AM - Class 5 / Week 5 - Lecture

Walk-Through: Advanced Dialog Part Two.

This was the second part of Navone's Over The Shoulder lecture. The final version of the shot looked nice!

AM - Class 5 / Week 4 - Lecture

Walk-Through: Advanced Dialog Part One.

This is the first part of an Over The Shoulder lecture by Victor Navone showing his way animating a shot from start to finish!
It was very nice to watch but I couldn't take any notes, a lecture like that you'd have to watch yourself :)

AM - Class 5 / Week 3 - Lecture

Multiple Characters.

In this lecture Jason talks about the things we need to keep in mind while animating a shot with multiple characters, and
how to get a good relation in between characters to keep them connected.

He started off by labeling the types of multi-character shots :
Over the shoulder, characters facing camera, one character in focus & the others are around it, two characters having a conversation with a character off screen, & last, an Action shot. The list could go on & on but these are the famous ones.

Be a ware of the relationship the characters has in the shot, for instance, if you have shot with two characters & they know each other well they would stand close and more facing towards each other, if they are strangers they would keep some distance.  So just based on the character's position in frame will let us determine there relation & intimacy. 

Secondary or background characters are active participants in the shot, position them in a way that is related to the main character, background characters position reveals something about there relationship to the main character, adjust there head to be facing the main character, this will direct the audience eyes towards what they're looking at which is in this case the hero character, don't just make them standing there doing nothing, add eye-darts, breathing, & some subtle facial expression to keep them live, but remember not to over animate them because it will get distracting.

Here is Jason's workflow when working on a multi-character shot:
Study the intention of the shot, then setup an initial staging of the shot with rough poses; submit your work to the director/supervisor for approval If it gets approved then you can move to the blocking stage.
When blocking keyframe all characters at the same frame, this will make things easier for you later, & don't worry bout all the technical stuff like constraints & parenting, keep all that for later, while blocking try to make the rhythm of the shot feeling good, get the director's approval, then move to the first animation pass.  At this stage you can work on the main characters first then jump to the secondary ones. As for polishing, you should focus on finessing each of the characters as if you're working on a single character shot.

Quick notes:
- When animating a shot with a group of characters (three or a above)  you would need to control the actions of these character so it will not be a chaos, and use them to drive the eyes of the audience to where you want them to look at.
- When ever a character is talking in a shot, the other character's performance is tuned down.
- When animating multiple characters in a shot, make sure that each one of them has an individual purpose & state of mind, and also they have to work well together to serve the purpose of the shot.
- Secondary character's gestures should support the actions of the main character.
- Contrast in action draws the viewer attention to what ever is different, whether its a slow character in a fast moving crowds, or a fast character is moving a slow crowds.
- Always let the first character finish its action first, then let the other character start its action.

AM - Class 5 / Week 2 - Lecture

Storytelling Through Cuts - editing 101

In this lecture we will understand the rules of editing that we've been watching in movies & TV shows for years, and get the logic behind it.

Editing is actually physics and ballistics! what dose that mean??
Ballistics in editing is a description of one complete cycle/movement, let's take the famous a bouncing ball as an example; starting from the moment the ball leaves the ground to the moment it touches it back, is a complete ballistic cycle that loops until the ball comes to a stop.

Ballistic movements (or cycle) consists of few major parts : 
Rest, Maximum Velocity, Constant Velocity, Full Extension or Impact, Recoil or Rest.
To understand this further, the host of this lecture takes the cannon ball as an example, the ball inside the canon starts with Rest, as soon as it fires up it accelerates to Maximum Velocity, then keeps moving with Constant Velocity until it reaches the farthest point or Full Extension, then it falls on the ground and bounces a couple of times until it comes to a stop or Rest.
Same in a walk cycle, the foot starts at Rest, then it lifts up in Maximum Velocity, moves forward in Constant Velocity, then the heel touches the ground which is the Full Extension point, then plants on the ground to a full Rest.

We need to know when is the perfect point to cut in a ballistic movement, its the job of the editor to make a sequence of cuts flowing & seamless.  Usually, a Cut happens at the end of a ballistic, you don't want to cut in the middle of it because it makes the audience feel interrupted, so let the movement complete then cut, in most cases the cut happens few frames later after the a ballistic movement is finished.

In shots with dialog, sentences share the same ballistic principle as well, they have an explosive beginning from a silence, constant velocity in the middle, then end up with a period or rest.
You can make a clean camera cut in a dialog shot on one of these positions:
Cut on a Period, Cut on a Comma, Cut on a Pause, Cut on a Plosive (loud word)
But never cut in the middle of a word or flow of words, because again, the audience will feel interrupted.
Interestingly enough; in horror films they do cut in the middle of words & sentences intentionally to make the audience feel disturbed, but usually not in a casual dialog sequence.

As for camera placement in the scene, the main rule is to place it in the most clear position possible, & that is called in the film business ' The Best Seat In The House',  as animators we are fortunate to have a full control over where to place our camera, a full range of lens with a click of a button, a complete freedom to offer the audience the best seat in the house.

Here are the most famous type of shots in cinematography:
- Wide shot to show the surrounding environment arround the character.
- Medium shot, to show what the character is doing, usually the hands will be involved.
- Medium closeup shot, where you don't show hands but concentrate more on the head & shoulders (like the shampoo lol)
- Closeup shot, for showing emotion on the face.
- Extreme closeup, for more facial features.
- Extreme extreme closeup, just for the eyes.

