Dialogue Animation - Jack Nicholson from "As good as it gets"

Heya happy campers!

I got around to adding some finesse, lighting and basic set to this Animation Mentor Assignment I worked on earlier in the year. I used mental Ray's Final Gather for the lighting which gives a pretty good result considering there isn't any textures at all in this scene. I pushed the colours in After effects a little, along with adding a subtle bloom and some film grain, as well as the Depth of field behind him. This piece can be seen in a higher resolution on my updated showreel here.

Still open to crits if anyone has any thoughts!


Animation MEL scripts and tricks for fancypants workflow.

Heya hens and hatters!!

I thought I might just write up a post sharing all the extra tools I use regularly to help animate and speed up workflow in Maya. These are all either MEL scripts or custom keyboard short-cuts that I absolutely rely on every time I animate. If you'd like help on how to setup custom user shortcuts or use MEL scripts I'm sure it's easy enough to find in the help file or by seeking the prophet that is google :-P. For the custom user shortcuts, I've put the command line in "inverted commas". This post is a bit more techy than usual, so if it's all a bit dull for you, just scroll down the bottom for a cute little frog picture :-P.

I love animating just in the viewport and throwing keys all around the timeline. So here's a few shortcuts I use for animating without having to get into the graph editor or do any time-snatching right clicking:

Converting a selection of key types on the timeline:

Convert to Spline: alt + ctrl + z "timeSliderSetTangent spline;"
Convert to Linear: alt + ctrl + x "timeSliderSetTangent linear;"
Convert to Stepped: alt + ctrl + c "timeSliderSetTangent step;"
Convert to Flat: alt + ctrl + v "timeSliderSetTangent flat;"

So hitting any of these will convert all the keys in a timeline selection to that respective tangent type. I use these often when blocking and it's easy to double click on the timeline (selects all active range) and then hit one of these to convert your whole animation into any tangent type in a fraction of a second. I often convert all my stepped keys to linear when I'd like to add some breakdowns, then swap back to stepped again when I've created all the breakdowns I want. When I'm first converting to spline, it's handy to force extreme keys to flat to stop them overshooting in unpredictable ways so I can get around to fine tuning in the graph editor later on. There's no fancy tech here, just getting faster control for blocking without taking my eyes off the viewport ;-).

delete keys in selection on the timeline: d "timeSliderClearKey;"
Clears whatever keys are selected in the timeline. Faster than right clicking on timeline for it.

Add 1 frame: ctrl + + (plus key) "timeSliderEditKeys addInbetween;"
Remove 1 frame: ctirl + - (minus key) "timeSliderEditKeys removeInbetween;"
Simply pushes all the keys after the current frame forward or backward by one frame. I only ever use these when I'm blocking in a straight ahead type fashion. It's quite satisfying just bumping a hold up and down by a frame per click.

Smart key MEL script.

It was originally Mike Benson who introduced me to this script, he claimed "you won't know how you ever lived without it!". He be right. When enabled, it means whichever channel you select in the channel box, it will only display that channel's keys in the timeline and will automatically show only that channel's graph in the graph editor. It's great when concentrating on one axis at a time when polishing and adding minor offsets. I find it's best to turn it off when I'm not needing it, so I've given it a quick toggle shortcut key:

Smart key toggle: ctrl + shift + S "abxSmartKey;"

Another script I'm eternally grateful for that Mike introduced me to is this little one which enables you to toggle the NURBS curves display on and off via a short-cut key. This is obviously handy for animating when your rig's controllers are made of curves and you want to swap their visibility back and forth swiftly as you test how a pose looks.

pt_toggleNurbsCurvesDisplay.mel (not sure who wrote this, wasn't me but I thought I'd host it if anyone wanted it)
Toggle Nurbs curves display: ` (that's a tilda) "pt_toggleNurbsCurvesDisplay;"

For polishing, I'm dependent on another great little script which most animators probably already know, Auto Tangent. Find it here: http://www.comet-cartoons.com/melscript.php . I love it for selecting several keys at a time and just dialing in a softness value and it generally gives a pretty satisfying result at best guessing how you want your tangents plotted across your keys. I've got a custom short-cut key for this one too:

Auto tangent: Ctrl + alt + q "autoTangent;"

One last script I can't live without is Hamish Mckenzie's ZooSetmenu script (it's part of Hamish's ZooToolbox script which you can find here http://www.macaronikazoo.com/ ). Once you've created a "Quick Selection Set", this script allows you to select that group very quickly and easily. You just have to select any object that belongs to that set, and hit a defined key and it'll select all objects in that set. Very useful for instantly selecting every controller on a character, or all the fingers, or all the facial controls in one shortcut (as long as you've created the sets first). Make sure you have "select previous/current set" under default behavior after you've installed it (found by holding down the short cut key and left clicking, then select "control window" from the marking menu). There's also some nifty tools in the control window to help manage your sets.

Select all of quick selection set: y "zooSetMenu;"
also: y (release) "zooSetMenuKillUI;"

One last little trick I use is to source a fraction of a frame to create an in-between when you've got fast motion and a key on every frame. Sometimes I wish a pose on Frame 213 was just a tiny bit closer to the one of 214 for example. In the current frame value (just right of the timeline), you can enter partial frames like 213.3, and that'll draw the frame that is %30 between frame 213 and 214. You can now middle mouse click on frame 213 and set a key with the desired controllers selected and you now have that pose on 213.

