Last night, Tea Time assembled in room 415 (now with chairs!) to welcome AAU's own Bernardo Warman. He delivered a wonderful and engaging lecture on his time at the Academy, DragonBoy, and the importance of short films. Here's a paraphrased version of what he had to say.
Bernardo (Bernie) - like many of the Academy's most successful animators, it seems - originally hails from Brazil. He has a background in Graphic Design, but before making the decision to move to the 'States in 2007, he held a steady job working in TV.
He always had a passion for drawing (initially thinking he was going to be a comic book artist), and although most of his friends thought he was crazy for giving up such a steady and well-to-do job, Bernie made the tough decision and decided to pursue his dreams. "It was risky, maybe, and a lot of people told me I was crazy, but life is short, and I knew I would have regretted it if I didn't go. It's tough to leave, but don't let that hold you back.
...If you trust yourself, do it!"
In coming to the 'States and the Academy, Bernie didn't have any real animation experience. However, he did have a good idea about what he wanted to achieve. "In Brazil, it's not just about the student reel. You show a dialogue clip, or a weight-shift exercise -- nobody cares. But if you make a short film, then you have the respect of your peers. Because you know what it takes, because you went from nothing to a completed film." Take Run, Dragon, Run! for example:
Run, Dragon, Run! (2002)
"Okay, fart joke. Don't do that, that's not funny now. But what is it that makes this film an exemplary short film? It's economical."
How many characters are there? Dragon, an entire angry mob, puppet show guy...a bunch! But look at the presentation. Rather than animating a bunch of characters for an entire angry mob, the most you ever see of them is the tops of their hats/spears and a couple of arrows. The background? Instead of being modeled, it's just a matte painting. The techniques are so effective, but your brain is doing all the work.
With this is mind, it's needless to say, that Bernie was a little disappointed to see that the Academy seemed to only be focussed on the demo reels. Even for the people in the Pixar Classes! Sure they come out with a reel that's great for Pixar, but not necessarily good for other places. There were many talented animators he knew that, despite excelling in the Pixar classes, had a hard time getting a job after school because their work was "too Pixar".
"When I got to the school, short films...were just...terrible. It was hard to look around at the work that was being turned out by the Academy when places like Gobelins were churning out work like this..."
This film looks like it's a lot busier than the last one, but it's still economical! Yeah there's more characters, but it's the same model for all of them, so you only need one rig for all of the robots, one rig for the monkey man, 1 space bus, and matte paintings! Why bother spending so much time modeling the perfect leaf in the background when you're focussing on trying to tell a story?
Plus, the people at Gobelins were working in a group, and they kept it short. Working in groups is nice because it shows that you can communicate and collaborate to get things down the pipeline, but try to keep it small! Big groups almost always fall apart because there are 'too many cooks in the kitchen'. AS for keeping it short, they really catered well to the 'YouTube' Generation. "How often do I click on a video that's over 5 minutes? Almost never, and when I do, I roll my eyes and think "Ugh, this better be good.""
The teacher's here aren't always honest. If you show your work to a teacher and they say "Yeah that looks good" when you know that it could use some work, that's a bad teacher. You have to push yourselves, it's good for you! You can't just compare yourself to the person next to you, because there's other people out there who you can't see working harder than you. Whether they're a professional or not, they're still out to get the same position as you. You have to make yourself amazing.
"Norman is still Norman at the end of the day (or Bishop from Animation Mentor). Maybe if you can mod him really well...but still! It just gets old. A short film gives you a voice of your own...
I dare anyone to sit down...in fact I'd urge anyone to sit down to 11 second club and judge the videos for a while. At first you sit through them, but eventually, it all just becomes the same!" Having unique characters in your own short film is your chance to really show off your own style. Maybe it's weird, but you can own that! And, more importantly, no one has seen it before. Don't doubt yourself. When you doubt your powers you give powers to your doubts.
Don't forget to knock on doors. You are paying a lot of money to be at this school, so you should fight for what you want! Don't forget that you are paying for the knowledge of each and every staff member in the building. Make an appointment, respect the rules, but no one is doing you a favor by meeting with you and you can't just sit around the lab every day and wonder when they're going to come to you. You have to put yourself out there.
Thus, when Bernie and his two co-directors were told they couldn't do a collaborative thesis, they fought back.
"When we were creating DragonBoy, we had to go through a lot of struggle to get things done, and the whole time everyone was telling us we'd never do it."
However, the whole time, they were pushing. They pushed each other to improve the story until it broke, and even then they never stopped. They just took a step back and never stopped asking questions. WHY doesn't it work? WHAT can we do to fix it? HOW are we going to make this better?
