stuff or reflect some actions, which may driven us to try to match our animation to that one particular action. The second one would be an audio clip that will draw us into the character's psychology and would potentially give us a room to develop our own scenarios for it. This is really an eye opening advice for me! It became much easier for me to choose the audio clips after hearing this advice. I believe that both of this audio types are great, but in my humble opinion, i honestly feel that the second audio type is stronger.


stay tuned . . . . . . o_o;!

hello everyone! no i am not abandoning my blog .. please stay tuned for class 5 overview post!
o_o major delay is happening..


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Offsetting Audio File in Maya

Hi everyone,

Last term, I had an experience where i had to offset my audio file in Maya (At that time i used Maya 2011). I had some issues such as the offset feature did not work even after i've put some values on the offset option. I thought i'd like to share couple tips about it in this post.

Firstly, we of course have to import our audio file to Maya. 
  1. So let's go to File > Import > [your audio file location].
    I believe that the audio format should be either .wav or .aiff. Please feel free to let me know if you know some other format that works in Maya :)
  2. Right now, you should see an audio waveform on your Timeline. If you can't see it, try to go to your Timeline, Right Click on it and select Sound. You should find your audio file there. See image below:

  3. Once we have our audio file imported, we can go to step no.2 again, but this time click the Option Box of your audio file. It will bring up an attribute editor of your audio file.

  4. On the attribute editor, Go to Audio Attributes > Offset. The value that you put in here represents the amount of the offseted frames. Enter any value that you want here.

  5. I put 10 on the offset. The audio waveform is now start at f 10.
The problem that may occurs now is the audio still starts at f 1 if you scrub your Timeline. In order to fix this, press Play button on the right of your Timeline. I believe this will re-build the audio cache on your Maya, sort of like refresh the audio file and this should the problem.

If this is not working:
  1. Check your audio file format and make sure it has the right format.
  2. Remove your audio file. You can do it by typing delete YourAudioName; in MEL Script command line and press Enter on your keyboard. (Source:
  3. Import back your audio file and repeat the steps.
I hope that this helps and thank you so much for your time to read my post. Feel free to send me a message on AM or leave comments here if you had any questions or need help with anything! :) 
Happy Animating, Have Fun, and Have a great week everyone! :)


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

1 Year L'Anniversary ;)

I supposed to post this on the 20th of May (19th on the states) .. well it's better than never! I drew this during my flight back to Sydney :p It's been a year since i received an e-mail from AM, i still remember that i missed the phone call as well (>,<) .. well, happy 1 year anniversary! Have a pie ;)

one of my favourite scenes from Toy Story hehee :

"you saved our lives, and we are eternally grateful" - Aliens, Toy Story


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Chapter 12 - a Cup of Coffee with Sugar

Naw... It's the bitter sweet week :')
I wrapped the week by doing some revisions for both of my shots. I'm glad that i found some flaws on both of my shots as i revisited them. I believe that both shot can still be improved as well. This term, I learnt a brand new workflow. My mentor taught us a traditional animation approach workflow. I feel that this new workflow works very very well for me. I spent a lot of time on blocking stage. I feel that i managed to put all the necessary information during the blocking stage and as the result, the spline stage   went less horrifying than it used to be. I definitely have to watch for spacing, moving holds and where the residual energy would lead the movement, secondary action, and of course the rest of animation principles as i move on. My mentor's final critique mentioned that my shot is still more on the pose to pose-y side and i need to loosen it up a bit more. The facial animation is obviously one thing that i have to improve. I feel that I lost a control over it at the beginning, but i feel that i'm catching up as the week goes by.. It is very tough but i really enjoy the process, and you know.. there is a joy when you finally see Bishop's talking! :) 'he's aliveeeee~~!' :p

I really enjoy class 4. There were only 7 of us in class and we're all got called up to the cam every week. It was very fun and our mentor is really awesome! I'm very grateful to have Dimos as my mentor this term and i appreciate everything he taught us... It was a very amazing class :')
it's sad.. but hey, the good news is i made it to class 5 yiippiiee :D

Last but not least, below are the revisions of my shot and my progress reel :

The eyes on the last pose.. i supposed to make him look psycho.. but it's so hard to achieve that :


Next try .. :( he's still not looking psycho enough ..


I decided to go back to the original file ... i don't think he looks psycho at the end but i hope it works :


My Progress Reel :



Thanks Mom for helping me during the last two weeks of the term. Your support means a lot to me.. *virtual hug :)


Chapter 11 - Polishing (?)

On week 11, I sort of got an answer for my own question that i had a year ago. I used to think that if we only had half of the body visible on our shot, that means we do not really have to pay attention to the bottom half part simply because we can't see them. Well, the answer for this question is we Do have to pay attention to this unseen bottom half part of the body. The reason is pretty clear; even though we can not see them, we should have them posed correctly. The movement that occurs in any of our body parts will effect the other the body parts, e.g. : we can not shake our head if our neck perfectly stay still and we can not raise our hand if our elbow and shoulder stay still, etc. So, if we have the right amount of information to start with, our animation would turn out better as well. I'd like to think that this is similar to making a planning for our shot. It would be a pain to carry on if the necessary information is not there. In my humble opinion, this would be one among of many other important recipes that will help us to achieve a correct, or i should say, believable body mechanics. We should also remember that we don't have to polish this unseen part to the max because no one will see it. In a nut shell, put all the information you need for this unseen part (the pose, timing, etc) but it'd be less necessary to make it super duper pretty. (i guess it'd wrong if i said unnecessary, words are tricky! hehee :p)

Week 11 was also a polishing week. The lecture showed a brand new view of Polishing! It is indeed not about making the curves look pretty, it is rather to see if the whole piece works well or not. It is a stage where we focus on the small details. I would say that polishing is the new tough stage but i think it's the fun one as well! Blocking is one fun stage and so does planning. Frankly, the whole animation process is fun (>w<). Back to my shot.. I need to get rid of the eye roll that i added on the previous week, i think there was a lot of arc tracking, especially the head arc.. it's quite hard to remember D:! but  hey, here are some of the playblasts :


Tracking the arc of the head using the tiny ball on the nose :


Get rid of the eye roll and fixed the SL hand pose; reposition the thumb :


Get rid of the eyebrow raise at the end :


Fixed SR hand hiccup around f 120 :



The one that was submitted :



Monday, June 25, 2012

Chapter 10 - Refining

My mentor pointed out that my shot still feels very pose to pose on his critique, he mentioned that there's no life on the moving hold and i need to find a way to break the rigid feels. My friends also told me that the torso area still feels stiff and some poses are twinned. This week i pretty much refined my shot based on the feedback that i received.

To be honest, it was quite a challenge to figure out what i should do around the moving hold area. My friend pointed out about the residual energy and the direction of the body part will go because of it. I spent a lot of time acted out the action in front of the mirror and see how the body moves. I also did this to analyse the facial expression. The tough part is it is very hard to achieve the same result every time i act out the performance.. i guess it'd be a good idea to record it.

At this stage, i feel that i kind of miss one principle which is secondary action, but at the same time you don't one to add something just for the sake adding it.. i guess this will make the performance not believable.. Here are the playblasts from week 10 :


Eyebrows are quite out of control here @_@ :


Added head nods and break the W shape of the arms towards the end of the shot :



This week I had some time to create a simple set up, the props are provided by AM :)


Added eye roll when he moved back.. :