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Animating A Fight

Down time. It’s what you get when you have a break between ads (isn’t that ironic?).

The by-product is you’re itching like a flea-ridden woolly jumper to do something that keeps you on your toes.

A little while ago when I had down time back in Brisbane and was hunting around with my itchy jumper on, I came across this series of videos from Animation Mentor called “Anatomy of a Fight”. I watched them all and found they were fascinating body mechanics to study.

I’ve loved UFC for a while now and always admired how they can create so much force with a strike. If it weren’t for the fact that I need my money makers (my hands), I would actually take up MMA as a hobby. But never fear! As an animator, we have a tool called the computer that will let you try out your hobbies risk free!

Well, RSI and obesity caused by a sedentary lifestyle aside, practically risk free. So why not save my hands in the short term and just punch something digitally?

SKETCHES

Per usual, I started my study with thumbnail sketches of fighters in action.

sketches_fighting

I was pretty happy with them. Fighters can be as graceful as dancers I found.

STRIKE

I decided to start with a punch or strike first as a test.

I found an elbow strike that I really liked from this video. I chose it because the camera was fairly still, the movement was quick and it looked like the striker wasn’t holding back too much in delivering force:

strike_post

Source: Youtube.

Using the lessons I’d learnt from the videos, I tried to convey the power in the reference while animating. I used the gorilla rig at work from the Vellfire ads to animate my strike along with the reference.

playblast_strike_plate

As you can see the animation follows the timing of the video but exaggerates the poses on some of the extremes for more impact. Like a lot of realistic animation, if you don’t wind up the poses and just follow the reference exactly, the animation feels quite vanilla.

You can see above that most of the exaggeration involved twisting the torso more and changing the angle of the shoulders.

And here’s how it looks from the front with my grease pencil notes.

playblast_strike_notes

I couldn’t see the feet so I assumed there could be a step for a weight change and made sure to capture the snap in the hips.

I never realised how important your core is for driving the slingshot movement of a hit until I watched that series of videos I mentioned earlier. Dr. Stuart Sumida said (basically) for punches:

Your arm isn’t actually where you get the most power. If you just used your arm to punch, you’d look like one of those kangaroo pens with boxing gloves. *Which are awesome in their own right. Hours of entertainment on a writing utensil? Yes please*. Nor is your shoulder the actual base of the power.

It all starts at the root of the chain. So if you can whip the root of the chain around first, your secondary links (your core, your shoulder, your fist) will also follow through like a whip, delivering more force for you to whip it good. *Dun na na na nah! Dum, pshh, dum, pshh.*

KICK

Then after that test I started thinking about kicks.

A great reference for kicks (or any fight sequence for that matter) can be found in the movies of the legendary Jackie Chan. This video not only explains how he achieves such perfect action-comedy fight sequences physically, but how he films them as well:

I decided to focus on finding a kick of Jackie’s that I like with an extra gorilla in there for the sake of showing impact and found this one:

wb_post_kick

Source: Youtube.

I liked it because it has the little hop before the kick where his screen left leg scrunches up and then POW! snaps out.’

Using this video reference I planned it out with thumbnails.

sketches_sidekick

Then I used the video ref to create help with the timing of the stepped blocking and came up with this:

wb_playblast_blockingkick

With a bit of re-timing and polish, I finished with this:

wb_playblast_kickpolish

Not perfect (even now I can see potential tweaks) but it was an exercise so I’ll forgive it.

Luckily my lead animator Chris was on hand to give me tips on the timing and how to make the impact of the screen-left gorilla hitting the wall jolt more realistically. Really throwing the head back and then jolting it forward two frames later makes the impact feel more intense. I did a bit of that on the legs too, making them have some rebounding action off the floor.

With the screen-right (SR) gorilla, it was hard to not make him feel too snappy when he extends that leg for the kick. I had to slow down the SR arm by a frame or two so that the spacing wasn’t too far and the arm didn’t whip back and forth like Willow Smith’s hair.

What Dr Sumida (roughly) said about kicks is also true:

wp_hiptorque

Guess when it comes to finding power in fighting you could TORQUE about hips all day huh? AHHHHHHH *badum tsshhh*.

SEQUENCE

I ended my experiments with fighting there but if I could keep going in my spare time, I would aim to do something like this:

https://gfycat.com/ifr/EverlastingLinearAtlanticsharpnosepuffer

This is one of Steve Weebly’s animated loops (you should totally check out his website for more).

They’ve been travelling around the internet so you may have seen this already but all of his animated loops are AWESOME.

I liked the choreography of the fights so much that I actually sent him an email to ask him how he does it.

To paraphrase his answer, he talked about scribbling down all the ideas he would like to see come to life in the sequence, selecting the ones that work best. Then once you pick the first move, it’s just a matter of figuring out how many of those actions you can fit in so that it finishes somewhat similarly to the first move. After that, animate away!

The whole method sounds like figuring out the steps to a dance (which could be a little complicated for Miss Naturally Clumsy of the Year over here). Yet the idea of trying out a whole sequence one day sounds really fun.

Hopefully someone else reading this might decide to try it too!

Happy animating!

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2016 Reel September

This updated 2016 reel has more of my work from my time at Alt.vfx. It showcases my hand-keyed animation as well as cleaned motion-capture and facial-capture data.

My co-workers at Alt were very supportive of my future endeavours and secretly updated my reel for me as a departing gift.

Here you can see my demo reel breakdown:

drb_stephanietomoana

That’s My Purple Hair in the Newspaper!

An article was published this week in the Courier Mail about how the Pepsi Momotaro ads in Japan (recently starring Jude Law) have helped Alt.vfx to increase our clientele.

They pulled up a few of us artists to pose for a photo with Oni figurine that features in all the ads.

That’s right, one of Alt’s creatures is a figurine sold by Pepsi.

And they needed someone holding white to hold the Oni so yeah that’s me!

wp_post_newspaper

The article can be found here (with a subscription and sometimes you can view it on Google Chrome):

http://www.couriermail.com.au/business/altvfx-has-won-big-deals-and-new-clients-after-momotaro-commercial-in-japan/news-story/870d7836216338b3803f7f37af90218

And the fourth episode of the ad they’re referring to can be found here:

Pepsi Strong – Momotaro Episode 4 from altvfx on Vimeo.

I did some very basic tweaks to the Oni and the animated bottle at the end (best bottle turn ever) so full credit goes to the rest of our amazing artists who worked on it.

Great work team!

Plane and Simple

Steel yourself for 2 seconds of AWESOME PAPER AIRPLANE. It’s going to change your life and hopefully mine when everyone realises all my animation skills are wrapped up in those precious few frames.Praise will flock in from every corner of the globe and I will ride on the back of this paper vessel into the future of awesome.

Ok, ok, so it’s just one simple arc of it travelling between 2 floating houses, but you know what? I’m still pretty proud to be apart of the team that helped pull the whole thing together. I can’t claim a lot to do with getting to the finished product (that credit goes to the rest of the amazeballs people I work with) but I can say I helped out with some layout, basic animation of the house and the little origami wonder that probably contains some message about how awesome ‘Game of Thrones’ is. I mean, what else WOULD it say?

The amazing VFX (and that paper airplane) can be viewed here in the new spot for Optus promoting Unlimited Broadband:

And in addition, the glowing reviews we received can be found HERE!

Source: Photobucket.

Source: Photobucket.

Yes it is cat. Yes it is.

fxguide Loved Our Work!

Two great pieces of news:

  1. It’s official. I’M IN THE BIZ!
  2. fxguide included one of the ads I worked on in a “Jaw-dropping effects” article.

Pretty much, if you wanted to translate the amazing feeling I’ve had into a song, it would be this:

To start at the top, I’ve recently been on trial as an animator at alt.vfx (the studio where I started out as a production assistant in client service over a year and a half ago). I KNOW, CRAZY COOL RIGHT!?! You can actually work your way up from the bottom like a couple of mailroom monsters.

Like Mike and Sully in 'Monster's University'! Source: flickr

Like Mike and Sully in ‘Monster’s University’! Source: flickr

In that trial time, I worked as one of the animators of some CG birds for the Woolworths supermarket spots in Australia:

– and also this slick ad for Honda HRV:

Pretty cool right? With the birds, I just adjusted some recycled animation, but with the Honda ad, I was responsible for the car-forming shots and a bit of layout. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot but the car-forming shot meant I had to sort out every piece of geo on the car (and I mean EVERY nut, screw and bolt) and create multiple revisions on how the car should form.

Then of course our cray-mazing lighters, compositors and editors put it together to look realistic.

What’s really cool is that fxguide then reviewed that work in this article:

VFX in TVCs: Jaw-dropping (and truck-dropping) effects

– which also includes reviews for television commercials from the studio Framestore, MPC and Method Studios.

That’s right guys: alt.vfx is up there with the best of them.

The same day that article was published (2 days ago) I was then officially offered a full-time role as a junior animator. So now I work at one of the best studios in Australia. Could the day get any better!?

Oh and I had a low-carb burger for lunch and it still tasted as good as a real burger. CAREER AND HEALTH FOR THE WIN!

So watch this space for updates on the next round of ads! It’s some cool stuff and I’m excited to share it with you!