Monday, December 8, 2014

Creating Stereoscopic 3D Images

Here are the three photos I took to make into 3-D. I used the red/cyan set up. Was an interesting experience trying to make the images in 3-D. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Special Effects in Animation and Live-Action

Frozen Winter Wonderlands Come to Life

Snow Special Effects seen in animated films.

It has come to that time of the year when the nights grow longer and the temperature drops lower. The sight of bobsleds and candy canes fill the scenery in addition to the first snowfall of the year. Snow seems to be an effect in animation that has always been interpreted in so many different ways and in various mediums within animation. From 3-D animation to stop motion, it seems that animating snow brings challenges to both mediums when it comes to believability. In this essay, we shall look at two animated films, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Disney’s Frozen, and analyze both film’s methods and judge their individual success to animating snow. 

A film that always seems to amaze me and catapulted stop motion animation into new heights is The Nightmare Before Christmas. It was a film that achieved technical heights never seen before in stop motion animation. Stop motion animation basically shares the same ideas and principles as hand drawn or computer animation except the medium of acting is different. Puppets with integrated metal armatures are created and used as the vehicle for animation. As you could probably tell, to achieve that sense of realism and believability, every single character is posed correctly for a frame and then shifted and posed for the next frame. A method of animation that requires the most tedious of planning and patience. As heard in “The Making of the Nightmare Before Christmas” it took a group of animators 3 long years to animate the film frame by frame. Although a whole department was dedicated to just animating the characters; another group was busy animating many of the effects seen in the film. One effect seen in the film is snow which is an element that always seems to always challenge animators. Because the film was shot frame by frame using elements that could resemble snow, the challenge seemed to be to keep the element looking like snow and not sand or cotton. In addition, allowing for the snow to not shift or alter without the control of the animators seemed to be another challenge. The films seemed to use a combination or snow, sand and cotton to achieve its Winterwonderland looking like a snow heaven. The more difficult shots requiring snow needed strategic planning considering that some characters were stepping in and out of snow with chucks not only sticking and coming off their feet as they moved but also stuck onto their bodies. I believe solid pieces of sand where suspended on parts of the characters to make it seem like snow was coming and rolling off their bodies. Not an easy feat considering that one mishap with a single frame would require the shot to be redone from the beginning. In addition, using a variation of sand and cotton allowed for the look of the snow to resemble both powdery and chunky snow. Aspects that are very important when it comes to snow attributes and making it look believable. 

Another film that tackles the theme of snow and tries to render its own version of snow effects is Disney’s film Frozen. Unlike The Nightmare Before Christmas, Frozen is animated using 3-D models. This allow for the use of various 3-D programs and software at the disposal of the artist to use to achieve their goal of animating realistic snow effects. Considering that snow is such an  important element in the film, the engineers at Disney where able to come up with an algorithm that allows for the closets rendition of realistic snow and its properties never before seen in an animated film. The algorithm allows for nParticles, which are virtual particles used in various 3-D programs that simulate various properties such as wind, gravity, water, cloth, hair, and snow, to react and update any deformations as realistically as possible. In addition, different properties of snow are also created using a variation of the algorithms. Having properties such as powdery snow, chunky snow or sticky snow are now possible thanks to the algorithm. This allows for a completely different approach when it comes to animating snow. Although, completely different to past methods, such a method allows for interesting results. 

Both films rely on different methods to create snow effects. One uses real life props such snow and sand to create the feeling of gentle powdery snow covering a festive Christmas town while the other uses intricate and complicated software to simulate various properties seen in snow. Although very different, both are successful considering their respected mediums. The snow effects seen in The Nightmare Before Christmas are successful because the film allows for the use of stylized snow due to the film being very stylized to begin with. On the other hand, animating in 3-D always allows for a more realistic approach to animation hence the use of complicated software to simulate realistic properties. Although, if I had to chose which films is more successful in representing snow; I would have to chose Frozen considering that the technological achievement produced in the film required various algorithms to achieve the realistic simulation of snow. 

