Sunday, September 24, 2017

Another Watchcat Weekend!

This week, we got some great news! 

An animation student of mine and a Woodbury University alumni, Tyler Rogers 2017 senior film, Gator’s Aid will be screened at the Sony Pictures Animation event, World Animation Celebration International Short Film Festival.  Tyler directed, designed and animated a 2d short about a comic encounter by a hapless bird and a mother alligator. Tyler graduated this past May, with his B.F.A. in Animation. Congrats Tyler!

And Congrats to Watchcat Episode 2 which will also be screened at...  

International Short Film Animation Festival
 Held at... 
 9050 Washington Blvd. Culver City, California 
Saturday, Sept 30th & Sunday, Oct 1st

But you can see our film it below...

During this weekend's festival, I will be in Dallas for a Portfolio Review Day, while Greg will be working the crowd at the above event. Look for the guy in the Watchcat T-shirt...
(Kevin Conroy might even be there too.)

And if you mention Watchcat, you'll get a free Watchcat postcard! Greg will also have a few XL Watchcat logo T-shirts and some collector WC pins for sale. Become a subscriber to our Watchcat Films channel on Youtube at the event and you'll get a free pin!
We will post if we win anything, but right now just getting in the festival is a great reward! If anyone visited the festival, please let us know what you thought of it in the comments below.

And if you enjoyed this blog, please let us know...

24 Hours Animation Contest begins Oct 7th!

The 24 HOURS Animation Contest for Students is back and will take place on Friday October 6th at 3pm PST to Saturday October 7th at 4pm.

For those that do not know, I have been running this international event for the past 15 years in which students around the world compete in teams of 5 to complete a 30 second animated film in just 24 Hours based on a given theme (by me). Believe it or not, with these tight constraints - many teams actually complete their films…in color!!!

Working from their home school all teams will start at the exact same time and submit a Youtube link to their films to before the deadline Saturday October 7th at 4pm PSTLate submissions will NOT be accepted so teams will need to plan ahead and trouble shoot any issues INCLUDING UNSENT EMAILS AND YOUTUBE LINKS THAT DO NOT WORK!!!. Teams will need at least one faculty advisor (one from each school is fine) that will make sure the students have necessary equipment and space to do their work. 

Each team must choose a TEAM CAPTAIN and choose a team name. Be sure the name is not offensive to others and is not similar to a registered team name (lists will be posted every few days on the 24 HOURS Facebook page):

TEAM CAPTAINS must register their 5-person team before Oct 3 2017 at the following link:
Finished films will be judged by a panel of industry experts and prizes awarded to the top 5 teams. In past years we have had excellent prizes from our industry sponsors, which have included: CSU Summer Arts, ToonBoom, DigiCel, Focal Press, CTNX, Wacom, Animation Magazine, ASIFA-Hollywood, Stuart NG Books, Disney, DreamWorks, Blue Sky, Laika, Film Roman and more!.

This contest will teach our students much about working together, meeting deadlines and making creative decisions under pressure AND they all have a lot of fun and return for more each year – so it’s a proven model they really enjoy. This has been such a successful event and has grown every year. In 2016, with 140 teams (700 students) from 26 schools (USA, Canada, Australia and Mexico) participating it was the largest one yet!  I plan to continue this every year and I hope you can join us.
If interested, please send attached RULES cheat sheet to your student/clubs and please let me know if we can expect participation from your school and I will add your schools name to our list and email group. It is completely free to participate.
Questions? Just ask! 

FYI: Here is a list of schools that participated in 24 HOURS 2016:
• Academy of Art University, San Francisco
• Cal State University San Francisco
• Columbus College of Art and Design 
• Drexel University 
• Ferris State University 
• Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne 
• ITESM Campus QuerĂ©taro, Mexico 
• Kansas City Art Institute 
• Kendall College of Art and Design 
• Middle Tennessee State University 
• Nevada State College 
• Ringing College of Art and Design
• Sam Houston State University 
• San Jose State University 
• School of Visual Arts 
• Seneca College, Canada 
• Sheridan College, Canada 
• South Dakota State University 
• ULAVAL, Quebec, Canada 
• University of California Berkeley 
• University of Melbourne/Victorian College of the Arts. Australia 
• University of Southern California 
• Woodbury University 
• Franklin HIGH SCHOOL 
School not on the list? No problem! Just send me an email and I will add it to our drop down menu so that your students see it there when they register. 
Happy teaching and “see” you at 24 HOURS!!!, 
Aubry Mintz, Professor/CSULB and 24 HOURS contest organizer 949-547-2370

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Organizing your Animation work: Part 3

Exposure Sheets

When working in traditional animation, Animators needed to use an exposure sheet to
figure out the timing of the scene, dialogue information, the camera's field of view and camera movement such as a pan or zoom. They can also indicate scene transitions like Fades or Dissolves.

Why are Exposure or X sheets so important? These are the sheets where you figure out the best timing for your animation. You will be generating a lot of drawings and need to label them so if they dropped all over the floor, you how to put them back in the correct order before you had to shoot or scan them.

The exposure sheets were also filled out so the cameraman knew which drawings were needed for each individual frame. This sheet was filled out so accurately that it soon became known as a "Dope sheet" in that any idiot could understand how to shoot the animation by looking at the instructions on the sheet. Today, you can still find an updated version of the "Dope sheet" in Maya software.

These are the tools the audience will never know about, but will see the result of.

How to read and write Exposure Sheets

Think of the exposure sheet as a Table of Animation Contents which shows how everything fits together to make up an animated scene. Here is an exposure sheet with dialogue notes on the side, each column is a different layer or level of animation, which all fits together to make one final image.

No, your eyes aren't going bad, I will replace the below image with a better one soon.

Parts of an Exposure Sheet

Each line represents a single frame.

ACTION: might be blank is the area on the sheet where you label what is going on in the scene. Example: Frame 30: Guy walks  in from Stage Left. Frame 60: Guy stops to look at Hole on floor... Hold pose for 10 frames. Frame 70: Anticipates Jump Frame 75: Leaps over hole. Frame 83: Lands, Frame 89; Into standing pose, etc.

CAMERA: This is the Camera info, if the camera is stationary, you will mark down what field of view or FIELD (Fld) the camera is at. 12 to 9 Fld could be a wide or Establishing shot, where smaller Fields are for Medium and Close Up shots.

DIAL or SOUND: This is where the dialogue is broken down into frames or if its Narration, the first frame of each word is labelled. You need to know if your sound was recorded at 24 or 30 fps and then keep everything at the same frame rate.

Columns 1 thru 5: These are the different layers or levels you can use to make up a complete image. 1 is the first layer above the Background layer.

BG: is the Background Layer

EX: is an extra layer if needed.


When you begin the animation process, you need to know if you will be animating at 24 fps or 30 fps. Whichever frame rate you start with, you need to keep it throughout the entire project.

When you begin animating on paper, you need to put the information onto your exposure sheet using a PENCIL. Never use a pen, because any changes would mean rewriting all the information onto new exposure sheets. Its very easy to label your frames twice or miss a number altogether.

Label your Exposure sheet based on your timing. You don't have to label each line or frame. If there are numbers on the sheets, only label every 10th line. If you have an action that needs to start or end of a certain frame, circle that frame to make it special.

Some sheets look like this...       Just add the tenth frame as so....

1                                                          1
2                                                          2
3                                                          3
4                                                          4
5                                                          5
6                                                          6
7                                                          7
8                                                          8
9                                                          9
0                                                        10
1                                                          1
2                                                          2
3                                                          3
4                                                          4
5                                                          5
6                                                          6
7                                                          7
8                                                          8
9                                                          9
0                                                        20

And so on...

If you are animating to a sound file either for Narration or Lip Sync. You should fill out the X sheets first and then use it as you draw your animation drawings. Each word in 
can be written out to show at what frame the word begins on. 

With Lip Sync sound, you will have to breakdown each word into frames which will require you to "Scrub" your sound track. This process is called "Reading a Soundtrack"

The word "I" can be broken down into two sounds depending how the word was said on the track. "I" could be noted as "Ah" and then "Yee".


Begin by filling out your KEY POSE drawings first and Circle the Key drawings and do not circle your inbetweens. KEYS are circled so you know they are Key poses. Some people will circle all the drawings, but this doesn't help your inbetweener to find the Key Poses.

More to come soon.

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

An Adventure in Advertising!

