On problem solving …

Aka, wow Kate, you really fucked up this time didn’t you?

The answer to that oh so self-reflecty question is, of course, yes.  How I managed to screw up quite this badly is an entire other question of course, and one that I’m not really sure I know the answer to.

Some of it was my usual inability to manage time well, but damn, I’m kind of used to that by now? I’ve got enough workarounds that this still shouldn’t have happened. Part was definitely that Christmas time, seasonal work and a buttload of creative uni work is never, ever a good combination. When faced with the potential to make money, and a project that I’m stuck on and am woefully behind on, well, I pick the option where the hardest thing I’ll have to do for a few hours is teach a few newbies how to do returns.

(Or y’know, wrangle the apparently evil portable POS but that’s neither relevant, nor a problem for me. The portable POS is my bff)

On the bright side though, I actually made enough money in one paycheck to pay tax, and that is something that hasn’t happened in literally a year. That’s got to be a plus right?

The other part was that probably I spent way too much time researching and doing concept stuff that I left precisely zero time to get anything useful and tangible done.

Problems one and three are fairly easily solved by the usual upping the ante of the time management and organisational skills, and being a leeeetle bit better at realising that no, you don’t need to draw and colour twenty five different outfit options for that character, especially when you pretty much know what you want her to look like, and resisting the urge to fall down that rabbit hole.

Problem two naturally resolves itself every January (and expensively, given that I work in a stationary store and love back to school season…) and unfortunately better solutions aren’t really forthcoming. Not working those hours is literally not an option at all, better jobs are…let’s say scarce, and just as problematic while studying, and my favoured solution of just goddamn winning the lottery already is still as elusive as ever.

Other non-animation problems include oh my god who picked three 8.30 am starts which was resolved with ridiculous amounts of coffee, insane neighbours preventing the neighbourhood from sleeping for oh, six months? which was resolved with a rather spectacularly loud arrest (sadly the problem of living in the shitty part of the neighbourhood is rather dependant on point two above) and thankfully my brother has moved on from Dad’s Army to classic Doctor Who which is a massive improvement.

Actual animation-y problems were again, scarce on the field, riiiight up until the point where some fool – yours truly – decided  that the best course of action was to start animating in a whole new program that they’d never used before.

I’m not actually sure that’s not part of my asshole brain’s delaying tactics to be perfectly honest. I try not to go poking around in there too much.

While I’m still not entirely sure what exactly some of the things in there do though, and it’s funny that while I dislike flash (You did know that right? Pretty sure I’ve never brought it up, ad nauseam to the point where you all have a drinking game about me – wait, do you?) I’ve memorised all the shortcuts to the point where it’s actively annoying that they don’t do the thing in ToonBoom, holy shit, I am very happy that I downloaded it and tried it. Most of the problems I’ve had so far have been eminently fixable just by googling.

The only other other problem I really had was that my portable hard drive has been uh, less than cooperative of late. Fixable only by buying a new one (and hey who doesn’t want two terabytes of space)

This time however, it’s going to be set up from the start to play nice with mac and windows and more importantly, this time, I’m not just going to yank it out when I’m done with it. Actual proper ejecting the disk it’s going to be from now on.





On Hades, Persephone and the Prohibition

Or where instead of discussing concept art and what I did, I write far too much on the subject of the 1920s.

Because when it comes to one of my favourite (okay, fine THE favourite) time periods for fashion, I tend to go a leeeetle bit off the rails.

When we were given the brief for this project, I didn’t want to go down the route of Gods in Spaaaaaaaace, partly because it’s a lot more difficult to work out how to do that without essentially just giving the Master Chief a lighting bolt and calling him Zeus, but mostly because I wanted an excuse to draw a bunch of pretty dresses.

thumbnails all

(not gonna lie – this is a momentous occasion. I never thumbnail things, I just draw the first thing that pops into my head and go with that, regardless of how much better I could have made it with a wee bit of concepting. Progress, perhaps?)

