Friday, January 13, 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tough Wild

Awesome short film:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Idle or Loop? That is the question...

Today, there was an interesting conversation at the office. There was a debate between whether we should name "Idle" or "Loop" all the cycling animations.

I know it might sound a bit dumb, but I think naming conventions are not used as often as they should. Some people even think they're useless! Setting up a good naming convention is something that does not take a lot of time but it can save a lot of time in the future, specially when it's time to export your assets.

Anyways, I think there is a slight difference between an Idle and a Loop.

An Idle is an animation where the character is doing nothing, i.e. he's waiting. The best example for this would be the animations on the character selection screens for most games. The character is just there, waiting to be selected. No major action is done, other than breathing (if needed). He can do other things, like scratch his head or something, just to break the idle and make it more alive. Below is an example from Torchlight...

Now, the main difference between an Idle and a Loop is that the latter can be any type of animation. A loop can be punch, a kick, a character balancing from a rope, etc. I guess a loop is more of a generic term than an Idle.

To explain myself, I'll give you an example. Let's say you have the following animations:
- A character standing
- A character walking
- A character hanging from an edge

If Idle is the same as Loop, then your naming convention could be:
- Standing: CharA_Standing_Idle
- Walking: CharA_Walking_Idle
- Hanging from the edge: CharA_Hanging_Idle

Personally, I'd prefer something like this:
- Standing: CharA_Idle_Loop
- Walking: CharA_Walking_Loop
- Hanging: CharA_Hanging_Loop

Most people would say that the first one (Idle_Loop) sounds repetitive, since the Idle is always a cycle animation. And it's true. You never animate an Idle as a one-shot. However, consistency is a big factor whenever there is more than one person working on a production area, so having the Loop with the Idle for the sole purpose of being consistent makes sense. It will also allow you to add different types of Idle animations, like:
- CharA_Idle_Heavy (like a heavy breathing)
- CharA_Idle_Scratch_Head

Anyways, that's the way I would do it. Let me know if you agree or you don't (and why).

And one more thing: Try to avoid the Idle01, IdleBreaker03, Scratch35... Always add the type of action to the name, so you don't have to open the file to see what the animation is doing.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The importance of a good pose

Yesterday, I went to the Cirque Du Soleil show called "Dralion". Another standing ovation for all the performers of this wonderful show. I would suggest to go watch it whenever is around your city.

While I was watching the show, I couldn't help myself to stop and analyse the way the dancers, and the performers in general, moved (I guess that's something that comes with learning animation; sometimes you just have to observe more than admire).

Anyhow, what catch my attention were the strong poses the dancers were hitting during the show, specially during the opening. Each character represents a different element and you can see just by the poses in their dances the difference between them. It reminds me a lot of Avatar: The Last Airbender and the differences between the kung-fu styles they had.

The clarity and feeling of the poses show the detail and effort the choreographers have put into it, since during the whole show the degree of synchronization and precision was astonishing (I guess that's something the Cirque du Soleil does on every show). You can watch the opening of the show in the video below.

Here is another one where the actual perfomers are interviewed. Check the poses of the girl doing piruets with the hoop while in the air.

In general, you can see that the poses they hit are very clear and strong, they have good silhouettes and are very easy to read, not to mention the level of grace (or power) they want to convey. The movements they do are very fluid, and a lot of time you can see the equivalent of a "moving hold" when they hit a pose. In my mind, the performance has to be clear and have to look good from different angles, since there will be viewers all around the platform.

I believe that all shows like this must consider this type of things whenever they're creating the choreography. Dance shows, figure skating, synchronized swimming, etc. The principle applies to a lot of different performances!

So we, as animators and creators of performances, have to put a lot of attention and care in the key poses of our animation. As choreographers of the character's performance, we have to make sure the poses are strong, clear to the audience and that they always display an emotion so the viewer can feel whatever the character is trying to say. And just as you can see the level of effort the choreographers of the Cirque du Soleil have put into the Dralion performances, the same will occur with your animations. People will notice how much effort has been put in your work by watching your animations, so always try to give that 110% in those key poses!!