Archive for the ‘Digital Art’ Category

Lucasfilm and Disney’s Strange Magic

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Image from Blackfilm.com at: http://i.ytimg.com/vi/3wv7Li2V7S8/maxresdefault.jpg

When I heard that a recently-released animated movie had just set the record for all-time worst-opening ever for an animated film in 3000+ theaters, as well as the 7th-worst opening for any film playing in 3000+ theaters, I decided I needed to see for myself why the film was being avoided like the plague. So, I went ahead and purchased a matinee ticket to see Strange Magic, a 3D animated adventure that had been included in the Lucasfilm deal to Disney. So, Disney released it in a notoriously bad month to release movies: January.

To be honest, the trailer was awful. Not only had it been released at the last possible second, it looked like someone had thrown together clips from the film in a way that made no logical sense to the actual plot. Most people who watched the trailer decided that the movie was full of terrible, clichéd jokes and felt completely disorganized. However, there have been plenty of movies with bad trailers that turned out to be decent films, which is why I wanted to give Strange Magic a chance.

The verdict: it was strange. I was cringing in embarrassment and impatience for probably the first 10 minutes of the movie while all of the characters sang seemingly endless love and heartbreak songs. Don’t get me wrong, I love musicals, but the movie went about it the wrong way. The songs were steering the plot, while it should have happened the other way around.

Once the song marathon ended and we entered the Bog King’s domain, the movie picked up a little bit and I found myself enjoying some parts. There was some good character development for Marianne, the main character, in the first part of the story. While she started off as a starry-gazed, lovesick princess, something happens and she changes into a sword-fighting, awesome, disillusioned warrior chick that is grossed out by the mushier things of life, which had me cheering. After some good scenes in Act II, however, the movie reverted to being cringe-worthy and mushy.

Overall, the message of the story was good (everyone deserves to be loved, no matter what they look like), but the kaleidoscope-like scene at the end threw me off and was really too weird to get over. So—it was strange, yet slightly magical in some places, but understandable why the movie had such a bad opening weekend. Despite this, the animation was really impressive, and I was impressed with the color design in many of the environments (not quite as green as Epic). Although the plot wasn’t up to par, visually the movie was more fun. High-five to all the artists involved in this one!

(And still a better love story than Twilight)

Sierra Gaston

PDI Dreamworks Shutting Down

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

From sfgate.com at: http://ww3.hdnux.com/photos/33/17/00/7139330/9/rawImage.jpg


January the 22nd marked a bleak day for the animation industry, as it was officially announced that Dreamworks would be closing its PDI studio in Redwood City.

I think it was pretty apparent that some layoffs would be happening—judging by the disappointments of recent box office sales, it seemed inevitable… however, this was an announcement that really knocked me for a loop.

There will be 500 employees laid off as a result of PDI shutting down. These are incredibly talented artists who have pushed the boundaries of what’s possible in animation. Some of them will be offered positions at the Dreamworks studio in Glendale, but there are still many who will be facing unemployment—creating an even larger pool of extremely talented artists looking for work.
This will no doubt cause soon-to-be graduating students concern, especially those living in close proximity to the now shut-down PDI studio. After all, it’ll be difficult enough to find a job without having to compete against some of the best animators and artists out there.

The industry has been responding with hope, however—already there have been job offerings from Blizzard Entertainment, Pixar, Rockstar Games, and other companies for those being laid off from Dreamworks. Another positive result with all these supremely talented artists suddenly being unemployed is they may be encouraged to team up together to being their own start-ups and companies. With all their experience working for a wonderful company like Dreamworks, they could easily take that knowledge and apply it to creating very successful independent businesses, which may in turn create more jobs in the industry.

So, after sulking for a good half of the day about how one of my favorite studios is downsizing and thus delaying the release of their future films, I decided to remain hopeful that there may be some benefits from this whole fiasco. As ever, the animation industry is shifting and changing and this is just one of the bumps in the road we’re going to encounter.

