Blend Shapes Workshops

First introduction into using blend shape deformers using a head model. It seems a fairly straightforward process to grasp minus a few quirks that one has to be aware of. With a variety of uses, one can certainly see its potential when animating complex poses such as the face.

Blend Shapes Operation Order

Mirroring Blend Shapes

Correcting Blend Shapes (Positive + Negative)

Richard Hammond's Invisible Worlds

Richard Hammond's BBC documentary 'Invisible Worlds' presents some great examples of scientific programmes zooming in at a microscopic level. Its truly fascinating to see what the world can be like at such a small scale, almost as if its from another time and space entirely.

Here, they are able to inscribe letters on the mere width of a strand of hair.

The world's fastest organism also provides intriguing spore like visuals that are quite captivating.

In this final video, the use of sound, although abstract, certainly sets the tone and mood alluding to the fascinating space and visuals which we cannot see.

While these examples are intended for an older audience with a documentary style and aesthetic with narrative voice over, there is certainly inspiration to be found in the visuals and use of audio providing a mature presentation that remains dynamic and creatively engaging.

Mushroom Life Cycle + Target Audience

After some consideration, I've settled on the scenario of the mushroom life cycle as it generally feels more engaging to me as a whole, with a wide variety of different species of mushroom that are naturally captivating. With some concepts and sketches, I hope to resolve which part of the cycle to create, although the whole cycle itself is tempting as it is ambitious. Here is a video that help illustrates the process, as well as talk about mushrooms in general with their intriguing healing proprieties.

Additionally, my target audience will be of an undergraduate age group to capture a mature style and aesthetic that while educational, it will focus more on the visual experience to provide the opportunity for greater creativity; with possible cinematic approaches with dynamic camera movements and visuals. With some more research and concept ideas, I hope to resolve this approach.

Fantastic Voyage (1966)

Fantastic Voyage (1966) presents a journey into the human body as a crew are shrunk to microscopic size to save the life of a key scientist. Inevitably, things don't go quite as planned as the crew are faced with dangers and complications inside the mystery of the human body.

Its a classic plot that is marred by pacing issues throughout, taking a while to get started as the miniaturisation process is meticulously portrayed step by step. A predictable turn of events and some poor dialogue do not help the overall experience either.

Despite this, the main attraction is the visuals once inside the body. There were some captivating moments with colour and light particularly with the oxygenation of cells, and the area of the brain tried to reflect an intriguing array of intertwining connections with pulsing lights. Although, I felt some other areas of the body could be pushed more on a conceptual level, and perhaps more generally it just needed to show more, with all bodily functions, cells and even organs.

Intriguingly enough, James Cameron is said to produce a remake of this film as one can certainly see its potential to produce some glorious visuals. An article even goes as far to suggest all the benefits such a remake could achieve from storytelling, characters and visuals. More can be read here.

Overall, while the story is forgettable, it is the very idea of delving into the sights and wonders of the human body that is the sole defining point of the film, which will likely continue to fascinate audiences alike.

Meet Meline - Short Film

Just discovered this very inspiring short film made by two individuals Sebastien Laban & Virginie Goyons, made purely for passion. It certainly got me going, so maybe it will for you too. The visuals and attention to details are amazing where the animation itself with all the subtle movements and nuances really make for a believable lifelike performance.

“Meet Meline tells the story of a little girl whose curiosity is sparked by a mysterious creature as she plays in her grandparents’ barn.”

MEET MELINE : THE 3D ANIMATED SHORT FILM (by Sebastien Laban & Virginie Goyons)

There's a great 'making-of' video as well that illustrates each stage of production with clarity, much of which we will tackle right now for this project. From the screencaptures, it seems the majority of the animation was made in Maya, where some great examples of Previs are shown, along with a glimpse into the actual animation process beginning with linear keyframes. Its an inspiring example of the hard work and dedication necessary into bringing such a project to life.

MEET MELINE : THE MAKING OF (Sebastien Laban and Virginie Goyons)


Unit 6 - Commission

The final project for the first year is a simulated commission project requiring us to produce a complete CG animation of a maximum of 2 minutes. Of course, this includes all the pre-production, production and post-production processes that we are more than familiar with, as well as an added task of proposing a pitch to our client. Not forgetting the fact that our chosen target audience will also affect the design and presentation of the animation e.g. aimed at a primary school curriculum may sport a more cartoon stylised aesthetic.

