The Pixel Crush

-------------------------------------------|Digital Animation & Game Criticism|-------------------------------------------

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Tribute to the Platformer.

For some reason I tackled this one after doing the Cubey exercise. Bizarre and illogical i know, but thats what happened. This being a simpler exercise, I found i could judge the number of frames needed a little easier than before. I still couldn't draw a perfect circle for every frame unfortunately.

Here is last week's 2D cubey animation. The principle was to animation Cubey in the same way you do the bouncing ball, and then animate his antennae according to the way Cubey bounces. This is called primary and secondary animation. I was extremely pleased with how this turned out, especially after the mildly discouraging circle morph. Cubey has a real spring to him (mostly thanks to the squash and stretch) and his antennae waggles believably.

This week it was time to attempt the Cubey jumping, secondary animation exercise again; but this time using Maya. Time to move back into the realm of 3 dimensions.
This becomes very complex when you have to keep track of each and every value and attribute in the graph editor so as to smooth out the right bezier handles to correct specific movements and timings. Also when i rendered it out i had the image files name themselves name.extension.number, this was a very bad idea as when the extension (e.g IFF or PSD) os not at the end, no progam will recognise the file. It was great fun to bring some personality to the model we were provided with. I also added a couple of pillars for Cubey to jump to and from, a nostalgic homage to the days of Crash Bandicoot...

Sunday, 18 October 2009

The Masterpiece

Naughty Dog have always made games of an exceptionally high quality, not only from a technical perspective, but also in terms of artistry and narrative. I have just finished playing through their new game "Uncharted 2: Among Thieves" and it is easily the best looking game i have ever seen. Not only is the way everythings modelled and textured along with all the post processing exquisite; it also looks jaw dropping in motion. Which is why its part of my blog. The animation is on par with your average animated feature film, which is an extraordinary accomplishment considering the limitations of rendering every stunning frame in realtime on the PS3. According to the behind the scenes videos Naughty Dog uses a technique they have pioneered called animation blending. This involves the animators animating a character movement for every eventuality in the game and then as the action unfolds they are layered together as the character reacts to events in game creating a authentic and organic movement which is unique to every play. For example The character reloads his gun (animation 1) whilst sliding into cover (animation 2) as a bullet flys past his head and he flinches (animation 3). This kind of detail adds real personality to the character and creates a very convincing connection between the player and the virtual world with which they are interacting.

What Uncharted 2 also has that most other games lack is an emotional connection with the characters. Dialogue plays during the cutscenes, and during gameplay. Whether its just comedic banter or exposition, the player is getting the know the various characters and their relationships to one another the whole time. You can even access the protagonists journal (this is for puzzle solving but there are pages with more personal annotations which really give an insight into what motivates Nathan Drake). This game is an inspiring example of what the medium can become when it strives to be accepted as an artform, and as a new method of storytelling that does things through interactivity that no other medium has the means to achieve. Even if the average gamer doesn't discern the scale and scope of what Naughty Dog has created, they can experience the epic, EPIC game, that is Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Sweet, Sweet CGI

Ahhhhhhhhhhh, finally let the Maya begin.

So we had to animate two balls in Maya for this week's 3D assignment. Each ball had to appear as though it were a different weight to the other as it bounced across the screen. We were introduced to the graph editing and the keyframing tools as well as the playblast function. Georg actually mentioned a way of creating the bouncing ball using dynamics which sounded really interesting and, while it may not be real animation, its something I'd love to learn how to do. So I animated my bouncy ball and then a much heavier one, perhaps a cannonball or bowling ball? Using the graph editor and the orthographic front view I tweaked the bezier handles on the curves of the X and Y axis. Then I got a bit carried away and added a light, shaded the balls using the phong material (green and red respectively) and rendered the whole sequence out using raytracing reflection and refraction...and some motion blur(ah motion blur).

Here it is:

Monday, 12 October 2009

In The Beginning...

So a lot of people have been posting previous work and demonstrating the different stages everyone has got to, so I thought I'd do the same and throw mine into the mix.

A campaign for alcohol awareness targetted at teenagers which i made for a media applied assignment. Perhaps the most polished of the lot:

A Intro sequence for a hypothetical science & technology program aimed at middle aged men (hence the balding and eyesight themes ). This was the most fun and my first work using both animation and live action. Involved use of a projected blue light as a blue screen, this does NOT work very well for future reference:

A very short clip I made for a friend's recycling project (with far too much motion blur [i was obsessed]) involving a plastic bag and a newspaper beating the sh*t out of each other:

Finally my epic project which was too long to fit onto youtube in one clip. This is not an animation at all but does make use of some compositing, effects and film techniques. It deals with some pretty abstract themes in pretty abstract ways so may require several viewings but I am hugely proud of the result:

Sunday, 11 October 2009


So here is my first hand drawn animation ever! It makes me want to attempt something in 24fps as, while this works, it would nice to see my animations reach that extra degree of fluidity which the additional frames would help improve. It'll be good to move away from pencil too as a strong black ink line I find far more aesthetically appealing.

I was looking at the line up for the bradford and it sounds really exciting. I saw Up in july in spain and again yesterday but in 3D so I already know what a masterful piece of story telling and animation that is. The first 20 mins alone are the most devastatingly emotional in any piece of cinema ive ever witnessed. Coraline
 is another thing I'm looking forward to as I'm a Neil Gaimen fan...well I read one his books and enjoyed it. Then there are all the speakers from the games industry. It'll be fascinating to see what they have to say. Especially the people developing for the PS3 and the guy from Bizarre Creations who worked on Motorstorm.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


So, the beginning of a 3 year venture into the depths of academia and knowledge, an attempt to educate myself in the discipline of digital animation and familiarise myself with its numerous techniques and skills.

I made my first hand drawn animation today, all 12 frames of it :) Both thrilling and humbling. More to come on this as my profiency in this area (hopefully) progresses. The animation consisted of a circle; the task being to morph it to a new object. Two eyelids appear around the top and bottom of the eye and close together, as the open again a pupil and iris are revealed. The actually motion appeared to work fine when I ran it through the line tester but some of the frames themselves were a little too roughly done...even for a draft. Maybe. I'm not sure yet where standards and lines will be drawn but just from glancing at others work I seem to be surounded by some very talented artists.

Just a little daunting.