Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk, Act the animation?

  / by Lee

Final Animation in the making.

Day 100! The studio is alive with clicking and sliding of mice near the end of this Week 15 (and the goodbye to Sinterklaas here in Holland). Apart from picking up our skills in the latest test render passtime; Indoor Putting, the team has also been finding the ‘actor within’ as we look for solutions in our characters animation consistency and their style in general. We will have five of the team animating at any given time on any given shot over the production period, how can we all have a similar idea past the concept sketches and animatic on the fine tuned animation?

Making use of the documentary video camera, a spare DV tape and our reference dummy (and entertainingly amateur) actors ‘Emo: Lee(yours truly) ‘ , ‘Proog: Matt’ and a special appearance by Toni, we can play with how a shot will fold out, make sure Bassam is happy and then start keyframing in the ‘spirit’ of the recording, very loosely though: Style is much more important then realism in this film. Today this method was put to the test with wonderful results, and animation being very similar to acting in some ways we were more then happy to play around with the possibilities while save time on wasted animation, and some wonderful unique moments in the shots were created even just before detailed animation began!

Having seen this done lately in a lot of Hollywood films among many other companies, we wern’t sure exactly how it could help us in our situation, but this reference just like any kind really let us keep efficient with exactly how much we needed to do, how to flow form shot to shot and some little tips on timing and weight. The footage I’m sure will make its way somehow into the DVD Documentary ;)

Toni with his mastery in Capoeira (An Afro-Brazilian fance form that incorperates self-defense maneuvers) and VJ’ing lit up the studio and was more then happy to help us out with some very handy reference.

Basse joins in with a quick pass of a ‘golf club/walking stick’ to Toni.

I can’t resist doing my part when it comes to action.

We will keep you up to date on all our findings over the next 78 day stretch of Production and really hope you are enjoying going on this ride with us and the whole team thanks you for your support. Keep your eyes open for some more Blender Feature blogs and goodies in the next days! =)

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45 Responses to “Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk, Act the animation?”

  1. Auteuro said on 9 Dec, 2005:

    Hey, don’t break any bones, guys–we don’t want to lose any team members this late in the game! ;D

  2. Clinton Edminster said on 9 Dec, 2005:

    Hey, I’m makin a movie on blender too and I am also doing the same thing. Filming myself or friends then putting it into blender as a background and applying everything. it is 2D motion capture and I think its awesome. Great work


  3. Lee said on 9 Dec, 2005:

    heheh, I can assure you we’re taking complete safety precautions (we keep our landing pads and area’s of filming at least half a metre from anything sharp or hard) ;)

    Clinton Edminster: Good to see some other finding its use. Though we gave it a go for test purposes and found it helpful, we will probably not use this much, and intend on not over using it. Our animation is aimed to be as hand keyed as possible, but for scenes of for example intense subtle motion or action it’s just another tool of reference to help us get that extra bit of information.

  4. JamesAmI said on 9 Dec, 2005:

    I’m impressed y’all.
    Yup, Rotoscoping makes for muddy, not-as-clear movements, and not-the-best staging- everything has to be pushed. Video reference is great to figure out what’s going on… You’re able to stop it, draw what’s happening, in the form of extremes and breakdowns, understanding the mechanics, getting inspired, then using the knowledge… But man, making it work, is work.
    Thanks for inspiring me.

  5. Sam Brubaker said on 9 Dec, 2005:

    You said that “style is much more important than realism in this film”. I really like your idea of implementing this in the animation process as well as the modelling (in which it was allready apparent that you held style over realism). I hope you don’t get too carried away though!

    My first impression was that you would try to make everything as realistic as possible in this animation, but I was pleasantly surprised to see your cartoonish characters rendered in a realistic -sort of- setting. I hope your storyline is as unique as your characters…

    Keep up the fatastic work! I am looking forward to seeing your final product.


  6. Johan said on 9 Dec, 2005:

    If I remember correctly- in the short Orange documentary there is a moment where Ton and Bassam are talking about characters and ‘types of animation’ or ‘toon style’ animation is mentioned.

