Skip to content

Competition Entry – Soccer Poses

Last month in honour of the FIFA World Cup, Animation Mentor held a competition challenging participants to submit their best football poses. I didn’t win some free lectures (dangit) but I thought I’d share my thumbnail sketches and my entry here anyway!

Competition entry

The pose I submitted.

The pose I rejected.

The pose I rejected.

And these are the thumbnail sketches I did to create the poses. As you can see, I did have some more “hero” type soccer poses like bicycle kicks, but I wanted to do something different from the other entries, and so I went in another direction. For reference I looked at top players like Zlatan, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Messi, Pele, Beckham and Rooney. Thank bejeezus I have a soccer-loving boyfriend who could point me to all these awesome athletes!

World Cup Competition Sketches

Click the image to enlarge.

5 Great Tips from an Animation Pedagogy Forum

The panelists from Pedagogies for Practice.

The panelists from Pedagogies for Practice.

“Ummm, pedagogy? Is that like a Ped Egg for your foot?”

Nope! It’s the forum I attended on the weekend where professionals (including Academy Award winner Adam Elliot) discussed how animation should be taught to students. They also shared tips about the industry and these are 5 points I took away!

1. ANIMATION DIRECTING SHOULD BE PURSUED; ANIMATION SUPERVISING CAN BE OFFERED

Having experienced the role himself, Florent de la Taille (a GOBELINS graduate) pointed out that if you want to become an Animation Director, you have to pursue the role from the outset. Waiting for the role to float gently down to you from the heavens in a halo of gold is probably not going to happen.

On the other hand, you can be offered the role of Animation Supervisor based on your excellent work. You just have to give an indication to your studio that you want to be considered. Animation Supervisors bear a lot of responsibility for the sequences they’re supervising, so not everyone puts their hand up to keep the kids in check.

In addition, Florent advised that if you’re really gunning for the role of Animation Supervisor, you have to check that the studio where you’re working even NEEDS one. If they don’t, then apply elsewhere specifically for that role. Be aware: some studios don’t take on outside supervisors. Some studios work on a Japanese system where you have to work from the bottom up. I feel like I can hear Drake rapping as I wrote that…

What a polite ass. Shrek 2 (2004, Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon). Source: Reflectionary.

2. CREATURE ANIMATION – DECIDE ON A VIABLE REALITY

How can you layer human behaviour over creature animation?

By deciding on the rules of that world before you begin animating.

Myrna Gawryn (a teacher of character behaviour and movement) answered my question by giving  an example of Donkey from Shrek: sometimes he walks on all fours like the quadruped he is and  sometimes he sits with crossed legs. Ergo, sometimes his physiology is respected and he walks  like an ass (tee hee!) and sometimes he’s given human behaviour like washing his hoofs to ramp  up the humour. Each creature should have rules to follow so that we as an audience  understand  why Donkey can sit cross-legged, but isn’t walking upright like a pig in Animal Farm.

3. SCRIPT, SCRIPT, SCRIPT

Audiences can forgive bad animation but they won’t forgive a bad story.

This one is especially true because it comes from Adam Elliot, a claymation animator who says  he’s never animated a walk-cycle in his life. Seriously. Check out his Academy-Award winning  short film Harvie Krumpet. It’s just a lot of it blinking eyes.

But I would take his lack of walk-cycles and Harvie’s endearing story any day over Frozen. Pretty  pictures are one thing, but not knowing who is the villain is another.

If only they’d followed the mantra: SCRIPT, SCRIPT, SCRIPT.

4. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE MORE TALENTED THAN YOU

WOAH, epiphany! No one has ever told me this before. Now that I’ve heard it, I realised it’s something you should ALWAYS do.

If you surround yourself with more talented people, then they can fill in for your weaknesses and also help improve them. Now I know how to fight you, my terrible texturing skills!

5. ANIMATION IS A PART OF A LARGER ECOSYSTEM

If you think about ‘art’ as being an ecosystem, then you realise that animation is just one part of it. Go explore what the rest of the ecosystem has to offer!

Like my cousin’s theatre performance that involved crazy nuns. Or trying to play ‘Edelweiss’ on the harmonica. Or learning how to make croissants from scratch!

*Note to readers: You need to have foresight into your croissant cravings. If you think: “Mmmm….yeah I do want croissants in 72 hours”, then go ahead and bash the butter into that pastry!

5TipsPedagogies_Ecosystem

The point is explore – try – create! Everything you experience can help you to evolve in your chain of the ecosystem. Who knows what your outside interests can influence next?

