Friday, January 30, 2015

The History of Mario

It’s amazing how much animation graphics change throughout history when referencing video games. One of the most popular games of all time, created by Nintendo, is the Mario Brothers collection. From the 2D to Three-Dimension world, Mario Brothers stands at the forefront of animation in video gaming from the perspective of user experience, graphical presentation, and overall innovation of animation techniques as technology improved from year to year. Beginning in 1985 with the release of the original Super Mario Bros, the game not invited the user to get lost in the colorful 8-Bit world, but to also guide the main character from the left to the right sides of the screen. Similarly to many famous films, characters are introduced from the left frame of the shot in order to present them in a way that makes sense to the viewer. In Mario’s case, the animation appears from the shadows on the left frame of the screen and forever continues to explore by always continuing to the right.




As technology continued to improve, however, the 2-Dimensional cookie-cutter colored Mario evolved into a three-dimensional boxed animation in Super Mario 64 and then ultimately grew into the polished, immensely colorful character in Mario Party 8 that we hold as today’s modern standard. The animation transformation can be observed in many other games following the technological generation timeline as did the characters in the Mario franchise. But, how many games can state that they have maintained popularity over two generations of family members? No other game has proven its presence in the gaming community and its versatility to take advantage of the available gaming hardware that Nintendo releases every console cycle. The iconic color pallet utilized in Mario games can be recognized by any new user because its visual effects, sounds, game mechanic simplicity, and overall animated diversity.







 The facial structure has remained the same. The scaling of the character in relation to the surrounding landscape has remained constant. The effortless intuitive controls have maintained consumer popularity. From an animation standpoint, the Mario franchise continues to push video game designers to their limits by creating new stories and worlds that take advantage of technological innovations while consistently upholding the iconic video game character.








 If you haven’t played a Mario game (from start to finish), you have no idea what you’re missing!


Thursday, January 29, 2015

A new Batman movie...based on toys?

Transformers, G.I. Joe, The Lego Movie, we have reached a point where we no longer should  be surprised when a movie comes out based on a line of toys. Yet I still can't help it after DC Comics announced a new line of animated shorts and an animated movie based on lines by Fisher-Price and Mattel. 

Debuting on May 12th, Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts will be based on the Batman Unlimited toy line by Mattel. The movie will include characters like Batman, Nightwing, The Flash, Green Arrow, Red Robin, and the Penguin. The movie will be released direct to video. There will also be a sequel later this year.

Warner Bros will also be releasing the DC Super Friends based on a line of toys by Fisher-Price. This will be a series of 15 animated shorts, all about 3 minutes long. This will include characters from the Justice League.



The concept of basing a movie off of a toy based off of a comic book character seems rather peculiar, especially after seeing toys based off of movies for years. But when you think about it, it seems to make sense. The line of toys probably reaches a larger demographic than the comic books.

Stop Motion in Robot Chicken

As we become more familiar with animation software like After Effects, it seems like computers have made animation ten times easier. With the class's limited understanding of basic functions of After Effects, we can create a ball that bounces for ever in a matter of minutes. Imagine what we would be able to do with deeper understanding of the software. Because the software seems to make animation so easy, one may assume that all big studios would utilize those programs rather than rely on older animation techniques. Of course, there are a number of shows that make use of older and much more difficult animation techniques, like stop motion. One such show is Cartoon Network's Robot Chicken.


Robot Chicken is a sketch comedy show that airs during Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" segment nightly segment. The show makes use of stop motion animation, where they move the figures in tiny increments, recording each new placement one frame at a time. The do make use of some computer generated graphics for explosions or mouth movements, but a majority of the show is done stop motion, a technique that can take hours to just get a couple of seconds of video, and that's not counting the time it takes to make each figure and setting. You may not like the crude humor that the show has, but you can appreciate the amount of work that the creators put into each ten second sketch.


MAN - A Short by Steve Cutts

In class we have been getting more and more into animation with After Effects. So far we have completed a cube in 3D space and have learned a few different expressions. By next month we will have our name projects done and will have learned a lot more. As I was looking at various pieces of animation on youtube I came across this short animated by Steve Cutts. It says in his YouTube description that he created this animated short using Adobe Flash and After Effects, two programs that I am familiar with and am currently learning. The short follows the story of a single man, who essentially represents the entire force and motivations of mankind on our planet. As man continues to grow and evolve we continue to push other aspects to the wayside such as the environment and other living creatures. It is a short that depicts the harsh truths of our destruction as mankind, and it does so with a very effective animation.



