My Journey into Animation

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What has been going on…

by on Sep.21, 2014, under Uncategorized

I can answer that by saying a lot and not so much. Not long after my last post I got the spine added to the mechanical cat rig completing version 4. Eventually I will go back and do another version with some improvements. Besides that, I have been doing a mix of my own work and work for a project. Among things I have done on my own is a new rig for the dragon model from a couple of years ago. I made some changes to the model that make it more appealing but there are still some changes with the pose that would help the rig. Another thing I did was take the props rigging course mentored by Jeff Brodsky through Rigging Dojo. The primary project for the course was a rope bridge like the one seen in Horton Hears a Who. The result of it can be seen now in my reel.

Now about that project I mentioned. In May, an animator I follow on Twitter put out a call for character riggers to help with a collaboration on a short. I sent him an email with my reel and he asked me if I wanted to join as they liked my reel. I’m not going to share much more than that but I have been working on one of the characters for a few months now and it is coming along nicely. The whole process has been a great learning experience giving me the chance to create something, hand it over to the animators to get their feedback, then making the changes or figuring out how to add in the features they want.

I think that is about it for now. I’ll post again soon about a system I created to go along with the project rig as well as the variable FK system created by Jeff Brodsky that I have been using.

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Mechanical Cat Spine test

by on Feb.04, 2014, under Uncategorized

So this is one thing I have been working on lately. It is part of my rebuild of the mechanical cat rig that I started last month. I rebuilt the legs already so they can move out but this spine was my next challenge. Originally I used a IK Spline but the spine wouldn’t straighten out then so I switched to a regular IK. The problem then was to get each piece rotating as it should without swaying or disconnecting. That basically means I had to use a whole assortment of corrections to counter rotations and keep everything in check. That includes 3 sets of joints with one for the main IK, a second with each segment IK’ed to control the angle of the third which allowed each piece to rotate along the Z axis and keep the X and Y oriented in the correct direction like an actual U joint would. There is a Pole Vector control to allow the angle to be shifted but that also required a correction Pole Vector control which you can see at the bottom to keep the end in line.

Next up is to insert it into the main rig and check over everything. I might look at redoing the tail but I really like the system that I created for it on my first version.

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by on Jan.01, 2014, under Uncategorized

I am really not sure if I would call 2013 an eventful year but it was definitely more eventful that in the past. The two major things were finishing school with a BA in VFX and Digital Media as well as being selected by Disney to attend Inspire Day.

Finishing school has been great as it has opened up my time to learn more things I am interested in such as rigging. Things at my former school have also changed recently and from what I have heard, they haven’t exactly been good changes. Mainly what I know is that some of the great teachers have not been given classes so they have gone elsewhere.

It has been three months and I still think back to visiting Disney quite often. I have been to Rhythm and Hues, The Asylum, and Obsidian Games for studio tours but none of them can hold a candle to what Walt Disney Animation Studios offered me. RnH was a neat place and we got to see the studio, talk to a few artists, and then leave. The Asylum, in my opinion, is a bit of a joke while Obsidian was just interesting.

Being selected by WDAS, it revealed that I am on the right track and gave me plenty to be inspired about. It was more personal than school taking a group of students to a studio to look around the place. I have always been one to take matters into my own hands and I plan to continue that. I know a lot more about rigging and modeling now than before with various projects in the works. I am starting to learn Zbrush now and at some point I will revisit my dynamics project to produce a more complete version.

Another year down with many more to go.

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Revisiting a Rig

by on Dec.29, 2013, under Uncategorized

Earlier this year I did a rig for a mechanical cat that was posted on CGtalk in their Rigging Challenge section. I think I have mentioned it before but it has been in my rigging example reel for a while. As I have uncovered more about rigging, I realized that things should have been done differently. In the last version, I used a series of IKs in groups which I programmed using set driven keys. In some cases it worked fine but in other cases it created errors. Some I had fixed by controlling settings that are probably best left alone.

A few weeks ago, I decided to revisit it but use what I had learned since my last attempt. Starting with the spine, I wanted to try a flexiplane which proved difficult since the spine isn’t completely straight. Still, I came up with a way of doing it by using a curve from a spline IK with blendshapes to get it to adjust to the correct shape. I created the flexiplane without any issues but the issues came in getting the joints to do what I wanted them to do since each piece only moves in specific ways. Some can only rotate the X, the Y, or the Z axis. In the end, I settled on just a spline IK with the tail section following the main body.