Our client, Dr. Peter Klappa, has requested one of 4 possible scenarios concerning the biological world of cellular development, or part of the development cycle of either a slime mould, mushroom fungi or ferns.

I am yet to make a decision on which scenario I will pursue, but I hope to make an informed decision soon enough with some more research.

Its an exciting project as much as it is daunting, where one must certainly keep on top of things throughout to succeed. Here's hoping the last 5 weeks will be a good one.

Walk Cycle #04 - Double Bounce

A double bounce walk cycle using an odd number of frames (rather than even), making for a more equal division of frames. The double bounce gives much more character to the walk with a more jolly and happy tone.

Eyes, Tail, Object Exchange - Rigs

Handy rigging methods for various scenarios, starting with eyes, tails and passing one object to another.

For some reason, Maya kept crashing when trying to mirror the joints for the Object Exchange arms for no reason whatsoever. It seemed to be fine for the body rig if I remember correctly. Anyone else experience a similar problem?

Final Animation - Cantankerous Refrigerator

The final result after hundreds of drawings, I can present to you the Cantankerous Refrigerator.

Despite the amount of time spent over a lightbox, I've certainly enjoyed the process of animation as the one feels a great sense of satisfaction when it all comes together; nothing quite compares to feeling of seeing a character you designed come to life on the big screen. Needless to say, I have developed a huge respect and appreciation towards the world of animation as a whole, requiring vast amounts of talent and dedication that is truly remarkable. I've learnt a great deal in this project, which I can hopefully take further and build upon improving my approach to animation as whole.

Animatic with Sound

Whew, got all the drawings done, scanned them in and now well into the process of putting it altogether. With regards to music, my initial thoughts of a slow paced track was not quite cutting it, so I've settled on a faster paced track which I think works well in driving the tension before the finale.

Here is a second version of my animatic to experiment with sound, it also includes the brief opening frames of my animation as I've still working on it.

With some finer tweaks as well as more sound effects should help round out the sound as a whole. Eager to hear your thoughts.

Pixar's Toy Story (1995)

Pixar's Toy Story (1995) marks the first success of CG animation as a full feature length film. Its universal success laid the foundation for Pixar Studios to create many more successful CG animation films including the sequel Toy Story 2 (1999), The Incredibles (2004) and the most recent Up (2009).

Toy Story struck a chord with audiences as Woody, Buzz and all the characters were believable where their presence is strongly felt. The simple yet effective three act story structure allows for a very clear and satisfying resolution. Both the original and sequel are often cited as one of the best movies of all time, receiving a 100% 'Certified Fresh' award on Rotten Tomatoes and deemed a must-see by the British Film Institute as one of top 10 films to see by the age of 14.

While Toy Story marked a great step into the world of digital animation, John Lasseter (animator and Head of Pixar Studios) himself states that successful CG animation derives from the very same basic founding principles of all animation; from drawing and a fundamental understanding to traditional animation techniques, to film grammar with shot compositions and storytelling with a three act story structure.

John Lasseter Q&A Any advice for aspiring animation student?

Overall, Toy Story is one of the finest examples of CG animation to date leading to a revolution in the entertainment and animation industries respectfully, as computer animation became recognised as credible form of animation and a popular form of mainstream entertainment in feature films.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) is one of the first feature films to combine live action with traditional animation. An important and critical success, the film marked a resurgence in animation.

Set in a world where cartoon characters interacted with human beings, the plot follows a private detective who investigates a murder involving a famous cartoon character known as Roger Rabbit.

Not only did the film bring life to one of the most iconic animated characters including Jessica Rabbit, the film also featured cameos from many famous cartoon characters including Mickey Mouse to Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck to Donald Duck; the only film to feature Warner Looney Tunes and Disney characters together.

Jessica Rabbit

Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse

Donald Duck and Daffy Duck

The impact of the film marked a resurgence into the American Golden Age of animation, where previously the world of animation suffered a lull during the 1970s and 1980s. With the passing of Walt Disney himself in 1966, even The Walt Disney Company was questioning the future of a animation. The risky venture of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, provided the breakthrough in animation that was needed in reviving a global interest and new-found recognition into the world of animation.

Without its presence, animation would simply not be the same as it is today in regards to the techniques developed and the revived prominence into the entertainment industry as feature films.

