Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Christmas and all the best for 2010!

I'm visiting family during the holidays and then I'm going on a short trip to Vienna, so I won't be online much in the next 10 days :) I'm really looking forward to getting away from the computer a little... after all it has been a full year doing Animation Mentor almost without break, and there weren't many free weekends. So I do feel a bit burned out and I need to refill my batteries to come back fresh and motivated for the next term.

For those of you thinking about films worth watching in cinema, make sure to see both "Avatar" and "The Princess and the Frog". Both are extremely well done and important in their own way. Avatar brings a very believable fantasy CG world onto the screen and comes in stereoscopic 3D, while "Princess and the Frog" is the first traditionally animated Disney feature since "Home on the Range" in 2004. 2D rocks! :)

Enjoy your holidays!!

AM Class 4 Acting Assignment

Hey guys!

Last Friday was the last day of the fall term, so Class 4 (Introduction to Acting) is finished and I can enjoy a 2 week break over Christmas. The second assignment this term was a dialogue piece with one character. We had to find an inspiring audio clip from a movie, which has some emotion, pauses, an interesting voice, breaths and preferably no profanity and swearing :)

I chose a clip from "The Odd Couple" because I liked the voice and the quirky character. I'll upload the blocking, blocking plus and the polishing, although we had a few more passes to refine the shot and make changes as the mentor suggested.

There is no real facial animation yet, because AM wants the students to focus on the body language first, so the rig did not feature mouth shapes for lipsync or detailed eye and brow controls. Basically we could only animate the jaw opening, the lids closing and the eye direction. Brows and lipsync will be added in the first 2 weeks of the next term - Advanced Acting.

The big assignment next term will be a 2 person sequence with several single shots.

Ok, feedback is welcome as usual!! I hope to light and render the shot once the full facial animation is done.

Many thanks to Marek Kochout, who was an amazing Mentor throughout the term, as well as to all my classmates and AM friends. Your support and feedback helped so much!

Only 2 more terms to go...

Polishing

video

Blocking Plus

video

Blocking

video

Planning

For the planning we had to submit at least 3 dialogue lines, 10 seconds max, plus video reference of ourselves acting out the scenes. It was really a lot of work to find some decent audio lines that inspired me to animate. For every student going into Class 4 I can only recommend to start looking for clips early! It saves a bit of the headache...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Long Time No Post :) AM week 401-405

Hey people!

I'm sorry I haven't posted in such a long time, I hope some of you are still checking the blog every now and then.

Right now I'm in the middle of Class 4, Introduction to Acting. So we are supposed to deal with pantomime acting, body language, gestures and dialogue. The focus is not on body mechanics anymore, although that is still important of course.
It's not about making nice and believable movement, it's about what the character does and how he does it, what he thinks and feels and how is expressing that in the body and face. The movement still needs to be done well and believable, but there is a whole new dimension added and it's more about making the right choices for poses and gestures instead of "just making it move well".

My Mentor for this term is Marek Kochout, animator at DreamWorks for over 10 years. He worked on Shrek 4, Monsters vs. Aliens, Bee Movie, Over the Hedge, Madagascar, Shrek2, Sinbad, Spirit, Road to Eldorado. Before that he worked for Disney Australia on such films as the Aladdin sequels. He is a really cool Mentor, a fun and positive guy and he has experience in both 3D and 2D, which is awesome.
I can't believe that we're already half-way through the term again, this is going by so fast!!

So here comes the first assignment which was pantomime acting without facial expressions or dialogue. We were supposed to find a scenario where we could show two contrasting beats or emotions, which had to be expressed through body language and timing.

I'll include the different steps in reverse order, from close to final to blocking and planning.
I still want to do a nice rendering, but didn't get to it yet...

Week 405 - Polishing:

video

Week 404 - Refining:

video

Week 403 - Blocking Plus:

video

Week 402 - Blocking:

video

Week 401 - Planning:

Layout and Thumbnails


Pantomime Ideas

Sunday, September 20, 2009

AM week 310-312

HellooO!