Percy Iterations. Technically the dress should not be that short at this time (hemlines did not get that high until ~1928-9 and even then, the US was somewhat behind Europe, fashion wise and was always a leetle bit more conservative), and there probably wouldn’t be that much cleavage on display  (sure, necklines got that low, but there was always some fleshtoned fabric helping to stabilise it as well as maintain a modicum of modesty, but hell, she’s a Greek goddess, we’ll cut her some slack)

I also wanted to keep some elements of the original myth in there too, so I ended up making the dress a dark pomegranate red and added some (!) wheat motifs in there to symbolise the fact that she was originally  – and the daughter of – an agricultural goddess. I also ended up changing her hair after this, going for a more stereotypical 1920’s Louise Brooks bob.

hades outfitsmalfoyhadeshades coloured

Hades Concepts. Men’s clothing just isn’t as much fun, though I swear this is the dudeliest dude i’ve ever managed to draw.

(guess what I’ll be practicing over the break)

I really wasn’t sure how I was going to colour hades, I originally tried to make him pale, given that he’s the god of the Underworld and probably doesn’t get out in the sun much, but then well, he either looked a bit too goth for like Draco Malfoy for my tastes, so I went with a normal but slightly desaturated skintone for him instead, which I liked better. I kept with the colder colours for his clothing ,and gave him a small death’s head lapel pin to continue on with the symbolism. With a bit more time and research, I’d like to give that waistcoat a brocade with little elements from myth just to keep it going that little bit more.

hades and percy shootout - small.png

Lastly, a more dynamic shot of the pair. I wanted to do a full scene in the bar/club with the pair dancing, but y’know, time and all that, so I went with a slightly Tintin esque shootout scene.

I have no idea how Hades manages to look like Jack from Titanic, but here we are. It’s been a while since I tried cel-shading and I forgot how much I hate doing it, but again, I think it could have turned out much worse than it does. I changed up Percy’s hair and outfit a bit – I love her dresses, but it’s much easier to go into gangland war-fare wearing something a bit more practical. I kept the original colour theme though, and slapped those wheat motifs right back on there.

For a project I started just to have an excuse to draw pretty dresses, I’m pretty happy with the ideas I came up with, if not the execution of such. I’m definitely planning on storing this one away to do a proper project for in the future, possibility as a comic, ala Lackadaisy? Should be fun





Aesthetics in Animation, or, making shit look pretty LO 5

Or digital painting. Or anything really. People, make your stuff look nice.

It’s one of those odd things, and I guess we’re all guilty of it to some degree, that we tend to obsessively segregate our little specialisations instead of applying techniques learnt in one discipline to another.

The obvious example of course is just how widely you can apply the original principles of animation. Written for 2D animation originally, they obviously apply to 3D animation, and all that fall into that weird grey zone of 2.5D (something that I’ve never been able to nail down a proper explanation for) but a surprising amount also apply to other fields.

Digital painting for example can utilize everything but Straight Ahead/Pose to Pose, Timing and Slow In/Out. The remaining principles can be used to make drawings even stronger.

Stretch and Squash, Exaggeration, Secondary Action and Appeal would work for characters, working to push a pose even further to tell a story, or to make the drawing itself more appealing. This is frequently visible in the drawings of other animators, like Griz and Norm, Aaron Blaise or Glen Keane.

Background and environment drawings on the other hand can benefit from the use of Staging and Appeal, while even Arcs could be used to push a full composition, using the arcs of a character’s movement to lead the eye around the picture. These are just a few examples of how animation techniques can be applied to other disciplines.

The same also applies the other way around –  the general principles of drawing/art also apply to animation. Line, Shape, Value/Tone, Texture, Space and Colour all have fairly obvious uses in making animation – be it 2D or 3D attractive, while the more design-y principles (that’s definitely the technical term right there) of Balance, Proximity, Alignment, Repetition, Contrast and Space (again apparently) are  a little less obvious but no less important.  Animation is, after all – at least in the 2D sense- just a series of sequential illustrations, and it makes little sense to not apply illustration techniques to such.






The principles of design


Digital Cell Animation – LO 4

Or, while the idea of literally drawing and painting every cell sounds pretty badass…oh dear God, just no.

Juuuuust no. Not even I am that crazy.

