9/26/09

Of Proportions

Found this clip on YouTube and thought it was very interesting. Speaking of proportions, I know that they are everywhere, including music. It's a naturally occurring phenomena that our brains seem to be built to understand. It doesn't strike me as odd that half of the audience automatically responds to Bobby McFerrin's lead:

A Shameless Love Affair

I have an iPod Touch... and I love it.

When I got my new computer for school, Apple was having a promotion that let you buy an iPod Touch at a significant discount from the original price. I already had a 30GB iPod Video. I hadn't planned on getting new one, but decided that an offer like that was too good to pass up. Boy am I glad that I made this impulse buy.

First off, I'm sure you're wondering why 'I love my iPod Touch' and not 'I love my iPhone.' Just go read the previous post about text messaging, and replace all of the terms 'texting' with 'data plan' and you'll basically have my feelings on any smartphone. I've already got a phone and I don't need to pay $30 extra each month to be connected everywhere.

Which brings me to one of my first things I love about this little device: it's got Wi-Fi. I own a very old laptop, which I would occasionally bring on vacation to various places. However, I just found myself using it for email, web browsing, and not much of anything else. This little puppy does pretty much everything I would want out of an iPhone as long as I can find a wireless connection to hook up to. (You'd be amazed how many people out in Pennsylvania had unsecured wireless networks...) Since I am right here next to campus, it is very easy to just take a little walk and hop onto BYU's network. Now, if I ever go on trips, I just take this thing in my pocket and I am good to go.

Another thing I love about it is the applications. I have only paid for about three applications on this thing, the rest I have gotten for free. Apple has created quite a unique ecosystem around the iPhone platform. There are literally thousands of applications for various purposes. I won't get into the politics of getting one of those applications approved in this post, but I have to say that there are a number of cool things out there. Here are the apps I use/like the most:

ShopShop - A shopping list that remembers items you have previously entered.
Google Maps - Basically the same thing as your computer's browser, but you can take it with you. It will even pinpoint your location on the map
Notes - A standard app, but I actually use it a lot for taking down people's information. I also use the calendar a lot.
Flashlight - I have used this one a ton more than I thought I would. Essentially, it just lights up the screen with a certain color, but it puts off enough light to be able to see.
Scriptures - I have actually found myself more adept at studying the scriptures thanks to this handy app. It instantly zips me to the footnotes, which is one of my downfalls with paper scriptures. And it's free!
Facebook - Yeah, I use it. But it's more like a shorter version of email for me. Still, the application is very slick.
Tap Tap Revenge - Like Guitar Hero, except smaller and with a lot of songs you probably haven't heard of before. You can even play with a friend!
Animation Timer - This one was a bit pricey, but I can't imagine myself getting along without it in my class. It is essentially a stopwatch with a hold button, but it will translate into film, NTSC, PAL, and other time formats. Very useful if you're trying to figure out how many frames a certain animation will take.

I've also watched a movie or two on it, but I don't do it very often. I just have too many things to do. If I'm on an airplane or in a car, I might watch, but it drains the battery pretty quickly. It is a heck of a lot better to watch it on that than on an iPod video, I must say.

One thing that I actually don't use my iPod Touch for is music. As odd as it sounds, I just don't use it for that. Maybe it's because I like to keep it charged up in case I want to get on the internet or maybe I just don't listen to that much music on the go, but I haven't really used it for what the iPod was originally developed for.

In summary, in regards to being an iPod Touch user, I'll quote "Ferris Bueller's Day Off:" 'It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.'

Here Comes Science

This is just a shameless plug for one of my favorite bands, They Might Be Giants. For the past few years they have been putting out some albums geared towards children in addition to their rock albums. Just over the past month or so, this one came out. I got it recently and have been enjoying the tunes. Not only is it educational and fun, but it also has some good, peppy music. If you buy it right now from Amazon.com, I think it is only about $9.99 or so. The other cool thing about this album is that it comes with a DVD of music videos of practically all the songs. The animations are pretty entertaining, especially if you know a thing or two about science fiction references.

