Posts Tagged ‘Digital Art and Animation’

Michal Makarewicz, Directing Animator at Pixar Studios Coming to Cogswell

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Cogswell Career Development Center Presents: Michal Makarewicz
Wednesday, November 19th
6:00 PM
Dragon’s Den

Have you ever wanted to see an industry professional do an animation demo? Ever wonder how to develop your project? Cogswell College hosts Michal Makarewicz today to answer your questions and more.

Michal Makarewicz, Directing Animator at Pixar Studios and Instructor at Animation Collaborative, will provide an hour-long animation demo at Cogswell. Whether you are new to animation or more experienced, Michal offers tips and techniques for developing your animation project. The presentation is in partnership with Animation Collaborative – an organization that offers workshops throughout the year on various animation industry specialties.

Concept Art Process for Award-Winning Short Animated Films

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Kong Vang, Cogswell alumni and Art Director of two short animated films

Kong Vang, Cogswell alumni and Art Director of the two short animated films “Driven” and “Worlds Apart” – both created in Cogswell College’s Project X class – shares his process of creating character concept designs and more.

While working on the films created in the Project X class, I learned that it takes a very dedicated team to make a short film in four semesters or less. Many of the students on this team are attending classes full-time in addition to contributing their talents towards making an awesome film.

Here’s an overview of what happens during the production process of a short animated film: First the script and storyboards are completed and approved, within the first semester. Meanwhile, the concept team begins creating concepts for characters and environments.  Approved concepts are sent into the modeling pipeline as soon as they are approved where our artists create 3d models. As each model is approved by the Director, they are sent into the texturing and rigging pipeline. Technical artists create animation rigs for each model and prepare them for animation testing.  Animation is a long process so it is important to get the rigged 3D models to the animators as soon as possible. Animation takes almost a year to get all of the shots approved.  After the animation is polished, the first test of the film timing is created, approved, and sent off to the sound effects and music score team.  Also during the process of animation, approved shots are sent to the lighting team for light set and test render. When the finalized lit shots are rendered out, they are sent to the compositing team for the final clean up. After the composite shots are cleaned up and finalized, they are sent off to the film editor who creates the final cut of the film and music score.

On the latest film ‘Driven’, each member of the team wore different hats depending on which stage of the production pipeline the film was in.  For instance, initially I started out in the concept design pipeline, then moved to the animation pipeline and finally to matte painting for the final stage of the film.

One of my jobs as a concept designer was to collect the approved designs from the other artists and finalize them. Because most approved designs are from different artists, each with their own distinct style, the finalization process ensures a consistent look and feel. After finalizing the look and stylization of the characters, I would render each character in 2D using Adobe Photoshop so that it would represent its 3d counterpart.  This allows the Director to easily visualize how each character will look before it gets passed along to the modeling team.

Digital media is the fastest way to work and Photoshop offers the perfect tools and work flow for this demanding field. With infinite tool presets, custom brushes, and limitless iterations, it allows me to work more quickly and easily compared to traditional mediums like paint or ink.

To block out the initial character’s silhouette, I like to use a standard round brush, which I adjust into an ellipse shape, then angle it 45 degrees. This style of brush setup creates a line weight that flows much more nicely than the standard round brushes. Once the silhouettes and internal shapes look good, I create a new layer in Photoshop and start to block out the forms with one color value. At this early stage, I prefer to work in black and white.  It makes it easier to focus just on values and form rather than getting caught up about the colors. My preference in digital painting is to work from dark to light values, or shadows to highlights. It has been my experience to get results much faster using this method than trying to paint from light to dark.  I push and pull (lighten and darken) the values until the character forms are clear.  During this process, I maintain a wide range of values to create depth and realism.

Once the characters have been sketched out, it’s time to experiment with color palettes. I like give a slight color tint to the values before painting on top of the black and white image. The tint layer acts as a color wash so none of the black and gray value show through later. I create a new layer and set the Layer Mode to “Color”. I start by painting over the character with the color palette that the team agrees on. By using multiple layers, I don’t lose my original black and white image – and I can test out different color schemes.  Once I’ve added general color blocks to the characters, I use a new layer to start painting in details. For the final detail stage, I use textures and custom brushes to polish the look of the characters.

The development stages from concept to finished product vary from character to character; it all depends on what the Director is looking for. For example, secondary characters may be approved before main characters. Main characters are often challenging as they have to be visually pleasing and have the right visual attitude. On the other hand secondary characters have far less restrictions, allowing flexibility for designers to explore their creativity.

