Friday, January 30, 2009

Fascinating Research in Facial Expressions

Animators need to be able to act and understand body language in order to produce convincing results in their animated characters. I have always enjoyed observing people and analyzing what motivates a certain reaction in someone. Many of the gestures we produce are culture-specific (such as the "thumbs-up," which is an expression of approval in the U.S. and traditionally known as an obscenity in the Middle East). But research shows that there are other ways in which we express our emotions universally. This is an indication that expressions, like smiling, are innate and are not learned from our environment.

Dr. Paul Ekman conducted research on the universal emotions: joy, anger, sadness, surprise, fear, disgust, and contempt. According to Ekman and his Facial Action Coding System, humans can produce up to 10,000 different facial expressions by using various combinations of our 40 facial muscles! Ooh-de-lally!

Here is a video in which Ekman shows examples of different emotions and explains his research:

Here Ekman analyzes Kato Kaylin's testamony in the O.J. Simpson Trial:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pixar's Up & Sony's Coraline

You've probably already heard about these two movies that are about to come out in theaters within the next few months, but I am I am uber excited about them so I wanted to share them with those of you sinners who know nothing about them yet. :-P

The first is Pixar's next feature film, called Up. Those of you who know me well understand my deep and undying love of anything Pixar, so this movie is indeed a special treat. In true Pixar fashion, the story in this film is unique and the animation is top-notch. Up will be released into theaters on May 29, 2009! Mark your calendars everyone!

Trailer for Up:

Likewise, Sony Pictures Imageworks is releasing Coraline even sooner, on February 6th! I heard tons of buzz about this movie during SIGGRAPH 2008, and I'm sure it's going to be another favorite of mine. SPI has worked on some awesome CGI in movies like Spiderman and Surf's Up. Now in Coraline, they are working with Nightmare Before Christmas director, Henry Selick, to make this stop-motion fantasy flick. I can't wait!

Trailer for Coraline:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

... More on Richard Williams

In previous posts I've talked about the crazy-talented animator, Richard Williams, and his book The Animator's Survival Kit, as well as some of the award-winning films he has produced. Here is another video on Richard Williams, talking about his role in animating Who Framed Roger Rabbit (one of my favs).

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

AM Week 003: Bouncing Ball + Excitement Pose

We finally began animating during Week 3 at Animation Mentor! This is what we've all been waiting for ladies and gents! A bouncing basketball may look simple, but I guarantee you that it's not easy to animate. Maya's graph editor made the task extra difficult for me at first, but since then it and I have become BFF and I vow to never curse at it again.

Aside from our bouncing ball animation, we had to pose Stu (our AM character/rig) to show him in a state of excitement. Again, not another easy task. I usually associate excitement with facial expressions, and poor Stu does not have a face. So my classmates and I had to rely on body language alone in conveying his excitement. Here's what I came up with for both assignments, after much revision and advice from my awesome fellow classmates...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

AM Week Numero Dos!

Wow! This has been an amazing second week at Animation Mentor! It's about 2 hours from our deadline and I have finally put the finishing touches on my character, Stu. (How's that for down to the wire?) Our Basic Foundations Week 2 Assignment was to go to a public place and sketch out some poses. Early this week I made my way over to a local gym and tried to do some quick pencil sketches of the people exercising... others looked tuckered out. When I got home I looked at additional photo and video references from the web, and those helped me to tweak my drawings into more convincing poses. (Thank you YouTube!) And since then I've been working on posing Stu based on one of the positions I drew of a dancer doing warm up stretches before a rehearsal. The AM community has been outstanding and supportive! Everyone has an assignment due and is crunched for time, yet they are willing to help out and give advice on an idea or how to tweak the character into a more convincing position. They were enormously helpful to me with this assignment. AM is such a great place to learn!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Animation Mentor starts! + Andrew Stanton interview

Class One- Basic Foundations started yesterday at Animation Mentor! Yay! As soon as I logged onto the student campus site I discovered I had a warm welcome message from my mentor, Paul Allen, as well as some notes from my Facebook AM friends on my workspace. (Thanks guys!) It has only been a day, yet already I am amazed by the talent that exists in my class and throughout the rest of campus. We're all going to learn so much from each other, and I am stoked to the max! Everyone's been telling me that this experience will be the best ride of my life, and I definitely believe it!

In his welcome message, Paul included a link to an interview that Pixar filmmaker Andrew Stanton gave regarding the making of Wall-E and Finding Nemo. I love hearing all the juicy details of what goes on behind the scenes of a movie!

Here is a link to Andrew Stanton's interview:

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Richard Williams- The Animator's Survival Kit

Richard Williams is an Oscar-winning Canadian animator who is the brains behind the animation in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and our Animation Mentor textbook, The Animator's Survival Kit. He's a humorous writer with a wealth of knowledge, having learned from animators like Chuck Jones and Art Babbitt. And now he has produced a whopping 16-DVD box set of his Masterclass series for professional animators at the equally whopping price of $951.06 USD! Wowsas! If you want to own this DVD set, you're either going to have to save up for months, sell your eggs, or write a letter to Oprah. Let's call Suze Orman and see if she approves.

Many pros have paid around $800 to attend the Masterclass on which the DVD series is based. That's a lot of dough for a one time live viewing, so when you consider being able to watch and analyze the DVDs multiple times, some may say buying the set is worth the expense.

Regardless of the price, this seems to be an amazing series that any animator would love to own (myself included), and I am hoping that one day it will become more accessible to the masses. I would assume that the book, The Animator's Survival Kit, is a very condensed version of the DVDs and is more so intended for beginners. It sells for $19.80 USD on Amazon.

AWN Forum: Discussion about The Animator's Survival Kit DVD set:

Promo Video for The Animator's Survival Kit DVD set:

This is a documentary about Richard Williams as an animator. It was filmed in 1982 and covers projects Williams worked on with his infamous mentors, his process of working, etc... and it's free! Enjoy! :)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Animation/Entertainment Industry Outlook

It's a brand new year, and I have a feeling it's going to be a great one! Animation Mentor recently released an encouraging report on industry trends and the career outlook for animators. Considering the current state of our economy and an increase in job losses, I feel it's an especially important read. The report covers topics such as job growth opportunities, globalization and outsourcing, salary outlook, which sectors hire the majority of animators, trends in motion capture vs. 2D vs. 3D, job satisfaction, and advice for animators breaking into the industry.

Here's a link: