Q&As With Scott Lemmer

So Class Five is finally over!  This term was very hard for me because of the amount of work I had at my day job and the difficult shot I was animating for AM.  But thanks God! I'm still alive, I didn't get fired, and I'm still married :)

Scott was a great mentor, he kept on pushing me to enhance the character performance to be more reasonable and believable, facial expressions, and eye direction. Here is my student assessment for this term:

Areas of strength: Great work this term! I really like how you worked with me and addressed all of the notes. You ended up with some nice acting choices and some nice execution of the animation principles.
Areas of improvement: Overall there isn't a whole lot to say but I would pick out that lipsync still needs some work. I also thing that you need to pay attention to eye lines a bit more. Also don't forget to support eye shape changes with the brows and brow shape changes with the eyelids. Try to make sure you get the upper and lower lids involved as well as the cheeks where possible.

I wish Scott best of luck in his career.

AM - Class 5 / Week12- Assignment

This is the final version of the sequence, I'm not really happy with it though, I'll give it an extra push in the final term :)

AM - Class 5 / Week11- Lecture

The Language of Film.

Up to this point, AM has been teaching us how to be a great character animators, but its very important to us as well to grasp all aspects of the medium that we're working in, and that means understanding the rules of film making, camera, framing & composition, and film editing.

In this lecture, Glen McIntosh, animator & animation director at ILM, talks about the language of film and the history of film making.

We are lucky that the art-form of film making has gone through its evolution in the past century and the rules are already set for us.  Film making started since Thomas Edison invented the first camera and has been developing ever since & still on going as the technology is pushing further & further.  The style of film making has always been governed by the evolution of the technology. In the old days; film were staged in a theatrical ways where everything is placed in front of the viewer, static cameras, actors entering from screen left to screen right, very similar to a stage play.  But when we look at movies nowadays, we see cameras panning right & left to keep characters in frame, there is a narrative structure for the film to help the audience follow the story.  Basically the director can now decide where the audience are going to look, and when.

There is a set of rules always followed in the process of film making, but its very subtle that the audience don't even perceive it.  As animators its important to know these rules because it will effect our animation & performance dramatically.
Creating a film requires a collaborative effort from script writers, actors, set designers, costume designers, audio mix, editors..etc, all that should follow the vision of one individual, which is the Director of the film.  The directer will enforce his vision on the film to steer it into the direction he wants.

Glen took shots from famous movies like 'Citizen Kane'' Full Metal Jacket'' War of The Worlds' & started explaining why the directors of these movies choose to frame it in certain way, and what's the hidden message behind the camera angles.
Then he showed us how editing can make a huge impact on the audience, either by heightening there tension, or calming them down.

At the end of the lecture, Glen strongly recommended students to do the same, look for impressive shots from movies you like and analyze them in terms of framing, camera angle, editing. This will be a source of inspiration & will reflect on your work.

AM - Class 5 / Week10- Lecture

Walkthrough: Subtext and Subtlety.

Subtext in animation is what's going behind the scenes, what's the character is not really saying, what's his/her thoughts internally.   Its the message behind the words.
Subtext can changes the meaning of a sentence entirely, you can say the same words but with completely deference subtext & it will deliver the viewer a completely different message. 

In the real world, subtext is always there, the gestures we do with our hands as we speak, the subtle facial expressions, smile, squint, all will tell you what this person is thinking or feeling without even listing to what he's saying.  Sometimes a person will say something but there is a hidden thought beneath the words that is contradicting with what's actually being said.

In this lecture,  Matthew Munn animator at Sony ImageWorks breaks down a shot he animated from Surf's Up where a character is delivering a line & the subtext is contradicting from what the character is saying. such a great shot!

Few notes:

- Subtext is very important in animation because its a powerful tool to add reality to the shot.
- Subtext can go a long with the spoken words, or it could be completely the opposite.
- As an animator you have the time to inject real life performance into the characters, & add a subtle movement to make the characters look believable.
- Subtext will reveal the nature of your character to the audience.
- Subtext is not an afterthought, its something to be considered in an early stage of animation.
- Ask questions about your character, What kind of person is he? whats the mood he's in? what he's thinking?
- Before shooting a video reference, put yourself in your character's shoes, think the way there supposed to be thinking when delivering there line of dialog, and subtext will show naturally in your reference.
- In the polishing stage, pay extra attention on emphasizing the subtext.

Matthew's advice at the end of the lecture was to always stay passionate about animation; keep a close relation with the team members around you, bounce feedback to raise up the quality of everybody's work.  The minute you forget what animation is all about & start treating it as a job you will lose the ability to learn and develop your skills, & that will reflect back on your work.

AM - Class 5 / Week 9 - Lecture

Advanced Polishing. Adding the Final 10%

This lecture is similar to the one from class 4. Kenny Roy grabs a shot that a student had animated; and gives it an extra pass of polish, pushes some poses, scrape out the segments that are not reading well & reanimate them from scratch.

AM - Class 5 / Week 8 - Lecture

Subtext And Subtlety.

Subtext: is the implicit meaning of a literary text, its not what's being said but what we come to understand about the story or a character.
Subtlety: is so slight to an extend that its difficult to detect or describe. In character animation subtlety is not just a small move or a small weight shift, it also could be a subtle/unnoticeable change that develops over a shot or a series of shots.
Context: is the part of a statement that surrounds a particular passage and determines its meaning, in animation it means how a shot or a series of shots fit into an entire scene.

