Link: A huge searchable database of reference videos for animation!

Just a quick post today, but I wanted to share this one with you all:

ReferenceReference.com

It’s an excellent searchable (by tag or category) database of videos with actors performing various actions, often with multiple camera angles. When one is creating animation, it is invaluable to film yourself performing the action for the shot, as it grounds you in what is possible & natural. When you have a solid base like that, it becomes much more legitimate when you push & exaggerate the motion, as opposed to just free-forming it without any prior planning & research.

But often the shot/sequence calls for a movement that isn’t possible (we animators may be a crazy bunch, but we’re not all stunt performers!) for you to film yourself doing. Or you might be constrained for time or shyness! I have gotten used to the looks of incredulity when I’m demonstrating some in-game animation! Well ReferenceReference.com comes in as a great alternative.

I still recommend finding some empty meeting room, back alley, closet, roof top, forgotten hallway, and doing the performance yourself, as the memory of how it felt definitely adds to your decision-making for your work.

Link: 5 Myths about Concept Art

Another great information-dump, this time about the process behind concept art for video games, animation, movies, you name it. To be precise, what the job actually entails, and to dispel the misconceptions/myths surrounding this somewhat over-glamorized field.

“The 5 bullshit myths of concept art” by Suzanne Helmigh

So many aspiring students and hopefuls have come up to me and my peers, asking how to break into the video game industry as a concept artist. The shining hope in their eyes makes breaking the truth all the more harder, as only the truly demented would enjoy dropping the heavy dose of reality onto them. Let me be clear: It is totally great to have a goal to become a concept artist for your dream studio… BUT, and this is a big “but” here, this is a very competitive position with few openings. A typical medium-sized company will make use of a few concept artists, and that will meet the needs of a number of on-going projects. There will be proportionally far more art positions as an environment artist, character artist, props, VFX, UI, and so on. Being a concept artist does not mean you can sit there and come up with your own ideas all day long. 99% of the time, the project is tasking you to lay down the look & design of specific things. As you’ll see in the link above, “things” can be as ‘dull’ as different varieties of door knobs. Someone has to define what the 3D artists are going to create! Every single thing you see in an animated movie or video game has had some design and thought put into it. Including all those “boring” mundane objects cluttering the corners of the environments.

Also, breaking into the industry and starting as a concept artist right out of school is practically mythical. I’ve known a couple truly stellar artists that were already amazing artists before they entered art school that were able to secure positions as concept artists. For every other concept artist I’ve known, they all started from other areas of the industry. Modellers, VFX and UI, animators even, they all kept cranking on that art and seized any opportunity that arose to prove they can be successful as a concept artist.

This comes across as trying to discourage aspiring artists, and I’m sorry for that – what I am trying to say is that it is a very difficult thing to achieve, and you have to be prepared to be rejected often, and never ever stop creating art. Never stop looking at other art, reference, photos, seeing art shows & museums, never stop exposing yourself to new ideas and new material.

You can make it! Be prepared to work your butt off for it, and do not turn your nose up at working in a more broader field like 3D modelling! The skills you develop in different fields will give you greater legitimacy to your concept art!

Link: Flooby Nooby’s The Cinematography of Pixar’s The Incredibles

Pixar’s The Incredibles is one of my favorite animated movies, and this post is an extremely straight-forward and valuable breakdown of the cinematography involved. From live-action to animated to comics, the composition of each image (be it moving or static) is essential to know for every visual medium.
Yes, rules are made to be broken, but you can’t break a rule effectively if you have no idea what the rules are in the first place. Also, breaking a rule is only effective if it actually has an impact, which best arises as contrast to the other UNBROKEN rules. If all the rules are broken, then it’s just a directionless mess.

Flooby Nooby’s “The Cinematography of Pixar’s The Incredibles

(Click the image below)
Color script to The Incredibles

Link: The 25 Fastest Ways to Fail at Animation

For both my benefit, and yours, I must share this excellent post about the animation process.

Thumbnails of Animation

The 25 Fastest Ways to Fail at Animation
Article by J.K. Riki.

Many of the points touch on how the animation process cannot be forced into greatness; you have to follow discrete steps, including PLANNING, before you can truly tackle the task before you. Overcomplicating your shot with fancy tricks/techniques is a sure-fire way to lose sight of what you’re aiming to achieve with your animation. It’s ludicrous how often K.I.S.S. shows up in the creative fields, but it always bears repeating, as it’s still ridiculously easy to lose sight of it: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Storyboarding even the most ‘basic’ of shots is always worthwhile. Who cares if the ‘storyboard’ only takes 20 minutes to create – it becomes the foundation of what you plan to do with the given shot. Don’t worry if your storyboards are barely more than stick figures in 1-inch doodle boxes. You’ll be ahead of most of the competition already.

Happy Animating!

Link: Art Directing the Effects of InFAMOUS: Second Son

This is a really excellent in-depth look into what kind of challenges & processes there are when defining the look of a feature. In this case, it’s defining the language and the ‘rules’ of the visual effects marking out the different elemental powers in Sucker Punch’s inFAMOUS: Second Son.
It’s important to note that the developers were fortunate enough to be able to engineer the software to match their needs. Larger studios are often able to do this, and with great support from the programmers and clear goals like this art direction, you can really create some fantastic worlds. Smaller projects with licensed engines don’t have that much flexibility, but that just means the challenge is finding out how to get what you want with the existing toolset. That said, an engine that allows your own programmers to at least tweak & add new rules is the better kind.

Art Directing the Effects of inFAMOUS: Second Son

Concept FX art for inFAMOUS: Second Son

Sketch of how I look in a Montreal Winter

Long time, no updates. It’s been a busy stretch of time, and I’m still wrangling with settling in. It’s a different kind of cold here in Montreal, a different scale of chill; the “dry heat” effect applies to cold air VERY muchly so.
I find that I tolerate far colder temps here in Montreal than I would back home in Vancouver, BC, where the extra moisture does a great job of leeching the heat from your very bones.

I am making inroads to shaking off the rust from my painting, so I did this sketch-portrait. One bonus of the severe cold, is I can dress like this in public.

Big Update: Montreal!

Much overdue update from me, though now the dust has settled down (somewhat), I’ve got a bit of time (and motive) to break the news here.

After some great interviews and talks, I have taken on a new job as Senior Animator at Eidos Montreal! I can’t divulge the particulars of my current project, but it is very exciting, and it’ll be glorious when I can point at the end product and declare “I worked on THAT!

So for the foreseeable future, I’ve left my home-city of Vancouver, BC to live in Montreal, Quebec. It’s definitely a lovely old city, with tons of friendly people. It makes learning Francais a lot more forgiving, though I look forward to resuming lessons at the studio. That said, it was still sad to leave behind my friends and family, and it can get pretty lonely out here. Fortunately the atmosphere & my new coworkers make coming in to the office something I look forward to every morning.

View of Mont Royal

One of the views from my new apartment! Artfully composed to ignore a large concrete apartment tower across the street, of course.