Monday, April 28, 2014

Building a Scene in Maya

 Light 1: Directional Light

 Light 2: Ambient Light

Light 3: Rim Light

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Character Animation

Here's a project I worked on with Brandon Coates, Kristin Campbell, Lancing Chen, and Sony Tran. We decided to do sort of a dark twist on a public service announcement. It was very fun to brainstorm the idea, come up with the set, and create the characters out of Plastilina. We each were in charge of a character, though every person pitched in to animate other characters outside of their own designated one. Brandon Coates was in charge of setting up the shots and managed the webcam and the animation program Monkey Jam, as well as also assisting in the animation process. The sounds were recorded by Brandon, Kristin, and I using Audacity and the whole thing was compiled in Adobe Premier. Overall, I'd say we worked very well as a team and got this done pretty efficiently.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Science Fact or Cinematic Fiction

Inertia in Films

 Movies often have to veer away from the realm of physical possibility in order to successfully create the desired scenes. There are many instances within films that portray actions and events that would never be possible in reality, but are quite suitable and acceptable within the film's unique world. This is mostly true of action thrillers and science fiction and fantasy movies. As an audience, we don't really care about these discrepancies, as the crazy fantastical effects are often used to enhance the tension of effect of whatever scene they are used in. And so without any hesitation, the normally hard unchanging laws of physics are broken time and again, and we couldn't care less. One of the very common laws of physics we break in our films is the law of inertia, Isaac Newton's first law of motion, which states that an object will preserve its velocity unless acted upon by an external force. The sheer amount of incredible scenes in films involving extreme motion or impact means that this law is one that is commonly thrown out the window. Any action scene, including fight scenes or vehicle chase scenes in a modern movie will probably break the law of inertia at least once in its duration. Films such as Gravity, the Star Wars Trilogy, and the Matrix Trilogy all have examples of this law being broken during their intense scenes.

Within Alphonso Cuaron's space thriller, Gravity, there are many minor and major physical inaccuracies in the way objects in space behave – from the gravitational stiffness of Bullock's hair to the behavior of the space debris as it orbited around Earth. In terms of inertia, however, there is one specific glaring fluke that is more obvious than the others. It occurs in the moment when astronaut Kowalski (played by George Clooney), attached to Bullock's character Ryan Stone, unhitches himself from the tether connecting the two of them together after her leg gets caught on the rigging in order to save her from getting detached and floating off into space. Even though the two of them stopped completely, the movie treated this scenario as if there was a constant force pulling Kowalski back into space as he hung on. In reality however, the fact that the two of them stopped moving outward completely should have meant that they were at rest relative to the space satellite, and thus there would have been no need at all for Kowalski to sacrifice himself by detaching from Stone. All that would have been needed to get him moving back towards the station would be a pull towards her from Stone, as there would have been no force resisting such an action.

The law of inertia is broken several times in the Star Wars trilogy each time a ship warps to light speed. But unlike in Gravity, the issue is that the consequences of inertia are unaccounted for in addition to there being the application of strange nonsensical forces. For one, the ships, after charging up their hyperdrives, reach light speed instantaneously, with little to no acceleration needed to get them to that point. The amount of force needed to accelerate the ship that quickly is completely unrealistic, and what's more the ships seemingly stop travel ling in a state of light-speed instantaneously as well, with nothing seeming to decelerate them to that point. If it were handled realistically, the ship would take quite some time to reach light speed (assuming it could), and a ton of time slowing down as well. In addition the people on board, along with many of the ship's components, would probably splatter upon the ship's walls, as due to inertia they wouldn't be able to accelerate to light-speed at the exact moment the ship does. They would remain at rest longer than the ship, which would burst forward, essentially slamming into them. Perhaps there are some unnamed, odd science fiction technologies that we are to assume allow them to survive and feasibly pull off such a jump, but as far as physical plausibility goes, it doesn't add up.

The Matrix films are full of intense, fantastical fight scenes in which the characters bend the realm of possibility through the manipulation of the matrix, the code that runs the reality of our world. The movements and abilities of the fighters were designed with this in mind, and the resulting sequences are extremely unreal and unique. This of course involves breaking the rules of physics, and there are several instances in which the law of inertia is messed with and broken. A big example of this is when one of the characters kicks or punches another with enough force that they fly far back into a wall or onto the floor several meters away. When this happens, the victim almost always moves through the air with his body relatively flat and unbent. In reality, a blow strong enough to send someone flying like that would cause the rest of the body to bend over the point of impact, as inertia would cause it to accelerate backward after the point of impact (assuming he wasn't crushed from the force of such a blow beforehand). The other obvious issue with the physics is the tendency for the fighters to maintain their inertia during these moments when they are knocked back in the air, or simply when they are jumping to their opponent much longer than they should, without the force of gravity affecting their velocity. This results in the characters floating or doing incredible stunts that would normally not be possible.

