Tag Archives: animation

You spin me right round, AAAAA, right round…

Welcome to what was 18 to 24 June 2017. Scene 2 has begun in earnest. This scene establishes level of general silliness.

AAAAA runs past a mild-mannered cube with such force that the cube gets violently lathed into a pyramid. The pyramid is roused from its dizziness by a pyramid worshipper that’s arrived from nowhere. The pyramid does not know what to think about this.

Here’s the first attempt:

This pyramid has so many questions…

It’s a beginning, but there’s definitely room for improvement. (Mainly I’m thinking “How would this scene unfold if Terry Gilliam were directing it?”)

The little worshipper doesn’t instantly read as a worshipper. The audience needs to be able to recognise the character instantly for the shot to work because everything happens so quickly. I showed it to a workmate and they confused the worshipper for AAAAA himself!

To fix this, I’m going to switch the stick figure out for a small group of monk-like characters instead. Monks are obviously there to worship something, moreso if they have little pyramids on their robes and if they’re wearing pyramid hats so it’s obvious that they’re pyramid monks. Sound will definitely help with making the gag work too.

Meanwhile, the day job is ramping up again for an emergency project and I just took delivery of four DIY synthesiser kits from Befaco which I’m itching to put together. If I still deliver this shot despite all that, I’d consider that quite the win!

If you’ve got any other feedback on this shot, please do me the honour of leaving a comment. 🙂

The rules of the game

It’s been 11 to 17 June 2017. It’s been a soldering-heavy week! In fact, I burnt my finger doing some soldering last night so typing is an annoyance.

But here all the same is shot 1 of the new short in all its goofy glory.

There he goes. A high-powered prototype never intended for mass production.

Here’s my draft “constitution” for this project:

The basics

  • The goal is to produce a comedic narrative animated short.
  • The narrative commences with a vaguely A-shaped creature (the AAAAA) going AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA while running.
  • The narrative shall be constructed of reactions and consequences of AAAAA running around going AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.
    • AAAAA’s running/going AAAAAAAAAAAAA should not be explained or rationalised. It is not something mundane like a prickle in his foot. AAAAA does not stop running or going AAAAAAAAAAAAAA because it is AAAAA’s intent to do it as long as AAAAA can. Think of it as an endurance exercise that AAAAA is the champion of the universe at.
  • The project begins on the weekend of WA Day and ends on the Queens Birthday weekend (2 October).
  • The expected running time is.. not very long. Three minutes would probably be pushing it considering someone will be going AAAAAAAAAA although who knows what that could precipitate.
  • This project is intended as a learning experience and ultimately a stepping stone towards finishing larger more complex projects.

Production stipulations

  • The film is to be produced from start to finish in running order, aside from titles which are fine to put in during post-production.
  • Music and sound can also be retouched in post-production.
  • The narrative shall be entirely improvised during production:
    • Planning ahead before the current scene is completed is forbidden.
    • Planning ahead further than one scene is utterly forbidden.
  • Any attempt to brainstorm in advance how the movie ends before the actual final scene begins its planning phase will result in the instant forfeit and blacklist of that idea.
    • The blacklisted conclusions currently include a resolution where the AAAAA trips over, notices their group of followers, encourages them to continue after him like some sort of single file AAAAArmy.
  • Absolutely no 2D animatics – this is explicitly not that kind of project.
  • Limit the use of planning tools like storyboards except where they do double-duty as character and scenery design.
  • Going back and redoing footage is forbidden except to fix technical errors which cannot be fixed at composite time (animation glitches, etc).
  • Scenes should be simple enough to complete in two weeks alongside rest and relaxation, etc.
    • Time spent should be logged.
    • Late nights are strongly discouraged even on weekends.
    • Production pace can be slowed in case of mitigating factors like injury, fatigue, day job being extra-demanding, etc.

Scene guidelines

  • Scenes should contain no more than three shots – action, reaction, another reaction. Hopfrog‘s minimalism is a good guide here.
  • As per all narrative movies, scenes should continue on from one another logically. Scenes may refer to previous scenes.
  • Each new scene should introduce a new place, character and/or action.
  • Any single scene should present a single idea or gag. Scenes can carry ideas and gags from previous scenes but only secondary to the scene’s own gag.
  • Each scene should also contain a surprise.
  • The film will contain no dialogue or written material. Where words are expected to appear visually, e.g. the title of a book, a nonsense script should be substituted. Where dialogue would be expected, substitute lively gibberish or suitable sound effects.