 

How I Animate a Lie

For my final assignment at Animation Mentor (aww!) I was tasked to pick a 10 second piece of dialogue to animate to. After rifling through various movies, how could I go past the brilliant young Saoirse Ronan in this scene of Atonement?

It’s a SUPER subtle scene (*background context provided below) that has everything you could ask for in a character performance: hesitation, conviction and also – A LIE.

Ughhhhh. That’s the sound I made when I delved deeper and discovered how hard it is to create a good lying reference.

As with all assignments at Animation Mentor, it’s crucial that you have video reference of yourself or others acting out what you want your animated character to do in the scene. For my character Briony (Ronan), I had to put myself in her shoes and think what she would think while trying to convey deception.

“No duh Stephanie, that’s acting 101. What’s so hard about that?”

The tricky part was this: you can’t be too good at lying.

After my first attempt at lying:

– the feedback I received from my mentor Erik was that the body language looked nervous but too convincing. If you want to show deception, you have to let slip hints of the truth.

The ultimate question you have to ask yourself is:

How good of a liar is your character? Will they give it away very easily or can they hide the truth pretty well?”

Lie_ranking

If I had to set it on a lying capability scale from 1-10 (1 being Cindy Brady who can never hide the truth and 10 being the sly deceiver Hannibal Lecter) I would say my character should be about a 6. She’s a doubtful ten-year-old girl who is hovering between believing the lie and confessing the truth. She can look the person in the eye while lying but at some point she’s going to give the game away with a few pieces of hesitant body language.

So to gather a better video reference, I had to study the shifty body language that gives the game away, commonly called “tells”. This was weirdly fun and interesting to do. Think of watching videos of poker players who bluff their way through high stakes and President Bill Clinton shifting in his chair when questioned about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

There are also various videos (eg. How to Read Hands) and writings (eg. I Can Read You Like a Book by Gregory Hartley) analysing what certain gestures or expressions mean. These interpretations were fascinating to study but also conflicting depending on the source, so I took any analysis with a grain of salt and tried to be merely an observer of body language.

What my research led me to conclude was that everyone deceives differently and I don’t think there’s a definitive guide to lying. Sorry Samuel L Jackson, but when you look left I don’t believe it ALWAYS means you’re lying.

However I do believe some deceptive behaviours can be repeated amongst different people, like this picture shows here:

524dc7abe691b226d3c4428d_736

Source: LittleFun.org

I found the best thing to do when researching lies is to watch a variety of lies in progress and pick some behaviour that a liar exhibits which you can replicate. I liked the idea of my character shifting her body weight, rubbing her hands and darting her eyes around.

With a bit more knowledge in mind, I set about to re-record video reference. And man oh man, did I live in front of a camera:

The reason I have so many pieces of reference is because when I was on camera, it was hard to remember all the details I’d planned for the action, like wringing my hands while shifting my eyes and frowning. Compartmentalising the actions of my hands and face helped me to overlap them later, even if I didn’t use every piece of reference in the end.

Once the action was roughed out in my animation, the main piece of advice I kept receiving was: “Contain the action.”

Huh? CONTAIN the action??? What the heck does that mean?! As far as I know, when you want to show off your animation chops, you create big, broad pieces of action that loop-de-loop all over the screen like this:

Lie_loopdeloop

Doing subtle performances where your main focus is the face is the complete opposite of what I’d been encouraged to do previously. In short:

Big actions = comforting.

Subtle actions = TERRIFYING.

However, Erik was right. You can hear in her voice that she doesn’t need to prance around like a unicorn and you can see from the original film performance that Briony is almost completely still in her chair. If she had sounded more nervous, I might make her move around a little more, but minimalism was what this piece required, so no muss, no fuss.

And there it is! As you can see she began by moving around a little too much in the early stages but I eventually stripped it back at the polishing stage. I still have some more passes to get through to refine the action further, but at least I now know that when you animate a lie you should:

  1. Determine how good the character is at lying.
  2. Research different lies and pick behaviours your character could exhibit.
  3. Compartmentalise your reference if it’s difficult to act out all at once.
  4. Strip back the action if it doesn’t suit the dialogue.

P.S. If anyone else has ideas for improvement with my animation or tips about lying, please feel free to comment! It’s always very much appreciated :D.

 

*SPOILER SIDE NOTE: This is a scene where 10-year-old Briony is testifying that she saw the groundskeeper Robby (James McAvoy) rape her cousin. However she never saw Robby’s face, she has just misjudged his character and assumed it was him.

We Made the Shortlist

2:30am – for whatever reason, I can’t sleep. Then like a little Dobby that appears out of thin air, the thought hits me: “Harry Potter must not go back to Hogwarts! Oh and Stephanie, DID YOU CHECK WHO WON THE SCHOLARSHIP?”

