random thoughts • coming attractions • euphoric visions • misc ephemera

life is getting real interesting lately, isn't it?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tennis Tantrum à la McEnroe

Here are some of my latest exercises being done at Animation Mentor. I'm doing the "AnimJam", where you create three related shots that can be strung together.Here are the first two sections...

Part 1:

Tennis Tantrum Part 2 from Sean Hannon on Vimeo.

Friday, August 6, 2010

When Work Is Play, Is It Still Work?

I am now home from Siggraph and catching up on my honeydew list. As I said before, I had intended to blog throughout my week of Siggraph, but my duties there kept me too busy to write, and when I actually did have a moment, well...

Before I continue, I want to explain to my friends who do not live in 3D computer land what Siggraph is: this is an annual convention where professionals and hobbyists involved in the creation and development of computer graphics come to celebrate their work. It features something for everyone... eye-popping presentations of behind-the-scenes work on major 3D films, to over a hundred in-depth panels with computer scientists and engineers on their latest innovations in this field.

This year I was working as a Team Leader in the Student Volunteer program. The venue that Victor Leung and I were assigned was West Hall B, a gigantic space that was host to the Computer Animation Festival, Electronic Theater, Real-Time CAF, and Papers Fast Forward. It held upwards of 3,000 people and featured all the spectacular "Making of.. " sessions that included "Avatar", "Alice in Wonderland", Pixar's "Day & Night", and the upcoming "Tron:Legacy".

Our task throughout the week was to smoothly move the eager hordes in and out of the venue, passing out thousands of 3D Glasses, handling lines that stretched from one end of the convention center to the other, and genially answering all the questions that came our way. It was a real pleasure to do, and I think all of the Team Leaders and the Student Volunteers this year helped every attendee to an exceptionally positive experience. Of course, the leadership of the SV Committee, helmed by Jason Jerald, made it all possible. We would have all walked off a cliff like lemmings if they told us to. They were a remarkable team.

When I did have some breakaway time to enjoy the rest of the conference, I managed to take in Emerging Technologies, where the future of 3D interactivity is revealed in its nascent form. The Exhibition Hall had some fun demos going on at the Autodesk and Pixelogic booth.

But if I saw nothing else (and this includes all the events in West Hall B!), I couldn't have been more thrilled than I was to be at the "Animation Blockbuster Breakdown" panel talk. This event, sponsored by Animation Magazine and Animation Mentor, featured four world-class animators showing how they each developed a specific shot in films like "Up", "Toy Story 3", "Princess & The Frog". They started with the initial notes they got, what research they did to develop the character, on to their blocking pass, getting director's feedback, their adjustments to the notes, and the final version.

The first to speak was Eric Goldberg, one of the best traditional animators working today, showing how he developed the alligator in "The Princess & The Frog".

He didn't just tell us, he SHOWED us as he drew out the character as he spoke, illustrating the subtle changes he made to the physical attributes of the character based on his observations. He stepped through key pose sketches of Louis as he is playing the trumpet, and he made the entire room marvel aloud at the masterful audacity of his most extreme poses.
(this one is mild by comparison)

Aaron Hartline outlined how he developed a shot from "Toy Story 3" when Mr. PotatoHead (running around with a tortilla for a body) has a run in with a hungry pigeon.

Finding reference for how a tortilla moves was his big challenge, and he says he found it in a popular YouTube video of an extremely drunk man trying to get more beer out of a convenience store refrigerator.
Brilliant choice for reference!

Michal Makarewicz is masterful at nuanced, subtle character animation, and he proved it with his description of how he handled a shot in "Up" with the character Muntz, the mysterious explorer. He had to carry the scene forward with the character in almost complete stillness, communicating everything in Muntz's face.

He was also told not to move the prime light source, a lantern close to his Muntz's head. But there was one short section of the scene that he felt strongly about moving the lantern to a lower position, and he showed how it was sometimes possible to develop an idea you feel strongly about and win approval for it. His main message to us was "Aim for truth, not glitz"

Finally, we wrapped up with the amazing Carlos Baena, whose work on the Spanish Buzz Lightyear in "Toy Story 3" was pure inspiration as we watched his hilarious reference videos of him flamenco dancing around a hapless office mate.

Yes, he did get genuine Spanish dancer footage off the internet, but it was his own homegrown reference footage that really made the sequence fly! Ole!!

That was absolutely the pinnacle for me as events went.

But as wonderful as taking that session in was, my main reason for my attendance at Siggraph this year was to meet new people and network. And this turned out to be a very fruitful event on that score. And that's all I need to say about that.

Finally, when the days were done, we had the parties at night. Alas, I didn't make the notorious Blur party this year (eh, you've seen one fire dancer you've seen them all, lol) but I did get to some great ones. My favorite was the Animation Mentor party at Boardner's, a nightclub in Hollywood. That was a shoulder-to-shoulder high octane affair where I got to meet some of my fellow classmates, and a few moments of conversation with AM maestro Bobby Boom Beck! Siggraph was an exciting milestone and portent of great things to come!