This takes us probably to the only way where we can cut in the middle of a Ballistic movement, and that is to cut from a medium shot to a closeup shot, or from a closeup to extreme closeup, for instance if you have a shot of a guy punching, 
you can cut at the middle of the shot (before the fist reaches its target) to a closeup when the fist is smashing the target.
Of course rules could always be broken, but its better to play by the rules first, then break them latter, if you dare!

Last, I leave you with a nice quote from the host of this lecture: if you can dance you can edit, if you cant dance you'll be able 
to dance after you learn how to edit :)

AM - Class 5 / Week 1 - Lecture

Walk Trough.

In this lecture, Jim Brown talks to us about the stages of animating his shot The Winds of Victory.
Few notes:

- Acting drives any decision you make, from character development, to staging, camera angles, posing, & facial  animation.
- Before you start animating a character in a shot, ask your self : who this character is, & what is its intentions.
- Think about what external elements you can add to the shot to add more depth to it.
- While posing the character in Maya, make sure to keep the attitude of the character showing through the pose.
- There should always be a reason behind any camera movement you add into your shot.
- Animation looks a lot more interesting when breakdown poses are favoring one of the key posses (before or after)
- Don't be afraid to adjust initial key posses to correct bad spacing issues.
- Lead the action with one part of the body, then followed by the rest of the body.
- As you're cleaning/smoothing curves in the Graph Editor, keep an eye on the perspective view and be careful not to lose any of the performance you've already put into the characters.

Class FIVE!!

Unlike the previous terms at AM, now the student gets to pick who mentors him for a full term, I picked Scott Lemmer.    Scott is an awesome animator currently working at DreamWorks, he animated on cool features like: BoltIce Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, RioIce Age: Continental Drift, and most recently The Croods which is scheduled to be released early next year.
Check out Scott's page on Vimeo, so Awesome!!


Q&As with Marek Kochout

Although I did not manage to attend lots of the sessions, but it was a great learning experience with Marek. He has such an eye for details when it comes to acting, he used to analyze every gesture in my shots to make it look right, not only animation wise but also to work well with the mental status of the character in the shot. Marek was Awesome! I wish him all the best in life!
Here is what he wrote for my student assessment of this term:

Areas of strength: Manar is an absolute joy to work with. His shots are of an extremely high quality and he would fit in easily at any animation studio world wide. He takes direction very well and his shots are very entertaining.
Areas of improvement: Just keep doing what you are doing, its working for you. Maybe just keep pushing yourself and try as many different animation styles as you can. You already did this with your two shots, one more cartoony and the other a little more serious. I would just try every style you can to give yourself a really diverse background. Its been a pleasure. All the best.

Last, I'll share a check list by Marek to consider before & while your working on a shot in a proper production environment.

Before Starting A Shot: 
1. Did I study my shot's story panels in continuity? 
2. Did I look at the latest version of the sequence and understand its overall story purpose? 
3. Do I understand the purpose of my shot in the story? 
4. Did I look at the latest layout movie and understand the geography, eye directions and hook-ups? 
5. Did I get all the information I need from the directors to animate my shots? 
6. Do I understand the subtext/underlying emotion of the characters in my shot? 
7. Do I have a clear idea on how I will stage my shot and create an interesting composition and does it work with the camera? 
8. Did I identify the key moments and accents in the dialog? 
9. Have I looked at any live action reference - lipstick cam, me acting it out, directors acting it out, scenes from films? 
10. Have I brainstormed/thumb nailed/visualized/acted out and chosen a performance that is simple, clear, in character; original and entertaining? 

Before checking in with the Supervisor/Director: 
1. Do i like what I have done? 
2. Am I communicating my ideas clearly and do I have enough information in my shot in order for my Supervisor/Director to understand my intentions? 
3. Am I animating in the style of the production?
4. Is my shot original and entertaining?
5. Am I animating in character?
6. Are my poses well thought out, fully realized and nice to look at?
7. Does the voice feel like it's coming from the character (is the character breathing?) 
8. Have I checked the camera view for the most basic principles and problems: eye direction, clear silhouettes, contact, weight, balance, etc.? 
9. Are all the characters matching the previous and following shots in action, momentum, emotion and positioning? 
10. Have I checked my animation with all the appropriate environments and props turned on? 
11. Have I made significant progress on the notes I have received in the previous review session? 

Before submitting MY shot for final:
1. Is everything moving for a purpose? 
2. Did I check my timing? (Should i speed anything up, slow anything down? Do I have enough contrast?) 
3. Is there any floatiness in my shot? 
4. Is there any stiffness in my shot? 
5. Do my characters have weight at all times? (Do I feel gravity acting on my characters? Do things bounce?) 
6. Do my characters have the right amount of change of shape (squash/stretch, etc) ? 
7. Did I check my spacing - are there any pops, clicks or stalls? 
8. Can I see my characters eyes clearly? Have I checked my eye lines and checked the lit movie if available? 
9. Am I animating my lip sync at least 1 frame ahead of the sound? 
10. Am I holding "m, b, p, ss and ch" for 2 frames where possible? 
11.Are my feet and hands in real contact with the background? 
12. Are there any penetrations or clashing geometry? 
13. Have I animated the "handle" frames of my shot? 
14. Have I run all the simulations in my shot? 
15. Have I checked my entire character to make sure it is alive at all times (eyes, hands, face, tail, etc)? 
16. Did I show my shot to other animators? 
17. Check in your curves. Run your render on the farm. Double check your farm render. 
18. Go get a coffee. 
19. Did I take a bathroom break and remember to wash my hands? 
20. Did I call my mother/father/spouse/children

AM - Class 4 / Week12- Assignment

This is the final version of class 4 progress reel, I hope you like it !

