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Post by Bones3D » Thu Jan 11, 2007 11:08 pm

The DVD I ordered a few days ago just arrived. I haven't watched it yet, but it looks like DVD itself is based primarily around ArtFX himself and his work. Should be interesting...

In the meanwhile, it seems I'm actually already familiar with some of his work, but had forgotten about it until now. His "Total Chaos" stuff appeared briefly on the Nicktoons Network Animation Festival (either in 2004 or 2005, I forget which year...).

(I've been meaning to enter the festival for some time myself, but the entry deadline seems to sneak up on you faster than you'd expect.)

Anyway, I'll post something about the DVD later once I have a chance to watch it.
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Post by artfx » Sat Jan 13, 2007 9:09 am

I'd definitely like to hear your thoughts on the DVD. Perhaps you could give me some insights on how to better prepare future instructional titles.

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Post by Bones3D » Sun Jan 14, 2007 3:46 am

Absolutely, ArtFX! :D

In the meanwhile, a thought that occurred to me, was the possibility of archiving all of the AnimeGen podcast content for later release in DVD form... but with added extra features.

One of the big problems I've noticed with a lot of these "how to draw..." instructional guides/videos/etc... is that they all seem to constantly focus on how to achieve a certain look using "proper", yet convoluted methods that often take several hours of time just to achieve a single picture. Very few of them ever go into how the professionals in the industry manage to do it efficiently.

If animators took 3-4 hours per frame at 30fps of animation, it'd take several years of time just to complete even a small series. In reality though, there are certain liberties and shortcuts that many animators and manga artists can take that allow them to produce complex-looking designs while still meeting the cut-throat deadlines the industry demands.

Yet, not one of these instructional aids I've seen out there actually covers this. About the closest thing I've seen that does delve into this topic is the semi-satirical Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga guide. (Worth reading, but does contains adult/sexual content.)

What I would personally propose is a look at just how professionals manage to produce all of the amazing stuff we see without it taking decades going from concept to market in the process. If not anything else, it might make animation far less intimidating to experiment with for even the most inexperienced of us. Going by the book alone, people who are new to this stuff are going to freak out at the idea that it may take 90-120+ hours to produce one second of convincing footage.
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Post by Brent Lowrie » Sun Jan 14, 2007 5:37 am

If you don't mind artfx, I'd like to field this one...

Hi Bones3D,

When I was at the Vancouver Film School taking classical animation we had a life drawing class every day of the week except Sunday (Saturdays were optional). During the entire 11 months of the program, we seldom spent more than 10 minutes on a single pose. No long studies... no shading... just hour after hour of 10 second, 30 second and one minute gesture drawings. Speed, speed, speed is what it was all about. The focus was training us to capture a pose strong in line-of-action in as little time as possible.

Some of the best animators I knew at Disney in Vancouver were also some of the fastest as they tried everything humanly possible to draw at 24 frames per second (that and we had killer quotas but that's another story). Look at Glen Keane's ruffs and you get the immediate impression the individual drawings were done in seconds. We were taught to burn through the paper in search of the best poses. It was up to the assistant animators or clean-up artists to make pretty pictures. The animators job was just to act. One of the consistently best animators in that studio was also one of the sloppiest draftsmen I've ever seen and it was hell to put her drawings "on-model".

I guess what I'm saying is that the amount of work that goes into animation is all relative. What is the end result supposed to look like? Personaly I would rather just do ruff key animation. It's way more fun than clean-up but someone has to do it. Applications like Anime Studio Pro give us the tools to take shortcuts whereby we animate the cleaned up drawings rather than the other way around.

I'm not sure where you read or heard that a single frame would take 3-4 hours. Perhaps that includes the character creation and set-up in AS. A single frame of single character animation shouldn't take more than ten minutes ruff to clean if it were started from scratch and a few minutes if it were a rigged character.