Thank You For Playing



During my time interning for POV Films, Thank You For Playing was easily one of the most beautiful films I had the opportunity to watch. This film follows an incredibly loving family in which the father, Ryan Green is creating a video game called That Dragon, Cancer. The game incorporates their day to day struggles with their son, Joel, who is battling a cancerous tumor in his brain. The film follows the family's life and how they are coping and celebrating Joel's life through the game. A  large part of the film is watching Ryan translate the intense and harsh reality they live in, to an interactive animated 3D universe. The process is tedious but the fruit of their work will leave you in tears. It is revolutionizing the way stories are told in video games and the kinds of games being told through video games. One if Ryan's missions through this game is to get people talking about cancer and show that people effected by it directly or indirectly are not alone. Below is the link to the website for the game.





 As for the film, it's not another hopeless film about a kid with cancer that is just terribly depressing the whole time. It's a story portraying what an unconditionally loving mother and father will do for their beautiful child and how you can turn something so awful and unthinkable into a beautiful work of art. I have watched this film twice and ended up crying more the second time in addition to an hour after I turned it off. It really is a powerful film to the point where you feel like you know Ryan and Joel personally and you just want to give them a hug.














Legalize Ted

Recently the new trailer for Ted 2 was released showing scenes from the sequel to the highly popular movie Ted, the story of a living stuffed bear and his buddy, played by Mark Wahlberg. Now to film this movie they couldn't just take a real teddy bear and have him walk and talk through the shot, they needed to use a lot of high level animation in order to me Ted look like a real living teddy bear. Therefore, they employed the use of motion capture technology to capture actor/writer Seth MacFarlanes motions to use to make Ted's motions look more life like.
Although this video makes it appear that everything Ted does was animated through the motion capture, a blog post from one of the animators who worked on Ted tells us that, the motion capture was used mainly for the sitting and gesturing scenes, while the larger motions were completely cg animation. This blog explains that at times due to the topical nature of the jokes some scenes had to be reanimated because the jokes simply were not relevant anymore. You can learn more about the animation of Ted and the point of view of one of the animators here: http://comedyforanimators.com/2012/06/29/behind-the-scenes-of-ted/

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Story of Electronics


Yesterday in History and Theory of Documentary (yes I know I'm an idiot for taking it) we watched an interesting video that was animation combined with a live action talking head called "The Story of Electronics" (its about 8 minutes long but not that much of a drag)





What I really liked about this video, other than it being extremely experimental and going right over my head, is that it was very down to earth without being in your face about the problems here on earth.  The animation of the pollution, land fills and consumerism allows the big ideas to be digested by very different people.  Rather than making viewers uncomfortable with pictures of these horrific things, the video gently speaks about them with images that depict the problem in such a way that allows the viewer to understand it as a problem rather than a stomach ache.  We as humans need to start working on solutions to these problems, and we are not going to do so if we feel lectured or afraid when we speak about them; this video is a wonderful stepping stool to the point where we can effectively work on them.

Oscars Snubs



This awards season, a number of enraged outcries bubbled to the surface when the Oscar nominees were announced. The nominees revealed that the Academy was made up of a number of white, old gentlemen whose tastes in cinema were blinded by their own privilege. Not only did it reveal how truly awful the academy is at recognizing worthy female and minority actors and directors, it also revealed how much of a sham the animation category is. Although the category included some really beautiful foreign animated films (as it should), its domestic nominees were less than impressive. The nominees included How to Train Your Dragon 2, Big Hero 6, and The Boxtrolls. Although the first two domestic films were both critically acclaimed and beautiful, they lacked a certain amount of imagination that one looks for in a fresh animated film, and relied too heavily on repetitive children's film tropes. The Boxtrolls was altogether forgettable. There was one film that was not included in the nominees, which was critically acclaimed, and challenged the repetitive nature of many animated films. This was The Lego Movie, which managed the add a new spin to the animation genre. The film is fun, imaginative, and features some really impressive computer animation techniques. If any film, aside from Song of the Sea (that's some beautiful stuff) deserved to be in the category, it would definitely be this film. It's really unfortunate that this film was snubbed, and goes to show the carelessness involved in this year's Oscars.

Too Many Cooks

If you haven't watched Too Many Cooks yet, PLEASE do so.  It's 11 minutes and I promise you won't regret it.


Ranked as the second best title sequence of 2014 by Art of the Title, this comedy short was created for a television show that never existed.  It aired on October 28, 2014 at 4:00 am, as part of Adult Swim's infomercial blocks.  The following day, the video went viral, and become one the top trend's on Twitter for close to a week.

