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Friday, 3 November 2017

Article and Archaeopteryx Exhibit

For the last 8 month or so I'be been creating a museum exhibit featuring the bird-like dinosaur archaeopteryx as part of my current research, here's an article on the ideas and processes behind it.

And here are some pictures of the exhibit itself

The bones assembling into the animal



Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Walk Cycle Creation Time-lapse

This is a recording of my process for animating a walk cycle in Autodesk Maya. I created the video as a tutorial for the animation students of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee. At this point in the course the students have already created a walk cycle using 2D, drawn animation so I aim to show a process that follows on from their traditional training. However, I hope this video will also be helpful to other animation students or anyone that is interested in learning more about the computer animation process.

There are quite a lot of pauses, extra camera rotations and general mouse waving as I was talking as I was animating. 

Thursday, 22 December 2016

XROMM and Biomechanics Studies Benefit Animators

Some of the latest research occurring in biomechanics could be of great benefit to animation - especially VFX where recreations of creatures is often focused around being as realistic as possible.

I had the great honour of visiting the Royal Veterinary College last week and a piece of imaging technology that caught my eye was the XXROMM machine - a camera that films x-ray images. It has some limitations, only shooting a confined area means it's only able to capture small animals in full. However the images of these animals are very illuminating.

Here is a partridge scrambling up an incline under X-ray (XROMM)

As I've mentioned before, birds' wing bones are often hard to locate (due to the feathers) so to get a clear look at them is very insightful. It's also interesting to see and try to understand how their legs work too - the first joint (femur) is often hidden and, although the overall leg construction is similar to mammal quadruped hind limbs, it does not adhere to the same constrained linkage - which often keeps the femur and foot more or less parallel to each other.

I hope to write more about how bird legs work as well as how and why they evolved soon. But I digress. I was particularly intrigued by the implication of the advanced use of these machines -  by using twos XROMMs at different vantage points it is possible to 3D track animal bones as they move.

The study mentioned in the video above looked into the mobility of two different suborders of turtles  - those with their hips fused to their shells (Pleurodira) and turtles' who's hips are free to move (Cryptodira).


As you can see, the study quite conclusively shows that the turtles who's hips are free to move, use this ability to increase the range of movement from their hind limbs and therefore have a much better walking performance. Which is interesting in itself, but for me, the ability to watch how bones work in an animal while they move is truly fascinating. The article can be found here.

As 3D animators working with an animation rig we are generally trying to animate from the bones outward - the muscles, skin and fur usually being added by other departments. So the idea that we may be able to finally see what these bones are up to in real creatures under all that soft tissue could mean a much greater understanding of animal locomotion and an advancement in terms of realism in their movements.

A library of XXROMM movies can be found here.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Flight Page Update

I've just completed a quick update on my bird flight page - now the videos should play in all browsers. I received a few emails saying they were broken, technically there was nothing wrong with the movie files but unfortunately that type of embedded quicktime has fallen out of favour with most browsers. I could still get them to work on safari and internet explorer but on chrome and firefox they were bust. So now they're embedded from vimeo. However, if you want the movie files to study and step through, as animators are want to do, you can download the quicktimes from the vimeo page.

Just in case you don't know where the download button is on vimeo

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Cloudy 2 and Mune Showreel

I thought it might be nice to put some of the work from the two animated features I did back in 2013 and 14 into a mini reel. The first film, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 was a real challenge for me, I had done a lot of VFX creature work coming into it and adjusting to the style of animation took some time. As the project developed I gradually became accustomed to it and started to think more in the style, pushing poses more and able ignore my instincts toward realism. I feel the animation leads and supervisors felt this too and I was gradually trusted with bigger, more interesting shots. I think the highlight for me, is the Chester shot where he is presenting in the arena, I really tried to push the poses, gestures and arcs is this shot. It's a level of stylisation that I would never never have tried prior to this project.

The film project I joined after Cloudy 2 was Mune: Guardian of the Moon, unfortunately this film doesn't seem to have come to much, which is a great shame because the design and colour work are really stunning. I really like the film and feel very privileged to have worked on this small, artist driven project. Animation-wise, I feel that this film was really good for me as it cemented some of the things I had learned on Cloudy 2. As one of the more senior animators I was given some really interesting shots to animate and, as the animation wasn't as stylised, I felt I could combine my knowledge of creatures, weight and anatomy from VFX with the zip of the Cloudy style. I think I grew a lot through these two projects, learning a huge amount and becoming a more confident and competent character animator.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Brian Cox at djcad

The Dundee University, to which djcad is attached, is very fortunate to have the esteemed actor Brian Cox as its Rector. He was kind enough to come to the college to talk to the animation students about film-making and acting. Here is a snippet from his lecture in which he talks about his acting process and the importance of motivation within a character.

The talk was full of great information as you'd expect from an actor who has worked with the likes of Wes Anderson, David Fincher, Woody Allen, Paul Greengrass and Spike Jonze. Many thanks to Brian and we hope to see him again soon.

Goodbye Animation Industry

Well, it's time for me to bow out of the animation industry for the foreseeable future. I have decided to change tack in my career and step into academia and teaching. I have had a great time in the world of animation, and been fortunate enough to have worked on some great projects and with some of the most awe-inspiringly talented people in the world. However, after many years of trying to navigate the increasingly uncertain waters of the animation industry I have decided to come ashore. The increased instability has coincided with a decreased in satisfaction with some aspects of the job.

Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee or, as all the cool kids are calling it, 'djcad'.

Over the years I have tried to maintain links with the art college where I studied (Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Scotland) and have always enjoyed researching animation techniques and writing up blog posts or giving lectures on these things. So when I saw a teaching post come up here, I decided it was time for a change. Hopefully, my departure from the animation industry will be good news for the followers of this blog. Now I am going to be devoted to the research and teaching of animation, I hope I will have much to share.