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More Animation Tools

More Animation Tools

There are so many tools out there to help us animators that it sometimes it’s hard to shift through the good and reliable ones. As I have done before I would like to highlight some now that will help us animators along our journey to becoming masters of this craft. SO this time around I’d like to highlight some sketch tools that can help when it comes to tracking your arcs and also giving some feedback. I’ve come across a few that are free and some that are a price but very inexpensive.

The first one is called ZoomIt. Now this one is free and made by Microsoft, so it has some credibility..respectively. They display it as a good for presentations program but you can totally use it for a sketch tool. This is the pitch from the publisher.

“From Microsoft :ZoomIt is screen zoom and annotation tool for technical presentations that include application demonstrations. ZoomIt runs unobtrusively in the tray and activates with customizable hotkeys to zoom in on an area of the screen, move around while zoomed, and draw on the zoomed image. I wrote ZoomIt to fit my specific needs and use it in all my presentations.ZoomIt works on all versions of Windows and you can use pen input for ZoomIt drawing on tablet PCs.”

The next would be Sketch It. Looks like it’s made by Wilz Modz. This one is also FREE! This is the pitch from the publisher.

“Have you ever had trouble explaining your idea on a computer to someone? Have you ever simply wanted to mark on your screen for illustrative purposes? Have you ever wanted to sketch an equation or figure to the side of your notes? Well now you can. With Sketch It! you can draw on top of any program on your computer including your desktop. Sketch It! will allow you to turn your ordinary computer into a virtual drawing surface. With a variety of features from changing the appearance of the line your drawing including size and color to placing the screen’s image into the clipboard or saving it to a file it’s all there. One of the best features about Sketch It! is that you’ll hardly notice it until you want to use it since it stays on the task bar waiting for you. Sketch It! is a perfect tool for a variety of individuals and professions.”

And then there is Annotate Pro. Which there is a free 30day Trial version and then you can pay $19.99 and get the latest version in all its glory. You might have heard about it or seen it on Keith Lango‘s tutorials. He speaks of it well and uses it all the time.

As you can see Keith sketches away in Maya. So hopefully you can find one that suits you and will only help you become a more efficient animator.


Posing in Animation

Posing in Animation

Today I’d like to talk a bit about posing. I recently was given a great lecture on posing. I know for me, when it came to my learning process in animation, not enough emphasis was placed on posing. I mean, really drawing and figuring out your poses before even getting into the computer. Also really pushing your poses. I always get feedback saying push those poses further.

I always seem to contain my posing. It seems that the best way is to push too much…because then you can always dial it back some more.In my experience it is to push the pose, step back, look again,then push more. It’s like when they say, “It’s always better to be overdressed than under-dressed”. Never go with your 1st pose, ask yourself, “Can I push it further?” In the lecture I received he discussed 3 Main Principles of Posing.

1. Staging of the Shot
2. Line of Action

3. Pose Design

As animators we are exposed to staging all the time. Before we were animators it was planned out for you to see in all of the films that you watch. If you stop on a frame of animation, you can really study the staging in a shot. Where the characters are placed in the scene also in relation to the objects or even other characters. Most things in a shot as you might notice in many great photos do not lie perfectly center but are slightly offset. Take a look at this still frame from Foghorn, you can see the staging set up clearly and direct. All of the action and staging leads the audience directly where they want you to look.

This is discussed in John K’s Blog as he takes this shot and breaks it down frame by frame. John’s Blog is a great resource for this as he seems to do this type of stuff alot. He examines different shots of classic animation all the time and breaks them down. Check it out.

Now the Line of Action in a character is one of the most important aspects of posing. How you pose the character I believe will determine how much smoother your animation will flow from one extreme to the next. I never realized it early on but having really strong poses can actually make your animation easier when you go from your blocking to splining. It will also help your animation read clearly. You can convey just about every emotion with your posing. It also ties in with your framing of the shot in that many elements of the shot will follow your line of action. Think…if your character was just a line…Would it be clear?

These are a few poses of Louie from the Jungle Book drawn by Milt Kahl. I saw this post on . There are many frames from this animation, so check it out cause they are amazing examples of how you can get good weight and character through Line of Action. Next time that you see a great piece of animation I encourage you to pause it on a single frame that best describes it. Then frame by frame it from pose to pose and see how clear the animation really is. This is all made possible by these types of poses.

There are a few elements within Pose Design that were covered in the lecture I received that I would like to bring up. Simple vs Complex and Straight vs Curve. They run hand and hand but you will see it. It is mainly all about balance in the pose when you are constructing it. Ask yourself what it is that you are trying to say. What emotion are you try to sell? Then you can start with your line of action and in that line of action will fall your attitude. Here are a couple of examples…one from animation and one from real life.

The 1st example is a Glenn Keane drawing for the prince of Rapunzel.
If you look at the left side of the Prince then you see Simple and Curved. The right side is Complex and more Straight up and down. Same with the pic of the the kick boxer his left side is Complex and the other side is Simple. In any good pose you can find these. Please check out Glen’s site The Art of Glen Keane. There is always great examples of posing on there.

There are so many examples of great posing out there so do your research. I have put together a few more resources for everybody. So really take the time and think about your posing it will make a world of difference in your animation.

The ones above are from a great site called The Animation Art of Bobby Pontillas that has plenty of great examples.

This one comes from a Pose Tutorial I found on Deviant Art pretty sweet. Deviant Art is also a great resource for good posing.

And here is a few other links
Keith Lango‘s Life after Pose to Pose

Victor Navones Tutorial on Posing

to be continued…


Building Overlapping Action in your Breakdowns

Building Overlapping Action in your Breakdowns

So I always go back to look at different tutorials on many of the sites and blogs that I follow. Even if I believe that I have a good understanding of certain principles it is always good to go back and revisit them. Just like Keith Lango did on his workflow of breakdowns. Much to his credit, Keith revisited an earlier tutorial that he wrote titled Pose to Pose- Organized Keyframe tutorial. As animators, we are always learning and growing in our craft. The more we animate, the more we practice, the more we learn about this amazing process. What we thought might have worked for us earlier, as it may well have, the more we simplify and perfect our workflow. In this case Keith has done just that as he writes in this follow up tutorial titled Breakdowns Can be Such a Drag (building better overlaps in breakdowns). He goes on to compare his earlier views and techniques with a new and revised one based on more experiance and practice. Not only is it a good tutorial in building overlap into your breakdowns but he is able to show a clear diffrenece in the two different types of workflow. As as animator, I am always trying to perfect my passion with time practice and knowledge. It is not always this easy and clear on how we do this but this tutorial is a great example of that. So check it out and also check out the rest of his tutorials keithlangotutorials. Here it is.


Helpful Animation Mel Scripts

Helpful Animation Mel Scripts

So in this post I thought that I should speak up about a couple of great that are out there to help us animators along in the process. Hey anything that can make our life even a tad bit easier is always appreciated. So the first is the Tween Machine by Justin Barret and the shelf icons were created by Keith Lango. This is a great tool to help us along inbetweening our animation. It is not a substitute to actually doing it rather a tool to help us get the job done faster. There are many setting and it can be a very valuable tool so read up on it on the site. The other is the tool created by Comet-Cartoons. It’s under the Mel Script Suite there. There are plenty of good tools included in the suite and they list them on the site. The autotangent tool allows you to get the right curve on your tangents after the blocking stage. Many animators have different work flows that work for them from pass to pass. This tool allows you to have better control over your tangents so that there is no or less overshoot as compared to when you use spline. It allows you to have a bit more control over your tangents instead of leaving them to the computer AHHH. These scripts are all for maya. Although Comet-Cartoons has ones for Max. There are also many other helpful scripts at you can check out.
Let me point you in the direction for the scripts I mentioned.

The TweenMachine here

Autotangent here