Cucurbita Maxima Carving: A How-To Guide

Every year people ask me how in the world I carve my pumpkins, so this year, since I finally have a blog, I decided that I would make a how-to guide on how to do portrait pumpkins. Hopefully this answers some of your questions as to how this all works.

First off, we need to pick the right picture for our stencil. Unfortunately, you can't just pick any old photo and make a pumpkin from it. There are some certain characteristics that you have to look for, mainly dealing with the brightness and darkness of your subject. If there is too much brightness, you are going to be left with a lot of empty space and possibly a collapsed pumpkin on your hands. Too much darkness and you will just have a pumpkin with some small holes in it. You want to find a photo that will let you have some structure to your pumpkin along with the intricacies of a nice portrait. Let's take my example this year, John Flansburgh:

I found this photo after a lot of searching on Google and decided that it would make a nice composition. If you look at his face, there is plenty of highlights as well as plenty of dark spots that will lend itself to a carving quite nicely.

After I have the composition that I want, I need to prep the photo for making a stencil. I tend to use Photoshop and Illustrator for these next steps, so I'm sorry for those of you that don't have a copy of yours at home. I know that there are some other alternative solutions such as Photoshop Elements and Gimp that you can use. Heck, you can even try Microsoft Paint if you want, but I wouldn't recommend it. First off, I need to convert the photo into grayscale with no color. Once I have that, I adjust the levels (or brightness and contrast, so that I get roughly three values: white, 50% gray, and black. You could take the picture right from here, blow it up to letter size, and print it off, but I like to take it one step further for my own sanity.

I import the file into Illustrator and essentially re-draw it into a stencil pattern that I can print off on a letter-sized piece of paper. You'll notice that I also drew a little 'halo' around the hair. This will help pop your portrait out from the rest of the pumpkin and make it float. You also can see that I took a few liberties in defining what was a highlight and what was a shadow, but that is because of one important thing: structure. Unfortunately, carving a pumpkin isn't as simple as drawing a picture because if you cross the lines on your pumpkin, you could wind up accidentally cutting off part of your design. When creating the highlights, remember that these are the areas that you will be cutting out. Keep asking yourself, "If I cut this out right here, is there going to be enough pumpkin left to support the rest of it?" Take some liberties if you have to in order to make sure that it is going to keep itself together. Once you have created a satisfactory stencil, print it out and take it to the kitchen... or wherever it is that you butcher your fruit.

Now it is time to collect your supplies. Here are the tools that I primarily have handy, all of which you can pick up from the grocery store:

  1. Sharp knife - You'll only use this for cutting the top hole to get the guts out.
  2. Pumpkin Saw Set - You can pick these up pretty much anywhere, but this is the primary tool that I use for cutting.
  3. Ice Cream Scoop - By far my favorite tool for removing guts as well as carving out pulp.
  4. X-Acto Knife - Used for cutting detailed lines. You'll only need one blade.
  5. Box of Pushpins - Used during stenciling process.
  6. Flashlight - Use it to check your work.
  7. Toothpicks - For unseen (and seen) structural support. You may also want to use a pair of needle-nosed pliers to push them in.
  8. Super Glue - For unwanted mistakes.

Next you want to identify which part of the pumpkin you want to carve on. I know that seems like a no-brainer, but that is an important part to pay attention to. Typically the pumpkin will always have a flat side that it sat on while it grew. I tend to use that side mostly because it is easier to carve on a flat surface than a rounded one. This will also help you identify how far in to cut your top hole. You don't want to cut so far in that you cut into your 'canvas.'

Next is the part that most kids love. Cut out your top hole and pull the guts out. However, don't stop there. You need to actually carve out the stringy pulp on the inside of the pumpkin on the side that you actually are going to carve on. Most pumpkins will have about one and a half to two and a half inches of pulp. I like to get mine down to about three quarters of an inch. That allows for plenty of structural support, but also is thin enough to be sort of translucent when you take the skin off of it. Plus, it's easier to carve a thin-walled pumpkin than a thick one.

Next, use your pushpins to put your stencil on. One of the first things you will notice is that your pumpkin is not flat like you would like it to be, and thus your stencil won't lay flat. This will cause you to wonder how Amerigo Vespucci ever managed to map North America. This is where you can cheat a little, but cheat with caution. First, pin your four cardinal points as shown above.

