Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Extremes, Breakdowns And Keys



Struggle: Where would we be without it? A successive, or a big one, anyhow you think about it, brings out the best in you or your character. They make you appreciate the feeling of achievement. The more intense the struggle in question the more you appreciate your achievement.  Think about a time when you had to overcome some challenge you thought or perceived as insurmountable when you got to the “end” how did you feel? Think about how we appreciate a protagonist in a struggle that seems insurmountable, a la Mandela, Obama,  Abraham Lincoln, The Batman, Superman and ..em..hopefully ..me.. after you...eh... read my entire story that is..wink, wink..heh! heh!

If you are Nigerian by birth like me, and grew up in my time, starting from the late the seventies (I’m never going to give you my age..LOL) in Nigeria, then you’ll understand that it is likely that your parents had never heard of animation before you told them about it and the irony is that they bought you animated cartoons as a child. Even though I loved it to a certain degree, I had to get a degree (pun intended) in study Chemical/Polymer Engineering to appease my parents and the society at large because very few professions are regarded as respectable in Nigeria. By the time I got to my third year in the university, I became very disenchanted with school because Nigerian schools and Nigerians put too much emphasis on passing exams, and not learning, and I wanted to learn. I wanted to be awoken in the middle of the night and asked for a solution for a plant pipe problem (maybe a corrosive one) and instantly give the answer then go back to sleep..(Bad guy!..na only me dem born?). Well that did not happen and I was not fulfilled with just having a kpali (that is how we refer to school certificates in Nigeria, no wonder we are so aggressive as a people imagine the emotional intensity required to pronounce k and p in a word.) with a second class... (I do want to blow my trumpet or wash my dirty linen in public here...), so at the end of my schooling I turned to my calling: Animation

First I had to deal with my own personal challenges (doubt and limiting beliefs), then I had to deal with the fact that we had no animation schools in Nigeria and we still do not have any animation school here, I also had to deal with my parent’s disapproval of animation as something to do for a living. I also have no artistic skills at all.  I also had to deal with my friends already doing “better” (marriage, car, renting a house, good paying jobs) than I was doing.  Even while learning the animation I had find a way to commercialize the skill because my parents were getting exceedingly frustrated with my seemingly lukewarm attitude (please note the word seemingly) towards life and I can’t blame them at all because viewing it in retrospect that is exactly how that it looked. I have found a way to commercialize and make a good living but I’m not, in anyway, content with that. I’d like to make a statement, a resounding one for that matter.  Trust me, that is a very tough thing to do with animation in Nigeria but that is a challenge I have to rise against and I’m loving every bit of it. I have learnt to thrive on these sort of challenges.





I’ve however discovered that struggle makes a lot of sense when there is an end or a goal (that is no longer a rhetoric to me) in sight otherwise you are just a suffer-head.....LOL. A suffer head is a colloquial reference to someone who suffers no matter what, with no end to the suffering in sight. One of my goals, ever since I was born (hmm..not too sure about my first five years though.) has been to create an animated feature length movie called KINETIC. My hope is that it will enchant and entertain cinema audiences all over the world. I also want my company

 

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to be known for creating very compelling motion pictures: Animated and Live action.

Some goals are easy and others are not. I say easy or not, depending on the visibility and clarity of the goal to the protagonist in question.
Goals set for us are most times easy: Parents (go to school, get good grades and get a good job), Peers (what to wear, the kind of people to date, have sex early or not), Society (rules, norms and customs).  But the ones we have to set for ourselves, especially if they require taking us from the known to the unknown, are most times very difficult most times it is our responsibility to make them crystal so that we can see where we are going and then fashion out ways to get there, if you are a leader it will be your responsibility to make it clear to your followers and yourself.  Most people run away from setting goals for themselves, because they are afraid, they rather hand it to someone to do that for them.

  Every profession has its planning method to get from point A (where you are) to point B (where you want to be). In Animation we use timing, extremes, keys and breakdowns to take us to our destination (which is to create compelling and convincing movement to satisfy the audience).

Here is what I mean, suppose you want to animate a step that is a character taking a step, I really prefer to use the wordbuildas in build a step ( I’ll tell you why later). First we establish the timing (PAL:24 frames per second): a regular walking step means that the character will take a step or make contact with the ground every half a second. Since we are animating it is by far better to say every twelve frames (12). The next thing to do is to establish the extremes and the breakdowns. For this simple animation, these will serve as the goals. Then we go ahead to determine the other key positions, the in-between and then the spacing. I will explain the mechanics (don’t forget I’m an engineer..a chemical one for that matter)  of a walk later and we will even get into building a walk cycle. For now I want you to understand how timing, extremes, and breakdowns and keys give animating more sense. 


Even if you do not understand just keep moving forward as long as you are in “motion”, you’ll understand eventually (I encourage you to approach life in this manner as well)




Oh! I’ll be using Anime studio Pro to solve this, and all the other, animation solutions but please understand that the principle is the same as classical animation. As a matter of fact this is classical animation done with Anime Studio Pro (Bad isn’t it). I’ll be working under the impression that you know the basics of Anime Studio Pro.  If you do not....well we’ll have to find a way to make you understand it won’t we?

Once you are in the Anime studio pro environment create a stick man just as I have and then rig him (put bones in him). Colour his right limbs (legs and arms) red and left limbs green or use colours of your choice. Just make sure you can differentiate his right from his left. Err.. no need to go through the trouble of doing that here is the file.  


        For some funny reason this is the video (and song) i’m currently watching at the time of writing this blog. Nice song isn’t it. The girl in the video is hot or what do you think? Her name is Dhany (short for Daniella) and she actually lives next door, as a matter of fact she inspired this blog cause i "struggled" real hard to meet her. Anyway...


...LET THE BUILDING PROCESS BEGIN......




STEP 1
Press control (CTRL) + K, to bring out the action windows. 




STEP 2
Click on the new action button as indicated above. This will bring out a dialogue box labelled Action name. Rename the Action 1 to Extreme 1.

Your Action Window should look like this (above). Double click on the newly created action (Extreme 1).


There should be a colour change in your timeline......







The top is the Mainline timeline, while the one below is the Action Window timeline.





STEP 3


While in the Action timeline (Extreme 1) with the manipulate bone tool......





.....pose your character .....





just like this (Above). Green leg behind, and red leg in front. Do the opposite for the hands that is green hand in front and red hand behind.







STEP 4


In the Actions window, click on the mainline. Then repeat steps 1 and 2, but this time, name your new action Breakdown. Then with the manipulate bone tool (Z), pose your stickman character like this (Below)













STEP 5
In the Actions window, click on the mainline. Then repeat steps 1 and 2, but this time, name your new action Extreme 2. Then with the manipulate bone tool (Z) pose your stickman character like this (Below)


Do the opposite of what you did in Extreme 1 that is Green leg in front, and red leg at the back, green hand at the back and red hand in front.





STEP 6
Double click on the mainline in the Action window and move from frame 0 to frame 1.  Go to your action window and click once on extreme 1.  On the actions window there is a button called the insert reference button.  Kindly avoid the insert copy button for now (I’ll explain later).
When you do this an arrow like keyframe should appear on your mainline timeline just like below
Since we are animating a regular walk, the breakdown position should be on frame 7 and the extreme 2 should be on frame 13. Simply repeat I did on frame 1 to establish those keyframes (breakdown and extreme 2) on frames 7 and 13 respectively. So your timeline should look something exactly like this.


You have succeeded in animating 80% of the walk. Why? You may ask, well like I said early once you know where you are going your struggle will make a lot of sense. Now you have established the extreme and breakdown position already. If you scrub through the timeline you’ll see that your stick character is taking a step already. Now you will have to put in the up and the down, to give walk(or the step) more character. These keyframes should be on frames 4 and frame 10 respectively.


Now that you have done a good job establishing the goals (timing, extremes and the breakdowns) let’s do the struggle (spacing, other key positions and the in-betweens).  I personally consider these a struggle because they require some trial and error to get satisfactory results but you’ll get a lot better (meaning less trials and errors) as you animate more. You may skip the spacing for now as I’ll explain better to you when the focus is to learn how to build a walk cycle.




The other key positions are the Down and the Up.

STEP 7
To establish the down, make sure you are on the mainline timeline then simply move the slider to frame 4 and pose, with the manipulation bone tool (Z), the stickman to look like mine below. You may employ the help of the onion skin just like I did.





STEP 8
To establish the up, make sure you are on the mainline timeline then simply move the slider to frame 10 and pose the stickman to look like this. Again, you may employ the help of the onion skin just like I did.





What you have also succeeded in doing is creating an animation where you can easily differentiate which keyframes hold the extremes (Keyframes 1 and 13), the breakdown position (keyframe 7), the down (keyframe4) and the up (keyframe7). You must develop the habit of doing this (Differentiating your keyframes from your in-betweens) because it will make your animation more convenient for YOU.

WHAT ABOUT THE IN-BETWEENS THEN?

No problem we’ll take care of that but a quick explanation before we do that. In hand drawn animation after the key animator has drawn the extremes and breakdown and other key positions, another artists usually called the in-between animator then comes in to draw the in-betweens (KAI! A lot of people to pay now).

 If your default interpolation is on smooth, then Anime studio PRO has inserted the in-betweens for you already (YAY!). The in-betweens are at frames 2,3,5,6,8,9,11 and 12.
 It doesn’t really matter who puts in the in-betweens as long as you understand where they are supposed to be.

Now, If you play the animation you’ll see that the character has taken a step but has not actually moved forward. 



video


He is actually kinda... Moonwalking...but on the same spot but MJ is still the king of moonwalks no matter how good my animation is. 




I’m a huge fan of Michael Jackson...heee! heee!) 



LET’S MAKE HIM MOVE THEN




STEP 9
Activate the onion skin, you will find it very helpful here.  Click on the Onionskin button on the timeline and a drop list will come down with 3 check boxes. Click on the check box that has beside it “enable onion skins”.


Scrub the slider to frame 4 (the down) and then click on frame one. You should have something like this, below (a dark patch) on your timeline.

After you do that click on the translate bone tool in the toolbar or if you are on the bone layer just press T on your keyboard to activate the translate bone function.


Using the onionskin as a guide, move the root bone and pose the stickman as I have done below. Watch the feet now make sure they are properly aligned just like in the picture below.




Scrub the slide to frame 7, and use frame 4 as the onion skin. Once that happens, you will see the onion skin of frame 4 Scrub the Slide to frame 10 and use frame 7 as the onion skin.  Then align properly
Scrub the slide to frame 13 and use frame 10 as the onion skin then is align properly.
 If well done you should this kind of result.




video



Every good animation is planned this way.  You must always start with the timing: put a time frame on your dreams so that you turn them into goals otherwise they are just dreams, then go for the extremes (very important as you must always know where you are going even before you get there) then determine the breakdowns ( I also believe in setting sub goals on the way to your big goals). Then you will have to determine other key positions (more sub goals) if there any other. Then come the in-betweens (if there are any) and the spacing (these I’ll explain better in due course).





Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Timing And Spacing

How are you doing? My names are Kenway Afam Oforeh, I’m the founding C.E.O of a company called EuphoRya! Entertainment. 
Let me see if I can interest you to know me better. I studied at the Lagos State University (I should have just said LASU abi?) and I have a B.sc in Chemical/polymer engineering, which makes me a chemical engineer by profession. But in my heart I’m an entrepreneur, a businessman and an animator. I’m not yet as good as I want to be in any of those endeavors but I’ll continue to push until I get to my destination. Because of the opportunities I have seen in the Nigerian T.V. terrain, I’m building a company (EuphoRya! Entertainment)that will develop and provide quality TV media contents. 

We will be making a debut with an animated T.V. content called KINETIC, 



I’ll save that for later. We also offer training in classical animation at a very affordable rate. 
Prior to this time we have been in the background creating animated contents for clients like MUSIC AFRICA, LASTMA, MTECH etc.
It is about time we came to the fore front. It hasn’t been easy and there are times I have always wanted to “throw in the towel” but hey!! I love what I do.
At the risk of appearing arrogant I strongly feel I was born to animate. I don’t know if that is actually true but I believe it anyway, very strongly for that matter. Maybe it is because of the love I have for it that I can stay long enough at an animating challenge for hours sometimes even days or weeks or months (in one particular case a year..Yes o!..that’s for real) enough to conquer it . With that attitude I was able to teach myself in 5 years. If I had a teacher it would have been a lot shorter.
Even though I have been animating for years (as young as 5) by drawing on, and flipping the, pages of text books; yes I drew on all the pages of my father’s professional books and created animations (by flipping the pages, do you know how to do that?) with them and boy!!... did I get some ass-whooping and pile-drivers (Oh!..my father was a bear- wrestler in Siberia...just kidding) I actually started professionally in 2006.
Back then, we were able to secure a 2-year deal with MTECH communications (A mobile phone VAS company) to develop mobile phone contents which they would supply to MTN’s WAP portal -for MTN loaded. One of the items we were required to produce were short video flicks for phones. With very little knowledge of, animation concepts and, the software at hand (we were using flash then) we set to work. We were required to produce five animated shorts but due to some start-up challenges we ended up producing just three. One of the animated shorts we created became very popular on mobile phones and internet (youtube). I called it Omofunky
                                                            
Anyway, we felt like heroes after we completed that flick and also when it became famous. 
Then one day I sat down to review it and then compared it to a Disney cartoon. I saw the crystal clear difference in the quality. At that moment all the feeling of achievement I had, vanished. I was thrown into a frenzy and almost running mad (like Yaba psychiatry mad). I was asking all sorts of questions “How do I make my animation like a Disney animation?”, “How do I make international standard animation?” , “How do I create smooth convincing animation?”. How, how, how.... I was beginning to sound like an egbene-kuku bird. I don’t even know what that is; I heard about it from my mother. Then one day I stumbled on the answer.


            ....IT IS ABOUT TIMING AND SPACING.