Sierra Gaston

3D modeling on IOS

Friday, January 16th, 2015

Image from: www.morphiapp.com

A company by the name of Inventery, Inc has put out a free 3D modeling and printing app called Morphi for IOS. The app gives us the ability to manipulate 3D models with a finger on an ipad and ipad mini in hopes of mainstreaming modeling in three dimensions. The latest version supports features that include: 3D model uploading to Thingiverse, grid customization for 3D printers, the ability to turn your 2d drawings into 3d models easily, an integrated copy and paste filter so you can easily manage your clipboard, an enhanced ruler and many under the hood improvements.

See the app in action after the break:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1X1UJAHQl-Y

Peter Gazallo

Star Thief Studio Animation & Interactive Book Teaser

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Star Thief Studio is one of several on-campus Project-Based Learning studios at Cogswell College. These studios mirror professional production studios and allow students to collaborate with their peers – whether they be artists, animators, technical artists, engineers and sound designers – to create outstanding large scale projects.

= ABOUT STAR THIEF STUDIO =

Star Thief Studio is guided by faculty with industry experience and student work is regularly critiqued by industry professionals. We are focused on creating engaging story-driven content in the form of animated shorts and interactive stories. Currently Star Thief Studio is working on an unannounced project which will feature a stand-alone animated short and an interactive version of the story, bundled together as an app for the iPad.

Our development artists work in a dedicated studio space and use everything from pencil, paint and clay to Maya, Zbrush, Mudbox, Photoshop, Renderman and Fusion. Much of our digital painting and sculpting is done on Cintiqs. Our engineers use tools like X Code, Flash Professional, and Maya, writing code in Objective C, C++ Maya API, Action Script, Mel Script and Python.

Star Thief Studio offers students the opportunity to be an important part of a major project that will deliver a great experience, film credit and professional quality content for their demo reel. The large group, project-based environment of Star Thief Studio gives students the opportunity to develop and exercise the skills needed to work effectively with a team over an extended period of time. Skills like communicating professionally, being a team player, taking initiative and learning to lead, as well as managing time-sensitive tasks and completing work within deadlines. In the end, students will have work for their portfolios which has been refined to an extremely high standard and used in a major animated and interactive project.

See more at: http://www.cogswell.edu/student-work/studioe.php
Andhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTv8U7n_cIg&list=PL9DCF83E90D3F20A7&index=1
Video created by Cogswell alumni and Cogswell students:
Rachael Sass
Andrew Long
Jose Hernandez

Virtual Reality Sculpting

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Screenshot taken from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnqFdSa5p7w

Have you ever thought about sculpting using Virtual Reality technology? A new app called VRClay shows us how to do just that by allowing us to create 3D sculptures in VR. Using the Oculus Rift headset and a motion controller such as the Razer Hydra, we will be able to sculpt 3D figures using motions such as push, pull, drag and buildup. While the traditional method of using computer screens would still be ideal, a VR workspace would give us the ability to walk around and inspect the physical manifestation of our work. There is still no release date for the Oculus Rift, so it looks like we will have to wait a while before we can try this app.

Peter Gazallo

Visiting Pixar Studios in Emeryville California

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

Inside the Pixar Animation StudioA couple of weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Pixar with the manager of post-production, Robert Tachoires. Besides just being a nice and all-around awesome person, Robert took the time out of his busy schedule to show me around Pixar for nearly two hours. I’ll be honest—it was slightly surreal. I casually passed by people like the director of Brave, Mark Andrews, Pete Docter, and other famous names.

He gave me the general tour of what you’d expect at Pixar—the cafeteria, Oscar awards case, cereal bar, post room, studio store—but he also got clearance to show me the animation and tech departments!

Pixar has two main buildings where the artists are located. There’s the Steve Jobs building, which has animators on one side and the tech/post production side on the other, and the Brooklyn building which houses the pre-production artists. Naturally, I didn’t get to see much of pre-production since that’s all top secret. Going through the animation department however blew my mind—there is literally a mini-village inside of Pixar!