Term 3 of Animation Mentor is officially done, which means now the focus changes from body mechanics to acting. Next term will be "Introduction to Acting", so things get more interesting, and also more difficult.

Thanks a ton to my Mentor George Schermer for all the help and support throughout the term, and thanks also to my classmates and other AM buddies for all the awesome critiques and comments. It's really an amazing community :)

For now I wanted to upload my finished ape animation, which I'm fairly happy with. It was my first real quadruped animation, and the rig wasn't actually built for 4-legged motion, but it worked fairly well after adjusting some of the rotation orders and the lenghts of arms and legs.
Moreover I updated my Progress Reel, which we have to upload at the end of each term.
The current reel shows all my animations from term 1-3 in reverse order, at the very end you'll find a few renderings, which look a little nicer than the maya playblasts.

Enjoy!!

Finished Assignment 3 of Advanced Body Mechanics

video

Progress Reel Class 3 (10 mb, can take some time to load)

video

So the first half of Animation Mentor is done, really crazy how time flies.
However I'm looking forward to the next term, now I need an idea for the pantomime shot and some good audio clips for the upcoming dialogue shot.

Have a great week!
Thomas

Thursday, September 3, 2009

AM week 308-309

Ok. Next update :)

Here is the planning, blocking and blocking plus for my third and last assignment this term.
Since we don't have creature or 4-legged animation as part of the curriculum, I thought I'd try something a little different with the character "Stewie" and just make him walk on all 4's.
The basic idea was some sort of Tarzan or ape-like animation, because I have never done that before. Actually I never really animated a 4-legged creature so far, once I did cows for a commercial but they were walking upright on 2 legs :)

So, here we go (newest first)!

Blocking Plus

video
Blocking

video

Planning



Ok, that's all for this week, I'll be back with more :)
Enjoy your week!

Monday, August 17, 2009

AM week 305-307

For the second assignment of Class 3 I wanted to try a shot that had a tiny bit of acting in it, as well as a mini story, while still focusing on challenging body mechanics. We are not supposed to focus on story and acting in this class, but I find that having a little something there makes the shot itself and working on it so much more fun.

So the idea was that a happy character is walking and hooping through the woods, enjoying a beautiful day. Then he suddenly steps on something, jumps away in surprise before he notices that he just squashed an innocent squirrel :)

I went to the park and shot some video reference before breaking down the movement into thumbnails. I was especially interested in trying a transition from a skip to a walk, as well as having the character not walk in a straight line, but around a corner. In an actual production shot I suppose a character will more often move in a non-linear fashion than just in one direction, so it's good to practice that :)

I tried several versions for the ending, you'll see that in the different steps. In the beginning the exit was more cartoony, but it didn't feel like the character's mood had actually changed, so - with the help and suggestions from my mentor - I made the ending more subtle and careful, so hopefully it feels more guilty and embarrassed.

polished version - week 307

video

blocking plus / refining - week 306

video

blocking - week 305

video

planning - week 304


Ok, that's it for now, I'll post more soon. Actually I think it's not too bad having all the steps for an assignment within one larger post. Maybe I'll keep it this way.
As always, comments are very welcome!! So don't hold back ;)

Have a great week everyone and go see "Coraline"! (that applies to the german animation fans, the movie was just released here. We have to wait for "Up" until September!!!)

AM week 301-304

Hey guys!