Hayao Miyazaki - My Neighbour Totoro (1988)

Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, co-founder of Studio Ghibli, is best known for many popular animated films such as NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind (1984), Princess Mononoke (1997) and Spirited Away (2001). Recently, I had the pleasure to watch My Neighbour Totoro (1988), one of Miyazaki's early films that propelled him on his road to success.

Being the very face of Studio Ghilbli, My Neighbour Totoro is considered one of Hayao Miyazaki's greatest films with universal acclaim. The story follows two wonderful daughters living with their father in a rural village of Japan, where they encounter a range of friendly wood spirits and the one known as Totoro. Its a delightful plot that will certainly bring a smile to your face.

Made in 1988, the animation and visuals are truly exceptional, with characters moving alive with purpose and charm over lovingly painted backgrounds. The two daughters, Satsuki and Mei, are definite highlights being simply adorable as they capture the blissful innocence and magic of childhood reminiscent in all of us, perhaps more than any other of Miyazaki's films.

Where Disney Animation techniques refers to the use of exaggeration to personify their characters, the animation techniques adopted in Miyazaki's films move with a deliberate economy of movement, a certain grace and stillness that provides a much more personal experience to the character that are meant to be savoured. A prime example is the scene where Totoro is introduced to an umbrella, the animation pausing to hold on the characters with secondary movements relishing and savouring the moment in its entirety.

Another example is when Mei meets the forest spirits for the first time as she squats moving with only a subtle blink of the eye.

Overall, My Neighbour Totoro is an exceptional film capturing the imagination and wonder of childhood with such innocence that is simply awe inspiring - a must see of Miyazaki's films.


On a side note, the character of Totoro also makes a cameo appearance in the upcoming Toy Story 3 (seen in the trailer 0:48 seconds in), as John Lasseter and Miyazaki are more than acquainted when Miyazaki makes a surprise visit to Pixar studios.

The Animation Podcast

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While working on the many drawings of my animation (about half way), I've been listing to The Animation Podcast by Clay Kaytis, an animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios. The podcast dates back to 2005 featuring interviews with some of the great animating legends such as Andreas Deja and Burny Mattinson. Not only is it most insightful, but it is simply fascinating and a joy to listen to hearing all their wonderful stories in experiences in the world of animation.

One show features stop motion animator Ray Harryhausen, where he talks about his introduction to stop motion animation and his works such as Jason and the Argonauts with the famous skeleton battle. Another even features a recorded lecture from Milt Kahl, one of Disney's very own nine old men!

For those interested more in the CG side of things, Eamonn Butler, animation supervisor on 'Chicken Little' and 'Reign of Fire', explores his experiences in the industry and the important relation between 2d animation and 3d animation.

Overall, its a fantastic podcast and one well worth listening too. Updates tend to be a bit on the slow side but the great archive of previous shows are more than brilliant - I recommend starting from the beginning show and moving on from there. You can listen to them all on their main site:

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What better way to get inspired than with the wisdom of some great animation legends talking soothingly in the background... enjoy!

Animatic - Cantankerous Fridge

Initial animatic of the story

Some areas need a little refining such as the conflict between snowman and fridge, as well as giving much more movement into the refrigerator as he still feels a little static at this moment - though I am confident these can be resolved. Most importantly, the structure and pacing seems intact which will hopefully give the desired effect on an audience.

Storyboard Draft #2

Second version of the storyboard, rearranging some shots along with the addition of new ones.

I decided to keep the initial shots of the snowman outside to help establish the space and characters of the story i.e. snowman is outside with the fridge inside as shown in the window. While additional shots amongst the action help vary the pacing and camera angles within the animation for a more dynamic effect.

Refrigerator Concepts #02

Further refinement to the current design of the cantankerous refrigerator, sporting an old and worn look of an 1950s American design.

In contrast to the snowman, the unappealing aesthetic being full of rust and mould will further deter audience sympathies to the cantankerous fridge as he refuses to aid the snowman's plight (and perhaps relishing it), making his untimely end feel 'just' in a sort of 'serves him right' fashion.

Snowman Character Concept

The concept character design for the snowman.

I've decided to stick with the cute approach of the snowman to not only further contrast the cantankerous refrigerator, but to also maximise the story as audience sympathies with his demise will lead to a greater sense of poetic justice as the fridge also receives a 'shocking' end.

Additionally, the simple clear approach will also ensure I won't fall fault of complexity when animating each hand drawn frame.