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Old 12-02-2007, 05:11 AM   #46
DiamondBlue
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Liz
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Question about college majors

Hi Kenn,

I am currently a senior in highschool and am planning on going to the Art Institute in Orange County California to major in Media Arts and Animation. I reside in a small town in Oklahoma that has very little information on the art field and so I was wondering if you could possibly clearify things about two college majors. I want to work in the field of Visual Effects and I was of course looking at the Visual Effects and Motion Graphics major. In California, however, they no longer have that major because of lack of interest. So, I started to look at the Media Arts and Animation and saw that you can become a "Computer-Generated Effects Artist" through that major. Is that the same thing as a Visual Effects Artist or are they different? If they are different, will the Media Arts and Animation major allow me to become a visual effects artist? What are the differences in the Visual Effects and Motion Graphics and the Media Arts and Animation majors regarding the visual effects field?

Any information you caould give me on this would be highly appreciated.

Thank you for your time,

Liz
 
Old 12-02-2007, 07:18 AM   #47
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Matthew Kapfhammer
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Kenn,

That's much more than I expected to get answered! Glad to see the enthusiasm in the reply.

All the best to you and the team on the next project!

Cheers,
Matthew
 
Old 12-02-2007, 07:52 PM   #48
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I just watched to movie last night. It wasnt like the graphics were all show-offy and spectacular, but they were still amazing and realistic. I think the story was quite moving and emotional and the fact that it was in 3D didnt take away at all, and I felt emotionally connected to the characters. I loved the movie.

Such a Good job!!!
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Old 12-02-2007, 09:22 PM   #49
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Hi Kenn, again... lol i usually limit myself one post on these types of Q&A's but i have to say unbelievable work! as this could be the 3D glasses and the imax talking but i was in total awe.

His maybe a big ask and also the fact you alreadly answered in previous but i replies but in But..

1a) your own words could you describe what a average day(or even a week) in your life and whats its is like ?

1b) What you expect the recieve as a animator and what is expected of you and your department?

2a) Also if you can explain Sony imageworks pipeline as best you can do give a better picture for everyone as its a rare chance for a person with your talents is here online to answer questions, even if it just animation department but any other areas eg modeling, texturing would be fantastic?

2b) Like how many numbers of people work under you (and vise versa)and the leadership structure?


im sorry if i got cared away with the question but after seening the BEO movie i was so humbled by the fact your here with us answering the community's questions.

And want to pass on a big thankyou on to you for your time and for making a cool cg movie.

jay(your humbled admirer)..

all the best for 2008
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Old 12-03-2007, 05:33 AM   #50
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'toon-styled animation vs realism

Hi Kenn

I was interested in your earlier comments about the transition from the 'toon-styled character animation in Open Season to the realism of Beowulf.

I remember listening to Randy Cook give a talk about the character work in Lord of The Rings. One of the things he touched on was the need to avoid many of the established principles of 2D animation that have become instinctive in most animators. For example, anticipation: if a character needs a "surprise" expression it would be a mistake to drop the eyebrows momentarily in advance of raising them into the full "surprise" pose, the way we normally would for a 'toon character.

Another theory, the origin of which I've long since forgotten, says that the 'toon style places most of its emphasis on the held pose (and progresses by means of the pose-to-pose principle), whereas in realistic work it's the movement between poses that requires special attention. I've always placed a lot of merit in this philosophy; in realistic stuff you always need to watch out for "spliney" character movements and tweak those curves ever-so-carefully. You can't hide that splineyness with 3 or 4 or 5 frame "snaps" between poses, something that in traditional work is the lifeblood of energetic, dynamic characters.

Do you have thoughts on this?

Moving on a bit: I'm a 3D character animator (with 2D training) thinking about mapping out the future of my career. I think mocap and performance capture is going to become a vast new territory for animators. If you were auditioning reels for character animators in a realistic show, what special things would you be looking for as opposed to a "toon" production? Do you think the required training or background of candidates is different? If someone wanted to specialise in the realistic form, what advice would you give? Or is specialisation not even advisable or necessary?

Thanks

Tim
 
Old 12-03-2007, 07:56 PM   #51
kennmcd
Kenn McDonald
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Body Double

Quote:
Originally Posted by rubenmontecinos
Hi Kenn:

Thank you by the response.
I hope that my question isn't late.
I admire your work in the eyes model.

How was the human modeling? Are they exactly to the original about measures? or you were exaggerating some characteristics to get more realism in them?

How is the shoulders position in zero position body in the models? Is there a different work?

Is complicated legally for the actors to authorize 3D models of them?
It looks great regarding the future... to get a digital library of 3D actors and motion capture of these awesome actors. ...I want to see a Casablanca 2.0 or a Metropolis 2.0 movie


Hi Ruben,

The models were based on measurements and scans of the actors. In most cases the modeler stayed very close to the actors measurements. In the case of Hrothdar, played by Anthony Hopkins, the modelers went in and adjusted his mass to make him, well, basically into a big fat jolly guy. Beowulf's model was based on a scan of a body double, but was extesively reworked.

I don't know what the legal issues were involving the actors. That's way outside my department.

Kenn

Last edited by kennmcd : 12-03-2007 at 07:58 PM.
 
Old 12-03-2007, 08:22 PM   #52
kennmcd
Kenn McDonald
Kenn McDonald
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Sony Pictures Imageworks
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If I Had a Hammer

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlperGONEN
Hello Kenn! You've an amazing career I want to ask that is script's (whether its written in max or other program) role in animation very much? Also, are you writing scripts for some motions? I mean making patterns of some motions or effect-react things? Sorry if my english is not clear And good luck with your career!


Hi Alper,

In the animation department we use a lot of mel scripted tools to work with the mocap and animation, but really don't do many simulations. We had a rig based jiggle simulation that we used extensively on Beowulf , Grendal's Mothere and King Hrothgar. However it wasnt based on scripting.

Kenn
 
Old 12-04-2007, 12:01 AM   #53
kennmcd
Kenn McDonald
Kenn McDonald
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Sony Pictures Imageworks
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Meh

Quote:
Originally Posted by timothyc
Hi Kenn

I was interested in your earlier comments about the transition from the 'toon-styled character animation in Open Season to the realism of Beowulf.

I remember listening to Randy Cook give a talk about the character work in Lord of The Rings. One of the things he touched on was the need to avoid many of the established principles of 2D animation that have become instinctive in most animators. For example, anticipation: if a character needs a "surprise" expression it would be a mistake to drop the eyebrows momentarily in advance of raising them into the full "surprise" pose, the way we normally would for a 'toon character.

Another theory, the origin of which I've long since forgotten, says that the 'toon style places most of its emphasis on the held pose (and progresses by means of the pose-to-pose principle), whereas in realistic work it's the movement between poses that requires special attention. I've always placed a lot of merit in this philosophy; in realistic stuff you always need to watch out for "spliney" character movements and tweak those curves ever-so-carefully. You can't hide that splineyness with 3 or 4 or 5 frame "snaps" between poses, something that in traditional work is the lifeblood of energetic, dynamic characters.

Do you have thoughts on this?

Moving on a bit: I'm a 3D character animator (with 2D training) thinking about mapping out the future of my career. I think mocap and performance capture is going to become a vast new territory for animators. If you were auditioning reels for character animators in a realistic show, what special things would you be looking for as opposed to a "toon" production? Do you think the required training or background of candidates is different? If someone wanted to specialise in the realistic form, what advice would you give? Or is specialisation not even advisable or necessary?

Thanks

Tim


Hi Tim,

I agree with Randy to some degree. The thing is that those 2d, cartoony principles came from studying real life. They are exaggerated in toony animation, but they are still there in realistic motion. We used them quite a bit in Beowulf to give the performances a little extra life. Much of the time those little anticipations were already there in the actors performances. The performance capture didn't always pick them up, but if we often saw them in the video reference and added them in the animation. They do have to be subtle though. If you telegraph too much then it becomes a cartoon.

I agree 100% on the concept of pose to pose versus animation that is constantly in motion. It's one of the aspects of realistic motion that makes it so hard. That splineiness that you talked about. You need that 'noise' I spoke of in another post that performance capture gives you. It's not really noise and it's certainly not random, but there is a low level hum to all of us that must be taken into account if you want your animation to be believable.