Sorry for the lack of updates, I'll try to catch up this week :)
Here is my first assignment for Class 3 of Animation Mentor - Advanced Body Mechanics. It was meant as an excercise in weight, and I wanted to do something a little different than the typical door opening or box lifting assignment.
So while I'm not completely happy with it and there is still some work to be done, here are the 4 steps - planning, blocking, refining and polish (in reverse order).

polish and quick render

video

blocking plus / refining

video

blocking

video

planning


Friday, July 31, 2009

Quick Update

Hey! I'm still alive :)

I haven't posted in a while because there wasn't much time, but I'll catch up with my AM work soon. Term 3 has started a month ago and my first assignment is done. As you can see in the profile on the right, the folks from Animation Mentor gave us these cool new badges to show we are happy and proud members of the school :)
In case some of you want to become AM fans, there is a badge for you too, haha.

My Mentor for this term (Advanced Body Mechanics) is George Schermer. After graduating from Ringling School of Art and Design he worked at a broadcast design studio in New York before joining Blur Studio, where he spent several years working on projects like "Gopher Broke" and "A Gentlemen's Duel", among others. After that he worked at Rhythm & Hues, animating on films like "Alvin and the Chipmunks", "The Mummy 3" and "Land of the Lost". George recently joined DreamWorks Animation.

That's all for today!
Talk to you soon...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

AM Week 212 - End of Class 2

Hey folks,

it's done. Class 2 is finished and the term ended on Friday at noon, Pacific time. The last week of the term is always dedicated to some last fixes, the last Q&A and the creation of the progress reel, which shows all the assignments the students have done up to this point.

While it's sad that it was the last week with my current classmates and my Mentor Josh (the Q&A was quite emotional but still a lot of fun :), it's also superexciting to start Class 3 very soon. Then I'll get assigned a new Mentor and I'll be in class with different students. The new term will start on Monday, 29th.

Once again thanks so much Josh for a great term and for all your help and support!
Another big THANK YOU goes to all my classmates, campus mentors and students from other classes, who commented on my work and helped me a lot with their critiques, comments and ideas. You guys rock!!
For anybody reading this blog and thinking about joining the AM community, this is actually one of the strongest aspects of the school, the COMMUNITY. There is so much support and excitement going on, and if you try to be active and to not hide behind your computer, you will in fact be able to make friends and meet lots of awesome people.

The only thing that really bugs me is that I'm so far away here in Germany that I can't make it to all the cool gatherings and events that take place over there in the U.S. and Canada. This is a bit frustrating at times, but I'll definitely be there for the graduation next year!!


So to sum it up, here is my Progress Reel for AM classes 1 and 2! Enjoy :)

video

(about 6 mb, I plan to upload a higher-res version once I have my website running...)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

AM Week 210 + 211

G'day everyone :)

Today I'll post the work of 2 weeks in one post, since I've been busy lately. My last assignment for Class 2 at Animation Mentor is pretty much done. I've submitted the polished version today, of course there is still a lot of stuff I'd like to finess, as usual. However I'm fairly happy with the shot overall, and I hope to add some finishing touches next week.

On Friday at 12 p.m. PST the current term ends, and we will have a 10 day break. After that I'll continue with Class 3 - Advanced Body Mechanics. It's really crazy how time flies. Just when you feel like you got to know your Mentor and classmates a little better, the term is over and classes are mixed up again. But this is also a good thing, since you get to work with many different people.

So here we go, enjoy!
(and comment)

Week 10 Submission: Refining & Polishing

video

Week 11 Submission: Polishing 2 & Details

video

As a side note, Disney's "Bolt" will be released next week (June 18th) on Blu-ray/DVD, yeah! I really loved the movie and can't wait to see it again :) I thought the animation was really well done.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

AM Week 209

Hey!

Here comes a quick update for this week. The "blocking plus" for my current assignment still has some problems, but the body mechanics for the main character are working ok, I think. The mummy is still in stepped mode with some added breakdowns. I also adjusted the camera as well as I could. The stagger when the character comes to a stop before jumping is still pretty rough, there needs to be more detail in the body and limbs. I would like to add something in the end of the shot, like the door collapsing or the character sliding down, but I'm not sure if I'll have the time. It's pretty busy at the moment...

