Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mike Makarewicz: Round II

So many students!

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 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