Again, it's all relative. How much detail is in the drawing? (not much I hope)

I am going to be starting about 45 seconds of animation for a music video on January 22 and with the artist's blessing I will be posting a mini production diary in these forums, fleshing out the step-by-step after delivery. This will be my first big project with Anime Studio so I hope it doesn't crash and burn. I am supposed to be delivering the full 45 seconds of post-ready animation in two weeks... from design to storyboard (thumbnails more like under the time constraints) to BG paint, animation and FX.

Hopefully I can shed some light on one artist's methods. Cheers
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Post by Bones3D » Sun Jan 14, 2007 8:46 am

Brent Lowrie wrote:If you don't mind artfx, I'd like to field this one...

Hi Bones3D,

When I was at the Vancouver Film School taking classical animation we had a life drawing class every day of the week except Sunday (Saturdays were optional). During the entire 11 months of the program, we seldom spent more than 10 minutes on a single pose. No long studies... no shading... just hour after hour of 10 second, 30 second and one minute gesture drawings. Speed, speed, speed is what it was all about. The focus was training us to capture a pose strong in line-of-action in as little time as possible.

Some of the best animators I knew at Disney in Vancouver were also some of the fastest as they tried everything humanly possible to draw at 24 frames per second (that and we had killer quotas but that's another story). Look at Glen Keane's ruffs and you get the immediate impression the individual drawings were done in seconds. We were taught to burn through the paper in search of the best poses. It was up to the assistant animators or clean-up artists to make pretty pictures. The animators job was just to act. One of the consistently best animators in that studio was also one of the sloppiest draftsmen I've ever seen and it was hell to put her drawings "on-model".

I guess what I'm saying is that the amount of work that goes into animation is all relative. What is the end result supposed to look like? Personaly I would rather just do ruff key animation. It's way more fun than clean-up but someone has to do it. Applications like Anime Studio Pro give us the tools to take shortcuts whereby we animate the cleaned up drawings rather than the other way around.

I'm not sure where you read or heard that a single frame would take 3-4 hours. Perhaps that includes the character creation and set-up in AS. A single frame of single character animation shouldn't take more than ten minutes ruff to clean if it were started from scratch and a few minutes if it were a rigged character.

Again, it's all relative. How much detail is in the drawing? (not much I hope)

I am going to be starting about 45 seconds of animation for a music video on January 22 and with the artist's blessing I will be posting a mini production diary in these forums, fleshing out the step-by-step after delivery. This will be my first big project with Anime Studio so I hope it doesn't crash and burn. I am supposed to be delivering the full 45 seconds of post-ready animation in two weeks... from design to storyboard (thumbnails more like under the time constraints) to BG paint, animation and FX.

Hopefully I can shed some light on one artist's methods. Cheers
Should be interesting to see. :wink:

Anyway, the figure of "3-4 hours per frame" stuff comes from numerous books I've read through the years about how to draw in certain styles. Almost every one of them follow the same exact formulaic method for drawing... rough shape everything, then refine the image dozens of times recursively until it looks right. Then it's followed by a completed character drawing with the author stating it took them some random number of hours... and even that doesn't account for other items, such as coloring, shading or even a backdrop.

When someone see something like that over and over again, it could easily intimidate them from even considering animation when they start adding up the numbers. (hours/frame)

Personally, I'm no stranger to animation ever since I first started studying it back in the early 90's, but I've been in numerous situations where I've had to try explaining certain aspects of what animation involves in layman's terms. Simply telling them to go check out a book, like The Animator's Survival Kit, just isn't enough to really make it so they can understand it, or follow it. They need to have some way they can interact with it using their own hands that won't discourage them from trying it out on their own.

Sure, understanding the basics is important, but that understanding needs to be applied in a way that isn't overbearing and boring to the person trying to learn this stuff.

What I'm suggesting, is to skip the basics entirely until they become necessary to understand. Then, simply give the user access to the tools of animation right off the bat... along with a short, interactive introduction to the tools themselves using an easy exercise, such as animating a bouncing ball. After that, you'd ease the user into performing slightly more complex tasks, such as introducing concepts like gravity and anticipation into the mix.