If you've got younger kids, or just want to feel like a young kid, I recommend giving it a go.

FA 600: Complex Contour & Ècorchè Study

I'm slowly learning to use charcoal. It is a painful process and I think I need to go buy some more vine charcoal because I am just about out. Oh well, such is art...

This week was a bit more labor intensive than most previous weeks, but that is just because of the volume of work I needed to get done. This week we discussed the exercise of defining complex contour. Last week was looking at the outline of a figure, just building upon the initial gesture and paying attention to proportions. This week it was taken just a bit further, starting to move in on the major lines of the human anatomy that help define a figure. This is a crucial stage in drawing because no matter how much shading you put in, it can't compensate for bad proportions.

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(P.S. I think that some of the drawings are warped due to the angle at which I photographed them... yeah, saying that will make me feel better about my drawing skills.)

I'm getting a little better, maybe now that I am drawing practically every day. My brain has reestablished the connection to my hand to try and get it to do what it wants it to do. (Don't tell my professor, but I started to start doing things better when I stopped paying attention to what she was telling me and started paying attention to what my brain was trying to tell me. One of these days, someone will win...)

Next up on the agenda is part one of a look into human anatomy. This study is a progressive journey into learning the various skeletal and muscle groups of the body. For this week we simply focused on the muscle groups on the front of the torso:
The man better put some clothes on soon, or else he'll freeze in the upcoming winter.

Anim 619: Starting to come to life

This week in animation class was actually incredibly busy, but it was fun. I had a lot more work than I have previously had, although that was partly due to my own desire to push my limits. I have been fairly good about doing my assignments well before the deadlines, but this time I had to push it in order to get things done.

Our first part of this week was to take the bouncing ball animations that we did last week and add a tail to each one. This is to show what is called secondary action and overlapping. In elaborating further on the concept of showing weight in animation, we have to look at what else there is in a scene or character to give the illusion of weight. Say a character has on a raincoat: if the character is walking and suddenly stops, physics dictates that the coat will keep moving in the direction of the aforementioned walk, get pulled on by the character, then spring back due to the force being exerted on it. Subtle hints like this help to give the illusion of life to animations. They are pretty much everywhere, but you won't notice them unless you are looking: the tuft of hair on top of Pinnochio's head, Snow White's dress, or even the large belly of the Sherrif of Nottingham in Disney's Robin Hood. All of them simulate weight without distracting from the main action.

The assignment called for a tail for each bouncing ball, each with a different weight. One of the things that you will find when animating tails is that they follow the motion paths of the object it is attached to, creating sort of a whip-like motion to them. I decided to take the regular bouncing ball and add a hairy tail to it:

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The second one I decided to do something a bit trickier. I played around with the timing a bit, slowing down the drop and decided to add half of an elastic exercise band to the bowling ball as its tail. I didn't know how it was going to react as I let it fall, so just started animating and this is what it ended up as:

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The first time I played it full speed, I was as surprised as you are. The darn thing actually worked! ... at least it kind of worked for me looking at it here. I can think of a few things to do differently, but overall, not bad for a first time around. It just made me feel really good that I seem to have a natural ability to pick up on these things. It must mean that I am finally doing what I am really good at.

Our next assignment was called the Alive Ball. Essentially, we sadly learned that we wouldn't be just animating bouncing balls for the rest of our careers and would actually have to start delving into character animation. The assignment was fairly freeform in what we could do, which is always a good to help you learn what your boundaries are. The one requirement was that in seven seconds, we needed to have a ball in a scene moving of it's own power and show it thinking in some way or another. My imagination ran wild... then I tried to contain it:


First off, I timed out about how many frames I thought each action would take in my little story of the ball that discovered its own reflection. I created a background, which you can see above, then plotted the motion arcs. I then put a breakdown of how many frames would be needed for each action, which is the bar on top. I printed off the background with arcs and used that as an underlay as I drew all of the drawings. After I was finished, I photographed all the frames, made a few more in-between frames to slow down some motions that were going too fast, then composited the drawings over top of the background in Adobe After Effects. The result:

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That poor little ball never knew what was coming.... can I tell you just how much I enjoy animation?

