A quick post before the final hand in. As I wasn’t satisfied with my final animation, and my character in general, over the last few weeks I was working on improving it. One of the changes that I did is slightly remodelled character’s head and his face. I’ve also gave him different eyes. As we can see his faces isn’t as “boxy” as it was before. His face looks smoother, at least to me. Removing few edges from his face and keeping it quiet low when it comes to edge count also helped when it came to creating blendshapes, something that I’ve struggled with with the previous model. The eyes bring completely new appeal to the character, actually having an iris makes him look more alive and in my opinion is just more aesthetically pleasing to everyone. Their shape changed as well, as you can see below. They’re much more spherical than before.
The question that I’ve asked myself at the beginning of this year, after my first term on this course was How can facial expressions help communicate character’s emotions and inner monologue and therefore make the audience empathise with him/her? Even that I had some basic understanding of the subject it was a challenging task. First, what is empathy and why is it important in film or animation? Well empathy is simply our capability to understand feelings of another person, ability to put ourselves in their shoes. It doesn’t always mean that we like the particular person, but we somehow care. As an animator ability to make a wider audience care is important to me. Without making them care people would not be interested in watching my work. In his book “Acting for Animators”, Ed Hooks says that “We humans empathise only with emotion. Your job as a character animator is to create in the audience a sense of empathy with your character” (2011). So if we’re only empathising with emotions, what really are they? It’s really difficult to come up with a definition of emotions, I would say they’re a response or a reaction to what is happening around us. Later in his book Hooks says that “it is impossible to express emotions without thinking” and that’s hard to disagree with. How do I, as an animator show that the character is thinking? Probably the easiest and the most popular way of showing a thought process in a character’s mind is blinking. Blinking makes a character stop for a second, it’s like a mental punctuation point. So that’s what I did in my short animation, whenever the character was changing a thought or was making a decision I made him blink. Blinks are also a great way of adding life to the character. There are different types of blinks in animation, they can be fast, slow, there can be half blinks, there’s even something called “the Pixar blink”(when the one eye blinks few frames earlier than another one). I tried using different lengths of blinks in my animation to add some variety into it. In my research and observation of short and full featured animations and film I’ve noticed that characters blink differently when they’re happy and differently when they’re sad.
Quickly into my research I’ve realised that reading expressions and emotions from still images isn’t really the best way of researching empathy in animation. Facial expressions are motions and motions can’t be caught in a still image. I’ve also then realised that the narrative will be a major part of my research, as it would be rather to achieve empathy in a character without a story and motivation behind characters actions.
While working on my project I came across few obstacles. Early on I made a bad character design decisions, I was being cautious with the style that I was trying to portray, balancing between realism and cartoony style didn’t give me satisfying results, even that I only realised that at the final stage, when I couldn’t do any changes. Design and style can also play an important role when we’re trying to achieve empathy and in a narrative. Establishing a world that the character is can also help with making the audience care and empathic toward our character. We need to inform the audience of what kind of the environment the characters are in, so the audience what be distracted and confused and would rather focus on character’s actions. Another problem that I came across happened while I was doing blend shapes. Exaggeration is important in animation, it is considered to be one of the principles of the art form, that’s why I was trying to get as many exaggerated and over the top expressions as I could, but it was pointed out to me that some of them aren’t appealing at all and don’t work. Again it was the design fault, as I’m confident that it would work with a cartoony looking character. Some of the limitation came also from mistakes that I did the modelling phases. To get the shape of the head that I wanted I’ve used too many edge loops, which later make my work harder as I’ve spent too much time doing blend shapes, with the results that weren’t always satisfying. However, in a way, these not so perfect moth shapes emphasised the role of eyes, eye brows and eye movement in my character.
Early on I was looking at Paul Ekman’s research about facial expressions and his six, or seven universal emotions (anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise and contempt). Few of them are hard to recognised in a still photograph, without any context. As I’ve mentioned earlier, expressions are motions, so presenting them in a still image wasn’t useful for my research. However these basic, or universal emotions were a good start and from them I could move on to other expressions that I could want to achieve. Pixar in their latest film “Inside Out”(2015) decided to portray 5 of them and anthropomorphise them as characters in this movie. What is interesting is that they’ve achieved different emotions by overlapping some of the main one.
Pacing and timing is an important part of animation, especially while doing a series of transitions of the emotions, like I tried to in my short animation. The result could have been better, some frames should been hold for longer, some transitions should have been smoother, it would really improve the final product.
Hooks E., 2011. Acting for Animators. 3 Edition. Routledge.
VanDerWerff T., Chart: How Inside Out’s 5 emotions work together to make more feelings, 2015, [online] VOX Media, Available at: http://www.vox.com/2015/6/29/8860247/inside-out-emotions-graphic? [Accessed date: 30 June 2015]
Recently I’ve rigged my character using The Set Up Machine. As you can see below I had to tweak few things, such us influences on the skin, so the jacket would act naturally and wouldn’t dissolve in the character’s body. What’s ahead of me is the final animation. I’ve decided to slightly change my story. Now I want to do it in one camera angle and completely focus on characters faces. He’ll be sat by thinking about his past. I want the expressions to be clear to the audience and want the audience to empathise with the character.
