Meet the Artist: Carlos Baena

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  11 November 2005
hey what do u think about vancouver film school? is that a good place to start with..
  11 November 2005
Just wanted to say it's been fun reading this thread even though I'm not really an animator. You guys at Pixar are really inspiring.
  11 November 2005
Originally Posted by Shazam3D: I'm very curious about the techniques for facial animation in Pixar, because the characters are very expressive there, more than others animation studios. What kind of facial rigging do you prefer? Bones, muscles?
Can you explain the pros and the cons?

Hola J.Marino,

Facial Animation Rigging is quite a complex area, which I'm not as familiar as I would love to be. I've never dealt with bones or muscles myself. At Pixar, it's something that our riggers work with us in making our characters better, and they do a hell of a job and are more than patient, especially knowing how picky us animators are.

For my own work, I've always dealt with blendshapes. Now, it's on the deformation and the weighting you do, when you make it seem like there are muscles underneath pulling, and creating these facial expressions. I'm not a fan of things being too automated myself. So I like to have as many controls as possible, so that I can overlap different parts of the face. So that maybe if an eyebrow raises, then I'd layer a little bit of nose/cheek move. Very subtle. And then, not only that but I would layer that in a couple frames later, as if one muscle goes first, then it pulls, creating move or moving other muscles that aren't as active move afterwards. Also, you have to be aware of passive muscles moving in the face as consequence of active muscles working. They both work together. Also, some muscles around the face are bigger (therefore more visual) than other muscles, that maybe just affect a simple tiny for example, the sneers on the nosetrils compared to the cheek muscles.

There is a book that's just huge for that stuff:

Gary Faigin's "The Artists Complete Guide to Facial Expressions"

So, while this doesn't necessarily answer your question on the technical issues, because my knowledge on that stuff is rather limited, at least, that's how I approach dealing with facial stuff a bit.


Last edited by CarlosBaena : 11 November 2005 at 05:56 PM.
  11 November 2005
Originally Posted by Vivec: My questions have already been asked, however just wondering what it was like to work with Brad Bird, what kind of person is he,

Hi Chris,

Brad Bird is a very inspiring person to work for. His personality is contagious. He LOVES what he does, and he does a terrific job at making you feel the same way. John Lasseter does that as well. They both believe in their movies so much, regardless of whoever else thinks of them, and in my opinion, that gets reflected in the films themselves.

Brad is also very critical. He'll look at a shot, and analyze it from an animation, posing, staging, composition, continuity and cinematic point of view. So, now, you are not only learning about animation, but you learn about Film as well. For film geeks like myself that love to learn about that stuff, I can hear him talk about films for a month straight and not get tired. In addition to being one of the best directors I've ever met, he loves and respects animation, and for an animator, that's awesome. I would work with both John Lasseter and Brad Bird in a heartbeat.

  11 November 2005
Originally Posted by HAntunez: My question is does Animation Mentor accept many students that have no animation background? I keep putting off applying because I figure that there are more qualified people applying and my chances of getting in are pretty slim. Do you have any advice?

Hi Hector,

The answer is yes. If you feel like that's what you want to learn, our very first class (Basic foundations) does NOT require previous experience or animation background. I grew up having many limitations in the sense that, not always you are able to study, do or work where you want. So in terms of studying, we wanted everyone to have the exact same opportunity.

Now, after the Basic Foundations class (Class 1), we are critical as to who makes it to the later classes (Class 2, 3, 4, etc). This is because there has been cases (both at AM and in many Schools out there) where students are not as involved, they don't do assignments, and they are just trying things out, to see if it's what they want. We give students that chance in Class1...but in later classes, if the pattern repeats, it means, that they are wasting the professional mentors, the other students time (who give feedback as well) and the Schools' time. In other cases, the mentor will tell the School whether a student has to repeat a certain term, for his/her benefit, and because maybe that person is not ready to move on just yet. Therefore, for us is where the student is at Animation wise and motivation wise.

  11 November 2005
Thank you very much, Carlos, aprecio mucho tu respuesta y el tiempo que te has tomado.

Suerte y éxito, ojalá algún día vengas a Gran Canaria a dar algun curso o similar, estaré en primera fila.

Un abrazo,
  11 November 2005
A little criticsm

Carlos, muchas gracias que tu has tomado el tiempo para contestar mis preguntas.
Thank you very much.
I have (ONLY) one critique though. When watching the Incredibles, at the scene where Mr. I lift up the giant monolith head, my wife and I said at the same time: something's wrong here.
Indeed the picking up didn't show any weight. You can see Mr. I strain a lot, but the result is that he is lifting a cardboard head or something. You (Pixar animators) should have studied construction sites where they use heavy duty lifting/ hoisting equipment. Even though the tools are powerfull enough, the heavy weight rocks back and forth a little and it makes the lifting machine rock/ vibrate a little too. I tried to ignore it, but somehow it breaks the scene.