Design and tone guidelines

  • The general tone should be giddy and fun, for kids of all ages. This is a happy place.
  • Given that this is a sweet and merry little refuge, it’s fine for characters to disapprove of AAAAA but it’s not fine for them to get furiously angry or terribly sad or agonisingly hurt. The standard-issue supporting character is friendly and calm and approachable.
    • Sad characters are ok but cheer them up!
  • It’s fine for the humour to be a little bit naughty but not outright rude. Again, consult Hopfrog.
  • Characters/scenery should be unlikely in some way or another.
  • Keep the designs colourful and fun to look at, and don’t make them too detailed. Go easy on stuff like greebles and cracks.
  • No need to do everything in geo! Non-pixellated textures are fine but keep the surfaces simple.
  • At least one character has to have fur at some point.
  • Design-wise, sharp angles are fine this time but tend towards roundness. Try for a general stumpiness, stockiness and broadness in the proportions of the designs. Allow for some contrast too.

Technical guidelines


  • If Eevee gets production-ready, use Eevee. Otherwise, use Cycles.
  • Using DASYRAC for the sound and music is strongly encouraged. There is no explicit budget for extra Eurorack modules though.
  • Use of third party time-and-effort saving plug-ins (e.g. automatic rigging systems) and other resources is absolutely mandatory. Use them! They good!

That’s it for now, so thanks for reading and I hope to see you with something new next week!


With the cold comes a small green shouty thing

It’s been 4 to 10 June 2017. Things have turned chilly here. We were forecast for 9 degrees overnight on Friday morning and got 1.6C instead because the rain we were expecting didn’t pan out. Brrr! Still, Perth winters are pretty bearable once the overnight cold goes away. Like the sound of 25 degree fine winter days? Perth has you covered.[1]

Perth: Where winter typically only happens at night. (Source: bom.gov.au)

Meanwhile, the new movie project has something to look at. Last weekend was a three dayer so I rigged the title character and sketched out some animation. Here’s “Take 1” of shot 01, featuring the central anarchist of the piece:


Best title shot ever?

It’s promising but a long way from where I want it to be. I wonder if it all goes by a little bit too quick, not letting the character’s weird/cheeky nature shine through enough. There’s some undeniably good stuff in there too – the goofy run at the end feels spot on. Then there’s points of ambivalence – maybe the zippier pacing is what I should aim for? And should I stick with the snappy stepped animation?

I’ve got some of my own notes to work through and I’ll see where I end up by the end of next week. But what do YOU think, dear reader? 🙂

[1] Of course the flipside of this year-round sunny weather is being short on water. The Water Corporation both desalinates the Indian Ocean and recycles our sewage into drinkable water because there’s nowhere near enough rain to fill our dams anymore. Yay.

Time can also be space

It’s been 9 to 15 April 2017. Happy Easter and if you’re in Australia, remember: bilbies not bunnies.

Squishy Mandala says “Save the bilby!”

It’s just a couple of days until RYGCBMK◯ comes out and I have just a few shots to go. Looking back at some of the earliest shots I made, they jar badly with the overall “round shapes on black” aesthetic I ended up adopting. The hand-drawn shots also jarred a bit. With the extra time afforded me by the Easter break, I’ve started replacing the most out-of-place crappy shots with nicer updated shots. The replacements often retain the original idea but re-execute it in a way that feels like it belongs with the rest of the reel.

Stills really don’t do these shots justice.

But enough about that. Let’s talk about how to do interpolation between two values in Animation Nodes.

Here’s a shot that I did last night.

Pretty sure I had one of those balls in the 1990s..

As the purple rainbow ball moves across the screen, the small ball move towards it and grow larger. The node setup that places the nodes looks like this.

Kind of went crazy with the animate nodes for Scale there..

The key to controlling movement and size is in the Animate nodes. I’m feeding the Time input of the Animate Vector node with a Distance value instead. Instead of changing a value according to how much time has gone by, I’m changing it according to  how far the “attractor” object is to a position which is pre-calculated for each ball.

If the ball is closer to (before) the calculated position than the “duration” (a minimum influence distance), the Animate node interpolates towards the “Start” input – the rainbow ball’s position, or a larger size. If the distance is greater than (after) the “duration”, the node interpolates all the way to the “End” position – the small ball’s calculated position, or a resting size.

I used the same interpolation trick to send little pulses of light down these wires, even though the start and end points are constantly moving.

Animate nodes: not just for animating!

That’s all for this week. I’ll post a mini-update on Monday with the details of where you can see the finished reel, but that’s all for now. Back to it!

Circles circles everywhere (and lines and boxes too)

26 March to 1 April 2017 has been RYGBMCKO’s most productive week yet. In a couple of weeks when this goes up onto YouTube, you will be able to identify this week’s little segments by things getting very circle-based.

And this week I actually have a minute to talk shop and post some node setups and related screenies. Amazing!

Here is one of the variations of node setup which I use for plotting a circle. For input it takes a range of integers (the values don’t matter, just the size of the range), and it can create a set of points with different radiuses at different offsets around the circle and follow different objects. (obSize, hide and elementAngle are all left over from old versions of the group.)

let r = radius, for z = 0 to 2*pi: x = sin(z*r), y = cos(z*r) — and so much more!

I started using Animation Nodes for procedural geometry as well as animation this week. Up until now I’d been duplicating objects but not actually making them. The geometry workflow isn’t super obvious but the AN documentation is pretty good. Here’s a loop that draws lines (including a random factor) and its output points to a generated object.

Float goes in, geometry comes out..

Take the circle values and run them through the line drawing loop, add a colourful material, and get colourful space tinsel!

Hm… does this need a glow effect perhaps?

Or how about a little heartrate monitor?

This could probably use a glow effect too..

For this I created a sawtooth wave that synchronises to the 12 frame beat.

A synchronised sawtooth node chain with bonus Animate Float node

I fed this into an Animation Nodes group to get a vertical offset value. Here’s how Inigo Quilez’s impulse function looks as an AN node group:

function(k,x) { return k*x*pow(Math.E, 1.0 – (k*x)); } but with boxes and lines

I duplicated the blobs with slightly lagged inputs to form a trail, put some glow on it and there we go.

See? Totally looks better with glow.. hey.. wait a minute, that’s just gaussian blur in Add mode!

Finally, one of four mandala thingies I made on Sunday alone. Here’s the node setup. It looks complicated but it is super repetitious.

From this zoom level, it’s just lines and coloured boxes.

There’s three or four objects being fed into the ringmaker loop. The ringmaker arranges stuff in circles around a reference object with a particular radius, making the objects a particular size, etc. The differences and variations come in the size of the circles, how fast they’re moving around the circle and in what direction, and whether either of those things are changing over the course of the shot.

And this is the output.

Inspired by stuff I saw one evening on the backs of my eyelids…

Today was the original release day, but after the week I had and with the reel as it currently stands I’m glad I gave myself an extra couple of weeks to learn even more.

Speaking of releases, I’m still on track for showing off the all-singing-all-dancing RYGCBMKO-1 reel on Easter Monday. Even though it’s a progress reel, it’s still good fun to watch. 🙂

RYG-◯ turns a corner!

Greetings from 19 to 25 March 2017.

So many bubbles…

Things are very different this week for RYGCBMK◯. Ironically it’s going so well that I don’t have much time to write about it.

So many colourful round things…

Between having a much-needed breakthrough with the soundtrack and playing with Animation Nodes for two days straight last weekend, I went from not having much of a clue what I’m doing to kind of knowing what I’m doing. My confidence is way up and the project has gone from being mildly disappointing and grindy to actually kind of fun. Hurray! 🙂

Frickin lasers!

Something else I’m noticing this week – I’m getting so much more bang for buck out of my loops by allowing things like scale, location and other stuff as input parameters. It’s the difference between a time-saving setup and a truly powerful setup that lets me experiment quickly.

Meet Bubble Snake, whose segments are based on the sine function of their world x position.

The final product feels less like a movie and more like a progress reel – a little underwhelming at first while I’m figuring things out, but then the fun kicks in once I get my bearings.

Now, I wonder if anyone would be interested in getting their hands on the .blend files after this is all done…

Robots and bus stops

I won’t lie – 11 to 17 December 2016 was rife with distractions. Rife. Like the English actor. In order of distractiness they were: Oculus Touch controllers; a not-very-good banjo ukulele; 14-year-old video footage that loads into Blender without extra conversion; and lovely relaxing warm weather. But I still got a few things done!

I’ve got a rough draft of 3D visuals on a stinger shot which takes place at a majestic bus stop. I’m already considering ways of re-doing it to make it funnier, including a poster instructing Gronky not to bury the bus stop.

Bus stop (without signage which I haven’t done yet)

In my head, Gronky’s compulsion to bury things is building up to a backstory where he’s been sent to the desert to bury things and mark where they are… possibly even created to bury things and mark where they are. Not that it needs to be part of the story – it’s vague sub-text and only makes Gronky compulsive about burying things and putting little flags next to them. Maybe I’ll explore Gronky’s situation more in a later story.

I’ve also built the layout version of the robot. It’s a bit crap and low poly at the moment, but it should be fine for layout with a couple more tweaks (like a Floor constraint on the mono-leg). Here’s a sneak peek of the robot flying around.

Robot fly!


Rock the mic, Gronky!

That was 2 to 8 October 2016 and it was a really busy week! I’ve been doing blockout of Gronky’s shots which you can page through in this week’s photos. Hopefully they are fun to watch.