It wasn't long until the school began to see that they were really onto something, and asked for a trailer to be released for DragonBoy. They had little to no production work complete. This is what they managed to accomplish in a week:
Although it was a hectic week, the result was a hit! Not only did it prove to the school that they could do it, it proved to themselves that they could do it.
"The cool thing about short films is that the first shot, it's so hard. And the second shot? It's hard too. But then the third shot, it's a little bit less hard. By the time you get to the middle of the production, you know the rig and the character so well, you can crank out a shot in just a couple of hours. You don't have to think so much about the decisions they'd make because it's second nature to you."
In the end, despite further turmoil and rejection, DragonBoy went to win Gold at the Student Academy Awards in 2011.
You can watch Bernie and Team's acceptance speech HERE.
I suppose the last thing to keep in mind would be always fight. Some people are fine with just clicking the buttons other people tell them to click, and that's fine. But if you've got ideas don't doubt yourself, don't let that be your downfall.
For anyone who was unfortunate enough to miss Mike's lecture this past Wednesday, the staggering 150+ of us who did show up had the pleasure of witnessing Mr. Makarewicz open a can of some proverbial, animation "whoop-ass". If that doesn't paint you a clear enough picture, feel free to help Brandon Nason pick his brains up off the floor, he'll explain the whole thing.
After a few minutes of technical difficulties, Mike jumped right in, taking questions while diligently and effortlessly animated a short dialogue test for us. Keep an eye out here for a playblast of what he accomplished in just two and a half hours*.
B = Tea Time I = Mike Makarewicz
"How long have you worked in the industry?"
Well I graduated from AAU in 2003? I think? I started at Pixar on 'The Incredibles' and I've been on ever since.
"AAU Grad? How does it feel to be back?"
Great! I love to teach and it's nice to be able to give back. That's why I started the Animation Collaborative. I actually teach this demo class there! If you're interested, please check us out. I think we're completely booked for this session, but there may still be availability in the next semester. The Animation Collaborative Website!
I love the community that has developed since my time here at AAU. While I was still school, every one was quiet; no one really talked to each other. The attitude was more "Don't look at my stuff!" so it's great to see things like Tea Time as well as so many resources for you online. In regards to using head-align and the like: Head-align can be great! But make sure to know your rig. It's important to use the right tools for the right job. Not only head aligns, either, make sure to use arm aligns where applicable if you've got 'em. "You use the layered approach, is that correct?" Yeah! Nothin' but.
"Why do you like it?" Because I can't do the other one? Hey! It's honest! Besides that, [layering] is clean, smooth and fast. In blocking, I'm more about motion, not posing. You don't just stop at a pose, you move through it. So, no, my blocking isn't 'perfect' -- there's not a perfect pose illustrating exactly what I want with every control touched, and torque and an interesting hand position -- but it doesn't have to be. It just has to be understandable. On Blocking: It's also important to keep in mind that you don't have to use every control. So often people get caught feeling obligated to use them just because they are there, but it's important to avoid that and get things in the simplest way possible -- Especially in the beginning. Eventually -- when you get in to super fine polish -- you might have a key on everything, but even then, if I can just move the root control and have it read, I'm set. Why go further than that? Start off with just A-B, one move at a time. Take this coffee cup, for example. The timing of it will set the mood, so it will dictate the pace of the rest of the piece. All I have to do is get this laid in and then make sure the rest feels balanced accordingly.
Moving Forward... Manipulating the curves alone between points is good enough for blocking, but you'll want to get more specific later. Don't leave anything with a question mark, key the extremes (the tops and bottoms of your arcs in the graph editor). Make sure that anyone could look at them and see "here's the slow out, the action, the slow in". I want power in my curves, I want to control it, but I don't need a million keys to do it.* I know the methods of animation generally dictate to start with the root and move outwards, but that doesn't always work. Sometimes, like [a] scene where someone it sitting down, the root barely moves at all. Thus, I think its always best to start broad - find the biggest move first and work from there. It will generally inform the way everything moves around it. Make sure to react to what you're doing. Don't just animate and animate and animate...you should constantly be checking what you're doing. Think about what is leading what, neck vs. body, head vs. neck, eyelids vs. eyebrows. Even on the more complicated moves, in the end [everything] is just a bouncing ball. On Acting Choices: Giving me a bigger arc isn't entertaining me. It's not always about going to those kinds of extremes, it's a lot more about how I relate to the action. Eyes - I so commonly see these misused - the top of the eye is used to indicate alertness, while the bottom is used to intensify emotion.
