Friday, July 14, 2017

Stepped or Spline?




Stepped and spline refer to the way your keyframes are interpolated in an animation. Stepped means that there is no change in values between two keys.  With spline, the computer automatically adds in-betweens values between two keyframes.

Most 3D animation is splined in the end, making smooth motion, but there are two main ways of starting out when animating. So stepped and spline also refer to two different workflows.

With Stepped, you focus on key poses and only work on those keys. When you hit play, the software plays it like a series of drawings.




Pros


The biggest benefits of working in stepped mode is that you can really focus on the key poses for your shot. Since the software doesn’t interpolate between any of the keyframes, stepped mode allows you to keep your shot very clean in a way that you can tell the story of your animation with a small amount of keyframes. 

In other words, stepped mode helps you establish the important beats of your animation and allows you to get a basic idea of the timing while focusing on the key ideas of the shot.

Your graph editor is more manageable, and big changes are easier.


Cons


The biggest drawback of stepped mode is that it can be hard to envision how your timing is going to turn out. Animators fill in more and more poses as they go, but there is a point when you have to leave the stepped world behind and convert the curves from stepped to spline. That's a simple click, but seeing your hard animation work that way is nearly always a disappointment.



If you are an animator, you’ve probably seen how an animation loses its snappiness when going from stepped to spline. This is because your brain had been filling in the gaps but now the computer interpolates between each keyframe. The simple version you were used to looking at wasn't a very complete representation of the movement. It's the time when you get a big surprise seeing it with fluid motion - and it's never a pleasant one!






Spline: Another method of starting out is skipping the stepped keyframes entirely and having smooth movement from the very beginning, where you focus on the overall movement of the body and don't worry about the poses yet.

You start by moving the rig's root control or COG (center of gravity) to find the movement of the scene in a fluid way. Then you layer in the spine and head's motion, and the limbs.

Pros


Spline gives you the possibility to work more straight ahead and feel how your animation is going to look already in the early stages of blocking. You skip the painful process of getting used to looking at simplified stepped movement, only to hit the hard reality of the ugly "first spline" phase later.
If the movement doesn’t feel right, it is easy to shift individual keyframes around until you get what you are looking for.




Cons


It’s easy to get distracted by the interpolation of the keyframes and not focus on posing when using splined curves to block out a shot. It may also be hard to work in a clean way - the keyframes aren't neatly organized on individual frames - they are scattered all over.

Since you're not spending time on making beautiful poses up front, the posing can suffer and feel like an afterthought.

Students can have a difficult time learning with a spline method, since they get used to seeing bad motion and aren't able to see how to improve it, and instructors aren't able to see which timing decisions were made consciously and which are just the raw computer interpolation. At least with stepped blocking, an instructor knows exactly what the student's posing and timing decisions are and can give specific ways to fix it.

Spline workflow is often associated with faster productions since the motion is worked out earlier, and it avoids that two-step process. But it is also associated with lower production values because of that.

However experienced animators can achieve excellent results with a spline workflow as well since they know how to overcome these issues. Now spline workflow is used at all ranges of quality, from the cheapest animation to the very best animation.



Although one method might be better than the other depending on the shot being animated, choosing stepped or spline comes down to personal preference. It is important to try both of them out and determine what’s better for your type of workflow.



      
   

Happy animating!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Acting choices: Is it a cliche?


"Never bluff emotions. This lady (the camera) would know."- Michael Caine


There are two ways animators define clichéd acting choices.
1: These are the acting choices that we have seen repeatedly in similar shots so we would prefer to see something else.
2: These are the "go to" acting choices that pop into our heads when we think of acting for animation. For example snapping fingers and smiling to show that the character has an idea or is having a "A-Ha" moment. Or a snarky, knowing smile with one eyebrow down and the other raised.

Most of us animators grew up watching animation. Animated TV shows, Disney, Ghibli movies have introduced us to the magic of animation and motivated us enough to become storytellers ourselves. These shows that we grew up watching constitute a big part of our visual library. Intentionally or not, whenever we think about animation ideas, we tend to go to that library to pick out poses, gestures and actions. Even when we act for our animation references, we often try to emulate that level of broad, exaggerated acting choices. We act and animate as we think it should be and go for acting choices that depict our perception rather than the personality of that character. Every character we animate risks becoming just a copy of our personality or something too close to it.

Now, there is nothing wrong with having a visual library that is built on the work of such amazing movies and television shows: it is actually a great thing. However, it would be a shame to not take that knowledge and build on it. Instead of going back and re-using same poses, same acting choices and same actions, it is better to reinvent them, based on your character. As our AnimSchool instructor, Garrett Shikuma put it, "When you can't re-invent the wheel... put your own spin on it."
This spin can come from the personality of the character that you are animating. It can come from the situation that the character is in or it can come from the design or limitations of their body.

So how to avoid clichéd acting choices?

In order to avoid the obvious clichéd choices, consider these:

1. Acting based on personality and subtext: Instead of thinking about the action, think about the thought process and the personality of the character. Is the character an extrovert or an introvert? When he gets an idea, does he act broadly, jumping up and down and using the space available to him or he is an introvert who just shows that he has gotten an idea by having his eyes widen. How good are his people skills? Questions like these really help one to narrow down the personality of a character.
Once you are sure about the personality it is time to think about the subtext.
The subtext is the unspoken thoughts. It is the content underneath the dialogue and reveals the true motives that drive the character to act in a certain way. Finding the subtext and coupling that with the personality of the character would make your acting choices authentic to the character.








