Thursday, May 27, 2010


An aging machine
Looks to be reinvented
Not to be harvested for spare parts
Hopes for a tinkering hold
Longing for a friend
Begging for another chance
Quietly waiting out the old clock
Wishing to break off its hands
Interrupt the gears
Jealous of endless ticking
And never faltering or questioned
Just portioning out the time
In small increments
Touched and wound and self-assured
While the old are thrown into the dirt
Covered in organic waste
Pleading for maggots

-Laura Skowronski, personal writing exercise, 5/27/2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

An Engineer's Guide To Cats

Really funny video, if you're looking for a fun break this afternoon.

An Engineer's Guide To Cats

I about lost it at "post modern cardboard deconstruction."

Meanwhile.. Keeping busy animating a test this week. Will get back to the usual sketching and personal work next week. Have a good one!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

AM & Pixar Webinar

AM hosted another great webinar last week, this time with some great animators from Pixar. Aaron Hartline and Victor Navone gave a helpful talk and demo on timing and spacing.

The replay is available here as of May 5. The Eric Goldberg webinar is also available - I really enjoyed his lecture and took several pages of notes which were unfortunately lost due to technical problems, but please check out his replay as well. Some very good stuff.

Just as a heads up, my favorite points were about balancing your timing. For instance, if you have a lot of fast stuff going on (as I often do, because I have SO MANY ideas and I have to eliminate some for clarity!), it's good to balance those moments with slower or medium-paced moments. A tip for beginners might be to aim for all three (slow, medium, and fast) speeds of timing in a shot to help generate interest and focus on particular movements or actions. That's especially true for a single standalone shot, but maybe not so much when you have continuous shots. You don't want a series of shots to each have the same lows and highs, peaks and valleys of timing. Vary the range and keep it unpredictable but clear for your audience.

Another good reminder I got was about planning your shot. While working on Abby, especially with tight deadlines, it became standard to make very simple acting choices and movements, and often we were restricted by time or by the surrounding shots to maintain posing or character placement. This webinar pointed out that a good animator explores every possible option when planning a shot, conveying inner monologue and the best possible choice of action (and acting).

Seeing Aaron and Victor talk about going to dailies, getting feedback, watching other animators' work being critiqued, and following up later in the day with walkthroughs, I am ever more excited to get back to working with a studio. I'm continuing to commute to SpeakeasyFX voluntarily working on our internal project, which will hopefully gain buyer interest soon, but I'm also doing more at home and also considering an AM refresher course this summer just to keep in touch with my peers and stay current and motivated. More soon.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Sketching: Harryhausen

The SpeakeasyFX sketchblog has now completed its fifth week. Themes so far have been Healthcare, Regret, Little Victories, Impossible, and now Harryhausen.

I was going to sketch something completely different at first. I read somewhere how Ray Harryhausen had made his first stop motion character, a cave bear, using a chunk of his mother's fur coat -- not unlike Kevin Clash (the voice of Elmo) cutting apart the black synthetic fur lining of his father's Sunday churchcoat to make one of his first puppets as well, Moandy.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

May Maya Madness

So in between sketching, animating at the studio on our growing IP (abbrev: "H&H") using XSI, and thinking up new reel material, I've taken a dive head first back into Maya using AM's Bishop character, and I'm noticing a lot of interesting workflow issues.

When I was working on Abby at the studio, there were a number of helpful factors. Being around other animators is almost a "must" because you inspire each other and critique each other constantly, and better animation is always the result. There were other nice reasons having others around, to share helpful advice and receive assistance easily when needed. My setup was a little nicer as well, in terms of machine and having a second monitor - although now that I have a new computer at home, the hangup has been resetting my preferences with new hardware & software. I have an old monitor I think I'll be hooking up soon, and then my workflow should improve at home.

Then, there's XSI versus Maya. I've put in probably well over 2000 hours in XSI in the last year, and in the same time frame I've maybe put in 15-40 hours of Maya. But in the last 10 years, prior to working at SpeakeasyFX, I animated almost exclusively in Maya, through all my Animation Mentor experience, and most of my Purdue cg training (with some 3d Studio Max education early on). Thankfully I'm pretty adaptable and it shouldn't take me long to get used to Maya again.

But then there are issues like character setups. The AM character setup is great and very flexible, but right now I'm used to our Abby rigs and other internal rigs that we move around almost like puppets. The controls are so tactile, instead of using GUIs or channel boxes with a hundred options. It's nice to be able to pose a hand by clicking right on parts of the finger and manipulating them directly. Probably there's a way to do that with the AM rigs.. I just need to look into it for longer than an afternoon.. or just build my own controls on it. :-)

Tonight I have another sketch to work on, but hopefully I'll have some new animation to show later this week. I've gotta get some things set up on Naveen's XP computer because they aren't complying with my Windows 7 machine (ergh), and then I'll be in business.

Sketching: Impossible

Recently, the animators of SpeakeasyFX started a sketchblog in their spare time, with weekly themes. Themes so far have been Healthcare, Regret, Little Victories, and this past week I came up with the theme of "Impossible." In this sketch I went more for character and less about the background.