Well that's all the tools I use regularly, if anyone has any questions about them feel free to ask and I'll do my best to confuse you less :-P. Also, if anyone would like to suggest some anim tools they use often, I'd love to be introduced!

Also, here's a little sketch I put together on a Sunday Arvo a while back:

Over and inside-out.


2010 Character Animation Showreel!

Woot! New stuff! Click here to download my showreel and check out some of the shots I did on "Legend of the guardians".

Also, any Australians out there looking for an opportunity to support our industry, click below (just a quick petition, takes 15 seconds to fill out!):


Jade and Violet in the strange climate.

Here's a painting I just finished based on a rejected video game concept I came up with a few years ago. I actually started this painting about 4 years ago, and I've just been coming back to it every few months and tweaking it. I've been making such a concerted effort to finish things that I begin so I'm glad I finally got it to a finished state!

The idea was pretty much a very Zelda-esque game about 2 Sibling turtles who travel upstream from the lake they live in, to discover the source of poisonous water that is polluting their home. They end up travelling to a great city where aquatic creatures have learnt to adapt above ground and are living a life of technological Luxury at the expense of all life in the water. Jade and Violet must solve puzzles to introduce environmentally friendly ways to replace all the technologies the strange city folk have become dependant on, despite their abnoxious ruler who tries to counter their actions at every turn. Jade, a master farmer, must use his knowledge of botany to cultivate various plants, trees and mosses as tools along the way. His sister, violet, uses her artistic ambiton to earn money along the journey: Busking for loose change and selling photographs of exotic wild fauna.

On the animation front, I've been beavering away at getting some animations finished as I should have a new showreel to share in a few weeks. It's exciting stuff as I'll be able to show some of the shots I did on "Legend of the Guardians"!

Stay tuned!


Still getting a bit of time to make an inappropriate picture.

I call this one "Hobos get all the chicks". It'll hang in the Tate one day.... Possibly.


BTW, anyone looking for some great animation tips should check out my Lead's very cool blog: Brendan Body's Blog


AM Class 4, Finito!

Well I handed in my assignment at the ungodly hour of 2am last night, so now I'll be enjoying a relaxing break, working my nails off to receive money instead of giving it away :-P. The assignment this week excludes all facial anim and lip sync, that is supposed to be done in the first few weeks of Class 5. Check it out:


And here's the trailer of the film I'm working on at Animal Logic(the trailer was made before I started, none of it is mine :-P):

Well that's it for now! I really want to fill my evenings with more study and drawing so I imagine the next few months will fill this Blog with more pictures/rambling and less animation :-).

Peace out and thanks for visiting!


Got your acting pants on?

Here's my blocking for my next AM assignment, a Solo Dialogue piece:

I love animating to Jack Nicholson, this line of dialogue is awesome :-D. It's great to be working on a piece that isn't swapping around with parent space/IK/Fk all over the place like all my previous assignments, polishing this baby should be much easier! (BTW - I don't condone polishing babies.).

Here's the vid ref I took, including the other takes/audio that I passed on:


In other news, I'm back to work for a few months :-(. I've just moved down to Sydney to work for Animal Logic on a short contract! :-D. Should be fun, I really look forward to learning more about doing photo-realistic animation and getting into some bird flight mechanics! Woot! *Runs around room flapping arms*. So if my blog suffers a lapse in posts, you'll know it's because I'm very happily being whipped by Pharaoh guards contributing a few small bricks to a giant Pyramid of a feature film.

And here's a life changing quote:
"If you have fat friends, there are no see saws.... Only catapults."
-Dimitri Martin.

Hugs to all! (and a kick in the balls).


There are ants in my underwear.

No, there aren't any ants in my lingerie, but I like the title ;-)

Well here's how that Pantomime assignment turned out:


I've played around with adding a little bit to the ending, it's in stepped just because it's still kind of an experiment at this stage. Hopefully I'll get time to go back and refine that bit down the track! Starting dialogue this week so really starting to enjoy the blissfully hypnotic action of listening to the same bit of audio over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over... and over.

Just a bunch o sketches from my sketchbook from the last few weeks.

And here's a very cool link one of my classmates sent me, it's an awesome Spanish short film "The lady and the Reaper":



Skull in hand?

Wahoo I says. Wahooooo! Acting! The animators dream! Woot! I feel like I've been getting back to basics and body mechanics for the last year and now I'm getting back to acting (which is what I was doing when I first started AM, but hopefully a better animator now!). Here's my progress on my first acting assignment, which is a silent piece where we need to simply show a character going from one emotional state to another.


I went for a really simple idea for this one as I wanted to focus more on getting a great performance instead of getting carried away with a grand story (as I always do :-/ ). Even still, I get impulsive urges to make this scenario more complicated but I have to repress it, Grrrrr. It's loads of fun animating my own character and it's something I haven't done in a loonngg time! I've fallen behind with the rigging though and I'm still rigging as I'm animating (see how the facial expressions are symmetrical? That's because I haven't split up the left and right blend targets yet :-P). Wouldn't have rigged it without the help of Advanced Skeleton and Zoo CST though! Wow, I can't believe I started modelling this character about 3.5 years ago, just had him on the backburner and pulled him out now and again to touch him up. Great to see him finally coming to life!

Here's my vid reference exploring a few ideas and some sketches exploring some poses!

And here's a Sea creature, wid ids wittle baby-waby! Oohhhh Cooooot! Last weeks AM sketchbook theme was "Baby sea creature".

In other news: a tree fell in the forest but nobody heard it.