Tips for refining your animation

During this long journey of continuous animation learning I've learned, along with my friend Nick , a few tips that can be really helpful especially in the last stage of your animation, when you can't see what's good and what's not, when your eyes are simply tired of seeing the same thing all over again. The best way to refresh your eyes is to step away from your work and come back later. The longer you'll stay away, and the more things you'll notice that could be improved. I'm sure that many of you have already heard that. But sometimes it's just not possible to stay away for long enough to have a clearer view of your work. Here are a few methods I use that I think are really good.

1. Have a look at your silhouettes
In Maya, simply hide any light and background that you have ( you can put them in a layer and hide them ) and press at the button 7 or in the panel view options go to Lighting - Use all Lights.
You'll be able to see your character all in black against the background. I assure you, you'll also see a lot of mistakes that may have been difficult to spot otherwise.

2. Horizontally flip your animation
If the first tip isn't enough, here is another one. Playblast your animation, open it with Quicktime,and go to Window-Show movie properties; a window will appear, where you'll select Video track, and finally select Visual Settings in the tab below. If you look carefully you'll see a flip rotate button , that can basically flip or rotate your video sequence. Again. when you flip your animation horizontally, you'll suddenly see your animation with fresher eyes, as if it was a completely different piece of work.

3. Change your animation Frame rate

Ok, maybe you already knew the first 2, but there is a third super useful tip. Right inside Maya, you can change your animation frame rate, make it for example a lot faster or slower. This will help you see mistakes more easily, especially with pops, or if your in-betweens aren't working as expected.
You can change that by going to Window - Settings/preferences - Preferences, and in the new window, in the Time slider category , you can change the playback speed. I usually switch from Real time( 24fps ) to half ( 12 fps ). This makes the animation play 2 times slower.

If you want you can even mix those tips together, like having your animation in silhouette mode, flipped and in a higher framerate :)
Hope that these will help somebody :)



Happy Chrismas to whoever is reading this. :)
I know , it's Chrismas, and I should be staying away of my computer lol. I will do it, but before that I wanted to post another of my recent findings.
For those animators who draw directly on their screen to work on things like their spacing, timing.or for any other reason,  the alternative would be to use a software called Annotate Pro , that basically lets you add notes on top of your desktop using your graphic tablet and pen, saving you the hassle of messing with your computer hardware. The only problem is that it's not free ):
The good news is that there is another software that does nearly the same thing as Annotate Pro, but this time for free. It's called ScreenMarker

Update ( 01.05.2011 ) :
ScreenMarker has been quite useful to me, but I found it a bit limited in functionality.
There is an even better tool that I use now, and it's called Sketch It!


Greedy Boy

Hey everyone.
here is another gem that I found, it's called greedy boy, by animator Kim Young Ha. A very energetic and inspiring piece.



Today I came across this beautiful piece of animation, by Pixar animator Rodrigo Blass. The theme is a bit dark but very inspiring.


Animation tools

Hey everybody.
For the past few weeks animating I've discovered a few tools that can save some time when doing some repetitive tasks during your animations. I use them all the time now and find them extremely useful:

-cMotionTrail : a very powerful arc tracker tool for Maya. With this Mel script you're able to track your animation arcs and see the spacing of a moving object.

-Ghostman : another awesome tool! it lets you create copies of your poses and acts like an onion tool for those used with 2d animation. You can easily see your next and previous key and adjust your poses accordingly

-AutoTangent : this is a script by Michael Comet that I can't work without. For those that usually spend hours in the hypergraph trying to correct those overlapping curves and tangents going in the wrong directions, here is the solution! Simply select your curves and on a press of a button, they're all looking good again!

-TweenMachine : this tool will help you easily create your in-betweens poses.

-Maya hotkeys

To end this post I wanted to share a couple of hotkeys I know that can save a considerable amount of time when animating:
* , and . hotkeys that are used to move to the next and previous keyframe
* alt+, and alt+. , for previous and next frame
* have a look at those timing hotkeys from animator TJ Phan. Great time savers again, and very useful when moving large amounts of keyframes at the same time

That's it for now, but I'd be really happy to hear about other tools that could be used when animating.


Class 211

Last week's was spent refining my dance animation.
There was just too much to do, and the end result still isn't perfect.
What did I learn from this exercise ? I think that I'm starting to understand a bit more how to use all of these animation principles at the same time. And the main problem I encountered was how to effectively use drags and overlaps. Below is the final version of the dance.
I received a few more suggestions on how to improve my shot, especially in areas where the arcs aren't working very well.
On a side note, we're finishing our second class at Animation Mentor and it's really being amazing.
I'll be posting my new progress reel very soon.


Dance blocking plus and refining

The last 2 weeks have been extra hard. After having studied the dance I'm animating I realised how hard it was going to be to animate. I've noted that for a dance to be well animated I had to make sure that the different body parts were not changing directions at the same time. For that I found myself putting a big amount of keyframes and ended the blocking plus stage with nearly everything on 3s and 2s. Even that wasn't enough when I moved my curves into splines. The refined version isn't finished but right now I have a very big mess with my keys. I tried really hard to keep everything organised but I think that the last stages is really difficult to keep clean.
Still looking for a solid workflow.....


New blogger template

I was a bit bored this afternoon and decided to change my blog's template.
I've discovered that there are a few sites with some great templates available.
Mine was taken from http://www.bloggerstyles.com.


Class 208 : Dance blocking pass

Here it is, my first dance blocking pass! Man, it's hard! Still lots to do, but to get there I had to bend, twist, turn and do so many strange things to the poor rig :)
Hopefully in a few weeks I'll have something descent for my future showreel.


Parkour final

Here is my final refined version of the parkour animation. I've really learned a lot with this one, especially that things can always be pushed a lot further even if everything seems to be working well. I can't say that what I have now is perfect, I can already see things to change, but there is a big difference from what I had in the beginning. With a lot of help from my peers and my mentor I was able to change many things, speed up some parts here and there, remove a few frames and mostly rework a lot of the timing issues that I had.

There was a lot of frustration trying to effectively use the provided rig, especially in the spine area. We could animate either in FK or IK mode, and FK was my chosen option. The problem was that I had to counter animate those spine controls most of the time for them to look right. I also struggled a lot to get some good overlap into the spine. I guess that I'll be used to it with more practice.

For my next animation, the dance move, I've already started some posing tests. We're animating a character with arms this time!!! A lot of fun coming but lots of hard time too.
I wanted to try the IK spine but my first experiments with it convinced me to stay with FK.
There's a lot of work on the way, I hope that I'll get through it all :)


Class 207 Video reference

Everything is going great with my work. I'm spending this week polishing my parkour animation as well as thinking about my next piece. My first work was more subtle and the second one had more broad movements, so for this one I'll challenge myself with something more difficult. I'll be animating a 10 seconds dance move. Below is my reference, edited from various sources. The dance is from the song "My love" by Justin Timberlake.


Class 206: Blocking plus

In this week I moved my animation out of the stepped mode and started working on splines.
It's always a very challenging step because that transition almost always gives a floaty feel to the animation. So there was a lot of refining, more breakdowns, and keyframes all over the place.
There were also a few areas where I decided to completely redo the animation because it just wasn't working. Here is what I've done so far.


Class 205: second animation blocking

Hey everybody. So this week was busy with the blocking of my second animation.
I'm animating a character running and climbing up onto a pillar and then doing a back flip.
You'll notice that the blocking is a bit different from what I originally planned, that's because in the middle of my blocking I thought that there was missing something, it just looked boring. So at the end I decided to increase the height of the pillar to have a more dynamic animation.


Class 204: Planning for my next animation

Hey everybody! Thanks a lot to anybody who's spending some time to read my gibberish lol.
Anyhow, this is week 5 already, and for this week we're starting our second animation planning. So for this one I wanted to animate something more dynamic than my previous work. I'm going for a small parkour sequence. Here are my reference video as well as some drawings that I've done for the planning process.


Class 204 : 180 degree turn final

We finaly handed in our first assignement this week. 4 weeks of work for less than 10 seconds of animation! I can really see the difference with what I used to do before.
Compared to a few months back, this time everything was thoroughly planned from the beginning.
Here is the final version, and I hope that you ll enjoy.
For now I'm only playblasting my animation but at the end of the term I'm planning to render my old animations and post a beautiful video full of colors.


Animation blocking and spline versions.

The first video is at the blocking stage of the animation. An animation is said to be in blocking when it only contains the main keys of the story. There's no need to add too much details, as long as you can clearly understand what's happening in your scene.
I think that I really started to understand the importance of a good blocking. Without it it's really hard to end with a good animation.

The second video is the spline version with a lot more keys added to the animation. At this stage I added more details like overlaps, ease ins/outs, solid arcs, and more breakdown keys. I think that I did a bit too much and already tried to get to the final look at this stage. The consequences were that I had too many keys all over the time frame and I couldn't recognize my main keys anymore.

I guess that managing all that mess will better with time.

Class 201 Animation planning

Before moving showing you my animation I thought that it would be a good idea to show the few drawings I did for the planning process. My drawings aren't great but I think that I can manage to express my ideas with very basic drawings.


Term 2 at Animation Mentor

We had nearly 2 weeks off at AM and I enjoyed to stay away from the computer. Last week the second term at AM started and I discovered my new mentor for the term. It's Drew Adams, currently animator at Dreamworks.
The first week started and we had our first assignment already. For this term the assignments apparently look a lot harder than those from the previous class and they're differently structured. We'll only do 3 different animations for the whole term, each animation extending into 4 weeks.
We had a pick list of different possible animations to chose from. I decided to animate a character jumping and doing a 180 degree in the air and settling.
The first week was only dedicated for the animation planning. I've been doing a lot of drawing and shooting video reference for my work. Here is the final video reference that I'll use for the animation.


Interesting blogs

While looking for inspiration today I found an interesting blog which has links to many Pixar's and Dreamworks' artists websites. If you love drawing and animation as I do you'll probably enjoy the following :Pixar's artists blogs and Dreamwork's artists blogs


Class1 Progress Reel

The video posted below resumes the progress of my work at animation mentor. Hope that you'll enjoy.


1st term finished

How has the program been so far you may ask?
Frankly, I was expecting it to be great, and the fact is that it has really been. It's not that I'm a fan, but this experience has been really mind blowing.

Before Animation Mentor, I was animating in a disorganised manner. Although I'm no professional animator yet, but I see things in a new way. All of those animation principles are getting a lot clearer. Timing, spacing, arcs, overlapping action and other have really become the foundation of every animation. Now when I look at some of my older works I say " gosh! how didn't I see it earlier ? How could I do such a mistake? ... How this and that?...."

There's still a long way to go, I'll work really hard and hopefully one day I'll be able to stand close to some professional animators. For now I'm compiling my class reel that I'll be posting very soon and then will be staying away from my computer and relax a little bit before starting the following class.


Class 110 and 111

The last 2 weeks for this term have been about animating a walk with personality.
After looking at different references I decided to go for a sort of heavy and exhausted walk.
I've really learned a lot (yes I know, this sentence won't stop coming back lol) during this week and for this animation we had to put into practice everything we learned so far.


Class 108 & 109

Those two past weeks have been pretty intense. The main assignment was to animate the simplest possible walk for 48 frames. Yes, just that. I tought that was very easy but again there were many surprises waiting for me when I started doing it.
It's been very interesting because it helped me open my animator's eyes a bit more in being able to see subtle details. The simple walk or vanilla walk is supposed to be the kind of walk we see everyday on the streets. No exaggeration, no too much ups and downs, no personality, just a boring walk. I've had many difficulties and after so many hours in front of my computer I couldn't judge what I was doing any more. At the end I had something that I was quite happy to show and I personally thought that it looked great. Wrong!!! My mentor showed me that I still have a load more to learn. I hope that one day I'll be able to read these notes again and laugh about my past mistakes. The video below shows what I had after I submitted my weekly assignment and then reviewed it after receiving my mentor's critique.


Class 107

This week we've had to use a new character and make it behave like a squirrel, and for that we have to concentrate even more on overlapping actions, timing and arcs.
The pendulum assignment wasn't my greatest piece of work but fortunately this one seems a bit easier so I'll try to catch up!