Yeesh, the winner’s been announced since yesterday and I’ve been too busy with animation and this “new” restaurant –

Yes. That is a yellow Ashes' KFC you're seeing.

Yes. That is the yellow KFC we pulled into.

– to have even checked!

Fumbling in the dark for my phone, I flick to the World Nomads Travel Film Scholarship page. Here it goes, the first scroll down.

WINNER peaks out…….don’t bring your hopes up…read part of the name…”Andr-” – DANGIT. Not us.

The first thing you feel is this guy:

Just your typical AA meeting.

Just your typical AA meeting.

– but then you watch Andrés’ video and read his story and realise he’s a real travel go-getter. Like long-hair-part-beard citizen of the earth. He totally deserves it!

But still – dangit. Then begins the slow scroll-down through the RUNNER’S UP (in no particular order). Where are we, where are we, well we didn’t get a bloody email so we’re probably not here……nothing.

Shoot. Then it’s the mad scroll of insanity through the final group: Shortlist (again, in no special order). Quick scan…come on!…nothing, nothing, noth- AHA!!! In small beautiful letters:

Doth my eyes deceive me??????

Doth my eyes deceive me??????

Ok, so they spelt the name ‘Brisbane’ incorrectly and we didn’t win but WHO CARES!? WE DID IT BABY!

We (my boyfriend Jonathan and I) had entered the competition at the beginning of November. Get this – if your 3 minute film entry is chosen, not only do you win a 10-day trip to New Orleans, you get to make short travel films about the city and events like Mardi Gras. Our thoughts: Umm, making films, free trip AND huge party? Where do we sign up!?

This was our film:

– and out of 224 entries from around the world, we’re ecstatic we beat 200 other films to make the top 24 films!

Last year, we received a brilliant graduating speech from a ballet dancer who imparted wisdom that went something like:

As artists, we should not seek recognition for what we do. Often we will work hard and achieve something great but it will go unnoticed. We should do what we do not for the accolades and recognition, but because we are passionate about our art.

I agree with him 100%.

However I do have to say, for someone like myself who has thought they could only excel in academia, has watched friends enter Cannes Film Festival, seen her brother bring home piles of plaques for cinematography and in general is surrounded by AMAZEBALLS  human beings, being recognised for your passion with a silly little duck film feels preeeetttyyy damn good.

Take THAT jealousy.

Take THAT jealousy.

Batter Up!

Last week’s posing assignment was similar to the first one: creating poses with Stella that show movement.

I was casting around for some cool inspiration and I came up with….baseball!

Damn girl. Throw that.

Damn girl. Throw that.

Swing, batter batter, swing!

Swing, batter batter, swing!

I’m pretty happy with the poses and I’ll post up my sketches for these poses later. For now, here are the before poses and the critiques I received:

Before

Pose 01: Plant the screen right foot and pay attention to the twist and arch in her back.

Pose 02: Lean her back more as she is in the sketch and really twist her upper body. My peers also gave me reference images to help with the angle of the bat. Thanks peers!

On a side note, my cool German friend Al liked my work and he mentioned me on his blog, so I’m gonna do the same and throw a shout out back at him! He has fantastic animations and his blog can be found here:

http://alexdiestel.tumblr.com/

– and his website is here:

http://www.alexdiestel.de/

Danke!

New Title FAIL

I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. I’ve realised my website is more bloggy than portfolio website-y, so I would like to create a more professional website with my name as the URL and no posting, and keep this website as more of a blog format. The only problem is that I would need a new name and URL for my blog and I’m kind of stumped/indecisive when it comes to picking a new name.

Going about my normal troubleshooting ways, I Googled “how to name a blog” and got onto SpinXO, a name generator that spits out variations of keywords you type in. Some of the best (and by “best”, I mean “most hilarious”) ones it spit out included:

Thug Animation

“Thug Animation”

Genius. It reflects my thug life in the projects as I animate illegal movies (eg. Donald After Dark).

Steph Stewbum

“Steph Stewbum”

Brilliant. This has nothing to do animation and vfx but EVERYTHING to do with my cannibal cooking adventures.

NameFail_shatsteph

“Shat Steph”

SERIOUSLY!? In what fields that I entered (steph, vfx, animate, visual) is this solution warranted?! And who (outside of Star Trek fans) ACTUALLY wants a blog that includes “Shat” in the title????

It doesn’t even sound like it’s about “Steph”. Moreso, it’s about the aftermath of someone eating me and passing me through their bowels, whereby my being eaten created enough dilemmas with their health that it warranted a whole blog.

