30 January 2012 Previous

Suzanne entry - with crit and a review

Stumbling back into my room I dropped my pack in the corner, took off my shoes and sat down to take a breath.  Blaze walked in and came up to say hello, his mouth open, softly panting and his tail wagging his bum.  I said hello and rested for a moment.

My sister and I had been to Port Elizabeth for the weekend, where we had spent 11 years growing up.  I was only there for  about 24hours, visiting some good friends, while the combined trip there and back must have taken close on 30hrs.  As a result I hadn't been online the entire weekend and this was the weekend of the Blender Conference!  I logged on, anxious specifically for the results of the Character animation category of the Suzanne Awards.

View the results here

To my surprise and absolute family hysteria, the entry had actualy won!  Years after Chicken Chair by Bassam and absolutely drooling over that monkey, the entry had actualy made it.

A big thanks should go out to the monkeys of the Handturkey Studios 48hour team, who created the character and made it such fun to work with.  And everyone who casted a vote for it, i'm certainly very grateful, the other entries were rather good and the quality of work is only getting better.

The Challenges - Pivot switching and layering

This was an ideal opportunity to do a gymnastics piece.  I had had some enjoyable experience working with the rig and it would just need some adjustments for the manouvers.  Some form of pivot switching.  Bassam and I had spent some time developing a method which works well, which I used in the Cube March short, but this wasn't available.  In the end the simplest solution worked: creating bones in specific locations with parent constraints that would kick in when needed.

Over the piece the pivot changes a couple of times.

The run up is the first section, in which there is no 'fancy footwork' on the rig.  The moment he grabs the high bar his pivot switches to his hands for him to swing, animation still proceeds on his torso and legs for him to kick.  He continues on for a few grand-circles before coming to the endo-roll, this is the part where he straddles the bar with his legs and rotates around before pulling back into a handstand.  Going into the endo-roll he has to pivot from his shoulders to get into a planche position before he can bring his legs forward, all the while rotating with his main pivot around the bar.  When he dismounts, the pivot goes from his hands to his torso as he flies through the air.  The last switch is to his knees before collapsing (but this was just faked with counter animation).

The bone sits in the middle of the bar but during his routine he travels along the bar - so if you look closely you can see it still bending from the middle.When he's rotating around the bar there are maybe three 'layers' of animation.  The primary one is his rotation around a static bar, which defines his speed and position along the swing.  When this is in place the secondary layer comes in of animating his torso, legs and feet for him to 'generate' the swing, this is synchronised to the primary animation.  The third and tertiary layer is the springyness of the high bar itself, which is then timed to move purely up and down (this was enough) to help with weight and fluidity - just these small movements went a long way.  To do this, the bar is curve constrained to a curve which is hooked to an empty that is parented to a bone (is that readable?). 

A crit from Bishop on the animation

I wasn't able to get much crit for this piece, so I asked a friend Chris Bishop (working on Caldera at Bit Films) who's instructed and lectured at Hampshire, and can be trusted for straight-up-honest well-grounding crit... especially in the area of animation.  He had a few cool things to mention:


The starting point, before he gets up on his toes, misses an opportunity to introduce a comedic aspect to the character.  Either with a cock of the head or a brush of the chest, some sort of embellishment before he gets going.

Probably the biggest distraction comes in the next two steps.  These don't quite hold believable weighting.  Frame 69, 70, 71 has a pose which he's easing into which isn't balanced.  It looks like someone's holding his shirt back as he's stepping into it and holding him back.  A solution could be to have his torso further back, hold the move and dip down with his head around frame 61 where he's more balanced.  The rest needs to then be fluid with his next step where he goes up and down again, frames 62 through 71 needs to be strung together with the move following it.

awkward_frame Arm Movement

Towards the end as he dismounts, there is an awkward frame which could just be removed as it's almost a pop and doesn't fit well.  His arms are even bent.

He flies through the air very quickly, and perhaps his arm movement could be slowed down a bit.  There's a lot of movement going on very quickly in that part.

Weight Loss

When he falls to the floor and lies flat his body appears to lose a lot of mass.  It could probably be better posed with his but higher in the air so that we see more volume in his torso.

A review of the form from Kenny, my gymnastics coach

Kenny mentions a couple of places in which the gymnastics form could be improved.  As the piece is a balance between disciplined gymnastics and comedic animation, I wanted to understand both sides of the picture.

Dish not arch Keep dish

The most prominent correction is posture in the follow through after reaching hand-stand position in the grand-circles.  He becomes very arched as he flows through for the next, this would hinder momentum.  He should rather be in a 'dish' shape, which is stiff, straight, and makes use of the core muscles.

Likewise, at some points when kicking into a handstand he is arched, and should also be a dish shape.  Being arched here counters the rotation.

hipcircle Endo-roll Legs straight

When he comes in for his clear-hip-circle he is too close to the bar.  In reality his hips would be away from the bar as he clears around to spring into handstand.

When he goes into his endo-roll his legs should come up more, and are actually pointing in the wrong direction.  When he goes out into handstand from the end-roll he should reach a vertical handstand position, in the animation piece he is already falling over and in an arched position

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