View Full Version : "Benny" Student Short Film Critique

06 June 2004, 10:52 PM
Hi everyone, this thread is going to be a Focused Critique for the student short film "Benny" that is currently in the works, myself and one other person are working on it. We are using Maya 5.0 for our software, and possibly thinking of using motionbuilder for our animation package.

We would like critiques on the film for "Modeling", "Character Design", "Story", and "Cinematography" (Camera Cuts etc.) I will try to minimize the inserted images as much as possible and include links for reference.

I'll start out with the concepts for character design on the film. The two characters are Benny and Carl, please critique the concepts and comment on anything you feel needs work.



Carl Image Planes (

I'll now show the modeling result from using the concepts and imageplanes from above. We realize now that before modelling the concepts they should have been nailed on paper first. Live and learn...

Benny Model Shaded

Benny Low Wire (

More Shots w/ Wires

Benny Closeup Shaded (
Benny Closeup (WIRE) (
Benny Front Shaded (
Benny Front (WIRE) (
Benny Side Shaded (
Benny Side (WIRE) (
Benny Top Persp Shaded (
Benny Top Persp (WIRE) (
Benny Back Persp Shaded (
Benny Back Persp (WIRE) (
Benny Quick Textured (

Carl Model Shaded

Carl Low Wire (

More Shots w/ Wires

Carl Closeup Shaded (
Carl Closeup (WIRE) (
Carl Back Persp Shaded (
Carl Back Persp (WIRE) (

Now please take a look at the animatic and the rough cut. They are very small and should load quickly. They are QUICKTIME movies.

Benny Animatic (

Benny Rough Cut (

Any comments and critiques will help us immensely so please fire away, we're trying to make the short come across as proffesional as possible. This post may seem a bit overwhelming but if you'd like you can categorize your post like this.....

::Character Design::




and anything else that is not in those categories plz feel free to add. We really appreciate your input!


06 June 2004, 12:44 AM
Phew, well, IMHO (read; please disregard anything you disagree with).

Before I get onto points about the technical aspects of the film making, can I ask you why you would think of using MotionB. for such a piece. You've got quite a short story with no animation that requires complex rigs, automation, or such, so why not just keep it all in Maya, from what I hear it has a totally decent animation toolset anyway?

Character design/modelling
What can you say really, a penguin and a whale, there's not really a great number of options for originality, it mostly comes down to personality with these kind of common cuties, and your designs are fine. The whale kinda reminds me of a shamoo T I had as a kid.
The pengi model is fine, but again there's not a huge amount you can do with such an animal, so if you haven't already thought of it, I'd stick with a simple, clean model like you got, and try and pull out some individuality with the texture job.
The whale models nice, but somethings missing, the drawing just looks more, i dunno, clever/cuddly.

Well, he nearly gets flattened by junk from some passenger jet offloading weight to save emergency fuel (it could happen) , but lucklessly gets eaten. it's basic 1970s, BBC, pre-empted slapstick comedy, nothing specail (sorry), but who cares, your prime goal should be the animation. Your story is fine so long as the character anim portrays it in such a way as to MAKE it funny. Think about the way Frank Spencer would walk around a tree three times before finally bashing into it. (God I hope you're english).

This is very simple and short, so reduce it all to one shot. Actually make that two, the opening establishing shot is a good idea, maybe use a snap zoom in though instead of the shitty crossfade.
There's also an old principle called, show don't tell, but it kinda works to say, show, don't show again. You don't need the PPOV cuts of the things falling down, follwed by things seen from PPOV stuck in ground. Infact you don't even need to see the pengi looking up, his not doing so will add to the comedy perhaps.
Maybe first thing lands, he jumps to the side in shock, second thing lands in the place he was, still no looking up, he walks around to inspect it. TV lands, he scoots off to edge of iceberg, shocked, looking at the things, not behind him, boom, gets eaten from behind.
All one shot, short, quick, snappy animation + first class (or as good as ye can muster in my case) facial work.

My best piece of advice, stop trying to look professional, just do what you know until you see what looks good to your eye, and best matches what you've already seen in your head. Setting goals is important, but they should be achieveable.

right. that'll be all

06 June 2004, 05:35 PM
Thanks for taking the time to put in on this film, it is very much appreciated.

You are making a good point about motionbuilder, it would take me more time to translate everything into MB than it would to just stay in maya for animation. One reason I wanted to use it was because I was thinking of doing future episodes with these little guys, and if I had a streamlined setup in MB it may take me less time. I will definitely stay in maya for this first go around, and then possibly move to MB in the future if need be.

What kind of ideas for individuality on the penguin can you think of? You mean something signature on the texture that would be uncommon of a penguin? I will look closer at the whale and see if I can pull some more character out of him, similar to the sketch.

I will definitely concentrate on giving as much life to the characters as possible and really honing the animation as best I can. I think its a clever idea to stay with just a two shot film, but how can I convey the emotion when the camera is at a full shot? Should I have overly accentuated expressions for the penguin? One friend suggested I put floating eyebrows above his head to further show his emotion. Any thoughts?

About the camera work what is a snap zoom? Is that just a fast zoom to the second camera up close? One other thing do you think I need to have a closeup initially to identify the character after the move in the the full shot?

Thanks for you input mate



06 June 2004, 10:38 AM
Floating eyebrows could be good, as for individuality in the textures, I'm just talking stripes and markings, maybe look at, I think it's, emperor penguins which are quite grand.
Yeah snap zoom is basically going from a wide shot to a tight zoom in VERY fast. Other than that, yeah loads of over done facial expressions and body moves should be good for this. You'll also find walk cycling with a charcter with such short legs very tough to get right, so stick to snappy little motions where the movement of the feet looks good, but their physical contact with the ground isn't necessarily accurate.