My progress since last week in modelling my main character, Shaun. I still need to model his shirt, add details to his belt(right now it just looks like his shirt is ending there) and add a tie to him. Next would be unwrapping, texturing and rigging him. According to my timetable I should already be doing that so I’m a week behind. There’s also only two months left till the deadline so I might used my backup plan and used a prerigged character for my female character. I’ll probably make the final decision by the end of next week. I’m still not sure about his eyes, as they do look kind of creepy in my opinion, however a similar design worked well in “Hotel Transylvania”, where Dracula’s eyes were similar. Another good example from that movie is Johnny, who also has long, narrow eyes). This short clip gives a good example of how many amazing expressions Sony animators were able to achieve with this character:
It clearly doesn’t just focus on facial expressions, as there’s a lot of running around and body movement but in my opinion the expressions that character makes make the entire scene much more enjoyable and interesting to the viewer, therefore I would argue that they play the major role in making us, the audience empathise with the character.
Hotel Transylvania – Johnny
Hotel Transylvania – Johnny 3
Sources: image 1: http://www.visualhollywood.com/movies_2012/hotel_transylvania/photos/
image 2: http://pixshark.com/hotel-transylvania-dracula.htm
image 3: http://hoteltransylvania.wikia.com/wiki/Dracula
image 4: http://pixshark.com/hotel-transylvania-dracula-bleh-bleh-bleh.htm
image 5: http://pixshark.com/hotel-transylvania-johnny-stein.htm
image 6: http://hoteltransylvania.wikia.com/wiki/File:Johnny_broom.jpg
image 7: http://www.rotoscopers.com/2012/03/14/first-official-images-of-hotel-transylvania/
My previous experiments weren’t very successful, I gained some new knowledge and received feedback but there was something missing. My research is about facial animation and how much can it improve the final performance, but first I need to understand how much emotions does a character express only with his body movement. For example, in this short animation, “The Lindy Cubes” characters are very simple, they’re just cubes without any facial features, but it is still very entertaining to watch and keeps the viewer interested.
That’s why this week I picked up a simple, faceless rig, and decided to redo my previous experiments. I am not entirely satisfied with the results, there are still some technical errors and I actually don’t think that picking these stories worked well with that rig. By looking back at it I can see that I could have used more extreme poses. When it comes to my bird watching experiment, it was pointed out to me that I had too many poses in a very short time and it just was not working out, so I tried making it simpler this time. The thing that I feel needs improvement in my animation is getting timing right.
What is object theatre? It’s a form of puppetry in which instead of using puppets, or objects designed for a use in puppetry, we’re using everyday objects such as bottles, mugs, or pieces of newspaper. They could be used on their own, or used to create some kind of provisional puppet. To work it requires a lot of skills from the puppeteer and imagination of the audience. It also requires suspension of disbelief from the audience as well.
Some people, such as Christian Carrignon say that object theatre has a lot in common with cinema. However in a contrary to film, in which the director and editor decide what’s important to see by film editing, a puppeteer has to draw audience’s attention. “The object theatre is like movies turned into a performance. Cinema is its main predecessor. Both forms use the lights and the editing to create the structure of the story.”(2013). Another point that he raises is the fact that the audience has to recognise the object immediately, but what I actually think is the most important, and is mentioned by him next, is the metaphor. These objects have to represent something else that they’re in fact are. I would say that object theatre is one big metaphor, which is also challenging for the artists and really show his skills.
Cesc Martínez, 2013. How to use object theatre, by Christian Carrignon [online]. Available at: http://www.puppetring.com/2013/02/21/how-to-use-object-theatre-by-christian-carrignon/ [Date accessed at: 27.11.2014]
Taylor Bailey, 2014. Let’s Talk About Object Theater: An Interview With Dan Kerr-Hobert [online] Available at:http://neofuturists.org/2014/01/lets-talk-object-theatre-interview-dan-kerr-hobert/ [Date accessed: 27.11.2014]
Justin Cash, 2013. Object Theatre [online] Available at: http://www.thedramateacher.com/object-theatre/ [Date accessed: 27.11.2014]
Yesterday I finished my model, or at least I think I did. Had few issues with mirroring geometry(at the end deleting history worked. Too bad I spend almost an hour on trying to figure out what was wrong). His nose isn’t perfect and it looks different to what Andy originally did on his model. Also eyes of my Average Joe turned out to be smaller than there were supposed to be. I feel like I should paint him now, but I want to start working on blend shapes now. Also I’ve decided to use Sketchfab to show my progress, as well as posting few screenshots. However it seems that embedding sketchfab’s models doesn’t work on WordPress, so you still have to click on a link.
Not smoothed version: