Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pixar Master Class

I was lucky enough to get to go to a Pixar Master Class last weekend at the University of Saskatchewan.  Pixar animator Andrew Gordon and story artist Mathew Luhn came all the way from California to do a 2 day intensive animation class.  It was super crazy awesome!

The first day we had Andrew who gave a lecture about animation starting from the basics to some more advanced topics like acting in animation, gestures, what to put on your demo reel and other awesome things.  He used a lot of examples from his own work at Pixar as well as some student work.  He also showed some video reference examples featuring Bobby Beck and Carlos Baena, two of the co-founders of Animation Mentor!  The video reference of Carlos was especially great because it was the reference that he had shot for Spanish Buzz from Toy Story 3 and was pretty hilarious.

The second day of the workshop was all about story.  Matt Luhn had started at Pixar as an animator on the first Toy Story and then decided that he really wanted to be in the story department instead.  He left for a couple of years and worked on other projects then came back to work in story on Toy Story 2.Matt told us some great stories about working on projects at Pixar and about growing up in San Francisco where his family owns a bunch of toy stores.  He also taught us a lot about story structure and ways to tell stories and to brainstorm ideas for stories.  I even got called up as a volunteer to help him tell part by part a story about a puppy named George who ran away.  Having to try and tell a story on the spot in front of a room full of about 80 or so people was definitely not an easy task for me and my 'deer in headlights' syndrome nearly took over.  It all turned out ok though, and it was actually pretty fun.  The story probably could have been a little better though, hahaha.

For lunch on the second day we got to eat in the Faculty Club at the University.  There was a buffet type thing and then for desert they had ordered a cake with Mike from Monsters Inc on it.  Andrew was cutting pieces of it for people and I ended up getting a piece with Mike's hip/mouth on it.  It was extra awesome because Andrew had been the lead animator on Mike for Monsters inc.

There was also a free public lecture that night at the Broadway theater where they talked about the process of making a short film.  This audience for this lecture was a bit more broad so it wasn't super technical but it was still fun!  Afterwards I brought up my Story of Pixar Animation book and they were both kind enough to sign it for me.  Matt even remembered my name from earlier in the day when he had called me up for the story exercise!

Andrew signed my book on the page that featured his famous Pixar Love Lounge which was a secret room that was connected to his office.  He's wearing the black robe in the picture and standing next to Pete Docter.

Matt drew me a picture of Woody! 

The weekend was pretty wonderful.  I learned so much from both Andrew and Matt and they were both great speakers as well as artists.  If they ever come back to Saskatoon with another Master Class I would definitely go again!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Animation Mentor Class 3 Weeks 8-11

So for my final shot in my Animjam I decided to have adventurer Stewie find the idol that he had been searching for.  It was still a body mechanics shot though so I had to find a way to get him over some obstacles as well.  This was probably the shot that I had the most trouble with and spent the most time on re-working things this term.  The first idea that I had was to have him panting and exhausted after running from the boulder in the previous shot, have him look up and see the idol and then get over/around some obstacles to get to it.  I was also going to have him grab the idol, look at it and then have a swinging beam smash him in the face.  Here's my video reference for my first pass.

And my thumbnail sketches

I wanted to have him try and push an object out of the way, then lift one and then jump over another object.  The end of the shot turned out to be a little over-ambitious and more pantomime than body mechanics, so I decided to just go with the first half where he's trying to get to the idol.

And then I did the first blocking pass of this idea...

The staging was pretty terrible....There really wasn't a reason why he would push/lift these objects when he could clearly walk right past them... It also didn't have a very good feeling of weight when he was lifting the wedge shaped object, and the walk from there to the pillar was just kind of weird.  Overall it was lacking a feeling of effort.  I emailed my mentor Rich and asked him for help with the staging because I was having a lot of trouble with it and my lack of maya knowledge was definitely not helping.  He was super nice and actually opened my file during the Q&A and gave me some great advice!  He even sent me a picture of the staging that we had talked about so that I had something to work from.

With my new staging figured out I went out and shot some new video reference.  I was going to have him climb up on the first block, slide down the second and then do more of a jump/slide over the pillar.  I had also shot some new reference the week before of different ways to get over the pillar.  I had rented some sumo suits for my birthday so I stacked them on top of a table and filmed myself trying to get over them...

But I've decided that no one really needs to see those videos...hahaha.

None of the sumo videos really worked with the jumping over the pillar so I found some really good videos with car hood slides because they had more of the feeling that I wanted.

I also went to the park and got some reference of me climbing up on things and sliding down things.  I got a lot of interesting looks...  

Armed with my new video reference I set about re-blocking almost my entire shot in a week...

My new reference was super helpful and I think that my new shot was waaaaaaaaaay better than the old one. Rich agreed and gave me props for getting all of that done in a week!  He suggested that for the next week I have Stewie pop up behind the idol at the end of the shot to give it more of a payoff.  He gave me permission to go over the 200 frame limit.  I also got to start taking my shot to spline town and this is my first pass at splinernating it.

Rich wasn't a huge fan of the ending of the shot and didn't like the 'surprise' like pose.  He suggested that I have him come up more behind the idol and have his hand appear first, then the rest of him.  He also wanted me to tweak the timing slightly and fix the breathing part and when he first goes over to the box.  I tried to address all of his notes in my final pass.

Rich still wasn't totally happy with the ending of the shot and didn't like the majorly stretched out arms.  There were also some minor spacing/arc tweaks that he wanted me to make.  This was definitely my most difficult shot of the term but I learned a LOT from it!  I feel like I'm finally starting to get more of the hang of polishing and am starting to understand the graph editor a bit more.  Overall I like how this shot turned out!

I'm planning to go back and fix up my shots a bit before I finish my progress reel of the term.  And I should have that posted here before the next term starts on Monday!