Enjoy! As usual, feel free to comment :)

video

Saturday, May 30, 2009

AM week 208

Hey everybody!

Here is the blocking for my new assignment, which I chose because I want to learn more about cartoony animation. Hmm, right now I'm detailing the blocking and I'm realizing that it's more difficult than I expected :) The action may look pretty simple, but stuff like staggers or cartoony jumps aren't so easy to get right, especially if you're used to a more realistic type of animation. But that's why I'm doing this whole course, to learn about the aspects of animation I know almost nothing about. It can be frustrating if it doesn't work, but that's an important part of the learning process...

Ok, so here we go, rough blocking:

video

My mentor asked me to change the camera if possible, so the next version will have a closer camera angle.

If you haven't seen it yet, definitely check out the new Toy Story 3 Teaser, which is really cool and sweet. The Toy Story films are among my favourite CG-movies and were one of the reasons I wanted to become an animator.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

AM week 207

Time for another quick update with the final version of my Parkour shot as well as the planning for my current assignment, where I wanted to do something more cartoony. So the last scene for "Body Mechanics 1" will be a run-in, then the character will reverse direction and run back the way he came from.

I shot some video-reference for it, but couldn't really perform the broad actions I want to animate, so this time I'll rely more on my thumbnails and imagination and use the video-reference as more of an inspiration and for analyzing basic physicality.

As additional reference I watched some Warner Brothers Cartoons featuring While E. Coyote, Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny. There I found many very cool moments, where the characters skid on their heels, jump up, reverse direction, hover in the air running before the friction takes effect and they speed off screen. I'd like to do something like that, mainly in order to learn more about cartoony animation.

Parkour Polishing

video


Run + Reverse Planning


As usual, comments are welcome! I will most likely change the heavy ball that falls in to a mummy coming out of the treasure chest, because that will work better with the timing.

Have a nice week everybody!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

John Rabe

I wanted to take a minute to write about the last bigger project I worked on. It is a German feature film called "John Rabe", which was released theatrically in Germany on April 2nd, 2009. For trailers and more information, please visit the official website (not available in english as far as I know), or check Wikipedia.


The film is based on the true story of a german businessman working for Siemens in China during the second world war. By establishing a safety zone, he helped save more than 200.000 chinese people from the japanese army during the so-called Nanking Massacre. While largely unknown in Germany and the rest of the world, he is still adored in China to this day, and his house was turned into a museum.
After he had returned to Germany, Rabe and his family lived in poverty until his death in 1950.

His diaries, which were the foundation for the movie, have been published in book-form as well. In the U.S. the book is called "The Good Man of Nanking: The Diaries of John Rabe", in German it's called "John Rabe. Der gute Deutsche von Nanking" by Erwin Wickert.

The film was produced by Hofmann&Voges Entertainment and directed by Florian Gallenberger. I had the chance to work on the movie for almost 6 months, animating the japanese fighter planes for the various air raids. The warplanes were done completely in CG and then integrated into the live-action plates. I was the only animator on the show and animated almost 50 shots, ranging from 20-frame-scenes featuring one airplane to the city attack with more than 30 fighters and bombers. Joachim Grüninger was the VFX supervisor for the show, Alex Lemke was the Compositing Lead.

Although the movie was recently awarded with four "Lolas" (German Movie Awards), including best film, as well as two Bavarian Film Awards, it was not successful at the box office. It will get quite a large release in China, though, and I hope it will reach more people there.

AM Week 205 + 206

Hey everybody!

Here comes a quick update for the last two weeks. I didn't post much since I was busy preparing for the fmx conference in Stuttgart, which I attended from May 5th-7th. I wanted to update my demoreel so I could present it to some of the companies that were recruiting there. Not that I'm looking for a job right now, but first of all it's great to get some feedback on the demoreel, and apart from that I really want to hand in my stuff early, so they know I'm there if recruiting for future project starts early.

I'll probably write more about the fmx in another post...

Over the last 2 weeks I have been blocking and refining my Parkour assignment, so here is the blocking for week 205 and the blocking plus/refining for week 206.

video

video

This week I'll have to finish the piece and plan my next and last animation for the body mechanics class. Time sure does fly!

One more note: Pixar is opening a new animation studio in Vancouver, Canada! I find this to be surprising as well as amazing! There are many AM-students from Canada, so I'm sure they are working even harder now :)

Have a good week everybody!

Monday, April 27, 2009

AM Week 204

The first assignment for the "Body Mechanics" class is finished :)

I still did a lot of polishing for arcs, moving holds, knee spacing and spacing in general. Spacing is really one area where 2D-animation has it's advantages, because you need to focus on the spacing with every drawing you create. If done right, the movement has a very organic and natural flow to it and there are no such things as flipping or popping IK-arms and legs.

Fixing those issues in CG usually requires a lot of frame-by-frame animation for each of those elements. However I actually enjoy doing that, as it just looks so much nicer in the end, and I know it's one of the last steps before the piece is done :)

For this assignment I also did a little bit of modeling for the location, not because it was required or it'll get me better grades, but just because I was in the mood and had fun doing it. Modeling or lighting is not required for AM, we are actually encouraged to spend all of the time animating, since that is what we are there for. So for the next assignment, I'll keep that in mind...

I submitted the usual Playblast, a rendered version and a silhouette version of the character.

Week 204 Assignment - Polished Version

video

I also had to hand in the planning for the next assignment. From the various options I chose "Parkour", which I guess a lot of students will do. Those Parkour-guys just do some very appealing and fascinating moves, running through cities and jumping around like crazy :)

This week I'll be blocking out the shot, here you can see my planning sketches.

Week 204 Planning

Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

AM Week 203

Hi!
Last week it was time to refine the animation of the jump and incorporate more details, like the feet peeling off the ground, feet planting on the ground, as well as working out general arcs and overlapping of the body.

So here is my submission for week 3. It's not finished yet and I'll polish the animation some more this week, but I think most of the motion is working alright.

video

As usual, feedback is always welcome!
Have a nice week everyone, and I hope you all have such great spring weather as we do here :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

AM week 202

So here we go with the first blocking of my jump animation!
Right now there are just two dark planes as a ground, which will hopefully be replaced by two modeled mountain tops, depending on how much time I'll have.

For those of you who are not into animation, the term "blocking" basically means "roughing out" the movement, so that all the key elements and positions are there, and you know exactly what's going on. So right now there are still images missing in between the poses and the character snaps from one position to the next. The next step will be to fill in more information and refine the movement further.

video

As a side note, I recently watched the documentary on the "Wall-E" Blu-Ray called "The Pixar Story", which is a 90 minute film about the history of the studio, created by director Leslie Iwerks. It's just awesome, I totally enjoyed it and found it to be very inspiring and motivating :)
So go check it out, I think it can also be found on the 2-disc DVD set.

Moreover, the documentary is shown in beautiful HD, and better still, all the sample scenes from other Pixar films that are featured in the movie also look like HD to me. This makes me super-excited about the upcoming high-def releases of their films!

So much for now.....

Saturday, April 11, 2009

New Toy

Now for something less related to animation: I have a new toy :)

Since Spring is approaching and I don't want to be working inside all the time, I decided I need a mobile device. However I didn't want to get a big and expensive laptop, but rather something I can type on in the park, surf the web and watch movies on a train-ride.

So I decided on a little 10inch eeePC netbook from Asus, the newly released 1000HE. So far I'm really happy with it, it comes with Windows XP and after installing some of my favourite tools and upgrading to 2 Gigs of RAM it works perfectly for my needs.

It has a lot of convenient features such as deactivating w-lan and bluetooth with the click of a button, or different power saving modes. It also has a multi-touch trackpad and a matte screen. Probably the best thing about it is that the batterie lasts for up to 10 hours, I guess for typical use it's between 7 and 9 hours.

