Welcome to Animation Fun Times

“HELP! I’ve dedicated my life to the most tedious thing I could think of!”

Animation is work, a LOT of work. When you spend 2 hours just trying to make a character walk two whole steps. When you dedicate your night to trying to figure why that characters arm decided to flail around for five frames. Or if you spend a whole week trying to create and finish just four seconds of animation. When you elect to do all of this and more, and you enjoy that? Yeah, you’re probably a bit of a masochist.

But thats just it isn’t it? It’s all worth it. You comit your time and energy into one of the most tedious activities in the entertainment industry. Through the twilight hours, you’re bashing your head against your desk, finalizing your project. When you finish, you’re left with the most rewarding feelings you’ve ever felt. That’s the magic of it all. Nothing about animation comes easy, so your victory is all the sweeter.

This blog is about sharing this passion, of making an inanimate group of pixels come to life. Here is a place where you can get tutoring, share ideas, and make things that cant be possible in real life. The world inside a computer or on a page of paper is yours to create, destroy, and breath life into. And I’m hear to help you, while you help me, and we all share our knowlege to achieve what we want and need to get through the arduous process of animation, and come out of it with something we can be proud of.

About me:

My names is Jackson Carter, I’m completing my 3rd year of animation education. I’m far from an expert but I want to share my experiences and knowledge to help you get through the hurdles of this seven layer hell that is animation. From concept art, and script writing, to modelling, rigging, texturing, animation, and post-production. This is what I want to help you readers become aquainted with, and provide valuable tips and tools to make the journey just a bit easier.

Welcome to Animation Fun Times.

And remember, “The computer fucking hates you, SAVE OFTEN.”

-Jackson Carter

 

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Some of My Work

Today I wanted to take a little bit to show some of my work to you guys. I think it’s important to be proud of whatever you make, and it’s always a good thing to show some of your stuff and maybe even get a little bit of feedback about it. I love doing what I do and learning more about it every time a fire up a file. And, I love seeing my ideas come to life when im done. I’ve chosen to share an old version of my demo reel (my current one isn’t complete), along with a few renders of other projects. Enjoy.

New Character WIP

QuicksilverTest

Made a Skull for Fun, Then Made a Scene out of it.

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24 Hour Challenge: The Trumpet Rifle

Trumpet_Rifle_Perspective_Textured

Ruined Street. (3D Renders then comped and painted with Photoshop)

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This is just a small selection of some of my work. A lot of it’s a bit older now but they’re things i was and am proud of and had a lot of fun making. Thought I’d share them with you guys.

 

Dealing With Crashes (or How I Became a Paranoid and Obsessive Saver)

 

sad

Figure 1: Image of my last remaining shred of sanity mocking me as it leaves (2018 Colorized)

     Above is the bane of my existence and the reason for various broken objects around my desk. The rough translation of this heinous text is “hahahaha… screw you.” This image haunts my dreams. It’s a constant reminder that I failed to be responsible and take the various necessary steps to, well, not prevent, but diminish the pain that comes from this. I work mainly in 3DS Max and today im going to outline a few tips on dealing with the inevitable crashes someone might face.

CRTL+S

If you ever have the passing thought “I should probably save…” then for the love of god SAVE. Crtl+S is the quick, simple, and easy tool to save your life. It’s pretty damn obvious, and almost every single program has this, but it’s amazing how many people don’t utilize it.

Iterative Saves

Saving in iterations is one of the best ways to combat lost data. While simply using Crtl+S will overwrite your current save information, using iterative saves will allow you to go back several versions of your project if you find the file has become off track or even corrupted. I use it mainly when I make a substantial amount of changes that would be difficult to revert later, and Ctrl+S periodically with small changes. To do this in 3DS Max for example, follow these steps:

  1. Go to FILE
  2. Select SAVE AS
  3. Now name your project and add “_01” to the end of the name.
  4. Adding the number at the end will tell the program that this is an iteration
  5. Afterwards, for each iteration, just go to save as again and press the “+” symbol next to the name, and the program will automatically save and update the file name with the next number as shown here:

SaveAs

Just be mindful of storage, as you’re essentially creating a copy of the current file, and the size can build up quickly.

