Posted by & filed under RMIT AIM course notes.

Going all the way back to 1914 we looked at the amazing work of Winsor McKay, it is unbelievable what he managed to do so long ago. Gertie looks very solid and it boggles the mind how McKay wouldd have animated these sequence without any cells, redrawing every frame!

A major asset of animation is Abstraction, the amplification of ideas through its simplification. What we want to say if filtered through the medium of animation before reaching the audience and the design approach used in the animation process is able to embue character.

Here are some examples of different designs in animation:
Rotoscope – direct reference to live action
Superman – still very figurative
Anime – figurative
Ren & Stimpy – very stylized to the point that it is hard to know what the animals are. This style gives so much room for wild and exaggerated animation.

Character Design can tell the audience alot about the character even before they start to move. The character design will determine what the character is ggoing to do and what their history is, you can feel this history in the look of the character.
There are endless possibilities in character design and stereotypes can be used to some extent to quickly get one with the story since short films do not have the luxury of taking time to establish the personality of a character.

In American animation the inididual is idolized, the cult of the individual. While in European animation we see the character being used more as symbols rather than individuals.

Two examples of character design looked at were: Jaffar from Disney’s Aladin and The Penguin from the Aardman’s The Wrong Trousers.

Jaffar has a very angular face which quickly stablishes his sinister intentions even before he lays his sleazy hands on Jasmine. In contrast The Penguin in The Wrong Trousers doesnt have an y expressive features at all but this down playing of the cliche bad-guy characteristics gives the audience room to fill in what they think the penguin will get up (with some help from sound and under lighting off course!).

It is important to know a character before starting to animate. Take a character that you know and ue this as a basis to start to emblish until you have a design for a character.

Model sheets are important so that things stay consistent. They help you to know your character and how that character works in terms of the actions in the film. Model sheets also have to make sure that the character is able to do the business that is required of it in the action.

It is good to boil down the character to an easily identifiable shape, one which is different from the shape of the other characters in the film, this will help the audience to understand which character is doing what.

There is a dance between Abstraction and Realism and films like the Incredibles try to push things as much as they can.

Mannerism and Habbits can say alot about how a character feels. Try to come up with interesting mannerisms for your character which will enhance communication with the audience.

After the “hunters and gathers” lunch with Al McInnes we looked at some short films where the sound played an important part. After the screeing we were divided into two groups, one group was taught by Jeremey about digital sampling of sound, technical terms such as frequency, amplitude and sampling rate. 44kHz and 16bit is probably the magic figures which we need to stick with for films, this is CD quality.

The importance of recording audio at a ‘good’ level was stressed as clipping and distortion could mean that the sound will not be suitable even if it was a goodd take from the actor. Everything is recorded at the same level and then things are adjusted in the mix. The AIFF and WAV are what we need to use because they are non-lossy formats, as opposed to MP3 which will lose its quality.

The groups then swapped, with Al teaching us about using the sound booth and the software Soundtrack. Various effects were created and we were taught how to clips things, loop them and get them in a ready state for looping. It is important to have the start and the end of a sound which is to be looped at level 0, thhis can be done adding a short fade/in at the start and a short fade/out at the end.

Since a lot of things can be done on the computer when recording things all we need to do is to make sure that the gain for that channel is such that we have a ‘good’ level (not to low and no clipping). Leaving the fader for the channel and the master fader on 0 is a good starting point, the gain of the channel can then be adjusted during a level test before a recording is made.

Posted by & filed under RMIT AIM course notes.

Out came the computer and the scanner for a demonstration of how we go about scanning art work and what creates a good drawing for the digital inking process.


  • 72 dpi is the average required for video work
  • The smaller the area to be scanned the higher the dpi required to fill the frame
  • Nice dark lines with lots of contrast between the background and the line work will minimize the amount of fiddling around which needs to be done before ink and paint.
  • An audience will respond more to a film which looks like it has been hand-made by one person (the personal touch) than a film which looks like it came out of a factory of people.
  • A fill colour does not neccessarily have stay within it’s outlines.

