Showcase, tips and thoughts on animation

Tips & Tricks

Tools to give feedback

As you start doing many new creations there’s always the time when you need to start showing to others and receive feedback on your work. Sometimes it’s easy when you have those persons right next to you and you can discuss and share opinions, but when it’s people in a different part of the city or even a country, things start to get complicated. So I’ve grouped out a number of cool software that will help on this task.


This cool freeware is one of the best, I’ve personally used many times and it’s great to be able to draw on top of each frame, write something on top of the video and it even has a light in function that let you see drawings on other frames.

I recently found this one thanks to Kaoru Watsuki, a new fellow animator. On this service you upload you videos and you receive a link, and anybody that has that link can enter and start adding comments, notes and drawings on top of each frame. It also has a neat functionality that allows one of the users to be “on control” and everything he/she does, will be replicated on every window that has that video opened.

  • RV (Windows, Mac, Linux)

Another cool video player that has a lot of cool features, like all the others you can draw and make comments on each video, you can drag the mouse on top of the image and scrub through the timeline. Adjust in and out points and make a mini cut that allows to see shots in context. The only issue with this one is that it requires a licence (and it’s not cheap)

  • Maya built in Grease Pencil (Windows, Mac, Linux)

In the recent versions of Maya, they included a similar version of Blue Pencil, which is a little bit limited, but it’s great if you have the scene on which you’re making the comments and you can draw on top of things on different viewports.

Which is your favorite? Did I miss one that you use and/or found super useful? Let me know so I can add it here


Bring it on!

It’s been a while… a good one… since I last posted here. And I think it’s time to go back to it.

A couple months ago I decided to look for a place where I could store references and inspiration that I stumble upon on my long journeys across the web and that are a good source of inspiration for animations. So I’ll take this new first post to  share a couple of boards I’ve made on Pinterest that might be useful,

I’ve got one for Animal Reference which includes all kind of animals and doing many sort of things that I’ve found useful or entertaining

There’s one for particular Animal Behavior that includes stuff that animals do, how the relate to each other or fascinating things I didn’t knew about them

One more with reference of movement for the Human body or ultimately to any biped creature you can imagine

And the last one I’d like to share here is some Audio Clips from movies and commercials that I think could be fun and interesting to animate to. This includes small lines of dialogue that can be used to practice acting animation and maybe get into a demoreel.

I hope you find this helpful and if you want to contribute to add pins to those boards let me know. It will grow faster that way!


Creating character models in Blender part 1

As I begin to work on the Circo Volador’s Project, I propose making different characters on 3d that feel and look as 2d, to adjust the graphic style they already have. So first thing I did, was taking all of the currently drawn characters and select one for each workshop they have: photography, circus arts, capoeira..and many others.

This is the draft I choose for this project:

Each character with its representative workshop (clic to enlarge)

Then what I needed for each one, was a projection which I can use as a blueprint to create the models on 3d. Everyone must have at least a frontal view and a side view, which in combination with some imagination can gives an easy way to create each 3d model.

This is one example

Right after that, it was necessary to chose a 3d program, at first it was supposed to be Maya, but thinking that this project is meant for learning, I thought Blender, an awesome free 3d program, was the best fit. I had made some little things on it before so I knew its potential.

So first things first, what is needed is to adjust yourself to the way Blender moves and behaves, for that there are many many videos and tutorials, and what I found best, is to take a look at the tutorials, then try whatever you are learning and if there is a doubt on any subject or option or value, take a look on the blender wiki, which in most cases has exactly what you need.

One of the best places to look for neat videos is:

Next step is know how to model. Blender has a really neat way of model things, it has easy commands and hot keys. The ones that I use the most: extrude (e), make edge rings (ctrl r), fill faces (f) and there is one plug in that make the life easier when extruding faces but trying to keep the shape of the model: Mesh:Insert Extrude

Then there are this things called  Modifiers, they let you make changes to the models but with the great advantage that you can change its values at any time, so for example, you can see your model on different amount of polygons at any time.

There are two mesh modifiers that I used on most cases, when modeling any character, and they are Mirror and Subsurf.

Mirror lets you have an exact copy of the mesh you are making on the other side of any axis, The option on this modifier that you have to keep an eye on, is clipping , it merges the vertex that go near the mirror axis, and once they are merged they will not separate until you uncheck that option.

The other one is subsurf and lets you see the model multiplying its poly counts, make them smoother. This is great for previews and little tweeks on how the mesh will look in the end.

The last thing I will cover on this post is what I suggest when choosing between an orthogonal or a perspective view. This is crucial as I discovered that unlike other 3d programs the cameras or perspective view on the viewport, follow really accurate the function of normal camera lenses, which gives you plenty deformation  depending on how far or close you are to the objects, which can lead to inaccurate modeling. And as my very personal advice, it’s better to make all the modeling on a orthogonal view, which lets you see the model as it really is.

Compositional Framing Elements

This video (by Matt Kohr)  is great as it explains how to place objects or characters on different kind of shots, it’s all about composing to make the viewer focus on what is more important on the scene.

And this is an issue that many times is left without further process, and it is as essential as   it comes on the principles of animation: staging and strong silhouette

Check it out.