The premise of the comedy short is that a serial killer escapes and goes on a bloody rampage, killing all of the cast members for a television show that is made up.  It starts off somewhat normal, but then quickly turns into this bizarre, crazy fever dream that makes the viewer somewhat uncomfortable and question everything they've ever seen on TV.

Smarf the cat was pretty popular among viewers

Casper Kelly, the creator of Too Many Cooks actually ended up creating quite a brilliant sketch. While everything may seem incredibly random (and it mostly is) everything actually does tie together quite nicely at the end.  After the craziness settles down, you end up pretty much where the show took off.

One of the brilliant aspects of Too Many Cooks was the use of transmedia, as the serial killer of the sketch is animated during this particular scene.


                                                                         
And here is the actual video for everyone to enjoy! Fair warning, it will take weeks to eliminate the theme music from your head.


Projection Mapping

Projection Mapping is a technology that has been around for a few decades but is quickly picking up popularity now. It is a popular feature used by modern-day artists and musicians. The "trippy" effect that these projections can create are perfect for modern-day DJ's and are used regularly at there concerts.


The style used in the concerts is often abstract blank white shapes that have different protectors pointed at different areas and then a light show is designed around that. 


The Projection Mapping is also used for different forms of a sculpture like art. 

 


Flying Lotus is an artist that uses these projectors and software, only he uses it a little differently.  He is a DJ and he sets up a series of scrims (somewhat transparent curtains) around him in order to create a 3D appearance of his concert show. 


One software for projection mapping is  MadMapper. This software is a simple any easy to learn program that allows its user to explore the quickly growing interest related to projection mapping. 

These programs are growing very fast and are attracting a lot of attention. If it is a field you are interested in, find out more: Click Here


 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2



"Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2" is of course the sequel to "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" in the main character Flint discovers that his food making machine is still operating and now creates mutant food people, like living pickles and talking strawberries. The film has had 15 nominations ranging from best sound editing to the Outstanding Animation in an Animated Motion Picture Award. 


Besides the excellent animation and truly enjoyable story plot and lessons learned throughout this animated film, i was very impressed by the films end credits. I found them interesting because the end credits tell the "what happens next" after the film is over, which I enjoyed. 




The link below is the film IMDb page:


You can also find interesting facts on their Crazy Credits page:





Monday, January 26, 2015

Benham's Disk

Every once in a while, I will discover something that absolutely blows my mind and I will obsess over that thing until I can seem to wrap my mind around it. This thing that I have recently found out about is not only still stumping me, it stumps everybody. Scientists are still unable to figure out exactly why this phenomenon exists. It is called "Benham's disk". It was discovered by a man in 1895 who made a toy disk that looks like this:
A plain black and white disk. But when spun, extremely fast it looks like this:
You can see some color inside the disk when it spins very fast. That's interesting in itself, but there's something far more interesting about this illusion. The color that you are seeing within the wheel is not the same color that everybody else sees when they look at it. I personally see a light brown color in the spinning wheel like this:
Some people see olive green, cyan or yellow, but everybody sees their own color in the wheel, and some people don't see any color (just black and white). Scientists have still not yet determined why this is, but they have guessed that it has to do with the fact that the human eye responds to red, green, and blue at different rates. 

This illusion was first discovered by spinning an actual disk very fast, but it can now be viewed with a simple repeating sequence of 6 frames:

The Book of Life



The Book of Life was just recently released in theaters in November and caught my eye in attractions for its beautiful art design and color concept. This film takes on the unique challenge of creating three separate worlds the world of the living, the world of remembered, and the world of the forgotten. Each world has its own unique look and feel with its own challenges. Here is a clip about the art design and the smaller details that went into making this world more realistic:




http://www.usatoday.com/videos/life/movies/2015/01/16/21882417/







Another interesting challenge for this film was creating doll-like characters that could retain their doll-like qualities, while maintaing fluid motion.




"creating a doll-like, folk art look posed some problems for getting believable animations. Sullivan explains how one aspect of the character’s arm structure presented issues. “Manolo’s arms were extremely difficult to figure out because they’re three blocks. We discussed different options like extending the upper arm and then shortening the lower arm just because of the way that his elbow joint would move while playing the guitar. That’s a big part of the story. So, we had to ask how is that going to look appealing when you have two blocks separating and you see that joint in there. It needs to maintain the design, but it also needs to serve its function. We just wanted to make sure that things didn’t bend too much, but we still had a little squash and stretch in the animation.” - blog.digitaltutors.com


Check out the film if you can, it's really beautifully done with a nice story.


