Another semester at CCA has come and gone. I am about to start a new semester on Tuesday. I am super excited about the Spring semester. I think it is going to be the best one yet, but I am definitely going to have my work cut out for me. I am taking 4 classes, all of which are animation studio classes, no general ed. My teachers this semester are unbelievable, I can’t even tell you how excited I am about having the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the industry. I am taking Animation Tutorial, an advanced animation workshop with veteran Pixar animator and Spline Doctor, Andrew Gordon. I also have Senior Project with veteran Pixar Animator extraordinaire, Bret Parker, where I will begin working on my senior thesis short film. I will be taking Visual Storytelling, a storyboarding workshop class with Mark Andrews, Pixar Story Supervisor and Director of One Man Band and the upcoming Brave. Finally, I am taking Sound for Animation with Daniel Olmsted. This is his first semester at CCA, so I don’t know much about him, but he does have a very substantial filmography on IMDB, so I know it’s going to be a great class as well. So, I am expecting to be extremely busy this semester and if you don’t hear from me, I am alive, I am just chained to a desk somewhere at school…
The fall semester turned out to be an awesome semester. I really enjoyed all of my classes and I produced a lot of work that I am very proud of. My classes last semester were Character Design, Animation 2, Experimental Animation and Intro to the Modern Arts. Character Design was taught by Ed Bell, who is an amazing artist. It was his first semester teaching at CCA, but he has been in the industry I believe for almost 20 years. I learned a lot in his class and it was awesome to hear all of his experiences like working with Brad Bird on Family Dog or working on Roger Rabbit. I put up a Character Design page in my Portfolio section if you would like to check out some of the work I did for his class. Animation 2 was also a great class. It was taught by Tippet animator, Hans Brekke. It was also his first semester teaching at CCA. The class was focused on learning body mechanics. We did 5 assignments over the course of the semester. We started off with the good old bouncing ball assignment, then moved into a walk cycle, a side step, a step onto a box and finally a jump off of a wall. Hans gave us the choice to work in whatever medium we preferred. I would have liked to done everything in 2D, but due to time constraints and the workload from my other classes, I chose to complete the assignments in 3D. I posted the side step and box step on the animation page of my portfolio section for you to check out. I still have some polish to do the jump off the wall assignment, so I will be posting that up whenever I get around to finishing it. My last animation class was Experimental Animation with Bret Parker. This was my favorite class of the semester. I was a little leery of taking the class at first because I though it would be all about producing abstract animation, but I talked to a few students and they convinced me to take the class. I am really glad that I did, because it was a great experience and gave me the chance to work in a lot of different mediums that I probably would not have tried. I was also exposed to a lot of experimental and independent animation that I haven’t seen before and I have grown to appreciate it more because I have a better understanding of why it is made and what the artists motives are behind the films. Bret is an amazing teacher and she encouraged up to not only work with different mediums but also to express ourselves new ways. Over the course of the class, I produced a couple stop-motion pieces, an abstract animation and my final project, Fall Rhythms. I already posted Waiting, one of the stop motion films you can see the other paper stop motion piece I made on my animation portfolio page. Here is how my final turned out:
For the final project. Bret gave us free reign to produce whatever we wanted with whatever medium we chose to use. I had been wanting to do an animation piece with dancing for quite a while, so I thought this would be the perfect time. Prior to starting the project, I had seen a documentary about the Paris Opera Ballet and so that was my main inspiration. I began to think of how many ballets and characters in ballets are based on animals and so I chose to expand on that contrast. Rather than doing a contrast between an animal and a dancer, I thought I could broaden the comparison to dance and nature in general. At that point, I pitched the idea to Bret and she liked it so I developed it further. I was walking to school from my apartment on a particularly windy day and I began to notice the leaves blowing in the wind and falling to the ground. I could see the timing and the rhythm of how they were moving and it was just like a dancer. So, from that day on, every time I was outside, I was looking at the trees and how the leaves were moving. I developed the choreography around the classic falling leaf animation assignment. I happen to be a terrible dancer and have no training whatsoever, so I had no idea how to choreograph a dance. Luckily, Bret has a dance and performance art background, so she gave me some great reference to use. My main reference came from a ballet called The Firebird, which I found by chance on Netflix. The majority of the choreography, however, was out of my head. I used the reference only for the physicality of the dancer and to build a solid foundation for the body mechanics.
In producing the film, the first step was to thumbnail and board out the whole film. I also made a single color key to show Bret how I wanted the finished look of the film to be. Originally, I wanted the whole film to be hand drawn, but I found that if I did the leaf in 3D, I would have more time to focus on the animation of the dancer. After boarding out the film, I made an animatic with the main key poses of the dancer and the leaf. My initial idea was to have the leaf and the dancer on screen throughout the whole dance, but when I did a few tests, the two were competing with each other and so Bret suggested that the leaf could only show up in some parts of the film, only to suggest the comparison. That turned out to be the best solution. For the animation of the dancer, I ended up animating on the computer using a Cintiq and Digicel Flipbook. This was my first attempt at using that workflow. Previously, I had only animated traditionally on paper. Using the computer definitely sped up the process, but I like using paper much better. For the leaf and branch, I made them in Maya. After I finished the rough animation of the dancer, I brought it into Maya as an image plane and animated the leaf to match the dancer. I then rendered it out and composited everything together in After Effects. For the dancer’s shadow, I duplicated the animation and turned it into a 3D layer. then match-moved it to the original. It’s not quite as good as animating the shadow by hand, but it worked out pretty well in the end. I still want to go back and clean up the animation of the dancer, as it is still rough. I am still happy with the way it turned out. I think it conveys the idea that I wanted to come across.
Well, that is going to wrap it up for now. I will try and post new work during the semester and post some updated on any new or exciting developments.