Thursday, 19 October 2017

October 11 Second Club

Why not polish your character animation skills by entering The 11 Second Clubthe monthly character animation competition in which aspiring animators compete to win prizes and get their work noticed.

Animators from all over the world participate, animating a character speaking a line of dialogue, which is provided on the first day of every month by the club.

What is the 11 Second Club?
It's a monthly free animation competition. Participating animators can share their progress with one another and critique each other's work - just like in a real animation studio.

At the end of the month, all the participants vote for the submission that they consider the best for that month.  The idea of the 11 Second Club is "to give animators a chance to practice their skills in a fun, challenging environment".

What is the dialogue for this month?
This month's competition is an eleven second piece of dialogue, but it mainly consists of one word "Jesus", which comes at the end of the line. Until that point, there is a series of weird noises, suggesting that something nasty is happening.

Watch the clip above and you'll find it just over a minute in. It's from the comedy horror movie "Housebound".

How should an animator approach a shot like this?  
A good animator tries to imagine the scene in their head before starting out. What is the scene about? What is happening?  Try to think of interesting take on the line - and see it play as a movie in your imagination.

Getting started
Since there isn't a lot of dialogue to work with, you should start by doing some rough thumbnail sketches of what the shot might be about, and work these up into storyboards.  Something weird is going on in this shot, and you need to figure out visually what it's going to be.

Import the audio file
Download the line of dialogue from the 11 Second Club homepage and drag it into your Maya scene file. Now you can see roughly the timing of your shot, and you can start to match up your storyboard panels with the precise timing of the audio.

Your Maya timeline will show you where the big changes are in the waveform - these are your big accents, roughly where your key poses will go.

waveform in Maya.

Act it out
Act the scene out yourself and film yourself doing it on your phone - or get someone else to film you. Don't worry about not being the greatest actor ever. You just want to get some ideas for the key poses in your shot.

Thumbnail sketches
Once you have some ideas, and you have shot some footage, do thumbnail sketches, based on the key poses in your performance. If you're feeling stuck, you can import the footage into your shot and use an image plane to help create your key poses. Watch the video above for some tips on thumb nailing by master animator Glen Keane.

Key poses in Maya on stepped curves
Once you have done your preparation, and you know exactly what you plan to do, execute the plan. Create character poses in Maya on stepped curves, and get the blocking of the shot right. Don't deviate from your plan - stick to the thumbnails. You can change it later if it doesn't work.

Once you have a pose test in stepped curves, get feedback from animators whose opinion you respect, tweak it, and, once you are happy, use the TweenMachine free Maya tool to help break down your poses.

Spline and refine
Finally, when everything is working, spline your curves and refine the final result. Remember to leave the lipsync to the end - this is the least important part of a good acting shot.

To see more about how the Eleven Second Club works, read this blog post. And to see more about how to use thumbnail sketches to create great animation, watch this short video.

And good luck! Entering competitions is a great way to raise your game as an animator. To find out more about this month's competition, follow this link.

Below is a good example of the high quality of work exhibited at the Competition - the winner in February 2015. It's well animated - and also stylish and inventive.

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