Yes. performance capture is going to be around for a while. I don't think it will supplant keyframe animation, but there are a lot of mocap projects getting started. When I look at an animator for a mocap show the first thing I want to see is just good solid animation. It doesn't matter if it's realistic or cartoony. I'm looking for a solid understanding of basic animation principles and an eye for detail. Seeing mocap related experience helps, but solids skills and a good attitude count for a lot more. I always ask a candidate how they feel about mocap. Their response tells me a lot about how they will do on the show.

Kenn
 
Old 12-04-2007, 09:17 AM   #54
timothyc
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me again

Quote:
Originally Posted by kennmcd

I agree with Randy to some degree. The thing is that those 2d, cartoony principles came from studying real life. They are exaggerated in toony animation, but they are still there in realistic motion.

Kenn


Yes.

Well perhaps I over-paraphrased what he was trying to say. The way he really framed it was as a warning that in photorealism you can't rely on 2D cartoon "tricks" to bring your characters to life. As you said, a lot of it is exageration. Stretching the length of an arm in the act of throwing a ball exagerates the effort of the activity. Backing your character up before walking him forward exagerates the initial thrust.

But some tricks are substitutes for realism that, for whatever reason, is not able to be achieved. For example, in Jurassic Park the T. Rex ran by pounding its feet into the ground. I don't know about you but I thought it looked pretty good. It sure looked massive and powerful and dangerous. But then I saw the spinasaurus in Jurassic Park III and that looked so much better! What happened between those two movies was the development of dynamic muscle sims. Apparently, the exagerated pounding was a deliberate artistic conceit to make up for the lack of dynamic musculature. Once their rigging technology grew to include rippling muscles they could forego the "interpretive" animation and go for the real McCoy (and feature the dinosaur in daylight, to boot).

I think that's what Randy was trying to say. In cartoons (and dinosaur scenes that take place at night), where some things are lacking you can make up for them by substituting something else. But you usually can't get away with that in photoreal stuff. Or you can try it on anyway and risk a trip to Uncanny Valley.

Speaking of which, I have a theory!

I think the Uncanny Valley is not a chasm that needs to be leapt over in a single bound, but rather, it's more like uneven ground that requires the CG team to form a line abreast and advance in synchronised paces, one step at a time :o)

Let me explain:

As a representation of a human being, Homer Simpson is not much better than a stick figure. Let's say he rates only 10% on the realism scale. But he works. That's because his proportions are 10% real, his texturing is 10% real, his movements are 10% real, his behaviour is 10% real, etc.

Similarly, you can look at a more realistic animated human like Max Steel (from the kids TV show). He was much more realistic: say, 60%. But once again, he was 60% all the way through: 60% realism in modelling, 60% realism in texturing, 60% in facial animation, etc. So, for me at least, he worked.

The problems start to occur when there's a mismatch in one or more of those realism factors. If you look around at some of the CG humans viewable on the net, there's really nothing more creepy than a cartoonishly modelled human (even if only ever-so-slightly cartoonish), but with photoreal skin texture... br-r-r-r-r! What happens when you get even closer to the photoreal end of the scale is that the matchups between those component parts need to have so much more parity.

So steering realistic characters around the Uncanny Valley doesn't mean a sudden exponential increase in realism on all fronts, merely that you maintain tight control of all your design factors and don't let one aspect get ahead of the others - even if a technological advance in that one area allows it to.

As you can probably tell, I spend far too much time thinking about things like this. Anyway, that my theory, of which I reserve the right to disown at any time :o)

cheers

Tim
 
Old 12-05-2007, 01:47 AM   #55
kennmcd
Kenn McDonald
Kenn McDonald
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Sony Pictures Imageworks
USA
 
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Yes!

Quote:
Originally Posted by timothyc
Yes.

Well perhaps I over-paraphrased what he was trying to say. The way he really framed it was as a warning that in photorealism you can't rely on 2D cartoon "tricks" to bring your characters to life. As you said, a lot of it is exageration. Stretching the length of an arm in the act of throwing a ball exagerates the effort of the activity. Backing your character up before walking him forward exagerates the initial thrust.

But some tricks are substitutes for realism that, for whatever reason, is not able to be achieved. For example, in Jurassic Park the T. Rex ran by pounding its feet into the ground. I don't know about you but I thought it looked pretty good. It sure looked massive and powerful and dangerous. But then I saw the spinasaurus in Jurassic Park III and that looked so much better! What happened between those two movies was the development of dynamic muscle sims. Apparently, the exagerated pounding was a deliberate artistic conceit to make up for the lack of dynamic musculature. Once their rigging technology grew to include rippling muscles they could forego the "interpretive" animation and go for the real McCoy (and feature the dinosaur in daylight, to boot).

I think that's what Randy was trying to say. In cartoons (and dinosaur scenes that take place at night), where some things are lacking you can make up for them by substituting something else. But you usually can't get away with that in photoreal stuff. Or you can try it on anyway and risk a trip to Uncanny Valley.

Speaking of which, I have a theory!

I think the Uncanny Valley is not a chasm that needs to be leapt over in a single bound, but rather, it's more like uneven ground that requires the CG team to form a line abreast and advance in synchronised paces, one step at a time :o)

Let me explain:

As a representation of a human being, Homer Simpson is not much better than a stick figure. Let's say he rates only 10% on the realism scale. But he works. That's because his proportions are 10% real, his texturing is 10% real, his movements are 10% real, his behaviour is 10% real, etc.

Similarly, you can look at a more realistic animated human like Max Steel (from the kids TV show). He was much more realistic: say, 60%. But once again, he was 60% all the way through: 60% realism in modelling, 60% realism in texturing, 60% in facial animation, etc. So, for me at least, he worked.

The problems start to occur when there's a mismatch in one or more of those realism factors. If you look around at some of the CG humans viewable on the net, there's really nothing more creepy than a cartoonishly modelled human (even if only ever-so-slightly cartoonish), but with photoreal skin texture... br-r-r-r-r! What happens when you get even closer to the photoreal end of the scale is that the matchups between those component parts need to have so much more parity.

So steering realistic characters around the Uncanny Valley doesn't mean a sudden exponential increase in realism on all fronts, merely that you maintain tight control of all your design factors and don't let one aspect get ahead of the others - even if a technological advance in that one area allows it to.

As you can probably tell, I spend far too much time thinking about things like this. Anyway, that my theory, of which I reserve the right to disown at any time :o)

cheers

Tim


Tim,

I like your theory about crossing the uncanny valley. A shortfall on any front will pull the viewer out of the movie. He will become aware that he is watching a cg character. I'm still not sure the uncanny valley exists per se, but I do think you're onto something there.

Kenn
 
Old 12-05-2007, 05:19 AM   #56
RotFox
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Ben Ward
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How Important is a piece of paper?

Ok, so here I am half way through my two year technical art course, but I have the feeling that I could probably have learn't everything so far on my own. My question is thus, how acceptable is self tought students as opposed to those more traditionally tought?

In my opinion, I'd have thought that having the drive to learn the techniques used in the field through your own self discipline would be more impressive? Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.

~Thanks
 
Old 12-05-2007, 11:52 PM   #57
kennmcd
Kenn McDonald
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Rendering and More

Hi Everyone,

I've been getting a lot of questions about rendering, textures and cloth and hair, which are outside my area, so I've gone to the experts for some answers. I spoke to Theo Bialek and Francis Liu, two of the CG supervisors on Beowulf, and they filled me in.

Cloth and hair were done in Sony Imageworks proprietary software.

Lighting was done in Katana which is proprietory software as is Bonsai, our compositing program.

Cinema 4D was used to handle our matte paintings.

Now on to render times. This turned out to be a pretty complicated question, but Frankie broke it down for me very nicely. Environments generally took around 1 1/2 hours perframe. An individual character was between 30 and 60 minutes per frame. On top of that there are shadow passes and effects and lots of other stuff that is a mystery to me, but make the shot look really cool. All together the render time for a frame, with everyting in it, varied widely. For a simple one or two character shot it could range from 20 to 30 hours per frame.

Thanks to Theo and Frankie for the information.

Kenn

Last edited by kennmcd : 12-05-2007 at 11:54 PM.
 
Old 12-09-2007, 10:03 AM   #58
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Time gentlemen!

Time to wind it up!

I am sure everyone reading will join me in thanking Kenn McDonald for giving his time in this enthralling 'Meet the Artist' thread. His work as Animation Supervisor on Imageworks' 'Beowulf' is part of film-making history, as are many of the techniques and technologies we have discussed here.

Thank you all who took part and thanks also to Rachel Falikoff from Sony Pictures Imageworks for helping organise.
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