Posted by & filed under RMIT AIM course notes.

Tuesday’s are storytelling days and today we were discussing the integral part that sound plays in any production.

We looked at the interactive quiz game “You know Jack” with 2 students volunteers going up against each other in this fast paced, amusing game. With very limited animation the piece relies heavily on audio to succeed.

Sound is a very important part of any audio/visual production and it should be thought of as such. Here is a list of how sound may be used in a audio/visual piece:

  • Foley – SFX created
  • Dialogue
  • Atmosphere
  • Music
  • Narration
  • Effects – fade in/fade out/warp
  • Theme tunes – character identification
  • Incidental music – to highlight certain events

As an example we looked at the student film “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with the sound off. We tried to guess what sounds would be used in the piece and guess what was actually happening in the film.

A production can be enriched by using off screen sounds and saving on animation.

Having looked at how sounds were used, Robyn then went on with the question of Why sounds are use in a production:

  • Anticipation of an action.
  • Enhance actions
  • Putting the audience in the right emotional state.
  • Increase richness and size of environment e.g atmosphere of a city.
  • Reinforcement of an action
  • change/reinforce POV
  • Give information
  • Off camera action
  • Suggest a different culture.
  • Change of mood
  • Contradition of image e.g “Apocalypse Now” Ride of the Valkyries
  • Creating contrast
  • Rhythm of music being the driving force of the piece.

Course notes and assignments can be found here:

Posted by & filed under RMIT AIM course notes.

We spent part of the day today reviewing the animations that we had been working on for the last week. It was great to see other people’s work and to analyse what went right and what went wrong.

Here are some tips from David in regards to their cutout animations and morph exercise:

  • Introduce the characters and let them settle so that the audience gets used to them before moving them around.
  • Use follow-through to dissipate the energy. Appendages tend to keep moving, adding this to animation makes more rich.
  • Separate different actions/ideas so that the audience can see what is going on.
  • Don’t make the frame too busy, direct the audience to what you want them to look at.
  • Overshoot the action.
  • Beware of charcters which seem to be connected together via invisible strings.
  • Moving objects will upstage each other, if 2 object both need o be moving, tone one down so that the audience is directed to look at one.
  • Ask yourself what is the active character?
  • Use preemptive entrance for characters when possible.
  • Heavy objects can not accelerate that quickly so you need time to animate, if the time is too short they will not look as heavy.
  • Do not evenly animate all the parts of the character.
  • Interesting animation will result if a line of action is used for the movement.

We looked a “Cog” a student film done in after effects which is not a very good program for animation. The elements are composed of sampled textures with alpha channels which allows rotation of these elements. This film dealt with the theme of celebrity and why one person is celeberated while another with the same talent is ridiculed.

Advice given after watching this film:

  • It is better to leave the harder animation to the end because your skills will improve as you progress through your film.
  • Many beginners use too many inbetweens when working in 3D because it is so easy to add more. You must force yourself to decide what number of inbetweens are needed and not trusting the computer.

Here are the course notes on inbetweening:

We then went on with the topic of cycles, and looked at various examples on walk cycles. The notes go into more details:

Some tips:

  • Min 3 drawing are needed to give the sense o motion for a wheel turning.
  • When doing a walk cycle, work out the stride length so that you know how fast the character will need to move to cover the required distance.
  • The way a character moves tell you a lot about their history.
  • Think about what the character is feeling when it is moving, try to represent that in the motion.

Posted by & filed under DIY Cintiq.

My animation course has started and there is little time to do anything so I had to be very quick with building the stand for the Samtiq, and I didn’t take that many photos, here are some shots:


I took it for a test ride and it is useable, it is not the brightest monitor and the fact that I am using a transparent folio to protect the LCD from straches doesnt help with the brightness. But tomorrow I am putting in the order for the glass top which will hopefully improve things.