Next, keep adding pushpins in-between until you flatten out over the surface of the pumpkin. If you look at the photo above, I did have to fold the stencil in a couple of parts in order to get it to lay on the surface. That is fine, just pick a spot where everything looks somewhat similar and you won't get thrown off by the small change in the stencil.

The next step is to transfer your stencil to the pumpkin using a pushpin. This is the most tedious and time-consuming part of the whole process and halfway through it you'll curse yourself for starting on this project in the first place. I do it every time. However, stick with it and just get it done. What you want to do is poke a hole across the dividing line between every change in shading. Basically, poke holes around all the shapes until it looks like a connect-the-dot puzzle from hell.

Once you are done remove the stencil, but don't throw it away. You'll need it to reference your shapes when you are carving. You'll see all of your pin holes in the skin of the pumpkin. This is your guide, but don't just start carving anywhere. There is a certain order that I have found to work best so you don't wind up cutting off the wrong thing.

Using your saw, cut out all of the highlight parts of your pumpkin, starting with the smallest ones. I've found that if you cut the small, intricate highlights first, it is much easier. If you cut the big ones out first, a lot of structural support will be lost and you could easily saw through something you didn't mean to. Once you get done with that part, it will be like looking at a negative of a photo, so don't worry if it looks odd. (I once did a self portrait and when my roommate saw it in the light his first thought was, "Oh no. He ruined it! It's going to look terrible!")

One thing I should mention right now is to save the 'halo' around the back of the hair for last. Otherwise, you'll be dealing with a very wobbly surface when you are trying to cut out more parts.

Once you are finished with the highlights, the next part is the mid-tone. This is achieved by simply cutting off the outer layer of skin of the pumpkin in the places that you would want it to appear (that is, if the pulp is thin enough to let light come through it). Take your X-Acto knife and cut along the dotted line. Essentially, you are just scoring it so that you can lift it off later.

Once you've done a section, take your knife and slide it under the unwanted skin. Most of the time, it will just pop off from the pulp, but sometimes it takes some work in order to get it off. If you accidentally cut off too much skin, don't worry. You can still glue it back on with the super glue.

I like to check my work as I am going along by taking the pumpkin into a dark room and shining a flashlight on the inside of it. This gives roughly the same effect as a candle and should give you a good idea if you are doing a bad job or not. Hopefully by the time you have gotten to this point you aren't doing a bad job. That would just be sad...

The last step is to cut the 'halo' out around the hair. Remember that you still need to think about structure as you are doing that. If you have some parts that are sort of floppy and are worried about them breaking off or something, just take toothpick and shove it through the piece and into the pulp. That will usually strengthen it enough to endure for the rest of the holiday.

Give it a final rinse in the sink and you should be done!

Viola! You have created a pumpkin portrait... hopefully. Either that or you're crying into a pile of pumpkin guts as you read this. I sincerely hope that it is the former and not the latter.

A word on timing: A pumpkin like this will never keep for more than two days, usually, before it dries up or something like that. I typically carve mine on Halloween day or the night before if I can. If you do need to carve it sooner than that, there is a way to preserve them. First, make sure that you give them a good rinse, inside and out, in the sink. That will keep the pulp a bit moist. Next take some Glad Press-N-Seal and cover the carved portion of the pumpkin. I've found that won't stick very well to the pumpkin skin, so take some masking tape and wrap it all the way around the pumpkin, sealing the edges of the Press-N-Seal. You'll need to do that for every edge of the sheet of Press-N-Seal in order to lock in the moisture. Just as a precautionary measure, I also use masking tape to seal off the top hole from which you remove the guts. After you have the pumpkin sealed off, store it in a cool place out of the sunlight. Last year I stored both my pumpkins in the fridge for about five days without any adverse effects to them.

Hopefully those tips will help you out, should you ever have the desire to try one of these on your own. As I've said before, it's not difficult, just time-consuming. You have to have patience and want to see the finished product to get it done. I promise, it's worth it to have random strangers ring your doorbell not just for treats, but to compliment you on your creation.

Until next year, Happy Halloween!

Cucurbita Maxima 2009

Many people know that I enjoy a good cucurbita maxima carving every year... that's jack-o-lantern for you non-Latin speaking folks. Ever since I learned how to do variations in shading years ago, I've tried to do portraiture every year and most I try to do a crowd pleaser. This year I decided to be a bit selfish and do something that really just I and a few hundred thousand other people like, my favorite band, They Might Be Giants:

John Flansburgh

The title from the 'Miscellaneous T' album

John Linnell

I'll admit that I don't ever want to do three pumpkins like this again because it took me 5 hours to complete all three of them, non-stop.... that is, unless someone paid me. However, I'm pleased with the results. I'm going to see them in concert in Salt Lake next week, so I am excited. Rock on and Happy Halloween!


Light and Shadow: The Pullout Technique

Something a little different this week:


This technique is called the pullout technique. Essentially, you start by rubbing excess charcoal powder on your paper, getting it to about a medium value. After that, you take an eraser and essentially draw the highlighted parts of your figure, just paying attention to the primary light source. In the future, after you have done this, you then darken it in with charcoal where the shadows are. In the mean time, though, we're just sticking with the highlights.


Lifting the Groceries - Part 3: Final Frames

107 drawings and a few hours of compositing later and you have the final result:


I think there are a few things I could obviously do better and I realized that I really didn't have to shoot the last second and a half on ones (i.e. one frame per drawing). I guess it all comes along in the learning process. The odd thing is that I'm not immensely concerned with grades, just making sure that I learn the right principles. We'll see what the professor thinks in a few days.



Just wondering if this is where my career is headed:


Humble Pie

I just wanted to post this because the guy who plays Tracey (Hubble Palmer) was my TA in my introduction to film class my freshman year at BYU. I remember vividly both his and John Heder's student films. Both were kind of quirky...

Complex Contour - Hands and Feet


This is what I was supposed to do. It was a welcome break from drawing the whole figure.

In Honor of Halloween: The Best (and Worst) Paranormal Shows to Watch

I'll admit it, I watch 'ghost hunting' shows. In fact, they make up about a third of the shows in my Hulu subscription. I don't know why I like them so darn much, but I really do. Maybe it's because there seem to be so many stories all around the world that seem to be related in one way or another. Maybe it's because I do believe that Spirits inhabit this world and that they can, on certain occasion, speak to us (Now "when" and "why" is a discussion for another day). Maybe it's because I've had a fascination with the paranormal ever since I was a kid and would check out all of the ghost and monster books at the Roy City Library and try to study up on them.

Oddly enough, despite my enthusiasm for paranormal investigation, I have never once had a paranormal experience. And that is probably why I like to watch these shows. It lets me vicariously live their experiences, although I would be much more skeptical of certain things that they encounter than they usually are. Plus, let's face it, it makes for darn entertaining television!

So now, for your information here are my favorite (and least favorite) paranormal investigation shows:
My favorite show to watch is Destination Truth, by far. This is mainly due to the fact that the host, Josh Gates, is actually entertaining to watch. He knows that most of the stuff he is going in search for is completely false, so he doesn't take himself that seriously. The show doesn't just deal with ghosts and spirit stuff, but actually started out by looking for legendary creatures (i.e. Bigfoot, Nessie, etc.). I think I mostly like watching it because they visit some very dangerous locations where they could very easily be eaten by large mammals or bitten by poisonous snakes. They also take time during each trip to visit the local markets and show off various cultures that you normally wouldn't see. Also, they have investigated some places where no one in the world has gotten to before such as Chernobyl and King Tut's Tomb. They typically don't find much, which is the case with many of the shows, but needless to say, it is entertaining to watch.

This was the show that started it all. Ghost Hunters is about two Roto-Rooter workers who also have a television show where they try to document ghosts for clients. Most of the time the show goes as such:

Investigator A: "Shh.... Did you hear that?"
Investigator B: "Yeah, what was that?"
Sound Guy: (In his head) "I didn't hear a #$@% thing..."

They try to be scientific about everything, but most of the time, it can get pretty ridiculous with what they are trying to do. Is it real or is it fake? I don't know, but it is entertaining! I do have to give them a tip of the hat, though, because most of the time when they reveal evidence, they throw a lot of the unsure stuff out, not giving it the benefit of the doubt.

Ghost Hunters International follows the same format as Ghost Hunters, but they get to investigate much cooler international locations than the other guys.