9/20/09

Nostalgia

I have had some nostalgic moments watching some old Warner Brothers cartoons as part of my homework. I just thought I would share some of my favorite Disney cartoons that I loved as a kid:





9/18/09

FA 600 Assignment 2: Contour

Now that we have effectively covered gesture drawing, we have moved onto the next step: contour. Essentially, it is the outline of a form, based on the previously established gesture. This time around, I tried to pay special attention to proportions, measuring as I went along. It is only line work at this point. In the future soon enough, we will begin to establish value and shading as a reinforcement to our work. If these initial parts aren't right, all the shading in the world won't help you.

It was a bit of a concentration-intensive couple of hours, but it I am starting to get the hang of things. Here they are:

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9/17/09

Why I'll never be considered beautiful in Ancient Greece


(Above image from Academy of Art University online course FA600)

Now I've never considered myself a Greek god by any means. I don't even consider myself average. In fact, I've come to grips with the fact that I am incredibly disproportional. In my Renaissance art class we have been talking a lot about the concept of mathematical proportion and how the ancient Greeks made consideration of this in their art and architecture. The above diagram is a fairly good representation of what the Greeks thought the ideal man would look like.

Just out of curiosity I decided to overlay the above proportions over top of myself and this is what I found:

Apparently I have an oversized head and torso in relation to the rest of my body. Who knew? Well, the ancient Greeks did, apparently. But you know what? I'm okay with being kind of squatty. It just makes it easier to put my shoes on in the morning...

Okay, so I did want to know what I would look like with perfect proportions:

Gotta love Photoshop!

Yo ho, yo ho, an animator's life for me!

I think I am starting to get the hang of this gig. My assignments for this week involved pretty much the same concept as the week before, the bouncing ball. However, the twist on this one was that it was going to all be hand-drawn animation (sorry for those who wanted to see more stop motion... maybe some other day when I have some time). I've never done any hand drawn animation before, so I was a bit apprehensive as to what to expect. However, I quickly discovered myself having a lot of fun.

One of the most important aspects of animation is to understand how things move. Pretty much everything moves in some sort of arc or another. Very few things in this world are capable of mechanical movement... besides, uh, machines.

Anyway, for this exercise, I had to animate two different balls of varying weight. By capturing the impression of weight, one can say a lot about an object. Think back to the early days of Disney animation with 'Steamboat Willie." Things in that cartoon were lifted up by Mickey Mouse without any effort at all. This is a style that is referred to as 'rubber hose' animation because everything looks pretty much like, well, a rubber hose. Much more realistic animation can be achieved by simulating the weight of objects.

I started out by plotting out the spacing and timing of the ball by timing a bouncing rubber ball and marking when it dropped. I have a special application on my iPod that is a stopwatch that will tell you how many frames per second have elapsed since you started the timer. It's pretty handy.

Next I found some footage on YouTube of someone dropping a bowling ball and timed it.
Then I set to work, plotting out the path of the balls in space, remembering that their velocity is not linear, but parabolic. At the top of each arc, the ball slows down, therefore, the spacing between drawings gets tighter. After a few hours, I had a good deal of drawings laid out and drawn. Next I had to get them into the computer.

I have a handy little program on my computer called iStopMotion which is really quite fun. It is what I used to do the previous claymation animations. It essentially will use any webcam or video camera to take stills of whatever you want. You can even do time lapse photography if you want to... I might try that some day. It's relatively inexpensive if you want to pick up a copy for yourselves. An alternative for the PC side is MonkeyJam or Helium Frog. Well, each drawing had to be photographed, one at a time. Two frames per drawing (except for the really fast motion) at twenty four frames a second for seven seconds equates roughly to 84 drawings total per animation. Yeah, it took a while... here is how I have to do it:

For a regular animation studio, you would have a more professional setup for doing final work and even probably a form-feed scanner for your pencil tests (which is pretty much what this equates to). However, us poor, starving grad students have to make do with what we have.

