Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Animation Tricks

by Suzanne Martin

Animation can be thought of as a "trick". The good tricks are the ones that are not noticed unless they are pointed out. This write-up will describe four types of tricks: design, implementation, economization, and production [BLIN94] as well as tricks to animating characters [LASS94].

Design Tricks

The basic intent of animation is to communicate something. There are four types of design tricks: attraction tricks, distraction tricks, timing tricks, and motion enhancement.

Attraction Tricks

The direction of the viewer's attention to what the designer considers the important parts of the image is one of the most important aspects of designing either still or moving images. This is particularly important for moving images, as they are not on the screen for a long time; the viewer does not have the choice to study it for an extended length of time. One must get the viewer looking at the place where the new action will occur before it is all over. The following are ways of achieving this:

Appearing and Disappearing

Changes on the screen will get the eyes attention. Something changing from existence to non-existence, or vice versa, is pretty dramatic.


Have something blink before it moves will get the viewer's attention.

Anticipation and Overshoot

Anticipate actions by having the objects backup a bit before moving in a desired direction.

The See-saw effect

Lead the viewer into some such transformation by "rubbing the transformation back and forth" a bit

Parallel action

To point up the connection between two things on different parts of the screen, attract attention to them by shaking them both up and down at the same time.

Tension and Release

Tension is created by making shapes seem unbalanced, nearly tipping over. Release comes from objects being firmly placed.


Make object(s) pause a little before moving them to their final positions. This builds up anticipation.

Distraction Tricks

Sometimes it is necessary to distract the viewer from something on the screen. This could be a glitch in animation rendering or it might be a short-cut the animator is using to avoid some lengthy or complicated computations. One example is the old switcheroo; sometimes different models are needed for the same object at different points in the animation.

Timing Tricks

These tricks apply to how long you make actions take to occur.

Speed adjustment

If a physical action happens too quickly to see, simply slow down the time scale. This is similar to scaling an object to fit on the screen.

Logarithmic zooms

When flying in to objects that vary greatly in scale, it is useful to animate the logarithm of the distance rather than the distance directly.

When to double/single frame

Double framing is the process of rendering every other frame and recording each rendered frame twice. This makes a motion seem to move faster and is sometimes used to add liveliness to the scene. Single framing is preferable to double framing except it takes longer to render.

Overlapping action

Having various actions overlap in time makes an animation seem more alive.

Motion Enhancement

It is difficult to convey some motions without exaggerating them in some way. For example:

Falling bodies

To give the impression of something falling continuously, put some texture in the background that scrolls as the object is tracked. Another technique is adding some random fluctuation to the position on the screen. This gives the impression of a falling object being tracked by a human cameraman.

Rolling Ball

To show a ball rolling down an inclined plane, add a simple line to the ball. This represents a highlight. When the ball is rolled down the plane, the highlight rotates with it looking just like a mark on the surface of the ball.

The spinning top

This is a problem of spinning a symmetric object. Placing a pair of black marks near the apex of the top (in a "+" shape) gives the asymmetry needed to follow the rotation. Another trick is the use of Gouraud shaded highlights. The number of polygons is small so the irregularities in the image, especially in the highlights, gives a nice impression of motion.

Implementation Tricks

Many animation systems are based on some sort of keyframing system applied to a nested transformation scheme. The animator must design the transformation structure and then specify the values for the transformation (i.e. values for translation, scale and rotation) and the keyframe numbers for them to have those values. The following are ways to generate the control files:

Top down design

There are two ways to achieve this. The first way is to animate each keyframe completely and then proceed to the next keyframe. The second way is to animate the root level of the transformation tree for all keyframes and then animate the next highest level for all keyframes, etc. This second method is the easier to implement. That is, the top level motions of the centers of the objects are animated first using linear interpolation between the frames.


The entire sequence of events is first layed out with no thought given to how much time it takes for each event to occur. Once the sequence is set the keyframe numbers are spread apart to specify timing.

Fine tuning

Once the top level motions and time durations are set, the detailed motion of sub-objects, i.e. the limbs of the character, are added. Then add anticipation and overshoot to the linear interpolation used for the first approximation.

Changing connectivity

A common problem is the need to change the structure of the transformation tree dynamically during animation. A common solution is to have the object appear in the transformation tree at both positions, and utilize some trick to make only one copy visible at any time. For example: John gives an apple to Mary. The apple is at the end of the transformation tree of John's arm. When Mary holds the apple, the apple should be at the end of Mary's arm in Mary's transformation tree.

Squash and stretch

This is commonly used to give life to inanimate objects. The problem with this is that objects are usually modeled centered on their center of mass. Any squashing requires a scale factor about this center. This makes it difficult, for example, to keep the bottom of an object on the table before it jumps off. A better way is to provide positional handles on each side of the object. It is more intuitive to animate these two locations separately, typically with similar motions but just displaced in time and position.

Economization Tricks

Some ways to produce scenes cheaply where a full simulation of the situation would be too hard or too slow:

Soft Objects

Translucent or cloudy objects are hard to animate. To get around this the following can be used:

Scaling and Fading

Animate the object getting larger while making it progressively more transparent.

3D Sparkles

This effect can be made by using a 3D model of lines radiating randomly from a center. Then make the transparency of each line interpolate from opaque at the center to transparent at the endpoints. The resultant shape is then given a large rotation velocity around a couple of axes This will result in a spray of lines from the origin that is radically different from the one frame to the next.

Temporal Anti-Aliasing

Motion blur must be done to properly portray motion with film or video. This can be difficult since the rendering system needs to know, the position of each object in scene as well as the speed, and maybe the acceleration. One way of achieving this is using speed lines and streaks. Motion can be enhanced by explicitly drawing lines trailing a moving object.

Production Tricks

"Production" refers to the process of rendering the frames and recording them to tape or film. The following are methods to actually produce the animation. They are mainly bookkeeping techniques to keep production from getting out of hand.