Aside from rough 3D, I’ve been retooling what Pointy does about Gronky’s silly noises coming out of his untakeoffable hat. In my enthusiasm, I forgot to do a gag session – coming up with a big list of funny things that a character could do or undergo in a given situation. I’ve brainstormed the situations a bit more, the resulting ideas are now in thumbnail form and they’re looking promising! Big thanks to David McSween this week for being a crucial sounding board.

I’m still on schedule to have a finished 3D rough by the time I leave for Blender Conference in a couple of weeks but recent illness and injury are making me less confident. It’s handy being able to work from bed when I need to but it might not be enough. We’ll see!

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading and see you next week!

It is the 12 to 18 June 2016 and off we go. Pointy is very talkative today.

At the last blog I had 55 shots covered in layout. As of right now I’ve got 64 shots covered and 14 more shots to go. Five of those are titles of one sort or another, and nine are narrative shots. Five of the narrative shots use a camera framing that I’ve already established, and after that there’s four shots with framings that I’ve yet to set up.

Let’s talk production management for a bit.

How do I choose which shot to work on next, given that not all of my days have an equal amount of time?

Here’s the shot list for scene 1 as of today. Completed shots are buttery yellow. Shots which already have a complete camera setup in another shot (e.g. all the 01_03 shots) are white. Shots with no camera setup are coloured anything but yellow or white.

Note the one row second from the right with single letters in it. y means “shot’s done”, e means “easy”, t means “tricky”, h means “hard”. (That should really be two rows.)

For weekday evenings after the day job (Mon-Fri), I tend to tackle e shots
where the camera and assets are already in place. On Sundays and public holidays, I tend to do new camera setups or tackle tricky/hard shots. The idea is to create as many easy shots as possible for the coming week so that I can maintain some kind of momentum even when on days when my time and energy are limited.

For example, dialogue shots and simple reaction shots are best left for weekdays. Camera moves, complicated animation, character interaction, sims and anything else with the potential to be a runaway timesink is better left for days when I have the time and energy to stick with it.

For instance, last Sunday I was using particles to roughly simulate flying dirt. You can key a texture that controls Density with a cyclic F-Curve which makes particles emit in discrete puffs instead of flowing at a constant rate.

But in the actual animation file where Gronky’s digging, I could only manage a stream of dirt. What worked in the test file didn’t work where I needed it to. Since it’s only layout, I postponed any final solution to when it’s time to do it for real. It was definitely a timesink. And hence, something better attempted on a weekend where I have time to sink.

So why not stick with the particles and fix them? Again, it’s a question of setting priorities and maintaining momentum.

During this first pass, it’s OK if shots are less than perfect – if sims malfunction, if the action is underpolished, etc. It’s more important right now to get coverage in layout rather than slowing down to nail any given shot on the first try. That means embracing the reality that anything could be redone – even a really nice shot might not work in the edit. Nothing has to be perfect yet. It just needs to be there at all.

Even though I’m only creating one tree at a time, the forest has to look nice too.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you again next week. 🙂

It’s time for 28 February to 5 March 2016. (And we’re zany to the m016.) This week’s video is a boarding to polish progress reel of my 11 Second Club entry for February 2016.

Sunday and Monday were my last days for working on 11 Second Club for this month. I did another 5 ½ hours of tweaking lighting and scenery and polishing the movement before I sent it in. Since it was intended be rendered in OpenGL mode, I ended up “boomsmashing” it at 7680*4320 so it would look less pixelly once it was scaled down to 1080p.

On Wednesday evening I got a chance to sit down and rate the 230 other entries. Overall I awarded a median score of 6 (Decent) averaging at 5.8 with mostly 4s (So-so).

My hope all along was mainly to get some good crit and finish with at least a score of 4. 5 would have been great, 3 would have been disappointing. (The 11SC crowd are hard markers.) If I could make the Top 100 on my first complete entry, all the better.

And… I came in equal 90th with a score of 4.34.

The score was about what I predicted (between 3 and 5) but the ranking came as a pleasant surprise. I got a curious bit of feedback which suggested using a single sweeping sniff instead of a sniffy sniff - the very thing I threw out because another note complained it wasn’t readable. Oh well. That’s random notes for you. :)

The best part of having done 11SC is that I’m less apprehensive about animating and way more impressed by anyone who can do it well. It’s said that animating is acting and that’s absolutely true - many thought processes in common. But on top of that there’s physical forces to represent (either naturalistically or stylistically), and on top of that there’s the craft of creating the illusion in the first place and making it believable and compelling. That shit is hard!

But really interesting too. I could happily do more of this. :)

That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading!