Nomad Previs and Maybe More?

Near the conclusion of my Storyboarding class we were left with a more open-ended assignment and encouraged to think more about bigger, thesis-like projects. This was the first time I had given serious thought to the content of my graduate film. I plan to make a pitch for an animated television show aimed for a young adult audience with a pitch bible, but the content of the show had not been laid out very concretely. This project allowed me to explore some options.

“Nomad” would be a traditionally animated episodic show featuring a sarcastic alcoholic protagonist, and his stoic intelligent robot sidekick. The two travel a post-apocalyptic setting stumbling upon various adventures. I want the show to center around fun and witty dialog, and conflicts that the protagonists overcome for the most part by outsmarting their enemies rather than flashy action sequences. The overarching story and motivations for a longer format animation are still being ironed out, but for the purpose of this class and project; they are rescuing a princess who has been captured by raiders. Here are some thumbnails of character designs and ideas:

dustdoodles1 dustdoodles2

This project for the most part lead to questions and ideas that I feel need further development, but I am excited about the potential and what these concepts will lead to. I like the idea of a world that is a mashup of different eras (old west, futuristic, steampunk?) with a punk rock aesthetic that can be further discovered in every episode. I plan to give music a larger part in the show and possibly have records used as a form of currency or treasure/valuable.


I look forward to expanding this concept with more story ideas and designs in the coming months!



CTN 2016 Excitement

I am fortunate to have a chance to travel to LA and attend the Creative Talent Expo this weekend! I look forward to meeting a bunch of cool animators and gaining some insight into the industry. I’m not sure whether to be more excited or nervous, but either way this weekend is going to be awesome.

I have attached a link to my most recent demo reel below:

The menu at the top of the page can be used to view a more complete selection of shorts, GIFs and other images I have created.

A Trucker Tale

For storyboarding class we were tasked with creating a short animatic in Maya based on three random photographs provided by the instructor. The photographs served only as a starting point and we were given the freedom to diverge from them and create new elements as needed. The three images I was provided were one of a truck driver wearing a plaid shirt with torn off sleeves and a beer gut, one of a peculiar man posing in a swimsuit, and one of a disheveled swimming pool full of grime and neglect. I decided the character in the first image fit the role of a truck driver and made him the protagonist. The peculiar man annoyed me, so I made him a reoccurring nuisance to pester the protagonist. The image with the pool led to the idea of the trucker, in that he was originally transporting sewage or whatever green goop was shown in the image within his tanker. The trucker is tasked with delivering the contents of his tanker to an address, and is determined to arrive at his destination on time. It is suggested he doesn’t know where he is going or who he is delivering his tanker to.

Here are my original thumbnails:


The biggest problem with my thumbnails is the ending. I think my story builds up to something, but there is no payoff, the end is just the reveal of the peculiar man one final time. Here is the animatic in Maya:

I am excited about my improvement with the program. I had an easier time navigating around and creating primitive movements. Maya really allowed for me to push the camera and create angles and compositions I may have not tried in 2D. Unfortunately I was very pressed for time and did not give the ending or the story itself the attention it deserves and find it still lacking.

The biggest take away from this project is my new found appreciation for Maya as a tool for previs. I am more optimistic about experimenting with camera and 3D more in the future.

Boards and Stories

This quarter I was fortunate enough to take a class on storyboarding and creating animatics. This is a good opportunity to focus on improving my camera placement and shot composition. One of the earliest assignments we were tasked with was to take a sequence from a well known movie and transform it into a hand drawn storyboard to bring attention to the camera work. The shot I was assigned was the “bullet time” sequence from the first Matrix film which was a lot of fun.

I was also tasked with creating a digital storyboard based on a short story. I chose a creepypasta (basically a scary story shared on the internet) titled “The Mailman.” The sequence that interested me in this story was when the protagonist first discovers an intruder in her yard, then goes to confront him only to find he is not a person but actually a disfigured creature. Here is the rough animatic:

Zombies and Things

Last spring I worked on a short animation where a character ran from a couple of zombies, the project was never finished but I made a few GIFs out of the run cycles. goofyrunzombie2 zombie1

I had the chance to take a theory class over the summer, during which I wrote a paper on “The Uncanny.” The uncanny is something that provokes a feeling of discomfort, it is when something is strangely familiar, yet foreign at the same time. It is unlike fear, as it is not a response to danger it is the feeling of “creepiness” when one is presented with something they don’t entirely understand. This can be a realistic wax figure, a doll, or even an animated character that moves in a jarring way. (Think motion capture) I made a series of short animations to accompany my paper, in them I attempted to recreate the feeling of “uncanniness” by establishing a norm and then breaking it immediately afterward. An example is the reoccurring dog animation where a dog barks normally to set the viewer’s expectations, then afterward a second dog moves in a bizarre manner while barking. I think some of the sequences turned out more successful than others (the rotoscopped faces I think convey uncanniness pretty well) and by the end I was more or less making up things to try to make the audience uncomfortable… It was still a fun project and it gave me an opportunity to try some new ideas and tinker with the horror genre a little.

Michael Jackson Rotoscope

I was tasked with creating a 10 second rotoscope for a class. While not initially very excited about the assignment, I decided to choose video footage of something that would be otherwise very difficult to animate, and ended up with a clip of Michael Jackson dancing from the 1980’s. I went for an outrun/80’s stylized look with bright colors and lots of pinks and blues. After hours of tedious rotoscoping, here is the finished clip:

I was a little disappointed with how his head turned out, the blurry footage made it difficult to reference. The facial features feel a little too inconsistent even for the jittery stylized lines the rest of the figure has. Earlier in the semester when I first pitched my project, one of my classmates jokingly suggested I make my character a rubber chicken and the floppy bouncy character would look funny dancing as Michael Jackson. The rubber chicken thing kept coming up, and eventually I decided “why not.” Here is rubber chicken Michael Jackson dancing:

Pose to Pose vs Layering

I have only recently begun tinkering with Maya and animating in 3D, but I have immediately noticed my strategies for animating have to change. In 2D, animation is usually created pose-to-pose or straight ahead, while these exist in 3D another mainstream (maybe easier) method is called “layering.” I had noticed my pose to pose method wasn’t working as well as it usually had in the past, but it took a guest speaker presentation to spell it out for me.

Let me back up for a second… pose-to-pose animation, is when the artist creates keyframes to establish the movement of the character before meticulously filling in inbetweens. This is done to make sure the movement is correct and the character’s poses read well. The best example of this is the walk cycle, the animator would “key” the important poses (shown here) then when the movement looks correct they go back and add the inbetween drawings (the lighter colored circles in the image represent these)

walkcycle example

“Straight ahead” animation is when the artist creates the animation straight through without the use of keyframes. When animating longer movements this can result in characters accidentally growing and shrinking throughout their performance. I would us this method primarily for effects such as water or sparks or any small objects that quickly dart around the screen where keyframes are not particularly beneficial.

Layering is almost exclusive to rigged characters. It has to do with animating the primary form of the character (sometimes called the “root”) through its action, then going back and animating its extremities. Think of animating a fish, the artist would animate the body along the path it travels first, before going back and animating the fins and the tail. The same applies to a person walking, the main body of the character would be animated first (the path through the scene along with the bounce of every step) then the artist would go back and move the legs, then go back and move the arms.

The benefits of layering, is after roughing out the movement, the majority of the animation is complete, all that remains to be done is details and secondary movement. This is different from animating rigged characters pose-to-pose because the computer tends to try to create the inbetweens for you, which generally results in bizarre movements as the limbs try to find their way from point A to point B along with poor timing. Not that this cannot be cleaned up later… One of the drawbacks to layering however is the poses tend to be less dynamic and may require further tweaking after the shot is finished.

These are just some observations I felt were worth jotting down. Hopefully they provide a new strategy that can be applied in future projects when a rigged character isn’t animating quite right.