AM - Class 4 / Week12- Lecture

This was a quick round up for the lectures we've watched in class 4. Some notes:

- Understand the shot your animating in context of whats comes before & after it.
- When animating your shot, you have to be Sincere, Honest, Clear, & Simple.
- The thought that motivates the movement is driving the entire body of the character, not just the head or hand.
- A final animated shot should look fluid but not floaty or even, it should have texture & rhythm into it.
- Avoid Cliche ( overused ideas )
- Animate phrases not words, animate what the character is thinking as its talking, & concentrate on the strong phrases.
- Best animated scenes are the ones that you can mute the sound & still understand everything.
- Get the acting simplified & clear so its reading almost instantly by the audience.
- Proper staging, & clear silhouette.
- Build a library of video reference that you could jump back to when needed.
- Don't get settled on the first idea that comes to your mind, explore!
- Secondary action is about adding believability to the character without distracting the audience from the primary action.
- don't force the secondary action in the shot, make it feel natural.
- Stand up & act it out, & be spontaneous.
- Create nice patterns in the body gestures, like arcs, & figure 8.
- Observe the world around you & find new inspirations away from your desk.
- Understand how the character thinks & feels, & remember that your animating an idea.
- While blocking keep in mind to add drag & overlap, it will make your life easier later.
- Physicality brings strength to gestures.
- When animating lip-sync, keep in mind how the mouth, tong, jaw shapes to make each sound.
- All parts of the face are connected, overlap and follow through rules also apply to facial performance.
- Design your facial expressions according to camera view, even if you have to cheat it.
- Add a blink on head terns, on a thought, or a change of emotion, give blinks a purpose.
- Eye darts keeps the character alive.
- keep in mind what the character is thinking VS what the character is saying.
- Whatever the idea your conveying, keep it as simple as possible.
- Polishing is not smoothing keys in the GE, its reevaluating the whole shot, taking things out, adding things in.
- Residual energy adds a lot to the shot, but use it carefully as it could be distracting.
- Look for the extra 10% that you can add to the shot which will dial it up & make it stand out.


AM - Class 4 / Week11- Lecture

Walk-Through: Introduction to Polishing.

Polishing is not just about smoothing splines in the Graph Editor, its more about making the animation look physically correct, and adding the last bits that will make the characters feels organic and alive.

Polish is also about:
- Simplifying poses and taking things out to make it more clear.
- Adding residual energy to the characters, the kind of energy that remains in the bones & muscles after hitting a pose.
- Adding overlap to the elements attached to the character like hair, ears, cloth, etc.

The polishing phase actually starts immediately as soon as you're done with the blocking, so as a fact you're spending almost 80% of the time on polishing, polish also involve removing things, adding things, changing gestures, cleaning up contacts with objects, don't be afraid to redo a segment from scratch if you think its not working the way it should be, that is the most important thing to consider when polishing your shot.

Its always good to start polishing the root control first, then work your way up through the torso, the chest, the neck, the head, then the arms & hands.

Another advise is to use your time wisely, allow enough time to polish the parts that are most important to the shot, then get into the less important stuff if time allows. and try to spare some time to add an extra level of polish to character contacts 
with other surfaces because small details like that always pays off.

Tracking arcs of the hands, legs, nose, the corners of the mouth, will give the shot an extra level of polish.

The final steps of polishing is removing knee & elbow pops, its a bit tedious because you'll have to do it frame by frame, so its better to shift this step to the bottom of your check list and start working on it when the shot is approved by the director.

AM - Class 4 / Week10- Lecture

Walk-Through: Eyes & Blinks.

Quick notes:

- We blink to protect our eyes & to keep them moist.
- Pay extra attention to the animation of the eyes because it's the first thing that the audience will look at.
- Don't animate blinks randomly, give them a purpose in a shot to support an action.
- A general timing for a causal blink is: one frame open, one frame inbetween, two frames close, two frames inbetween, and one frame open again.
- When animating a blink, favor the open position as an in-between before the lid is closed, and favor the closed position as an in-between before the lid is opened, if you don't do this favoring you will end up with two in-betweens which have an equal opening, and it will look good.
- Its important to keep in mind that any thought process starts first with the eyes before it goes anywhere else in the body.
- Changing the head direction is always accompanied with a blink.
- Lead the change of head direction with the pupil first.
- Acting is all in the eyes, and almost any change of emotions happens in the eyes.
- Eye-darts makes the character come to life, usually its very quick (2 to 3 frames) and narrow.
- Eyelids helps emphasizing emotions of the character.


AM - Class 4 / Week 9 - Lecture

Walk-Through: Hands.

Hands poses are as important as facial expressions & eyes when it comes to acting because we always gesture & express our emotions through our hands, in animation a strong hands posing can make a full body pose a lot more dynamic, although they are a bit complicated to animate because of the amount of joints to work with.

What makes a dynamic hand pose is: strength & tension, clear line of action, the feeling of force especially in fingers.
We can find lots of great hand posing references in classic art, whether its a drawing or a sculpture, as well as modern comic books which are packed with strong poses, & of course we can always pose our own hands for reference.

when talking about posing hands you want to go to the most interesting pose possible, and in most cases you don't want to go for an evenly spread fingers hand, you generally want to group the fingers in a way that looks interesting,  whether its the two middle ones together, or the last two, just something to give the hands a bit of life & non symmetry.

