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Pepsi Episode 3 – Japan

If you haven’t seen our latest Pepsi Ad for Japan, I encourage you to watch it now because it’s THOOPER KEWL!

It’s a take on the Japanese folk story of Momotaro (known as Peachboy) where a boy with various animal companions travels to an island to fight demons. This Pepsi Ad is the fourth installment (the series starts at zero) where the new demon seen (known as an Oni) is winged. I guess it’s mimicking the pheasant in the story? Who knows. All you need to know is it’s AWESOME.

I’m very fortunate to have had 4 shots on this ad. 2 of them are CG bird shots and 2 are simple Oni shots. The bulk of the animation was provided by our wonderful lead animator Chris.

The Oni shots were interesting in that the Oni is bigger than a multi-storey building, and so he had to move very slowly due to gravity having a greater effect on his mass (see 01:34). This was new for me as I’d never animated something that was meant to be so large, but our lead taught me to follow reference footage, extend the animation keys out over more time and then go back to tweak overlapping body parts.

The bird shots were tricky in that they had to be realistic movements of fast birds shot in slow motion. There also had to be about 25 of them customised to fly in random directions in one shot(see 00:25). This meant using a basic flight cycle for most of them and then varying their gliding and flapping motions over their flight paths. Then some of them were also perched on the walls and on ledges, so they had to have their own custom animations of them looking around or walking or taking off. All of these factors relied on one thing for pulling it off: study, study, study.

Reference footage like this:

-was a Godsend. It’s one example of the many Youtube videos I watched to get their movements working well. And although it may sound like a bit much for a 2 second shot –

Source: Meme-lol.

Source: Meme-lol.

The rest of the ad coming together can be put down to the rest of the incredible team at Alt.vfx.

And if you need more proof of how great our compositors, modellers and lighting artists are, just check out this shot:

Source: Youtube.

Source: Youtube.

Most of that mask in the middle is CG.

BOOM, FOOLED YA!

Click here to check out Episode Zero, Episode One and Episode Two.

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.

Post-Production Terms

In the 3 months since officially becoming a junior animator at Alt.vfx (woo!), I’ve realised that I have also learnt something else: I can now sprechen ze language of advertising.

Yes, let's review the Cool "Hwip". Source: Precision Nutrition.

Yes, let’s review the “Hwip”. Source: Precision Nutrition.

Now this may not seem like a major thing for some cool whoozits out there, but imagine me in my all noob-ness wading into these kind of doozies: 1. “Hey, we’re having a WIP review at 1pm.” -OR- 2. “Can you just cache out me out an alembic?” – and having no idea what anyone is talking about. It’s like everyone is speaking Klingon while I only speak all things pertaining to cake. So I took note of some of the terms I’ve come to understand while working in post-production and turned them into a Venn Diagram, because let’s face it, WHO DOESN’T LOVE A GOOD OL’ VENN DIAGRAM?

venn_tvcanimvfx_terms_square

Click to enlarge!

Here are some of the confusing terms I’ve learnt and how they can relate to each other across the animation department, the VFX department and TVC’s in general. Now putting them in Venn formation doesn’t necessarily make them easier to understand, it just shows how terms relate and what arenas they concern most. But never fear! Your translator is here. Prepare for a blabbering list of explanations: TVC = Television Commercial. They’re the things that break up a 90 minute movie and turn it into a four hour marathon. CAD = Commercials Advice. In Australia, they’re the service that classify the ads before the ad is broadcast. Here’s a gem that didn’t pass through CAD according to the video description:

Spot

I swear Spot the dog used to have more than 1 spot. Source: Unbound.

SPOT = Another term for advert. Some campaigns for the same product may have several spots cut to lengths ranging from 15sec to a few minutes. Also, it’s the name of an adorable dog. SUPERS =  Text that is superimposed over the main image eg. “The Small Print”. ARCHIVE = When the ad has been broadcast and the files are not currently required, the project files are taken off the server and stored on a tape. The project goes from being “live” to being “archived”. POS = Point of Sale. At Alt.vfx, sometimes we supply images from the ad to be placed in a store near the cash register . V/O = Voice over. FYI: Morgan Freeman voice over is the bees knees.

Make “frames” not “love”. Source: Dangerously Fit

FRAME HANDLES = Uber important! If a shot is 80 frames long in an edit, the animation and visual effects department may in fact be working with 100 frames (10 extra frames either side of the 80 frames) so that the final edit can be extended or slipped if required. These extra frames are called “frame handles”. GRADE = A nickname for colour-grading the image. When footage is initially retrieved from the camera, the colours look like my hair when wet (“flat”, dull and washed out). It is up to Compositors and Colour Graders to “nourish” and “revitalise” the colours to the correct hues that suit the mood of the ad. WIP = Work in Progress Client Approval = The client could be a director, an advertising agency or the media team of the company being advertised, but either way, they need to give the tick on different elements along the way. Massive Rig/Custom Rig = Alt has done a few ads requiring software called “Massive”. It specialises in creating digital crowds of whatever you need (in Alt’s case, deer and human armies). Any animation/motion-capture animation created for Massive needs to be exported for the simplified Massive rig. However, it is possible to modify the Massive rig to include extra controls. Modifying the rig is known as a Custom Rig. RX, RY, RZ and TX, TY, TZ = Rotate in the axis X,Y,Z and Translate in the axis X,Y,Z. I’ve carried these over from Animation Mentor because it’s so much easier to understand if you want a character to move in TZ space rather than saying: “move him forward” if the character’s “forward” direction actually means it moves left on camera.