Here is a quick animation that I did with it.

Posted by & filed under RMIT AIM course notes.

Mainly working on our assignments with a class on animation tips from David. Here are some of the points covered:

  • Use thumbnail sketches to explore the possibilities of the design
  • 3D animation quickly goes stray when you try to animate stright ahead
  • Staging the action. Layouts are the scenic space where the action will occur. In theatre because the facial expressions are often hard to see, melodramatic and exaggerate actions are used to communicate more clearly. Animation can use exaggeration to make actions more dynamic.
  • Animation can show things 3 x faster than live action
  • Silhouttes have a clear shape and hence communicate more clearly to the audience.
  • Even inbtweening along straight lines creates a mechanical motion
  • Organic objects will move in Arcs and slow than and speed up as they change direction. This applies to camera moves as well, don’t make the camera move mechanically.
  • Sometimes the animator will use abstraction and exaggeration to resolve some of the audiences expectations. The audience will do some of the animation in their heads, saving the animator the work.
  • Don’t be afraid to exaggerate a drawing in the middle of an animation, it is surprising how much it can add to the action.
  • Observation and analysis will help the animators understanding and animation of an action. Ask yourself, what is going on in the action? Get up and do the action.
  • Key poses = what happens. Inbetweens = how it happens.
  • The Starting pose setup up the action
  • Heavy objects lag behind other parts

For lunch we had our first “Hunters and Gatherers” lunch with John Bird talking to us about “Thinking Small”.

Posted by & filed under RMIT AIM course notes.

First day of the Story Telling classes with Robin Blake. The Story is probably the most important thing in any production because no matter how much is spent on the special effects and the look of the film if the story is not right then it will not be a memorable experience for the audience they might enjoy it but will not remember it after a short time.

Where do ideas for stories come from? Often ideas come from interests of the creator or the skills that they have and there are a number of techniques which can help with capturing ideas and generating them. Keeping a visual diary and recording everything will be a great help in the flow of ideas, writing things down will keep the ideas churning around in your mind and there they will combine with other ideas and maybe blossom into new directions and possibilities. When recording ideas it is helpful to ask yourself “What if … happened?” this will open up new possibilities.

Writing “morning pages” can help clear out all the stuff in the mind and pave the way for new ideas. Reversing a situation can generate new possibilities. Keeping a diary of your dreams can help generate ideas and also encourages remembering more dreams.

Other ways to stimulate ideas is to use a dictionary and randomly looking up words, the mind automatically tries to create relationships between the words which could lead to a situation or an idea for a story. If in a group, a round-robin game can be played where each person adds a little bit to the story as it goes around.

Here are some of the elements of memorable movies:

      Beginning affects the end
      sense of closure
      Believable characters
      Flawed characters
      Ordinary people in extraordinary situations
      Attention to detail
      Managin audience expectations
      Relationship between characters
      Being able to relate/empathize/sympathize with main characters or the story itself

If you believe in the world that you are creating in withing the story and you keep the rules govering this world consistent then the audience will believe in it no matter how outlandish the situations maybe.

We looked at a great short film called “Balance” in order to better understand the Narrative Structure. The basic structure can be divided into:

      Plot Point 1
      Plot Point 2

The beginning setups up the premise, why the story is being told, and establishes where the story will go. A Plot Point is a point where the story changes direction, if the story didnt have the Plot Point then everything would go on as it was in the Beginning resulting in a very dull story! The first Plot Point leads the audience to the conflict which is contained in the Middle of the story, it is here that the audience will want to know what will happen next. After a plateau in the emotional flux of the story we reach the second Plot Point which leads us to a climax where the issues which were introduced previously are resolved in the End of the story.