I thought I would walk you through the production process of a McDonald's commercial that I worked on at Leo Burnett USA, after graduating from Columbia College in Chicago.

Here's a copy of the finished Halloween Pails :15 spot I worked on.

I remember knowing about the McDonald's Halloween Happy Meal pails back when I was in High School and later in life, my first commercial assignment was to come up with a :15 spot to sell them to the public in a clever way. In this spot, we also had to stress the "Glow in the Dark" ghost happy meal pail as well as other things in the :15 second spot.

Here's the brief for the spot...

In 1989, a :15 closing spot featured a cute Bat puppet who flies through the scene and tells you about the products was made. Here is the photo storyboard of the finished spot and the only thing I could find that exists that shows how the finished spot turned out.
I first got the assignment back early June in 1990, where my Creative Director, Joe DeVivo introduced me to the assignment and paired me up with a young copywriter named John Wilson. Our task was to come up with several ideas for the :15 spot and then pitch them to Joe in a week or two. I forgot what other ideas we had came up with, maybe another one using the same Bat puppet.

After the pitch, it was determined that the Happy Meal characters scaring each other would be the best idea to board up officially. Now again, this was a while ago, so there might have been a few other ideas that we pitched to our group for feedback and revisions. And to save you all the back and forth time revising the boards, I will skip to the point where we pitched the final board in the agency and got a green light. 

The Agency reviews all their work internally before pitching the ideas to McDonald's. There were several other boards taken out to the client and the ones that were sold were given the green light to produce them into final TV spots. 

Here was the production timetable.

Review 1 : 7/6
Review 2 Storyboards 7/13
Review 2 Storyboards 7/20
Bid:    7/23
Pre-Pro  9/13
Shoot     9/18 - 19
Edit        9/21 & 9/24
Ship: "Boo" 9/28

Here are the final boards that were pitched and sold. The Happy Meal characters are in Halloween costumes and are jumping out of different pails. In the end, the all pop out of the middle pail and the Happy Meal logo, also known as a bug, animates and scares the characters back into the pail.

When the boards were sold and producer was brought on to go over all the details that we had to shoot. As this process went forward, I discovered a whole new world called "Legal" which I never knew existed. This is were all the legal issues pop up and must be addressed or else the commercial you are shooting might not be allowed on the TV networks.
I also had to come up with the exact costumes the characters would wear and only had the McDonald's brand and then all the details to help someone create the costumes...
While I was doing the art direction for the spot, John was timing out his dialogue, finalizing the script and production notes. During this process, we discovered that we had to have less then 8 seconds of the puppets on the screen. Legal determined that viewers would assume that the puppets would come with the pails since they are on the screen at the same time. 
Also the "Glow in the Dark" had to glow in the dark on the film. Back then, all commercials were shot on film and transferred and edited onto videotape. No cameras at that time could shoot the "Glowing" pail without UV lighting. Legal demanded to see the "glow in the dark" shot and then would approved the glowing enhancement later on.
The production notes were given to the network lawyers to review and then they gave us notes if something wasn't allowed or was missing.

This was sent out with the storyboards to studios for the bidding process.

Other legal issues popped up! There might be a problem with the McDonald's Happy Meal bug animating to react with puppet characters on set. Legal then said, Animation characters pitching products is not allowed. What?! The Leo Burnett lawyers sent dozens of animated spots featuring animated characters pitching products. What is animation? Are the puppets considered animation? The bug would be an animation character. 

BTW, the Happy Meal box logo was never animated before, here's one from 1996, after my spot.

I also pushed a local animation company called "Calabash Animation" to be considered for bidding on the McD bug logo. The Producer, who had years more experience than me, wanted to give the job their usual LA studios and didn't want me to give Calabash the job. Calabash was just starting out, but could easily handle the animation of the logo since I had worked with them in the past. The Producer finally gave them the job, but told me if anything screwed up, it was on my head. So much for helping out local studios.
I got to fly with a group of Burnett pros to LA for the 2 day shoot. They shot the "Glow in the Dark" in natural lighting for legal and we even had the spooky fog on the set. There was a lot of popping out the puppets and popping them back into the pail as fast as possible. It was a long day of shooting but everything worked.

Calabash did several pencil tests and the animation was approved. The logo was cel painted and the final version was added to the edit of the spot. The editor was able to remove frames to speed up the cut and keep everything under the time limit.

Finally when it was all done and the final spot was sent to Legal and the networks for final approval. To our surprise, one ABC executive came back from a bad lunch experience and would not approve the spot. The brief mentioned "spooky fog" and he thought it was more "mystical fog" than spooky. The legal team of Leo Burnett were once again on the phone and finally the executive agreed and gave his final approval.

So there you have it. I've had this items in a box for years waiting for a way to tell the tale of my first adventure in advertising. I hope you learned something from this and as always would appreciate any comments or feedback. Unless you're that same ABC executive.


Friday, July 28, 2017

Future Cinematography

Virtual Reality is here and the new 360 video format is being used more and more. And with this new format, new ways to shoot and edit shots together are being discovered. Here's a good example, with both live action and animated scenes to tell a story using this format. Use your mouse to click and move around the screen to see other parts of the view.

Bashir's Dream from RYOT on Vimeo.

It seems like this format will allow opportunities where you could focus not just on one story line, but also create several others for the other areas of the screen.

Have you had any experience shoot in this new 360 format? Please comment below.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Animation Post Production

Post Production for Animation

Animatic Workflow, Visual Development and Production Schedule

An Animatic is a rough animated blueprint of your final film and is created from your final storyboard. This Animatic can have temp or final dialogue and music. Sound effect elements can be added later.

Animatic Workflow and Visual Development

These two elements of production should be happening at the same time, one is creating the story and the other shows how key scenes will look in the final film before the animation process takes place.

Animatic Workflow:
1) Lock Picture: Once you have a "locked" Animatic, this is the point beyond which the edit cannot change. It’s necessary to lock picture so while you are replacing rough animation with final scenes, a sound designer and composer can score directly to the picture at the same time. If you change the timing too much or add extra scenes later, you must notify your sound designer or composer of these changes right away before they do too much sound work.

2) Scene Breakdown Chart: You need to go through your final Animatic, count all the scenes and make a Scene Breakdown chart. This should be a sheet or two with a column of Scene #s on the left hand size and a row showing each week at the top. You can come up with a color code to show the different phases of production on each scene. This will make it easier to keep track of where you are in the production.

3) File Naming Conventions: If you are using a program like Maya or Harmony, you need to name your files to keep them easy to organize in the computer. You must do this with Maya, since it sometimes can get confused if the files are labelled incorrectly.

Take the first 2 or 3 letters of your project's title followed by an Underscore.
Example: If your project is called " An Epic Film", then your 
Production code would be AEF_
And Scene 01 would look like this:  AEF_SC01_001, the last 3 digits would be your version number. So you would be able to make 999 different versions of Scene 01 if you had to, but hopefully not.
4) Scene Breakdown:
If you plan to use Toon Boom Harmony to complete your project, you will need to convert each scene from your animatic into a separate Quicktime file. These Quicktime Animatic Scenes should all be on one folder called Animatics_Scenes. 

5) Importing Quicktime files into Harmony:
You can importing these scenes into either Harmony, After Effects or Premiere. With Harmony, you can import an Animatic Scene as a movie into the timeline. Harmony will import the visual frames and sound file onto different layers, which can be moved on the timeline. 

Before importing an Animatic Scene, you need to move the red line on the timeline on frame 60, the default setting. The red line can move back and forth on the timeline, moving it to the right allows you to add more frames to your timeline. If you don't do this first, you incoming sound file will be cut off at frame 60.

After importing sound and animatic frames, you can pull the red line back to determine the end of the scene. You can add another drawing layer to make your clean up drawings from the animatic frames. Save the new Harmony Scene file as AEF_SC01_001 in a folder where you will keep all of your Harmony scenes.

Each Scene = a separate Harmony file

Once you have all your Harmony Scene files labelled and a Scene breakdown sheet filled out, you may now begin animating each scene. When scenes are completed, you can import them as quicktimes or as a TGA sequence into other programs like After Effects or Premiere.

Since writing this, I recently worked at a studio where they imported their Storyboard Pro timeline as one long scene into a single Harmony file. This was an imported animatic where they add their puppet rigs onto each scene.

This is a risky way to work since if anything happens to this file, all the animation will be lost. At least with the scene by scene method, there are more scene files to keep track of, but less risk of losing the work.

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