Quick notes:
- Hands continues the line of action of the arms & body.
- Even in a primitive blocking phase; you would want to make a nice relaxed hand pose to get a better feeling of the character.
- Rotate the finger joints individually, usually fingers start curling in starting from the pinky followed by the rest of the fingers one by one, & from the tip of the finger, followed by the mid, then the base joint.
- Like the facial expressions, you need to pose the hands according to camera.
- Take your time to finesse the hands when they contact a surface to give it an nice organic feel.
- Use constrains to attach hand to objects, or objects to the hands.
- Avoid rotating the finger joints all at once.
- Avoid over-animating drag, follow thorough, and overlap with the fingers because it will start to look weird.
- Avoid hitting every pose with a hand gesture, it will look to distracting. 

Lastly, for a great inspiration on hands animation, check out this amazing short my one of the mentors at AM Mark oftedal

AM - Class 4 / Week 8 - Lecture

Walk-Through: Animating Dialogue.

Its is important before you start animating a dialog shot to know how people actually speak in real life, and to study how the movement of the jaw, the tongue, tongue against the teeth, the lips, will all affect the way we speak.
In this lecture Jason Schleifer talks about the mechanics of speech as he is animating a shot with dialog.

Before he jumped into Maya, Jason started of by listening to the audio clip he wanted to animate for few times, wrote down the words from that dialog on a sheet of paper, then on top of that he rewrote it again but Phonetically (how it actually sounds) then he circled out the strong vowels that needed to be emphasized, you'll find an example for this in my next assignment.

When animating a lip sync, anything that happens in the front of the lips is super important to hit in order for it to read clearly, I'll mention some of the main letter that Jason pointed out:
Both lips on P,B,M, & O  -  Both lips & teeth on F, & V  -  Tongue tip & teeth on TH   -   Teeth on S, & Z.

Here is a list of things to be aware of when thinking about how sounds coming out of the lips can affect each other:

- Co-Articulation: when the vowel shape affect the consonant that comes before the vowel, as in the words Steam, & Stu.  
- Dip-Thongs: a vowel sound produced by dropping the jaw in the middle of the vowel.
- The Consonant R: pinching the corners of the mouth as you're saying the vowel to get the R shape.
- Cognate Pairs: two sounds which are different, but made using the same mouth shape, as in Buh & Puh, Fuh & Vuh, 
 Duh & Tuh, Zuh & Suh.

As a general tip, you need to shape the mouth a frame or two earlier before the actual letter is actually pronounced to make 
a more convincing lip sync.

Don't forget about the personalty of your character and the emotional state he is going through, because that will dramatically influence the lip sync performance you're animating.

AM - Class 4 / Week 7 - Lecture

Walk-Through: Animating Facial Expressions.

Like all art forms in general & animation in specific, its always good to build your foundations based on reality, in case of facial expressions its important to grasp a basic knowledge in anatomy, behavioural science, & of course the world around you. Victor Navone, the host of this lecture recommended three books to learn more about facial expressions:
The artist complete guide to Facial Expressions, Unmasking the Face, and Man Watching.

An important thing to consider before you start posing/animating the face is the character's physiology, whether its 
a catoony or character or a realistic one, in both cases you want to respect the design of the face, pushing the facial controls too far will make the character not look the same anymore, the character should always look consistent even
when the facial features are moving through poses.

Lots of the animation principals also do apply to facial expressions, like squash & stretch, overlap, follow through, exaggeration, avoid twinning, etc.

When tailoring Animation Mentor's Bishop model, keep in mind that female characters has a thinner & higher eyebrows, smaller mouth & nose, larger eyes, and overall curvy features, while male characters has heavier lower brows, bigger nose
& mouth, and more angular features.

Its always appealing to play with curves & straits when working on facial expressions, for example, when posing the eyes,
a curved upper lid with a straight bottom lid looks much more interesting than having them both curved in a similar manner, also a curved lid that is favoring one side is a lot more interesting than a curve that looks like a perfect arc, same rule applies to the mouth.

Quick notes:

- Design your facial expressions according to the angle of the camera for maximum readability.
- Make sure that all different parts of the face are connected & working together.
- Make sure that all facial expression are simple & easy to read.
- The eyes are the most important part of the face because its what we look at first as an audience, its essential for communicating thoughts & emotions.
- Avoid symmetry when posing eye lids, & when posing both eyes together.  In general you might want to avoid S curved shape on the lids unless its very subtle.
- If the character is looking three quarter to camera, you want to keep the far pupil visible to camera & not hidden by the nose.
- Eyebrows should feel connected to each other as they move.
- The inner part of the eye brows tend to move more than the outer part.
- Victor referred us to a helpful article on his website for eyebrows posing
- All the above rules Apply to the mouth.
- Pose the facial features to reinforce the direction of the eyes.
- In order to give the feeling that facial features are connected together, its good to shape the nose according to the mouth, shape the eyelids according to the pupil, lower eyelids according to  the mouth, upper eyelids according to eyebrows.
- Lead the body change of pose by changing the facial expression first, followed by the body, & remember keep the head still when changing facial expression to read clearly.
- Don't make the facial features move all at once, either lead with the eyes followed by the mouth, or the other way around.

AM - Class 4 / Week 6 - Lecture

Walk-Through: Introduction to Dialog.

In this lecture, Delio Tramontozzi, Animation supervisor at ILM walks us through his way of animating a shot with dialog, he doesn't get into details of facial animation, its more of a guidance for animators on how to start working on a dialog shot.

When looking for a dialog clips for your exercise, there are few rules that you might want to keep in mind: Clear Voices, No Profanity, Contrast in Emotions, Stay away from Famous Clips & Animated Movies.
Here is few sites I found that offers dialog audio clips:

Quick notes from Deilo process:

- Animate the idea NOT the words, you need to look for the emotions behind the line of dialog you're about to animate, and add that into the character.
- Listen to the audio over & over again, break it into beats, then look for the moments where you can put the key poses.
- Knowing the back story for the character is important to animate a shot with dialog.
- Shoot a video reference, a good tip is to act the shot without exaggeration because its something you can push later as you're animating.
- Draw thumbnails from your video reference, try to add contrast in shapes while drawing the thumbnails.
- Fill out Animation X-Sheet.
- Start animating.
- Animate a basic jaw pass with a basic facial performance,just to get the sense of it with the rest of the body.
- After all that, you can work on the lip-sync.

While animating, an important thing to keep in mind is not to be afraid to blow out & redo a full section that you don't feel is quiet reading the way you thought it would.


AM - Class 4 / Week 5 - Lecture

Gestures & Body Language.

Gestures illustrate/communicate a feeling that a character has; As humans we tend to gesture a lot, and we do it spontaneously, our job as animators is to think about the gestures we add into our characters, why we're adding them,
and push them to make it look more entertaining.

Gestures can tell a lot about the personalty of the character, if a person is nervous he will gesture in a certain way, if he is happy he will gesture in another; you want to make a proper well though acting choices that goes along the mental status
of the character in that given moment, you don't want to animate a gesture just for the sake of doing it, it has to mean something.

The best advice for animating interesting gestures is to be aware of the world around you, shooting a video reference of yourself acting out a shot is great.. BUT!! sometimes people start seeing you in the characters that you animate, so the best way to avoid that is to observe people around you, whether its a friend, a brother, an uncle, and try create a visual reference
in your head to refer back to, you could also build a digital archive of reference clips which is highly recommended for every animator to have because its another way of staying fresh with your ideas.

There are many elements that makes gestures look interesting, I'll try to cover some of them:

- Stay away from cliché gestures, and design your gestures to be different from what has been done over & over again.
- Be aware of the physicality & weight of the character while animating gestures,
- Utilize props around the characters to gesturing with, things like a cup, a cigar. a pen, etc.
- While animating a shot with a dialog, avoid hitting every single phrase in your animation with a gesture, simplify it!
- Create nice design patterns & arcs when gesturing.
- Give gestures enough time to read clearly.
- Vary & texture the timing of your gestures.
- Avoid Twinning while gesturing unless its needed, here is few ways to make twinned gestures more interesting:
 . Arrive to & leave from a gesture at different times with each side of the body.
 . Unsymmetrical gestures followed be a symmetrical one.
 . Use contrast & texture to break up twinning.
 . Lead/anticipate a twinned gesture with a smaller gesture.

Gestures should help to extenuate the idea, so don't over use it cuz it will become distracting for the viewer.  & remember
that animation is all about clarity!


AM - Class 4 / Week 4 - Lecture

Secondary Action.

Some notes from this great lecture presented by Jason Schliefer.

When molding a piece of clay, usually you would start off by sculpting the basic large shapes to see how its going to form, then you get into the small details, same principle applies to character animation, you don't want to go into the little gestures and fine details in the shot unless you are totally satisfied with the main action.

Secondary action is not (as many might think) overlap, drag, or follow through; secondary action is the small actions the character dose to support the main action/purpose of the shot!   It helps defining who the character is.

Secondary action is important for:
- Making the characters more believable & making the audience believe that they are watching a living breathing thing.
- Enhancing character personality, if he is happy, sad, nerves.. etc.
- Breaking off repetitive timing to make something like a walk cycle much more interesting.

When people are talking to each other they will not be static, they'll be gesturing with there hands, or maybe scratching there head, or they'll do things that is some how related to the conversation they're having; in order to create a believable animation performance you'll need to add such gestures to your characters.

The surrounding environment around the character can play a big role in creating the secondary actions, use the props & environment around the characters to help selling the the fact that they do exist in that environment, & remember we're not animating characters in the middle of nowhere, make them touch things around them, pick things up, look around etc.  but remember not to over do it, because it could be distracting to the audience.

If you think about who your character is, & where they're coming from, & what there intention is, this will affect the types of acting choices that you make in terms of secondary actions; pay a close attention for the personality of your character and think about the subtle things that you can add to enhance what they're saying based on who they are & what they're talking about.

Try to stay away from over gestured performance; find the right subtle level that is not distracting the idea of the shot, and don't try to force any secondary action that dose not feel suitable, if you tried something that doesn't seem to work, DO NOT be afraid to just throw it away & try a new one.

Another thing to stay away from is Cliche ideas in character gesturing, like a character wiping his eyes while crying, or big smiley face when the character is happy; the point is to try new gestures unlike whatever you've seen before, and the best way to fish for new ideas for gesturing is to film yourself acting the shot, because you will do spontaneous gestures that 
you'll never be able to think about otherwise, and when you watch it playback you see that there are so many little things that you can add to your character performance.

AM - Class 4 / Week 3 - Lecture

Lateral Thinking: Generating Ideas for Acting.

For creative and artistic development, All the famous studios like Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, organize 'Improvisation classes' to there animators, so they can generate creative new ways to thinking about the characters there animating.

In this unusual class hosted by Improvisation instructor Rebecca Stockley, we learn how to use our own bodies physicality to inspire acting choices & avoid Cleche, Rebecca has worked for many years with Pixar & Dreamorks teaching many of the amazing animators out there how to develop a fresh approaches to acting.

She gathered a few groups of students at AM, and started loosen them up by performing a regular walk across the room, as they're walking she asked them to shift there weight backward, forward, arm swing, just to feel how  that would effects the personality of the character the're in, then later she got into acting dialog & experimenting with different attitudes, and so on..