Eventually, the user will be ready for the basics, but will have retained the confidence they've gained from the earlier exercises they've already completed. Every step on the way becomes an accomplishment, rather than becoming just another failure from not living up to the examples shown to them from the start.

When someone hits enough brick walls along the way, it destroys their passion and eventually makes learning little more than an annoyance.
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Post by Brent Lowrie » Sun Jan 14, 2007 10:28 am

I'd recommend Preston Blair's "Cartoon Animation". It doesn't get any simpler than that.

The individual drawings that make up animation do not have to be fine art like "The Man Who Planted Trees" or "The Old Man and The Sea". Think Flintstones and your off to the races.

There is no shortcut though, other than having someone do it for you. There is no substitute for knowing the basics of animation, including anatomy and drawing/maintaining volumes. If you don't know the basics you can't problem solve and create something unique. You'll only be able to regurgitate what you have been shown.

Best of luck and I now return this thread to it's previous topic already in progress.
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Post by Bones3D » Mon Jan 15, 2007 12:07 am

Brent Lowrie wrote:There is no shortcut though, other than having someone do it for you. There is no substitute for knowing the basics of animation, including anatomy and drawing/maintaining volumes. If you don't know the basics you can't problem solve and create something unique. You'll only be able to regurgitate what you have been shown.
Actually, it's quite the opposite. Without rigid limitations being introduced into your training early on, you aren't confining yourself to only thinking within the box. As a result, problem solving and creativity become second nature out of necessity.

It's only when one finally locks themselves down to using only a certain set of techniques that their work starts to become tired, indifferent and uninspired.

Sure, there may not be any "shortcuts" in the conventional sense, however, there may be several "shortcuts" available to those who are able to think unconventionally.

For example, consider all of the elements involved in creating a "proper" walk cycle for a character. You have to take into account all sorts of factors to make a walk cycle look right, such as knowing the span of a character's stride or the distance from a character's ankle to their toes on each foot.

While you could manually generate the first couple steps using IK and simply duplicate the resulting keyframes, while trying to eyeball the approximate distance being traversed, someone who thinks unconventionally might link each joint on their character's IK chain to a plug-in that simulated complex gear sets to accurately automate all aspects of the walk cycle, including distance calculations. In addition, because the walk cycle is automated, the user could simply swap out a few key numeric values to create all sorts of walk cycle variations in a matter of seconds, where more conventional methods would require manually re-working the cycle and re-replicating the resulting keyframes.

Anyway, my point is, there's always a time and place for strict and rigid rule-based thought, but it can hinder creative thinking if it's introduced too early during the learning process. The longer one ties themselves down to a single method for accomplishing certain tasks, the less likely they'll be able to adapt to new, more efficient methods later on.
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Post by Bones3D » Tue Jan 16, 2007 12:45 pm

Well, I finally got around to watching the Anime: Concept to Reality DVD. Overall, it's definitely worth a look, but keep in mind that much of the content regarding how ArtFX created the animation elements in both Understanding Chaos and Shadow Skin is centered almost exclusively in 3D. Outside of the animated content, there is a good deal of information on how he did the majority of the soundtracks, voices and overall planning that would still be relevent to items like moho/AS. In any case though, he definitely deserves whatever bragging rights he holds on his creations to date.

On a personal level, I'm glad I picked up the DVD, simply because it resolved numerous issues I've been trying to work around on trying to achieve both an anime-styled look in 3D, while still retaining the "human factor" within the animation flow itself.

In the meanwhile, I am curious as to how far back ArtFX's formal training in animation and multimedia goes, as well as what ultimately got him interested enough in anime to pursue the goal of becoming a one-man anime studio capable of producing near-commercial quality animation right out of the home. The reason I bring this up is that his background bears an almost uncanny similarity to my own, barring a few key differences along the way...

