Just like last month, my day job bit hard into my time and energy, including one monster of a fourteen hour day (close to sixteen hours with breaks included) which started around 9:30am and finally wound up around half past one in the morning. Outside of work, I logged less than thirty hours of either training or making stuff. Forty hours in a month used to be low, now it’s normal.
I released an album this month called Music for open plan offices. It’s a collection of noisy but calming ambient designed for knowledge workers in noisy offices in need of a relaxing sonic bubble. If you’re not sure what to make of that description, here’s track 2, “0716 (a leveraged synergy)”:
It’s selling for a cheap and cheerful $5 over at Bandcamp. You can preview the whole album before buying it.
Earlier in the year, I stalled on the last exercise of the lipsync course because using reference video just confused me with all that was going on. I doubled back and picked up the body mechanics course again. (Hooray for self-paced education!)
Why the switch? With body mechanics, the initial exercises are focussed on capturing a particular single action like a leap or a hop or a kick. A full acting shot has a lot of physical complexity to cover like weight shifts, eye direction, body movement and lipsync, all of which has to be motivated by the character. Jumping off a ledge? Not so much. There’s less to understand in a single action and analysing video reference is much more straightforward.
Not to mention, Instructor Wayne said to do body mechanics first. I understand why now. 🙂
Anyway, here is my blocking for a robot jumping off to ledge. Woohoo!
Somehow it still feels off, like there’s some indication of weight which is missing in the lift-off of the jump. Books like Animators Survival Kit can help when I get stuck, to some extent. There is really no substitute for an experienced animator’s notes and lots of practice though.
I got a couple of new synthesiser bits this month, including the venerable complex LFO TINRS Wobbler and a portable enclosure with a built-in power supply. The week that the enclosure began its journey over from Melbourne, my car decided once and for all that my modular synthesiser was getting far too much attention. There soon came an ominous and expensive rattling noise from the engine…
If my chances of making it to Blender Conference 2018 were slim before, my car’s repair bills have now nailed that particular coffin shut, set it ablaze and launched it into the sun. Foo.
The Blender Institute began their super duper code sprint up in Amsterdam and the daily builds of Blender 2.8 are getting super duper interesting as a result! I’ll hold off from making any remarks because it’s all very much a work in progress, but there’s some promising developments.. as well as a reignition of the old LMB/RMB select debate.. ah well, may as well take the good with the bad!
I finished up CG Cookie’s Animation Bootcamp this month. This was my first submission for Exercise 11, the first walk cycle of the course!
I got some feedback from Instructor Wayne on this submission and had another crack at it.
Not great, true, but not awful either. The second full-body walk cycle was a little better.
It needs some polish but my peers at CG Cookie decided it was good enough to pass as is. I’ll come back to both of these another day.
I went on to the next CG Cookie animation course, Animation Workflow and Body Mechanics, and now that I’ve got a better eye for when something looks off it’s taking much longer to get my exercises to the point where I’m happy to submit them. Knowing when something’s off is easy, knowing how it’s off and how to fix it efficiently is what I’ve yet to learn. Better stick with it!
Out of the blue one Friday, I decided to challenge myself to realise a character design because it’s been a while since I tried. I did up this orthographic reference in Krita.
A flat pig
Then I tried to sculpt it. It came out looking different but so much better:
Here, Mr Pig is an unretopologised sculpture. The animation is done by shape-keying a deforming lattice (head and cheeks) and the sculpted mesh (eyebrows). The freckle texture is done with vertex painting. The animation is extremely limited – he can’t open his mouth or blink yet, for instance. Still, cute pig!
The miracle of lattices!
I’m retopologising the sculpture to a mesh so that I can use it to practice UV unwrapping and surfacing, specifically texture painting. And maybe a little bit of animation too. We’ll see!
That’s all for April. If you’ve got any comments or questions or just want to rap, you can reply to this post’s toots/tweets on Mastodon or Twitter.
2017 was a rough year for me and seemingly a lot of other people. Here’s a recap of what I got up to.
Back in April I made RYGCBMK◯, a project which was weirdly central to a lot of what I got up to this year. Here it is if you want a refresher.
I’d wanted to try an abstract short set to music since I went to the Melbourne International Animation Festival in 2015. RYGCBMK◯ was my driver to learn procedural animation with Jacques Lucke’s powerful Animation Nodes system for Blender. I specifically wanted to synchronise abstract animation to a rhythm because I love that kind of synaesthetic stuff and I knew it would keep me going through an emotionally brutal bit of the year.
The end result was not perfect, but I got a high enough average score during the voting process for the Suzanne Awards 2017 to encourage me to try some more in the future. The important part was that there was an end result to speak of. It got done.
And it got done.. with nodes!
Working on RYGCBMK◯ also helped me tune into my artistic sensibilities. Given just shapes and sound to play with, the project took me away from complicated stuff like characters and dialogue to something which let me get a strong feel for the kind of work I want to put into the world.
I made important if not voluminous progress with “A moment in the sun” in its third year of development. I put together a new story reel in January and February, and a short stretch of that is good to go as is even with the big rewrite in May. Flipping Pointy from irascible and foolish to geeking-out cute was a decision that very much happened in the wake of RYGCBMK◯ too.
There was that secret project I can’t show off yet which happened in October-November. Here’s a concept which we abandoned.
The one we actually went with is way cooler.
I learnt Retopoflow this year as well – anyone doing modelling in Blender should grab it. Hard Ops is next on my list of useful plugins to get to grips with.
There was of course AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA which started strong but fizzled. AMITS now has a sweet cockatoo. Here’s AAAAAAAAAAA’s final resting point.
And then there was my first run at Inktober. I started practising with my brush pen and now my inking’s gone from “rubbish” to “slightly-less-rubbish”. This snail got the most likes on Instagram.