Start at frame 1000

Start at frame 1000 instead of 0. It makes it easier to add frames at the beginning if needed. Since the frame number is part of the file name, trying to insert a frame before 0, i.e. using negative numbers make invalid file names. A four digit frame number allows getting a sorted list of frame files and having them come out in order. It avoids frame 10 coming before frame 2.

Skip identical frames

If motion sequences are interspersed with pauses, it is silly to re-render frames that are identical during a pause. Create an automatic mechanism that scans the animation control file and detects frames for which all rendering parameters are identical.

Binary search rendering order

To debug the rendering scene, it is often useful to render several frames scattered through it. If these are ok, render the rest. It is a shame to re-do frames that have already been done. One solution is to render for example every 32 frames. Then render every 32 frames halfway between these, then every 16 frames halfway between these, then every 8 frames between these, etc. An advantage is getting a quadruple framed version done which is important during any time critical operations. If time permits, a double framed version can be made by rendering the between frames.

Multiple machine parallelism

This is basically the standard way to render, especially when machines are connected on a network.

Tricks to Animating Characters

Traditional animation is basically one trick after another. Whatever it takes to get it working right on the screen is fair game. The following are trade secrets [LASS94] to animating characters.


Most commercially available computer animation systems are based on animating with keyframes. In hand-drawn animation, work on basic poses of scene first, drawing poses of entire character so timing and acting can be worked out with a minimum of drawings created. Once the poses are finalized, in-between drawings are created to complete the action. With computer animation, keyframes are values at certain frames for the articulation controls of a model, which are usually set up in a hierarchy. The computer calculates the in-between values based on a spline curve connecting keyframe values. Working down the hierarchy of a model, creating keyframes for different controls at each level of the hierarchy. Controls at some levels may need only a few keyframes whereas at other levels keyframes needed on practically every frame. An important point with this approach is to have a clear idea of the action you want to achieve before starting.

2-D vs. 3-D

The biggest difference between hand-drawn animation and computer animation is computer animation is truly 3D. Animation of a scene or parts of the animation can be reused and you cannot tell that it's the exact same motion. Looking at a scene of animation from a different camera angle, may appear to look completely different. Similar scenes may be recreated by varying the timing of the motion or changing the motion of an arm or head. This technique makes it look different from the original. This is great for crowd shots, where re-use of animation is an easy way to keep the crowd alive.

Weight & Size

The computer has the ability to create images that look absolutely real. It's animation that gives the object its physical properties. The timing of movement of an object defines the weight of the object. Two objects which are identical in size and shape can appear to have two vastly different weights by simply manipulating the timing. Light objects have much less resistance to change of movement and thus require much less time to start moving. The way an object behaves on the screen, the effect of the weight that is gives, depend mostly on the spacing of the poses and less on the poses themselves. No matter how well rendered a bowling ball may be, it does not look like a bowling ball if it doesn't behave like one when it is animated. Proper timing of motion can also contribute greatly to the feeling of size and scale of an object or character.

The Thinking Character

When animating characters, every movement, every action must exist for a reason. If a character were to move about in a series of unrelated actions, it would seem obvious that the animator was moving it, not the character itself. To convey the idea that the thoughts of a character are driving its actions, a simple trick is anticipation; always lead with the eyes or head. If the character has eyes, the eyes should move first locking the focus of its action a few frames before the head. The head should move next, followed a few frames later by his body and main action. If a character has no eyes, such as inanimate object like a Luxo lamp [PIXA86], it is even more important to lead with head. The number of frames to lead the eyes and head depends on how much thought precedes the main action. The character's thought process must be understood before any given action. The only time the eyes or head would not lead action would be when an external force is driving the character's movements, as opposed to his thought process. For example, if a character is hit in the back by a low flying sheep, the force of the impact would cause the body to move first, snapping head back and dragging it behind the main action of body.

Moving Holds

In hand-drawn animation, it is very common to animate action, then slow it into a pose and hold the drawing of that pose for several frames, then move into action again. In 3-D computer animation, as soon as you go into a held pose, the action dies immediately. So instead of having every part of the character stop, have some part continue to move slightly in the same direction, like an arm, a head, or even have whole body. Even the slightest movement will keep character alive. Sometimes an action that feels believable in traditional animation, looks too cartoony in computer animation. One needs to be aware of how far to push the motion. The motion should match the design of the character and world. A pitfall of using motion capture devices to create final animation is that motion capture from human actors will always look realistic....for a human. Apply motion capture to a chicken and it will look like a human in a chicken suit. Motion capture data should be used as a starting place. Tweak the timing and poses to make it more caricatured, then apply it to the chicken and the motion will match the design of the character.


The personality of a character is conveyed through emotion. This is the best the indicator as to how fast an action should be. When a character is happy, the timing of his movements will be faster. Conversely, when a character is sad, movements are slower. An example of this can be seen in Luxo Jr. The action of Jr. hopping when the chasing ball, he is very excited and happy. His head is looking at the ball, the timing of his hops are fast as there is very little time spent on the ground between hops because he can't wait to get to the ball. After he pops the ball, his hop changes drastically, reflecting his sadness that the object of all his thoughts and energy of just a moment ago is now dead. As he hops off, his head is down, the timing of each hop is slower, with much more time on the ground between hops. To make a character's personality seem real to an audience, he must be different than other characters on the screen. A simple way to distinguish personalities of the characters is through contrast of movement. No two characters would do the same action in the same way. For example in Luxo Jr., when Dad & Jr. are hitting the ball with their heads, Dad being larger and older, leans over and uses only his shade. Jr., however, is smaller, younger, and full of energy, whacks the ball with his whole shade, putting his whole body into it.

Readability of Actions

Proper timing is critical to making ideas readable. It is important to spend enough time (but no more) preparing the audience for anticipation of the action (follow through), the action itself and reaction to action (the follow through). If too much time is spent on any of these, the audience's attention will wander. If too little time is spent, the movement may be finished before the audience notices it, thus wasting the idea. The faster the movement, the more critical it is to make sure the audience can follow what's happening. The action must not be so fast that the audience cannot read it and understand the meaning of it. An idea or action must be made unmistakably clear. The audience's eye must be led to exactly where it needs to be at the right moment. It must not miss an idea or action. It is important that only one idea at a time is seen by the audience. If a lot of action is happening at once, the eye does not know where to look and the main idea will be overlooked. The object of interest should be significantly contrasted against the rest of the scene. In a still scene, the eye will be attracted to movement. In a very busy scene, the eye will be attracted to something that is still. In most cases, an action should not be brought to a complete stop before starting another action; the second action should overlap the first. This slight overlapping maintains flow and continuity between whole phrases of the actions. In Luxo Jr. it is very important that the audience is looking in the right place at the right time, because the story, the acting and emotion is being put across with movement alone, in pantomime, and sometimes the movement is very subtle. If the audience misses an action, an emotion would be missed, and the story would suffer. An action has to be timed and paced so that only Dad or Jr. is doing an important action at any one time, never both.

A Story Trick

In storytelling, the timing of ideas and actions is important to the audience's understanding of the story at any point in time. It is important that animation be timed to stay either slightly ahead of the audience's understanding of what's going on with the story, or slightly behind. It makes the story much more interesting than staying even with the audience. If the animation is too far ahead, the audience will be confused; if the animation is too far behind, the audience will get bored; in either case, their attention will wander. When the action is timed to be slightly ahead of the audience, it adds an element of suspense and surprise; it keeps them guessing about what will happen. When the action is timed to be slightly behind the audience, the story point is revealed to the audience before it is known to the character. Many of these tricks can be used together in any scene in order to achieve the strongest impact on the audience. In Red's Dream [PIXA86] at the end of the dream sequence, Red juggles three balls and catches them with big a finish; the crowd goes wild, and Red takes his bows. Slowly the circus ring dissolves to the interior of the bike shop. The sound of applause fades into sound of rain. Red unaware continues to take his bows and at this point, the audience has not caught on to what's happening because the timing of the action is slightly ahead of the audience. As the room reappears, so does the large "50% OFF" tag hanging from Red's seat. The animation of the tag is timed to be light in weight. It flops around more actively than anything else in the scene. This contrast in action directs the audience's attention to the tag which is a subtle reminder that Red is still in the bike shop. The audience is now ahead of the character and watches Red discover where he really is. Red's actions were timed to be slow, emphasizing his sad emotion.

Ask Why

In every step of the production of the animation, the story, design, staging, animation, editing, lighting, sound, etc., ask why. Why is this here? Does it further the story? Does it support the whole? To create a successful animation, you must understand why an object moves before you can figure out how it should move. Character animation is the design of an object moveing like it is alive. This is achieved when it looks to the audience like it is thinking and all of its movements are generated by its own thought processes. Thinking gives the illusion of life. Every single movement of the character should be there for a purpose. It should support the story and personality of the character. As soon as something looks wrong or out of place, the audience will step back from your story and think about how weird that looked and you've lost them. The goal is to create a personality of a character and a storyline that will draw the audience in and keep them entertained for the entire length of the film.


[BLIN94] Blinn, J., "Animation Tricks", SIGGRAPH 94 course notes and video: Animation Tricks, July 1994.

[LASS94] Lasseter, J., "Tricks to Animating Characters with a Computer", SIGGRAPH 94 course notes: Animation Tricks, July 1994.

[PIXA86] PIXAR, "Luxo Jr.", 1986.

[PIXA87] PIXAR, "Red's Dream", 1987.

Source: http://web.cs.wpi.edu/~matt/courses/cs563/talks/anim_tricks.html

Thursday, October 18, 2007

How To Clear Your Memory Without Restarting

If you run a windows computer you’ll know like many others than after a while your system will in doubt start running slow. Most people will restart their computer to remove and idle processes. But if there’s a simpler way, why restart every time windows decides it doesn’t like you today?

1. Right click on an empty spot on your desktop and select New - Shortcut.

2. Type %windir%\system32\rundll32.exe advapi32.dll,ProcessIdleTasks in the box.

3. Click Next.

4. Give your shortcut a nice name like “Clear Memory”.

5. Click Finish and you’re done.

Now whenever your computer starts running slow click this shortcut to clear out your memory and get your computer running at a normal pace again.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Becoming an Animator

How to become an animator, Top animation schools


by Shanna Smith

The term "persistence of vision" describes the optical phenomenon that makes animation possible. The human eye retains an image for a split second after the source of the image disappears, so when 24 frames per second of an animated film zip through a projector, the flow of motion on the screen looks seamless.

The same phrase could also be applied to the mind-set of a young (or not quite so young!) person who has his or her heart set on becoming a Disney animator. For generations, the debut of each Disney animated feature film has ignited in the minds of thousands of individuals the desire to be a part of the marvel they see on the screen.

What does it take to be a Disney animator? What spectrums of talent and elements of training are needed to produce these wonder-working "actors with pencils" called animators? We recently put these questions to Frank Gladstone, Manager of Animation Training for Disney, who works out of the Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World.

Gladstone begins by explaining that natural talent will come out at a young age. Every parent knows that a child with an artistic bent considers the family home a vast and inviting canvas. Such children "draw all the time... everywhere, on everything. They see Mommy and they try to draw Mommy. They see the dog and they try to draw the dog," Gladstone says.

Children go through different phases as they explore their skills. Three that Gladstone cites are: 1) The very young child who tries to render his or her own creative fantasies. Mom or Dad may not be able to recognize it as such, but according to the child, that blue scribble is a dinosaur eating an ice-cream cone! (And who is to say it isn't?) 2) The older child who is fascinated by visuals, who sees cartoons or illustrations and attempts to copy them as accurately as possible. (This "draftsman" stage may be difficult and frustrating - more on this later.) 3) The high school student who goes back to the beginning and gives free rein to the imagination, rather than adhering to straight copying.

"This is the bridge," Gladstone says. "This is when someone may be a serious artist. If they draw things they see - the real world - that is a big jump. The intent to interpret what they see in the three-dimensional world is, for me, the tell-all that somebody's interested in art in a serious way."

Getting to that "bridge," that third phase, though, requires passing through phase two - easier said than done.

Gladstone explains, "Most young people who start drawing are trying to make things as accurate as possible. They work very hard to get the eye right, and that's where a lot of people get discouraged.

"There's a certain strength in being an artist, he says "in that at some point every artist I know is trying to draw Mom or Dad and somebody will come up behind them and say `that doesn't look like that.' This is when many people's art career ends."

He continues, "The only time they'll draw again is if they can copy something exactly, which is why many people are good at drawing from a picture, but they can't do the other [draw from life]. The person who is strong enough to say `So what? It's my version of this'- that's another step."

Practice is paramount to maturing as an artist. "Go to the zoo and sketch: draw your friends," Gladstone suggests. "Drawing people and their animals, trying to capture something that's moving - this kind of thing comes with time. It's not something that many children do early on. It comes with experience."

Milton Gray, in his book Cartoon Animation: Introduction to a Career, recommends studying animated films frame by frame, using a VCR or laser videodiscs.

Gladstone agrees. "I had the opportunity to put an old-time print of "Pinocchio" on a Moviola and spent an entire night going through the scenes I like frame by frame and finding out how they created that movie.

"It won't teach you everything," he warns, but, "we still do that. We still study how [certain segments] were done - how did Frank Thomas approach this problem. It's a very good way to do things, but it's only one of the ways."

Hand-in-hand with practice is formal art training. A young person, brimming with talent though she or he may be, needs structured schooling to make animation a career.

"They're not going to get a job here when they're fifteen years old," Gladstone says. "We recommend not only high school, but additional schooling as well - hopefully a college degree."

This schooling would, of course, have art as its primary focus - not merely drawing, but other disciplines as well, such as painting and sculpting. Milton Gray recommends studying actors and books on acting, learning something of staging, choreography, and principles of music.

Beyond the fine arts, some background in history, geography, the life sciences, et al., makes for a more knowledgeable, flexible animator.

"You have to bring things to the table," Gladstone explains. "Half of doing Disney-style feature animation is the ability to draw, paint, run a computer, or whatever, but the other half is communication skill. We find that people who have some post-secondary education are more well-rounded, more adapted to the needs of our studio.

"We realize," he adds "that not everybody can go to college, but we seem to see more seasoned players if they have." Can you be an animator without being able to draw? Gladstone replies, "If a kid wants to do animation and he or she can't draw, there are ways to do that. There always have been ways to do that - stop-action, pixilation (which is stop-action using people instead of objects), things like that. Now there's another one, the computer. You don't have to learn to draw to learn how to animate on a computer."

He cautions, however, "Computer animators just have a very fancy electronic pencil. If they can draw traditionally, they're that much ahead of the game. In all the computer work that I've seen in my life, [work] that has really pushed the animation limits - not just the movement limits, there's a difference - the animators have either come from traditional areas or had good traditional skills."

These skills, be they traditional or high-tech, can be utilized in a variety of ways. An animated feature film employs the talents of a wide variety of artists. Animators make up a fairly small population of the people that create an animated film. There are also assistant animators; in-betweeners; breakdown, background and layout artists; effects animators; storyboard artists; visual development or inspirational artists; computer animators; and graphic designers - to name a few!

All these individuals work as a team (hence the importance of communication) during the long, arduous process of producing an animated film. Gladstone gives an example of how the artist (in this case the layout artist), director, and art director work together. These individuals interpret the storyboard into the various sets, backgrounds and foregrounds for each shot of an animated film.

"The layout artist has a lot to do with the lighting of the film, the scope, the way the camera moves through the sets," he explains. "The layout artist is in a very great way the cinematographer of an animated film, deciding what the camera is going to see and where the characters will be blocked in a scene."

The in-betweener has traditionally been looked upon as the first rung on the ladder of a animation career. Although there are exceptions, Gladstone says, "Most people come up through the ranks, starting as an in-betweener and working their way up to an animator. I think that's a good way to do it. Eventually, if they become an animator, they will have had the experience of the people that follow them up. They were there before."

So, the path is charted - now, where to go for the all-important formal instruction? There are many schools that offer good fundamental art programs and consistently produce graduates with the skills necessary to become Disney animators. These schools are by no means the only choices available to the future animator.

Gladstone speaks from experience, "If you need to go to a state school - great! Find a state school that has an art program and take the best advantage of it you can. Learn how to draw well. Draw better than everybody there. If you can only go to trade school, great! Go to trade school and do it that way."

The various roads to an animation career all demand hard work, discipline, and patience. We asked Frank Gladstone what crucial advice he would give animators. He responded, "Keep trying. Don't get too frustrated. Realize your potential, be honest with yourself, and apply yourself to whatever that particular goal is you want to reach."

It takes, in a word, persistence!

For information on the Disney Animator Training Program, please write to:

Walt Disney World Casting,

P.O. Box 10,000,

Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-1000.

Article Link - http://www.animationarena.com/become-an-animator.html

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Greetings! I'm Back


Its been long since I have shared something. The involvement in the project made me busy. I have learned many things during this project. I would continue writing some of my experiences soon.

Currently I have just been released from the pressure of animation, however work is still going on.

During the animation period, i got no time for any other work, as devotion of our mind, was on submitting the shots.

Now all we are waiting is for its release, which is soon. I can't disclose any other information relating to the project until its release.

There are many things to be talked about, on different subjects, but for now,

Thank you for reading,

See you soon

Sunday, July 08, 2007

So Long

Hey, sorry for not being active lately.

I am still having tough schedule.

I will continue writing as soon I get time.

By the way, the second lecture for 3D Character Animation will be soon up.

Thanking for all

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Animation Lecture 01 - Introduction to Animation

by Aabid Dhamani

"Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive." - Walt Disney

Its been almost 2 weeks now, from the day animation course was announced. In this lecture I will provide you the basics of animation, what is important for an animator and how things will work.

First of all, who is a good animator? He is not just the animator. Beside being an animator, he is also a person with drawing, acting, observation, planning skills. Animation requires a lot of research. It is the skills which can be developed, if the person is devoted to it.

The principles of animation on which the animation is based was given in early days of Disney animation. It is not hard and fast rule, it is just the essence for the good animation.

"When we consider a new project, we really study it . . . not just the surface idea, but everything about it." - Walt Disney

The 12 basic principles of animation

Squash and Stretch
Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose
Follow Through and Overlapping Action
Slow in and Slow out
Secondary Action
Solid Drawing

These principles will be explained in the next lecture separately.

Exercise 01

Your first lesson is drawing circles and squares, these will bring the flow in your drawing.

Take a totally blank paper or drawing paper of any size and start drawing circles and squares to reach the goal of making it perfect. It will take time. And one more thing - don't use eraser.

This is all for this lesson, any queries or things that is not cleared to you, you are free to ask. You can also post your work to get some help by replying to this lecture and placing the link of your work.

Have a nice day

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Want to learn about 3D Character Animation?

I was thinking for a long time to arrange the course of animation online for those who have the passion for 3D Character Animation. It will carried out from the basic. Every week there will be assignments. All of these will be carried out on here.

Before the learning begins, I just wanted to know, if any of you are interested. If there is no one interested in learning 3D Character Animation, then I think, its better to drop the idea.

Waiting for your responses

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Written by Zero Dean

What is a demo reel for?

A demo reel is essentially a sales tool. You are selling yourself and proving, to an extent, what sort of positive addition you will be to a company. If you can prove you've got oodles of talent and a creative way of thinking about things, your demo reel will get you noticed. If it is exceptionally good, it's your doorway into the industry.

Who is your audience?

Your audience, obviously, is comprised of those people you want to work for. The thing is, you're not alone. Many, many people want and have tried to get the same job you are applying for. These demo watchers have seen countless reels and guess what, they're tired of seeing the same things over and over again. If you think your 3 minute flying logo is going to win you a job, you better consider it very carefully before putting it on your reel. These people are not obligated to watch your entire reel. If they're dissatisfied, they will hit EJECT and move on, possibly missing your Oscar(tm) worthy animation later in the reel.

What to put on a demo reel SECTION A (general):

Only your best, most amazing work ever. This stuff has to be the best thing since pizza. If you can do it all (model, render, and animate), do it all! You'll earn points for this. Companies are looking for people who can wear many hats and accept many responsibilities. You need to capture their attention and show them you're more than up to the challenge of working in a creative (and crazy) environment like theirs. You want to not only show them you're up to it, you want to show them it'll be a breeze for you.

What to put on a demo reel SECTION B (specific):

You need to get as many strong points across to your audience visually, in as little time as possible. You need to capture their attention, draw them in, and make them forget for an instant that they are watching a demo reel. This can be quite difficult unless you a great deal of vision and a really good story to tell. Currently a lot of business are looking for excellent character animators. You need to bring an object to life, give it a voice, an attitude, "CHARACTER", and have it tell a story. Be fresh, creative, and original (I can't stress that enough). Also, there is a demand for artists who are good at creating low polygon count models. If you have specific skills you want to show off and can, such as adding actual paintings you've created in the real world into a 3d environment, then do it. You are trying to earn as many points as possible. A well rounded artist is always appreciated.

What not to put on a demo reel SECTION A:

Probably whatever you are most likely to think about putting on your demo reel first, is the sort of thing you want to stay away from at all costs. You may think you're being original, but believe it or not, everyone else thinks their name or company logo looks cool flying around the screen too. How about spaceships? They're cool, to be sure...but if you're a demo watcher and that's all you see day in and day out, you're probably dying to see something else. Also, with whatever objects you include in your animation, make sure they are decorated (textured) in the best way possible. Most things in the real world are not shiny and new. Instead they are dented, beat up, scratched, or flawed in some unusual way. Prove your texturing skills by creating your own complex custom textures and make your models even more interesting to look at.

Realize that your audience has seen just about every basic transition and effect out there. These are the things that are only one click away in whatever program you're using. You need to be different and your effects need to be hard won. If it can be done from a simple pull down menu, it's probably not doing to impress them. You need to stand out from the rest of the pack.

What not to put on a demo reel SECTION B (exceptions):

Of course there are exceptions to everything in the computer graphics and animation industry. If the job you are applying for is going to require specific skills, such as flying logos or spaceship battles, then by all means gear your demo reel in that direction. However, if you are going to be applying to a wide variety of jobs, it is best to have something that will appeal and look absolutely amazing to everyone.

How do I create a good demo reel?

Sit, plan, make-up, cross out, plan some more, think, cross out, make up, and then get to work. A good method is to think about what your strengths are and then think about the most effective and entertaining way possible to get those strengths across on screen. Then sit and think about every aspect of what you want to do and storyboard it out. Understand what every scene is going to involve, how long it's going to take, what sort of resources you'll need to accomplish it, and if everything you want to do is really possible. And if it's not possible, how you're going to look that obstacle in the eyes and say "up yours, I'm doing it anyway".

What does a good demo reel look like?

Many companies have their own reels which you could probably arrange to get a hold of. Contact these places and see if they will send you one. If these are places you would like to work for, then pay close attention to the sort of things they do. Otherwise, I suggest checking out many cool animation tapes currently on the market. Look for "The Mind's Eye" series by SMV or "Computer Animation Festival" series also by SMV. Watch the tapes, be inspired, and then think about how you could have done it better...and then do something else, since what you're thinking about doing has already been done. Remember, be original. If you want to do something that's been done before, do it differently (if that makes sense).

Things to remember!

Put your best stuff first. You want to grab your audience's attention as soon as possible. Give credit where credit is due. If you didn't do something, say so. Also, specify the tools you used to create your demo reel.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Top Five Things NOT to do on your Demo Reel

By: Carlos Baena

At AnimationMentor.com, we dedicate an entire class to teaching our students how to build demo reels: What to do, what not to do, how to make a reel stand out to potential recruiters, etc. Obviously, there isn't room for all the details in a newsletter, but we've chosen five of the most important things to keep in mind to pass along to you, our subscribers. So, here you go: five things NOT to do when creating a demo reel:

1) Do NOT try to make a one-size fits all demo reel. Make your demo reel specific to the position for which you are applying -and the studio with the job. If you're applying as an animator to a big animation studio where departments are very specialized, then everything on the reel should say only "animation." It should not say "texturing" or "lighting" or "modeling." Also, if you're applying to a visual effects company that does realistic work, then it would help to have examples of that kind of work on your reel. Same thing goes for places where they do cartoon animation. Your reel should reflect the kind of work done at the company to which you're applying.

2) You should NOT include everything you've worked on throughout the years. Keep it short. If you've been working in the industry for, let's say, 10 or 20 years, and you include every single shot you've animated, your demo reel will not be a reel anymore, it'll be a feature film that people will have to sit through. So keep the reel under a minute or two, even if that means not using all of it. Chances are that people, who are reviewing your reel, are looking at another hundred, as well. So, the easier you can make it for them, the better. You don't want to bore them. Instead, they should see your strongest work (even if it's only 30 seconds). Leave them wanting to see more.

3) Make the reel original on the inside, NOT on the outside. Human resources, along with actual animators, will be looking at your reel, and they don't care about how fancy the outside package looks or what you include along with the reel and resume. From key chains to toys, I've seen people include all kinds of things with their reels that do not relate to their animation skills. Put all of your originality into the actual animation content. Make it fun and original for people to watch, but don't overdo it.

4) Do NOT include stuff that is too distracting, whether it's music or fancy titles. If you have a reel with a dialogue animation test, and the music is too loud for people to hear the line the character is saying, or you have this mega-loud techno music going on throughout the whole thing, it will conflict with the purpose of the reel, which is to show your animation skills as clearly and simply as you can. Everything else should be secondary.

5) Do NOT include stuff that other people have animated. Be very clear and honest about what you have done . The industry is very small, people go from company to company and they are very familiar with other people's work. Always include a credit list of the shots on the reel and what you animated for them. In the event that a shot is actually shared by two or more animators, you should clarify the work that you did.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Drawing On Creativity: How To Trick Your Brain

By Maya Talisman Frost

Jan 15, 2004


Can you draw?

Your answer to that question reveals a surprising amount about your brain and the way you integrate your right and left hemispheres. (In this article, the left side will be referred to as the dominant one, which is by far the most likely scenario.)

You see, the left side of the brain excels at verbal, analytical, rational and logical tasks. It's the dominant half. It takes over most of the time, using words to describe and define, figuring things out step by step, drawing conclusions based on facts and logic, and thinking in a linear way. The left side of the brain jumps right in with words and symbols, and is such a bully that it takes on even those tasks it isn't likely to perform well.

Now, the right side of the brain is completely different. It relies on nonverbal cues to process perceptions. It's good at tasks requiring the ability to see similarities, to understand how parts fit together as a whole, to make leaps of insight (those a-ha moments), and to perceive overall patterns at once. It tends to hang back a little, letting the left side take over most duties.

It's sort of like siblings. You've got a confident, verbal first child and a quiet, introspective, thoughtful second child. Who do you think wins the argument for that last dessert? Who chooses which television show to watch? Who dominates the conversation about where to go on a family vacation? The second child might have a valuable perspective, but the older one is so assertive that he tends to win most arguments and rule the roost.

If your answer to the drawing question is "No, I'm pathetic," it's likely your left brain is being a bit of a thug. Whenever you pick up a pencil and start to sketch, it's taking over with its tendency to verbalize images and analyze shapes. Meanwhile, the right side-- the perceptual, spatial part of your brain--is over in the corner, raising its hand, trying to get attention. "Oh, pick me!" it says. Too bad that the left side is already busy drawing lines and forming a strategy.

What if you could outsmart the bully on the left? What if you could somehow give that right side of your brain its chance to shine?

According to Dr. Betty Edwards, a respected art educator and author of the best-selling book, Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain, you can actually make a mental shift from what she refers to as the "L- mode"--the verbal, dominant form of thinking--to the "R-mode," which relies on visual cues. It's possible to get the right side to kick in and take over the task of drawing.

How? Well, we need to get tricky.

The left side takes over tasks UNLESS it finds a particular job undesirable. If a certain task takes too much time, is too detailed or slow or simply too difficult, then the left side gives up. So, the trick is presenting the task--in this case, drawing--in such a way that the right side is allowed to jump in.

This happens a lot with words. When we try to describe something verbally and find it too difficult, what do we do? We rely on gestures. Just try to describe a spiral staircase without using your hands.

Dr. Edwards teaches people to draw by presenting them with images that are upside down. This puts the left brain in a state of confusion so that it can't easily decipher shapes, assign a top and bottom, attach labels and categorize them to match stored memories.

The key to integrating your right side lies in looking for opportunities to allow it to become dominant. When presented with a confusing image, your left side gives up. We should literally turn things upside down in an effort to thwart the left brain's control and let the R- mode take over.

This same idea works in creative problem solving. Sometimes the best way to deal with a challenging issue is to sleep on it. When the left brain is exhausted, the intuitive, subjective, holistic right side has a chance to sneak in and come up with a solution that seems to have come "from nowhere". See? We don't even give our right brains credit for creative insights!

It's exciting to think that there are ways to outsmart our brains. By intentionally putting ourselves in a state of mental conflict, we can enhance our creativity.

Look for ways to plunge yourself into that discomfort zone. Whether we're tackling a picture or a problem, the key to jumpstarting our right brain lies in shifting our perspective.

Grab a pencil, turn the picture upside down, and start drawing! Somewhere inside you, that frustrated artist will be grinning from ear to ear.

Maya Talisman Frost is a mind masseuse. Her work has inspired thinkers in over 70 countries. She serves up a unique blend of clarity, comfort and comic relief in her free weekly ezine, the Friday Mind Massage. To subscribe, visit http://www.massageyourmind.com.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Astral Projection: You Can Do It Too

Astral Projection: You Can Do It Too
Everyone can have an out-of-body experience, says expert Jerry Gross - in fact, you probably have. In this interview, Gross explains OBEs, what happens and how to begin your adventure

When noted out-of-body teacher and practitioner Jerry Gross wants to travel long distances, he doesn't bother with the time and expense of catching a plane. He just uses a different kind of plane, and travels there astrally - unless, of course, he is teaching one of his many classes and workshops on astral projection, also known as OBE or out-of-body experience.

According to Gross, the ability to leave the body has been with him since childhood. Yet, rather than regarding this as a special gift, he believes that this is an inherent ability that can be developed by anyone. In the following article, Gross discusses the out-of-body experience with freelance writer and former workshop participant Sandy Jones.

Jones: What is astral projection? How would you describe it?

Gross: Astral projection is the ability to leave your body. Everyone leaves their body at night, but before they do leave, they have to put the physical mind to sleep. Most people don't remember this, but when the physical mind is asleep, the subconscious takes over, and this is usually when you do your astral projection. In other words, everybody does it, but they just don't remember doing it.

Jones: What is your earliest recollection of doing this? What was it like?

Gross: I can remember doing this clear back to when I was about four years old. I never lost the ability to astral project, and kept it throughout my whole life now. Everyone is born with this ability. If you think back, you can probably recall having dreams of being somewhere, but as you got older, you lost the ability. What I'm trying to teach is that you can do this at will.

Jones: In those days, astral projection was almost unheard of. Did you ever tell anyone about it? How did they react?

Gross: It was strange for me because at that age, I thought everybody did it. I used to talk about it, until it kind of got out of hand, and when I started getting into trouble with it, I went to my grandmother, who could do it too. She told me not everyone could do it, so it would be best not to talk about it, and to come to here if I wanted to talk about it. So throughout all my life, most of my experiences with astral projection were kept a secret, except for her.

Jones: These days, with the many publications on near-death experience and related topics, the concept is not so unusual. Is this experience the same as what is described in the near-death experiences?

Gross: It's not quite the same, because when you astral project, you don't have to go through the white light, or a tunnel. When you project, you usually go right where you would like to go, right away. Remember this, when you're out of the body, there is no time or no distance. Everything is right here, now. Astral projecting is a little different than the death experience, because in the death experience, you are getting ready to leave the body for the last time. During the death experience, a person sees the white light, and there is usually someone there that you know, waiting for you. When you astral project, you decide where you want to go.

Jones: When you leave your body, what happens to the physical body?

Gross: When your physical body sleeps and the astral body leaves, the physical body just rests. No harm can come to you through this.

Jones: What do you do when you leave the body?

Gross: I go to the astral plane and communicate with my teachers, I visit other places and other dimensions, and I visit my loved ones who have left the earth plane. There are many things you can do once you develop this skill.

Jones: It has been said that there is a silver cord attached to the body, and that this cord could be severed when you astrally project, thereby making it impossible to come back to your body. Is there a danger of this happening?

Gross: Absolutely not. The silver cord is connected to you when you enter the physical body for the first time, and it is not cut again until you leave for the last time. If this were possible, that you couldn't get back to the body, it would happen to you at night when you do leave the body. There is no danger in this; it is a gift given to us to learn how to use.

Jones: Are there any dangers people should be aware of?

Gross: When you do this consciously, there is no danger in it. One thing I'll say, you must develop your thinking skills, and know what you want and where you want to go. The only dangerous part of it, is if you practice it while you are taking in drugs or alcohol. Remember back in the sixties when people were taking the drug called LSD, and they had some bad trips? They ended up in the lower astral. I'm trying to teach that you can have full control of what you are doing. I would suggest if you like to drink or take drugs that you not try it.

Jones: What else can you do when you leave the body?

Gross: That is entirely up to you. You must know where you are going. You cannot just leave your body and have no destination, because you'll bounce around like a rubber ball. Remember, you are controlling yourself with your thoughts, so if you think of California, you'll be there. One of the most important things I like to teach people in my workshops is how to use their minds to astral project. The best thing I can say is to learn to control yourself, so you'll go where you wanted to go. When you first start out this might happen for awhile, but after you get full control of it, you'll realize someone else is watching you, a teacher or guide. They'll contact you then and let you know it's time for you go on, and learn.

Learn to control yourself, so you'll go where you wanted to go. When you first start out this might happen for awhile, but after you get full control of it, you'll realize someone else is watching you, a teacher or guide. They'll contact you then and let you know it's time for you go on, and learn.

Jones: How would the average person know if this is for real? Is there a way to prove it, and have you ever been asked to prove it?

Gross: In my workshops, I teach you to astral project by having you sit in a chair and go out and turn around and look at yourself. If you are lying in bed, you can rise up, turn around and look at yourself lying on the bed. You'll have proof enough when you are able to look at your physical body, from outside of it. I've been asked to prove this many times, in radio shows, and at the Whole Life Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center where I traveled astrally from St. Paul, Minnesota to Los Angeles and moved a box they had set up on the stage for me. Once you learn how to do this you'll have proved this to yourself, and that's why I call my little group, Search and Prove. I want you to prove this to yourself for that's the ultimate proof. Don't take my word for it, prove it to yourself.

Jones: Are certain kinds of people more inclined to develop this ability than others?

Gross: I would say some learn faster than others. I had one lady who took two years before she finally succeeded. The most important thing is to keep a positive mind and know you can do this, because as soon as doubt comes into your mind, you won't be able to do it. The negative is taking over then. So it's important to keep an open, positive mind that you can do this. It might take a little time, but it will happen. I like to think about people going on a diet. They get real enthused about it at first, when they've lost a couple of pounds. All of a sudden it gets hard to lose, and they give up. It's the same way with astral projection. If things don't happen right away, some people give up.

Jones: Does daily lifestyle make a difference in being able to project?

Gross: No. If you have a normal lifestyle, you shouldn't have any problem.

Jones: If people have the inherent ability to do this, why is it that so few can actually do it?

Gross: As I said earlier, they lost it when they were young. They must learn how to bring the ability back again, because everyone can do this. We all do it when the physical is asleep. So you must learn to do it while you are sitting in a chair, awake or lying on a bed. You must learn to allow the subconscious to take over, and not let the physical mind control you.

Jones: Some people have dreams of flying. Where they actually out of their bodies? How can you tell the difference between dreaming and actually being out of the body?

Gross: Usually when people dream of flying they are out of the body, because this is the way you get around. If you ever wake up in the middle of the night or early in the morning with a jolt, this is the astral body returning to the physical. Usually your dreams are in the beginning of your sleep cycle at night, and those dreams are nothing more than an accumulation of your thoughts during the day. If you wake up in the morning and remember your dream real well, it is usually an astral body experience; so keep track of these clear dreams, for they are lessons for you. It might not make much sense at first, but later on down the road, it will all come together for you.

Jones: If you could give one piece of advice to people who are astral projecting, what would it be?

Gross: The main thing is to start remembering your dreams and have a pencil and paper next to your bed, or a tape recorder. Another piece of advice I'll give you is, right before you go to sleep at night, say to yourself three times, I will remember, I will remember, I will remember. From that point on, within about two to three weeks, you are going to start remembering everything that happens to you while the physical is sleeping. Actually, the best piece of advice I could give, is to come to a workshop, because we really do have a lot of people who have good experiences at them. The workshop is the best way I know to teach anyone to do this, because I am able to spend a lot of time with the participants. We practice different techniques from 9:00 in the morning until sometimes 11:00 at night. By the end, they have good experiences, and I find this with all my workshops.

Jerry Gross holds workshops on astral projection in the United States and abroad. For further information on his work, visit his website at www.searchandprove.com. You may also call 612-436-8505; write Search and Prove, Box 311, St. Paul Park, MN 55071; or send e-mail to Rgross6162@aol.com.

Taken from: http://paranormal.about.com/library/weekly/aa110501a.htm

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Converting Images to Cut-Out Characters

We get a lot of questions about how to convert clip art into a cut-out character, or how to create proper cut-out joints, so for this article that’s exactly what we’ve done. Using these techniques, it is possible to cut up one still image and make it into a cut-out character, or use your skills to create a brand new character from scratch.

The example that we will use is Marina. Marina comes with Toon Boom Studio v3.5, but she isn’t a cut-out character. Her template consists of just one image. We’ll show you how we divided her pieces, and give you some pointers on how to use the Z depth to help set up your character.

Cutting up a Drawing

To begin with, you’ll have one image that you want to cut up. You’ll always want to have one intact and unedited copy of this image. Use this element to copy and paste sections of it into new elements to start building up the cut-out pieces of your character. You’ll most likely have to do a bit of drawing when converting a still image to a cut-out character, mainly to enable the rotation of joints, but also to “finish” any part of the drawing that was incomplete or covered by another body part. The static light table is a very good tool to use when cutting up your pieces. Put the original on the static light table and use it as a reference for which parts to add or remove. Work on one joint at a time and you’ll have all your pieces separate in no time. The real test will be when you set pivot points and test rotation. There’s always the possibility you’ll have to make corrections as you go, but the more characters you set up, the more tricks you’ll learn to help to do it faster, and make less mistakes. (See image of Marina Pieces)


Remember you can move elements back and forth along the Z-axis to place certain elements on top of others, even if they are under them in the timeline. This trick is indispensable when dealing with cut-out characters. For example, if you look at the finished Marina template you‘ll notice that we’ve put her head and hair on separate elements, and redrew the neck so that it would be more suited to cut-out rotation. For Marina our challenge was to keep her hair behind everything, but we also wanted her face on top. This is where the Z-depth really comes in handy. We’ve made the head a parent of the back of Marina’s hair, so when we move the head the hair will follow. But then we played with the Z depth of these elements and made the hair go behind the neck, and her head on top. This is a neat little trick that works well for hats, sleeves, and just about anything you can think of. Also, with the neck and head drawn and layered this way, you can easily get a very full range of rotation.

  • Remember that if you put something on a separate element, you’ll have to remove it from the original in order for the rotation to work
  • Use the keyboard shortcuts [Alt] + [up and down arrow keys] in Camera view to bump your elements back and forth on the Z-Axis
  • Make sure you have the Select tool active so that you aren’t setting keyframes on your elements.
  • Keep in mind that when you move an element in Z-space that it will appear larger (or smaller) in relation to the other elements. You may have to make adjustments
  • Notice the Z-value change in the drawing tab of the Properties window.

The idea of a patch is similar to the example of Marina’s head, where the head controls the back section of Marina’s hair. A patch, however, is a separate element that is created solely to cover up overlapping lines, and make a very simple, fool proof joint for your cut-out character. There are several of these patches in the Marina cut-out character, but as an example we’ll look quickly at Marina’s right arm. Her arm consists of three pieces; the shoulder, the arm and the hand. These pieces have been drawn and layered in a particular way so that when we add a patch the rotation will be easy. First, we set up the hierarchy and pivot points for the pieces of the arm. Then we copied only the fill section of Marina’s right arm, and pasted it into a brand new element. We’ve added this piece to the arm hierarchy so that whenever the arm moves, that patch will move along with it. Then we bumped the patch just ahead of the other pieces of the arm in Z space, so that it hides some of the lines on the joints of the arm. Take a look at the other patches in the Marina character and play around to test the rotation.

  • You should lock the patches you create so that you are unable to select them via the Camera View as you animate. Make sure to remember to lock the patches of your character when you start animating, as this information will not be saved from scene to scene.
  • When adding drawings to an element, such as more hands, make sure that the new one is in the same spot as the old one so that you can use the cell substitution window without having to worry about your pivot points.
  • Don’t worry about making the joints perfect. Look at what is a realistic rotation of a joint, and make sure the joint looks good for that.
  • When setting the rotation pivots for your cut-out character, use the Rotate tool so that your pivot will be kept.

Try experimenting with these techniques and see how it can help you create cut-out characters easily in Toon Boom Studio.

From TOONBOOM: http://www.toonboom.com/products/eLearning/articles/cut_out.php?WT.mc_id=e_ea_004_0126