Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pixar's Up and the general trend towards Blandness

[disclaimer: As I mentioned in a comment, Up, the movie, will probably be less reliant on formulaic animation and style than the teaser trailer (due to its inherent time constraints) which triggered the following thoughts. This is really a comment on general trends in theatrical animation that disappoint me, and should not be construed as criticism of the superb artists at Pixar, some of whom I've had the pleasure of working with in the past.]

I just watched the trailer for Pixar's Up, and I'm underwhelmed again. Maybe I'm just getting old and cranky, but does anyone else think Pixar's films get blander every time out? The design, the lighting, the rendering and even the animation is all...there's no other word for it: bland.

Well, maybe there is: verisimilitude. Why have they gone so far down this road of pursuing realism? Why even start down that road? Can't we have some fun with the backgrounds and designs anymore?

And in the animation, I recognized about 5 different standard Pixar moves (which are also imitated by every other studio) in that short little clip [this is probably due to time constraints]. Come one, guys! Surprise us! Entertain us! You're the best in the business. You've got the skill and resources to push the limits!

Well, maybe I'm all wet. And I owe a lot to Pixar for pioneering the CG animation industry which I enjoy working in. I just wish they'd show some of the spunk they used to show in their early days.

And there's some things I like about the concept of the movie; It reminds me a little of a G.K. Chesterton story. But if Chesterton was an animator I can't imagine him limiting himself with the slavish pursuit of verisimilitude.

[edited after a good night's sleep]

Ooh a new group of friends!

Hello all. I want to first thank Thom for inviting me and allowing me to join. This is super exciting.

My name is Gregory Gillis. I am currently a fifth year senior at Borromeo College Seminary and John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. I am graduating in December with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications. While JCU does not offer any real animation classes, I had to teach myself and make my own courses. While I not continuing in the seminary at this point, I hope to use everything I have learned and experienced to teach others.

I am currently in the process of working on things for getting into grad school or a job at some point. Until then, I will be working as a youth minister and computer technician and teach computer classes. The big project I am looking to be doing starting in December is actually how I stumbled onto this site.

A few seminarians encouraged me to start a web site and company doing religious education videos. We wanted it to be along the lines of "Adventures in Odyssey" (Focus on the Family) and "Veggie Tales" (Big Idea). Except we would maintain a purely Catholic stance in all of the messages. We would release 14 videos a year. One each month and a special at Christmas and Easter. Each video would be accompanied by games and activities as well as references and sources for teachers adn parents. A few people have already signed up to help out with translating the site into Spanish and supplying Spanish subtitles. This project is still a little ways off being a poor college student, but I plan to make it work at some point in the near future. I will post things on here hoping to get feedback whenever I can.

If anyone wishes to help, please let me know. I am unable to pay anyone at this point and it would be strictly for the fun of it, but I am being told this could hit big and we could make a large amount. At which point I could pay those who contributed while taking portions out for donations to Catholic Charities and the curch of course.

Thanks again for allowing me to join. Hopefully I will post more things when I get some fere time between classes and semianry formation.

~Gregory Gillis
GSquared Films

Hey Catholics!

Hey everybody! I'm Blake Landry. I'm so excited to see an gathering of Catholic Animators. It's really great to see people who are called to this field of ministry! I'm on the verge of graduating from College at the moment. I also did Animation Mentor, which is where I realized that it's exactly the line of work that I want to be in! I love animation of all Kinds. Especially if it's backed with Good Morels. Anyway, here is my animation reel so far:

Click To Play

Right now all my life is going to is my senior thesis! I think it's coming along great. I'll show you guys as soon as I'm done. Which is in 2 weeks :)

Again it's great to find a Catholic community of animators. I really want this group to go somewhere :)

God Bless!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Animating Question...

Jason, Thom, et all...
Okay, this touches on my REAL reason for wanting to join the CAnimators blog. (And Jason, I know I've talked to you about this before). My two oldest, Caleb and Rose, have been begging me to learn animation. Rose, age 11, is a budding artist with geniune talent, (she recently painted the watercolor version above of my character Rose Brier) and Caleb, age 13, is a computer guru. Caleb is working for Veraprise, my husband's company (anyone need a website? talk to him). Rose is experimenting with flip-book animation.