The scene that Mr. I catches Mr. Sansweet in mid air and fall through the window with him, is almost the same animation when Sully fell of the sled into the snow. Were you the same animator too? Or was that piece of animation inspired by that scene in Monster Inc? Or of course it could be just coincedence. Pixar character tend to fall the same way
  11 November 2005
Originally Posted by andre22uk: I know you were studying at school with Bobby and Shawn, and you guys did a year or two and then moved on. During the time you were in school were you taking mostly foundation classes, or did you actually get some time to animate? I was just wondering how you found your learning of animation.

Hi Drew,

Actually I wish they had animation foundation classes when I was studying. It was all very software oriented on the teaching part, and while this is always good to get to know, in the end it felt as if you weren't really exploring the art part of animation. So a lot of the artistic part of animation at the time was hard to find, almost very underground. Random tapes of artists, talks, conferences would be passed among animators, sharing the stuff. But at the same time making it really really hard for those who didn't have access to these tapes because they didn't know people in the industry. Also, a lot of our learning was through our own friends. Bobby, Shawn, me and a bunch of other friends, would get feedback from each other, and tried to push each other constantly. We would also share whatever tricks we would learn as we were going...It was the most effective part of the learning. It was really hard as there weren't nearly as many resources as today. So, all these are things we've been keeping in mind when working on the AnimationMentor curriculum, lectures, etc over the last few years. We didn't want students to be limited in any way creative or technical (medium wise).

  11 November 2005
Originally Posted by DarkSun: *I wonder if you're making radical changes on your acting stuff when you're animating. Or does supervisor or director requires a radical change in the middle of a shot? If something like that happens, do they give you more time to finish it?
*when you plan your acting shots, what is your most important helper? thumbnails, reference shots, ideas from collegues? And You said in one of your previous posts, you animate what character thinks, not what he/she says... Do you use anything else to get into the mood of the character?
*If your character is making a long walk and even making turns, do you have any special tricks I know it sounds silly, but I always found long walks with a camera showing the whole body, tricky, umm hard for myself...
*Do you think having a feature film experience in any other company on your CV helps a lot to get into Pixar? I know one of the most important thing is your reel but what do you think?
*Are you interested in moving to a position like "director" in future?
*I enjoy your musics on your site, do you have any plans to add more in future

Hi Arslan,

-It always depends on how big of a change it is. It's more of a case by case basis.
-For me, my biggest helper, definitely VIDEO Reference and libraries of stuff I've found on movies, live-actiong, etc. Defintiely. I get ideas I wouldn't of think of. Also, music helps me to get in the mood of whatever it is that I'm going to animate.
-Not any real tricks. It really depends on the acting, and the type of walk that it is. That's dictate many many things. From a mechanics point of view, I'd say the main thing is to pay attention to the relation between feet and hips, and how it does what you want this character walk to do. Focus on one thing at a time. Then, go little by little afterwards focusing on other things.
-I think experience ALWAYS helps. Because it tells the potential employer that you've had experience working with directors, in a studio environment, etc. So yeah, I really think it helps.
-For the time being, I like being in the learning position myself. I do have dreams and goals, and yes, eventually I'd love to make my own films or shortfilms...but for the time being, I like the position where I am at, as I'm learning a great deal about many different things.
-Definitely. I would love to update my site or even re design it. It's been too long and I've had my head in other things for a long time...but hopefully with time I'll be able to add stuff.

  11 November 2005
Hi Carlos, just another fan of your work here.
How are the students of Animation Mentor doing? Are there any Pixar quality potentials? And is there going to be any work from those guys showcased online? I'm just interested to see how this online education is working for them and if you guys are good teachers.
Good luck with your career!
  11 November 2005
Well, lucky me! I just so happened to need an animator to interview for my communications-technology class.

I have a few questions, but they're not very long.

- First off, do you think that there’s a large difference between animating for games and animating for movies?

- When you first started working in 3D, did you follow tutorials and the like, or try to figure things out yourself?

- Out of curiosity, What would you say is the most difficult thing to animate?

- What was your worst experience in this field?
  11 November 2005
Gracias Carlos por responder, espero conocerte personalmente pronto.

Ya sabes que estamos por Madrid.

Un Abrazo.
  12 December 2005
Thanks Everyone.

Because of my current schedule, I can't continue answering the remaining questions. I hope the ones I answered helped people in some way.

I would like to thank Leigh and CgTalk for the opportunity of doing this Q&A.

  12 December 2005

:(.... :(:(:(:(:(:(

Concept designer
  12 December 2005
Thanks a million, Carlos! You've been extraordinarily generous with your continued responses

All the best to you!
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