06 June 2004, 05:34 PM

I will use these tips pentamiter, I appreciate you giving your input!

Anyone else have any comments or critiques to give?

I am all ears!

06 June 2004, 09:00 AM
Ahh in Germany vee also have humor but it iz much funnier, this is not so good, i expected more!

Hey dude, try to get some personality into the penguin by working out his character profile (how old, what does he do for a living, what are his dreams/desires, nervous twitches etc.).

Humor in general can be either slapstick (Home video show- man slips over - haha/ Keystone kops) or more empathetic (CharlieChaplin, were you feel for the character/ have more involvement). Also 'funny' is the build up of tension followed by an absurd/ unexpected climax. Penguins being eaten by whales is not unheard of, how about the whale having a chainsaw or having loads of lipstick and giving him a big kiss or ... And another thingy- 'stuff falling from sky' hmm how about he is daydreaming and thought bubbles appear from his head (a distance above him) then become real and fall to the ground, he becomes panicy/ paranoid and tries not to think of safes/ pianos but ends up thinking a whale into existance ... you get the general idea of having ideas.

Is your deadline end of this semester '04?? or are you the worlds first hyper organized student for '05?

06 June 2004, 01:27 PM
Hahaha love the ideas mate, you have a really great mind for satire my friend. If anything your post has shown me that I can push this story so much further than what it currently is. I am going to do a full character concept and post it so that I can get an idea of what this little guys is all about, and also get some feedback on it. I'd like to finish this film by the end of the summer, (late august) but may transition it into my senior project for the rest of next year if I can muster a more dynamite story that works even better.

I think we may need to explore story more, we created this story with two things in mind, ( make it simple!, make it funny!) We just wanted something that production wise wasnt too terribly difficult, but really made a great laugh. If you are so inclined I'd love to hear more ideas for story. I like what you've said, but some of it is wayy out there :)

Anyone else have any input on the story? The gloves are off now!!


06 June 2004, 09:44 AM has some really useful advice on the 10 biggest mistakes you can make in a short film (the biggest is not developing the hero's character and i.e the audiences involvement/ empathy).

Also maybe try to get some professional advice from story/ screen writers (try, after all you can't be the world's greatest animator and writer and rigger and compositor sound engineer etc (cuz I'VE already taken that position, haha). A big problem for students/ colleges is to understand the difference between cooperation/ delegating work and cheating (not that it isn't good to have a basic grounding in these different asspects but don't let your ego rule the roost (just general advice, not slagging you off or anything)).

K.I.S.S- keep it simple stupid.(as you know)

Qualifications only count if you suck

The secret of sucess is to suck less

I gotta say after seeing the degree show for what would have been my year (if i was dumb enough to have wasted my tuition fees at that dump), that you work seems like its going to come out pretty good. Of the 25 people in my class only 1 got even close to character animation for there final project (don't get caught up with rigging/ texturing etc as you obviously know)

Get Acting for Animators by Ed Hooks, thats compulsary.

Well what you waiting for sucka! go do it...

06 June 2004, 07:40 PM
Well I am going to comment about your camera work.

You made some very good decisions in your rough cut. I would remove the "establishing shot" and just go with the wide shot you have going there. I would start off with just the ice flow and have the penguin walk into frame. IMO this is a better way to introduce a character and set the scene. The ball dropping out of the sky with the sun behind is perfect. I think it is also a good idea to have some close-ups to show his reaction each time an object lands by him. Properly done, it could make a world of difference. ANd just to punch up the ending a bit. Cut to black immedialy after the penguin is swallowed up. I am talking like 9 or 10 frames. after it happens. Just make sure the Whale is well on its way to diving back into the water before the cut. If timed just right, it will have everyone on the floor.

and just to comment on the acual objects dropped from the sky. If its being dropped out of a plane, I would make the objects the kinda thing that one would normally assoiate with air-travel. nail clippers, shaver, guitar case, etc.

Good concept though, cant wait to see it finished!

06 June 2004, 06:44 AM
doms....Great advice! I am going to work on my character development much more so that he has much more of a presence. I am also going to check out the websites you mentioned and post a critique thread in the forums for, hopefull I will get some good feedback from good storytellers. I appreciate the compliment that my project will turn out good, it really gives me a boost. I have acting for animators, Awesome book. Need to read it again :) Great stuff man I'm pumped to work now, Thanks again

Ephesus awesome stuff man. One thing I was hesitant about was the camera work, and I agree that him walking on to the full shot may be better as his walk will convey a lot of his character and emotion to start off. Do you think I should also do a closeup after he walks on and takes a comfortable spot to stand? I will work with the closeups for his reactions to the objects dropping. The audience will react better seeing his emotions closeup, because its hard to convey fear or nervousness without being zoomed on his face. Also one other question, do you think the full shot is too wide? One person said that it needed to be in tighter, any input on this? I'll also brainstorm on the objects to see if I can think of some other items that better fit. The ones I used just seemed easy because they dont explode when they hit. Both a golf ball and bowling ball will stay pretty intact after impact, the tv I did a quit cut so that I wouldnt have to show its reaction on impact. Any ideas on items to fall? Great feedback man, I think with your guys help this film will really be top notch.

Thanks a ton!

As always any other feedback is greatly appreciated!


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