visual development

Academy of Art University Spring Show 2014

Monday, May 19th was the opening of Spring Show! Spring Show this year is being hosted at 2225 Jerrold Ave. San Francisco, CA 94124 and will be open during the week from 10am to 6pm (closed Sundays and Mondays). It's a time where the school displays the best of the students' work from all the different departments which is an amazing sight to see. I never even knew that there was a paper sculpture class. More important than the Spring Show opening is that prior in the day is when Career Day happens and all the graduating students anxiously wait in line to interview with many various companies, such as Disney, Laika, Blizzard, Dreamworks, Method Studios, etc., that come. Since I'm not graduating yet I'm not actually allowed to be interviewed but I volunteered as a runner partially in hopes of being able to speak briefly and get to know more recruiters. Apparently the Laika recruiter, Anna Kvorning, saw my work in the show and liked it and asked for me in person so when I arrived ready to volunteer I was immediately whisked off to wait in line for an interview. I was freaking out while waiting in line as I was prepared to be volunteering and running around so I was not dressed formally enough as I usually would for an interview and I had no tablet to show my work on. Everything ended up goig well though and I guess I was allowed this one interview since it wasn't actually for hire but Ms. Kvorning just wanted to talk and tell me about the fall internship opportunity.

An extremely cool feature at the animation and vfx exhibit is that some of the posters have been augmented with an "augmented reality browser app" called Aurasma. It is available on both iOS and Andriod. Download the app, and search for the AAU channel and follow the channel. Use the app on the poster and it will sync with the camera and begin playing the video on top! You can move around and the video will be tracked to the poster.

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DreamWorks Outreach Program

Stopping at AAU while on her global journey to reach out to various schools, we have Tiffany Feeney, DreamWorks' manager of university relations, come spend an evening with us to talk about DreamWorks' Outreach Program and what recruiters like and want to see on applications. There's a little bit of everything for everyone in different departments and it is at all their locations, Glendale, Redwook City, and Bangalore. The Outreach program generally takes 40 to 60 people so get those resumes, cover letters, and reels ready! While there is no exact deadline listed, Tiffany recommends to have your applications sent by the end of March. Story It is important to have original stories to show your creativity so be sure to include 2-3 of your own works! Stories should have a beginning, middle and end; do not do "To be continued" as it shows nothing of your capabilities and ends up killing your portfolio. There should be 10 to 40 boards per project. For story artists, there is a program called the Story Initiative where you must send in a physical copy of your portfolio, along with resume and cover letter by March 21st. For those chosen, a story test will be given of a script containing DreamWorks property and you will have to draw 100 boards in a certain amount of time.

Visual Development Visual development are artist who design characters, sets, environments, and props. As an entry level position, you will be designing the sets, environments, and props, while character designers are positions that are promoted into after showing adequate skill and knowledge of the pipeline. Often the character designers are also the art director. It is important to demonstrate how you think through showing thumbnails. Think also about light and color and the story behind everything you design. A good design doesn't just stop at how it looks but also consider how it lends itself to animation and the pipeline procedure through turntables and  shader packets.

Modeling While it may look nice to have your model beautifully textured and surfaced, that should be the last thing for you to consider as a modeler. It is perfectly fine, and even encouraged, to have a plain lambert gray shaded model so that whoever is reviewing your reel can see the topology and the joints. Have strong organic models, such as trees and rocks, on your reel as they are difficult in their own way to model well. Beautiful cathedrals can look impressive but modelers know that they aren't all that hard to model as cathedrals aren't really all that complex; once you model one buttress you just duplicate it over and over again. When even modeling items such as environment assets or simple props, give the object a character; not only characters have individuality. Once again, consider the pipeline and don't over detail. It may look fancy to sculpt in all the weaves and folds on a piece of fabric but that becomes unusable in production as fabric usually goes through dynamics and smaller details are done through surfacing.

Character TD All you elusive riggers, show those deformation systems of skin wrinkles and cloth movements along with standard joint based skeletons. Have bipeds, quadruped, and facial rigs.

Surfacer Even though you may be trying to specifically enter in to the CG animation side of the industry, it is good to show realistic texturing and surfacing. Try to match an object to a live action plate and what recruiters always enjoy seeing is food that looks so real that they get hungry and want a piece.

Previs/Layout Show off that film background with some amazing camera work and some set dressing and composition techniques. A lot of times what separates a student film from looking professional are those static locked cameras so getting in there with some adjustments to camera and lenses to make your film look more dynamic.

Character Animator Give your characters a performance and personality while focusing on acting and physical movement. While lip syncing is good to show, you don't need it on everything, instead try having a character off screen or to the side and show a second character emoting in reaction to the dialogue.

Character Effects Hair, cloth, and fur, oh my! Since there weren't any people present who were interested in this particular area, Tiffany didn't delve too much into this area.

Crowds Crowd artists are the ones who populate scenes that contains 6 or more non-main characters. Crowd artists will mainly animate in cycles and also use mocap.

Lighting It is suggested to take a recognizable object and be able to sell it well with lighting so pay attention to the world around you. Lighting tends to intersect a lot with surfacing so there are the same suggestions of matching to a live action plate and showcasing food is always a crowd pleaser. DreamWorks' entry level lighting position is called Lighting TA (technical assistant) and lighting TAs are the CG supervisor's right hand wo/man and are responsible for setting up shots and light rigs to be passed on to lighters to polish, render, and composite.

Matte Painting Demonstrate atmosphere and space in sets, worlds, and extensions.

Effects Cloth, fluid, and physics. Like the story artists, effects also has a challenge called the FX Challenge for you to send your reel to.

Technical Director For those of you who are good at problem solving, programming, scripting, and can fix everything to make the lives for the rest of us in production easier. ___________________________________________________________________________________

For those who haven't seen it yet, Mr. Peabody and Sherman is finally out in theatres. For those who have, those who joined us at the early press screening, go see it again! What we missed out on in the press screening is the short that goes before the movie. It is a 4 minute short introducing us to DreamWorks' next movie, after How to Train A Dragon 2, Home, that is slated to be released later this year in November.

AAU Fall Festival - Disney Art Director Armand Serrano

Hosted by the visual development department of AAU, Armand Serrano, who has worked on films such as Mulan, Lilo and Stitch, Surf's Up, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and Hotel Transylvania.armandArmand Serrano grew up in Manila, Philippines. While there are those people who tell stories of how they have loved animation since they were children, drawing everyday, and wanted to be in animation, Armand never actually intended to be in animation; he majored in civil engineering. Upon graduation, Armand needed a job and so he applied at the Hanna Barbera Philippines studio which was hiring character animators to train. He began as an inbetweener and worked on TV animation on shows such as Yogi Bear, Tom & Jerry, and Captain Planet. After leaving Fil-Cartoons, the Hanna Barbera affiliated studio, Armand went to become the layout supervisor of Marvel's Philippine based studio and worked on the Fantastic Four and X-Men TV shows. In 1996, Armand and his family moved to Los Angeles to further his career and then ended up in Disney's Florida based studio to work on four movies, one of which was Mulan. After the Florida studio closed down, Armand went to work at Sony. His is now currently back at Disney. He didn't work on Frozen as the movie was already wrapping up but he has worked on Big Hero 6 and is now working on Zootopia.

Armand describes visual development and design evolution as design is a process upon which the artist continuously builds and explores. To begin design, dynamic research is very important. Dynamic research is being active while researching, you are not just sitting in front of a computer scrolling through images on Google but rather are sketching and thinking while looking at reference. The purpose of thumbnails are to be simple and to get a point across, don't be intimidated by a studio setting and think that they have to all be detailed and refined. When designing, it is important to think about the needs and the wants. Wants are the things that are nice to have but are not necessary, however they should support the needs. The needs are what is necessary to have no matter what and are based on story and art direction.

Hotel Transylvania was a movie that went through development over a long period of time, long enough for the movie to go through five different drafts. During the first two drafts, Armand designed the hotel lobby. Without given a lot of direction at first, the first concept was that the hotel is carved from rock, out of the side of a mountain and everything inside is organic and symmetrical. The second concept was designed to be more of a castle and so there were a lot more asymmetrical and magical elements. It is important while designing to not hold back, push the design to the limit and then if it's too far then it can always be pulled back. Through the different drafts the story changes and thus the design also changes and evolves. While the final lobby is not the lobby that Armand initially designed it is not as if all his work was considered useless and done for naught. It is the build up and evolution that led the design to the final point. One cannot get to point C without going through point A and B first; the final design doesn't just appear. It is important to consider that your art is work being sold to the company and director so they have the choice of what to do with it.

When designing it is important to think outside of the box. Do something different than what others have done before, break out of the norm. Armand showed a painting that he did of vikings going to battle. Through his reference he saw that everyone painted such a scene to be dark so instead he painted a scene of vikings going to battle in bright sunshine. It is important when thinking of design to ask why and then why not.

Visual Development isn't just about designing a character or environment but also about designing a moment. Moments are a particular period of importance, influence, or significance in a shot that will then be used to define and establish a sequence and is used to show mood and tone. The important part of creating a moment is to put it in context and again to consider the needs vs wants in support of the story. To do so is to give the environment history and story. Without history and story, an environment is just an architectural drawing. When creating the history, nothing is wrong and nothing is right, it depends on the story that you want to tell. Adding characters may help establish the story and give the moment a different feeling and also consider the composition in terms of camera and shot framing as you are designing for film.

To end the night, Armand gives some tips to those of us who are seeking to enter the industry. There is not a clear cut that differentiates between professionals versus amateurs. It isn't so much about skill level but rather the differentiation is between experience and attitude. While working in a pipeline, it isn't so much about the individual but rather about the end product so instead of looking to hire genius artists, people would rather look for those who are a team player, have a good attitude, and are teachable. While you must have a certain amount of skill being a draftsman, being able to draw well isn't all it is about. Just going through the internet one can find plenty of people who are a good draftsman but what instead should be shown is content and originality. It is important to see what kind of ideas that you as a person can bring to the table.