Now I could have my AM Q&A-sessions in the park :)

Ok, just thought I'd share some "nerd stuff"...

Happy Easter everbody!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Class 2 started!

Hellooo!

Since I promised to post a little more regularly, I wanted to write a little bit about my new class and Mentor, because last week Class 2 of the Animation Mentor program started! Yeah :)
This term I'll be dealing with body mechanics, and towards the end of the semester we'll move on to full-body shots with arms and legs. For the start of the term the motto is still "Keep it simple", and we animate the ball with feet.

Last week we had our first Q&A with the new class. My Mentor for this term is Josh Book, who is currently working at Wildbrain Animation Studios in San Francisco. He also worked for studios like Nickelodeon and Electronic Arts and originally started out in game animation. So he has a variety of experience in many different areas and styles of animation, which is awesome!
For more info check out his website!

The assignment I chose for the first month of Class 2 (yeah we get to choose now!) is a jump over a gap between two mountain tops. We were supposed to shoot some video reference and then do the planning for the shot.

So here is my planning :)
If it's too small just open it in a new window...


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

AM week 112 - Final Week of Class 1

Hey guys!

Here we are in the final week of the first term. I can't believe how quickly this has gone by.
I had an amazing time and wanted to mention my awesome classmates, who were always there to help and give critique, which is so important. Thanks to all of you and the best of luck! Although I don't mention names because of privacy, you guys know who you are ;)

Of course I want to say "Thaaaaanks" to my Mentor Mario Pochat as well, I think he did a great job and was super-motivated. The Q&A's were always fun and the critiques extensive and very helpful. So the students who get to be in his class this semester can count themselves lucky :)
Keep on rockin' Mario!

By the way, Mario is also a founder of "Vancouver Animation", a website focused on the animation business around the city of Vancouver, Canada. It has forums, news, a job-board and information about companies in the area.


This week we didn't have to do an assignment, except for assembling all of our animations into a so-called "Progress Reel", which shows our progress throughout the term.

So here you go, enjoy and leave some comments!

video

That's all for Class 1, sorry again for posting all this stuff so late! I hope I can do better in Class 2, after all this is fun :)

Take care everybody!
See you around...

AM week 111

Week 111 was tough for me, because I worked on a freelance job doing previz for a live-action film, which took several full days. Moreover I started teaching at the macromedia FH in Munich, which I also had to prepare for...

In the end I could only work about 2 days on my AM assignments, which was not really enough to make the walk shine... I was happy that I brought the blocking pretty far the week before, with almost everything keyed on every second frame (on 2's for the animators out there, hehe). That saved my butt because I didn't have too much work cleaning up the motion, because most of it was pretty well defined.
The hip rotations and the legs still needed a lot of fine-tuning though.

So here's the final result of my "Personality Walk":

video

I also included Front- and Side-Views for clarity.

Sketches and pose for week 111 were about "Balance"


3D-Pose


Looking at it now I find the pose pretty boring, but again, I wanted to go for something more "standard" because I didn't have much time for experimentation...

AM Week 110 - Personality!

This was one of the assignments I was looking forward to a lot. The "Personality Walk"! Unfortunately I didn't have a lot of time to work on it because I had to prepare for two jobs that were starting the following week. While I generally try to keep commercial work to a minimum to maximize my time for AM, I have to work sometimes ;)

So here is the blocking for my "happy, double-bounce-leg-kick-walk".

I shot video-reference of myself from side and front views, then converted that to 24 frames/s and used it as a guide. In the actual animation I tried to exaggerate certain parts of the movement, like the up&down and the kick.

Tell me what you think!

video

The pose for week 10 was supposed to communicate "Exhaustion".

Sketches

3D-Pose

Animation Mentor Webring

Powered by WebRing.