“What the heck does that mean?”  That precisely, was my response and maybe, very likely, will be yours as well. I always thought animation was about just drawing the same character in different and changing positions to produce movement. No doubt you will have to produce movement but you will have to produce movement that is compelling and convincing (not necessarily realistic but convincing) to the audience.  To do that you’ll have to master the concepts of timing and spacing. That is to be a professional animator, the concepts must become second nature to you. Please do not think of it as complex mathematics. It is nowhere close to that. All it requires is determination and common sense. Traits that you have already (I hope..LOL). 
Mastery of this simple concept will help you create animations of international standard. Animations you can use in real-live movies (nollywood needs your help), cartoons, games, special effects, ETC. As long as it involves change on a time-line, you must master timing and spacing to create compelling animations. 
Below is an example of timing and spacing applied. I’m going to show you how we can use timing and spacing to change the look and feel of a bouncing ball. Even if you do not understand please just note. After a while, constant usage will help you, that’s what learning is about. No need to cram it into your head, just note it. Please look at the diagram below. 
This is a classic Richard Williams example of a regular bouncing soccer ball. Please note that what I’m depicting in all my examples is the different positions of the ball at different times. 



Watch the result below
video


Notice where the ball is touching the ground (Boink!). That is the timing. Observe how at some point the positions of the ball overlap each other (when slowing down) and at some other point they space out (moving fast). That is the spacing. That wasn’t so difficult was it?

By changing the timing and spacing of this same soccer ball and we can create the illusion that it is heavy.  Please see below.        


video

Please observe the time interval (timing) of the bounce. Observe how the position of the ball is spaced out when it is falling (since it is heavy it is fast.) and how it is spaced closely when it begins to slow down after bouncing. 

There is just no way a regular ball and a heavy ball can bounce (and move) with the same timing or the same spacing.

Again by changing the timing and spacing of this same soccer ball we can create the illusion that it is very light.  This is what Nigerians call a Fele Fele ball...LOL. Please see below   
video
  
Mastery of this simple concept will help you create very compelling animations. Animations you can use in live movies (Nollywood needs your help..Michael Jackson "bad"), cartoons, games, special effects, ETC. As long as it involves change on a time-line, you must master timing and spacing to create compelling animations. The result of this is more convincing movement and not bland ones like i used to create before now.
Because things always start from a state of rest, gradually move, gain speed and then slow down before they come to a complete stop. Like I said even if you do not understand please just note it. From constant usage you’ll grasp the concept sooner or later. No software can help you with this, instead you can help the software with it. Please understand that software does not create animation; you do, the software is just a tool; you are the animator.While we are on the issue of software, I strongly recommend a software called....



     ANIME STUDIO PRO.

In my opinion it is the best 2.5D (yes 2.5D i’ll explain later) software in the market. ANIME STUDIO PRO is primarily a 2D software but has the capacity to handle 3D objects and characters to a certain limit. In my company we use ANIME STUDIO PRO 8. i'll be showing you how to use Anime Studio Pro to solve animation problems. 2D is still my preferred medium of expression. Like I keep saying, once you understand the animation concepts and principles, any medium of expression you choose is fine (2D, 3D, Claymation, Stop–motion, motion–capture etc.). I’m coming to you at a critical time because the Nigerian animation industry is developing but not yet consolidated. And as you know it is the people who get into an endeavour first that reap a good part of the reward. Nigerian T.V. needs you, the Nigerian advertising industry needs you, hell even Nollywood will soon need you. 

If a person does not prepare for his success, when the opportunity comes it will only make him look foolish - Earl Nightingale.

If you put a gun to my head and ask me to draw, you’ll probably kill me twice: I can’t draw to save my life. Part of the reasons it took me 5 years to learn the basics, apart from the fact I had to learn it on my own. If you already possess the basic skill an animator needs: drawing / illustration skills and a good sense of human anatomy then you clearly have an advantage.

Adding animation skills will give you more options (strong options) in the society. More options make you stronger. I can show you the basics and principles in a profound manner in about 4 months (if you are serious and at a very fair price that at that if you are in Lagos, Nigeria ). But the time frame to master the concepts depends totally on you. 
At the risk of sounding critical your artistic skills alone may not be enough to help you out there in the real world. The days of just creating art works and auctioning them to the highest bidder are seriously numbered. You will need to harness your skill to the next level. Animation is the next level.
If you would like to see some of the jobs we have done here is a link to my Youtube channel. 


          The Kenway's Youtube Channel (please subscribe or add me as a friend)

Keep a date with me every fortnight as I guide you to become a master animator, If you need more explanation please holla at me. In my next post I'll be dealing with extremes, breakdowns, and keys, till then please enjoy the rest of days ahead.