Sunday, February 26, 2012

Animation Is Easy?

“I hate when people go on TV and tell you how hard it is to do animation … No, UPS is hard work. I’ve done some animation … It’s the easiest job in the world. I go in a booth and I go, ‘what’s the line?’ And the guy goes, ‘it’s time to go to the store.’ And I go, ‘it’s time to go to the store!’ … And then they give me a million dollars.” - Chris Rock

Now, to be fair, Chris Rock was talking about voice acting for animation (although he could have clarified that a bit better). Yes, his delivery was funny. Hell, I laughed at first. Then I realized that his words were to full-time voice-over artists what Andy Serkis' words were to VFX professionals. Tara Strong even took note of this message well before I did.

I'm not going to jump on a soapbox. I'm not a VO Artist. However, I see enough of a parallel that I need to say SOMETHING. So I'll say this:

The award that Mr. Rock was introducing and announcing went to a movie (Rango) that used a technique that has been coined "emotion capture." It is a process where not just the voice acting was used, but the physical acting was also referenced by the animators, as shown in this featurette:

This looks and sounds to me like these actors didn't just go in a booth, say some lines, and collect a million dollars, now doesn't it?

Monday, February 20, 2012

GDC And Other Things

So GDC is only 2 weeks away! Are we pumped yet? ARE WE EXCITED?!? I know I am.

This year will be the third year of the Tech Animation Roundtable! I am hoping to to get more animators, character artists and AI programmers involved this year so we can get some great discussions on everything that goes into character performance- from concept, to model, to rigging, to animation, and into game.

Here's a link to the roundtable on the GDC website:

And the currently planned schedule:

Wednesday 2:00 PM
Thursday 5:30 PM
Friday 4:00 PM (last session of GDC!)

I highly encourage artists, designers, writers, programmers, to stop by. Hell, anyone and everyone interested in character performance in video games (both cinematic and in-game) should feel free to come and participate in what are bound to be lively discussions!

On to the other things. Obviously, I haven't written anything here for a while, nor have I contributed to AltDevBlogADay for a couple of months. The truth of the matter is that I was starting to care more about what I was writing and less about why. When I started writing, I wanted to talk about game animation, creativity, process, and most importantly, why I love doing what I do.

Somewhere along the line I lost some of that. I took a look back at some of my writing and realized that I may have become that jaded, bitter animator guy. I realized that the experience of writing became a lot less enjoyable, so I just decided to stop, step back and pay more attention to what I love about animation, art and the video game industry.

Also, Skyrim.

During my hiatus from writing, I started drawing- every day, actually. I know, it sounds odd- an animator that doesn't draw every day? Really? WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT GUY. Unfortunately it was a habit that I fell out of, but I have now jumped back into it with fervor! I'm even participating in a Daily Draw for February over at SatelliteSoda, my thread involving drawing monkeys from my wife's stuffed monkey collection (and one of our dog's!) You can find my thread here.

If you want to see a quick shot of the most recent work from all the artists participating, hit this link too!

Drawing regularly again been quite fun! It's even got me looking at Cintiqs or Asus Slates so I can start 2D animation again. My creativity seems to have been sparked, and I am excited about the possibilities, with both personal and professional work.

Speaking of professional work, I've also had my head down leading the amazing animation team at 5TH Cell, working on our XBLA title Hybrid. The team has been working really hard on this game, and we can't wait till the public gets their hands on it- team-wide playtests are a blast, and I know the fun will carry over to the real world. Just don't ask me when, because I ain't tellin'.

I'm even training more seriously for strongman competitions this year. I may be flipping a tire or tossing a keg in a town near you!

Anyhow, I'm not sure how consistent I'll be writing, but I may get back in the saddle soon. At the very least, I'll have a GDC 2012 Trip Report! Stay tuned...

(it also didn't hurt that Oscar nominations have come and gone)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Open Letter to Deadline Hollywood

To Whom It May Concern,

Recently, you ran this post from James Franco:

That's cool. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I applaud Mr. Franco for supporting the use of performance capture while admitting that it can be a scary technology for actors. I also applaud his vocal support of a fellow actor.

However, I do not support the fact that someone at has deleted a comment I made anonymously to the article. Maybe it was an accident, so I reposted it. Here's a screengrab of post #2, in case it accidentally gets deleted again:

Maybe I don't understand your posting rules of "don't impersonate anyone." In that case, I apologize to "Not Convinced" and "Afraid of the Truth," which were the names I used and possibly the 2 people I impersonated.

Perhaps it was a mistake on my part to post it anonymously, let alone twice. Surely, I do not shy away from this topic of conversation. With that in mind, I am posting it here, where you can't delete it and where everyone knows who wrote it:

Disagree completely. Look at these 2 “Andy Serkis/Caesar Morphs” that Andy has been promoting on his Facebook page:

Now look at this animation demo reel:

This very talented animator’s shot breakdown notes that in Caesars’s Goodbye (link 1 above), “Everything (from 0:00 to 0:17) was keyframe animated, except for the character’s spine where mocap data was used & polished.” Also, at 0:44, he notes that the very same shot from link 2 above was animated entirely by hand.

So really, whose performance deserves recognition?

If you could let your readers, or even Mr Franco, know about this, I would greatly appreciate it. I would love to finally start an actual dialogue between animators and actors regarding this topic, instead of just trading tweets and blog posts about it.


Tim Borrelli

PS: An update (1/11/12): Facebook apparently considers the direct link to this blog post to be spam! Here is proof to go along with Lamar Hunt's comment below- my wife tested this claim and we found it to be true!: