Tuesday, October 14, 2008

11 Second Club - October Work In Progress

Well, after not performing up to my personal standards in the August contest, and then moping for a month, I've picked myself back up and am entering the contest again.

This month's character animation includes lip sync in English, which should make my life easier. I've also decided to use someone else's rig for a multitude of reasons. I want to get used to using assets created by other people, in case I'm ever called upon to work with files and not create everything from scratch. I can definitely imagine situations where my company would want to save time on the production turn around of a piece. The second reason I'm using a pre-made rig is because I'm using Maya, with which I'm less familiar than SoftImage or XSI. Maya's price tag is significantly lower than XSI, and it interfaces well with 3DS Max, so it's worth improving my fluency with the software.

Here's my work in progress for the contest:

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

11secondclub August Final Submission

Well, my final submission is up. Let's see how it does in the voting.
** keeping my fingers crossed **

Thursday, August 21, 2008

11 Second Club - August Work In Progress

I've been working this month on a submission for the 11 second club animation contest. This is my first time working on lip sync for a language that I don't speak! There are no expressions or head movements yet. I just wanted to get over the first technical hurdle before I bent my mind to the more creative tasks.

Please, feel free to make comments. I still have time to use them!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

New Animation Idea

So I had an idea the other day. Actually it's about a week old now, but every time I try to think of the whole thing in my head, I get these weird tingles of anticipation and excitement. It's tied to animation, to creativity, to storytelling, to programming, to artistic design, to everything, really.

Here's my idea. In my spare time, I'm going to create a real, 3D world video game.

It sounds so much smaller than it is. But I have high hopes. Although I've always wanted to work on animation exclusively, I have a brain that seems to pick up programming languages easily. I have no problem wrapping my brain around the more abstract programming concepts. I have some ideas that haven't been tried yet. I think it could be a success.

And of course, it COULD be a miserable failure.

But at least it will give me a target to really move through the design process and add some art to my website, seeing as how there's been a distinct lack of it lately. Another hurdle is that my home system is completely dead right now. The motherboard gave me the finger, kicked my shin, and then quit.

But by far, the biggest obstacle is that I have never used a 3D game engine in conjunction with a programming language before. I'm evaluating my zero-budget options, so if anyone has any suggestions, I'd be grateful.

Anyway, I'll post concept art once I've made it. It'll be fun to follow the progress. All other projects have stopped in honor of this one.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Catching up on Past Events

So a few things have happened between posts. The most noteworthy, and scary, event was while driving my brother's SUV down the Mass Turnpike, headed west, to my niece's birthday party, an eastbound Ford Windstar managed to lose an entire rear wheel which bounced over the median to crash into our windshield. My brother, in the passenger seat, was covered with windshield glass, and stunned for about 5 to 10 minutes.

No one was injured and according to the rest of the people in the car, I handled the situation with ultra calm and emergency-worthy coolness. We were approached by an officer very quickly, but then were forced to wait over an hour for a tow truck to make it out to us. The windshield shattered, the top part of the frame was bent in, and the right luggage rack was completely torn off.

If you look closely in the last image, you can actually see the tire treads that were burned onto the windshield. FORD now stands for a few things. Flings Out Rubber Death and Flying Objects, Road Danger! are just a few of what we've come up with.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Flash Suit 1: Explanation of the project

I know it's been a few weeks since the last post. Here's my attempt to remedy the dry spell.

In my last post, I mentioned that I had started a new 3D project. Allow me to clarify that this is a PERSONAL project, and not a freelance piece from a paying client. With that said, I'm holding myself to a high level of performance on this. One of my favorite books that I've ever had the pleasure of reading is Orson Scott Card's classic sci-fi novel, Ender's Game.

For those of you have not read it, shame on you. Head to your local library and check out a copy now. Ender's Game, without giving out any plot details, involves teams of children competing in zero-gravity. They are organized into 'armies', each with their own distinctive artwork.

For this project, I've settled on the first battle between Dragon army and Rabbit army. I believe this battle will lend itself well to an animation form. The specifics of the battle, the battleroom layout, outcome, and strategy are all significantly independent from the story so as not to suffer without the additional context.

Why a battleroom game? I've been agonizing for a while over the decision: what to animate next. Wompa gave me enough of a nightmare of hair (rendering on a single cpu is painful at best. 270 million hair-frames later (hairs * frames) I'm ready to jump out the window). John suffered from needing a somewhat realistic environment, not to mention he's a slow moving individual to start.

I really wracked my brain. Surely other animators don't go through this kind of pain, just trying to think of a good subject to animate. I finally decided to look at my own weaknesses, and stamp them out once and for all.

I realized that I've never taken on an animation that involves lip-sync, or quick motion. After reading Ender's Shadow for a third time (haha 'third'!) I realized that I was staring at the perfect animation idea.

I immediately set to work designing what the flash suits would look like. Sketches moved from fun to painful quickly, as I realized I had one idea, and needed about 30. I'll post some of the sketches I threw down at some point after this, but for now, I can proudly say I've finished modeling Ender's face and helmet. I may still tweak his features between now and the final model, but this was more about designing a helmet that would accomplish its purpose, and still have the right aesthetic for the project.