The concept team spent almost an entire semester designing characters. After four months and multiple iterations, all nine characters were finally approved. Once approved, I took the concepts and started finalizing each character’s look. It took me roughly four or five hours to render out the first pass of each character to show the Director.  One character in particular – the adult Biff cop – took almost ten hours to design.  After multiple small changes, the final designs were approved.

One of the most surprising and challenging characters to design was the Jet Bike that the main character rides.  Its importance in the film is equal to the character that rides it. Although there were many great concept designs shown to the Director, none of them were approved. That’s when I was given the tough task of designing the bike. After fifty designs, we started to narrow down the concept. Once the main silhouette was chosen, I mixed elements from the best three designs together to get the final jet bike concept. The process for this single ‘character’ took three or four weeks, from start to finish, working with traditional mediums like graphite and paper.

This is just the front-end of the production pipeline for a short animated film. It takes a strong team and lots of man hours to complete the film. In the end many people had come and gone, and lots of talented people contributed to the film. We were all so glad that the film was finally finished. It took the PX team about four semesters and two summers of hard work to accomplish the short film, Driven. The Project X class has given me the best hands-on experience possible. It has definitely changed my future and life for the better. Thanks Project X!

Kong Vang

CGI Far From Monkey-Business in Dawn of the Planet of The Apes

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

The latest installment of the Planet of the Apes franchise displays some of the most innovative CGI techniques to date. Weta Digital, the CGI mastermind behind such films as Ironman, Man of Steel and Avatar, has further evolved the digital animation process to achieve lifelike effects. Actors work side by side with the digital art and animation teams to achieve realistic facial expressions bringing the computer generated images to life.

In his article, “Is This the Most Remarkable CGI in a Film Ever?” Patrick Jong Tayor comments on the sequel’s amazing attention to detail. “To make it work, Weta Digital employed dozens of wireless 3D cameras to faithfully capture the actors playing the apes, who donned motion capture suits with active marker strands, measuring position, velocity and acceleration even if the markers were obscured from camera view, and witness cameras mounted to the suits to capture facial mocap information.”

Cogswell offers programs in Digital Art and Animation designed to prepare students for exciting careers throughout the entertainment, media and art industries. As seen with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, CGI techniques need to be ever-evolving in order to compete with the next big blockbuster.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has an interesting plotline, astounding CGI effects, and a smooth transition in the fictional 10-year time gap between films. Do you plan on seeing this summer blockbuster? Are you Team Human or Team Ape? Tell us in the comment section below.

Source: RedShark News

“Transformers: Age of Extinction” Great for CGI – Bad for Bay…

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Director Michael Bay is getting slammed with reviews on “Transformers: Age of Extinction”. The majority of which criticize his directing skills for an amateur in story line, a flopped plot-development, and an overabundance of product placement.

In his recent review, Boston Globe columnist Peter Kenough noted that it was “all shot and edited as if by a Cuisinart. In short, the cinematic equivalent of being tied in a bag and being beaten by pipes.”

This is the first installment of the Transformers franchise that we won’t be seeing resident protagonist Sam Witwicky, played by Shia LaBeouf. Instead we get the Hollywood star power of Mark Wahlberg, however his performance is also highly criticized. “Wahlberg spends a lot of time looking with awe and terror into the blankness of a green screen, later filled in post-production by Bay’s monumental, juvenile special effects’, critiques Kenough.

However “monumental” and “juvenile” the special effects are, one can’t help but step back in awe at the advancements in CGI animation and digital special effects. Shots of giant alien spacecrafts, a prehistoric dinosaur extermination, cityscape battlegrounds, giant robotic aerial dogfights, and rumors of a robotic Oreo cookie.

According to his review (embedded above) Mr. Sunday Movies says, “The special effects cannot be faulted… They should almost be called VERY-Special Effects.” Cogswell offers programs in Digital Art and Animation designed to prepare students for exciting careers throughout the entertainment, media and art industries. Special effects are key in producing summer blockbuster hits, especially those directed by explosion king Michael Bay.

Do you think Bay’s a CGI-Genious, or a bogus bomb of a director? Are you planning on seeing Transformers: Age of Extinction? Are you Team Optimus, or Team Bumblebee?

Source: The Boston Globe

Disney Turns to Digital Technology to Fuse Animated 1959 with Live-Action 2014 Maleficent

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

On May 30th Disney fans will get a first look at the live-action retelling of the classic Sleeping Beauty from the point-of-view of the story’s renowned villain Maleficent, played by Angelina Jolie. Producers were posed with the challenge of sticking true to Walt Disney’s original 1959 animated version of the villainess, while introducing her in live-action to a 2014 audience that demands high-tech illusionary entertainment.