Next up were the legs. My setup would suggest an IKFK system but the way I programmed the lower section, FK wouldn’t really work that well. Still, I tried a few different ways of setting up the joints to move how I wanted and hit some snags. I couldn’t get the leg to move in all directions by locking some rotational axises. As with the spine, the parts can only rotate along one axis. My solution was to lock the foot controls X translation and use a Z rotation control at the top of the leg instead which works just fine but is one more step that I want out of the system. The legs did require a correction system since the position changes when the shocks at the top are moved. A simple 2 joint chain where the two rotation points were and an IK tied to the lower section worked. I just used the rotation generated from that to correct both the top and bottom Z rotations.

For the ankle/foot section, I used locators instead of joints. I then put those locators in a series of groups that had pivots at different locators to create the correct movement. Some actions required moving higher locators which caused issues as lower ones needed to remain where they were so they were split up and given separate groups with the same pivot points and linked together. Combine this with multiply nodes that countered the initial rotation made the movements possible. The back leg even has an extending ankle that allowed me to discover a few new controls I didn’t know about but let me adjust the pivot point based on the ankle length. Testing that did lead me to realizing that some parts weren’t staying connected because the split groups weren’t changing with the leg. For example, the Y rotation for the foot wasn’t changing position/angle when the ankle section was bent so it would detach.

I think that is enough talking. I screen captured my demo of the rig and put it in my rigging reel below at the end. I am in the process of doing an animated presentation of it now.

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CTNX 2013

by on Nov.18, 2013, under Uncategorized

So CTNX has come and gone for another year with this year having a few more bumps than last year from my perspective at least. I think it may be best to save that part for later. Sorry in advanced because this is a lot of text.

On the first day of CTNX, I was delayed a bit which caused me to miss the first Frozen panel. Overall, the first day wasn’t that exciting. I registered for the Turbo Character workshop for some reason but I missed it because I stopped to talk to another artist I met last year waiting for a critique at Disney. I wandered around a bit after getting lunch to kill time before Nathan Fowkes’ workshop on finding artistry. I found the workshop to be pretty good and it has me thinking about trying to dabble in digital painting. Day 1 ended there for me as I needed to get back home with dinner. I was going to head back for CTNX @ Nite but I am terrible at networking and everyone I knew at the show was going to be elsewhere.

Day 2 started with a stop at the Disney Animation booth for a portfolio critique. I was there to get some feedback on my rigging work but they actually had no Character TDs there at the time so I sat down with a TD by the name of Kevin. I recall that he was there for animation critiques but he was helpful. There were a few times where he made some positive remarks to what he was seeing which was great. In the end, he basically told me to keep going forward with what I am doing. After that, I went over to Anatomy of a Sequence with Steve Kaplan which was a workshop about comedy. He covered some great things about a sequence in Chicken Little and another in The Road To El Dorado. It was actually a really good workshop with a lot of good laughs and some great information. After this, I roamed the exhibit hall a bit and picked up Zbrush since they had it for 20% off. I ended up missing the first part of a panel about directing animation but I got there and stayed to talk to Bibo Bergeron for a couple of minutes and get his input on my latest project since they are the characters of a film he was a director on. Another workshop later on and then I was back on the road heading home. Again I had planned to go back for CTNX @ Nite but I was tired and I had to be up early.

The reason for being up early was because I was one of the lucky ones selected for Breakfast with the Pros. I got there as people were starting to show up. We were let in, got our food and then got to sit down with a pro. As I went back with my food, I asked the Production Manager from CTN who was checking people if there was any specific table we were assigned to. There wasn’t but she directed me towards the table where Jeff Gabor, lead animator at Blue Sky, was sitting. It was nice to hear more about the animation side of things. We even got to talk a bit about games. I did end up missing the Eric Goldberg talk which I had a fastpass for but I decided it was worth it. After breakfast, I was signed up for another critique at Disney with modeling in mind this time. Go figure, there wasn’t a modeler that Sunday like there was on Saturday. This time, I met an effects artist named Collin who was positive about my work just like Kevin and recommended I put the dragon piece up front. He ended it by saying I was in the sweet spot between modeling and rigging. Next on my schedule was the preview of Mr. Peabody and Sherman with Jason Schleifer and Philippe Denis. The trailer for the film that was released a while ago looked great and to see a couple of sequences just backed up the fact that the film looks like it is going to be good. At the same time, I felt a little bad because Jeff was over in the East Tent giving a talk about Epic.