I recently stumbled across this show, which has potential, but is sort of a Ghost Hunters Junior type of show right now. Paranormal State is about Penn State's Paranormal Research Society, that goes out to investigate paranormal activity, just like the Ghost Hunters, but with a much smaller budget.

Hands down, the worst paranormal investigation show out there is Ghost Adventures. Developed for the Travel Channel (which explains a lot all ready about the show), it centers around Zak Bagans, a Nick Lachey look-alike who spends way too much time at the gym along with some guys from his grunge band in high school... Well, actually, I don't know if that's the real back story, but it certainly feels like it when you watch the show. Mr. Bagans is always overzealous to provoke any spirits he encounters and often the show consists of more bleeped out dialogue than actual intelligible conversation. If you stumble across this show, I highly recommend changing to the Military Channel (ch. 287 on DirecTV), even if it is another documentary on Heinrich Himmler.

And just for fun, here is a few video clips from for your viewing pleasure:

Complex Contour - Practice Makes Perfect


I got all the way done with this assignment only to find out that we were only supposed to be doing hands and feet. Oh well, back to the charcoal...

Halloween Costume 2009 Preview

The assistant (to the) regional manager, Dunder Mifflin.


The Future of User Interface?

This looked interesting. I don't know how I'd handle it, but it sure looks like something that might take off some day the way things are going.

10/GUI from C. Miller on Vimeo.

Lifting the Groceries - Part 2: Pose Test

After I got a good idea of what I wanted to do with this assignment, set forth in drawing the key poses. I quickly found out that a bipedal character is a ton easier to draw than a snowman, despite my first impressions. Mainly, I can keep most of the volumes consistent from one frame to another. Plus, I can tell where he is supposed to bend, which makes his poses easier to achieve. If I can't really do it, then he can't either (without serious injury).

After I got the key poses done, I did a few extremes. Extremes are basically the passing point between one pose to another. Without them, when doing a pose test, things tend to get a bit choppy and you are thrown off as to what the action is doing. Most supervising animators will do the keys and as many extremes as they feel they have time to do, then hand them off to an assistant. The assistant then will do all of the in-between drawings. That is why it is important to have as much information as possible so they have a good idea of what the movement should be.

Since the bags were going to be fairly static for the most part, I kept them on a separate layer and composited them all in After Effects. Essentially, there are only three drawings of the bags that will really have to be made. The rest will be animated with the character.

After everything was done, I shot them with the digital camera, composited them, and adjusted the timing so that it felt close to what the final should be:


I can already see some things that I will be changing for the final product, but for now, this should give a sense. I think I am looking at 90 or so drawings for this. We shall see how it goes. After this, I think we just might jump into Maya, which is what I am looking forward to.


More Complex Contour... again... and again...


I'm getting lots of practice at this whole figure drawing gig, which is good, considering that I am taking another one next semester. Still struggling with the medium.

Just for fun, I decided to use Photoshop to make one of the drawings match the photo. See if you can guess which one it was. (And, no, I don't doctor my images before I submit them as an assignment. That would be cheating... for this class.)

Lifting the Groceries - Part 1: Thumbnails

A friend this week said to me, "You don't go to school every day. You go to fun every day." It's true. It's nice that I am finally in a place where my imagination can soar... although soaring needs to have its limitations.

I've started embarking on an assignment where we need to show a character lifting three separate bags of groceries, each with a different weight, and to keep the entire action to within 8 seconds. Why 8 seconds? Because when working on a film, you are limited by your time and how much work you produce. If the director says, we know you can fit that action in that amount of time, you are kind of bound by it. Sounds easy, right? Well, believe it or not, animation doesn't start when you sit down at your drawing board with a ream of animation paper. There is a lot of planning that need to go into all of it, most of the time starting in your own sketchbook.

First of all, despite the fact that we could use a snowman, I decided that I would try doing a bipedal character. I decided that it needed to be simplified enough to fill the exercise, but detailed enough to get the motion down clearly. I started off by working in my sketchbook a few character designs:

Ravishing, aren't they. I decided to go with a more mannequin style in the end, covered with a skin. Next up, I had to determine what kind of poses I would need for this animation. I doodled out a few pages in my sketchbook to see how he could move:

After I got a good idea of how the little guy might bend, I drew up some storyboards of different ideas. It's still a work in process and I might change a few things in the end, but this is easier than drawing 80 full sized drawings and deciding that I don't like them:

That is it for this week. Next week it is another pose test to see if I can fit my ideas into 8 seconds. Until then.


