Friday, October 24, 2014

Coraline: A Frame by Frame Process


With Halloween coming up, it’s fair to say that I’ve been celebrating in my own way by watching everything creepy and everything out of the ordinary. This being Coraline, produced by Henry Selick and Claire Jennings through Laika Entertainment (and Focus Features).
For those who are unfamiliar, Coraline (based on the title book by Neil Gaiman) is about a girl who hates her mundane life and finds herself being forced to move into this ancient old house by her parents. Inside, she finds a hidden door that transports her to a “perfect world,” where no one nags her and she can do as she pleases. Unfortunately, something sinister lurks in this fantasy and Coraline has to faces both her own and the physical demons that aim to harm her.
The reason I bring this movie up though, is for the sheer amount of work that went into making it. Every single frame is a stop-motion picture that captures three-dimensional puppets that are moved millimeter by millimeter so by the end of everything, a moving image is created. It’s a process that’s tedious and grueling, but exhibits a sense of refined mastery that could only be done through this type of claymation.
It's mind-boggling to see just how many people are dedicated to making the singular hairs move on one characters head, let alone the amount involved with crafting the universe. The fascinating thing about stop motion is that there are hardly any limits. With the power to manipulate anything and everything frame by frame, the animators have been given a means to do exactly what they want (and as they please). As Selick puts it, "the miracle of stop motion is it's an actual performance through the puppet by the animator."

Catch Me If You Can: A Story in a Title Sequence



The first time I saw Catch Me If You Can, I didn’t really have much idea of what the movie was going to be about. My knowledge going in was Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, and a dream. The title sequence for this movie is pretty cool and sort of sets you in the mindset for the movie. The sequence itself actually tells the entire story of the movie in just 2.5 minutes. With no knowledge of the plot at all, I didn’t catch this on my first view, but the style and execution of the sequence gave me an idea and something to expect. I entire sequence is a little bit whimsical and a little bit mysterious. The illustrations are easy and the colors are nice and it’s pretty easy to follow the story the title sequence is telling. After seeing the movie and knowing exactly the story the title sequence is telling, I can appreciate those colors even more. The color change from scene to scene within the sequence is a very deliberate reference to the overarching theme of the movie. I think it was handled in a very cool way. It’s amazing that you can tell the full story of a 2.5 hour star-studded movie in just 2.5 minutes using cartoons and colors.



Hey guys!

Sorry I've been a little out of the loop here. I recently tapped into another part of my childhood; the new Pokemon game! This is a remake of a game that was made in 2003, Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire Version. I'm pretty sure a fair few of you all have played Pokemon at one point in time, and it's hard to believe that 15 years ago, the animation and graphics were so basic and one-dimensional; they were 8-bit graphics that are prehistoric when you compare it to this. This is the first game in the series to have 3D models of both Pokemon, people and the environment, rather than just 3d graphics overall. Needless to say, I'm absolutely stoked about this release (which is in a little less than a month). If you're watching this, i'd suggest you'd mute it because its two guys talking and it gets annoying after about 5 seconds. Enjoy!

-Sam

The Secret Life of the Burrowing Owl



Came across this video on Vimeo. I thought it was such a cool and unique way to do a short informational documentary, and keep in fresh and interesting. I loved the idea of animating animals over actual footage of their inhabitants. It also seems like a good way to shoot something like this on a low budget, since you don't have to try and hunt down this animal and wait for good action shots.

At the beginning, many of the animals didn't have shadows, which made them seem like they're on a different plane than the background, and the walking was a little robotic at times, but overall I felt this was done very well. The owl especially.

What's interesting to me is the amount of planning and visualizing shooting this real footage must have taken. To imagine exactly where the owl would be had to have been a tough situation, and to make sure you got all of the shots to animate over definitely took some time and precision. Kudos to whoever script supervised this...

How Do You Create a Two-Headed Woman?

Judging from conversations that I have had in class, I'm figuring people know about the new season of American Horror Story: Freak Show. This is the fourth season of the captivating and creepy show created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. This season is centered around a freak show in Jupiter, Florida in the early 1950's. Freak Show has a cast full of recognizable faces including Jessica Lange, Angela Bassett, and Kathy Bates. Characters in this show include a bearded lady, an incredibly creepy clown, and a two-headed woman (played by Jessica Lange). Lang does not have two heads so to make that happen, the show has to use a bit of movie magic, aka special effects.



