Tag Archives: animation

What is Layered Animation?

The last weekend of January I had the incredible opportunity to take a masterclass by Pixar Animator Michal Makarewicz. The 18-hour programme of lectures, Q&A, and live demonstrations in Maya covered important topics for animators such as planning, acting and performance, animating dialogue, polish, and many others. However it was Mike’s explanation and many live demonstrations of the layered animation approach that I found most interesting. I hadn’t heard of it until the lead-up to the weekend, and although I had an inkling what this might be, the masterclass clarified Mike’s layered animation practice in detail.

Since the masterclass weekend I’ve been researching online for resources about the layered animation workflow, although there’s no substitute for participating in a learning opportunity like that in person. The live demos in particular left even seasoned animators floored by Mike’s ability to speedily get CG characters acting convincingly! Given attendees were requested not to record the sessions, here’s my notes for animators of what I learned about layered animation, using online references to explain things more visually and to point you to further resources.

TL;DR

Points covered in brief:

  • Layered animation is an approach, like straight ahead or pose-to-pose. It doesn’t necessarily use the animation layers feature of Maya etc.
  • The idea is to animate the main driver of a character’s motion in your shot, usually the Root, maybe the Head, for the whole shot. This is like a base layer. Then animate the next most important controller for the whole shot, then the next, building up the whole performance, layer by layer.
  • Mike treats each component on each controller, ie. a single spline in the Graph Editor, as a “layer”. Other animation teachers seem to treat something like a limb as a “layer”.
  • The expertise Mike showed in movement analysis and the concept of portraying the energy of the movement, rather than being guided by golden key poses, seemed to be pivotal in making layered animation, as Mike uses it, especially effective.
  • Mike’s demonstrated the concept of a “Master curve” by copying and pasting keys from one spline to another, then adjusting the pasted spline for its new component in the Graph Editor. A way of speeding up his animation workflow.
  • This article discusses drawbacks to the layered animation approach.

I hope the greater detail in the full article is helpful especially for anybody wishing to try out this approach to animation. Read on for some video examples, too!

Continue reading What is Layered Animation?

Animation arrives at emeraldsong.com!!

I’ve created an animation section for this website, bringing my moving image work alongside my comics and illustration galleries here. While I’ll use Tumblr, DeviantArt and Vimeo to post sketches, studies, breakdowns and other “making of” material, emeraldsong.com will collate finished work. (Buttons in the right sidebar link to emeraldsong’s presence on these platforms. Facebook and Twitter accounts, too!)

The featured image with this post is from Renewal, a short film that I, together with four other hardworking filmmakers, completed in the Spring. I’ve been very busy this year with many projects including Renewal, and I’m pleased to be showcasing them here at last!

Check out some short films in the animation section!

Short animated film “Skyleigh TRANSFORM!!”

[UPDATE: Skyleigh TRANSFORM!! REDUX is now up. This is a newer version with improved animation, effects, and other areas of polish. ~14/11/2016]

I’ve made a short film as a final project while studying and practising 3D animation at Bournemouth University over the last year.

Motivating me to make this film were the ideas of taking the “transformation sequence” as a template and creating a hero  that a young non-white female viewer might feel excited about as a positive representation of “someone like me” on screen. Acknowledging that this was a very personal project, my initial aim was to keep the animation length to about 15 seconds, to counteract the risk I was taking on in tackling all the stages of end-to-end production myself.

Preparations made during pre-production included analysing a number of “magical girl” anime for common themes, visual motifs, and camera and editing styles. Based on this research, and with the design of the hero being refined, I made the following animatic:

During production it became clear that the final film would be more than twice the length of the animatic, especially when motion captured animation turned out to last tens of seconds for just one shot! I made many difficult decisions, including that to simplify the character design, so the final film doesn’t feature the skirt and accessories that were intended to emphasise the arcs and rotations of hero Skyleigh during the sequence.

2016-09-skyleigh-1-design

 

Perhaps what I’m most pleased with in the production is how the care taken with the ZBrush sculpt paid off, with animated Skyleigh looking like a compelling, living and breathing character. It’s deceptively difficult to get a cartoon human looking appealing rather than creepy, and I made a lot of effort to study the best 3D examples, gather valued feedback from tutors and classmates, and iterate on the design and model.

I hope this is just the beginning of making more interesting 3D projects, and exploring further what can be accomplished with the powerful software tools I’ve put to use.