Game Animation Reel: Examples and Advice?

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  11 November 2005
Did the Blizzard guy say he doesn't need to see facial animation or to stay away from it? They may have code automated facial animation (very likely for WoW), facial moCap or they may have dedicated animators for facial stuff. I can't imagine why they'd expressedly not want to see any at all.

But yeah, what I meant by not putting your eggs in one basket is that you want to make sure your reel is marketable to as many companies as possible. There's always a very real chance that the first job you score might not be your dream company so be prepared for that. You'll notice on my handle that I don't work at Pixar :P

For deaths? I think you're thinking about it too much Do what looks cool.

They could...

-stare at the wound, look to the attacker in disbelief then collapse
-freeze up for a moment and drop like a sack of potatoes(if you want a sort of comic death)
-stagger around for a few moments, trying to keep fighting
-stagger towards the attacker, then fall forward and crawl a few more inches before going limp
-go punch drunk and sway limply back and forth for a moment before falling down
-get knocked off their feet by the final blow and land akwardly, dead
-If just a simple biped, you could dismember it's bones

There's hundreds of fun ways a character could die. Use your imagination and have fun with it.

A few classic deaths that pop to mind from movies:

-Fezzig (the cicilian) from "The Princess Bride"
-The six-fingered man from "The Princess Bride"
-Sgt Elias from "Platoon"
-Pee Wee Herman's vampire in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie (the original, before the series one)
-Boromir from "Fellowship of the Rings"
-Darth Maul from that really crappy movie with the kid and the dumb alien

Good luck.
 
  11 November 2005
Thank you so much for all of your help switchblade, I guess I just get confused because my teacher says I should do one thing, but then again hes a Cinematic Animator for CG Films and such, and yet I want to work for games, and I hear other things so it becomes a very confusing line up. Though I will take your advice and make my reel a little more available, and if I have to just cut out the facial animation, but yes he said to stay away from the facial animation because they don't care for it.

As for the references you've given me, I guess I gotta go home and pop in my Princess Bride DVD. Thanks! I know that right away I probably won't be able to get a job working as an animator for Blizz, but I also know that I have a few extreamly strong feet in the door so to speak. I know a few people that work there that are willing to help me in many ways in getting into the company, though sadly no one from the animation department itself. Though I have made contacts from that department, so that is good.

Thank you agian, you are very helpful and informitive.

Kimberly
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  11 November 2005
No problem. Glad to help.

Actually, I agree with your teacher though, if he means to focus on one discipline (animation, modeling, texturing, etc). As teams get bigger in games, they get more compartmentalized and people focus more on just one thing. Hence, why I think a well-rounded demo reel is not as valuable as a tight, focused one: I believe there are more jobs that want to see the latter since they're hiring an animator and not a generalist.

By making your reel 'available' I just meant you should make sure it's good for any game animation job you might find open; not just Blizzard's specific (and apparently rather weird) requirements. And I think facial animation is skill that's going to be more and more required of character animators for games in the future.
 
  11 November 2005
One thing that hasn't been touched on that's a real pet-peeve of mine after watching many demo reels...... Don't put motion blur on your animations. It blurs your poses and in my experience can be used to hide "pops" in your animation(sloppy animation). Most game engines don't put motion blur on their characters while fighting/running/etc, so don't do it either. You want your animation to look as close as possible to how it would look in-game.

And please don't try and do any kind of fancy lighting. I need to be able to see the entire character in a strong pose. I loooked at one reel the other day that had a single spot light on the character with a black background. When the character's limb moved out of the spot light's "cone" I could no longer see what that limb was doing......next reel please

No fancy models either, I don't want to see dynamic hair and cloth moving around. It looks really nice and all, but it can also distract your viewer so that they don't see the main character.

One example of some kind of throw attack with two characters interacting with each other in some way would be nice to see but not required. It's good to know if you can do these types of animations because they're ALOT more complicated than your standard navigation animations, etc. The animation doesn't have to be a throw like in wrestling(it can be if you want), but could be a quick "canned" sequence that plays when a button is pressed......alot of games have a throw button.
 
  11 November 2005
With the next generation of consoles motion blur is now being implemented into the engines.



Ive never been to sure about the idea of making a reel for games companies full of boring cycles. If you can animate well to an audio clip, or show personality through your animation (which is by far more interesting) then im sure its not to difficult to do a run cycle.
 
  11 November 2005
Originally Posted by Wabit: Ive never been to sure about the idea of making a reel for games companies full of boring cycles. If you can animate well to an audio clip, or show personality through your animation (which is by far more interesting) then im sure its not to difficult to do a run cycle.

Yeah, from the experience I have from both cycles and acting, it seems acting is a step beyond cycles. I have the same impression, if you can do a very expressive and interesting acting (as long as you have all the body on the screen and not only a sitting char with torso/head animated), cycles is a piece of cake.

But in doubt, I'll end doing both...

Btw, it seems much more difficult to have "top notch parameters" for an animation demo reel than for a modeling demo reel. I mean, with modeling you have a much broader grasp of reality to base your work (and to judge the work the HR will be seeing). You can see if that cloth volume was made correctly or not, or if the hair is painted cartoonishly or realistically. With animation it comes much more to taste, it seems way more subjective to personal view. Of course there are still some basic principles of weight and timing that you need to get correctly, but that is, well, basic. You can have nearly inifinte ways of walk and, if the weight is right, you can't really tell that one way is "more right than another". Any more thoughts on this?



eks
PS: And because of that last paragraph, I'm thinking about doing a modeling reel, since working with games is more important for me than working with animation...

Last edited by eks : 11 November 2005 at 09:49 PM.
 
  11 November 2005
Whether a game engine can do motion blur or not is beside the point that it can be used to obscure the quality of an animation. If it looks tight without motion blur, it'll only look better with it. I think it can be fitting for acting/short pieces that have nice models/textures/lighting (the kinds of projects that so many schools require as a final project) but it just doesn't belong in demonstartions of game cycles.

Besides, remember that the original xbox was supposed to be able render real time fur and the ps2 would have Toy Story resolution characters? True real-time motion blur is a campaign promise until it's in the box, as far as Im concerned.

As for the acting vs cycles, I mostly agree but game animation does have some unique requirements that performance animation doesn't quite cover, or even goes contrary to. For example, an attack animation in a movie must look cool and dramatic above all else. An attack animation in a game (for a player controlled character) must be responsive above all else, sometimes at the expense of a comfortable amount of anticipation. It must also return complete control to the player as soon as possible, sometimes at the expense of a comfortable amount of follow through. Likewise, the timing of an enemys' combat animation is going to be partially dictated by the intended difficulty level of the character by design, as far as how much time the player has to dodge/counter/otherwise respond. This will trump making it look 'perfect' at times.

This can't be demonstrated well on a reel, animation is often at the mercy of design, who sometimes don't have the best eye for it. Your art will likely get trumped by design needs at times.

In addition, game animators don't have the luxury of staging an animation for maximum effect. Game animation by nature breaks that principle and must be tight and clear from all angles.

Granted, these aren't massive hurdles for a skilled animator to overcome but I've heard stories of talented people struggling with the transition into this much more restrictive type of work. They're not as similar as you'd first think.

While performance animation isn't going to hurt a demo reel, a lack of showing targeting game animation I think could and if it is truly a cakewalk, why take chances? If you were applying for a texture art position, showing your beautiful oil paintings will help demonstrate your skill, but a potential employer will also likely want to make sure you can make things pretty at 512x512 too. Even next gen games will be restricted by technology and the nature of the medium so it wont hurt to show you can play by those rules.
 
  11 November 2005
Originally Posted by switchblade327: It must also return complete control to the player as soon as possible, sometimes at the expense of a comfortable amount of follow through. (...)
This can't be demonstrated well on a reel, animation is often at the mercy of design, who sometimes don't have the best eye for it.

I completely agree with your points about limitations on game animations. And that's exactly what I was mentioning, and is one of the issues of this thread, how do you show that on a reel?

For example, there's a crounch cycle on my reel that, previously, the pelvis was stiff. That was because of restrictions of the engine, we were still prototyping and I could animate the pelvis only on the Z axis. One of the critiques I've received was about the stiffness of the pelvis, which I later corrected. Should I have done that or not?

Will a recruiter look at the stiff and see "ok, this guy did this because of the engine" or see "it's stiff, it's bad"? Or with the swing he'll see "this is lame, the pelvis can't move on all the axis on any engine, this guy can't animate for games" or "ok, its ok"?



eks
 
  11 November 2005
Originally Posted by eks: I completely agree with your points about limitations on game animations. And that's exactly what I was mentioning, and is one of the issues of this thread, how do you show that on a reel?

For example, there's a crounch cycle on my reel that, previously, the pelvis was stiff. That was because of restrictions of the engine, we were still prototyping and I could animate the pelvis only on the Z axis. One of the critiques I've received was about the stiffness of the pelvis, which I later corrected. Should I have done that or not?

Will a recruiter look at the stiff and see "ok, this guy did this because of the engine" or see "it's stiff, it's bad"? Or with the swing he'll see "this is lame, the pelvis can't move on all the axis on any engine, this guy can't animate for games" or "ok, its ok"?

eks


All of what I said, said, you shouldn't hesitate to fix an animation for your reel. Game engines can be restrictive and different ones have different restrictions. No part of your reel should require an explanation as to why it's stiff or otherwise bad. In this case, I'd say fix it or toss it.

Some cases might be excusable, like partial body animations (Think Unreal Tournament or Counter-Strike; the upper and lower body pretty much operate independantly of each other to allow the player to run and aim in any, independant direction). This is something that if shown right, will pretty clearly be a restriction of the game engine/gameplay and not bad animation.
 
  11 November 2005
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