Saturday, October 29, 2011

Part 4 Spline pt2 Facial --Walkthrough A Shot: Step by Step

 Spline Part 2: Facial

 Ok so now we are ready to start facial. I do this by thinking of going from one emotion to the next. I ignore everything else. Just focus on that, put in the little details of the eyes opening nicely, the eyebrows going up settling, holding and then moving. (No floaty eyebrows) I've found less is more when it comes to facial. I also look at my video reference very carefully and notice when my eyes open and squint and how the eyebrows are a few frames behind, ect... very careful study of my vid ref is a must! NO MOUTH ANIMATION YET, hold off, focus on getting the eyes to read clearly and emote clearly.

Eye line is super important. Make sure the eyes look like they are looking at the other characters eyes. Careful not to loose them on the inside of the eyes, so we only see half an eye. 

Here is my video reference, pay close attention to what my eyes are doing.

Here is my first pass at the dad in shot 1:

Here is the boy's facial pass which was much, much harder. This had to be very clear. I even had some ideas I really wanted to put in like a quick look up but it was too crammed and repetitive so I had to simplify.

Here is my first pass on the boy, I did this one emotion at a time. I didn't tackle this all at once, but for not uploading too many videos here is after I went through a few emotions on the boy. As you will see there is way too much happening. I like the extra look up idea, but it's just not working so I have to simplify!

So then I simplified, it was very hard the previous video was version 47 and the video below is version 60. So I had to work really hard to find the essence of the boy and what would read the most clearly.  You will also notice I make changes to the body animation to fit with the facial. (the character is one whole unit, nothing works independently, they all affect each other)

So I think this is in a good place, still needs a lot of work and polishing. But I think it's reading well and now I move on to shot 3 and create the dads facial. Once again I look very closely at my video reference (frame by frame) to see all the little details in the eyes, cheeks and eyebrows.

So that is my facial pass. I had to focus on eye line, clear emotions and I made changes to the body to fit the facial moves.

Here is the entire shot. It still needs more work and refinement. But for this part of my workflow it's working well and I can move on to the next step. With each pass I always spot out new floatyness and things that need to be tweaked. When you see it again it's from a new set of fresh eyes.

Now I'm ready to go back to the frame 1 and start on the lip sync. That will be the next post :)

Hope this all make sense and helps! Feel free to leave a comment if you need some clarification.

Part 4 Spline--Walkthrough A Shot: Step by Step

7. Spline:  Body (no facial or lip sync)

A lot of people fear spline because everything goes terribly mushy and soft and it seems like all your hard work disappears. If this is happening to you, then you probably have not done enough work in all the previous steps I mentioned. You basically haven't thought of what your character is doing, down to the last little arc. It's crazy how precise this industry is, but that is the truth. YOU HAVE TO KNOW WHAT YOUR CHARACTER IS DOING. You're not going to make any groundbreaking discoveries in your spline.

Here are a few ways of easing the pains:

1.I usually will spline like this: Key Pose, Breakdown, Key pose. 
So if I have my first key pose on frame 1, my breakdown on frame 5 and my second key pose on frame 13 I will select those keys and flatten the tangents (and the rest of my shot is still in stepped mode). This should be 
one movement, and that is how I think about it, as simple as possible.
2.I will also set my timeline to only show me 1-13, so I can just focus on this one move.

3. I hop into my graph editor and I go through all my controls, to turn handles on the tangents and make sure my line are flowing through. (I go through these in this order: hips, torso, head, finger tip, toes, heels,elbows, knees)
So I would grab my key pose 1, breakdown and my key pose 2 and I would just select Translate X in the graph editor and look at those three dots, make sure they are flowing through. Then go through all the rest: Translate Y, Z, Rotate X, Y, Z. 

***Here is the point especially in the Translate Y for the hips where I start adjusting my tangents (btw my tangents are set to "weighted tangsnts") to pull out tangents and make those v shapes with the linear button. This is how I set my character when he goes down, I want him to go down fast, so I will make key pose 1, translate y be a steep line down with the linear button. Then I would take the breakdown translate y and stretch out the bottom tangent between key pose1 and breakdown. Now I have my character coming down fast and easing in to his down position. So NOW we have timing, we are making decisions not letting maya do all the floaty animation.