This year is a prime time for them both to start learning an animation program, since they're both homeschooled (next year, we may put them in private school). What would be a good place to start?

I have been thinking of starting Caleb on learning Flash, if we can find an old version of it somewhere. That way, he might be able to do some simple things for the websites Andrew creates: and Rose could have an outlet for her artwork. I'm going to check out the free stop-mo programs you posted about, Thom, but I'm wondering if I should look for something more graphic since we have an on-site artist.

Let me know what you think would be a good starting place for them: a program, a book, a technique: let me know. If it was a more expensive program that had a "fun" element to it, maybe we could make it a Christmas present.

So what do you all think?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Monkey Jam!

I'm continuing to play with stop-motion, and ran across this superb free [edit: it's not technically open source] pencil test program. To save myself some time, here's the blurb about on the Monkey Jam website:

"What's MonkeyJam?
MonkeyJam is a digital penciltest program. It is designed to let you capture images from a webcam, camcorder, or scanner and assemble them as separate frames of an animation. You can also import images and sound files already on your computer. Although it is designed for pencil and paper, MonkeyJam can also be used for StopMotion animation and has several features just for that. Movies created in MonkeyJam can be exported as AVI files."

Best thing about it so far is the X-sheet. For you 3D animation-only dudes, it's very similar to Maya's dopesheet (properly speaking, it's the other way around). Easily move your drawings around and change timing. It's great!

Only drawbacks so far are the lack of onion skinning and a grid overlay like StopMojo has. But then the latter doesn't have the x-sheet.

I'm sure there are some better programs for money, but this one is free. I plan to make a tutorial with it soon (emphasis on PLAN).

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Welcome new people!

It's nice to see you new guys aboard! Thanks for joining us!!

I don't check this thing as often as I should and I certainly don't animate as much as I should either, but nevertheless, I've taken another pass at my rock climber.

I haven't really been working on the face yet, since I'll do that last, but he's a lot less stiff now than he was and the body motion / weight feels a lot more natural now. I'm hoping one more good 8-10 hr pass on him will finish him off. C&C welcome.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Free stop-mo programs and other stuff

Hey everyone. Sorry for not posting anything in so long, but I've been really busy!

Dwayne from Leftfield Studios might chime in here (I hope!), but I found some free stop-mo software today:

Stop Motion Animator

EDIT: Here's one more. FrameByFrame for Mac

Did anyone else animate Star Wars figures with a Super8 (film) camera when they were a kid? I wish I had a copy of those films. They must have been hilariously bad.

By the way, Dwayne, I love the Leftfield Studios stuff. Great fun! Well done.

Here's a cut-out/vector animation program that I use from time to time in my professional work:

Anime Studio Pro

It's not free but it's really useful sometimes. The intro of my demo reel was animated in it. I also like to draw in it. It renders the best vector lines from a tablet of any program I've used. I've also used it for compositing Maya output with flat elements. Another use is quick mock ups of future 3D characters.

Have fun and keep animating!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Greg Duva: Animator & Cartoonist

Hi Thom, thanks very much for the invitation. I really appreciate it.

It's great to have the "special connection" of the Catholic Faith, with other artists/animators. My only buddy in the industry, is Pentecostal. We know each other a long time, so we gave up trying to convert each other a while ago.

Here's my website: - in the middle, if you click on it, it will bring you to the "Jamboni Brothers Pizza" comic strip, that I just started on Comics Sherpa. If you want to go there and check out some of the comic strips, I'd really appreciate it! This is the website:
Feel free to send me a comment. I prefer "positive criticism", but if you want to "slam me", go for the gusto! I can take it. I believe in the concept of "Jamboni Brothers Pizza", which is really all about creativity. With that leading the way...there'll always be "Pizza on Earth"
[whatever that sounds like a good ending, anyway]!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Howdy Folks!

Just thought I would say hello and join this thang! Here is a link to my old reel:

The "jtiger" part is from a friend of mine who is hosting the site. I need to get something better going.

