Lisbon!

We concluded our twelve day trip to Europe in Lisbon.  Most of the two full days were spent in Alfama, the older section of Lisbon.  It was fantastic, with it’s narrow, winding streets and ancient history.  At one point, we wandered through Roman ruins that they were just uncovering.  Amazing.

We also walked along the harbor a ways until we got to the LX Factory.  A little hipster village in the middle of the city.  We had one of the best meals of the trip there at 1300 Taberna.  We were then blown away by the size and scope of the Museum of Modern Art.  I was enthralled by the way the museum played out the timeline of modern art, from it’s roots to present day.

Great little trip.

 

Paris!

Paris is beautiful!  The light!  The blue haze over everything!  Wow.

Despite the cold we walked miles and miles every day to take in as much as we could.  Montmartre is amazing and so inspirational.  The highlight for me, of course, was seeing the Cafe des Deux Moulins, the restaurant where Amelie was filmed.  (We also stumbled on the now famous grocery store also featured in the film.)

Another highlight was seeing L’Atelier des Lumières, an immersive, projector-based experience in an old warehouse.  There were three shows, one featuring the work of Gustav Klimt.  It was fantastic!  We enjoyed sitting through each show twice and wandering around the space to see it from multiple perspectives.  It reinforced in me the desire to create my own immersive experiences in a large space such as this.

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Animating a Talking Mask

In my 15 months working for OtherSide Entertainment on Underworld Ascendant, I created whole animation sets for at least 10 different characters and creatures.  There were undead skeletons, lizard men, ghosts, even a massive slug.  All fun stuff.

However, one of the tasks I enjoyed the most was making a static mask move as though it was speaking.  I love bringing simple, inanimate objects to life.  Plus, this gave me a very focused way to practice and study head movement during dialog.  I found it fascinating.

With over 4 minutes of dialog to animate and a limited time frame, I knew I had to be pretty efficient.  I didn’t want to just jump in and make it move around as though it was speaking.  I wanted to try to get across some of the sub-text of what Cabirus was saying as well as how he was speaking.

For me, that process always starts with recording myself delivering the lines.  I shot multiple takes of each phrase and then cherry-picked what I thought was the best performance, often editing clips together.  Click on the image above to view reference with the finished animation.

When animating, I quickly settled on a very different approach to my usual ‘pose-to-pose’ method.  Moving straightforward through the reference, I would key one transform at a pass.  That means that I would start by just keying the head translation in Z – to and away from the camera.  Then, separately, I keyed Z rotation (side to side tilt), Y rotation (twisting) and X (nodding).

At this point, I would stop to do a quick, overall polish pass.  I would push any extremes and adjust timing to give the performance as much life as possible, without going over the top.  I would also focus on making sure the nose and chin were following nice arcs.  I would wait to adjust the overall timing to better match the dialog until the very end so I could more easily follow the reference.

Then, I would key the Y and X translations – up and down, side to side.  These translations really helped give life to the mask and make it seem like maybe it wasn’t so disembodied after all.  Finally, I would slide the keys around a bit so the movement better matched and accentuated the dialog, punch things up a bit more and remove any sort of hiccups in the movement.

I found that by keying each transform individually, the masked moved more like our own heads do when we talk.  Sure, the movement is all coming from a single point, but not every rotation hits extremes at the exact same time.  Things are offset a bit.  By focusing on each one individually, the offsets are built right in to the initial animation and I could move quickly through the set  while still creating a good performance.

A seemingly simple task, but an enjoyable one and a great exercise in head movement.  I can’t wait to apply this technique to a talking head that’s actually attached to something.

Cheers!

The Not Starving Artist Podcast

I had a lovely chat with Angie Noll of The Not Starving Artist Podcast.  She normally interviews traditional artists, but when she talked to my wife a few weeks ago, Jacquie mentioned me and Angie thought I’d make an interesting guest.  Hopefully, I don’t disappoint.

We discuss how I got started in the animation industry, how I manage to keep my career going as a freelance animator as well as what my new company, NuHalu, is doing with mixed reality and character animation.

Have a listen!

Hometown Visit

Yesterday, I made a quick, nostalgic trip to my hometown of Lewiston, Maine.  I had hoped to take plenty of photos of all the places that fill my memories, but didn’t manage to do that.  I think I was just enjoying the moment too much to make an art project out of it.  Anyway, here’s the best I could come up with.

 

Forward to the Past

I’m excited to let you know that my personal project, 1979, is now ready for production and up on Artella.com .  First, is the search for an illustrator to draw all of the characters in the music video.  Then it will be up to me to make the paper cutout puppets out of the drawings and then animate them.  It will be a completely different challenge for me, but this is an idea that’s been burning in me for a while, so I can’t wait to finally realize it.

You can follow the process here.