3D Character Animation in Viborg: Final Project


After 15 intensive and inspiring weeks of 3D animation training in Viborg, I’m cleaning up my dorm room, packing my bags, resetting my little computer corner in the class room to its default state, saying goodbye to some really amazing people that I’m going to miss a lot, getting ready to go home. I’m sort of exhausted, so I’m just going to say: This is my final project. I modelled in my spare time since early on in the course, and animated for 4 weeks. Thank you everyone who helped me, and thank you Viborg! Enjoy!

Triangle vs Saxophone from Andreas Qassim on Vimeo.

Dialogue with Rich Quade

Wendy Balsom

Here’s the result of a 2 week dialogue course with Pixar animator Rich Quade. The voice belongs to Vincent Gallo, from the movie Buffalo 66.

Wendy Balsom from Andreas Qassim on Vimeo.

It has been two incredibly inspiring weeks. One reason is Rich’s amazing experience in the business. He was the fourth or fifth animator to be hired by Pixar in the early nineties. When he came aboard, preproduction of Toy Story was underway, but the company was still a small one, and 3D animation as we know it today was still in it’s cradle. Pixar’s amazing journey from the success of Toy Story and onwards, Rich has experiencced from within. He was Directing Animator on Toy Story, Supervising Animator on A Bug’s Life and Monsters Inc., and he animated on Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Toy Story 3 (which will be out this summer).

The second reason was Rich’s lectures. He would go into detail about blinks, eyebrows, lip synching. But also about more abstract concepts like believability and timing, always with clarity, easy to understand. He’d demonstrate his points with video clips from mostly old movies, when acting tended to be more physical than today, discussing gestures and body language. He showed us examples of good animation (often from Pixar films), and bad animation (most often non-Pixar ones).

The third reason was his feedback on our work. He had this ability to immediately see what you were trying to do (after two or three viewings of the scene), analyze why it didn’t work, and suggest changes that would get you where you wanted. He was very generous with his time. He always had something useful to say, and he definately managed to get everyone to lift their scenes to another level.

Rich left for California early this morning. We miss him already. First thing on his schedule when he gets back: attend the wrapping party of Toy Story 3…

Triangle Player Going to Work

triangle player

This scene was a two week exercise from the acting module. Acting as in “pantomime” that is, with no dialogue. We were asked to come up with a story, anything would go. I thought of this triangle player going to work. Once we had the story, our teacher Erik added the “magic if”: what if a safe fell from above? The task was then to find out how the character would react to this given circumstance.

In order to know what the reaction would be, you had to get to know your character. Who is he? What is his job? Where is he? How old is he? Does he have a family? What was his childhood like? What’s his favorite song? etc. My character is a professional musician, somewhere in his mid thirties, living in London. He’s an uptight person who never shows much emotion, except when he plays his triangle, which is his dearest posession. Everyday he travels by the tube to his job in the London Symphony Orchestra. One day while stepping off the train, a safe falls down on a fellow commuting person…

Working two weeks on a scene you start to really go into detail. This playblast is just work in progress really. I will probably tweak some stuff before considering it done. I fiddled around a lot with the timing of the different poses and actions, scooping stuff back and forth. Can’t decide if I’m happy with the current timing or not. What you don’t want is even timing, but you do want pace and variation.

One of the last things I started to look at was moving holds. Nothing is ever 100% still in 3D animation, and you have to come up with “noise” to make the character seem alive even when he’s not doing anything. I found that really hard. If you don’t do it, the character looks dead. If you do it, he easily looks nervous. Whatever you do you have to play it subtle. In some 2D styles perfect holds isn’t a problem, in others you can get away with noise consisting of three or four drawings of the same pose looping. 3D is different. It tends to be more naturalistic, even when it’s stylized and cartoony. 3D is also endless tweaking.

More animation basics

blake and hogan

Some more stuff from the animation basics module. I thought I’d publish these before moving on to the acting module starting tomorrow. I might or I might not have the patientce to go back to these later.

Hogan taking a bow. He just finished a virtuoso piano concerto. Standing ovations.

Meet Blake. I might use this character for my final project. He’s a bit weird around the waist. Like he bends in strange ways, so you have to counter-animate a lot, stretch him and stuff. But I like the fact that he doesn’t look like a school rig, like Hogan and Norman.

It was tricky to make the run cycle work in space. Since the movements are so fast, it’s hard to get nice fluid motions. I think I succeeded with the legs and feet. The arms however I have edited and edited, but they just refuse to swing. “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”

Animation Basics Week 3: walk cycles

Norman and Basic Guy

Here are some playblasts (unrendered Maya previews) from Animation Basics Week 3, which has been mostly about walk cycles. Meet Norman:

The first assignment was to create a “simple” generic walk cycle, just trying to get everything in place. This required a lot of “the hip bone’s connected to the back bone’s connected to the neck bone”-thinking, much more so than the things you can get away with in 2D. I worked three days with Norman…

We learned the importance of letting the character walk on the spot AND in space when creating a walk cycle. This way you can check things like that the feet have even spacing (so they don’t slide), and the way the movement of the character reads from different distances. I couldn’t resist giving Norman an expression.

The second assignment was to make a “character walk”, i.e. a walk cycle with some characteristics. I ended up with this goofy nerdy funky thing. Meet Basic Guy:

Basic Guy was more stretchy and cartoony than Norman. More suitable for this kind of walk I guess. Again, checking how the cycle reads in space.