Friday, May 2, 2014

The Real Problem Is...

I just can't seem to scrap together the time for portfolio pieces for some time now. This should have been  done while my creative juices were flowing from my AnimSquad class. The good news is, I am planning on taking another AnimSquad class, the bad news is, it won't be until the Fall... Until then though I have myself quite busy. Between my personal super hero project, helping a friend with some cg modeling/rigging/animating for a cartoon pitch, and a recent short film I was recently lucky enough to get on called The Ottoman ( All of them are great projects, and I really hope I can get my act together to be able to split my time between everything.

I think I'm at the point I need to move on from my bank robber shot. I got some really positive feedback from a recent gathering of the LA Character Animators meetup. If you're in the area and haven't heard of it, you should look into it. It's an amazing community for keeping sharp and working on things. So here is where my shot is at:

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

some tiny progress

I don't know what's going on, but progress is super slow on this one. I am distracted a lot with my super hero project, which I'm certain will be really awesome when we really get rolling on it. Meanwhile, I hope I can finish this shot properly. I need to start carving out larger chunks of time to bring it home. Here's hoping.

Any-who, I got a first pass done splining out the body. It may look a bit weird at the moment because the face is still in blocking, but it's for the most part posed out in the expressions I plan on hitting. If you see any glaring problems, definitely let me know.

Monday, January 6, 2014

It's been a while

Just posting an update. I've been busy with stuff. Most of my spare time these days has been spent working on a big project with my buddies. We don't have a final title for it yet and are still just gearing up making tons of rigs and figuring out our pipeline and look and all that fun stuff. I do have a few tests I can share with you. The first is a sheet with the 3 characters we've managed to make. There's a huge list of guys to make, but rigging and texturing takes sooo long, haha. But to get a sense, we don't care about marvel vs. DC vs. whatever. It's more like we're playing with a toybox of action figures so all bets are off. The plan is to do a bunch of fun little skits. All visual gaggery and cartooniness.
I did a quick test shot to start working out the pipeline. The rendering style is mostly figured out, just one little tweak I have planned. I am really excited by the way that the toon shader works with motion blur creating an almost dry brush look. The biggest thing for the animation here is for us to push our abilities with stylized animation. Trying to get a nice cartoony look we describe as 'al dente' not quite floppy noodley, but not quite super stiff. The music is unmixed and is missing a baseline track that is planned, but should give you a good feel for the style we're aiming toward.

And this is a fun little test for my beach skit that I'm doing next. For context, Thor is helping Aquaman with his sand castle and accidentally explodes the sandcastle all over Aquaman and makes an awkward exit.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Probably wise breakdowns

Slowly but surely I'm making progress on my next shot. Hopefully I'll have this all wrapped up in time for CTN.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

AnimSquad, the grand finale

 I finished up my last class of AnimSquad just last week. While the first 7 weeks were a complete struggle and I don't have much to show for it, I'd say the last 5 made up for it. I was beat down and struggled through that first shot. Looking back on it, I should have not done that shot. Two characters are hard enough, let alone a sad, subtle shot. I should have also factored in how I haven't polished a shot or taken something to this level of finish in ages. All those excuses/factors combined to a frustrating two months, followed by one of my biggest breakthroughs in years.

I did a rambling post last time about what I saw as my main breakthrough of some stuff about timing. I finally don't have shitty even timing all over the place. Another was a long buildup of learning about acting and finally doing a shot with a character I understood. It was perfect because I knew the audio was Rafi from The League, which is one of my favorite characters from a show I really like. But, I didn't know the shot in context. It was from some ad I found for an upcoming season that I only ripped the audio from and haven't been able to find since. There's actually another clip in there about Smurfs that I'd love to animate but will very much become strange having two shots about smurfs on my reel but not knowing much about/really liking the Smurfs, haha.

That said, the following weeks after presenting my blocking plus pass, I progressed pretty much how I always hoped I would in the class. Some notes, a few revisions on a section or two, but nothing terribly major.

My parting notes seemed mostly about just continuing with where I'm at. Making more tests, and not getting lazy with them. It's daunting yet exciting. I've now set the bar higher for what my work should look like. It sucks because now I basically have to make a new reel starting with this shot, but it's great to be over that last hump. I hope to conquer many more hills on my journey to being a great animator. So with no more John-esque rambling, here is where my Apple shot ended up:

46ApplesTall from John Fielding on Vimeo.

My next shot will be from another of my favorite shows, Arrested Development. From here on out, I will only be doing shots from shows/characters that I know/love. It sounds obvious, but I at least just didn't DO that for up until now basically. The Don Quixote shot I did a while back was the first time I set out to animate a character I felt more comfortable with, the lost in his own world kinda naive fool hardy character. I'm sure that says a lot about who I am, but let's be real. With the state of the industry and the level of talent available to studios, animators are more and more like actors, where I assume they'll be hiring me based on who I am/what I'm good at, than just the fact that I can animate. I hear so often about people being 'cast' on characters or shots because it is something they are good at, I might as well explore those things in my personal work and have that to show to the studios. With a reel of shots that express me more than just my animation skills but who I am and what I enjoy, they're more likely to get an artist they want, and I am more likely to be chosen by a company that will fit my interests and that's the most important thing. I'm sure there will be plenty of times of being cast on a shot you don't like, but I'm not at the level yet that I can just do whatever character, so I need to do these shots of characters that I do know, so I can start to really grasp the finer details of animating and acting and all this mess I've gotten myself into, haha.

So...that ramble aside, here is the next shot I plan to do:

After that, I plan on working on this guy. It's far less developed. This is just some quick 2 hours of blocking to get my shot in front of Nathan before class ended. Because of how rough the blocking is, I put my reference in the corners to explain my ideas. Nathan said that's how some people actually submit blocking sometimes at Disney. Apparently I can take good reference so that helped, but is definitely not something I thought I could do so well. I might be able to now partly due to how I'm choosing characters I understand and can get into a bit. One interesting thing to note about this shot is that, when I did the blocking for this, I had to shift the timing of everything from my reference so it would look right-ish. I found for most things it was advancing it all 6 frames before where I actually wanted it to happen. This was touched on in the summer class I took at Gobelins. One of the instructors talked about a 'compensated x-sheet'. That was about how where your eye perceives change in shape when in blocking is different from where that change/pose should happen when things are on 1's. It's difficult to really get into the nuance of it all and I hope to learn more, but for the time being, I mostly shifted my animation 6 frames early after timing it out where I know it needs to land for this super rough pass of blocking. When I finally get down to animating this, I should probably start from scratch to be honest. Some of the posing here isn't great and only at most half-thought out (because again, I did it in 2 hours), and the poses aren't where I want them to be. Well, they are because of held frames, but the keys in Maya aren't and it's definitely something I have to learn through about blocking, especially in stepped. As much as I prefer blocking in spline, I seem to have figured some stuff out with blocking in stepped when bringing it down to 3's and 4's before approval and splining.

All that said, here's some bad, rough blocking with decent video reference for the shot I plan on doing after the previous one. What I'm excited about this one for is handling a possibly difficult dialogue, switching focus from one person to the next in controlled ways, and the fact that it's another line from Rafi (that's miraculously also not horrifically vulgar), and has some really dumb faulty logic:

Thursday, July 11, 2013


So, after a good review of my blocking plus, I was nervous to not lose that when I moved into spline. But blocking down to 2s just doesn't make sense to my brain and would be a waste of time/effort for me. I wanted to retain the feeling of my blocking but had some mechanics to clean up and stuff to still push, it's never ending.

My first step was to use the ackTimingFramework by Aaron Korsel. That stamped down a key on everything that was keyed on every frame there was a key. That ensured that the poses I had in my blocking would be literally retained and any accidental not keyed controller wouldn't be an issue.

From there, I did a buffer curve snapshot. That lets me know when I go into spline what my intentions were in blocking with a curve so I can clearly see the basic areas I should stay within. And for the parts where I might be trying something different or whatever, I also had Aaron's bufferCurve script handy to push/pull or even snap selected values back to that buffer. I can't stress enough how helpful having that buffer curve is as a guide when splining.

My notes from this in class were pretty nice. Just adjusting a few things here and there, taking out some bits for clarity, smoothing out other bits. The biggest thing I have to do now is redo the ending. I went with him not like taking a beat to hear the last offscreen voice, but that just wasn't working. So now I need to leave him over in that pose he hits at "Everything" do a head/eye turn to the other guy, then when he starts to say '46 apples tall' that's where I'll have him move up into his prideful pose and take the apple bite almost in one motion. As opposed to move, hit pose, speak, bite apple, pose, it'll be more like listen, move while speaking, bite apple while hitting pose.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Progress, juicy progress!

I kinda felt it happening while I was working, but I think I'm starting to pick up on some of this animationing stuff. My main notes from the last class on my blocking were mostly to simplify a few things, and strengthen my starting pose. It may be obvious but I often need to hear stuff like that to help kick me in the rear end to really push things. Some other obvious things our instructor has been saying were that no one has been really pushing the face much, so I wanted to be sure to include that and not be afraid to really crank a controller to see how it affects things. He also said that basically, when he says something is good or is working, it's not to mean, leave it alone. Everything, even stuff that is working always needs more scrutinizing, more pushing, more love, more care, more polish. And like simple stuff like when using the tween machine or pushing keys around for timing, you still need to go back in and really tweak each pose, each frame, everything.

With all that in mind, I took to breaking down my shot to everything being at least on 4s. It's mostly actually on 3s and in some places 1s. One of my personal breakthroughs I feel was with timing and texture and pacing. My shots often are weak on this. They are usually muddy or soft and bleh. I took yet another look at the old timing charts and how they relate to actual scene time. I remember a breakthrough I had before where I succeeded in having some action feel really strong and it was just being comfortable with putting in those spaces. This time I was more careful about where to put those spaces, getting into and out of them well so it's just not things randomly popping.

This rather simple timing chart I had totally misunderstood for so long. I was taught you have your one key pose and your next,  you go to the middle frame, break it down, go to the frame in the middle on either side of that and break it down, working your way back to each key pose. The problem is, that timing chart ends up being naturally even, because it's an even approach.

What I did instead was have key 1 an d 2, then do my mid way breakdown, then do the key on either side of that midway frame. Sometimes, if the move was long enough, I'd maybe do that on the key 2 frames to either side. But the important thing is, those keys are describing the move so much. Because that's saying how fast you're going across from key 1 to 2. This is kinda embarrassing to post, because I'm sure everyone else figured this out and I was the only one not clued in. But since it took me a while to get comfortable doing something like this, and I know I often just need to hear it from someone, maybe this might help if you have also struggled with even timing.

From here, playing with how many tick marks you have on either side of that midway breakdown and if that midway breakdown is actually in the middle or not, you can start to play around with cushioning and eases. And yes, that's how my keys look in my scene. With a key on say, frame one, then 4,5,6, then 9. Not evenly paced out, but clumped around where there's the most movement/shape change. Just like how on fast actions, the old 2d method of going from being on 2s to haveing to animate on 1s for those bits, it's because there's more information that's needed to understand the movement. So this is just that same sort of idea applied in cg where everything's gonna be on 1s in the end anyway. It won't look chunky because your poses will be fluidly moving from one to the next, so them not being rigidly only on every 2 frames doesn't matter.