Each animator is given the chance to decorate their own space however they want—and some have literally imported Tuff sheds to live in while they do their work. One was decorated to look exactly like a miniature everyday-house you’d see on a street, white picket fence included. Another looked just like a Tiki hut, and a particular ‘street’ in the animation department resembled Chinatown. One room seemed to overflow with Ninja Turtles toys and posters.

I got a close-up look at their Oscar trophy case—which actually included drawings by children! That earned a couple of bonus points in my book. Also, they had a huge Render Farm—processing machines lined every wall of a see-through room – which had a water-circulating system designed specifically for keeping everything cool.

The saddest part was definitely leaving Pixar. It was thrilling being around so many people who made the Pixar name legendary. It’s pretty obvious why everyone wants to work there! (Not just because of the Pixar store, though that was amazing. I loaded up on some major Pixar swag).

Sierra Gaston
Digital Art & Animation student

Star Thief Studio Teaser – Animated Film and Interactive Book

Friday, December 19th, 2014

We’re excited to announce the teaser for the project that Star Thief Studio – one of our newer studio classes – coming in Spring 2015!

Star Thief Studios - Animated Film and Interactive Book

Star Thief Studio is one of several on-campus Project-Based Learning studios at Cogswell College. These studios mirror professional production studios and allow students to collaborate with their peers – whether they be artists, animators, technical artists, engineers and sound designers – to create outstanding large scale projects.

= ABOUT STAR THIEF STUDIO =
Star Thief Studio is guided by faculty with industry experience and student work is regularly critiqued by industry professionals. We are focused on creating engaging story-driven content in the form of animated shorts and interactive stories. Currently Star Thief Studio is working on an unannounced project which will feature a stand-alone animated short and an interactive version of the story, bundled together as an app for the iPad.

Our development artists work in a dedicated studio space and use everything from pencil, paint and clay to Maya, Zbrush, Mudbox, Photoshop, Renderman and Fusion. Much of our digital painting and sculpting is done on Cintiqs. Our engineers use tools like X Code, Flash Professional, and Maya, writing code in Objective C, C++ Maya API, Action Script, Mel Script and Python.

Star Thief Studio offers students the opportunity to be an important part of a major project that will deliver a great experience, film credit and professional quality content for their demo reel. The large group, project-based environment of Star Thief Studio gives students the opportunity to develop and exercise the skills needed to work effectively with a team over an extended period of time. Skills like communicating professionally, being a team player, taking initiative and learning to lead, as well as managing time-sensitive tasks and completing work within deadlines. In the end, students will have work for their portfolios which has been refined to an extremely high standard and used in a major animated and interactive project.

See more at: http://www.cogswell.edu/student-work/studioe.php

http://www.cogswell.edu/student-work/star-thief-studio.php

Finding Dory

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Hold your breath and hold the press—new details are swimming the internet right now about Finding Dory, the long-awaited sequel to Finding Nemo from Pixar Animation Studios. Guess what—much of the film is going to be set in California! At the Marine Biology Institute of California, to be precise. (Sounds a lot like Santa Cruz to me.) As stated by comicbookmovie.com, “the story of the movie will follow Dory, Merlin and Nemo as they set off on a journey to find about Dory’s past and parents.” In addition, we also learn that Dory had, in fact, been born at the Institute and was released into the ocean when she was young. We’re going to see the return of many of our favorite characters, but there’s also going to be plenty of new ones—including Dory’s parents! (Do they also suffer from short term memory loss? Are they natural blues as well?)

Apparently there’s been software developed specifically for handling crowd simulations for this movie (the many schools of fish) which isn’t surprising at all. Studios are constantly upgrading to newer and better ways of showing us complex animation and rendering – the likes of which we’ve never before. With their newest release Big Hero 6, Disney has set a new bar in terms of the level of sophistication in rendering.

Speaking of fabulous rendering—be sure to keep an eye on Project X here at Cogswell. I was able to get a glimpse of a few of their first renders of the new and upcoming animation short and I was blown away. I feel that this new one is going to be an amazing addition to what Cogswell has accomplished so far.

Happy Holidays!
Sierra

Pixar Animator Michal Makarewicz visits Cogswell

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Picture credit goes to "animationfestival.no" and was used for the "Fredrikstad Animation Festival" in Europe.

Michal Makarewicz visited Cogswell College on the evening of November 19th, 2014. Currently holding the title of Directing Animator at Pixar, Michal joined the company in 2003 and has worked on many of the company’s films to date. His body of work includes The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, Toy Story 3, Cars 2, and Brave, as well as numerous Pixar shorts. In 2008, he was awarded an Annie for “Outstanding Character Animation in a Feature Production” by the International Animated Film Society for his work on Ratatouille.  Michal is also the co-founder of the Animation Collaborative, a school of animation founded by professional animators. Teaching since 2005, Michal has also been a lecturer as well as teaching classes at the online school, Animation Mentor, as well as instructing classes at California College of the Arts and the Academy of Art University.

The evening of November 19th was a special occasion, not only were students shown the workflow and artwork of an industry professional, they were also treated to an animation demo! This is quite rare, as most guest speakers do just that – speak and answer questions. Michal helped foster a loose and friendly atmosphere, answering any questions posed to him during his demo, no matter what they were. The presentation Michal gave started off with a 10 minute reel of his work at Pixar. He seemed hesitant to play it, citing time constraints, but the crowd wasn’t going to have that. After the video, Michal dove right into a detailed breakdown of his workflow including tips from his mentors, examples of how to streamline your work, and even throwing in an impromptu lecture on the philosophy and principles of animation. After his presentation, we were given a meet and greet opportunity while Michal set up his animation demo.

Michal started his demo using Maya and a free rig available to to the public. He imported some audio from “Liar, Liar” and proceeded to show us each and every step of his process, flying from menu to menu and making rapid changes and edits. He explained exactly why he was doing what he was doing, and would ask the audience for feedback on his work while he did it. Asking the crowd for feedback and suggestions made the session more interactive and laid back, which seemed to be greatly appreciated by those in attendance; everyone had a great time. After a short 40 minutes, Michal had fully animated a character including facial expressions, body movement, even mouth movements synced with the dialogue. And the crowd had helped!

The evening closed with Michal explaining his role at the Animation Collaborative, and a thank you. This truly wasn’t a night to miss for any hopeful animators or those interested in the field of animation. Hopefully we will have more speakers that with interactive presentations and allow the crowd to get more involved. I’m ready for more speakers like him, are you?

Juan Rubio
Digital Art & Animation student at Cogswell College

Maya Updates – A Student Perspective on New Tools

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Recently, while taking a break from working on a model, I decided to look through Maya 2015’s new features to see if there was anything awesome and worth trying. I found that there were some pretty cool changes that made Maya much more intriguing than before. First, Autodesk has enhanced the user interface to make it much more intuitive. They have added support for multi-touch viewport navigation on Wacom and Apple track pads. The Walk Tool was added which allows you to control Maya’s perspective camera. This tool allows video game controls so the user can easily move and scale objects on two axes at once. In addition, they have added new deformer options, (to alter and animate object shapes), as well as geodesic voxel binding for use with rigging along with several other improvements. The most noteworthy of all changes is the way Mental Ray benefits from interactive production rendering. Through the use of progressive mode, the process of lighting and shading shots has greatly sped up. Mental Ray now displays preview ray-traced reflections, which gives an overall better visual when designing materials. Thanks Autodesk, for continued awesome updates to one of the best 3D modeling suites!

Peter Gazallo
Digital Art & Animation Student
Cogswell College