An animatronic head was made for this effect and it was secured to Lange by a harness. The heads are designed to match as best as possible . She doesn't always use the animatronic head though. Every time there is a shot of both heads there is a split-screen effect used. This process involves Paulson acting like each head with the other head not in use being dubbed in through a green screen type apparatus. This doubles the shooting time, but the effect is executed so well that you can believe that it is real while watching it. This split-screen effect is also taken into account by the costumers. The lines and patterns must be simple so that the split-screened takes can go together. This show does a great job of making you feel like everything is real, even when you really know that it isn't.



    When Movies Go the Extra Mile

    I wanted to take a moment to appreciate how magical DVDs used to be before the Internet got its hands on the movie industry. Many DVD cases began to contain not only the movie itself, but a second disc with extra content. This was my favorite part of the purchase. Sure, nowadays you can use your favorite search engine to find behind the scenes footage or the creative process of a film. For me, however, there was always something special about taking that extra disc out of the case.

    Everyone knows and loves Disney Pixar's The Incredibles. If you haven't seen it, you should probably do that as soon as possible. This movie is a great example of how with additional effort, the world in which the movie was set in can really come to life. On disc 2 of The Incredibles, there is a "top secret" section that allows you to view information about superheroes that have been either terminated or forced to go into hiding and leading normal lives.


    You can go through every single superhero on the list! This was an extremely creative way of going the extra mile and elaborating on something that was only a part of the movie itself.

    Meet the world's first fully CG animated television show: ReBoot

    This is ReBoot. It's a show that ran from 1994 to 2001, and was the first fully computer animated television show. 
    Due to the new technology required, production actually began in 1991, 3 years before any of the episodes aired! The show is jam packed with computer jokes and references. It takes place within a computer, and the mysterious "user" is often mentioned. Many of the characters have names that are references, such as "Dot Matrix", "Enzo", and "Phong". 

    For being such an early example of computer animation, the show looks  decent. The characters move fairly fluidly and the backgrounds have a lot of life to them. 
    One of the characters is literally the number 8. Your guess is as good as mine here. 
    A fly through showing the neat backgrounds. Something hard to do with 2D, but easy with 3D!

    Overall, the show hasn't aged as well as it could have, but I feel it's still worth a look. Here's an example of an episode. 
    In it, a chaotic computer virus takes control of the mainframe's paint terminal. She uses it to wreak havoc on everyone and everything. Oh, and she has no face, just a bunch of masks. I picked this episode, as it shows off how little things like textures make a huge difference. 

    Rumor has it that a re-boot of ReBoot might be in the works! How will the characters and world look when created in the crazy powerful engines we have today? I would love to see!

    NBA 2K15 and Face Scan Technology

    The new iteration of the NBA 2K series just came out, and although it's mostly the same as every other version of the game (except better graphics), one new feature they added this year is the ability to scan your face into the game using the Xbox One Kinect or Playstation 4 motion sensor. This way, when you play through the game as your own personal character, you can actually look like a video game version of yourself, which is simultaneously incredibly creepy and really cool. This has been done in video games before; I can remember in other sports games the game would use a camera connected to the system to take a picture and create an in-game model similar to your real life appearance. However, the result always looked horrible. Nowadays, video game characters look alarmingly realistic, and the motion sensing technology of things like the Kinect make face scanning pretty simple:


    Of course, this is the 2K sponsored YouTube video promoting the technology, so of course it's gonna work flawlessly in this video. Still the scanning looks pretty realistic, which is scary considering this kind of technology is only going to get better and better.

    Still, the face scanning is nowhere near perfect, as illustrated by this fairly hilarious video:


    My god that's terrifying. So the potential for face scanning is not quite reached yet, but it's getting there. This made me imagine a future where you can put yourself in almost any video game, which is pretty cool to me. I'd definitely like to run around in Call of Duty or Battlefield as myself killing terrorists and whatnot, but that's just me.

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

    What's new in the world of Disney?

    Hi there,

    I figure it is about time to visit the world of Disney animation! Walt Disney Animation Studios continues to be one of the premier contributors of innovative animated videos. Here's a sneak peak of at its newest adventure Big Hero 6, which premieres this November!

    Big Hero 6 is an interesting concept for Disney to tackle. Big Hero 6 is a lesser known Marvel comic that is being rebooted for it's November premiere. It's official Disney synopsis states that Big Hero 6 "is an action-packed comedy-adventure about the special bond that develops between Baymax, a plus-sized inflatable robot, and prodigy Hiro Hamada. When a devastating event befalls the city of San Fransokyo and catapults Hiro into the midst of danger, he turns to Baymax and his close friends adrenaline junkie Go Go Tomago, neatnik Wasabi, chemistry whiz Honey Lemon and fanboy Fred. Determined to uncover the mystery Hiro transforms his friends into a band of high-tech heroes called Big Hero 6."