Remove Unnecessary Entities

Sometimes with large complicated files, it can be advantageous to remove thing you don’t use anymore. This will just make things easier on the program and your computer, as it wont have to take as many factors into account in its operations under the hood. For example: If your model had a lot of reference objects like lines, image planes, and helpers that you dont need anymore, just remove them. (A tutorial on how to use reference image planes can be found here: Use A Reference) If you’ve been saving in iterations, you can always reimport the objects from old files if you find you need them again later.

Import Into a New File

Sometimes if a file is crashing very often, starting fresh can be helpful. Open a new file, and import all the assets from the project in question. Sometimes a file can become corrupted or burdened with excessive cache info etc… So bringing everything into a fresh file can often help. Now this doesn’t work if it’s actually one of the assets that’s causing the issue.

Be Humble About Your Computers Capabilities

To be honest, a lot of us don’t have industry standard computers that can handle everything we throw at them. So, when working in a deep and powerful program like 3DS Max and other similar programs, it’s important to respect your systems limitations. A large portion of crashes happen simply because you tried to do something your system just can’t handle. For instance, I’ve had several crashes occur from trying complex simulations and/or using advanced particle system procedures. You simply have to recognize what your system can, and can’t, do. Also, if you’re unsure if the action you’re about to do is feasible on your computer, just save before hand. Seriously, SAVE.

Autoback

Sometimes a crash isn’t the end, 3DS Max has a nifty feature where is periodically saves your work for you and puts it in a designated folder. If your project crashes, you can check to see if your stuff was saved. Go to your project folder (which you should ALWAYS set up before starting a new project) and you should have a subfolder labeled “Autoback.” In here you may be able to find the most recent autosaved version of your file. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t always save at the times you would have liked and you may still have to redo some work. The other issue arises when the most recent autoback saved right as the crash happened, so you may open it just to have the file instantly crash again.

Outside Help

Now, I’m not gonna pretend like I know all the ins and outs of complex programs like 3DS Max, these are just a few useful tips that I’ve found through trial and error, and some guides. For more information and other help on crashes, and problems in general, refer to the programs publishers website and utilize the provided support and forums. Autodesks support forums for 3DS Max and their other products can be found here: https://forums.autodesk.com/ <=== Bookmark it, trust me.

That’s it for now, I hope someone finds these tips useful for your projects and saves you from a few headaches in the future.

Poignant tagline: The computer fucking hates you, SAVE OFTEN

Stop Motion is Amazing

Today I just wanted to share a video on the making of Paranorman. This is one of my favorite animated movies and in my opinion, the best movie Laika (the makers of other movies like Kubo and the Two Strings and Coraline) has made. Stop-Motion animation is so under appreciated and the time and work that goes into is astounding.

In 3D modelling, you have crtl+z, in 2D animation, you have an eraser. But, with stop-motion, if you nudge even a single thing out-of-place while carefully positioning your character, you get to start all over again, which consequently leads to desperately trying to figure out where you left your will to live. Theres a reason why I respect stop-motion animators and the crew behind them, so freaking much, and a reason why I would never want to be in their shoes.

Just look at all that went into this movie:

 

Use a Reference!

Today I’m talking modelling, specifically, getting it started. It may seem obvious, but the most important thing when you start to model is to KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO MAKE. I always do this, I have an idea in my head of something I want to make. I start modelling, then completely lose focus on what it’s supposed to look like and end up with an incomplete mess of a mesh.

MAKE CONCEPT ART.

Having some concept art to look at will make your life a LOT easier. This allows you to draw out the idea and figure out what works and what doesn’t. After wards, you can keep referring to it as you go along to keep your self on track.

I’ll be using one of my works in progress as examples as we go along.

Here’s my concept drawing:

SteamDudeBackGround

As you can see, It doesn’t have to be a work of art. Just sketch something out so you can have a general idea of what your end result should look like. Preferably, have a digital copy you can color it in a paint program like Photoshop or Clip Studio. This will be helpful when you’re texturing, so you can try out different color schemes before actually making the textures.

DRAW OR DOWNLOAD SOME REFERENCE IMAGES.

When making the rough model, it’s useful to have orthographic images that you load into whatever program you’re using. This will help you keep things proportional and save you a lot of trial and error.

I went ahead and just downloaded a general anatomical character sheet of a man and cut it up to put on image planes.