In the animation lecture David introduced another animation principle: follow-through which can breath life into the most limited animation. Various technical details such as pegs, exposure sheets, field charts and screen ratios were discussed: We then went on to look at metamorphosis which is something that animation is very good at, and our new project was assigned:

We are really diving into everything and things are flying past very quickly! Hang on tight…

Posted by & filed under RMIT AIM course notes.

Today was the first day of my course and what a whirlwind of a day it was too.

After doing the sitting around the circle and introduce yourself sort of thing and getting introduced to more lectures we got some advice about how important it was to learn by doing and using the group as a sounding board for our ideas. It’s important not to become isolated from the group and fading into the background specially now that the group has become bigger than the previous years. We will have guest speaker every Thursday with a dedicated group of “Hunters and Gathers” finding and feeding people for us to network with.

After that the lectures proper started, Introduction to Animation. Beginning with latin word ‘anima’ meaning ‘soul, spirit or to give life to’. Humans have tried to bring life into their surroundings since cave men captured the moment before the kill on a hunt or the Arabic fountains bringing life to the surroundings by the way water moved in them. Humans like to play god and animation is the perfect media to create an alternate4 reality where everything and anything is possible. This facts attracts many live action directors to the medium (e.g George Miller, Happy Feet).

The history of animation goes back to the thaumatrope in 1824 and then the Phenakistoscope in 1832 and onto Zoetrope and Praxinoscope in 1877.

After seeing some animations from Emile Cohl we went on to watch a stampede scene from the Lion King, it is a very well thought out and put together scene which gets the audience emotionally involved in the story. Many devices are used in this scene such as Scar appearing out of the dust and Scar ewalking on the cliff edge with under-lighting, there is no reason light coming from underneath since it is day and the sun is shining but these devices are used for the purpose of the film, to further the story and communicate more clearly.

For contrast we then looked at some of Jan Svankmajer’s work and then the bus stop scene from Miyazaki’s Totoro, where the animation is ms more contamplative and is simply showing a mundane moment as opposed to a Disney film where everything is in the service of the story and anything which is not furthering the story is not included in the film. Disney films also spoon feed everything which is needed to know and there is no room for reflection or contemplation.

The next example was another extreme where limited animation is used to still communicate effectively in Roger Ramjet. Limited animation is used to suggest movement of characters and often clever devices are used to tell the story. Norman McClaren’s experimental animations showed what a fine artist could do when elements of time were added in to their work.

Animation reduces unimportant elements and refines to be left with the essence of something and it is this abstraction of a series of images which can be used to tell a visual poem, or to create a perfectly timed gag, or a surreal world which would not be possible with live action.

On we went to the principles of animation and explaining the different frame rates and how they originated and 1/25 or 1/25 sec being the smallest sample that the animator would need to concern with. Because we leave in the physical world we will respond to elements which seem to obey physical laws such as weight, gravity and inertia. This leads us to easing in and easing out which describe the way objects change speed in an animation.

Other principles which were mentions were Squash and Stretch where the volume of an object retains its volume while changing dimensions. And anticipation where a preliminary preparatory actions setups up an expectation in the audience about what is going to happen next.

Having touched on a couple of animation principles we jumped straight into some cutout animation working in groups of 3s with shooting to be done by Friday.

Posted by & filed under DIY Cintiq.

Here are some of the thumbnails and doodles I did while trying to figure out what would be the best way to build an eclosure for my home-made Cintiq.


I decided to use MDF to build the enclosure because it is easy to work with and will give pretty accurate rebates when a router is used.


So the top is half way there I think, still have to get some 2mm glass and also some type of ply wood which is 2mm thick for surrounding the glass. The glass also needs to be painted on the back so the circuit boards wont be visible, and of course the whole thing has to be cut into a disk so it can be rotated. Then there is the issue with the base, I want something which I can change the height of and at the same time stable enough so there wont be any chance of things accidentally falling down.

Now I am going to plug everything back in after doing all this fiddling to make sure I didn’t break anything in the process, fingers crossed.