Digital art and animation teams worked to produce cartoon-like aspects while keeping the “real-life” feel. In the trailer we see Maleficent engulfed in what has been deemed by bloggers as “cartoony” green flames, harking back to the original animated signature evil powers. We also see computer-generated pixies, tree creatures, ravens and the infamous fire-breathing dragon, all adding to the live-but-animated feel.

Sound design took a different spin to create a more modern and gothic feel for the remake. The famous Disney classic “Once Upon a Dream” was recomposed as a haunting rendition by singer Lana Del Rey. The trailer also reveals the use of strategic sound bytes, mystical swoops, swishes and swacks all fashioned by digital audio designers. Dark crows and caw sounds add to the gothic haunt factor, all the while harking back to Maleficent’s original 1959 pet raven Diablo, recast as a shape shifter named Diaval in the live-action remake.

Will you be seeing this early summer blockbuster? Do you think the digital art and animation effects will be enough to allude to the original? Does Lana Del Rey’s rendition give you the creeps? Let us know in the comments!

Images Credit: Disneywikia.com

Links:

http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/File:Stand_Back_you_fools_-_Maleficent_-_kmp.PNG

http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Maleficent?file=Maleficent-%25282014%2529-54.jpg

The Sims 4: Unique Fusion of A.I. Technology and Emotion-Based Soundtrack offers Gamers New Ways to interact with their Sims

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Since 2000 The Sims has been a staple in the gaming world, setting the standard for real-life simulation.  However in recent years the various expansion packs and add-ons have confused consumers on the brand that original creator Will Wright began 14 years ago.

The Sims 4 offers new and exciting features that will remind gamers of the original game rooted in emotion. “SmartSim”, is a new feature that heightens emotions for the Sims. During gameplay, the Sims’ emotions are impacted in different ways, for example, hobbies, relationships, food, etc. Combined with new digital animation techniques and A.I. technology, the “Smart Sim” is a completely new breed of Sim.

In the past Sims never interacted with the gamer. However, by adding emotion, and a new soundtrack, the Sim can now react with the gamer through music. Soundtrack composer Ilan Eshkeri had to create scores that could take advantage of the SmartSim’s emotional capabilities and also hark back to earlier stages in the game.

“If something emotional happens… I’d try to relate all of those to a few notes or a riff or a chord sequence that appeared in one of the longer pieces of background music. For example, if character is doing something in the house or if something breaks in the house, I’d try to relate that to the music you heard when you were building the house,” Eshkeri said.

According to executive producer Rachel Franklin, the flow of the game comes together with the marriage of sound design and digital animation technology. “Ilan is known for these theatrical sweeping, wonderful compositions,” Franklin said. “It’s a way for the Sim to respond back to the player… You can really feel that in the audio. Combining that with animation technology and facial emotional overlays… things work together in a really cool way to make you feel more related to your Sim. Because ultimately you’re caring for them…the music brings your relationship really to a height.”

Cogswell College offers programs in Digital Art and Animation, Digital Audio Technology, and Game Design.  Titles like The Sims 4 wouldn’t be possible without the technological advancement of these disciplines.  – Learn more about the opportunities these programs can provide TODAY!

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/may/07/sims-4-composer-ilan-eshkeri

Low-Budget Projects Offer Promising ROI Thanks to Digital Technology Advances and Creative Marketing Strategy

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Low budget film and animation productions utilize every means possible to get the job done, all the while watching every penny.  Filmmakers often tell stories of their earlier work, from casting parents and friends, to shooting in their neighbor’s backyard.

However, within the last ten years we’ve seen a jump in the quality of low budget projects as well as higher profits. The 2009 box office hit Paranormal Activity was filmed on a budget of only $450K and brought in over $89 million in profits. That’s a 19,849% return on investment!  This is all thanks in part to smart viral marketing campaigns, as well as creative editing via digital technology.

Independent filmmakers and animators are able to create projects more cost effectively compared to the big name studios. Since their projects are low budget, an independent project can afford to fail, compared to a major motion picture company flop that could cost millions.

In the case of Paranormal Activity, we saw a highly creative viral marketing campaign based on sounds and reactions that fed off human curiosity. Online trailers showed clips of the audience’s reactions of sheer terror, paired with strategic sound design. Digital Audio was key in adding to the fear factor to the preview. This drove traffic into the theaters and proved to be another contributing factor to the project’s success.

Cogswell College offers programs in Digital Art and Animation designed to prepare students for careers throughout the entertainment industries. Cogswell also offers programs in Digital Audio Technology, which provides project-based instruction for a wide range of professional audio fields by developing skills in sound design for film and other areas. Both areas are key for independent low-budget projects to become box office hits.

What Can You Do with a Degree in Digital Art and Animation?

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Without a doubt, California is the hotbed for digital art and animation degree programs. The state is home to many companies in the industry, including movie studios, CGI companies, and software & game developers. Cogswell College, located in Silicon Valley, CA, offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Digital Art and Animation (DAA). This program is designed with the goal to ensure that students leave Cogswell with the creative and technical skills required for multiple opportunities within the areas of the entertainment industry.

Many schools across the country offer degrees in fine arts or graphic design, and many of those graduates find themselves looking for a job in interactive; but they are sometimes behind the curve when they enter the job market. Although these are important aspects for multimedia design education, degrees specific to animation are preferred by most companies in the industry.

With a wide variety of jobs available in this growing industry, a career in digital animation can not only be appealing to creative individuals, but lucrative and highly competitive as well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for digital animators is more than $58,000. This job segment is expected to grow at 8% in the U.S. over the next decade.

Job positions in game development, television and movies are the most highly sought after career paths for people with a degree in digital arts. While this area has the largest number of jobs available for people with a DAA degree, the competition for positions in these areas are extremely high. However, other job possibilities exist on the cusp of the entertainment industry.

Working for an Advertising Agency:

Advertising agencies have an ongoing need for multimedia designers and the industry provides a steady and stable work environment for employees with experience. They work across a variety of areas, including commercials, websites, social media and video production. With companies large and small turning to the Internet to advertise their products and services, this area can potentially outgrow other positions which have traditionally been more sought after.

Many companies are using video channels (think YouTube and Vimeo) to advertise to their potential and existing customers. They are also using the video medium to provide product information and demonstrations. With this available to advertisers, it is important that there are multimedia designers available to generate the ideas, who have the technical expertise to make it happen.

The career path for a digital animator working in advertising is somewhat varied. While an employee may begin as a storyboard artist, they find themselves advancing through the agency quickly. Becoming a creative director is not uncommon; as the medium grows and rises in prominence it will happen with greater frequency, especially as employees with digital animation experience learn and become integral parts of other business areas.

Working for Bigger Companies:

Many companies, especially larger ones, choose not to employ advertising agencies and have been bringing their marketing in-house. This trend means that there will be a growing number of opportunities available in companies that many may not consider. Working for a large corporate entity has its advantages. The work is steady and the traditional benefits associated with them (insurance, retirement, etc.) may not be available when working for a small production company. Education, software and manufacturing are all areas with potential to see increased growth.

For more information about Cogswell’s Digital Art & Animation Bachelor Degree program, visit http://www.cogswell.edu/programs/digital-art-and-animation.php

Digital Art is Real Art – Really!

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

There’s an old adage that most people can’t define art, but they know it when they see it. The definition of art was debated long before the digital age. From Greek philosophers to the United States Supreme Court, wise people have tried to define what art is, the process by which it is created, and its meaning to society.

Defined in simple terms by Merriam-Webster, art is “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.”

As the process of creating digital art evolves and becomes more commonplace, we see debates in internet forums and hear conversations in museums and coffee shops about whether art created digitally can really be considered art.

Open for interpretation

Many would argue that art cannot be defined. In fact, the legal system has declined to “define” art and has instead left it open to interpretation. It allows for societal norms and does not put limitations on the evolving process by which it is created.

For the most part, fine art has been defined as something created primarily for beauty rather than utility and placed into categories such as painting, sculpture, poetry and music.

What is digital art?

Digital art is any form that utilizes digital technology during production. Fairly broad in definition, we know, but there are as many forms of digital art as traditional art. For the most part, though, a digital artist sits in front of a computer monitor to create, rather than a blank canvas or hunk of unformed clay.

Sometimes the image created is done from scratch; other times the artist is manipulating an existing image into something different and unique. Like other forms, digital art can take on many forms, from illustration to multimedia to interactive.

Commonalities exist between digital and traditional art. As in traditional art, there are very few successful, self-taught artists. The best digital artists study traditional techniques in order to become better artists. There is skill involved. Like a painter, a digital artist has tools available to help him create. But those tools do not create; the artist does! And like a painter, the digital artist must be well-versed in light, color, texture, saturation, and depth. Perhaps most importantly, each artist has to possess a desire to create and express through the medium.

Does digital art meet the definition of art?

Of course it does. At its base, art is merely a form of communication. The artist, through creativity, is attempting to express an idea or evoke an emotion. The same is most certainly true for a digital artist.

Like any other form of art, digital is merely the newest evolution of art. The potential of digital will grow as technology progresses and will be limited only by the artist’s imagination.

Cogswell College’s Bachelor Degree in Digital Art & Animation is designed to prepare students for exciting careers throughout the entertainment, media and art industries. Through extensive coursework, students gain hands-on experience using the latest tools and applications for 3D graphics and animation.

Psychology and Video Games, part deux

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Hey everyone, time to get back to our talk about psychology in video games.

Let’s dive right back into our previous discussion about conditioned and unconditioned responses. Just a quick reminder so we don’t need to back track: conditioned responses are like tutorials, reoccurring quick time events, things you find out on your own through trial and error, etc. Now we get to delve into unconditioned responses, which deal with a players natural response to stimuli… and hopefully we can get to fight or flight before the third part of this incredibly long blog post!

Unconditioned responses: not touching a hot stove after having found out that hot=pain, knowing that a headache is not good, being parched after a good workout. We train ourselves unknowingly to follow these responses day in and day out to make our lives easier and safer. Games use this natural human trait and expand on it within their world by giving you experiences that you the player may like or dislike but give you one crucial fact to these experiences: they won’t let you progress. Well, that’s not entirely true since secret bosses can be ignored throughout a whole game. Okay, let’s just say that games use unconditioned responses as a tool to make a game more vast and explorative in more than just ways that hinder ones progress… but for now we will stick to progress hindering. To present the way it works, take an imaginary game where you are the main character and you have to save the world from bad guys. These bad guys have attacks that will hurt you and you can attack them back. As an added bonus, the game gives you areas that you can hide while they attack, so you can wait for the perfect time to strike. At this point you have a few choices but two main choices. Do you charge in, guns a blazing? Or do you take the safe route and wait patiently for your time to strike?  Both can get you further in the game, but what if one of those choices almost always ended you up in failure? Say the charging tactic would get you killed instantly because your enemies can kill you the closer you are to them. You’d try and try to kill these enemies over and over and always come up short. Sure, you might get lucky sometime but that’s probably not going to happen with how this area is designed. Frustrated, you stop and think about what you can do to avoid failing over and over again. You remember that there were areas where the enemies couldn’t attack you and take advantage of them next time. Suddenly, the enemies forget you are there and nod off for a bit which gives you the opportunity to attack them for a short time and finally win, leaving you happy and satisfied. The game developers gave you two ways to handle a task where both could get the job done, but one made it easier than the other. One way made you furious, and the other made you happy.  Although my reasoning is a bit broad here, the unconditioned response was your feelings towards each different style of playing. When you got killed doing something one way, you got furious which is how any human reacts when they can’t progress, but when you did progress, you were satisfied and glad. It is the natural way we would react to something when stimuli is presented to us such as being hungry when we smell food, or being thirsty when it’s too hot. I’m really banking on the universal thought that people like to progress in life and only touching on the mechanic of progression inside video games today so don’t think that this is the only way that game developers use unconditioned responses in video games today. Anyways I think I’ve given a good idea on both conditioned and unconditioned responses. Time to move onto the fight or flight reflex in gaming!

Let’s keep this part short and sweet. Fight or flight is the reaction that we get when presented with a situation that requires an almost immediate response. You can’t have some in-between answer for this problem; it can be only one or the other and has to be made right then and there. Early video games really banked on fight or flight since it always kept the player engaged and gave opportunity for replay value. A perfect example of this reflex in the past is the game Rally X where you are in control of a car that is speeding within a confined space with three or more racers trying to crash into your car. Your goal is to capture flags so you can advance to the next level while avoiding the enemy cars with a burnout mechanic equipped on the car that can disable any car caught in it’s smokescreen. That burnout mechanic is what really made that games fight or flight input shine since the paths you could take were designed to have the enemy cars corner you and destroy your car, but was expansive enough so you could use that burnout or your own skill to get yourself out of sticky situations. The real defining factor that made it fight or flight was the games ability to give you choices that ended you up in either one place or another: I’m running into a tight space…do I avoid them using my own skill/the burnout button, or do I just accept my fate and try again? The choice in which one is better is irrelevant, because at this point you have two choices: die or survive. Many old school games use these choices to make a much more exciting experience and let the player progress the way they would like.  These days fight or flight is used, but sometimes in more confined experiences. Quick time events are perfect examples of this since some are optional, and some are required in order for you to progress. Not to say that mandatory fight or flight choices are bad, but a little variety never hurt anyone, right?

I’m really glad I got through all that in under 1,000 words… oh darn I’m already over. Well, at least this touched on one complete topic. All we have got left is subliminal messaging and relatable video games. Check you guys next time!

-Davain