Mmm, my kind of layout.

Mmm, my kind of layout.

LAYOUT = Laying out tracks and 3D elements required for a shot with little to no animation in a 3D scene ready for an animator to animate. TRACK = A 3D representation of the actual scene that was shot with a live camera. A track should include the camera’s movement and any object tracks. Object tracks are tracks created for any moving objects that will need to interact with 3D elements. For example, in the Honda ad, we were given an object track for the hands to attach a 3D wheel to. ALEMBIC FILE = A file type that animation is exported as so that it can be used in other software like Houdini or Soft Image. MEL/PYTHON = Scripting languages. MEL stands for “Maya Embedded Language”. If you speak MEL and Python, you can control more within some softwares and eventually rule the world! CACHE = In computing, a cache is a way of storing and accessing data. Within visual effects, a cache is an exported version of a 3D element that only stores the element’s 3D vertices and doesn’t export any skeletons or rig controls. This is a much lighter and less fussy way of importing animation into programs outside of Maya. COMP = Composite. Each layer within a shot will end up here and when it’s exported out, I like to say it’s Straight Outta Compin’. MATTE = An image element that will be layered with 1 or more other images. ROTO = Rotoscope. Within animation, roto means to trace over footage frame by frame. In VFX, it’s a similar concept, except that they are only concerned with the silhouette. If you have the roto of, say a person, you can use that silhouette as a matte to outline the person, cut them out and place the person on their own layer. This is super useful if you have to layer that person in front of or behind sections of the image. PLATES = Footage. I believe it’s a throwback term to how film was once processed using glass plates, but now in VFX we use the term to describe a background image or a foreground matte. Particularly within animation, you need a background plate of the live footage within your animation scene so that you can see how your animation lines up with the geography of the scene.   PHEW! That was a lot of explaining. It may not interest everyone, but for those out there who may be a little confused about studio terms that are thrown around like hot cakes, this might help you out! And speaking of hot cakes, I think I know what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow.

Pancake-venn-diagram

Source: Flowing Data.

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?

 

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.

Thank You, Come Again!

If you’ve filtered through the waffle of my ‘About’ page, I talk about how I freelance with Graphic Design jobs. I won’t pretend it’s a full-time job (or that I’m a pro) but some of the jobs I’ve done in the past have been posters, illustration cards and corporate presentation-y stuff.

Pretty much all of the jobs I get are through people I know, which is awesome not only because it means networking really does work, but also because somehow (without me even trying) I’ve given off the impression that my degree in Animation is also a degree in Graphic Design. To some that may seem frustrating, but to me it’s a win-win! Hooray for temporary jobs while I animate and learn about compositing!

I’m posting about this job:

Graphic Design Wedding

– because my client was really happy! That’s not to say I’ve ever had an unhappy client, but this one was especially thankful and sent me this photo:

Wedding Invite Package

– of when she’d had all the designs printed and bundled together with a piece of fabric! It’s especially nice because I’ve never done a wedding invite before, let alone worked with typography (which is actually really tricky). Nonetheless I found it really fun to learn about, the invite looks beautifully rustic and I’m glad my customer is happy! So thank you, come again!

P.S. If you like what I’ve done (and you’re willing to negotiate a fee that doesn’t constitute slave labour) then feel free to contact me about a job! Also check out my friend Emma’s website if you need commissions for awesome illustration or design:

http://www.emmaaustin.com/index.php

Or my friend Anya for more illustration work:

http://tasteslikeanya.deviantart.com/

Playful Poses

Sloan Play Poses

 

These are my final poses incorporating quadrupeds at play.

It’s inspired by this great video I found of two dogs playing but which I now can’t remember the name of. My brain is doing that whole “I might have Alzheimer’s, but at least I don’t have Alzheimer’s” thing. I’ve tried to bribe my brain with chocolate in exchange for the memory of the name but alas, no luck.

Stephanie_Tomoana_sloan03_v01

This is my initial version of the playful poses. The great thing was there wern’t too many changes! Basically the critique was to bring the screen left dog’s head down and push his legs back. With the screen right dog, it was more about adjusting the front legs and finding the right interaction with the other dog.

I’m pretty happy with it! Hooray for satisfaction!