Friday, November 30, 2012

Brenda Chapman -- CTN Kickoff

The unbelievably talented story artist and director, most recently known for her work on Brave, Brenda Chapman offered to CTN a heartwarming discussion on her work, where she started, and her inspirations -- most notably her family, and the relationship with her daughter that inspired Brave.

Brenda's lecture centered around four key elements that helped her as a zealous young woman looking to break into a world of men:

Now, because of the nature of her lecture, I found that much of it was a "had to be there" sort of thing. However, in speaking on passion there were a few gems in her lecture that I thought were too irresistible to share.

"If it doesn't immediately capture you, dig deep and find a place you can connect to."
As students, at least where we're studying, we don't come across this so often. We have a lot of liberty with choosing what shots we're going to do based upon our own desires. However, getting in to the industry, it's not so much a choice anymore as it is an assignment -- it's a job, right? At some point, each and every one of us is going to be assigned a shot we don't see eye-to-eye with. That's where this comes in.

Even in a shot we think is boring, it's important to find a way to connect with it on a level we understand. If the animator is bored or detached, the shot will be tough to get through and more often than not, the audience can feel that through their work. Sitting and really thinking on a shot and finding a way to get into it will make your life easier as a professional (you won't be sitting and hacking away at something you gate), and will truly make your own work sing.

"If you don't get the job that you really, really, really it still worth doing?"
I found this to be a particularly engaging question -- and in her lecture she left it fairly open ended. I've discussed this subject with a few people since then and I've heard mixed responses. Yes...No...
That won't happen, I'll try until I get there...etc...

Brenda, on the other hand said "Who knows! Maybe not, but is that a reason to stop?" Even if we don't end up with our dream jobs, all that means is we have to find an outlet. If we're not satisfying creative desires in the workplace, it just gives us the opportunity to pursue that craving elsewhere. We're not all going to get those golden opportunities, it doesn't mean we can't make something great.

"Find it...then share it!"
I know, I know -- how many times are we going to put pressure on the fact that this is a collaborative industry? But I want to emphasize that it's not just about helping each other with shots and patting each other on the back upon getting the work done, but it's about keeping the fire alive in each other. For me, at least, animating -- yeah, I love it -- but it can feel like work, and there's been times where I've hated it. But when I'm excited and passionate and talking and sharing and "Oh my gosh have you seen this?!" with others, it never gets old -- no matter how bogus the shot.

For anyone who missed this amazing lecture and happens to be an aspiring story artist, Brenda Chapman teaches a one-on-one workshop through Motivarti. You can also check out Brenda's personal website and blog for some more insight into the industry and Brenda Chapman, herself.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

4 Different, Amazing Approaches to Acting: Context and Creativity

As promised, here was one of my personal favorite panels from CTN 2012. It featured Pixar/Animation  Collaborative animators Michal Makarewicz, Victor Navone, Rob Thompson and Aaron Hartline.

The group of four took on the challenge of using the same rig and the same line of dialogue to create blocking for four entirely different feeling characters/scenes. I managed to take some fairly succinct notes, so here's a little bit about the process each animator went through to create their final shot.

Aaron Hartline - "The Villain"

Lipsync First 

Animating the sync first (while the character is still in T-pose) really helps me to not over-animate through the body. Often enough having the character speaking can be enough movement to keep him alive, and it saves me from having to put in more movement or more poses than necessary.

I make sure to focus on the key words in the sentence, so I can make sure I give them enough emphasis and an interesting mouth-shape.

Animating the lipsync first buys me time! It's something that has to be done no matter what, so getting it done first gives me more time to think about the interesting situation or specific posing I want to put my character into.

Strike a Pose

I like to try and animate my scenes using as little posing as possible. i.e: For a shorter piece of dialogue like this one, I see if I can find one pose that can carry me through the whole thing.

The pose should start with a question -- something to intrigue the audience. We don't want to know he's a villain right off the bat, that's something we want to discover. Having an interesting pose that doesn't give everything away at a first glance is great because it will keep the viewer interested, and give me a place to go as an animator.


Less is more!

Try to find something that you can relate to that you can draw from; Something you know. i.e For a villain, the way your mother or an aunt might look when they got angry when you were a kid. Think about your favorite movie villains, what sort of mannerisms them so frightening?