    Take a look at the trailer below!


    When I first saw the trailer I was honestly quite confused. It doesn't feel like the Disney I've come to know and love. I was a tad confused about the characters, and didn't feel any attraction to the main characters. Upon a second viewing of the trailer though. the cuteness began to seep out. I'm interested to see if the character Baynor, the big goofy robot will connect with both child and adult viewers. Based off of the trailer, the artwork and writing seems to skew heavily towards the former. 

    An early review from Vanity magazine states that "Displaying a special love for Japanese robotics, screenwriters Robert L. Baird and Daniel Gerson integrate elements of manga, anime and science fiction into the very fabric of the film, but also succumb to the same pitfalls faced by so many other superhero pics: Namely, after establishing its fresh and relatable origin story, the movie gets bogged down with a relatively generic villain's power-hungry schemes." 

    We'll see what the public thinks when the movie reviews on November 6th, 2014. 

    Until next time,

    Alex

    A bit of nostalgia for your Thursday afternoon

    For as long as I can remember whenever I was feeling under the weather and overall crummy, like I am today, my hands would instinctually grab for my stack of comic books. My collection has only grown over the years but there has only ever been one series guaranteed to put a smile on my face no matter how I'm feeling - Bill Waterson's Calvin & Hobbes.  I know I am not alone in spending late nights and summer days lounging around reading of the mischievously imaginative Calvin and his tiger buddy Hobbes create trouble and adventure for themselves. The lightheartedness always made for a good read, but the values and lessons that Waterson instilled in his short strips almost had a healing property on me. The last thing in the world I wanted to be was sick, stuck in my room, when I was seeing and reading about all the mystery and wonder that lay out there in the world.

    Now to relate this to class. As I mentioned I'm feeling kinda sick today so I was looking around my room for my Calvin & Hobbes collections and was coming up empty. I was running out of time before I had to get to class and my ride was leaving so I grabbed another favorite of mine and figured it would have to do. I would be proven wrong while idling browsing the internet in my lab when I came across an individuals tribute to the work of Bill Waterson - a short animated clip of Calvin and Hobbes dancing to music. Here it is:

    video
    The animator provided this image file showing what dance moves from the comic he based his animating on, though he did state that the characters themselves were redrawn himself, not ripped from directly from the comic.


    What struck home to me beyond seeing a very well done animated version of a beloved childhood figure, but the last frame of the credits is an apology to Bill Waterson for using his copyrighted characters but also contains the animators excuse for working in someone else's universe - "They had to move!" As a lifelong lover of the comic art form I am accustomed to letting my imagination fill in the blanks and create motion when it is only suggested, but I can't deny the merit of the argument. The two of them have spent decades now as static entities; perhaps its okay to let them stretch their legs a little.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2014

    Curious Case of Benjamin Button

    Over break, I went on a TV/Movie watching frenzy. One movie i watched was "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button". Last time I saw this movie, I thought it was amazing. Seeing it again in terms of motion graphics, I am in awe of how they could make Brad Pitt look so damn old and fragile turn him to look like he's 15.

    After watching this video on how the makings of the movie, I realized graphic design is some really complicated stuff. But once you get on that level, you can do so much cool things its amazing.

    Friday, October 17, 2014

    Video Games and Motion Capture



    When you think of motion graphics and animation, I bet your first thought isn’t video games.  But they use a technique that is seen in many other areas of media, even film. A technique seen in a movie such as Avatar, is motion capture. Motion capture, to put it at it’s most basic form, is aligning the movement of physical people to a character. This means a person’s movements can be recorded and rendered into a virtual character’s.
       It’s an extremely fascinating technique that has proven to produce a new form of content creation. For video game makers, animators, and filmmakers alike.

    Title Sequence Breakdown: Hasbro Pony Edition 2: Electric Boogaloo

    After the modest success of Hasbro's first attempt to bring their My Little Pony franchise to the tween/teen girl market, the highschool girl pony-girl-people are back! With guitars!

                                     Presenting My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks.
    The glam-rock elements abound in this one.

    "Rainbow Rocks" is brought to us once again by the fine people at DHX Media Group of Vancouver, Canada. The movie itself is what you would expect. They're high school girls, in a battle of the bands in order to take down the forces of evil. The whole thing has a strong sense of Hasbro wanting X, Y, and Z in it to sell toys, and the people working on the movie trying to make the best thing possible with what was given to them.

    Should you run out and see this movie? No, not really. It isn't horrible by any means, but I don;t see anyone in this class going to see it. However, there is one part that I feel is worth a mention, and that is the opening title sequence.

    This movie has a rockin' title sequence! But I don't want to just tell you, I want to show you. So strap in, grab something to take notes, and let's get to it!



    This is the whole thing, in full. Sorry in advance for the potato quality of footage I was able to get, but it should work just fine to dissect this.

    First thing I want to look at is this transition. It focuses on an object that then is used in a wipe. It's organic, not too static, and though you can't tell in gif form, it syncs with the music. On top of this, the font choice is good. It's not totally static, but it's moving slowly enough and on a fixed track making it easy to read.
    This next part highlights what I feel is one of the strongest parts of the sequence, which is the fact that it has these transitions that take their time and don't have text to them.
    This part has a fun animated bit. Her going out of frame, then popping back in impossibly fast has a cartoony squash and stretch feel. The lightning strike and changing color is well timed and uses a gradient, which shifts with the character.
    The actor titles have full animated wipes as well. The flash of white on the guitar is a good  palette cleanse into the next color and scene.
    The next two title wipes have a continuity to them. Something is happening, and we're seeing it happen in between titles. Also note the sparkles on the nobs. This is an over the top 80's style battle of the bands movie, and oh does it relish in that fact!
    This transition is nice, but the main thing I want to point out is the animation and its timing. The dog bites down on the bone in real time so to speak, but afterwords things slow down. It creates a neat effect that the other characters have been doing as well.
    When we transition to the other set of characters we get another transition that takes its time to look good and build atmosphere. The transition from guitar neck to rainbow looks good, and is a creative use of the elements we've seen used so far.
    Lastly, we get the movie's villains. The way they're introduced here sets them up well. We see that the two don't get along so well, and that their leader pushes them around. The way she pushes through them, and her title does the same to theirs is a creative way to show off her character in the title sequence alone. 

    I for one, was impressed with this. Much more impressed than I thought I would be. I decided I wanted to know who was responsible for it, so I did some digging and I found a guy called Tony Cliff . I ended up shooting him and email, and he responded!

    This whole thing has inspired me to go at things with increased vigor. Finding something great and unexpected, reaching out and making contact, the whole shebang. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I'm nowhere near quitting!

    Photoshop & The Daily Show

    One instance where I see obvious Photoshops used extensively is the trifecta of comedy news shows, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Often this isn't really brought up in conversation about these shows, but the photoshops that go along with each host's monologues are responsible for some of the shows' funniest moments. If it wasn't for these hilarious and absurd, often pun-filled photoshops, I think a lot of the jokes on these shows could go by without a laugh. This is one of the only instances I can think of where simple photo editing is a gigantic part of a show's structure.

    Full episodes of these shows are available online for anyone to view, and each episode is a great example of how photoshop is used to comedic affect. Just google The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, or Last Week Tonight for plenty of examples. Just for good measure though, here's a collection of 15 photoshops related to the last election that a website called uproxx.com put together:

    http://uproxx.com/webculture/2012/10/daily-show-graphics/#page/1

    Also, another blog where some random guy shows off his photoshop skills, trying specifically to get the attention of the people at the Daily Show:

    http://futuredailyshowemployee.tumblr.com/

    Enjoy!


    Good Hair Everywhere

    I am taking a moment to appreciate 3D animated hair and fur.

    Take Sully’s fur from Monsters Inc., for example. Just from looking at it, we are able to imagine what it feels like. We have a good idea of what Sully would feel like if we were able to pat him. The fact that we can compare a real textural feeling to something animated by a cold, hard computer is pretty amazing.


    Hair is pretty cool too. Merida’s hair from Brave is probably the most beautiful hair in the entire animated world, as far as I’m concerned. It’s wild and big and out of control and probably took so much memory to create. But every curl behaves like we would expect hair to behave. It moves so naturally in relation to Merida and adds character to her character. It must’ve taken a lot of work to control every curl in order to make her hair look uncontrollable.
     
    Another set of good hair is Rapunzel from Tangled. What’s really amazing about that animation is the sheer amount of hair that had to be considered. The hair at least 10 times longer than Rapunzel herself and it’s used as a prop throughout the movie—it’s a lasso, it’s a rope, it’s a ladder… In animating this hair, utility had to be taken into consideration all the while keeping things silky, shiny, and smooth.


    This video showing a variety of hair related goofs with Rapunzel’s hair gives a little bit of insight into the physics of good hair.