In all of these examples, the laws of inertia are tweaked broken in order to give their respective scenes more impact. Whether it's simply to enhance the fantastical nature of certain elements such as the light-speed technology in Star Wars, to make fight scenes appear more awesome and impactful like in the Matrix, or to serve as a plot point or an intense moment like in Gravity, the breaking of these physical rules is done in order to make each movie unique in its own way and to capture the imagination of the audience. Realistically, objects would follow the rules we are used to, and retain their velocities when appropriate and be accurately affected by external forces. But in these films, the extreme, odd portrayals of motion only serve as another method of fascinating the audience.

Outline for the Second Term Paper

  1. Introduction
    A. Introduce Inertia and how it relates to films
    B. Thesis – Films such as Gravity, the Star Wars Trilogy, and the Matrix Trilogy all have examples of this law being broken during their intense scenes.

Body Paragraphs

  1. Gravity
    A. Introduce film and general portrayal of physics
    B. Introduce story moment – when Kowalski has to let go of Ryan in order for her to survive
    C. Explain physics discrepancies
  2. Star Wars
    A. Jump to Light-speed – explain why inertia is ignored when the ships jump
    B. If a ship accelerated that fast, the characters within it would be crushed by the inertia
    C. Ship also slows down to a normal speed instantaneously, ignoring the fact that a reasonable force must act upon it to bring it to that speed, in a reasonable amount of time
  3. The Matrix
    A. Describe general physics used in fight scenes
    B. The fights are choreographed and modified to create impact, laws of physics broken as a result
    C. Movement of character bodies while being kicked far away – straight bodies, inertia unaccounted for.
    D. Characters tend to fly both when hit or when attacking without the force of gravity adjusting their velocity.

  1. Conclusion
    A. The physics is tweaked to give the scenes more impact. Each of the films does this for a different reason
    B. This is another artistic element that can be played with the wow the audience.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Stop Motion Animation of Falling

I decided to do a classic ball bounce test, and chose to have the ball start off at the very edge of a ledge. The ball was simply cut out from an advertisement I got in a mail, and the ledge was made of some blue tape. I found a clear spot on the wall and set up the scene there, deciding to have the ball eventually fall into a gap provided by the box's lid flaps. I used tape to hold the "ball" into place, and re-stuck it to the wall for every frame, making sure to take the "falling a la chai" spacing technique into account, as well as making sure to rotate the logo on the ball evenly in each frame. I tried to use SAM Animation to record the image, but it unfortunately wasn't working on my computer for some unknown reason, and I thus had to go with my default web-cam capturing program.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Laws of Physics in an Animation Universe - Outline

  1. Introduction
    A. Introduce Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and its background.
    B. Thesis – Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs has been stylized in in a way that allows for liberties in how things move and behave in order to achieve the desired effects

Body Paragraphs

  1. Inertia and acceleration
    A. Law of Inertia is often ignored, and objects and characters frequently accelerate and decelerate unrealistically.
    B. Officer Earl's head and body movements while he scolds flint provide a very good example of this.
    C. Somersaults to catch jaywalker
    D. Used to make characters and objects interesting to watch
  2. Nonsensical forces
    A. Forces generated out of nowhere with no cause.
    B. Once again, Office Earl's somersaults behave this way – forces push him up and down quicker than they normally would.
    C. This is done to add character to jumps or other actions and to give scenes some extra effect
    D. Forces keep characters in positions that wouldn't normally be maintainable – the running animations, for example.
    E. Such anomalies are ignored by the audience because the world is already presented as one where such things are commonplace.
  3. Damage to characters and physical collisions
    A. Damage and collisions don't work the way they would in the real world
    B. Samantha Sparks hit's Flint pretty hard when she meets him in the beginning. This should normally cause a lot of bodily damage.
    C. Falling from heights does no damage – such as when Flint falls off of the giant jello structure
    D. This is done to keep the film from ending prematurely, for comedic effect, and to keep it palatable to the audience

  1. Conclusion
    A. These “mistakes” were all done on purpose to enhance the product
    B. Moments and characters are pushed using these techniques

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Laws of Physics in an Animation Universe

The Physics of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
 Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a 3-D animated feature film released in 2009 and produced by Sony Pictures Animation. It was directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller and was based on a book by the same name, written by Judy and Ron Barrett. The movie, which heavily emphasized comedy and exaggeration was stylized in a way which has negated realism much more than several other animated films, as seen in its choice of character designs, environments, general story, and of course in its animation and physics. It is stylized much more in the vein of films like Madagascar or Kung Fu Panda, rather than some of the more grounded films like Disney's Tangled or Pixar's films. Because it almost negates realism entirely, the animators were allowed to freely style their character and object behaviors to create as much humorous effect and cartoonish physical impact as was necessary. This is seen in the way it plays with inertia and acceleration, the general lack of consistency in the way things collide or take damage, and in the way forces are generated.

The film's universe tends to favor whatever forms of movement it takes to make an impact. Because of this, it ignores the laws of inertia very often, and allows objects to accelerate and decelerate unrealistically based on whatever it needs the characters to do. This is very evident in the way characters are made to comically behave. One of the most obvious examples of this can be seen in the movements of the character of Officer Earl, especially in the scene where he is first introduced and scolds the main character, Flint Lockwood. Throughout the conversation, his head jerks around unrealistically to get into Flint's face in a way that would normally require a tremendous amount of effort. Of course it would be impossible to accelerate the head from a position of rest to the incredible amount of velocity it takes so quickly to make it dart around the way it does. After he talks with Flint, he quickly flips and somersaults away to catch a jaywalker in a way that would also be impossible in a similar way. There is simply no way for him to be able to change his velocity so quickly due to the law of inertia, but they animators did so anyway, and used this fact to make him entertaining to watch.

In addition to this, there are several times in the film when forces are seemingly generated out of nowhere. Officer Earl's insane somersaults which he does both to catch the jaywalker and to escape form the giant food avalanche later on in the film are prime examples of this. There is no way that he could have generated the amount of force necessary to do those movements. There are other times when objects in mid-air are able to change directions rapidly or to halt their movements seemingly without anything acting on them. This is seen many times when a character is jumping, and suddenly lands much more quickly and abruptly than he should. The animators did this to add the special character that the jumps needed, both to escalate the power of certain scenes and to make it more dynamic and interesting for the audience to watch. In addition some forces are generated which seem to keep objects in place which would normally be out of balance or would fall over. There are many examples of characters moving in ways that their bodies wouldn't be able to support – a particularly clear one being the run cycles of the crowds as they flee the disaster that has befallen their town. Some of them are leaned backwards in ways that would normally offset their center of gravity, causing them to fall over rather than continuing to remain able to run they way they do. It is as if a force was in place keeping them up, which normally would make no sense. But in this sort of film where the rules of physics are broken so readily, the audience thinks little of it, and the anomaly instead serves to add more character to the film.

There is a lot of action and chaos that occurs throughout the movie, and throughout it there are several instances where characters are put through circumstances which should normally lead to a large amount of physical harm, or even death. The fact that it does not would normally mean that they are made up of material much more resilient to the forces enacted upon them than would normally be possible for human beings, or that the force being acted upon them is unequal to what it should be based on what they are being put in contact with. This is fairly prevalent throughout the film, starting towards the very beginning when the character Samantha Sparks jabs her feet into Flint's eyes, or even hits his head on the railing in the same scene with an incredible amount of apparent force – both of which cause literally no damage to Flint. This continues well into the later half of the movie, in times such as the one when Flint's falling off of the incredibly tall jello tower doesn't kill or harm him, or during the attack on the food-creating machine, when the characters are tossed and bumped around in ways which would normally be lethal, but wind up not being as such. The world behaves this way, of course, because any level of realistic damage would be to unappealing for viewers (especially since this is a kid's movie) and the characters would likely not make it to the end of the film. In addition, the slapstick provided by this sort of animation can be entertaining in a sadistic sort of way, without being too messy.

These sort of physics quirks are all horribly incorrect, and yet they have been used as animation staples for quite some time. It is the ability to change and alter physics in order to enhance the effect of certain scenes and characterizations that makes animation the unique medium that it is. Within the unique established worlds created within these films, the audience is able to completely forgive these fallacies and instead enjoy them as part of each movie's original style. The way these are utilized in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a testament to how sacrificing real physical rules in favor of comedic or dramatic effect can really push the moments of an animated film into something truly spectacular. The way it neglects the law of inertia, creates nonsensical forces, and takes advantage of the ability to ignore normal damage and collision physics are all part of its strengths, which the animators of this film have used very successfully.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


I have been attending San Jose State University for its animation/illustration program for almost four years, and plan to emphasize in visual development. So far it's been very enjoyable and fulfilling, and I have met some fantastic people along the way. I have taken various courses on art fundamentals, including those that focus on lighting, perspective, anatomy, animation, and 3D applications. I've also taken various science courses covering the usual subjects (biology, physics, chemistry, etc.).

This is a piece I did for a friend pretty recently. I can already see a lot of issues with it, but I suppose that's just the way it always is.

This is an image I did for a group project. I learned a lot about the painting process while doing it.

These two were assignments for my Ani 113B class which I took two semesters ago, in which we had to paint a forest scene with both daytime and nighttime lighting.

My sack pantomime animation project for Ani 114

Saturday, January 25, 2014

"The First Post"

This Blog will be used for my Physics of Animation course assignments.