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2. Watch live action movies and study the 
acting choices: Pick a movie that has a good critical acclaim and study it. are the choices that they could have made but instead chose something else. This will help you bypass the obvious choices and come up with more creative acting choices.
Why are the actors doing what they are doing? Or you could consider it from another angle: What

3. Bring your life experiences to your work: Let your own culture and experiences influence your acting choices. But try to make sure that your choices will be decipherable by others. Your work should be original and interesting but also universally understandable. Otherwise, the audience won't be able to connect to it and your storytelling may suffer.

4. If cliché has to be used, then do it well: Clichés are good in the sense that they get the point across clearly. Everyone has seen them; everyone understands them. Sometimes the best choice turns out to be a clichéd action. If that happens, then do it well. Make sure it serves its purpose well and adds something to the overall performance. These acting choices, just because they are used repeatedly are not necessarily bad choices - we just want to avoid too much sameness. If every girl character starts tucking her hair behind her ear every time she gets confused, we are going to get tired of it. So you may want to pair that action with other elements that we haven't seen.






















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For more animation tips and tricks, visit our online 3D animation school, www.animschool.com and for more awesome animated shots like these, watch our student showcase of 2016 here

Friday, May 12, 2017

4 Free Maya Plugins For A Better Workflow Part II



1. aTools


Created by animator Alan Camilo, aTools not only enables you to easily select sections of a rig quickly but also stores lots of handy tools in one convenient place. It makes your work flow faster and it’s very easy to install; just drag and drop it into your Maya viewport!






Click here to download aTools!


2. Studio Library



This plugin allows you to save out your character poses and also export your animation. Creating a good character pose can take a lot of time, but being able to save those poses and find them again in a hurry can save a great deal of time and work. Apart from saving poses, Studio Library also lets you mirror them and organise them into folders of your choice!






Click here to download Studio Library!


3. Pose2Shelf





This plugin lets you save and label poses and current selections to your shelf by just pushing one button! Pose2Shelf comes in handy not only when you have to set a lot of keys on your shot but also when you are transferring a lot of animation onto characters!










Click here to download Pose2Shelf!



4. AnimSchool Picker


The AnimSchool Picker is a plugin that provides a GUI for selecting rig controls or geometry on 3D characters more quickly.

It is tightly integrated into Maya and Softimage, highlighting when you make a selection in Maya, as well as picking from the buttons.

Users can zoom and pan using standard Maya/Softimage navigation hotkeys, make single or multiple object buttons and make script/command buttons.

The AnimSchool Picker also gives you the possibility to move buttons or groups of buttons with the control key, nudge buttons precisely with the arrow keys and arrange and distribute buttons horizontally or vertically.





Click here to download the AnimSchool Picker!

Friday, April 28, 2017

AnimScool Animation Student Showcase 2016



A compilation of AnimSchool student animation work from 2016. Great work!

Apply to be a student at http://www.animschool.com

Friday, April 21, 2017

Animating Eyes - Manuel Bover




In AnimSchool's Workshop on eyes, Animator Manuel Bover shows how to animate a standard blink.





Come join all the students learning online at AnimSchool: www.animschool.com

Monday, April 10, 2017

3 Free Maya Plugins For A Better Workflow






There are plenty of plugins for Maya out there, some are free and others come at a cost, but they are all meant to make your life a bit simpler. Here are 3 free Maya plugins that will make your workflow smoother and more efficient:




1. BHGhost


This script, developed by Brian Horgan, creates a 3D outline of your animation in the Maya viewport. Similar to the “onion skin” technique used by animators to see multiple frames at once, BHGhost shows semi-transparent animated objects in a scene to have an idea of the animation being created. In that way, it is possible to see the relation between poses and refine your animation even further.







Click here to download BHGhost!



2. tweenMachine




Created by AnimSchool’s instructor Justin Barrett, tweenMachine simplifies the process of creating breakdown poses. In other words, this plugin reduces the amount of steps it takes to create poses for your character with stepped keys, as it gets you closer to your goal a bit faster than other methods. 


What makes tweenMachine different from setting poses manually, is that it allows you to put keys on all the control curves, without having to manipulate individual controls one by one. Just by adjusting a slider you can see the results immediately!




Click here to download tweenMachine!




3. shotView


This plugin provides a clean representation of your camera view in a floating window. It is extremely useful for animators using two monitors, as it allows you to view both the default Maya perspective and the camera view at the same time. shotView also sets up automatic filtering options that will turn off any controllers that you don’t want to see when running a playblast.

There is also the option of dual window functionality which allows you to setup a main camera view and use any number of embedded cameras containing any controllers or special setups to help you with your animation. You can swap between these cameras really easily using the shotView camera switching buttons.

Click here to download shotView!



To know more about our online programs, visit www.animschool.com




Friday, March 24, 2017

Blocking The Mouth - Garrett Shikuma





In AnimSchool's Character Performance class, Animator Garrett Shikuma shows how to start blocking the mouth for a dialogue shot.



To know more about our online animation programs, visit www.animschool.com