First off, while my formal training in animation and multimedia didn't begin until 1995, I was originally introduced to 3D animation as far back 1992, when the high school I was attending at the time purchased a software package called Infini-D. After having a few months to play around with it, I finally got of my first modern computer since the Apple II and bought a copy of Infini-D to run at home.

About a year and a half later, I had gotten to know the software to the point that the school itself regarded me as their foremost expert on it. Eventually, they offered me an opportunity to actually teach a class on 3D animation. It was the first time I had ever taught another person how to do anything, let alone my own classmates. Little did I realize just how much of a role this would eventually play in my life later on...

Moving ahead to my senior year, I had gotten word that a new college specializing in 3D animation was opening a few hours away from my home, and was accepting applications for enrollment. However, it would require extensive funding from the government to cover the costs, due to my disabilities. In order to obtain this funding, I had to prove the money would not be wasted, and do so in a span of only a few weeks. Luckily, the teaching job I accepted earlier from the school ultimately became the deciding factor, and eventually secured the funding, as well as my acceptance into the school itself.

Between the ending weeks of high school and the beginning of my college years, I had the usual foolish hopes of eventually doing 3D animation work for top class companies like Pixar. That would soon change during the first few weeks of college, as I quickly learned first-hand just how cut-throat the industry can be at that level. However, despite that somewhat humbling experience, I drudged through the next several months and eventually got to know a man by the name of Stan Bissenger (a head of the SIGGRAPH midwest chapter at the time), who I later learned actually had ties to people at Pixar as high up as John Lassiter and Pete Docter (whom I eventually had the honor of meeting shortly after Toy Story came out in theaters).

Following the one-time meeting with Pixar's best and brightest staff members (and having the chance to pick their minds), I pretty much came to terms that the whole "Pixar" thing would probably never happen in my lifetime and moved on to the next best thing... setting up an animation studio of my own. However, several obstacles over the next few years would ultimately prevent this goal... right up to today.

Shortly after receiving my associates degree in '97, I returned home and almost immediately developed a very serious form of sleep apnea that almost killed me. By the time I was treated for it, I had a blood/oxygen level lower than that of a cadaver and lost a good deal of my mental capabilities for some time to follow. Things later took a turn for the worse a few months later, when a head-on collision with a drunk driver left me with an undiscovered broken neck that slowly started to paralyze me from the neck-down. While the neck was eventually repaired, the damage caused by it rendered 3/4ths of my body unusable, with the exception of my right hand. Needless to say, the whole animation studio idea was now the furthest thing from my mind.

During the time spent recovering from all that, I began to shift my focus away from creating animation to observing the animation industry itself and tracking the popular trends within it. (Which I still do today.) However, I wasn't formally introduced anime until Cartoon Network launched it's "Toonami" programming block, which carried items like Sailor Moon, Robotech, Thundercats and Dragonball Z in its line-up. From there, I became curious about other titles, eventually raiding a local video store that was going out of business of every anime tape they had in stock... a little over 200 titles across a wide range of genres. Before long, the tapes were traded out for DVDs... the dvds were soon accompanied by their graphic novel counterparts... and so on...

Having accepted my new vice, I began thinking of my previously abandoned dream of starting my own animation studio. Soon afterward, I had new hardware, up-to-date 3D software, Flash, Photoshop and a few other goodies stocked up. The only thing left to do was hands-on research. And with that, I began stocking up on numerous books, such as the various "How To Draw..." titles, books related to modeling the human form in 3D using modern methods and titles on how to create traditional 2D animation, like the all-important "Animator's Survival Kit".

Between all the equipment, software and books, I soon began to realize the speed benefits of 3D animation over traditional 2D animation, while acknowledging the flexibility benefits of 2D animation over 3D animation. Eventually, I decided my best chances were to try merging the two methods together. And, I've been at it ever since.

When it comes to trying to create convincing 3D cel-shaded anime-style characters, most of my ideas seem to be sound. (As ArtFX's own work shows.) However, my methods have been way off the mark for what I've been trying to accomplish.