Even James Bond would be jealous

When I was a kid, I played Spy Hunter. Little did I know that some day the other kids my age who played that game would come up with the real thing... albeit in a slightly different form.

Okay, now this is really interesting

I found this on Engadget. Soon morphing robots like this will be invading your home, too!

That is a pretty cool technology they are working with, though. Just think of all the other applications it could be put towards.


Ècorchè - Arm muscle groups

Anyone in the mood for steak?

Where I Used to Work... Sort Of

This is a bit of a random post of old stuff, but I felt like sharing it. Where I was working at Pride Mobility there would be some down time between major projects (or in most cases, waiting for the engineers to decide what they wanted to do with a design before we would suffer through making it 'pretty'). During that time, I would often do some random things, most of which would benefit the company... I'm sure.

We were looking at hiring on another designer at one point and needed to find out what sort of layout we could do with our design room. So in my down time I took it upon myself to model up our entire design area, complete with phones, desk lamps, computers, and even filing cabinets. We could then move them around in our virtual environment to see what would actually work out.

Since I had gone to all that work in modeling up everything, one day I decided to take it all into Hypershot and render it out. In real life, it was much darker than this, but the textures and colors are pretty darn close to real life, if I do say so myself.

It was at this point when I said to myself, "I'm in the wrong industry."


Movie Review: 9

I had a free matinee movie ticket, courtesy of my financial institution, so I decided to use it in an educational fashion and went to see the animated film 9.

Plot Synopsis (from Wikipedia): During a period of economic decline, the government of a totalitarian state commissions scientists to research ways for the nation to prosper. One scientist (Alan Oppenheimer) develops an artificially intelligent brain, but before it can be properly tested, it is taken away by the government to build the Fabrication Machine, which is used to provide labor for the people and creates machines for war. Eventually the Fabrication Machine snaps under pressure and turns against humanity, programming its machines to eradicate all forms of life. The scientist later creates a set of nine numbered ragdoll-like "stitchpunks", hoping they will preserve humanity's legacy and allow life to continue. He brings them to life by transferring his soul into each of them through a mysterious talisman object, and dies as soon as he gives life to the final stitchpunk, numbered "9" (Elijah Wood).

9 awakens in the scientist's laboratory, the world now a barren wasteland, and finds the talisman, which he instinctively takes with him. While exploring the ruined world, he encounters another stitchpunk, 2 (Martin Landau), who tells him of others like themselves before he is captured by the Cat Beast, which steals the talisman and takes 2 towards a towering factory in the distance. 9 escapes the attack and is found by the group of other stitchpunks consisting of 1 (Christopher Plummer), 5 (John C. Reilly), 6 (Crispin Glover) and 8 (Fred Tatasciore), who have all been hiding in fear of the Cat Beast. 9 explains what happened to 2 and insists they save him, but 1 refuses to jeopardize their safety. 5, on the other hand, is convinced to help 9. The two enter the factory and save 2 from the Cat Beast, which is decapitated thanks to the timely arrival of 7 (Jennifer Connelly). Noticing a socket shaped like the talisman, 9 inserts the talisman into it out of curiosity, only to have it open and instantly sucking 2's soul out, leaving 2 lifeless. This awakens the long-dormant Fabrication Machine, making 9, 5 and 7 to flee.

Seeking answers about the Fabrication Machine and the talisman, 9 is taken to meet 3 and 4, who reveal details about the machine's past, though they know nothing about the talisman. 5 tells 9 that 6 might have answers and return to the hideout, where 6 states they must "go back to the source," where the talisman's secrets can be found. 1, however, berates 9 for awakening the Fabrication Machine and argues that 9 will just lead them to more trouble. Suddenly, the hideout is besieged by the Winged Beast, a new machine created by the Fabrication Machine. Through a combined effort, the stitchpunks destroy the Winged Beast, though the hideout is burned down in the process. During their search for shelter, they are attacked by another new machine, the Seamstress, which kidnaps 7 and 8 and nearly kidnaps 1 as well, who is convinced to strike back against the machines.