It was an entertaining lecture to watch! Probably the hardest part of it is that you'll need get off your chair & a way from the computer and start performing along as your watching the lecture, & if you are a lazy guy like me, you could consider it as a good exercise to lose some weight :)


AM - Class 4 / Week 2 - Lecture

Introduction To Pantomime.

Quoting Bobby's words: Mime is acting without dialog & props, Pantomime is acting without dialog, but with props.
Pantomime in animation is communicating through the body posing & gestures, it's the root of character animation, its being able to convey the idea without having to say it.  The best animation scenes out there are the ones that you can watch without audio & you can still tell exactly what's going on, and what's the character is going through.

Pantomime acting is all about the idea, keep always exploring for new ideas & don't fall into the first idea that comes to your mind, & as always, plan your shot carefully before you start animating, the great Frank & Ollie once said: Spend half of your time planing, & the other half animating.

Proper acting choices are the ones that will determine the quality of the animation, Bobby's advice is to unplug & try to think out of the box beyond the great animated movies that are out there, find something that is more related to yourself, this will keep you away from Cliché, and make your work different.

The basic animation principles as important as they are, but they are even more important in a Pantomime shot than any other shot with dialog, things like: Staging, Posing, Clarity, & silhouette, are key factors.

Hopefully you guys still remember the Phrasing lecture from class 3! Well, in a dialog shots phrases and beats are already pre-determined by the dialog in that shot, as for Pantomime shot, you'll have to work hard to look for & create the beats and rhythm through the performance of the character, and add contrast between these beats to create texture & make it more interesting.

AM - Class 4 / Week 1 - Lecture

Acting 101.

Most of the time when your working hard on your shot to make it look good, you kind of lose track of the overall picture, and 
what the main focus of your shot is. The main focus of any animated acting shot is: Clarity, Honesty, Sincerity, & Simplicity , And one of the most important thing to keep in mind is that the audience watching your shot are waiting to be entertained, 
so its your job is to make sure NOT to let them down.

When you're trying to implement a certain acting gesture into a shot, you have to make sure that its clear enough and understandable by the audience & not just to you, look for a universal appeal that is clear to everybody, so its always good 
to ask around and show your progress to others to know if the shot is communicating well.

Before you start working on a shot its very important to understand the context, and where the shot is going to fall in production, what happened before, what will happen after, and what your character is thinking at that same exact moment.  Once you understand all that you can move on for staging your shot.

Certain staging requires different settings for animation. For instance, animating a long shot requires Broad Big character performance in order for it to read well from far perspective,  as for animating a close up shot you'll need to spend much of your time tweaking the lips & cheeks and finessing all the little details in the face, as for a medium shot with multiple characters, you'll need to choreograph your motion to grab the attention of the viewer to the right character in the right time.

If you want the audience to look at something on screen It Has To Move, then they look at it, and they'll keep looking at it until something else moves.. and so on, so you have to make sure that the important stuff are happening in obvious movement, and the rest is passive, Not Static, but moving without distracting the main motion.

if you have a dialog shot to animate, you'll have to keep looping it over & over again until it gets stuck in your brain, to the extend that you could memorize all the little things between the words like the little breath,spits, and gargles, its all these 
little stuff to animate that will make the shot very character rich.   
Then start looking for the key phrases to animate, & always keep in mind that you are Animating the thoughts behind the words, not just the words!

Its highly un-recommended to directly sit on your computer and start animating without planing, because you'll end up with 
a week shot with a week performance, you'll need to shoot references, thumbnail planing, then you can start animating.

Quick notes:

- Make proper, clear acting choices & avoiding Cliché will make your shot stand out and unique.
- Eye darts (on 2 frames) keeps the character alive.
- Keep the eye, lids, & brows all connected to each other.
- Hands are very expressive, so use there appealing posing to the maximum.

Class 4 starts!

Finaly, we I made it to the acting class!  This term I was assigned to be mentored by Marek Kochout, He was one of the Animation Supervisors on Kung Fu Panda 2!! Wow!

Check out this great interview with Marek talking about his experience working at DreamWorks.


Q&As with Jason Martinsen

Although I was unable to interact during the Q&As this term because I was attending them from work, but I really enjoyed every minute of it.
My mentor Jason Marttinsen used to grab clips from animated movies & analyze them in terms of posing, overlap, anticipation.. etc.    Also it was Super Awesome to watch him drawing on top of my work frame by frame, then hit play!! and Wow!! the shot is alive!! I mean all mentors draw on top of student's work but not all of them can draw frame by frame on a sequence!! Hats off.. Jason :)

Here is Jason's assessment about my work in this term:

Areas of strength: It was a pleasure seeing Manar work. He has very strong posing and blocking. Good sense of body mechanics and weight. Has natural feel for splining. Experience or talent is helping him overcome some rushing of the planning. Good understanding of arcs and weight. Strong ideas and camera staging.
Areas of improvement: Time. Working two jobs probably not helping. Just keep looking at spacing, arcs, slow ins, slow outs, moving holds. In some future assignments, trying to get more cartoony/interesting breakdowns, subtle, asymmetrical anticipations to get the most out of your work. In others, try something more realistic, push yourself and you will find the happy medium that is your style and challenge yourself along the way, thus learning the most you can. Always keep trying to find ways to offset arms and legs and stuff in and out of holds to make animation more organic and interesting. Good luck!

Best wishes to Jason :)

AM - Class 2 / Week12- Assignment

Gathered all the shots, added the environment, did a proper light & render, and added audio track.
Hope you like it!.


AM - Class 3 / Week12- Lecture

A review of the Advanced Body Mechanics Class.