Both films are different mediums in the realm of animation. One uses complicated algorithms and software to create snow while the other uses real life props to bring to life a winter wonderland. Both very successful when it comes to achieving a very difficult effect. In addition, each film’s effects not only add wonder and hope to both films but also a sense of realism. A realism that that we can believe in due to their successful interpretation of snow. So if you are in the mood for a snowy adventure traveling across winter wonderlands, look no further because both films will take you in adventures never seen before. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Stop-Motion Character Animation

After this character animation assignment, I have a new profound respect for stop motion animators. Much of the animation process involved a lot of reshooting and small adjusting in part of me and my fellow group mates Kai Nguyen and Cameron Seibly. For this project, Cameron decided on a story that involved one of his favorite hobbies, cooking. More specifically, cooking breakfast food. Our story involves a lonely bowl working with a band of misfit ingredients to create something delicious. The animation was shot using a camera on a make-shift stand involving a latter and a small tripod. Our animation style was mainly shooting straight ahead. The most difficult part was not only trying to animate the characters so they felt like they had life but also cleaning up the film in Photoshop. Kai was sometimes in the shot when filming so we manually had to remove him frame by frame. Cameron was responsible for coming up with a story and acting in the film. Kai and myself were involved in animating and the post production of the film.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Science Fact or Cinematic Fiction

Rolling! Action! Or reaction?
Is the Law of Action-Reaction present in modern animated films?

As humans, we have this fascination with stretching the truth. The idea of having super human strength, the ability to withstand high speed tumbles without being harmed, or having toxic flatulence are just a few of the abilities we all wished, at one point of our lives, we could have. Unfortunately physics and more specifically the law of Action-Reaction does not allow us to have any of the abilities. The law of Action-Reaction states basically that to every reaction, there always will be an equal opposed reaction. Yes, mind boggling, right? Let me see if I can quickly try to explain. If you are currently reading this essay, there is the good chance that you are being seated. The simple action of being seated has a reaction. What is that reaction you say? Well to put it plainly, the chair that you are sitting on is reacting to you sitting down. The chair is pushing against you so you don't fall down. If the law of Action-Reaction did not exist then you could not sit down and do many other things. Although that is neither here nor there. What we need to understand is that there is always an equal reaction to any kind of action either that being jumping, running, or producing gas. In this essay, we will be analysis specific scenes in three animated films, Open Season 3, The Croods, and Hotel Transylvania, and look at specific examples of the Law of Action-Reaction being broken  

To start off, Open Season 3 is an animated feature released in 2010 by Sony Animation and is the last iteration to the Open Season trilogy. The story, in review, is about a friendly grizzly bear by the name of Boog who finds himself isolated and lonely due to of having a family. As a result, Boog finds comfort in a Russian circus but is bamboozled  to stay in captivity and work for the circus. It is the job of Boog’s forests friends to find and free him from the clutches of the Russian circus.  As a movie based in Russian circus, there are many tricks performed by both the human character and the animals. Some tricks are more believable than others but one that stood out was a scene of Boog’s forests friends invading a circus performance as a result of trying to set Boog free. During the hectic scene one of Boog’s friends Nate, an giant Old English Sheepdog, lands on the end of a catapult that launches him upwards and on top of unicycle that is balanced on a tight rope 20ft. in the air. As you can tell, this is already a scene that is stretched beyond reality. The possibly of this situation happening is very unlikely. First off, when Nate is catapulted 20ft. up in the air, a small thin trapeze artist is the person that causes him to fly upwards. The possibly of this happening is very unlikely considering that the trapeze artist probably weights as much as the dog. Such a height is very unlikely. If we consider the Law of Action-Reaction, the trapeze artist has to weight significantly more for the affect to happened. Such reaction to the action of the trapeze artist don't relate. A much more believable reaction would be the dog would not be launched that high up in the air. A foot or two seems to be a much more reasonable height.

The Croods is an animated film by Dreamworks Animation released in 2013. The film is about a family living in the pre-historic era facing both physical and emotional dangers while in search of a new home in a unforgiving world. The film revolves around the idea of family unity and how the relationships between parents and child is something to cherish. This film is full of action and full of beautiful environments. One scene that stood out in particular is one of the first scenes in the film. It involves the whole family trying to scramble and obtain a large egg away from an unwilling group of creatures. The scene is fun and chaotic because we see all the characters running, jumping, and tackling all of the obstacles in their way. It resembles that of a football game. At the end of the scene we see the father, Grug, in the air stretching as far as he can to catch the egg in mild air. In a graceful swoop, he obtains the egg and he tumbles down and crashes into a boulder. At the point of instant contact with the boulder and Grug’s back, the boulder seems to crack in half. Considering that Grug weights a healthy 200 lbs. and his momentum is great, I don't believe it is enough for him to crack a boulder in half. The reaction of the boulder is not believable to the the action of Grug crashing into it. If the logic of the boulder were true, then I believe some of the energy would bounce off the boulder and onto Grug’s back resulting in his back bones shattering. A reality that the filmmakers were not intending. Although this allows a dramatic scene to end on a funnier note, the shattering of the boulder disregards the Action-Reaction Law.

Another fun film that also tends to break the Action/Reaction Law but in a more humorous approach is Hotel Transylvania. The film is about an over protective Count Dracula who builds and runs a hotel for monsters who are looking for an oasis from the evil and menacing humans. Unfortunately, the day comes that a human by the name of Jonathan who finds his way to the hotel and falls in love with the count’s daughter, Mavis. This film pushes reality by displaying beautiful animation to really capture the idea that monsters are just like us except with fangs or claws or giant horns, or cool bat shifting power; the list can go on and on. One scene in the film that breaks the Action-Reaction Law in a humorous way involves one of Dracula’s friends, Murray the mummy, who arrives to the hotel and is greeted by all of his friends. One of his friends, Frank Frankenstein, sneaks right behind him and flatulates like not tomorrow. The aroma really tends to bother some guest in the immediate vicinity. Following that ordeal, we have a maid scoop up the aroma and takes it next to an open fireplace. Then the aroma is realized to the open flames and a giant combustion happens. Although this add a very humorous note to an already crazy world, the idea of flatulance combusting like gasoline is very unlikely. The action of flatulance reacting like gasoline being combusted is very unlikely considering that flatulance does not cary the chemical components to be combustible. Unfortunately, flatulence just smells bad. So the more realistic approach would be a bad smelling room filled with very unpleased guests. 

In conclusion, these three films break the Action-Reaction Law in various comedic ways. Open Season breaks it by giving us the idea that animals are just like humans and some times require the help from a friend. In the Croods, the films tends to sell the audience the idea that life during the prehistoric era was a struggle to survive. It was such a struggle that the characters feel superhuman capable of withstanding beatings and tumbles. And Hotel Transylvania tends to engulf the audience into a whole new world full of monster looking for a vacation and having fun. Although all three films break the Action-Reaction Law, that only adds to the experience that make these films rememberable. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Outline for the Second Term Paper

I. Action/Reaction Principle in a few Animated Films
     A. Introduce the idea behind action/reaction principle
     B. Introduce 3 scenes from 3 films that don't follow the action/reaction principle
             1. Open Season 3, “Circus jump scene (102-103 min.)
             2. The Croods, “Breakfast Gathering Scene” 
             3. Hotel Transylvania “The fart scene” 
     C. Thesis

II. Action/Reaction Open Season 3
A. Short synopsis of Open Season 3
B. Introduce the scene in which the principle of action/reaction is broken
     1. Talk about the circus scene in which a human character launches a 100 lbs. dog 15 ft. into the air considering that the human probably physically weight less than the dog. 
C. Talk about what would be a more believable scenario.

III. Action/Reaction The Croods 
A. Short Synopsis of the Croods
B. Introduce the Breakfast Gathering scene and point out areas in which the action/reaction principle is broken. 
     1. Talk about how many of the tackles involved in the scene lack the believability of reactions to due to the actions involved. 
C. Talk about a more believable scenario. 

IV. Action/Reaction Hotel Transylvania
A.  Short Synopsis of Hotel Transylvania
B. introduce the scene in which the principle of action/reaction is broken.
    1. The scene in which a fart becomes a combustive explosion. 
C. Talk about what would happen in the real world.  

V. Conclusion 
A. Summary of points and scenes

B. Reiterate Thesis