    Could you explain how you conceptualise/categorize different types of animation and then how you formulate your own style in relation to these ‘other’ styles?

  7. Loy said on 9 Dec, 2005:

    With the Sinterklaas-thing: Did you guys get any “pepernoten”??

  8. Andrew said on 9 Dec, 2005:

    Your screenshot frightens me.

  9. Christiaan Bakker(AniCator) said on 9 Dec, 2005:

    Well that is looking good!
    I dunno or it’s true but i think the keyframing is the hardest part of being animator/modeller

  10. oto said on 9 Dec, 2005:

    There’s someone working on this studio? :)

    Can we please, have a post about the way you work
    sound. Inside/outside Blender?!
    Bye and keep Blending

  11. rich said on 9 Dec, 2005:

    wow, you guys should have put some motion capture equipment on the original wish list as well. Looks like fun.

  12. 20to30 said on 9 Dec, 2005:

    hehehe… would like to see those bones on the 1st picture in action though …

  13. wu said on 10 Dec, 2005:

    yeah basse, dont work too hard, dont get out of the chair or anything, dont want you to break a sweat. just relax, do you need some tea or somthing, dont worry dont get up, haha.

    by the way are those retro bean bags from tons apartment?

  14. Chris G. said on 10 Dec, 2005:

    The picture scared me…I can’t say my first thought

  15. Bassam said on 10 Dec, 2005:

    Retro bean bags: supplied by our gracious host, the Netherlands Media Arts Institute (AKA Montevideo)

    Sound… Hmm, Jan could answer this better. I only know the tip of the iceberg wrt sound. the final mix will be outside of blender, but we also use the sound in the sequence editor for syncing.

    Pepernoten: Yes.. pepernoten abounds in studio orange :D

    Style vs Realism: style wins. The “ultimate” in realism would be a live action movie- this is really an animation, designed to be so. So yes, it’s stylized, but not excessively so.

    Toon style: the rigs and animation in say, chicken little, are toon-style. They are incredibly complicated, limbs can be posed in FK, IK or ‘broken’ IK where they stretch to any proportion. any part of the body is designed to be squashed and stretched for completely exaggerated takes and accents. Way beyond my capabilities as rigger, I’m afraid, though it is extremely cool.
    toon-style may also have refered to rendering/modelling, which tends to be (sometimes deceptively) simpler and flatter than the heavily textured and lit 3D look that we are going for.

  16. Salvador Mata said on 10 Dec, 2005:

    Yes you are right Christiaan Bakker, the animation process is not only being moving objects around the scene, is give life to a character :D and make them realistic in movements ;), that’s why the name “Animation”

    Is the most beautiful part in making a 3d animated movie.. in my point of view :)

    Congratulations Orange team, keep working ;)

  17. JoOngle said on 10 Dec, 2005:

    Animation is tricky…isn´t it ;)

  18. rogper said on 10 Dec, 2005:

    I also use the same method for my animations, whit a twist…
    I don’t have a video camera so I repeat the same move endless times until I memorise it, then I chronograph the time that take me to do it and jump for the key framing.
    I just don’t like motion capture. In my opinion a real animation movie should not have motion capture. It is just cheating. ^_^

    Be aware Jackie Chan Stunt Team the orange project Stunt Men’s are coming @_^

  19. Bassam said on 10 Dec, 2005:

    Well, mocap has it’s place, but I agree, it’s not “really” animation, though it can be combined with animation and often is

  20. ZanQdo said on 11 Dec, 2005:

    yeah, mocap makes boring special efects not character animation ;-)

  21. Johan said on 11 Dec, 2005:

    I think motion capture should be used appropriately. In Appurushîdo aka Appleseed (2004) it lend a wonderful sense of fluidity to the toon shaded characters.

  22. Nozzy said on 11 Dec, 2005:

    Hi guys, things seem to be shaping :)My main interest in your project is your animation process, and how your attacking and planning your
    process. But on most of your posts it seems like animation is the hot potatoe of the project. Someone gets an animation task, does something and posts
    some excuses why it doesn’t looks like he wanted it to :S It also seems like for something thats going to be tooney and “not relalisic” the time spent
    on developing the rigs for cloth and hair seems a little OTT. There’s definately a point when a rig can be rigged to death, with to many constraints,
    extra bones, etc, which are just getting in the way of intinuity and being able to move and play-back your character in the scene.

    This being a short, on a tight timeline, I think you guys could really get away with a easier approach. Having different rigs for different types of
    cuts/scenes, but an overall basic and uncomplicated rig which can be added to as needed. Pointless with a sweet foot-roll setup up on a upperbody shot.
    I think its really important, once your character design is done, you should just key lots of tests out. Not just walks, but interactions, small
    scenarios, testing their extremes to get a feel for the characters possiblities. This usally adds ideas to the story, and you see early on whats
    not going to work.

    I have a few queries. The features design seems a bit confusing to me. You have a really nice dark and interesting environments and characters.
    One semi-relialisic and one with characterized features and the animation style is going to be tooney.
    Dont get me wrong, you guys are putting some nice stuff together, but from the outside it dosn’t look like you guys have a master plan, or that the plan
    is changing from week to week.

    But do not underestimate the power of….. I was going somewhere else for a minute there, lots and lots of animation tests. Please don’t let your hard
    work down with some floatly key-frame animation.

    I have to pick-up on the mocap comments :) I just love the “Not real” and “Cheating” statments that fly around every now and then. But where do we
    draw the border, all animation we do as 3d-puppeters we cheat by using the computer to interpolate our keys.
    By generalizing with somthing we learnt off a DVD “making of”, and proberly haven’t that much of a clue about, is pretty ignorant. As quoted
    above “Animation” is the ability to bring things to life, and mocap is a nesesary evil in a lot of productions now adays. Mocap is a tool in film
    and game production. As with any other tool it can be badly used. To get mocap to work and look good when needed, takes a lot of work and skill.
    It’s a differant world from loading a .BVH you found off the net, and hacking it into your scene. Where as opposed to getting 3 hours of realistic
    animation nailed down in a year, working with thousands of mocap takes and getting them to work seamlessly together, it’s all a question on time and
    manpower. Keyframe animation will always have its place and I really recommend analizing/working with some mocap, it really helps your keyframe skills,
    and you get a better understanding for weight and timing.

    I hope you guys take this possitivly, and Im looking forward to seeing some beatiful anmation :D


  23. Bassam said on 11 Dec, 2005:

    Uhm, the animation *isn’t* going to be toon style… a decision done way early because I want to avoid complicated rigs.
    This never changed for the duration of the project. As to mocap: sorry, but I’m mildly allergic to it: If it’s worked to death it can look great- but this generally means animating over it. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of wooden lifeless stuff.
    Of course, we may be misunderstanding toon style. I’m talking about exaggurated takes, extreme squash and stretch, very overt joint breaking, stretchy characters, etc. being too “toon” for us. On the other hands, we’re not going for total realism either- the style of the animation should and will match the character designs you see in the stills.

  24. Renato Perini said on 11 Dec, 2005:

    I noticed you have done many modifications to the Blender’s animation system to suit orange needs.
    Can you tell us when they will be integrated into the BF-Blender branch?
    Are there some good improvements planned for the Blender’s internal renderer?
    Thank you.

  25. Bassam said on 11 Dec, 2005:

    Hi Renato, most are already integrated, and it’s quite likely the rest will be after the prerelease feature freeze is over.
    Oh, and I do know that there are some improvements happening for the renderer and the material system currently

  26. JoOngle said on 11 Dec, 2005:


    It´d be a good idea to follow certain “toon” animation principles, especially as the characters are not realistic.

    By all means – exaggerate movements, over-do the anticipation
    etc. This will help the scenes look more believeable. Of course – I´m not criticising you guys “yet” as I haven´t really seen anything from you – yet. But it´s good time proven advice that I´ve heard over-and-over again from the old masters themselves, especially mr. Richard Williams stressed these things in his masterclasses. The reason for this is because when you don´t have realistic characters – it will help the overall expression to take emotions even if subtle to their maximum points “yes…that means taking it to the limits where you even question yourself that…uh uh..this really must be too much”. Only then it will look at all believeable*

    * By Believeable I mean convincing an audience – not photorealism or being realistic.

    Good luck

  27. rogper said on 11 Dec, 2005:

    Ok I´ve just saw the Final Fantasy Advent Children Japonese DVD.
    What you can see there is a good combination of motion capture and Key Frames.
    If you remind the FF The Spirits Within that, in my opinion, was a terrible implementation o the same method.
    To johan about Appleseed:
    Sorry but I don´t quite agree. Perhaps you have also seen Ghost In The Shell, that was cell animation, mocap free, and the characters move and fell allot more realistic.
    And the Lion King, one of the all time best animation movies, how do someone mocap that?

    But I´m tired of talking about mocap… Talking about Style Vs Reality:

    Style is good and the Kids Like ^_^
    FFantasyAC is all Style, but the parts that I’ve liked most, and could be allot more, was the moments where we can fell what goes in the mind of a character without they say a word. That is accomplished whit good similarity’s to REAL human expressions.
    Matrix is also Style based, but in that particular case the script allows it. When in the matrix, a machine generated world, style, style, style, but in the real world the things need to be real, and we can see that they did that. P.S.: I´m referring to the first Matrix.
    So waht I’m trying to say is:
    Style, yes… but pay close attention how you implement it. Don’t exaggerate.


  28. Johan said on 12 Dec, 2005:

    Rogper: You mocap the Lion King by fitting a lion with a motion capture suite.

    I take your point. Mocap does not equal good filmmaking. I should have explained my use of the word ‘appropriately’ better.

  29. Renato Perini said on 12 Dec, 2005:

    Bassam, thank you very much. :-)
    Can’t wait to have my hands dirty on those new features, like the Ton’s last commit (bone’s layering system) ;-)

  30. Bassam said on 12 Dec, 2005:

    Thanks for the advice guys :) BTW JOongle, we’ve got two copies of animator’s survival kit here .. one of my favs. Richard Williams is the man when it comes to animation education :)

  31. Igor said on 12 Dec, 2005:

    Hey, Bessam Maestro! Can you please upload here some working character IK rig. We are lost in all those new armature features (I hope I’m not alone)…

  32. JoOngle said on 12 Dec, 2005:

    Bassam – allright, you know that will raise our expectation
    to the final animation results, right? No excuses! (whip!) ;)
    Post an image of that book – will a gazillion wrinkles, abuse it!

  33. Nozzy said on 12 Dec, 2005:

    Hi Bassam. I totally missed that you guys are going for a “semi-realism” style, missed some info on the posts there, sorry :) sounds cool.
    As for the mocap discution I could go on forever. Mocap if captured, edited, cut and comp/keyed right does the trick when needed. But it can and oftan is, over/under worked and looks like crap but thats what separates the good guys from the bad guys.
    The project Im working on at the moment calls for realism.Its 80% key-frame, most of the takes/moves have a mocap file for each required animation, but it has been easier keyframing the instead of working the mocap.Its great to have the option, of mixing and it fits our style.
    Im not in know way impling the use of mocap In your production, its a keyframed short, and theres nothing more rewarding than keyframe animating. I hate the idea that Im sticking up for mocap, but I hate when
    the comments just come from no where that mocap is crap, etc, with no grounds. Theres plenty of mocap coming to your cinemas this Christmas, by the wellington boys at weta. What Ive seen trailer wise and there previous work, there mocap works pretty fliud :)

    It would be cool if we could see some second or third pass preview renders of some of the animations :)
    My tip for animation books is the “Acting for Animators” an excellent book, I got a lot out of it:


  34. Carsten said on 12 Dec, 2005:

    Wow what a BIG screenshot… wish i have that much space on my desk…

    ´bout mocap: One thing that has not been mentioned: You have to have a ACTOR in that suit to make it really look good….

    btw: I see no “TRAILER” in you production planning… will there be none? just curious…

  35. spunkmaier said on 12 Dec, 2005:

    I have maybe a question which might not surprise all you guys and has probably nothing to do with this news, but I’d like to know why you don’t adopt yafray as a rendering software for blender’s animation

  36. Bassam said on 12 Dec, 2005:

    hey nozzy, thanks, I’ll be sure to check it out. There’s a big difference between mocap for reference, mocap that has been worked over, and “pure” mocap, and different places where it’s suitable. I didn’t mean to start a mocap vs. animation war! but keep in mind, we don’t have mocap equipement, and we don’t have long enough access to trained actors for the capture.. so it’s all quite academic :) . I think it better fits the movie to have hand animaiton, since it’s something more people have ‘access’ to.
    nope, since the teaser we don’t have plans for a trailer, though we might make one after production is over.
    spunkmaier.. no clues about yafray here… but since our key programmer is ton, and he codes the blender render engine, and our art director is extremely familiar with the blender renderer and not at all much with yafray, I think blender’s internal is the safer bet for us.

  37. Toon Scheur said on 12 Dec, 2005:

    Nozze: My tip for animation books is the “Acting for Animators” an excellent book,

    I second that. It was a real eye opener. I read in one afternoon. As for books go I myself have from the digital series: lighting, texturing, animating, modeling humans (peter ratner), acting for animators, blender manual (2.0 & 2.3 duh of course), the art of 3d computer animation and effects (isaac v. kerlow) and the Jeff Lew DVD.

    I’ve heard that the illusion of life is a terrific book too. That’s next on my list.

    About the semi realistic animation….. let’s take the Incredibles as an example. The characters are cartoony, but the animation is better than realistic. No amount of mocap can top that.

  38. Andy said on 12 Dec, 2005:

    the illusion of life is just awesome, i can only recommend it…
    but joOngle, abuse those books? nevaah! they’re way too good! =P
    i’ll never let my “illusion” get wrinkles!

  39. LGM said on 14 Dec, 2005:

    Holy crap, Toni knows Capoeira? How cool can this team get?


  40. fakeplastic said on 14 Dec, 2005:


    I would also like this. I am having trouble with some of the new features and would like to see a proper rig.

    But I understand if not. I will just have to wait til the DVD :)

    Good job on the characters, by the way. I like the style.

    (I hope your still reading these comments in this entry)

  41. fakeplastic said on 14 Dec, 2005:

    Sorry, I was trying to quote Igor said on 12 Dec, 2005:
    Hey, Bessam Maestro! Can you please upload here some working character IK rig. We are lost in all those new armature features (I hope I’m not alone)…

  42. Bassam said on 17 Dec, 2005:

    hihi, I missed this post!, I’m not sure how helpful just a rig would be without a mesh or documentation. The rigs for our characters are very much a work in progress… they go through some radical and some minor surgery every week almost, as animation stresses expose new weaknesses… and I have to keep them “backwards compatible” so they won’t break on older animations. I’ve learned quite a bit about the animation system’s strengths and weaknesses in the process.
    I think I’ll post a rig up as soon as I feel like all the “major” issues are worked out. … keep in mind, I’d probably do some things slightly differently in the future, now that I know better.

  43. rogper said on 17 Dec, 2005:

    To Johan: I had a big laugh when I started imagining a Lion in a mocap suit ^_^

    Just one thought for everybody:
    Making something real doesn’t necessarily make it fell real.
    One thing could be completely fake, but if it fells real you’ve just hit the jackpot. Hollywood learned that long time ago.

    Ton Roosendaal to President… of the world

  44. fakeplastic said on 18 Dec, 2005:

    Thanks Bassam,

    Even if the rig isn’t perfect, I think it would be a great learning tool for me. Especially if it uses the lasted features.

    One more quick question: How do you substitute a newer rig into a previous animation?


  45. Timothy said on 19 Dec, 2005:

    So COOL! I Love IT