CTNx '13 - The Panels (Part 2)

Since I had already worked all day on Thursday and Friday, I was told that I didn't have to work on Saturday if I didn't want to and can instead enjoy myself. My original scheduled time to work was Friday and Saturday evening so I decided that I will take the morning off on Saturday and still worked the afternoon. On Saturday I got to see the panel of Ted Thomas talking about his new documentary and Phil Tippett on the history of stop motion animation. On Sunday I saw Storytelling through Color by Jill Daniels and Lorelay Bove, a sneak peak of Mr. Peabody and Sherman, and an interview of Jim Blinn. MC'd by Andreas Deja, Ted Thomas talked about and showed his new documentary Growing up with Nine Old Men. Ted Thomas is the son of Frank Thomas, one of the nine legendary animators and author of one of the must have books in the industry, Animation Survival Guide. Ted goes on a journey all across America to find and interview the other children of Les Clark, Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, John Lounsbery, and Wolfgang Reitherman. While creativity was always nurtured and encouraged the children were never pressured to follow in their father's footsteps and only John Kimball actually went into animation while others split off to focus in other aspects and two went to become lawyers. Ted grew up knowing some of them well while others he have only just heard about but he describes the process of finding the others, interviewing them, and getting to know them and their childhood was like reestablishing a family.

Phil Tippett's panel mainly revolved around him talking about the history of animation from the stop motion standpoint. It is unfortunate that stop motion is expensive and fell out of favor but recently there has been a resurgence of the art form. It was interesting to hear about Phil's view on the current animation industry, saying that he dislikes CG due to it all being too homogenized due to the commercial standpoint. I can see where Phil is coming from with this view and which is why I like going to the Animation Show of Shows where animation from all over the world is collected and screened as there are many different things out there that people are making. The panel was closed with a screening of part one of his film, Mad God, that he has been working on. It was crazy and it was interesting. Mad God will have a total of four parts. Part one is still a work in progress and parts two and three are going into development.

Storytelling Through The Use of Color, presented by Jill Daniels and Lorelay Bove, talked a lot about color theory. Color is important as it is emotional power and anybody of any age responds to color. The key to using color is to keep in mind of balance and unity to create a plausible yet still beautiful and story driven world. There are four main palettes that are typically used: saturated vs. desaturated, analogous, complimentary, and monochromatic. Going back to balance and unity, not all colors have to be pushed to their extremes but instead also consider the composition as a whole. It is also better to go with simpler and more organized palettes as it those would be easier for the audience to remember. While using palettes that are lacking in vibrant colors, that are more desaturated, interest can be given to the composition by using a lot of textures. There is never a true right or wrong with color. Color can be instinctual but also choose them with discernment; ask why and how the color helps the story. They can also mean anything you want them to mean; pink doesn't have to be soft and fluffy but can mean evil as long as the artistic interpretation is set up from the beginning.

Getting a sneak peek of Mr. Peabody and Sherman, presented by Philippe Denis (head of vfx) and Jason Schleifer (head of character animation), was exciting. I didn't grow up with Peabody and Sherman and I never saw the cartoon so I didn't know what to expect of this movie. Seeing the sneak peek has me really excited for the movie as the few clips that I saw were both hilarious, beautiful, and interesting. While the movie will be done in 3D, Dreamworks has kept very much in tune with the original 2D series. They achieve the same style but in 3D by keeping the shapes in their graphic nature and being very geometrical. A step further from the graphic nature is applying the "wonk". Wonk is the skewing of the design of objects so they're not just straight solid objects but rather have tilts and exaggerations. A issue that arose though with wonk is that if it is not applied correctly, it can look gimmicky and compromises the scale of objects. In order to solve this issue, large scale objects, such as building, will have no wonk while detail objects, such as door handles, will have a lot of wonk. For the color palette Dreamworks also kept this similar to the original series, the color scheme tends to be monochromatic with accent colors. The texturing of everything in the movie seek to be stylized but simple and then a naturalistic shading is applied. Since the characters stylized proportions with large heads and thin limbs, a creative rig was used to test animation to figure out what worked and didn't. This allowed them to quickly change proportions and the rig to figure out what does work. Through such tests, the production team found that Sherman looked too skinny and doesn't reflect his age as well in 3D as he did in 2D. Sherman got fattened up a little bit and made slightly cuter. In order to get a clean silhouette, the front cowlick of Sherman was animated to always point in front. Extra limbs would be added in to get that fast cartoony motion blur movements. What was really great is due to the graphic nature of everything in the film and shapes and silhouettes are important, there are full documents created for animators on how to shape the head of the characters for fluidity in animation.

Jim Blinn. This was the big panel that I was so excited for. I initially didn't even notice this panel when going through the schedule. It was later on while on my way down to CTN that I saw the word "teapot" my thought was "oh, like the one that they always show with Renderman?" Then I saw the name Jim Blinn and thought "Blinn...that's an interesting name, sound familiar..." Then it all clicked together in my mind and I became extremely excited. This is the person who made the Blinn material and is one of the people who helped paved the way to make it possible to do what I do in CG. MC'd by Tad Guilo, the panel was an interview where I got to learn about Jim's past. Jim loved astronomy, inspired by Disney's Man in Space, and wanted that as his first career goal. He went to University of Michigan to study physics but quickly became entrapped by computers which led him to get a job programming for theses of graduate students. By doing so he got to play with the computer for the next four years while at UM and began experimenting with animation created from line drawing. After receiving both an undergraduate and graduate degree plus two years, Jim went to Utah, which was the technology mecca at the time, and got to experiment with the famous Martin Newell's Teapot. Through his experimentation and the Phong material, Jim made the first render with texture mapping and presented his Blinn material which is based off the torrance illumination model at SIGGRAPH. Further developing, Jim wanted more textural quality as everything previous was flatly painted on to the model. This led to the creation of the bump map! Since then Jim has created a CG Jupiter and moons for NASA's Voyager 2 fly-through, DNA replication animation for Cosmos, made the 50 episode series Mechanical Universe, and the series Project Mathematics. He is currently working for Microsoft calculating algebraic geometries. I wanted to personally thank him for his contribution to the industry and enabling me to do what I do today but unfortunately the panels were all running behind and so I had to leave the area before I got a chance to.