So back in the day, 2D animation was all done by hand. All of it. Drawn on paper, inked on cellulose cel, painted up and then layered onto a bunch of other cels. Made for some absolutely amazing films, but holy shit was that ever a terrifying amount of work.

(Plus I am a person of the digital age, the thought of no undo button makes my teeth itch)

And then 1989 and The Little Mermaid came along, bringing with it the marvel that was the CAPS system. While this new system of digital cell and ink was only used in a few experimental shots – most notably the end scene where Eric’s ship sails away,  the next Disney film, The Rescuers Down Under was the first animated feature film to be 100% digital.

(and while I might have my issues with this film, digital animation is responsible for neither the appalling excuses for Australian accents, nor the ridiculous choice to put a golden eagle instead of a wedge tailed eagle – you know, the eagle actually native to Australia?)

Ahem. It’s only been, oh, my entire life and this still annoys me apparently.

While it lead the way though, Disney was not the only animation company to make the jump from traditional to digital. Other studios followed suit with Princess Mononoke (1997) beginning to make use of the digital cel method.


However what really spurred the leap forward into digital cel animation wasn’t any of these big budget films, but rather a little program that showed up around 1996 called Futuresplash Animator. It’s entirely possible that most people have never heard of this as it was pretty much immediately snatched up by a much larger company and turned into Macromedia Flash.

Oh Flash. As much as I malign you now, there’s a hell of a possibility that few of us would be doing this if not for you.The rise of Flash was nothing short of meteoric and suddenly it was possible for anyone with either a comparatively small amount of cash, or a link to a handy file sharing site (or a kind friend with a disk and a serial code *cough*) to make animations for the web.

I mean, it’s pretty much some kind of animation blasphemy to mention Studio Ghibli and say, Charlie the Unicorn or the infamous Badger Badger video, but well, while if you were ask us who our animation idols are *now* we’d give you the standard list of industry gods,  back then were were probably far more likely to tell you that it was Neil and Emmy Cicierega of Potter Puppet Pals fame.

Okay, so maybe that was just me. But the point still stands. Cel animation had entered the hands of the internet masses and it wasn’t going to relinquish it any time soon. I don’t think we’d have the sheer quantity of indie films and animators if it hadn’t been released into the wild as it was.


(Just a selection of the Flash work that actually inspired me to get into animation)

Of course, Flash wasn’t just used to make strange films about green people with salad tongs for fingers, it was also at the time the program du jour for a lot of companies producing legitimate films and cartoons who would not have otherwise been able to afford the more elaborate proprietary systems used by the large mega companies.

These days thankfully, Flash is not the only, nor the best normal-person accessible animation package on the market. Both TVPaint (used to create The Song of the Sea, and by former Disney animator Aaron Blaise) and Toon Boom.

Toon Boom it seems is far the more popular package – it’s been used to create all of Disney’s post 2004 2D film work including the Princess and the Frog, and well – basically it seems, if it was done in 2D during the early 00’s to now, the odds are it was done in ToonBoom. There’s a full list down below, and it’s kind of mindboggling. And the best bit – I can get the more basic version for 20 bucks a month (cheap at the price to not have to use flash!)

All this of course relates to the industry as it currently stands insofar as the advent of digital technology has, instead of killing the 2D industry, saved its bacon. Sure, we’re not getting as many gorgeously drawn films as we once did but the quantity of amazing tv shows, and content produced not by studios but by normal people with a computer, tablet and good software kind of makes up for that. It means there’s going to be more animation and stories out there, not less, and there is no way that that is a bad thing.

Links that more or less back up my waffling:














Animation Specialisation: Character Desgin

Or ‘Kate wastes a whole week and a half drawing pretty clothes and colour variations instead of doing actual work’

In this post you get to see how overboard I go when I’m having fun with what I’m doing. In coming up with a character for my bear chase animation, I wanted to go with a fantasy esque character (you have no idea how close I am to giving her elf ears) in brighter, but still more natural colours.