There wasn’t that much time for art or animation though. RYGCBMK◯’s soundtrack was part of a big jump back into music for me, something I did because I wanted a creative outlet but job stress was (temporarily) making the animation hobby unthinkable. Then it took over.
Just over eleven months after I impulse-bought that ARP Odyssey back in January as a shiny new toy to keep myself distracted, I’m now the owner of a 475HP Eurorack modular synthesiser which I mostly soldered together myself. I don’t need to look at a computer screen to make electronic music anymore (though the PC does come in very handy for recording) and the sound is even produced by old-school electronic components instead of simulated versions thereof. In playing around with it I’ve learnt a lot about how to patch and which modules are for what, but no doubt I’ve only just scratched the surface of what this thing can do.
To me DASYRAC looks sad and naked and unfulfilled without patch cables, but at least this way you can see the actual modules.
This krautrocky jam from early December is one of my favourite tracks I did this year.
I didn’t even know how to solder before I started putting DASYRAC together, but I noticed the kit builds were a lot cheaper so I gave it a try. Now I’m actually happier owning synthesiser modules which I put together myself than modules I bought pre-made, because I’m comfortable fixing my own work when it breaks. Most times when I sit down to prod a busted circuit with a multimeter and pore over a circuit schematic, I learn something new and interesting.
This is the schematic for Music Thing Modular’s Simple EQ with my troubleshooting notes. Looks like I forgot to solder one of the pins on an op amp.
So that’s what I learnt and did in 2017. (Mostly synthesiser stuff, to be honest.) This is what I’m taking away from all that for 2018 and beyond.
In terms of the modular synthesiser and music stuff, the build is almost complete. Once that’s done it’s all about learning my gear better and maybe getting some tunes released on Bandcamp. There’s one or two easy modules I want to have a crack at building for myself too, but that’ll need a little bit of extra equipment – it can wait.
A pyramid monk from AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.
In terms of Blender stuff, I want to jump into some short, focussed and contained exercises – animation, modelling, or otherwise. If it’s animation, I source the soundtrack and character rigs from somewhere else. If it’s modelling, I source a design from somewhere else. I go with pre-made assets wherever possible. The key is not giving myself too broad a set of creative decisions to make at once so that I don’t get lost.
By pushing beyond my own creative sphere and not trying to do all the things, it’ll save me time, help me focus on specific tasks, broader my artistic horizons, get me analysing work by other people and build up my confidence and patience again with some experience. With less to do, I can hopefully finish more stuff and get it in front of people to start that all-important feedback loop.
Meanwhile, in the Sun…
As for Gronky and Pointy, I feel like I’ve lived with AMITS long enough that there’s no big surprises left – just a lot to execute on. If I can stay organised and find a good chunk of time every week to work on it (five hours a week minimum is a good pace), it’ll get done. It’ll probably be not the best, but at least it’ll be finished.
The day job may have other things to say about all of this, especially if I score the promotion I’ve been working towards and people keep departing, but we’ll see.
Happy New Year for 2018, and I hope the coming year treats you all well!
It’s been 6 to 12 August 2017. I made some progress on Shot 3 and cocky is now dancing!
In my head this sounds like “AAAAAA-ZWHOOSH FWSHwhshwhsh. (beat) .. AAAAA! woobh-woobh-woobh-woobh..”
In terms of timing and action beats, this shot feels good to me. I’ll polish up the animation and maybe fiddle with the materials a bit more before I render it out, and then it’s onto shot 4.
This is my phone background now. It can be yours too!
I wanted to produce AAAAAAAAA on a two week schedule per shot, but that momentum is hard to maintain alongside the modular synthesiser stuff, getting an adequate amount of downtime from the day job, etc. I’m still doing a ton of things by hand though – rigging/skinning, materials, modelling, etc. There’s almost certainly some workflow wins to be had by using resources that already exist. Rigging and materials in particular come to mind – it’s not like I haven’t got Blenrig and Cycles Material Vault sitting there idle. Something to look into!
That’s all from the world of AAAAAAAAAAAAAA this week. (Truly, any amount of As more than eight is fine.) For synthesiser-related bits, stay tuned! 🙂
It’s been 9 to 15 July 2017. I don’t have anything close to a preview of Shot 3 yet – it’s been a week of lost evenings, product releases at the day job, visits from interstate and a pressing need for rest. Shot 3 and its bird/cactus japery is just going to take a while longer and that’s that.
Someone asked how I did the “zip” (smear) effect in Shot 2 and whether I used motion blur. I didn’t! It’s just extreme scaling on a few single frames.
Here’s the shot in motion (again):
ALL HAIL THE PYRAMID (again)
And here’s stills of the smear frames where the head monk appears.
Frame 73 – monk enters
Frame 74 – monk ascends
Here’s a screengrab from Blender:
The highlighted bone is the base bone. It is quite stretched.
The X and Z scale values are both 0.142 because I built the base character much bigger than it ended up being in the final scene, so I had to scale it down. The Y scale value is 1.492, over ten times the value of X and Z. This distorts the rig considerably along the length of the base bone.
This means the character covers a lot of the screen, and in a single frame I can draw the attention of the audience to what this little purple guy is up to. It ups the cartooniness, it strengthens the staging, and as long as the zip frames are spaced so that they have obvious visual continuity (i.e. no large spatial gap from one frame to the next), it’s a lot of impact for not very much time spent.
If I’d had more time, I’d have added a frame where the monk is distorted in more of a curve to follow the contour of the ground rising up into the pyramid, but it’s fine without it. (Next time for sure!)
There can be no discussion of smears and zips and such without linking a certain Chuck Jones short which is chock full of great smear effects. Who needs motion blur?