Ask an Expert

Make sure you show your work to someone else! Find someone that you trust and deliberate with them.

Rob Thompson - "The Job Applicant"

First things first, think about what you have -- the Dialogue, the rig, and the idea -- and consider what is involved in that kind of situation.

For a job applicant:

Emotions: Nervous, excited, anxious...

Conflicting advice: Act casual, but not too casual, dress nice, but not too nice...

Remember that there is a fine line between Confident vs. Cocky, Relaxed vs. Overly Casual, Enthusaistic vs. Over Zealous

Single Pose
Like Aaron mentioned, Can I find a single pose that can get me through the whole shot.

Consider the desires of the character -- like in this example from 'Peep Show'. The main character doesn't actually WANT to get the job, but he also doesn't want to make his friend, who turns out to be in the interview with him, look bad.

Find Your Lighthouse

Find the most important control on your rig - the one that will affect your scene the most - and use it as a guide for all the acting and the timing. (This is a lot like what we were talking about in our Power Centers lecture) For example, if the control is the neck, that person could feel like they have a lot of attitude. Really confident/cocky. 


What specifics can I add while still being limited to one, main pose? i.e. Ricky Gervais in this clip: Same pose, but rocking back and forth in his chair.

Try to keep spontaneity -- don't over rehearse your line, because then it will feel over rehearsed. 

Victor Navone - "The Politician"


Consider your options. Think about the ways you can open up possibilities for acting choices: i.e. For a politician, have them be in one of those circular town hall debates rather than behind a podium.


-Think about character history
-Restrictions i.e. for a politician, one would say/do things differently while they are being filmed. There are certain behaviors that are accepted and/or expected from them that you should try to put into your work
-Environmental details and how they would affect your performance.
-Status: "who has the power" on your scene? How do you inform that through your performance?
-What are your characters goals?


What is really being said through the dialogue?


Practice by drawing out some poses
Refer to Video reference

Inner Monologue

Find the moment of emphasis/biggest change and then emphasize it!


Sketch blocking (2D posing!)
Watch for accidental patterns

"It's a process of discovery for me. I had to go through  a lot of bad ideas before I could get to the ones that had worth." --Victor Navone

Mike Makarewicz - "The Mentor"



Like the others, consider context, dialogue (mood, subtext, etc), scene length.

Get to know your character!

Think about adjectives - 'ingredients, if you will - for your character
Really consider your character's history, because it will help define your characters choices.
Relate your character to people you know well enough already so that you are able to draw from that.

What's important to me:

-Energy -- progression, balance, contrast,
-Internal vs. External -- thinking vs. delivery
-Relatability -- connection with the audience

Monday, November 19, 2012

CTN 2012

CTN 2012, as per usual, was an absolutely phenomenal experience. We know that, for various reasons, not everyone can afford to attend, thus, we made sure to jot down gems of wisdom and take lots of explicit notes so we could share a little bit of the experience with those who missed out. Keep your eyes here for details!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Paranorman Lecture Tonight

We haven't advertised it much (and forgot to mention it in club! Sorry.) because we haven't actually had anything to do with the planning of it,  but tonight, LAIKA (Coraline, Paranorman) will be giving a lecture in AAU's own 79 NM theater. It starts a  7:30pm, but seating is limited and, as we all know, these things fill up fast so get there early.

Friday, November 9, 2012

CTN and Basic Networking

Club today started with a bang as Brandon took us all through a few, fun improv games. Needless to say we all got to know a deeper -- and sillier -- side to everyone.

Charging ahead, however, the majority of club was consumed by another whopping networking lecture. With the advent of another CTN in our midst, we thought it was important to bequeath a little knowledge on optimal conference behavior. Didn't make it? Check out detailed notes here.

Additionally, you would be keen to note that Tea Time is going to be taking a bit of a hiatus due to CTN and then thanksgiving the following weekend. Besides crossing paths at CTN (in some pretty sweet swag, if all goes well) we will reconvene on Friday, November 30th at the usual time/place for an extra special lecture. Will announce more in the near future so keep an eye out.

Happy animating!