So! We start with the basic ideas I came up with after doing a hell of a lot of trawling on pinterest for ideas. I came up with five ideas (I could have done more but I had to stop somewhere!) and started working on some basic contrast shading. (As you can see: very basic)


I mashed together a bunch of palettes to come up with a group of mostly matching colours that I could use for my character that would also match and blend nicely with the colours I’m planning to use on the backgrounds, that will make everything look like it’s part of the same world and not like a bunch of blatantly seperate layers.

outfit two coloursoutfit one coloursoutfit three coloursoutfit five coloursoutfit four colours

This part probably wasn’t strictly necessary but I really enjoyed playing around with the different palettes and matching them to the outfits.hair

hair colours

I also played around with some basic hairstyles and skintones.

char sheet yellow

And a really bad ‘cleaned up’ version of the final character. I like the outfit and the colours used, but I’m planning on changing the hair, and obviously, fixing up the actual drawings themselves.

Next up: Backgrounds and the conspicuous by its absence bear!





Cross Discipline with the Games Students (again)

Ah now this, this is is the kind of group work I like. Games student (Hayden again, from last tri!) posts very specific list of things they want, I pick up project and fulfil very specific list, assets get made, and everyone is happy!

I like the simple things in life okay? I make things hard enough in my own projects, I like the work I do for other people to be straightford, and this project was straightford right down the line.

By the time I spoke to Hayden about the project, somebody else had picked up the character animation (rats!) and it was coming to the end of their rapid project deadline…which was the following Monday. I spoke to him on Thursday.

Suddenly I was not so disappointed at having missed the chance to make more character animations.

I did however get given the task of completing as much of the background and as many of the assets listed that I could and I think I did a pretty great job at it. The brief I was given was that the background should be multi layered (for future parallax effects in game), that it should tile as seamlessly as possible, and that it should use greyscale and give a dark and creepy effect.

background example

A sample of the background – the full sized background is a whopping great 8000 pixels long.

Some shots of the different elements – each element (save obviously, the backdrop) were on transparent layers and offset seamlessly so that they could be put into the parallax system in the game – last I heard, this was wasn’t implemented in time, but it was really simple just to save the flattened version and upload it instead.

(a closer look might just reveal some judicious recycling of assets from a previous project – my habit of hoarding high res version of my own assets once again comes in handy)

The brief also included sprites for a menacing looking set of thorny vines that would be made to move in game – these are pretty self explanatory and were the quickest thing to make.



The final things I had to make were the rune/shine assets – these were the  hardest and what took the longest – I was asked to create three levels of complexity (sadly I only had the time to complete two out of the three levels) and to do several levels of activation – from the grey inactive form to the green fully lit form – there are also other sprites that include a lightly animated glow emanating from these. I also took both the green colour of the activated runes and the pattern of the runes themselves from the monster/golem character created by the other animation student, so as to keep a level of visual cohesion.

I’m not entirely sure how well I succeeded with this, given that I have not actually played the final product, but during the four days of frantic emailing back and forth, Hayden seemed pretty happy with what I did – especially with the backgrounds (which is definitely my favourite part of the whole project – I had a bunch of trouble getting it started until it all came together into one definitely creepy looking forest)




Rapid Development Project – Part 2

Wherein there is much rambling and self-reproach.

I believe it might have been mentioned, just once or twice perhaps, that I …really don’t enjoy group work. Or really, it’s not so much group work, but more the fact that I infinitely prefer actually working on things than wrangling other people. I’m here to learn animation, not management principles.

That said, at least I had the good fortune to end up with a really good group.

So, in the interests of knocking of a few LOs with this post, and minimising the amount of time I spend bitching…

ANM220.LO12: Evaluate the effectiveness of production processes undertaken

At the beginning? We worked pretty effectively. We had a good mix of 2D and 3D people, and we spread out the initial work pretty evenly. I did end up holding up the animation process a bit in not getting out the character models as fast as I could have, which wasn’t ideal.

The real bottleneck was when it came to the actual animation stage where 95% of the animation was done by Toby and – I think? I am a terrible person and am not sure of his name! – Kynan. They ended having to do a lot of work, while the rest of us twiddled our fingers. The decision to work with rigged characters in After Effects was made pretty early on, and while it was great in terms of cutting down on the amount of time needed to animate (and resulted in a pretty great looking final product) it did mean that those of us who had never touched that kind of thing (or really heard of the DUIK system) had too steep a learning curve to really be of any use.

I’m just happy I got to chuck in some animation of my own – I’m pretty damn proud of that flip, even if you only see it for two seconds.

So, in terms of being really efficient? We could have been a lot better in how we handled it – I could have got my characters out a lot faster which would have helped, but it also would have been helpful to have all spent some time practicing in after effects to get that character working so that everyone could have pitched in in the animation component.

In terms of getting out a reasonable product in the end? I think we did a pretty good job there.

ANM220.LO14: Describe efficient workflows for handling asset data across various production stages, from concept to completion.

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 9.43.55 AMScreen Shot 2015-11-19 at 9.44.06 AMScreen Shot 2015-11-19 at 9.44.27 AM

Some examples of our Google Drive folders. It was organised superbly (Thanks Toby!) which cut down massively on everyone’s favourite game of ‘where the hell did I upload that vital thing?’

Some of the actual assets could maybe have followed a better naming convention, especially in the concept art department (my bad!) but at least I’ve kicked the habit of uploading files named untitled 86.psd, this one is good.psd and totally done this time.psd.

(I haven’t quite kicked the habit of naming my own files that, but hey, baby steps right?)


Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 10.14.07 AM

As mentioned in the previous blog post, I also religiously stuck to a naming convention within the layer files of my own assets in the hope that it would make it way easier for Toby and Kynan to manage when they were rigging and animation.

The only thing that would be better, and this is a Google Drive thing and not a team thing, is that I really look forward to the day that Google has a Dropbox esque syncing feature, just to help with being sure that the version everyone’s working from in the folder is the most recent version of the file.

ANM220.LO15: Produce work on time and within scope by engaging appropriate project management methodologies

Heh. Yeaah, I guess you could say we worked in a very…loose Agile kind of methodology? Very loose. Almost non-existent loose.

I totally get why project management methodologies are important – and how you could never get anything done without them while working with a huge project and team, but when it’s a tiny project with a team of six or seven people…you tend to end up spending more time playing at holding a meeting than you do getting work done. We still had brief check-ins when we met up in Wednesday’s class, and worked out what we did the previous week and what needed to be done next, and Slack filled in the gaps between face to face days, but it seemed to us all pretty silly to actually hold a proper meeting.

I did do up a quick and dirty time sheet that I think worked about as well as the studio hours time sheet did – we all mostly filled in our hours at the end and hoped for the best.

ANM220.LO18: Interpret a brief and deliver a product to a client’s specification

Hm. In some ways I think we were really successful, and in other ways … not so much? I guess it comes down to how you interpreted the brief. We definitely ticked off the part that said to merge the assigned film and style together – I’m still pretty happy with my mannequin knock offs of Kevin Dart’s style – and the end product looked amazing for a five week project. I  even think we did a really good job at wrestling it into a promo for a tv show vs a remake of the movie title sequence, which I was worried about.

(I also appreciate that we eventually managed to convince the Studio 1s that no, we definitely aren’t doing the 2005 remake, and NO you cannot put Jackie Chan in anywhere)

The only thing that I wish we could have done better – and I think it comes from the limited amount of time that we had to work on it, plus we gave the Studio 1s more input into the actual concept then maybe was ideal, is that we really didn’t do anything interesting with the 80 Days concept. We did originally come up with some interesting ideas – we had talked about taking it into the future, and working on a ‘Around the Galaxy in 80 Days’ that I would have loved to work on, but we very quickly decided to play it safe and keep the characters, settings and time period the same. I totally get why we did it – we didn’t have nearly enough time to work on that concept before we presented to the S1s  Maybe next time.

In the end, I’m super happy with our finished product – like I said, I’m probably far too pleased with how good my assets looked in the end (hey, usually I’m too busy cringing at how bad my work is, let me have this one!) but I do wish I’d done some things differently.  I definitely need to be more assertive – some of the things that I wanted to happen didn’t because I didn’t speak up, or put my foot down, which meant I didn’t really get as invested in the project as I probably should have been. That’s something I need to get a handle on before next tri – I need to make these people my minions dammit!