Week 6 Pendulum Revision

I have to admit that everything is getting harder and harder. Loads of work every week and a full time job are a real challenge to overcome. But.... I will get there!
I've had the video critique from my mentor for this assignment, and the overall message for me was that it was overcomplicated, especially for the second half of the animation. So for this week's advice I'll have to remember to keep things simple.


Class 106 pendulum first pass animation

This week was about understanding overlaping action and the assignement was to animate a pendulum moving around and apply the overlaping on the pendulum joints.


Class 105 Final

With this one I really had the opportunity to experiment with spacing. I discovered that one of the key elements to have in a good animation is the diversity in the timing and spacing.
Having an animated object moving to fast or too slow from the beginning to the end will probably make it feel boring. Having some texture in the spacing subconsciously adds a lot of appeal to an animation.
To illustrate all that crazy talk you can have a look at my animation where the ball starts with a slow jump, then accelerates in the roller coaster, decelerates on air and accelerates again when it gets hit by the rotating bar. I can't pretend that this is a perfect animation but I think that it looks much more appealing than the previous video where the ball has a more even spacing.


Class 105 blocking

Here is my obstacle course animation. Still loads to do but not enough time. We were introduced to squash and stretch, and the assignment was to have a ball going through an obstacle course and correctly apply squash and stretch on the ball.


Class 104

Here is my try on this week's assignment and the main principles learned this week were timing and spacing. With those 2 principles correctly applied you can give an impression of weight to an animated object.


Excited Stu

Here's Stu. He's supposed to be very excited. Do you think he is?

Class 103

This third week seemed easy at the beginning but I quickly realised how overconfident I was.
We had to animate a simple basket ball bouncing and coming into rest. What I thought was going to take me a few hours to do ended up keeping me busy for a few days!

Class 102

My second week assignment consisted of going outside and drawing people around me doing different things, and then choosing the best sketch and represent it in 3d with the provided character. Here is what I came up with.


Animation Mentor

Having finished university, I really wanted to push my animation skills before getting into the job market. I really think that there is still a lot to learn in order for me to become a good animator .

So 3 weeks ago I officially started the Animation Mentor program. This has really been fantastic so far.

On the first week I missed my live lecture but there wasn't anything particular . I was presented to my mentor for this term. It's Ruth Daly , a professional animator working in the industry for many years already. She's very nice and really knows what she's talking about.

During the second week we were introduced to the traditional animation principles.
I thought that this first class was going to be easy but I was wrong. We just started and there's loads of work to do. The assignment for that week was to go outside and draw people around us and then select the best sketch and represent it in 3d.

This third week is about planning animation. My main assignment is to animate a bouncing soccer ball or basket ball. I'll try to have this blog updated with my work as much as possible; in the meantime, stay tuned.

Dinosaur animation

Hello to anybody reading this.
I've been pretty busy for the last couple of weeks. I recently finished my animation course at uni and hopefully will be graduating in a few months. A lot has happened since. Very sorry for those who were following this blog, I ll try to catch up. Here is a small short that I did with a friend for my vfx module. I did the dinausor animation and the vfx effect at the end.

Due to a lack of time I couldn't really refine the dinausor animation. It looks a bit like stop motion animation. I started refining it, so hopefully in a few weeks I'll be able to post the final revised version. Here is what I've done so far.


3d Tracking test

Here is a 3d tracking test done in Boujou and rendered in Maya.

dino walkcycle

Here is the walking dinosaur that is going to be used in my vfx module. Don't look at the model itself, it isn't finished yet. I have done a walkcycle that was presented to my fellow classmates; I hope they liked it.



11sec club wip 2

Sooo much work to do for uni these last days. I've managed to work a little bit more for the 11second club competition. Here's my second WIP, I've nearly finished the animation for the first character. The second one still needs a great amount of polishing, so just ignore him.



Ernest's Adventure

Well, here' s the short animation I've done , featuring Ernest the lion and Moom, a nice character from Ramtin Ahmadi than you can download here

Completed lion model

Lately I've been working on my lion animation. I will upload it on my next post, but for now here's the final lion modeled and textured.
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