- Clarity in staging, camera angles/moves, posing, props, all should be serving the aim of the shot.
- Clean arcs & path of action, some times simple, sometimes complex, but always clean & properly tracked.
- Animation is about communication, and Phrasing is a great way to create a clear communication with the audience.
- Analyze the center of gravity 'Fulcrum' in your character while animating to create a believable performance.
- The importance of planing, shooting reference, and taking notes, always show your work to others for feedback.
- Breaking down the overlapping action, and the relation of the legs, spine, arms, and head, the lead & follow principal.
- You can prepare the audience that an action is about to happen by adding anticipation.
- Clarity in ideas, clarity in poses, clarity in movement.
- Creating different timing for actions to add texture to the animation, so it will feel more dynamic.
- Spacing makes the character alive.

AM - Class 3 / Week11- Lecture

Design Applied to Animation.

This was more of a philosophical / scientific lecture by Mark Oftedal.
Marks says: Everyone in the audience has a certain pleasure buttons in there brains, & our job as animators is to 
find these buttons and try to press them!! Very intriguing!

Few notes:

- One pleasure buttons is in appealing staging, Staging as defined in The Illusion of Life "The presentation of an idea so that its completely & unmistakably clear"

- Neural scientist believes that the human visual system depends -while looking at any image- on the group of things and the edges of things in that image for the brain to process, that's why animators always talk about the importance of silhouette.

- Mark showed a simple illustration of a large empty square with a small triangle inside it, and just by changing the position of that triangle inside the square you'll get different emotions like: loneliness, danger, balance.. etc.. it was pretty amazing actually!   Depending on where you place elements on the screen it will trigger certain emotions, Further on; shapes placement on screen will direct the audience eyes to a certain direction, for instance, a circular shape contains the viewers eyes inside that shape, triangular shape drives the viewers eyes to the direction the triangle is pointing to.
So keep in mind using the graphic design elements in the scene & the silhouette of the characters to support the 
idea and drive the eye direction of the viewer to the places you want them to look at.

- Eric Goldberg says " Round shapes and pear shapes are comfortable to look at, while angular shapes are more difficult to look at & perceived as more sophisticated"

- Exaggeration is very important in animation because it will get a greater response from the audience, but it works the best when finding what's the essence of the scene, and exaggerate that, its all about making the right decision 
on which part of the scene you should exaggerate.

- Appeal dose not necessary means pretty, appeal means interesting to look at, so the opposite of appealing in not ugly, its boring, somethings could be very ugly yet has appeal to it.
Appeal is a broad subject, there are lots of visual element that could be appealing and presses our pleasure buttons, like: Straights & Angles, Repetition & Variations, Symmetry & Balance.

Focus on applying these principles into your animation to make it better, so when people watch your work they will fall in love with it!! without knowing what exactly made them to!!

AM - Class 3 / Week10- Lecture

Advanced Timing and Spacing.

A traditional cell animation lecture By the famous Eric Goldberg.  Eric showed us how he handles a 2D animated 
shot from start to finish, its kind of a 'Blocking to Final' lecture, but in 2D. 
Eric draws the storytelling poses (key poses) without worrying about timing, then he draws his secondary keys, 
times everything out, then he starts drawing the breakown poses & the inbetweens.

In description of the difference between a key pose & a breakdown, He said: If 'Key Poses' are what the character 
is doing, 'Breakdowns' are how the character dose it.


AM - Class 3 / Week 9 - Lecture

Blocking to Final.

This time by Jason Ryan.  For those of you who don't already know Jason, he is a supervising animator at DreamWorks, and recently established his own animation school iAnimate.

Jason is very famous for planing his 3D animation in 2D using Flipbook before jumping into Maya, check out his website 
for some animation demos.


AM - Class 3 / Week 8 - Lecture

Clarity and Overlapping Ideas.

As animators, we tend to over complicate things because we have so many ideas on our mind & we want to get all 
of them on screen - That totally describes my situation.
In this lecture Bobby explains how we can keep our ideas clear and easy to read by the audience.

Clarity of ideas is one of the skills that is not very easy grasp in animation.  When talking about clarity in animation we're talking about : clarity in 'Posing' and clarity in 'Movement'.  We cant have a clarity in movement without having a clear poses, clear posing comes with clear silhouette,   clarity in movement comes with:
- Simplicity in the movement.
- Exaggerating certain gestures to help making the action more clear.
- Careful acting choice, and keeping your character opened to camera so the audience will have a clear view of the character.
- Showing your shot to others to see what's there immediate reaction.

There are some common mistakes that animators fall into while animating, stuff like :
- Having too many ideas in a shot to a degree that it becomes very complicated ( I'm suffering from that in my shots )
- Having too much movement or what we call over animating which is confusing to the audience ( I do have that as well )
- Putting details in the wrong place, you should concentrate on the main core of the shot & spend most of the time getting 
that right, then start adding small details where it matters the most.
- Forgetting about the basic animation principles while animating.
- Letting Maya do the inbetweens for you ( lazy animator )

Overlapping Ideas: if you lay down your ideas in a scene without overlap it will look very lame, when you overlap ideas they become alive and interesting, but some times beginner animators overlap ideas to a degree that it will become very confusing to the viewer, and that's when 'Holds' become handy, holding a pose on screen for some time will help clarifying that pose;  Its just a matter of keeping balance between overlapping ideas & holding poses for some time on screen.  

Subconsciously, we tend to over animate a shot because we see lots of opportunities to add overlapping action, and we get carried away to a degree that we forget the main purpose of that shot, To prevent that from happening we need to know what is the point of that scene & focus everything around it, planing, posing, acting, and keep it as clear & readable as possible, & always show your work to your peers to know if you are going on the right track.


