Barton, G. Don’t Get a Job…Make a Job

These are some of my notes from reading “Don’t Get a Job, Make a Job” by Gem Barton.

Release early and release often. Don’t just rely on a cv to tell your skills, create proof! (p.23)

Your personality is your brand. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself.

Going Mobile

Go to the clients, don’t make them come to you.

“Having a hook that is a perfect match for your business needs as well as a strong brand identity is the ideal situation to put yourself in.”

“…we learn most when we act on our ideas instead of questioning them to death.” –

the Free Architecture stall idea broke down the barrier for having a conversation with architects.

Build your ideas for the world to see so that you become a familiar name. e.g. an architecture student built his masters project inside a bus which he then drove around to present.

Specialism versus Diversity

Be t-shaped.

Tough Calls

Competitions that you entered for well know brands are a good conversation point in interviews. Think of how you are spending your time now . This might prompt a tough decision of what you need to give up in order to pursue what will realistically get you the jobs that you want.

Experience – “work for others in order to understand how the industry works from the inside, how to deal with clients and suppliers, and how to manage a studio in the best way.” (p. 78)

“…always be alert to what surrounds you, work for others before you start your own studio, and be very patient”.

“The results are stronger when you exchange ideas with people. ”

“Build best case scenarios in your imagination”. Write a few fake CVs of possible futures and print them out.

Going it alone vs teaming up

“Hard work and commitment beat almost any other trait” (p.95). Do what you love and trust your instincts – this is common advice but at the end of the day you still need to support yourself. It’s up to yourself to put your name out there.

“Getting a diversity of experience matters, particularly if you’re going solo.” (p.96)

When you’re making a name, don’t think of who you are now, but what you want to become.

Don’t become a hermit. If you’re going it alone then networking outside the studio will be even more important. “Look for arenas to continue critical dialogues to test your ideas”. (p.97)

“Even within a team you need to be individual”

“Do everything yourself at the beginning – book-keeping, meetings, clearing up, building, drawings – it is important that you have an understanding of all aspects of practice as well as the life of the things you design.” (p.105)

“When starting a collective, it is important to set out a shared goal, a mission statement or similar, summarizing who you are, who you want to be, and the ethos behind the work you hope to produce.” (p.107)

“work out who you are and then express that”

“Don’t wait for things to happen – you are the one who can create your opportunities. Draw the art you want to see, create the events you want to attend, write the books you want to read” (Mega, p.121)

“If you have to show your portfolio to someone, highlight your ideas instead of your technical abilities….Get out of your comfort zone”.

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Podcasts: Finding Jobs

I Graduated…Now What? GSG Podcast Ep. 93

These guys offer some advice on getting a job after graduation with a design degree.

  • Networking is key. Start networking and visiting studios as a student.
  • Don’t be ‘the best person in the basement’.
  • Go to events and meetups. be active online in forums and slack channels.
  • Make yourself memorable as a specific skill based identity. E.g. when people think of ‘concept artist’ they should think of your name. This is your personal brand. Market and compartmentalise yourself in a crowd.
  • Ask other junior artists how they got their job.
  • Our work is all about trying to catch people’s attention. Apply this to yourself.

Becoming a Better Artist – with Emilie Stabell

  • Do projects in your own time to find what you’re talented at.
  • The first impression in your portfolio decides whether you’re skipped.
  • Why you instead of the other applicants?
  • Cater to the company or find a company that suits your style. Display the skills that they’re looking for. Make your application personal.
  • Soft skills matter a lot in this small industry. There are maybe about 40 character modellers in London VFX.
  • Going in as a concept artist is the hardest role in this industry. Mentally exhausting to come up with new ideas everyday.
  • Storytelling/concept is a muscle that you can train. Be aware of the difference between concept art and production. Get the idea across. You are an idea artist. Use kit bashing. Create a lot of quick ideas.
  • Quantity matters. You need to explore. Create 200, throw them out and create 200 more. You need to push beyond the limits. Quantity makes you go crazy and create mad decisions.
  • Low intensity over 10 years is better than high intensity for a short time. Be analytical and have a critical eye of your weaknesses. Be consistent over a long time with a focused, clear goal. Be the water in the grand canyon. The rewards on hard mode are more rewarding than easy mode. There are stupid limitations like not having undo or save. References and the challenge of not using references. By setting yourself up to fail deliberately you learn more from when you do it again e.g. draw a horse from memory and then look at reference.
  • Get a really shit idea and then critique it until it’s amazing. Don’t just through it away. Finish projects. 
  • Put up your work for critique, don’t be afraid. Fight the words with good art. You are not your work.
  • Your first job is usually your hardest.

Getting Your First Job and Internship as a 3D Artist

  • They both made industry connections through internships which got them their jobs.
  • Tailor your portfolio. Personalise your cover letter.
  • Junior positions are more plentiful than internships.

Killer Portfolio or Portfolio Killer 2018: Advice from Industry Artists

  • Prepare yourself for lots of rejection and don’t be deterred.
  • Get rid of portfolio weeds. Quality over quantity.
  • Stills might be a better format e.g. an artstation portfolio, if you don’t have animation in your reel.
  • There is an advantage in showing a specialist skill plus a complimentary secondary skill.

Keith Lango: VTS42-47 Stepped to Polished Animation

Semester 2 Week 7 (2018/03/13)

Research

These are my notes from watching Keith Lango’s video series on his workflow for a shot of animation.  It’s useful to see how much of his workflow focuses on key poses, primary breakdowns and secondary breakdowns (stepped). He spends most of his efforts on these poses, making sure that the drawings of the silhouettes are simple and have appealing curves. A lot of time is spent on creating arcs in the movements. These poses are then timed out. The splining phase is relatively short as the poses, arcs, and timing are working well before this stage.

VTS42

Start with the emotion of the character. Look for the shape of the dialogue. What is the energy of the dialogue? Does it pop up and crash, rise slow and crash etc.?

Study the line of action of different poses in the body mechanics. Even when the feet are off screen you will still be able to sense the balance. Think of feet as the foundation. What direction will the feet point to convey the stance? Emotion affects the pose of the action. Act out the motions and take note of what all your poses are. Understand what your body is doing, by doing. Animation is the believable condensation of life. 

Thumbnail your motion analysis; keys and primary breakdowns. Start by thinking through the motion (planning).

Setting up keys:

Create counter rotations for curves in the spine. Start with the hips (the point of movement in the example). 

Screen Shot 03-13-18 at 10.03 AM

Pay attention to the curves in the silhouettes of the poses.

Pose reversal. Offscreen poses can still affect on screen poses.

Build asymmetry in the facial pose. Think from squash to stretch and closed to wide in the facial pose too.

VTS43 The primary breakdown

In the example, Lango is aiming for an under-arch.

Think about the timing of separate actions e.g. the head comes through the door almost at the same time as the door opening.

This will then determine the position of objects along their motion path during the inbetween.

Think of how the limbs will be offset on the inbetween. What is moving faster/leading versus dragging?

The core of the body/hips can act as the carrier of the upper body if the hips are the pivot, therefore arrive quicker.

Think of the changing angles. Rotate angles of moving parts but find a balance. You want the torso to feel alive but not be distracting. Always consider ways to improve your key poses in the context of your breakdown too.

Think of how the silhouette morphs between poses. You don’t want it watery or strobing. Keep an eye on the poses which Maya tries to fill in. Pick points in the silhouette that might stay in the same place. Think of the drawings. It’s all just shapes moving on a 2d screen.

VTS44

Build the primary breakdown in the middle and then the smaller breakdowns like eases. The primary breakdown defines the nature of the move. Draw a line between the key poses and primary breakdown.

Screen Shot 03-13-18 at 12.33 PM 001

Get feedback after the primary poses and after the secondary breakdowns both.

VTS46 Timing

Start by planning, then space the frames according to your plan. The action should hit a few frames before the sound. 

Depending on how fast and slow the movement is you will need to add more ease to make the movement visible.

VTS47 Cleanup

Start with the hips and move up the torso.

Clean up the peaks and valleys of the graph. Clean up your geometry penetrations.

Lango adds extra character to the rotations after the f-curves are polished.

Dialogue animation is emotional. Get your narrows and wides and the jaw moving and focus on emotion instead of the nitty gritty sounds.

Every shape is unique, we’re not robots.

Start with the bigger shapes e.g. the squash of the eyes and then work smaller. Make sure that the shapes work in an emotional way.

 

Color and Light Summary

Research and Artistry

These are some of my summarised notes from the Schoolism course on Designing with Color and Light by Nathan Fowkes. We should try and keep these in mind when planning our color script. These were wrote with 2D concepts in mind but applies to 3D also.

  • Use Photoshop layers/groups for editing depth from foreground to background – 3 to 8 layers (from my own experience of working in Photoshop)
  • Consider atmospheric depth – values.
  • Consider atmospheric depth – color temperature.
  • Use depth of field blur
  • Use repeating shapes in z-space to create depth.
  • Consider the light source, where it hits local color, and where it is blocked.
  • Consider shadow color. Is it affected by bounced light from sky, or bounced light from light source?
  • Vary each of hue, value and saturation. Consider the key of the light (the levels distribution). Consider variety across the color script sequences and how they lead into each other. 
  • Does the light and color design (hsv) reflect the mood of the story?
  • Use variety in color temperature harmonies to create visual interest.
  • Use local colors for visual interest.
  • Use optical mixing to create greys (etc.) that are more alive e.g. dots of grey-yellow beside dots of grey-magenta.
  • Contrast should be reserved for the focal point. Draw the eye with sharp edges, contrast in value and light and contrast in hue temperature.
  • Group your values for readability. Adjust photo textures to the same value groupings.
  • Use weather to build atmosphere and mood.
  • Check perspective for every part of the painting – sky, ground, characters, textures, effects etc.

I went into more detail on the course in earlier blog posts:

Schoolism Color and Light with Nathan Fowkes Week 5

Schoolism Classmate Feedback Week 05

Schoolism Week 06 Light and Atmosphere

Schoolism Week 06 Feedback: Atmosphere and Light

Schoolism Week 07 Designing with Light

The 5 C’s of Cinematography – Camera Angles

This post includes my notes from the chapter on camera angles from The 5 C’s of Cinematography by Joseph Mascelli. My previous notes from the chapter on composition are blogged here. I haven’t read this book since first year and had forgotten a lot of important points through lack of practice. Hopefully we’ll be able to employ this knowledge better in our next animatic!

Screen Shot 10-28-17 at 12.35 PM

Mascelli, J. (1965) The 5 C’s of Cinematography. U.S.A. : Silman-James Press

The 5 C’s of Cinematography

  1. Camera Angles
  2. Continuity
  3. Cutting
  4. Close-ups
  5. Composition

Camera Angles Notes:

Story requirement should dictate the choice of camera angle. Ask yourself two questions when choosing: What is the best viewpoint and how much area should be included?

The scene is the place where action is shot. The shot is one continuous view without cuts, also known as a take. A sequence is a series of scenes or shots.

Consider three types of camera angles – objective, subjective, point-of-view.

The objective camera is when the viewpoint is from the sidelines.

The subjective camera is from a viewpoint within the scene, e.g. from a person within the scene or moving with the camera to take a tour of the scene. This is an effective viewpoint for startling the viewer e.g. in a rollercoaster or falling from a height. The viewer feels like they are in the scene, through the eyes of the characters on screen.

Moving shots are always subjective. A static shot can be made subjective by first showing a close-up of the person whose eyes you will see through, looking off screen.

You don’t generally see from the viewpoint of characters who are interacting as it will result in disruption from characters looking into the camera (your eyes).

Subjective filming should be reserved for when you want to show the mental condition of a character as using this shot too often will rob the audience of seeing the subject’s reactions.

Point-of-view shots are those that position the camera within the scene but not from the viewpoint of a character. It is like standing cheek to cheek with the character so that you see what they see, but you remain objective. Over-the-shoulder shots set up the relationship between the two characters. This objective shot can again become subjective by showing a close-up of a character looking off screen. It is easier to identify with characters on-screen if you see them from the same viewpoint/standing alongside other characters in the scene rather than objectively on the sidelines.

Two don’ts: Don’t show a close-up of a player looking off screen, cut to see what they’re seeing and then pan around to look at themself. Don’t show a player pointing off screen and then have them walk in the same direction that they’re pointing. (why this second one?)

A camera angle is defined as the area and view-point recorded by the lens” and is determined by three factors – subject size, subject angle, camera height.

The size of the subject in relation to the frame determines the type of shotExtreme long shot, long shot, medium shot, close-up.

An extreme long shot depicts a vast area from a great distance and is used to impress the viewer with the huge scope of the setting or event. A panning camera for this shot should be reserved for when something interesting can be revealed with the pan.

The long shot is used to establish the scene, who is involved and where they are. Whenever considerable, narratively significant movement is made by the character it should be re-established in the long shot. Medium long shots can be substitued for long shots on narrower screens.

A medium shot frames characters above the knee or below the waist.

The two-shot is a dramatic medium shot where two characters are framed confronting each other. The two shot can be framed with both characters in profile and equally dominant or it may be more interesting to frame the characters at an angle, with the character closest angled away from the camera. The character angled most towards the camera is most likely compositionally dominant in this situation. The two shot should be brought about in a natural progression of the medium or long shot. The characters should not be filmed toe-to-toe unless in a dramatic confrontation.