Blender Project – Rigging eyes

So, I have been gone for a while, it has been busy weeks and there haven’t been much time to write things on the blog, but I came up with the idea of document the process that I have been following to create the project I am working on to do my social service. It could help on two things, first spread the knowledge over the Internet about Blender and have a place to return in case I forget how to do certain things.

I started it on Maya, but soon I thought it would be interesting if I made it on Blender, that awesome free 3d software. I had some knowledge on it and this is the perfect opportunity to become an expert on it, so to speak.

I will not start form the first steps, I’ll take it from where I am currently working and as the project enters in a pipeline loop, when working in different models, it will automatically catch up and make a perfect description of the process.


Master Class: Making Faces – Chris Landreth – Part 3

Well, it’s been quite a while since the last post, I’ve had very busy days but I have found time to write another part in the series of Making Faces.

On the third day, It was about the most important facial muscles, the way they work and their place on the face. Chris pointed out that there are many many more muscles on our face that allow us to make facial expressions, but he just gave us a small list of the ones that have more influence in each shape we can create with our face. In the end of the class, he let us a brief homework, which was make a map of all of those muscles and draw them in our own face, so we have a direct reference on what muscle does what. Here it is and just below a short description of each one:

Both images are the same, except one has names and a little sketch of where they actually are on the face and the other one is clean, so you can see the face. Some are funny 🙂 and the last one is a relaxed/expressionless face… just to compare.

1- Frontalus: Its function is to rise de eyebrows. It can be pulled in 3 different parts by some people, which let them rise onle one brow.

2- Corrugator Muscle: Located in the globella. It pulls inwards and make the face look angry.

3- Levitor Palpabre: Makes blinking possible. It can be in normal state, relaxed when the eye is closed and tensioned when it shows more eye blanks.

4- Orbicularis Oculi: It is not attached to the skull so it only floats in with the skin, and it works for squinting the eyes.

5- Alaeque Nasi Labius Superiors: It makes wincing faces.

6- Labius Superior: It pulls upside and it can be tensen just one side. When only this muscle is pulling, there’s no deformation on the nose or the bridge of the nose.

7-Zigomatic Mayor: It’s the main smiling muscle. It pulls upwards and to the sides and create a bulge on the cheeks.

8- Boccinator: When eating, it helps to keep the food in the mouth.

9- Triangularis muscles: Make the frown face.

10- Lower Lip Muscle: Makes the SSS sound

11-Mentalis Muscle: Helps to make the frown face by pulling the lower lip.

12- Incisivus Muscle: It makes the kissy face.

13- Risorius Platysma: Creates great tension in the neck and pulls the corners of the mouth down.

14- Orbicularis Oris: Can push out the lips as in “sh” sound, bend the mouth inwards as in “p”, and lip locking and tight lips.

This is a really light description of each muscle but it is best if you see it by yourself in the images or even better, on a mirror by yourself.

If  you have any questions, please make them below.

Master Class: Making Faces – Chris Landreth – Part 2

Well, the first day on the Master Class, talking about Monday, was about getting to know the human head, the structure, the proportions, the bones that give that particular shape.

The first thing Chris said about facial animation was that it has to do with anatomy, mood and psychology. So it could be very complex, but fortunately everyone of us have developed a way to recognize facial difference, and it’s so important in our lives that the part of our brain that recognize faces is almost as big as the part that recognize everything else.

The focal point in this first lesson was that Chris give us a quick drawing assignment between 5 and 20 minutes with a reference that he took with his camera from one of the attendants and after we make our best effort, he corrected us based on what we had drawn. This method was better in comparison to when they first teach you how and then you try to imitate it, because this let you really put down your inner conceptions about things and then he corrects over what you’ve got. I don’t know if it would apply to other subjects, but particularly on this one was great.

So, for the first drawing, he asked for someone to be our model, and took a picture of him which later displayed on a projector, so everybody could see it. We have like 20 minutes, Chris drew as well. I felt really rusty on life drawing, so the warm up was really slow. This is my first drawing:

From this first approach to human head anatomy we learned that the eye line is set on the middle of the head from the hair line to the chin on most of us. Also the face can be divided in three parts, the first one ends almost on the eyebrows and the second on the base of the nose. And the eye width can be fitted 5 times on the human head. Fortunately, I wasn’t that bad after this first try, but something that Chris pointed out was that most of our drawings were outlines of the face features, and that we need to start seeing things as 3d shapes, that has volume and that interconnects one to each other.

Then we move up to the next assignment.


Master Class: Making Faces – Chris Landreth – Part 1

Last week I had the chance to attend a Chris Landreth’s master class: Making Faces. It was about the whole process of getting the face animated: from knowing the basic structure of the head, the muscles that allow us to make expressions and shape phonemes which let us speak, a basic rigging session and some quick animations on expressions and lipsinc. It was a bunch of knowledge that he spread to all the attendants, which were about 50 give or take. It took place on: “Centro de Software” in Guadalajara, Jalisco and was promoted between CANIETI and Ars Animation.