Thanks for inviting me Thom. It is great to have Catholic friends in the biz!!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

If I were creating the world ...

I found this clip for a short animated dialogue shot and had some funny idea rolling around in my head how it would be animated. I don't even remember what movie it came from and I certainly had never seen it before - so that makes it even more interesting.

When I showed my professor my blocking he looked at it and said 'uhh ... yeah ... can't you do more than that?' so needless to say, I canned my first approach and when I came back with this setup he was much more interested. I haven't worked on this in over a year ... and here I am firing back up to get it completed and this time ... I have a deadline!

Monday, June 2, 2008

I've got a new technical rigging demo up for this thesis project thingy. Check it out here.

It's the most advanced and flexible rig I've ever created before and I've been learning a lot about mel scripting in the process. I think I'm going to create a custom window with all my scripts in it because sometimes there're just useful utility scripts that get made for a project and not really saved.

For example I wrote a script that took the selected control object and colored it. Red for RIGHT and Blue for LEFT. Very simple, very useful in a character rig and I wouldn't want it to get lost in the code ... so Jason Manak's MEL Scripting Bible ... a project in planning.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Thesis: Modeling and Rigging

Early Hand modeling & Body Modeling

Some before and afters with the hand and the body. These are pretty much finalized although there are some other modeling shapes for the character which aren't created yet. (He's got a couple belts / straps which will be fixed dynamically so they're not necessary for this stage of the rigging which is what my class is all about. :) )

More big bunny

Here's some more old junk for your amusement. It was on the demo reel that landed me my first full-time gig so it can't be all that bad, I suppose.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Thom Falter/Ghisallo Productions demo reel

Here's my current demo reel. Hope to update it soon with some better stuff...

Ghisallo Productions Animation Reel from Ghisallo Productions on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Jason Manak - Character Animation

Well, hiya fello animators! It's my first post here and I'm going to force myself to be active on this one. Perhaps it'll make me polish more of my material than I usually do.

I'm currently living just outside of San Francisco and attending the Academy of Art for a master's degree in Computer Animation. I have a great interest in CG films and also video games. Although I haven't written out the possibility of doing special FX, it's lower on my list of interests.

I'm working on the final parts of preproduction on my thesis, so I'll post material as I get it finished, but the animation itself should be starting this coming fall after all the models / environments / characters are built and textured.

Anyways - here's a short piece I did last year.

Impressive results

I remember when Maya used to cost $15,000, and the SGI workstation necessary to run it cost even more. In terms of rendering quality, the stuff produced in those days is vastly inferior to what we can do today with a copy of Maya 2008 Complete and a modest workstation. Total cost maybe $3500. It's easier and much faster to work with as well. Of course Maya Unlimited will set you back another $3000, but it's still a lot better than 10 years ago.

But top-shelf animation software is still not free, and wouldn't it great if it were? Enter stage right: Blender. It may be finally getting to the point that it can be a real alternative for professionals:

Big Buck Bunny - Official Trailer from Andy Goralczyk on Vimeo.

Not bad. The renders are certainly up to today's standards, and the animators were able to get decent results as well -- though there's not a whole lot of action in the trailer. Anyways, it's a heck of a lot better than the hideous Elephant's Dream, the first film attempted with Blender. It probably indicates that the software has come a long way. The interface is still a Byzantium train wreck, but I suppose if one uses it enough, he might get used to its quirks.

Here's a toast to the continuing progress of Blender (another one pulled from my archives):

Friday, April 11, 2008


This blog is for Catholic animators, and Catholics interested in the art, to share ideas, thoughts, clips, news, doodles -- anything that we might find interesting. That means it's going to get pretty goofy sometimes! That's almost guaranteed with a group of adults that have more toys on their desks than their children have at home. In fact, some of us have been known to steal our kids' toys when they aren't looking. But I digress...

I hope that by networking together like this we'll affirm each other in our Holy Faith and our vocations as artists, both of which can seem overwhelming at times.

Enough of's something I pulled out of my archives from 9 years ago. My how time fwies! (as Elmer would say)