There are varying degrees of close-ups (discussed in a later chapter).

Terms: A pan shot is when the camera rotates on its vertical axis. A dolly, crane or boom shot is when the entire camera is moved with its mount. A follow or tracking shot is when the camera moves along with the character. A low shot is where the camera is angled upward and a high shot is where the camera is high and angled downwards. Also consider reverse shots, cut-in shots, cut-away shots and reaction shots.

The subject angle should be chosen for the best degree of modeling. Avoid flat images by showing at least two sides of the subject e.g. film heads at three-quarter angles and film streets so that they converge into the distance. Achieve depth with “lighting, camera and player movement, overlapping subject matter, linear and aerial perspective, use of short focal length lenses”. The camera angle is the greatest tool for achieving depth.

Camera height influences audience involvement e.g. viewing the subject at eye-level or above or below. A level camera results in vertical lines not converging and therefore not distorting. Importance is stressed when choosing the camera height for close-ups. The objective camera height should be on eye-level with the close-up subject, unless you are simulating the p.o.v. height difference of characters e.g. sitting and standing. Subjective close-ups should always be at the subject’s eye-level.

Level shots are employed dramatically in shots where a vehicle is rushing towards the camera.

High angle shots are useful for showing the layout of the setting or making the audience feel superior to a character. The subject always dictates the angle.

Low angle shots are useful for creating awe and excitement for the subject, and also for creating more forced perspective.

Angle-plus-angle is where the camera is angled to the subject but also tilted upwards or downwards. It creates the greatest degree of modeling a subject in 3D and also the greatest convergence of perspective.

Use dutch-angles with discretion for impressions of violence or instability.

Plan your combinations of camera angles and consider the pattern of shots, looking at area photographed and viewpoint. In progressive shots, the area and/or angle is progressively greater or smaller. Progressive/regressive shots require a definite change in the image size and angle or it will be jarring. In contrasting shots, pairs of shots are opposite in area photographed and/or angle. Contrasting shots also require a definite change. In repititious shots, the area and/or angles in a series of shots are the same.

Think “how much area should be included in this shot and where should the camera be positioned to view the action?” Only subjects of importance to the story should be included in the shot and for only as long as it’s point story point requires. Approach the shots in a scene creatively. Progressive shots are a standard way for telling the story but may become a lazy go-to, so look for dramatic opportunities with contrasting or repititious shots.

When filming continuous action, be sure to change the camera angle, lens, or both between cuts so as to avoid jarringly similar images. Be definite with change unless you are purposefully trying to pop into a distant subject e.g. a person in a crowd. Think of the lens focal length which is best suited for the shot e.g wide-angle lens for a distant shot, normal lens for a medium shot and a semi-telephoto or telephoto lens for a close-up.

Consider the individual story requirements of each shot but also consider everything as part of a sequence.

Consider the esthetic, technical, psychological, dramatic, editorial, natural and physical factors that will occur when choosing how to shoot the scene.

 

Top 10 Cinematographers

This video gives a great overview of important cinematographers over the last century. Seeing theory done well is very inspiring! We’ve been advised to find similar shots to what we want to achieve so that we can examine and understand the language of framing what’s on screen more effectively. I admit that I’m a bit ignorant of the work of specific cinematographers, apart from Roger Deakins who was another team’s presentation topic in first year, so this is a good place to start.

CineFix (2010) Top 10 Cinematographers of All Time

Writing Excuses 1.14 Magic systems and Rules of Magic Systems

http://www.writingexcuses.com/2008/05/12/writing-excuses-episode-14-magic-systems-and-their-rules/

In my head I’ve been struggling to allow Nami to use magic to solve her problems as it seems like too easy of a way out. This podcast gives a good indication of why this is the case and how to overcome it.

Notes:

Sanderson’s First Law: Your ability to solve conflict with your magic is directly proportional to how well your reader understands your magic system.

Your character can only explore the magic once you’ve laid down concrete rules so that the reader knows what’s going on. If you can just do anything, then there is no tension. If you know the mechanism beforehand, then the audience can put 2 + 2 together and say that this problem is going to be solved this way! Don’t just let the solution surface at the last moment or it will be a cheat.

Make the magic feel like a strength in your world. Make it believable.

Not all books have magic rules laid out. It depends on who’s perspective we see from. E.g. in Lord of the Rings, the characters solving the problems aren’t always those who use magic but when Éowyn kills the Witch King it is only after Tolkien has given us the 2 + 2 of how this can be done.