Anyways, after a quick-lunch I was back at the East Tent to see a last-minute talk on the animation in Frozen lead by Lino diSalva which was great. Afterwards I took a few minutes to talk to Dawn Rivera-Ernster, Director of Talent Development & Recruiting at Disney Animation, about how I enjoyed Inspire Day even though I made the choice to not go with the Character TD group. I left shortly after this just because I had a couple of things to do before the big finish of CTNX…

The Disney On The Lot mystery screening. What a way to finish the expo. I went to the Ralph screening last year after CTNX so I knew the process which was that we would see what DisneyToon and Disney TV Animation are working on before the recent Feature Animation was screened. This year though, it was kept a mystery and Darrin Butters started pulling our leg by saying that we were only going to be seeing a couple of clips even though they were showing the full thing to family throughout the day. I knew better but he kept it up long enough that part of my did start to believe him. Only a small part though. He called up Lino to talk about some of the work and he was the one who revealed that we were going to be getting a preview but it was a preview of the whole film. I did miss out on cookies and apple cider because I figured there would be an intermission like last year but no. Oh well, I don’t exactly need the cookies anyways. So Frozen was really good. I had already seen about 30 minutes of the film and I have to give them credit because those 30 minutes were missing enough that I was still surprised even though there were clips that came out of the last bit of the film.

That was all of the good stuff. I also got to see a few friends that I met last year at the show as well as meet some new ones. Now for a few of the negatives.

The main thing is that the event seemed a bit disorganized this year. After the registration for the screenings, confirmation emails never went out. I actually emailed three times asking about it but never got a response. Even talking to the help desk wasn’t helpful as they simply said that we didn’t get in if we didn’t get a confirmation which surprised me since I signed up right when the event opened up. I had my registration confirmation before the email came in saying the event was live. It wasn’t until I tracked down Kelly Prow, production manager for CTN, that things were cleared up about everything and reassured that I should be on the list as long as I didn’t try applying for multiple screenings. Another thing negative thing was the line to get badges. Last year, I walked right up with pretty much no line. This year, at about the same time on the same day, there was a line that took me an hour to get through. It would have taken just a few minutes to go up and buy a pass then to wait to get the one I paid for over the summer. One last small negative was that emails for the recruiting program never went out like they said they would. I was told by one attendee that he got an email saying he got a meeting but the email for everyone else never went out.

It all worked out in the end but things like the lack of confirmation for the screening bugged me because I knew that I should be on the list but it was left up in the air.

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Inspire Day at Walt Disney Animation Studios.

by on Oct.05, 2013, under Animation, Modeling

I realize how rarely I actually update this blog. Part of that is probably because I doubt anyone really reads it but I still plan to post on a more regular basis.

Anyways. Walt Disney Animation Studios just had this event called Inspire Day in which students were invited to visit the studio. I was fortunate enough to be one of those students even though I graduated earlier this year. I had never heard of the event before noticing the application go up and I never got a response to my inquiry about attending despite the fact that I graduated so I applied anyways. About a week after the deadline, I got an email inviting me to attend.

To keep things simple and save myself from breaking the NDA along with getting scissor kicked, I will be brief with each point in a far from serious way.

– The day started with breakfast in the ABC commissary next to the iconic Hat building. I had a croissant and orange juice although thinking back, I would probably have preferred the raspberry Danish.

– After breakfast, we went and lined up inside the Animation building to hand over any phones, cameras, or tablets, basically any electronic device except watches, before heading into the theater.

– In the theater, we saw some cool stuff about some pipes and lines

– Once we were done learning about pipes, we went up to where we would have lunch.

– Before getting lunch, I noticed an office with a bunch of toys and some cool maquettes. Perpendicular to the office was a conference room in which I saw the hint of someone who looked like John Lasseter. The Hawaiian shirt was the key piece of evidence. Turns out it was his office that I was looking at with all the cool stuff.

– We had lunch with a few artists from the various departments within the studio.

– After lunch, we walked a bit and then had coffee.

– Eventually we went back to the theater to see some formerly lost short film about a horse. Then the ones who found it, including a couple of guys that go by Squash and Stretch, came up to talk about finding said short.

– Once they finished talking about the horse a bit, Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck came out to talk to us a bit. At the same time, the theater got to be really cold for a while.

– Eventually, once we experienced a bit of a cold spell, we were taken back upstairs for a mixer where we were able to just hang out talking amongst ourselves and the various artists.

– As we were walking out, we were given a small goodie bag that included a poster for Frozen, a signed lithograph for the short Get a Horse, an Inspire Day shirt, and a sketchbook.

In all seriousness now, the day was meant to inspire those of us in attendance and it did a great job at that. I came away thinking about a few things I should be doing a bit different along with a few new ideas. Another bit of inspiration comes via Aspen Aten’s post about the day in regards to why we were selected.

“And just as I was about to leave, I ran into one of the recruitment people, and a group of other people and I started talking to her. One of the guys in the group asked her, “What made you choose us?”

Her response made me feel so much better about myself.

She said that when they were looking at our portfolios and our applications, they saw a love and passion for the industry. Everyone chosen was there that day because the recruitment people saw a spark in us. They saw that we had potential.”

If anyone from Disney sees this, thank you for inviting us to the studio and showing us a good time.

Alright. I need to get back to work on this project. The deadline for the CTNX Raising the Bar Recruiting is quickly approaching and I am in the middle of a revision for v2 of my latest project.

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Been a while…

by on Jul.05, 2013, under Uncategorized

So I really lost track of things as I was working on school. Among my more recent projects are a Lamborghini Veneno model that I created using blueprints for the Aventador along with reference images. I have also been working on some rigging of a mechanical cat. Below you can see a HDR render I did of the Veneno.

Head over to my Vimeo account to see a lot more of what I have been working on.

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Time for an update…

by on Dec.08, 2012, under Animation, Modeling

I will admit to the fact that I have kind of abandoned this blog. I just got carried away with school and work but now is a time to update it a bit in case someone stumbles upon it. I have still been able to devote some time to personal projects outside of school. Two of which can be found below in the video I  rendered out to show at CTNX to anyone that would watch. The dragon was really just a project  I created to use for rigging purposes so the model isn’t 100%.

The ship on the other hand is one that I have put a lot of thought into. I designed it as a futuristic type bridge but I  also wanted some older elements such as the steering wheel. That is the element that I thought the most about because I wanted it to look like it worked. Within the frame for the wheel portion is a control pad with a touch screen and throttle control. There is also a handle that the pilot could hold onto as he is spinning the wheel if he needs to push forward or pull back. The touch screen would display options such as how the steering works. Does it turn the ship like a boat, roll the ship, or move it sideways. I also thought about a counter to the impracticality of having a bridge with a huge dome on it so I have a blast shield that comes up to cover the area. In case this were done and the visibility is reduced, the stand alone consoles have additional monitors that come up.

An additional project that  I am trying to find time to work on is a project for CGtalk’s modeling challenge with the subject Hollywood Dream Cars. I picked one that is well above my level, the Nautilus car from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I have the main pieces of the body done and I  am going to start adding in all the small pieces that will need a lot of work, mostly through sculpting.

ShipDragonCTNX v1 from Darrol Moore on Vimeo.

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I am terrible about blogging…

by on Aug.14, 2012, under Uncategorized

That is pretty clear based on the fact that I haven’t posted in a while. In a nutshell, I met a couple of modelers from Disney at E3 who gave me some great feedback on my work thus far. I have covered topics like lighting and now rigging in class. I have applied to a large number of internships and jobs at various studios. As far as animation goes, I am stepping backwards for class to do some work with a bouncing ball again which I skipped when I went into Maya.

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Alright, I did kind of forget…

by on Jun.08, 2012, under Uncategorized

I will admit that I have been forgetful. Every time I remembered to update this blog, I have been too busy to. I haven’t even been able to submit a full completed entry for 11 second club since my first one in March. What I have been doing for school is texturing and lighting. Below is a high resolution of the main project for that class.

The textures are rather small considering the size of the image because the final version is going to be much smaller. My plan is to redo the fretboard anyways as I do not like how it turned out. I rendered this out specifically because I was at E3 this past week where I met with Joe Whyte and Brian Erice from Disney Interactive. I showed them both my modeling reel and got a lot of great advice on what I should be working on now. Needless to say, my next project will be an environment of some sort.


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