Snapshots I took few years ago during a shooting trip in Sudan.
Hope you like it :)

AM - Class 3 / Week 7 - Lecture


What is Phrasing?? Well.. phrasing its defining the beat & rhythm in a shot, each time you hit a pose in a character it creates a beat or what is called a 'Phrase'
Phrasing helps you clarify the ideas your trying to tell in a scene by breaking it up into beats, so you're telling the audience one thing at a time, sometimes you'll need to combine beats in a shot in order to make it more interesting, and that's what is called 'Overlapping Ideas'

Texture in animation is creating some contrast & variation in the timing so it will not feel linear, we can achieve that by having slow animation in some parts, followed by fast movement in others; the main thing is that you don't want your 'phrases' to have a unified tempo, slow settle movement against fast broad movements creates a very nice texture in a shot.

ALL ACTIONS ARE DRIVEN BY THOUGHTS, this is what we called before in the 'Force' lecture 'Internal Force'
A nice tip we got from the lecture which was: in order to show that separate actions of a character are motivated by a single thought in that character's head, just simply overlap these actions to connect them together.

Phrasing should be as clear as possible and easy to read by the audience, that can be achieved mainly by having a clear posing, without too many poses to express a single attitude or phrase.  Ollie Johnston once said ' each scene should be able to be expressed with only two or three drawings'  this might not be the case with scenes are more complex now a days, but it certainly something worth exploring in order to keep phrasing as simple as possible.

When phrasing a shot with a dialog, try using the holds in the dialog to create the phrases, but that's not always the case, some times phrases could overlap with each other to support a certain emotion.

At the end.. Phrasing is all about clarity in communication, & that is what's animation is all about.. Clarity of Communication!

AM - Class 3 / Week 6 - Lecture

Advanced Overlap & Anticipation.

Quick notes :

- Just a reminder! overlapping action is breaking of movement so it dose not feel mechanical or fake.

- The 'Lead & Follow  Principal ' and 'Reversals Principal' gives a very interesting fluid feel to the animation. 

- Anticipation before movement leads the eyes of the audience to the next action & prepares them that something is about 
to happen.

- Anticipation is related to the action follows, settle anticipation for settle movement, big anticipation for broad movements.

- Anticipation should not always be big & noticeable, it could be something as simple as an eye dart before speaking, or 
pushing the hip an inch to the right before a walk to the left.

- Don't always choose a cliche anticipation, try experimenting with something new.

A great advice we got from Bobby during this lecture, He said : If you just animate.. that is great! but if you want to push your work forward you need to look for references, or shoot your own reference, and while you are animating show the stages to others to get feedback.. and that what will make your work becomes better & better!

I always keep reminding myself about references because, even now.. I still sometimes get carried away & start animating without doing my reference homework.


AM - Class 3 / Week 5 - Lecture

Blocking to final.

Another blocking to final lecture, this time by Pixar animator Dovi Anderson, this was the best blocking to final lecture by far!

For some reason I felt very related to the way that Dove approaches his shots because he animates the same way as I do, He dose not use stepped tangents, he blocks his shot straight into Spline Tangents, & keeps adding levels of polish until its done.

Check out this short Youtube Video from Dovi talking about how you should tackle revisions and feedback on a given shot.

AM - Class 3 / Week 4 - Lecture


In this lecture Dave Mullins talks about locomotion in the human body; He shot himself performing different types of physical actions like siting, standing, lifting, throwing, then analyzed these shots in terms of 'source of force' and 'weight shift'.
Here are some random notes I got from Dave analyzing his reference:

- Fulcrum is the point of balance in a character or an object.
- The mass is evenly distributed around the Fulcrum ( or what we call center-line of gravity )
- Our bodies developed a way to move in the most efficient manner, always taking short cuts to preform any action.
- In order to the human body to stay in balance while moving, it counter balances its self between the hips & legs to     sustain a well balanced locomotion.... that's a very confusing sentence :)
- External force changes the natural flow of any locomotion.
- When lifting weights, the heavier the object being lifted the more body parts are involved in the process.
- Anticipation before the movement, and settle after the movement, are key elements in animation.

The butter of this lecture is that, before you start animating you will need to shoot / find a reference, analyze it thoroughly, find out where the fulcrum is in the character, how the weight is shifting between the legs once that is well understood, fire up Maya, & start animating!


AM - Class 3 / Week 3 - Lecture

Advanced Arcs and Path of Action.

Arcs can add more to animated scenes than any other animation principle you may know, it could lift up a shot form amateur level to a Wow!! professional level.

Every part of the human body moves on arcs, the only part that dose not arc on movement is the eyes, they tend to move in a snappy, poppy fashion...  In fact, everything in life moves on arcs! well.. other than Robots of course. 
Check out Dr. Harold Edgerton's book: 'The Anatomy of Movement' to get a visual idea about arcs in real life.

Adding arcs while animation any action creates more believable performance for your characters because it will feel more organic, no body could explain it better than Frank & Ollie, they said in there book The Illusion Of Life
'Straight inbetweens completely kill the essence of an action'  
so DON'T forget to add inbetweens that creates nice clean arcs in the scene you animate!

Its really a good Idea to grab a scene from your favorite animated movie ( Disney movie.. I like Disney ) and choose a part
of a character, like the nose, or the hips...  & track it on your monitor with a dry marker, you'll be AMAZED to see all these arcs flowing, that's one of the reasons that makes these movies alive & iconic.

Even though its sounds like tracking arcs is more towards the polishing stage, but you need to plan them early in the game, even from the blocking stage, because it will make the process of tracking arcs a lot easier.

The more you pay attention to details like arcs, the more spontaneous it will become, AND the better your work will be.