And voilà! There you have it... sort of. After some cleaning up in Adobe After Effects, this is what they came out as:

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I've still got a long ways to go, but this is a fun start. I hope to be able to do some more fun stuff like this.

9/12/09

Figure Drawing - Dividing up the Human Body

Another class I am taking is a figure drawing class to strengthen my understanding of the proportions of the human body. After a few years of drawing pretty much nothing but geometric shapes and other forms that make up products, I am a bit rusty. This will be a good refresher course.

There was one assignment previous to this that I decided not to post because of its mundane nature: we had to draw a cylinder as we rotated it around 360°. Not that exciting. Of course, neither is this, but it is a fundamental exercise.

I have a 38" tall cast of a woman that I had to buy for this class. It sure beats trying to line up a nude model to come to your apartment in Provo. Plus she can stand in a single pose for a LONG time. Hopefully I won't get too sick of using her, but so far, I can see the advantage of having such a tool around. For this assignment, I had to move it into different perspectives and viewpoints and analyze it, breaking it up into different basic geometric shapes. As you will see, I didn't pay that much attention to proportion, so the drawings are a little skiddywumpus, but that just means I get to practice more later. The purpose of this is to get the gesture, or the dominant visual lines, down, helping to establish the weight of the drawing. As I said, I need to practice a lot more, but for now, here it is:

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9/10/09

Why for me "Text Messaging = Exploitation"



Some people wonder why I don't text message.  Here is why:

1) I'm already compulsively addicted to email and check it constantly.  (For me, Facebook is an extension of email.  I don't use it for anything but messaging.)

2) I have roughly 1,500 rollover minutes in addition to my severely downgraded cell phone plan.  I obviously don't communicate that much already.

3) If it is an emergency, someone better darn well call me instead of texting me.  If it's not an emergency, then there isn't any reason why it can't wait.

4) I have fat thumbs and a phone with tiny numbers.

5) Most importantly, for pay-per-use texting, the telecom companies are charging roughly $1,310 per megabyte of text message data sent piggybacking on another signal, essentially costing them nothing.  Just to give you some perspective, I'll estimate that with Comcast internet, I'm probably being charged ¢1/10th per megabyte that I download to my computer.  For me, when it comes to that, it's beyond simple economics, it's ethical... and I'm taking a stand.

9/9/09

Designer vs. Artist

I am torn.

Ever since I started this new journey into the visual effects and entertainment industry, I've been haunted by one word: artist. So what's the big deal, you ask? I've spent the past six years trying not to be called an artist, but a designer.

From Dictionary.com:
Artist, artisan are persons having superior skill or ability, or who are capable of producing superior work. An artist is a person engaged in some type of fine art. An artisan is engaged in a craft or applied art.

Again, from Dictionary.com:
Designer is a person who devises or executes designs, esp. one who creates forms, structures, and patterns, as for works of art or machines.

So what's the big deal, you ask again, this time with a voice of irritation at the superfluousness of the second inquiry? I've always had it engrained in my head that I never wanted to be a poor, starving artist. Because artists were poor and often starved. Or they went crazy and cut off their ears before shooting themselves with a revolver. Plus, let's face it, those people are just plain weird sometimes. (Although, don't get me wrong... Banksy does some fine stencil art!)

For me, the traditional creation of art seems to suggest that the artist has some inner personal expression that will torment them until they get the chance to release it in a cacophony of vibrant acrylic paint! Or an explosion of symphonic harmonies! ...or elephant dung. Whatever floats your goat, I guess. Then there is the word craft that is associated with above definition of artist. If I think of the word 'craft,' I often associate it with the chain of Micheal's Craft Stores which are full of supplies that people buy to create things at their own time and leisure, not as a trade. I'm sure there are those that have figured out a nice budgeting system that let's them generate a profit in their own booth at the Quilted Bear, but for the most part it just seems to me that the term 'craft' is not something that is consumed by the populace. It's just seems like in general, the resulting products are something of a luxury/novelty and aren't something that everyone is going to be able to interact with.