9 infiltrates the machine factory where he is able to save 7 and destroy the Seamstress, though he arrives too late to prevent the Fabrication Machine from sucking 8's soul with the talisman. 9 and 7 escape while others ignite a barrel of gasoline and roll it into the gas-filled factory, causing the building to explode and apparently destroying the Fabrication Machine. As the stitchpunks celebrate by listening to Somewhere Over the Rainbow, 5 wanders off to find the Fabrication Machine is still active, and barely manages to warn the others before the machine grabs him and sucks his soul out. During the nonstop chase,while walking on a bridge 6 tells 9 that they shouldn't destroy it that the souls of the dead stitchpunks are trapped inside the Fabrication Machine when suddenly the fabrication machine reaches out from below the bridge and grabs 6. While he is being pulled down by the machine, he says to go back to where he had awoken, then the fabrication machine sucks his soul out leaving him lifeless and dropping him into a deep chasm. Despite this, 1, 7, 3 and 4 plan to destroy the Fabrication Machine anyway, believing the dead souls cannot be saved. 9 decides to heed 6's final words and returns to the laboratory where he first awoke and found the talisman, determining it to be "the source".

Back in the laboratory, 9 finds a message from the scientist explaining how to use the talisman. When the others begin their attack on the Fabrication Machine, 9 returns with a plan to take the talisman back from the machine and use it to retrieve the souls, intending to bait himself to the machine and sacrifice his soul. 1, however, ultimately makes the sacrifice instead, allowing 9 to use the talisman to retrieve the souls, destroying the Fabrication Machine in the process. Afterward, 9, 7, 3 and 4 set up a memorial for 1, 2, 5, 6 and 8. 9 opens the talisman and releases the souls, which rotate up the sky. A rainstorm begins with each raindrop having a part of the stitchpunk's soul, leaving the future in the hands of 3, 4, 7 and 9 and the spark of life renewed.

My Take: First of all DO NOT TAKE YOUR SIX YEAR OLD TO SEE THIS FILM... unless you would like to revert back to the days before they were potty trained. This is not a kids film. There were lots of parts that made me jump a little. To give you an idea of what you're going into, should you choose to watch it, you can view the original short film that was the inspiration for the full length motion picture:

I left the movie feeling slightly depressed, mainly because I had gained a bit of an emotional bond with the characters, despite them being ragdolls. To see such innocent looking creatures get snatched up and have their souls devoured by some of the scariest steampunk creatures imagined was a bit heart-wrenching, to tell the truth. (This is coming from the guy who cries every time he watches WALL•E.) The design of the characters is what I was impressed the most with. How do you take your regular-sized world items and then transform it into something a 9-inch doll would use. For example, the brutish character 8 wields a modified kitchen knife, which at his scale looks like a sword straight from the Final Fantasy series. One of the clever things, though, is that instead of having a scabbard on his back, like you would normally have, he has a simple horseshoe magnet that he sticks it to. The little things like that were what I kept looking at.

The animation is spectacular. I have no idea how they managed to think up all the things that they needed to do for the different characters. For example, the Fabrication Machine has many tentacles that come off of it that I can't even imagine what it took to get that model rigged right. The lighting really set the mood for the whole film as well. It was mostly dark with lots of strange, ethereal lights that emanated from who knows where. It gave a slightly eerie feeling to the whole film.

My Recommendation: It is worth a rent, but not for the kids. This film has a lot of darker issues that it deals with that a child would not understand. The whole message of the film ultimately has to do with hope. Hope despite the past mistakes and correcting the wrongs, despite of whose fault it is. Take a gander. I think you will appreciate it.


FA600: More Complex Contour... Now With More Complex Contour!

Bet you didn't see this one coming...


I'm starting to slow down a bit and watch a few things. Some are still out of proportion and angle, but compare these to the first ones and you'll see that I'm slowly improving.

Still not liking charcoal.

Voice Acting

Anyone who knows me, or at least has had to endure my morning routine of practicing cartoon voices while getting ready in the morning (Adam Allred, I'm looking at you... figuratively speaking), knows that I have a bit of an ambition to do some voice acting some day for cartoons. I think it's fun to come up with characters and how they might talk, developing their personalities along with it all. I admire those that do it as a profession, especially the talented ones.