In the meanwhile, I've been using Moho/AS to gain a better understanding of traditional 2D animation methods and, eventually, figure out the few missing pieces of the puzzle needed to make the 3D cel-shading approach a much more viable option to work with.

At any rate, now that I've finally found proof that one person alone can efficiently and effectively create convincing, almost-commercial quality anime right out of their home, it has definitely encouraged me to continue working on this stuff. I may never reach ArtFX's level of success in my lifetime, but at least I now know it's realistically possible to achieve it.

If that isn't inspiring, I don't know what else is! :D
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Post by artfx » Tue Jan 16, 2007 10:43 pm

Thanks for the review. I am glad the DVD could play some role in inspiring you and helping you work out a few things towards your anime style.

I am primarily self taught or "learned by doing" working at different studios with a lot of great artist. What got me interested in anime was a show called Robotech that I saw as a kid. That solidified for me what I wanted to do with my future.

I agree with your other post about learning the "basics" or learning the traditional way. I learned all these things later in life and it definitely helped me improve and become a better draftsman and animator, but i think if I learned them first, rather work from within trying to solve a problem of "making my own anime", I would have trainded myself out of being able to do such a one-man project.

In the late 1980's I got an Amiga computer, a graphics powerhouse of its time. Not being slave to any formal or traditional method of creating, I approached my problem in total freedom, "How can I make my own anime with this thing?" If I felt it necessary to do pencils on paper, scan, clean up or in any way follow the traditional film process, it would have taken me years to create any length of animation. Luckily, the thought never occured to me. I had worked with cels, water color on poster board and film, but I saw the computer as a totally new and different thing with no relation to what I did previously or how I did it. This allowed me to get programs like Dpaint, TVPaint or Brilliance on the Amiga and "just make stuff" their way, not trying to force it to be something else.

That thought process continued into Understanhding Chaos and continues to today. This may be why I love the drawing tools in AS. I can't look at it as, or in relation to, something from my past or measure it on what tools I used before. It, and vector in general, is totally new to me and as such, with excitement I ask, "How can I make my anime with this thing?"
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Post by heyvern » Tue Jan 16, 2007 11:13 pm

Hee hee...

My first computer animations were black and white aliased line drawings done with Hyper Card on a lowly 25mhz mac.

Ahhh.... memories... hypertalk... my first programming language.

;)

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Post by Bones3D » Fri Jan 19, 2007 12:07 pm

artfx wrote:Thanks for the review. I am glad the DVD could play some role in inspiring you and helping you work out a few things towards your anime style.

I am primarily self taught or "learned by doing" working at different studios with a lot of great artist. What got me interested in anime was a show called Robotech that I saw as a kid. That solidified for me what I wanted to do with my future.

I agree with your other post about learning the "basics" or learning the traditional way. I learned all these things later in life and it definitely helped me improve and become a better draftsman and animator, but i think if I learned them first, rather work from within trying to solve a problem of "making my own anime", I would have trainded myself out of being able to do such a one-man project.

In the late 1980's I got an Amiga computer, a graphics powerhouse of its time. Not being slave to any formal or traditional method of creating, I approached my problem in total freedom, "How can I make my own anime with this thing?" If I felt it necessary to do pencils on paper, scan, clean up or in any way follow the traditional film process, it would have taken me years to create any length of animation. Luckily, the thought never occured to me. I had worked with cels, water color on poster board and film, but I saw the computer as a totally new and different thing with no relation to what I did previously or how I did it. This allowed me to get programs like Dpaint, TVPaint or Brilliance on the Amiga and "just make stuff" their way, not trying to force it to be something else.

That thought process continued into Understanhding Chaos and continues to today. This may be why I love the drawing tools in AS. I can't look at it as, or in relation to, something from my past or measure it on what tools I used before. It, and vector in general, is totally new to me and as such, with excitement I ask, "How can I make my anime with this thing?"
Wow, the similarities between us are getting almost too disturbing...