Then I will do this for all the other controls Translate X, Y, Z, Rotate X, Y, Z and go through all my controls in these 3 poses. It's a lot of work, but that just the business we are in. If you follow this formula you will get good results, have interesting movement and most importantly telling maya what YOU want and NOT what maya wants :)

Here is  the dad just going from his key pose to breakdown to key pose:

I go through and do all of the above just for the body. I COMPLETELY IGNORE THE FACE. (Set it to proxy so it won't distract you.  

Then go down your timeline little by little move on to the next breakdown and key pose and repeat all the steps above. I usually take a break after each one, so that when I go to the next set I feel fresh and ready to give it a thorough pass. 

4. Go through shot by shot until I have both characters bodies in a good place. Resist the temptation to work on the face, just focus on the body.
5.  Then after this is done I go through and give the body a second spline pass. Because I will now have fresh eyes when I go back and see all sorts of floaty parts. So I go in and make sure there is overlap and offset keys, and make the ups and downs faster or slower, add the eases in. (I've already done this in the previous pass, but sometime your eye is not as fresh since you have to go through all your controls in the graph editor)

Here is shot 2 and 3 after going through all the steps:

Ok so that is the first part going through the body. In the next pose I jump into the facial. Everything is done in order to manage your time as efficiently as possible. You don't want to do facial and body, cause you might do something with the face that messes up the body, but then that facial doesn't make sense, so you have to go back and forth and you never polish and clean anything up. 


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Part 3 Breakdowns--Walkthrough A Shot: Step by Step

6. Blocking: Breakdowns

Follow this order and you will have awesome Breakdowns:
Follow this list in this order: 
--hips, torso, head, finger tip, toes, heels,elbows, knees--

For each item mentioned above, follow the list below:
 1. Favoring 
(Favor pose A or B. Choose one, Never put in the middle)
2. Arc 
(Decided on your arc)
3. Offset 
(Build in your offsets, hand drag, ect.)

So here is my next pass with Breakdowns. As you can see I went in and made even more changes with the original key poses. Never be scared to make changes. 

The more you think of what you want your characters to do, the better your animation will turn out.
 If you notice I have not blocked in much for the characters off camera. A bit lazy on my part, but I feel like I need to get moving on this shot. So my focus is the characters that you fully see. Time Management :) BUT I will block them out later on, exactly as I did in this process. I'm also putting them off a bit, because whatever they do will have to be minimal to not steal the attention.

7. Spline Shot 1...Coming VERY Soon

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Part 2 Blocking--Walkthrough A Shot: Step by Step

5. Blocking:Key Poses

Most Important thing to remember is: Don't be Afraid to Make Changes! Here is my first blocking pass with just Key Poses, based on my drawings.

Once I laid out all my key poses I found that Luke (boy) scene seemed way too busy. Also that he became happy to quickly. I basically wasn't giving myself room for him to get happier. You never want your character to reach their maximum emotion early in your shot, because then you have nowhere to go. 

So I went into my blocking and I simplified, here is the next pass.

This is what I fixed:
-Simplified Boy
-Smaller smile and facial for Luke, he was getting out of character.
- Bring him closer to his dad in last shot
-Dad toned down facial, way too happy, the line was a bit more subdued.
-Tone down Dad's second pose, he gets to close to his son. That moment is left for the last scene. Each scene the characters get closer as their relationship and trust grows with each scene

Now I feel a bit more confident in the character's performance, cinematography and I'm hitting my emotional Beats! Let's start adding some Breakdowns!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Walkthrough A Shot: Step by Step

So I'm starting up a new shot and I thought it might be fun to document the process so that anyone interested can view my workflow :)

1. Choose a line! 
-Try to pick something that calls to you, that moves you. Make sure you love it, because you will be hanging out with it for a long time.

“Look at that, how magnificent. The boy is gone. Somewhere during the last 30 seconds you’ve become grown up. Like that.”

2. Think about your line. Back-story & Emotional Beats
Be sure to really listen to your line of audio and make sure that your scenario and your characters match the line. Don't try to force a gag in there, if it's just not in the audio. Don't choose an old man as a character if it sounds like someone in there 20s. Give your character's names. 

Write a Back-Story to help you understand who they are. For a backstory all you need to know is:
 1. Where is the character coming from? Their past
2. Where do they intend to go? Their wants

Here is my back-story for "The Boy is Gone:"

Daniel Silvers was one of those people who lived at his job. He just couldn’t find the time to come home to his family and much to his dismay had missed out on a majority of his son’s life.
 “Not today” he told himself, it was his son Luke’s middle school graduation.  Today was a day of family and specifically a day to be with his son.  He was immensely proud of his son.
Luke had quite a different point of view of his dad.  He is always uncomfortable and tends to look down, as he is never quite sure how to feel around his dad. So while he is glad that he is there, he doesn’t quite know how to behave around him. Luke believes his dad never pays attention to anything he does, basically making him feel like a ghost in his eyes.
On graduation day Luke was feeling a mix of shyness and nerves at his dad spending time with him. On the other hand Daniel was completely gracious for being able to spend time with his son and was trying to be playful to cut the awkward tension.  As they were on their way out the door, Daniel couldn’t help but think that just yesterday his son was learning how to walk. He was humbled and overjoyed at the man his son was becoming. He wanted his son to know all this and to know that he loves him more than anything in the world.  
“Look at that, how magnificent. The boy is gone. Somewhere during the last 30 seconds you’ve become grown up. Like that.”

Break your shot down into emotional beats:


1. "Look at magnificent. The boy is gone"
-Taken back at how big his son is. (A memory of Luke flashes back of the first time he held him in his arms)

2. "Somewhere during the last 30 seconds you’ve become grown up."
-He is proud. Straightens up, like a military sergeant giving a promotion.

3. "Just like that"
-Playful, bends down and snaps fingers to signify how quick it has all happened.


1. "Look at magnificent."
-Uncomfortable, having trouble looking him in the eyes. Looking down at the floor.

2. "The boy is gone"
-After he says this he begins to see that his dad has been paying attention to him this whole time and a small smile begins to form.

3. "Somewhere during the.."
-Happiness grows, his dad is becoming Superman in his eyes. He begins to feel a bit embarrassed, like when your parent brag about you to their friends while your in the room.

4. "last 30 second you've become grown up"
-Proud of himself for his accomplishments, begins to lift himself up, throw his chest out a bit.

3. Storyboard & Video Reference

Now begin to do a roughs storyboard so that you know how you are going to stage your characters and where you want the camera to cut. I just made some quick stick figures in paint and changed when they cut using premiere. I experimented with a few different versions until I settled on the video below.

Video Reference:
Begin to film yourself acting out your line. Be sure to use all the information you've gathered up in the previous steps. Keep the emotional beats at the forefront of your mind. Record and experiment over and over again. It took me about two days of recording myself to finally settle on this final video that captures the shot I want to create.

5. Drawing

After I've solidified my video reference to a perfectly planned ballet, I jump into my drawings. Drawings are a very functional way of deciphering information from your video reference, so that you don't have to go back and grab this information while you are animating. It forces you to think of what you want to do before you jump into the computer. It's very important that you only draw your Key Poses, you do not need your Breakdowns or inbetweens. (Use small arcs and words to describe the movements in between, not entire poses) Try to find the poses that are super essential to telling your story.

Here is the information I take from my video reference:

-Line of action on my characters
-Staging, who has higher or lower status? (Who is higher up on the frame or lower) Does this change?
-Hip direction, which side is up, which side is down. Which side is facing camera or away
-Shoulder direction. (Same as hip info)
-Head/Eye direction
-Negative space between limbs, torso, legs and head 
-Watch overall path of the body for variation and changes in line of action
-Facial/Emotional Beats. (Eyebrows, eyes, cheeks, mouth)

I also like to write small notes for myself on the path of the motion between these poses, a simple arc up or down illustrating the path of the head or torso.

Ok, so now that all that hard work is behind us it's time to jump into the computer! YAY!!!!