Recently I stumbled upon some videos of the voice actors of The Simpsons. Not only is that show one of the longest-running sitcoms ever, it is the longest-running cartoon show ever. Now that we've all become accustomed to hearing the various voices related to certain faces, it seems odd to see them coming from real live people. Here are a few of my favorite clips:

Another one that I wanted to show, but embedding is disabled:

Genius, pure and simple.


Ècorchè - More muscle groups... Again

He's looking beefier every time I see him...

Pose Test Results

Last week I had to submit a pose test for my animation class, which you can see below. We were trying to show a motion of a character pulling and being pulled. I had this great idea involving a snowman and proceeded to create a pose test, working out roughly the timing of each key pose in the short animation. After I was fairly satisfied, I began the in-betweening process. That involves creating all of the drawings between the key poses, thus creating the whole animation.

I had approximated the number of drawings I would need on a timing sheet, so I had a good reference of how long each would take. I wanted to test the main motion before I did anything secondary, so I left the ropes for the last bit. After I completed the first batch, I wound up with the following test:


Something didn't seem right as I kept watching it over and over again. I finally figured out that when the snowman is tugging on the rope, he is a little bit too "rubber hose" in his motion. It is a common mistake to make for new animators, so I decided that those drawings needed to be redone so that they conveyed a bit more of a dynamic sensation:


It certainly was more dynamic, but something still seemed off. The snowman's bottom portion still didn't fit with the rest of his motions. I decided that he needed to show a bit more deformation to show the tension in his pulling action:


That seemed to do the trick! I then animated the remaining ropes, composited them in After Effects, and then even put a little snow in there for visual garnish.

I don't know what my professor will think of it, though. I know that there are areas for improvement on it, but it is a good start. The hard part about hand-drawn animation is that edits are not easy to make. That is one reason why I want to do 3D on the computer. Your workflow is much easier in seeing the final results. That will come in about a month or so, which I am looking forward to. In the mean time, I've gotta keep my pencils sharp!


FA600: More Complex Contour

One of these days I will be able to flawlessly draw nude women, a skill which I am sure will serve me well countless times in the future...


... however, that day is not today.

Still not liking charcoal, but enduring it anyway.

Pose Test: Once there was a snowman...

Once there was a snowman. At least that's how this story starts.

This week is sort of a work-in-progress update, considering that I had two weeks to complete this short animation. We have been talking in class about overlapping and secondary action, animation lingo for 'things either pull or they get pulled.' It's just another subtle tactic that animators use to make more realistic and entertaining action.

We were told to keep it simple (if we wanted) and could use a stick figure or snowman for this exercise. (That's where my brain started turning its gears.) Since the whole purpose of this class is to get realistic motion, not drawing, if we were inhibited by our drawing abilities, we wouldn't have to go into crazy details. Well, I'm crazy and the number of gags that you can accomplish with a snowman are seemingly endless at this point. (At a later time, I'll share my insights into a new story about Frosty the Snowman that I dreamed up while attending an institute class.)

The exercise was to show a character pulling on a rope and then being pulled by a rope that is attached to them. Oh, and it had to be around 8 seconds long. I had a couple ideas floating in my head and needed to see how they worked out, both visually and timing wise. I turned on my webcam and started taking some video of my ideas:


Once I decided on the proper way to go that seemed to work out in the time frame, I roughed out the timing and started keeping track on an exposure sheet that I just made up in Numbers (Apple's dumbed-down version of Excel for you Windows folks out there). Once I got the timing down, I needed to determine the 'key' drawings. Key drawings are essentially the poses that tell the story of your animation. I wanted to work a bit quickly to rough out the timing, so I drew the poses on the computer using Adobe Illustrator, exported them as JPEGs, and imported them into Adobe Premiere to sort out their timing and see if I was correct. I also drew in the motion arcs, so I could print it out on Vellum and would have a guide and template for when I was animating:

The results of the initial timing test:


I was fairly pleased with the results, so I shifted a few things with the timing, drew the key poses, shot them with the camera, and then put them into a timed sequence:


From what I've calculated on my exposure sheet, I've got roughly 80 drawings to get done to get this thing finished. Considering how much detail I decided to put on my snowman, I think I'd better get started. What a better way to spend conference weekend than by animating, eh? I remember a few years ago, I spent three conference sessions animating lightsabers... must be a tradition of mine.