I’m going to post some interesting notes about the main subjects that where explained through those 5 days in different posts, I still don’t know how many they will be, but they will be as many as necessary.

First of all, just to get to know about Chris Landreth, he have made a lot of interesting animated short films, one of them won an Oscar award in 2004, with a short film called “Rayan”. There’s no need to try to explain his style or why I think he won that award, because I can leave you here the short itself. Please, enjoy it:

Without hesitation, it deserved an Oscar just because of his story telling, his visual concept and the great way of bringing to life those characters. There are many other shorts that are worth watching but I leave you those to your own search.

Unfortunately, today I have to keep working on some projects that need my imminent attention, but stay tuned for the next part of this brief on Chris Landreth Master Class, which began with drawing a human head…

See you soon!


11May Animation Process

It’s been a while since I last posted, mostly because I’ve had a lot of work and been doing different personal projects at night, but since the very first moment I finished my last animation I was thinking about posting a breakdown of the process that’s taken to animate it from planning to the final render.

In the first place, I compiled my animation demo reel for this year about a month and a half ago, and after showing it to different animators, I was told by a fellow, Alex Kong, that my demo reel was short in motion mechanics and a cartoonish style. So he suggested me the audio from May on 11second club to get that covered and also put me as an example the very first place of that month.

  • 1. Becoming one with the audio

So I get started by hearing the audio many many times, until I get used to the general timing, accents and rhythm, then start writing down ideas of what it could be, what can I done with that audio. Many ideas popped out (I can’t recall many right now :P) and in the end I thought that the approach of an elevator gag would fit great.

In this point, even though it is not related to animation at all,once I decided what would my characters be doing, in parallel I start making the scene, picking one of the many free rigs that are all over the internet (this is very important to me, because I get to know the rig, its benefits and limitations) , customizing them, modeling the background environment, adding materials and a few textures, getting the scene lighted and the first teaser of the render. I love doing that process, it gets me to imagine what it would be looking like when it’s done.

This is what I’ve got

  • 2. Video Reference

I started making video references, the first couple ones just trying to follow the audio but not thinking too much about it, just letting it flow naturally, then I watched what I  had and start gathering some movements that fit well together, and when I have a couple of structured ideas, I recorded new ones, trying to see if they could really fit the audio and keep the performance believable.

  • 3. Thumbnails

Next step was putting those ideas down on paper (in this case… digital paper), so I begin to draw the key poses on a free version of Digicel FlipBook and make them hit the accents on the audio. This was a pretty straight forward process, because I already have the main idea on my head. And I like to make it on that software because it has many advantages: you can see and hear the audio along the way and you have a digital light table as a 2d traditional animator artist. It’s not necessary say that I’m not the best 2d animator in the world, and the idea is not to have a perfect and constant proportion of the characters, but for me, just have the main idea of what will be going on.

This is what it looked like at this point.

  • 4.Feedback

It was very important along all the process to ask for feedback to as many  fellow animators as I could. So every time I’ve got a new step done, I sending the video everywhere. It’s a key thing on doing animation, because some times you get used to your own ideas and maybe there are things that could be improved.

  • 5.Blocking

Once I have the general idea through thumbnails, I proceed to transfer it form thumbnails to keyposes on Maya, this is not a copy  paste of what I have already done, instead I just use it as a guide and as I go forward taking some changes from the previous feedback or what I think could feet better with what I’ve got on stage. Here take place many big changes, first of all, I removed the other guys that climbed up to the elevator, in behalf of focusing myself on only one character as Alex Kong’s feedback suggested. Also I found that some thins looked good on 2d, but will look unrealistic when putting them on 3d, they simply don’t fit any more, those include some little steps, goings and comings of the character.

I have to say that I really like the animation on stepped mode, it’s way too snappy and it let you hit the audio accents very precisely.

Here it is what it look like at this moment.

  • 5.Splines

(Asked More Feedback) Getting from stepped to splines could be a difficult task to tackle, because just when you change from one to another  your holds get lost, the accents are blurred and all the timing is messed up. I have found a way to lower the impact of the initial transfer from one to another, but that will be covered in a next post.

What I’ve focused here is to preserve the best that I can the timing and that the accents are done in the right moment. And of course making sure that the arcs well done, fixing some weight and balance issues.

At this moment.

  • 6. Polish

(Even more feedback) At this point it is almost done, and what I’ve focused to do on this last part, is to start making some subtle changes and adjustments, like the position of the fingers, checking that they slide and touch properly, refine the follow through and overlapping action, making the knees and arms bending in arcs.

And at last, batching the render…

Gorilla Resources Blog

Gorilla Resources Blog is THE place where you can find a really well selected compilation of websites dedicated to animation and it’s so great that it is divided by every step you normally do when making an animation, from scratch and thumbnails to planning, blocking and polish. Also including some acting and body mechanics articles and how to make your characters stand out on screen. It has articles form all the most talented and important animators in the world.

This is definitely the most transcendental “must have in bookmarks pages” I have found across my life as an animator and I’m glad that you can know it and learn from it too.

It has recently changed its name to Gorilla Resources Page, because when I first knew it, it was called ARC. Just as a little hint.

Here is the link

Enjoy it!