The Art of Flight

The Art of Flight is a live action sports film that follows a group of snowboarders who go all around the world to ski the best and most challenging mountains. The film, directed by Curt Morgan, is beautifully shot in high definition, it features hardware such as RED ONE, Phantom Flex, and Cineflex, and is a collaboration between Brain Farm Digital Cinema and Red Bull Media House. The trailer to the film is below:


A motion graphic artist that worked on the film went online to answer questions from fans and talk about the work he did. He was directly responsible for the space scenes, matchmoving, and object tracking. He was only 21 years old at the time and still in college. He was studying film production at Montana State University-Bozeman, it was there that he got into motion graphic editing and animation. When asked about how he got to work on the film he said "I started freelancing for the Helio Collective in June for some smaller projects and they liked my work, so I was brought on board for FLIGHT. After that I was hired on fulltime."



When asked about the process, he explained how he and his team were able to create the effects.

"For the tracking we used SynthEyes for matchmoving and sent that into Cinema4D or AfterEffects, depending on what needed to be added. For the points tracked to the riders I guess it wasn't true object tracking, but rather just 2D that was made to look 3D. That was done in SynthEyes since its tracker is much more powerful than AE's, and sent 2D nulls to AE for compositing with Plexus. For the matchmoves some were pretty straight forward, a couple clicks and you're done. Some shots did require tracking in separate segments, such as the shot of Travis boarding the plane, or sometimes we would have to do some serious color correction for a tracking shot and apply the data to the raw clip."

Here is the opening credits of the film, in which some of these effects are featured in:

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Archer


Archer recently returned for its sixth season. As a big fan of the show, I have always been fascinated by the super stylized and almost sophisticated-like animation style. It truly is very unique and different than most shows on the air. The style seems to honor the television show Mad Men, which is currently approaching its final season. When all is said and done, Archer is absolutely an espionage television show; however, the setting revolves around a 1950s style workplace and most characters dress of that time period. There's also this crude sexist attitude as part of the show's humor that seems reminiscent of poor treatment towards women in the workplace.

Here's a cool Archer/Mad Men mashup done by some people at Tauntr Media:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Avatar

Last month, the famous Nickelodeon series, Avatar, just concluded the fourth and final chapter of the Legend of Korra. It's amazing to think that an animated series that began in early 2005 consistently entertained so many viewers over the span of ten years. What's even more amazing to realize is that while the characters have changed throughout the series, the style of animation has remained the same. In elementary school, I remember rushing home to catch the latest episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender; a fictional series, based on modern martial arts, that highlights a group of friends who can "use the force" to move the world's elements: water, fire, air, and earth.


The color pallet utilized throughout the series, accompanied by the varying camera shots and object motion tracking draw the viewer into the animated world. Even though each of these characters are fictional, the accuracy of detail in the faces, skin tones, and emotional storyline invite the viewer to befriend Aang and his friends on their journey to save the world (Even the animals resemble real-life animals!).


It's also interesting to note that each of the voice actors for the series physically act out their lines to better interpret the scene and provide strong vocal emphasis to increase the realism of the cartoon. Even the direction of vision for the actor is identical to the cartoon (below). And it's interesting to note that this animation doesn't even incorporate motion capture.


 Give it a watch; you'll enjoy it!

Space Jam

Last week I was wandering around Walmart when I stumbled into one of their big baskets full of movies on sale. After a little bit of rummaging, I found a childhood favorite of mine, Space Jam. This classic was about Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes playing basketball along side Michael Jordan against a group of evil aliens.



As a kid this movie stood out to me because it was one of the first movies I had seen that mixed cartoons and live action. Now, nearly 20 years later, animation has advanced significantly. Yet watching the movie is still impressive. While it may not look as realistic most of the other CG movies today, that is part of the point of Looney Tunes. They are cartoons and live in an animated world where anything is possible. That being said, when looking at Space Jam compared to any of the classic Looney Tunes cartoons preceding it, you can't help but see a drastic difference in quality. In Space Jam, the characters do look more realistic, and a lot more 3D. I think most of this can be attributed to the use of lighting and shadows used in the animation. The background also looks fairly realistic. While you can tell it is animated, it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb.



While this movie may be fairly old at this point, I still think we can learn from it. While it may not be the most technologically advanced, it definitely shows the progression of the Looney Tunes since 1930.

Special Effects and Fan Films

Special Effects often shine their brightest when used by passionate amateur filmmakers doing what they love. YouTuber Andrew McMurry showcased his special effects skills in his recent video, Fallout vs Skyrim. 