Thank you SpinXO for your hilarious (but failed) attempts at naming my blog. Guess I’ll have to think of a new name the old fashioned way – rip it off a movie.

Sketches: My Concerned Exhaustion is in Balance

You know what I learnt (besides sketching is faster in Photoshop)? Drawing concern ain’t easy, mostly because you kind of need two characters: one to throw a pity party and another person to attend said party.

Concern. I could have sketched a lot of politicians for this one. Or celebrity fathers.

Concern. I could have sketched a lot of politicians for this one. Or celebrity fathers.

Exhaustion – now that’s something that comes easily! Drawing these poses was just about channelling my time at University and Japanese train commuters falling asleep while standing up. I have to say, even though I chose the first pose, I’m particularly fond of pose 3 slamming his face into the step:

Probably sketched from life. My life. Around 2pm in the afternoon.

Probably sketched from life. My life. Around 2pm in the afternoon.

No joke, that was a pose based on an image of a polar bear. HA!

Drawing balance was definitely the hardest to reference yourself. Normally I like to try a pose out myself so I understand where the body feels pressure and weight. Unfortunately I’m no Yogi or ballerina. In fact, when I tracked my Center of Gravity on Wii Fit once, the image it drew looked like a Pollock painting.

Enter Google Images!

Ahhhh balance. 'Karate Kid' at sunset anyone?

Ahhhh balance. ‘Karate Kid’ at sunset anyone?

Next time I post about emotions, it’ll be for my final renders!

That, or I’ll have watched ‘Atonement’ and need to throw a pity party on the internet. You’re all invited.

A Small Tale – Tailor Animation

I realised at Animation Mentor that they like to ration you on limbs for characters like you’re on a diet. Then when you’re really hankering for something else to animate, they give you the typical dish of a ball – with a side of tail!

That’s Tailor, a character that should mimic a squirrel (password = tailor). The animation is an exercise in secondary motion and overlapping action.

When I was at Uni, I couldn’t get enough of overlap (password = wave):

Woah ho HO! Ribbons, ponytail, handbag, dress, boobs, I just didn’t want to leave anything out did I?

And before we had Tailor, we had a pendulum:

As simple as it looks, I actually struggled with this pendulum. Ironing out the stickiness of the segments of the arm and finding the right speed for the moving platform took a bit of experimentation. If you didn’t get it right, you could have the arm breaking so it wasn’t smooth or you could have it so smooth and slow it looked underwater. However, compared to my 2010 pendulum (password = swing):

– the timing is better and it’s a bit less mechanical.

Stay tuned to see what limbs are rationed out next!

Ball Bounce: Hindsight is 20/20!

Ok, so I lied. I said I would post animations at the end of the term. Then I remembered that when rendering animations, it NEVER goes right the first time. It’s scientific. Here, I wrote an equation:

Rendering (first attempt) = FAIL + try again

So here’s my first second render of the first exercise from Animation Mentor:

Did I blow your mind!? I know I did.

With that exercise, I now have the credentials to make a feature film. Coming this Spring: Ball Bounce – The Movie (in 3D!). I’m trying to get Brad Pitt to make a cameo appearance as the hoop in the background.

But in all seriousness, check out how different it is to my first attempt at a ball bounce in 2010 (password = 1b):

WOAH, that ball must be an Autobot because he was determined to “roll out” of there. And the sudden stop for no reason is juuuuuuusssttt a bit painful.

Ah well, it’s easy to criticise but we all have to start somewhere right? And now that I know that a bouncing ball is like the hips of a character, it suddenly makes the exercise seem more relevant to me 3 years later. It’s also nice to see progression :).

So stay tuned and I’ll keep you all posted with past/present animation comparisons for your entertainment!

Week 3 Sketches and a Question Answered!

Excited Sketches

We’re up to emotion poses in Animation Mentor! Week 3’s emotion was “excited”. I wanted to do something like my previous post:

Pixar_mentor_02

– but I think the CG model doesn’t have 3 elbows and 2 knees, so I chose a subtly girly version of excitement.

I know what you’re thinking: “Steph. Don’t torture us with these preliminary sketches. Give us what we lined up for in the bitter cold. Show us your final emotion poses. Show us animation. Show-me-the-moonnnnneeeyyyy!” You know what, you’re right fantasy audience. I shall give you a show!

But only at the end of the term, when I know the work is as good as it can be 😀 For now, you’ll have to put up with sketches.

On another note, blogger The Byronic Man TOTALLY featured my question in his segment ‘Sexy Stalin’! Check out the article for his advice to my query. Have a great week everyone!