Without further explanation, here are the first renders of the battleschooler's head.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Flashgun 1: Inspiration Sucks

Almost every artist will agree with me. Inspiration sucks. Inspiration is like a hot girl that never returns your calls.

Until one night, and it's like 2:30 in the morning, and she calls you, drunk, and tells you she needs you to come pick her up because her ride ditched her.

And do you get up at 2:30 and feed this thing? Of course you do. Every artist does. It's either that, or convince yourself that the idea you just had wasn't that good.

All that is a metaphoric explanation for why this drawing was done on a whiteboard, with multiple dry-erase markers, and snapped with a crappy cellphone camera.

This is a prop for an animation I've just started. I'll be documenting my progress on this prop from beginning to end, as I find time to work on it.

Flashgun 1:

Monday, February 25, 2008

Silly Rabbit...

Saw this in the store. Who could resist?!

Friday, February 22, 2008

3ds Max - A Journey

So I've started pedaling my way up the learning curve of 3ds Max, the industry standard software for video game companies who create 3d characters, and have a need for character animation. There are a lot of tutorials available online for the general concepts of modeling a face, a person, a plane, etc. What I'm not finding are portability tutorials.

For instance, I'm very well versed in using Softimage XSI. I've been using it since XSI 2.0, up to it's current version. Both of my hands are moving constantly when I use it, hitting hotkeys and clicking mouse buttons. I've spent the last 10 years learning and using the general concepts behind modeling a particular object or character. I can intelligently discuss the benefits and drawbacks of choosing different modeling methods.

What I don't have, and what is making me feel like I don't know my ass from a hole in the ground, is that hotkey/function name knowledge. If I want to create a face, on polygon at a time, I know immediately what to do... in XSI. I hit the 'n' key and I begin 'drawing polygons'. I know to hit the left mouse button to plant a vertex, and I know to hit the right mouse button to end my current polygon. I know that hitting my middle mouse button will end the current polygon and start a new one immediately. I know to press 'u' to select polygons by raycasting, and 'y' to select polygons with a selection marquis.

And then I turn to 3ds Max... and drool. I don't even know what Max CALLS these functions. I'm sure polygon is in there somewhere, but is it polygon creation, drawing, modeling, crafting, editing, or something completely different? Every key I press is wrong. I might as well curl my fingers into a fist and type with my knuckles... or a club...

What I'd like to see is some tutorial for XSI users to learn 3ds Max. I need beginner level instruction, but expert level concepts. I've found the exact opposite. High-speed videos of people modeling in 3ds Max with no explanation of how they're doing what they're doing. I do not need to watch what method you chose to create your airplane or manly face. I need to know what keys you're pressing for each action.

When I learn this program, I'm going to start producing tutorials that actually make sense.

And then I'll tell people to go see my website.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The past few weeks have been extremely packed and hectic. Beyond condensing about 4 days of work into 2, I've been wrestling with my current freelance programming project, and considering taking on another one. Not to mention Valentine's Day duties, which I must say, I handled rather well, with little to no planning. A little expensive, but I did it without flowers.

In the midst of this sea of stress, 10-14 hour days, late nights, and ridiculously early mornings, I managed to attend my first Boston Post Mortem meeting.

I have to say, it was a lot of fun. I'd quite forgotten what having a real social life is like. I met a few very nice people, and got to shake hands with some fantastic people from Harmonix Music. From the talk, it really sounds like they attack all the issues I love to think about: What the audience is interested in, the value of incorporating the 'feel' of gameplay, and what parts of the market they're singularly equipped to leverage. And they do it all with a focus on the quality, style, and consistency of the artwork. Props to Harmonix and Chris Foster for a great talk.

I also met a bunch of great people there, Amanda, Conor, Jordon, Cameron, and of course, my bestest pal, thanks for making me feel like I belonged there, when couldn't have felt more out of place.

I'm excited about becoming a regular there. I had a decent glass of Shiraz, but I had it far too late. Next time the wine happens at the BEGINNING of the night.

So... No comments on my website?

Monday, February 11, 2008

New Character Animation Gallery - Now Open!

It's finished. The 2008 site-redesign is complete, and my character animation site is now open to the public.

Please take some time to explore the site. I'll be adding whatever art I can find on my system over the next few days. And then I'll be looking into activating the forum. Until then, please let me know here what you think of the new site?

But active now are my demo reel, my animations gallery, and my images galleries. Additional ways of contacting me can also be found there.

WompaTips will be tips for character animators, novice level through intermediate, about all aspects of character animation. I'll try to keep them software-independent, so a lot of them will focus on concepts over technical hurdles. And Resources... Well, if anyone has a character animation site, and they'd like to discuss forming some reciprocal links between us, please let me know.


Thursday, February 7, 2008

Character Motion and Interim States

I've been looking at some samples of my character animation over the past few days. I've figured this much out about myself. When I see a particular motion in my head, I can make it look good. Really good, with weight distribution and post-action movements. The trouble is the 'empty' time between defined, purposeful movements.

Some of my characters' body parts drift idly from the end of one pose to the beginning of the next, but the reality of the situation is that there never is space between poses. Every pose juts up against another one.

"Purposeful" movement is what I call any motion that the character is thinking about doing: that they have a purpose in mind for executing that motion. I need to redefine my thoughts. When I raise my arm to put a book on the shelf, and then walk away, there's a moment between my hand leaving the shelf and transitioning into the swinging motion of the walk cycle that can speak volumes about the character's state of mind.

From now on, I'll be focusing on these 'inbetween' motions. They should reflect a body's tendency toward a particular emotion or type of pose. If the character is nervous, they should hold in an unsure position. If a character is looking at something, his entire body needs to reflect that attention, not just the eyes and hands, but the neck, shoulders, feet, and stance.

I considered building a character rig that has current emotional states in sliders, and they would control a character's tendency to animate back to a particular pose, but when you start automating, it's difficult to achieve that impressionistic 'now' feeling of the motion.

And so I'll end with the thought that I need to make a new animation that really show this kind of thing, and put them in my reel. I can see it so plainly now, it's time to put my models where my mouth is.

Monday, February 4, 2008

18 & 1

Go Giants.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Inspiration for the Gallery Site

I had just put my head to my pillow last night, when inspiration struck. It was already late. Almost 1 AM. But it was so strong I had to get back out of bed, throw on a robe, and design this idiotic button I'd seen in my head.

But an hour and change later, I think it was worth it. A little more work, and my new site will be nicely underway. The initial design is the biggest hurdle, because I can't just buckle down and work-horse it through. I have to keep trying things that I know I'll hate, because if you don't, your creative juices get all backed up.

That's me: creativity plumber and midnight designer.

What odd titles would you give yourself?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

my best friend: Chat 1

me: I have presents for you.

my best friend: hahahahaha
I hope you don't feel obligated

me: I always collect presents for you
I look, and I say, Jen needs that.
and the next thing I know
I'm handing over my credit card
and walking out the store with a round oven mitt
or a yellow rubber ball
or a freaking candy dispenser.

my best friend: you found a round oven mitt?!


my best friend: I got all excited :D
cuz I wanted one XD

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Demo Reel - Character Animation

I just wanted to post my demo reel here. I was surprised at how many people who have gone to my website haven't watched the demo reel. Obviously, it's hiding amidst the rest of my character animation gallery. This is one of my major goals of the 2008 site redesign.

I welcome any and all comments. Actually, I'm eager to hear them!

Friday, January 18, 2008


Forget character animation for this post. Ever get a song stuck in your head that you just simply hate?

I hereby infect you all: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4A50EHwCjY


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Stay tuned for a new Gallery website in 2008

So it's that time again. Yes, every year or two, I grow dissatisfied with my character animation website and have to initiate a COMPLETE OVERHAUL. I don't know why, but I have so much fun creating a new look, and then it just fades away.

I guess that's a lot like when I do my character animation. I received an email recently asking about one of my characters, Nikki. Apparently, the idea behind this 3D character made such an impression on this person that, after a year of being ignored by me, she was still missed.

It's always the same. I'll create a character, and have big plans for them. I'll make a few quick animations with them, and then I'll notice one little flaw. And then I'll concentrate on that flaw for weeks. And then I'll notice other ones. But by now I have different projects to concentrate on, and I won't get back to the original character.

Same thing with the website. You'd think I'd learn though... I'm usually very happy with what I've made, when I learn to go back and finally fix the damn thing once and for all. I have no problem doing it for someone else.

I'm just not a self-flagellating slave-driver.

Damn it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Wompa Christmas - Character Animation

For those of you who don't want to go through the rigmarole of visiting the website, here's the movie that made my mother cry.

Please refer to this post to see what the heck I'm rambling about.

Effective Marketing

I showed my website to my mother last night, let her watch "A Wompa Christmas" in the gallery.

I found out later that she'd cried.

Was my animation really that evocative? Was it just that horrible? No. In typical mothering fashion, she somehow inflated the episode in my life to ridiculous proportions.

For those of you who haven't seen it, my animation is based on a time when I, through the sheer idiocy that is my life, locked myself out of my apartment on an early December day. I still had access to the cellar, where it was warm next to the furnace. It wasn't ACTUALLY snowing. It was daytime.

In Mom's more dramatic version, the door SLAMMED SHUT from gale-force winds which were blowing frozen hail into my eyes. Oh, and I wasn't wearing shoes. And I was shirtless and shivering. And crying, only my tears were frozen to my face.

Obviously this image was powerful for my mother, who blamed herself for NOT MOVING TO BOSTON TO LIVE WITH ME.

While I appreciate the motherly love (I really do), I had a hard time convincing her that my animation was not a cry to her for help. I just thought it was cute. Needless to say, I'll be more careful about what I show her from now on.