In his video, McMurry pits together characters from Fallout 3, a sci-fi video game, and The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, a fantasy video game, in a battle to the death. The games, both products of Bethesda Game Studios, have long been in the center of debate as to which is the best RPG, and this video is the latest entry in that debate, with Fallout's guns and tech winning out over Skyrim's swords and magic.

Other than just being a fun video for video game fans, this video showcases some of the impressive effects you can pull off with the various 3D software that McMurry utilized, like After Effects and Cinema 4D. McMurry posted a video demonstrating the effects that created for his video, including dust, lightning, and glitch effects, teleportation, and a dragon.


Seeing what a skillful YouTuber can do with special effects and 3D is exciting for any aspiring artist in today's filmmaking scene.

Minions

Many of you know who, or what, the Minions are and have seen them featured in Despicable Me 1&2 and even in a few of their own shorts. But, in July this year you are going to be able to see them like never before! The Minions are getting their very own movie! The Minions gained a cult following after Despicable Me first came out. They all had different personalities and were adorably idiotic and so cute that people could not help but love everything they did. The creators capitalized off of their popularity and continued making shorts featuring only the Minions and largely ignoring the other, human, characters in the movie. One of the most famous Minion videos is their "Banana Song".

The new movie, which is scheduled for release July 10, 2015, focuses on the Minions search for a master starting from way before humans even inhabited the planet. The Minions have trouble keeping their masters around and eventually become so dejected they stop trying, until three brave Minions, Kevin, Stuart, and Bob, set off on a mission to find a new master who can handle them. Their adventures take them all the way to New York City, where antics ensue.
I love the animation used for the Despicable Me and am incredibly excited to see how the Minions movie turns out. However, the effort it takes to animate an entire feature length film with the depth and realism that is in both Despicable Me and the upcoming Minions movie is incredible. Universal made a video giving people just a little bit of an insight into what actually goes into making these movies.
It is amazing to see how many people it takes to simply animate the face of a single character. The Minions and Despicable Me are works of animation genius and show some of the incredible things 3D animation can do. Now here is my favorite Minion video.
BANANA!

PCF Studios



PCF Studios:
This is a local, Up-state New York, artist's company. His name is Philippe Faraut, and his focus is on Sculpture.










He lives in Honeoye New York, and teaches a small class on sculpting. I find his work both interesting and inspiring. He does many different kinds of sculptures like stone, bronze and clay. The style of his work is very realistic which I find intriguing. It is not easy to master the art of reality and in my opinion it is the hardest form of art to take on. This goes for all areas of art, film, sculpture, painting, drawing, etc.
Each and every one of his pieces I find telling a story. Within every one of them I find myself forming an internal analysis for who they might be and where they might have come from. They are all very expressive and are good examples for characters one must create in stories. 


(Einstein recreation)

As seen above he also does some work with recreating people from pictures. 


(Philippe working)

His wife takes all the photos for his web page and I think there is something very beautiful about the lighting in these photos that everyone can take something away from. The lighting helps to show the contours of each piece of work and is very contrasted with light and dark areas. 

Finally Philippe Faraut has also done forensic work with facial recreation from only bones. 
This is just another talent of his. Through examining the human skull he can determine the muscular composition and then the rest falls into place. 

Philippe Faraut is an artist that inspires. His works are beautiful and there is a lesson to be learned in every one of his sculptures. 

Check out his Website:   http://www.pcfstudios.com 


Okay. 3 2 1. Let's Jam!



The anime series, Cowboy Bebop, started in 1998, has one of the coolest openings of any show. Created by Sunrise Animation Studios, the entire show is drawn beautifully. Each character has their own little segment in the opening that is different colors. The quick flashes and strong colorful backdrops with black silhouettes complement the jazzy music and fun percussion. They created a band called The Seatbelts to play all the music created for the show. This jazzy music carries through in the visuals - the bright colors, swift camera movement, and strong editing - which support the exciting and free nature of the music.

On the website, Art of the Title, they discuss the art direction: The art direction for the title sequence of Cowboy Bebop is reminiscent of Seijun Suzuki’s Tokyo Drifter (a 1966 film made during the Japanese New Wave or Noberu Bagu) and also from the pop art movement. The primordial element, however, is the bebop jazz influence (hence the term’s inclusion in the show’s title and the labeling of the show’s episodes as “sessions”).

While I may have watched the opening too many times by itself, I have also seen the whole series. It has it all - amazing art and colors, well-developed characters, good writing, and fun original music. I know anime is not everybody's cup of tea, however, I believe those people would still enjoy Cowboy Bebop.




And if you're anything like me, it provides a great escape from reality and makes you fall in love with animated, fictional characters.