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

Monday, March 20, 2017

5 Acting Tips for Animators with Examples



Acting for animation is an important but a very tough step for an animator to take. The choices one makes for the story, make or break his/her animation piece. There is no denying that doing animation well is very important; no one wants to see a badly moving character with jerks and knee pops but if one makes cliched choices, misses the beat or goes for an acting choice that lacks interest then no matter how good the animation is, audience just won't pay attention. As a storytelling artist, this would be a nightmare.
Acting for animation is also a very broad subject. In this blog post, I would, therefore, like to present top five acting tips shared by our AnimSchool instructors. I hope that these will help you make better acting choices for your animations may it be a pantomime or a dialogue piece.

1. Keep It Very Very Simple

One of the things new animators tend to do is to over-complicate things. Some do it because they think:
a) it will make their animation more interesting;
b) it will help them flaunt their animation skills and
c) doing a simple motion would not help them impress their recruiters.
They want to do something different and thus often make complicated choices. As our AnimSchool instructor points out, simplicity sells the story most, not the over-complicated steps.

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Following is the work of an AnimSchool student that explains this point well.

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2. The Personality of A Character Drives Acting Choices

Before you start shooting reference for your character, build up a personality for him/her first.
  • Who is the character? 
  • What is the goal? 
  • How is he/she feeling at the moment? 
  • What is the history of this character? etc.
 After you figure it out, you need to start making your acting choices on the basis of that personality.
It is important to understand that it should not be "YOU" acting as "YOU" in front of the camera. It should be the character doing what he/she is supposed to be doing at that particular point.

Our AnimSchool instructor, Garrett Shikuma describes this point best with an example in the following video.

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Here is an AnimSchool student who demonstrates this point in this following video.

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3. Don't Make A Generic Character

If you are making a dialogue shot, chances are that it is only going to be 10-15 seconds long. In these few seconds, you will have to define not only a character but also the situation the character is in, to the audience in the best possible way. If you truly want to stand out from the other animators, it is very important to flesh out the story element and the scene before shooting reference. One of the best ways to do so is to think not just about that scene but also make up a story outside the scene; maybe something has happened before the shot and that's why the character is acting in a certain way or something is about to happen. This will help you make better acting choices as the character won't be just going through motions but would have intent behind every action and that will help you get the best possible acting choices for your scene.

Our animSchool instructor, Terence Bannon describes this point eloquently in the following video.

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This whole idea is encapsulated very well in the following work of AnimSchool graduate.

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4. Know Your Rig Well

Before shooting reference, it is important that you understand the limitations and strengths of the character rigs you are going to use. Not every character has humanoid proportions. Sometimes there are characters with huge chest but very small hips and legs. There might be limitations over how much you can control face of the rig. So, try to understand the weaknesses and strengths of the rigs before shooting references. Even if you shoot a brilliant acting reference, it would be of no use if you fail to translate it properly onto your rig. Our AnimSchool instructor. Thom Roberts explains this point in the video below.

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Here is the example of such reference shooting by one of our students.

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5. Be Visual

As our AnimSchool instructor points out below, animators are visual people. We like to understand story through visuals so don't be coy; be as much visual as possible. Remember, the animation shot is only a few seconds long so use props, costumes, stage your character as much as possible. From the first frame, it should be apparent as to what is going on. Don't hold back!

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Following video of the AnimSchool student illustrates this point very well.

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I hope this blog helps you with your next animation project. Keep animating!

For more such lectures and tips, apply for AnimSchool's online 3D animation classes at www.animschool.com