Thursday, February 26, 2015

Evening with Blue Sky

Aww no picture.

We were joined by Blue Sky's Deb Stone, talent development manager, and Matt Munn, senior animator. If you thought it was just going to be another talk about "Hey, this is the summer internship opportunities, come apply!" that you might have already heard before, you missed out big time. Yes, we got a short, and informative, spiel on the internship, but it was followed by Matt talking about his journey and experience / workflow as an animator at Blue Sky.

Blue Sky Summer 2015 Internship
It is a paid internship with a housing stipend and lasts 10 weeks, from June 15th to August 21st.
The categories change around each year for the internship. This year we've got:
Art / Visual Development
Character Simulation
Lighting / Compositing
Story Artists
Production Engineering
Research & Development
If you are interested in applying, get on those reels and resumes as the application deadline closes on March 20th. Polish them up as Blue Sky only chooses one applicant for each department!

"My Life: An Animator's Journey". By Matt Munn.

Often times when you watch or read an interview with animators they always tell about how they were super into cartoons as a young age and wanted to become the artist behind the screen. If you weren't one of those people you may feel like you're already behind. Matt was also one of those who didn't fall into such category of wanting to be an animator from a young age. In fact, he wanted to be a doctor! However, through a friend, Matt found interest in game programming and begin to study coding on his own time and entered the University of Delaware for Computer Science. Through his studies there, Matt found that he wasn't doing a whole lot on the gaming side so he went to discuss with the head of the graphics department and found himself as a modeler for a facial recognition software research. Now, he is all into modeling and wanted to be an artist instead of a programmer. He continued to work on more work to create a portfolio and got into the Savannah College of Art and Design for his MFA but after his first animation class he fell in love with animation.

Coming out of school, Matt found his first studio job at Fathom Studios working on Delgo. Later on, due to winning a contest by the 10 Second Club, Matt was contacted by Sony Picture Imageworks and he started on Open Season. Five years later, because Matt really wanted to focus on animated features and not VFX films, he found himself at Dreamworks for Puss in Boots and Legend of the Bonekeeper Dragon. Finally, in 2012, Matt arrived at Blue Sky and has worked on Ice Age 4, Epic, and Rio 2. An amazing journey through all these studios and Matt really emphasizes on how the studios is like an additional version of school from learning from the fellow amazing artists and the different workflow that each studio employs.

Most important to take away from all that is to always follow your heart. It's okay to take the time to figure out what your dreams are and it's never too late. Success is gauged on being able to do what you love for your living.

Awesome story but the evening hadn't end yet! Next, Matt shares with us what his workflow is like at Blue Sky.

First comes dailies where you get your shot(s) from the director and have a conversation about the purpose of the shot.

Next up is to look at and reference the layout and storyboard.

Now to brainstorm. What are the challenges? What are needed to accomplish the shot? What to do to satisfy the needs of the shot in an effective and clear way? In other words, consider your acting choices. Once you've got all that, what separates a strong animator from the rest is to think of how to plus the shot, making the shot stronger. Consider how to make the shot more funny or more gripping.

Time to thumbnail! A lot of people seem to hate doing this as they just want to animate and not draw, but thumbnailing is important as it helps get the idea of what needs to be done and it helps figure out high and low moments and key poses.

Reference! Takes lots of reference. Reference won't ever hurt you and can only ever help you. If you can't do certain things yourself, ask someone else to be your reference or look online elsewhere.

Now you can animate and begin your blocking pass. Think about your poses, timing, silhouette, appeal, and lines of action. Make sure things are clear and have a conversation with the director of what is working and what is not.

Add in those breakdowns. You're an animator, so sculpt the motions. Having Maya auto interpolate between two key poses is not what you want to be happening.

Spline pass is for those human elements in your animation and when you can fine tune those ease in and outs, arcs, and fully animate the lip sync. Once everything is looking good, the director will give the pre-final thumbs up meaning it's good enough to go into the film. At this stage you get to go into...

Polish. Here, you're just taking the extra time to add in the extra detail. Little jitters, eye darts, twitches, etc., to give more life, and to tighten up the animation a bit more.

Now you're all done and on to the next shot!

Happy animating!

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Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Animation Demo with Mike Makarewicz

Photo by Animation Collaborative

Hello, and welcome to the Spring semester! To start the semester off early and with a bang, Mike Makarewicz returns once again with an animation/workflow demo. As per usual, no recording was allowed so you had to be there to get the full learning experience of what Mike says and watching how he works. That aside,I'll do my best and share some points and insights to the night.

First, a disclaimer. Mike is a straight ahead animator and so he focuses on motion instead of poses. This is one way of animating and his way of animating. Animators all have different workflows and it is not necessarily that one method is superior to the other; each has their own advantages and pitfalls. Mike always claims that he can't draw and instead of focusing on creating a golden pose, he is more interested in the action of getting in to or out of a pose; timing is the most important principle and the most important part of animation and the poses can always be tweaked later after the action itself is solid. It's also important for working in production, too, as you want your conversation with the director to be about ideas and performance and not to be spending time on attempting to explain a vague idea of what is suppose to be going on in the scene.

To begin, use your hotkeys and scripts. Don't leave Maya to the defaults because you want to be using the program as a tool to the utmost of your advantage instead of trying to work around it. Check out for some awesome scripts and be sure to get the pushpull script as it will allow you to quickly amp or dampen your curves in the graph editor.

For this evening, Tea Time prepared clips for Mike to choose from to animate to. Before beginning animation, it is important to think about the context. Not just what is being said but other exterior influences that may affect how the shot needs to be animated. Consider if the action is taking place in a private or public space, the time of day, if there are people in the vicinity, etc.

Nope, you're not animating yet! Now is the time to act it out for reference. The important thing about acting your reference is to look for the major ideas, get the main parts in, you don't have to worry about every single little movements. The reference will act as a road map for you to animate to and ultimately change. Remember, you're an animator and not a rotoscoper. Make your motions somewhat larger than normal so you can see what you're doing when looking at the reference, but more sure not to overact as the actions themselves need to be appropriate to the animation.

Now is the time to begin your animation. Yay. Find the largest movement, or what body is leading the movement, and start quickly posing through the animation. Focus on that driver first as that body part is what will lead the rest of the body in its actions. If you get stuck in an area, you don't have to be working forward; instead, jump ahead to another section and you can work backwards from there to find the actions. Get those big movements in, the sexy overlaps can happen later.

A great tip for keep alive is the "drop and tilt". Instead of having a flat tangent to hold a pose, drop that key down and tilt it up so there's some slight movement of the pose. Don't drop it down too much though as you don't want to destroy the pose or the animation. It's just a little thing so that nothing is completely still.

Always think about "what should I do" instead of "can I do it". "Can I do it" is easy. Yes, you can. Everything is just a bouncing ball and that is the basic animation practices that animators master. If you can find the bouncing ball in everything, the technical side of "can I do it" becomes easy so focus on the what and why of your acting choices.

The eyes are the most important. It may not be as glorious as all those waving torsos and arms with their overlap and arcs but eyes are where everything lives and often a contrast point which draws the audiences' eyes. Therefore use those eyelids to intensify emotions! Sculpt those eye shapes and don't just have them be animated up and down as blinks.

That was a very pared down write up of what we all learned that night, particularly since a lot of the information was also visual. If you like what you learned and want more from Mike, he teaches at the Animation Collaborative in the evenings along with other amazing industry professionals. If you're interested, go on over the to check out some of the classes that they offer!

Happy animating!

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Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at
Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
Instagram: @TeaTimeAnimation