Oddly enough, Robotech (or more specifically, the "Macross" saga) was probably the biggest factor that finally got me hooked on anime more than anything. There was just something about watching nearly 3 million Zentradi ships annihilating all life earth in a single, simultaneous barrage of hellfire from space, while a pop idol / drama queen is busy contemplating whether she should use her singing skills to save the rest of humanity as she watches the destruction unfold.

Speaking of the Amiga, I did have a brief chance to use one that was equiped with a Video Toaster during my high school years. Spent about two months figuring out the video editing features on it, but never got much further than that. I poked at lightwave on it for a couple days, but it was pretty much beyond me at the time. The one really fun thing I remember about it though, is that the video toaster stuff came on something like 300+ 3.5" floppy disks, and if even one went bad, you were screwed. Needless to say, I got to experience a reinstall first-hand... very hard on the wrists after the first 50 or so disks.

In the meanwhile, have you had a chance to try out Blender lately? It seems like it actually works pretty well as a 3D cel-shader now. Here's a sample rendering:

Image

For anyone who wants to check it out, here's the project file for the above image.

Finally, that whole issue of "training one's self out of doing something" is definitely way too underrated by most people. It's an all-too-common problem that once you've learn something to the point of knowing its limitations, you end up forcing yourself to stay within the boundaries of those limitations. I first noticed the issue back when I taught that 3D animation course in high school. While I knew the software almost completely, the students had absolutely no experience with it whatsoever. However, several of these students actually came up with some interesting animations using abstract concepts even I hadn't thought of... armed only with the knowledge they had gained through experimenting with a simple bouncing ball. The only thing they really needed to know was how to move the ball and change its shape over time... they worked out the rest on their own like kids with a box full of legos in front of them.
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Post by Bones3D » Fri Jan 19, 2007 12:24 pm

heyvern wrote:Hee hee...

My first computer animations were black and white aliased line drawings done with Hyper Card on a lowly 25mhz mac.

Ahhh.... memories... hypertalk... my first programming language.

;)

-vern
Gah... Hypercard! That's a name I haven't seen in a looong time. I actually used it once to create a full-length reproduction of the Super Mario Bros. 3 curtain intro... completely with the original Super Mario Bros. game music playing in the background, entirely hardcoded note-by-note with Hypertalk.

And don't even get me started on what one could do with a few XCMDs and a copy of ResEdit along for the ride! :P
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Post by heyvern » Fri Jan 19, 2007 1:05 pm

Not many people knew it at the time but the first block buster CD Rom game "Myst" was done in Hypercard.

I opened it with resedit and found all the Hypercard resources. ;)

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Post by artfx » Wed Mar 28, 2007 1:38 am

Bones3D wrote:
artfx wrote: In the meanwhile, have you had a chance to try out Blender lately? It seems like it actually works pretty well as a 3D cel-shader now. Here's a sample rendering:

Image

For anyone who wants to check it out, here's the project file for the above image.
I still haven't had the chance to truly delve into Blender as I might desire. I am quite infatuated with Poser of late. Also, with Vue 6 Infinite having recently come out, there truly just isn't enough time to do everything.

I shot a complete Anime Studio tutorial video, which I thought about putting on DVD, (you may remember a teaser for it here) But I haven't had time to capute all the footage to tag and then edit. Now I am also getting interested in iClone as I see Machinima becoming very powerful in the near future.

Where does it END???!!!
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Post by Bones3D » Wed Mar 28, 2007 5:41 am

ArtFX,

There's a new Blender book that just came out a couple weeks ago that's current up to the v2.42 release, you might find interesting:

- Introducing Character Animation with Blender by Tony Mullen

The book is, by far, the best printed reference for most of Blender's tools, ranging from the panels/settings/options, to modeling, to texturing/UV mapping, to rigging, to animation and finally to rendering and mixing the video clips with Blender's internal video editor. It's definitely worth a look, at any rate.
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