I take a look at myself and I don't have some inner personal expression that is dying to get out, but rather an insatiable appetite to entertain. Is it the same thing? I don't really know at this point. Is my desire to entertain my own personal expression? When I am creating something, am I trying to express something inside of myself, or am I trying to decipher how the audience is going to react to it, thus designing their experience? Comedy, for example, takes a lot of quick thinking about timing, content, and conflict. When a comedian thinks up his jokes, he may find them entertaining himself, but his ultimate goal is to get a reaction from the audience. If he fails in his so-called design, he is left on the stage with only the crickets to cheer him on.

So what am I, an artist or a designer? If I were to choose one, I'd pick designer, because I'm not doing what I do for myself, but rather the audience. I want them to react and associate with it and have a memorable experience... plus I'd prefer to be wealthy, well fed, sane, have all my ears intact, and be not dead.

ANIM 619 - First assignments

One of the classes I am taking this semester is called "Animation Mechanics." Essentially, I am learning all about motion and how the Disney animators managed to create a whole philosophy behind how to animate cartoons. I'll be doing a lot of traditional animation in this class like stop-motion photography and hand drawn pencil tests. I ultimately don't aspire to be an animator, but rather a 3D modeler and rigger (I'll explain what those people do in some other post). So why am I taking this course? I asked myself the same question a while ago, but now I realize that I don't have a great understanding of how things actually move. How can I expect to build the right model/rig without knowing how something is supposed to react when a force is applied to it?

Well, onto the gallery. One of the first assignments I did was a stop-motion animation using clay that depicted a simple bouncing ball:

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I had so much fun doing that, that I decided that I would elaborate on it for my second assignment, which was to do a freeform animation, pretty much anything I wanted. I decided to see how hard it would be to animate multiple balls at the same time... it turned out to be harder than I thought. I almost lost track of things in all the ensuing chaos. I also was a bit too ambitious and decided to shoot on ones. That means animating all 24 frames in a second. Disney animators back in the day typically shot on twos, which means two frames for each drawing (essentially 12 frames a second, but let's not get technical here).

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The first animation you see is roughly 100 frames long, yet it is only four seconds when played to speed. The second animation is 120 frames long, but it only lasts for five seconds. Together , both of these took me all morning to finish. (Admittedly, I had to take a nap when I was done in order to recover my eyes.) Just think how long it would make to do something like The Adventures of Mark Twain. It took experts roughly three and a half years to complete it. I have a newfound respect for the pioneers of animation.

Also I need to say thank you to my parents for getting me a set of Will Vinton Clay-Mation clays when I was a teenager. It only took ten years, but I finally got to use them for animation.

9/8/09

All the cool kids are doing it

I know that this seems so 2007, but I finally decided to start a blog. Yes, yes, I know... everyone and their dog has a blog. What could be so interesting about the life of Bradley Reynolds that he would want to blog about it?

Well, for one, this blog will be mostly an academic record of the projects that I am doing for my master's degree. For those of you who are unaware, I recently started a program through the Academy of Art University in San Francisco doing animation and visual effects. Now, I know what you are thinking: "But I thought he lived in Provo, Utah?! What the dilly, yo?" Well, it's true. I do live in Provo (in a remarkably nice house, I might add). But I am pursuing my masters coursework full time online over the interwebs. I'm too cheap to live in San Francisco for now, but we'll see what the future holds.

Secondly, I don't have much in life that I like to rant about. But there are a few things that I feel very passionate about and you can expect to hear from me about: principles of design, love affairs with pieces of technology, the Mac OS vs. Windows debate (which, I'll state up front, I use BOTH), music, art, movie reviews, photography, religion, the amount of lint stuck in my belly button, and many other T.M.I. subjects.

Thirdly, and most importantly, I'm a closet narcissist and just get a kick out of pretending that people will actually read what wisdom I, the infamous Bradley William Reynolds, decree to bestow upon the world at large.

So place a bookmark in your browsers, brush the dust off your RSS readers, put your seat belts on, pop a stick of freshmint gum in your mouth for old time's sake, sit back, and enjoy. It's going to be an interesting ride...