Try not to come back to the same spot twice. Don't get glued to reference. Remember, that's all it is, reference! Look at it a few times, analyze it, sure, but then get to animating. Then, if you start thinking "What was it that I did?" go back to your reference to get a refresher.
On Animating Lipsync:
Utilize your tools! Although a facial camera can be helpful to some, I, personally, hate it when everything is constantly shifting around in the background. Select your curves and use the "Mute Channel" function in the graph editor window (under curves) to hold everything still while you're working out your mouth shapes. A Bit on Polish: When you're working out a particularly minute motion, don't be afraid to work big. Scale up so you can see what you're doing, and then scale it down again until it works with the piece. No dead zones! Make sure to go through your curves and fill in some "keep alive" by "drop and tilt"-ing your keys. Not so much that it becomes distracting, just so we get a little pixel movement on screen. Think about how squash and stretch affects the face -- eyes, nose, ears, etc. -- and even the whole head! Not so much that we can see the deformation occurring, but people will feel the cohesive movement.
We can not thank Mike and the good folks over at Animation Collaborative enough for joining us for such an amazing and eye opening experience. Not to mention staying with us and answering questions until we got kicked out of 79...and then staying and chatting even longer on curbside! Truly an inspiring display of talent and dedication.
*Use weighted tangents! Tutorial here. **Excuse how sporadic my notes may be. I've included the questions asked as well as Mike's responses where applicable. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Everyone has the opportunity to design a shirt.
2. Design may only use a maximum of three colors - not including the shirt color.
3. Must be Tea Time influenced! Please use any/all of the following:
Tea Time logo
Slogan - "The only way to spend your Tea Time"
Colors - White, grey, browns, blues (including all shades/tints)
Acceptable typefaces - Engebrechtre Bold, Futura Condensed Medium, Rockwell.
4. Submissions are to be sent to email@example.com before September 28th where they will be collected and then posted anonymously to Facebook.
5. Voting will be determined by Facebook "likes" over a TBD amount of time. Remember to only vote for ONE shirt, otherwise your other votes will not be counted.
6. All designs are to remain anonymous until the end of the competition.
The winner will receive special recognition of them and their work on the blog and facebook group, as well as receiving their shirt free.
Feel free to comment or e-mail any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
With upwards of 60 members in attendance, Tea Time's first meeting of the semester was an unbelievable success. So many new faces, so eager to dive right into things, things are shaping up to be an eventful semester.
And by eventful, I mean seriously full of events. It's only the first week and we've already booked three speakers (with more on the way), begun our T-Shirt competition (rules to come in a follow-up post), and announced two huge networking opportunities for the near future. Who are these speakers, you ask?
We're kicking off the semester right with the return of
Pixar's own Mike Makarewicz!
Wednesday, September 12th at 7:30pm in the 79 NM theater.
For those who managed to make it out to his last lecture, they will know this is an event you do not want to miss. You can find the notes from his last presentation here.
Also coming up, we will be hosting AAU's own Bernardo Warman, and Fabian Molina, more on that a little later.
What are these networking opportunities, you say? One of the biggest events of the fall semester would have to be the Creative Talent Network's Animation Exposition (CTNX). Each year, the school generally helps us get appropriate transportation to/from the event, but the rest is up to us! You can find the general who, what, where, why about the conference in last year's post. Keep in mind not ALL of that info is accurate. This year the conference will be held from November 16-18 in Burbank, CA. Find all of the info including speakers, where to stay and general FAQ about the event at their homepage.
The other big networking she-bang is through Reel Feedback. The date is tentatively set for October 18, with the location TBA. More details later. I'm sure you'll hear more about it in club, but we'd encourage you to check out their homepage. Questions? Check out the last Reel Feedback event post here where I've answered some things 'FWA'.
Along with all of these exciting announcements, we also did a quick recap of the principles that we discussed in-depth last semester. I know we breezed through things pretty fast for some of our newer members. Find our full definitions here. (I'd definitely recommend reviewing them before Mike's lecture this week)
Finally, for those who were interested, we're accepting applications to fill an open slot on our board. Simply submit a letter of intent letting us know why you think you would make a good addition to the team to email@example.com.
San Francisco is jam-packed with several thousand more frantic pedestrians, toting bulky Utrecht bags, clogging the sidewalks, and having minor panic attacks when they realize the the student services department has been moved to an entirely new building... Ah, yes, the fall semester has officially begun!
While none of that sounds particularly savory, along with the hustle and bustle of the new semester returns our own little slice of heaven.
Note the new room!
Starting tomorrow! Every Friday, 3:30-5:30pm at 180 New Montgomery in room 415.
Don't miss out, we've already gone a ton of new information to share including the identity of our first guest speaker (coming next week!)