 

Put the images on panes, and in an orthographic view, position them so they’re lined up, but out of the way. I use 3Ds Max for the majority of my models.

Then model away, keeping the model lined up with the images.

But remember that you’re just using these image planes as guides. Don’t worry to much about making your model 1:1 with the reference.

There, you now have your basic model, and from then on, you can work on refining and detailing. Using reference’s keeps you moving without having to readjust NEARLY as much as if you were just freely working.

Here is the final result of my BASIC model:

BasicBasic2

 

After that, continue looking at your CONCEPT ART as reference to help guide you as you make the details and other aspects of the model. As I said, my model is a work in progress, but here are a few images to help you get an idea of it.

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I hope this helps you guys in your future projects, as this has been invaluable advice for me and my projects.

And remember: “The computer fucking hates you. SAVE OFTEN”

“What is My Purpose?”

c3d863afc31938e4f1982937a72e4469--rick-and-morty-quotes-funny-rick-and-morty – Rick and Morty. Season 1 Ep. 9

Never before has a tiny robot been so damn relatable, and finding your purpose in Animation can be both difficult and humbling. But, contrary to being a robot programmed for one thing only, we are humans. We can adapt, improve, and find our own path.

Organic modelling is what I love doing, and im better at it than other subsets of the field. So I feel like I have found a true purpose for myself. But it wasn’t always this way for me. When I first started, animation was just some hobby, and I had no clue what I actually wanted to do with it, or if I wanted to pursue a career in it at all. But, as I progressed through the program, I had the chance to learn about all the different fields in animation. I found what my strong suits were, where I was weak, what I HATED (*glares at rigging*), and what I thoroughly loved working on. That’s when I found my purpose.

It may seem obvious, but if you’re having trouble finding your way in the field of animation, trying to balance your strengths and your enjoyment is the best way.

“I love animating and am the BEST at it!”

WELL AREN’T YOU JUST CAPTAIN SPECIAL!? Just kidding, that’s amazing and you should be proud. You’re already ahead of the curve, stick to your path.

“But what if I SUCK at what I like doing?”

This is tough and humbling, but if you’re pursuing a career in this, (like any job, really), you have to focus on what you’re best at. You just can’t expect anyone to hire you based on what you LIKE doing. People want to see your strengths. There is a silver lining to this though, getting hired, even if it’s not your prefered field, is HUGE. Animation is a very competitive field, so take the wins you can get. While in the industry, use your spare time to improve your skills in the job you enjoy. Ask questions to those who work in it, take tutorials, practice practice PRACTICE. Maybe one day, you’ll be able to move over to that job.

Whatever you love doing, stick to it, improve, pursue it. Just be prepared to make some temporary sacrifices when it comes to a job hunt. Stick to your strengths, but never drop what you love doing. Find your purpose, and don’t settle for passing butter.

Stay. Busy.

Due to my current school schedule, and well, laziness, I haven’t been really working on projects lately. So last night I had free time and an idea, so I decided to get right to work on it. It’s a simple character, something I’ve done many times before. But as I progressed I realized just how many mistakes I was making. My topology was awful, I had done things out of order, and wasted time trying to find relativley basic commands and tools. The result looked nothing like I pictured it. I pretty much just said fuck it a restarted. I was so lost that I resorted to pulling out some old lesson PDFs from past semesters. I realized then that I hadn’t actually worked on a character for three months!

You cannot let yourself get rusty. As I said, I havent had a lot of time lately, and since I was out of practice I actually burned away two hours of my limited free time on a total boondoggle. I was messing up on simple stuff that I should not have had issues with.

I’ve decided that I need to start doing micro projects. Just like any skill, you have to keep practicing, keep those neurons strong. A micro project would be any simplistic task to help reinforce certain ideas. Make it a routine to do small, 20 minute excercises throughout the week to keep your skills sharp.

For example:

Today I created a standard cube in my 3D program, and started pushing and pulling verticies until I morphed the cube into a sphere. Then took the sphere and reversed the process to make a cube.

Little projects like that are quick and simple, but it keeps your mind active and reinforces skills, like topology manipulation in this instance. These seemingly inocuous tasks can do a lot for you, especially if you’re in a postion where you don’t have the time to constantly be working on big projects. Dont let yourself lag behind, Stay Busy.

 

-Jackson Carter