You can purposefully not explain the rules so that you’re tapping into the collective unconscious of being a fish out of water and feeling like you don’t understand how things work. This means that the hero is not going to be able to solve conflict with magic. Lord of the Rings is about normal people, the hobbits, trying to make their way in a magical world.

The Harry Potter series lies somewhere in between. It is not always rule based (which gives ease of access) but certain books have their own rules e.g. the rules of the time turner play a large part in The Prisoner of Azkaban, (portkeys, polyjuice potions, the floo network etc. in others) but elsewhere it is just like they’re shooting magical guns at each other.

What do you gain by explaining the rules? Knowing how the magic works is world building. Explaining the rules is a separate decision you need to make. In X-Men, the mutant gene is world building. The rules of what wolverine can do is explained so that he can play a role as a shield. Similarly Superman has certain rules and limits to what he can do (depending on which comic). Gandalf on the other hand is not explained but it is established that he can’t destroy the ring.

By explaining the rules early on, you can use magic to solve problems. You can make your character seem clever by manipulating the tools that you’ve given them in ways that you would not expect. Capture the imagination of your audience with your rules so that they can imagine what they themselves could do with them. This also allows for foreshadowing – the surprising yet inevitable.

Explaining the magic also gives you the opportunity to create an apprentice character. This can let you show off the magic system and create a sense of wonder. Let the audience think “wow this is cool, I can imagine myself doing it!”.

Once the rules get very solid then your start to appeal to another audience by taking on another form of the fantasy genre – hard fantasy.

Writing Excuses Season 12.31 – Monsters

12.31: What Makes a Good Monster, with Courtney Alameda (link to podcast)

This episode of the Writing Excuses podcast raises questions that we’ll need to consider for our project. Considering our world is full of monsters, this podcast highlights how useful it will be to:

  • do more research on our chosen mythology.
  • know enough about our monster so that we can subvert expectation.
  • research more about symbolism and how the monster relates to our theme.

Notes from the podcast:

What makes a good monster?

“Monsters are the best when they subvert the status quo and remind us that we are not on the top of the food chain.” The Xenomorph from Alien is a great example of this – it’s almost impossible to kill. 

Hannibal Lectre is a good example of subverting expectation. His introduction is about how dangerous he is. Then once you descend into the dungeon cell and see him, it’s not what you were expecting, he’s calm and well kept.

The monster is only frightening if it poses a threat to your character or society.

Great monsters surprise, they subvert the status, your expectations. The Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth subverts the zombie trope. He is inspired by the tenome, a Japanese monster.  The Pale Man is also a metaphor for everything else that is happening in the film. The monster reflects other angles, ideas and themes of the story. When Ophelia takes from the monster, the monster fights back. This is reflected when Ophelia takes from her father. Be cautious with too on-the-nose parallelism.

A knowledge of folklore is necessary for creating great monsters e.g. Japanese folklore, African, European. How do we construct our fears? Find patterns and universal, Jungian fears.

Always look at the monsters’ roles. Consider the monsters’ symbolism within mythology.

Start with asking – what type of things frighten me? e.g. being alone and incapacitated in such a way that something could eat me.

“I like the character to be super competent but I want their super competence to have no effect on the monster… the monster is powerful in another way.”

“The monster targets their weakness.”

 

Andrew Stanton: The clues to a great story

These are a few simple points that we could use to question ourselves to see if we’re on the right path.

  • Know your ending, your punchline.
  • Make me care.
  • Don’t give the audience 4, give them 2+2. The unifying theory of 2+2.
  • Every character is driven by an itch that they need to scratch, the spine of their character that drives them. It doesn’t always drive them to make the correct decisions.
  • Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty.
  • Have you constructed uncertainty? Have you made me want to know what will happen next?
  • A strong theme is always running through a well told story e.g. identity in Lawrence of Arabia.
  • Can you create wonder in your audience?

Writing Excuses Notes Season 01 Part 01

Out of all the animated shorts that I’ve seen on YouTube, story is definitely the biggest let down. We (the team) seem to share a liking of shorts that quickly show character and conflict. This seems obvious, but so many shorts very quickly loose engagement through poor storytelling. The artistic, visual appeal of the short can also influence whether we like a short or not but this is because we tend to watch the start longer if it’s ‘pretty’ and often the story will be present already in the mood and atmosphere if the art direction is strong.

Season 01, episodes 01 – 10 of Writing Excuses so far has made some useful points on making original ideas, cutting what doesn’t work, beginnings, heroes, protagonists, villains, and pacing.

Episodes 01 – 10 notes:

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