Quick notes:
- Interior monologue vs Exterior dialog.  Meaning; the thought process inside the character's head compared with what he's actually saying, sometimes they could be the same but sometimes they could be completely different.
- Acting in the eyes, if somebody is talking we mainly focus on his eyes, eyes can convey a whole range of emotions.
- Acting in the body, the body gives a message whether the character is relaxed or nervous, happy or sad.
- Using simplicity to convey ideas clearly, simplicity in posing, simplicity in gestures.
- The purpose of every shot we animate is not to glorify us as animators, but to tell the story in context, so what every we do should serve that purpose.
- The diffidence of status between characters in a shot will tell us a lot about there personality
- Character's emotions arcing over a scene will make it very interesting. The scene starts with the character very happy, and through the progression of the scene the character will become sad because of something he/she had learned.
- It will be great if you can convey to your audience how characters are feeling to each other without having to say it.
- Don't concentrate on the mouth when double checking a lipsync, look at the eyes, and if it feels right, you're probably in a good shape.

AM - Class 5 / Week 7 - Lecture

Advanced Look At Entertainment.

This lecture was presented by Doug Sweetland, animator at Pixar, and director for the famous Pixar short film Presto.
Here we go!

What is entertainment?? from an animator's point of view, entertainment is using his bag of tricks like Overlap, follow through, blinks, double takes, gestures, etc.. all this is great, but these tricks by themselves are not necessarily entertainment, they should be used in a way that serves the meaning of a greater context, otherwise, they're pointless.Audience don't go to the theater to watch the animators bag of tricks, only animators do, the audience are looking to be entertained by a good story, so animators should find a way to use there techniques to add meaning/entertainment value to the story.

A 'Story' is a serious of events; An 'Event' is a gap in expectation, it raises questions about outcome that compels the viewer, same as Jokes, a Joke has a setup that will imply one outcome, and a punch line will deliver another outcome.
This is the anatomy of an event: a Setup or expectation, and then the outcome, the outcome begets another expectation that will lead to another outcome.  this series of events will create a story, a story over all is generally raising the big question, & we know that the story ends when we get the answer for that big question.  Its very important to know the anatomy of an event/story because that will help you to focus on the idea your animating, whether its a setup or an outcome.

Here is few notes from this great lecture:

- A character SHOULD NOT do anything without needing to do it.
- Create poses for the characters specific to the situation at that moment in the story.
- Entertainment is heightening the juxtaposition between what the character wants and the reality of the situation, heightening the juxtaposition of what's being said & what's being felt.
- In your acting choices, chose the action that expresses what the character is feeling, not what the character is saying.
- Sometimes you need to sacrifice a certain performance that you initially had in mind for service of the main context.
- Identify the status of your character, whether he's a high status important person or low status person.
- Looking for new ideas is good, but also experiment with using old ideas in a new context.
-  Avoid making the performance of your character one dimensional, don't think of happiness as just happiness, & sadness is just sadness, that is very flat, you want to find a way to approach emotions not in a direct way.
- Emotions is inferred by the audience through the event, but should not be forced on them.
- The best shot you'll ever going to animate is the one that your animating right now!

AM - Class 5 / Week 6 - Lecture

Mechanics & Acting.

In this lecture; Bret Parker, Animator at Pixar explains how she starts animating acting shots from a pose to pose approach, focusing on incorporating a proper body mechanics into the acting in early blocking stage.
As we've mentioned earlier in class one, there are three methods of animating: Pose to Pose, Layering, and Straight a Head. Sometimes we use a combination of all three depending on the type of shot/character we're animating.

In this lecture, Bret played a short sequence from Ratatouille that she animated back in the day, and showed us the progression stages it went through starting from the way she received the shot from the layout department at Pixar, all the way to the final polish.
Here are some notes from the lecture, ordered from blocking to polish:

- Before you start working on a shot, be very specific of what you want to do with it.
- While Staging your shot, you need to present your idea in away that its unmistakably clear, that can be achieved by knowing exactly the purpose of that shot & how it falls in context.
- Take your time planning your shot, write down all the questions you need to know about it, act it out, explore different options.
- Analyze the personality of your character & the its relation with its surrounding as your planing.
- Keep in mind as you're making the composition to lead the audience eyes to the things you want them to see.
- Layout pass should include the basic timing for the character as it enters, moves around, or exits frame.
- Bret advises her student to push the layout stage a bit far in terms of posing, to get a better understanding for the character and its intentions.
- Focus on your key poses first, then place your inbetween, after that work off the timing.
- Incorporate eye distraction in the blocking stage.
- Consider your arcs as you're blocking.
- Start thinking about breakdowns as your building your key poses.
- Make sure to get all the physics correct in the blocking stage.
- As your blocking the key-poses, establish the character's focus with the full body not just the eyes or head direction.
- Approach a dialog shot the same way you approach a pantomime shot, Don't relay on the dialog to tell the story but sculpt your key-poses in a way that it will tell the story for you, the audience should be able to read the emotions & intentions of the shot through posing, even with the dialog turned off.
- If your shot has two characters dependent on each other you might want to block them both together at the same time.
- Constantly keep checking your key-posses if they look appealing.
- Be aware not to fall into even timing through out the animation.
- While animating a simple movements; something as simple as a finger pointing, incorporate the whole body in that movement starting from the root up.
- Bret prefers using FK arms when a character is gesturing with its hands.
- Don't be afraid to rip out a pose or to change a full segment of the animation as you're splining to make the shot look better.
- Overlap, Ease in, Ease out.
- Simplify the animation of the hands & face, more is less.
- We hear a lot the 'Keep Alive' term when in comes to secondary characters in a shot, keeping the character alive dose not mean to add simple movement or a blink, it means going inside that character's thoughts & reflect that into its performance.