Course notes
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Rules for Final Animation
  • If it can be done in live action, it is not appropriate for this animation assignment.
  • No realistic human characters - not even cartoon characters that are constructured like real people.
  • All characters must be inanimate objects that are personified or characters that are constructed in a very unique way
  • No killing the character
  • No toilet humor
  • No space ships, robots, tunnels, etc (CG cliches)
  • No cliche stories (it's only a dream - alarm clock goes off at end)
  • The story must have conflict and resolution and a beginning, middle and end (but they can be experimental in how this is accomplished)
  • Highly encouraged: the story can be non-literal and explore an idea using metaphor
    Lecture 1
    Into to the class, introductions, syllabus

    Brainstorming idea - techniques

    Generating ideas
  • Lists - anything that comes to mind
  • Make a list of emotion, cause and effect (class exercise)
  • Thesaurus or google search
  • Variations on a theme, interdisciplinary thinking, metaphorical thinking
  • Visualization - imagine yourself in the situation what might happen (come up with 10 possible scenerios)
  • Research - Library, videos, films, books, Internet
  • Thumbnailing and sketchbooks
  • Exercise - Story machine

    Stay open and refine and change ideas to try new things

    In class Exercise: Story Machine
    2 stacks of cards with vocational label (doctor, janitor, etc) and strange or unusual behavior - shuffle the cards

    Why did the Card A do B?
    What is the conflict?
    Add another conflict
    How is it resolved?
    Add details and tell us more about the story.

    Assignment: - Write 12 possible concept statements for a story (2 sentences maximum each)

    Read: Chapter 2 Story in [digital] Character Animation 2 (handout)

    See Assignment 1 for more details
  • Lecture 2

    Ottawa Field trip
    Sept. 19 - Sept. 23, 2007
    $160 for full pass, $90 for Fri 7-Sun 5pm

    Visiting Artists - New Music and Art Festival
    Jean Detheux and Stephane Maxwell, October 17 - 20, 2007
    Link to New Music and Art Festival

    Visiting Artist - ArtTalks
    Zach Simpson-Booth
    Link to Zach's art company website Figure out time for bi-monthly screenings

    Class meetings in Second Life

    Quiz over Ch. 2

    Brainstorming and Story Engine continued

    Real-time and multi-stage creativity:
    Real-time involves spur of the moment, instinctive, improvisational.
    Multi-stage involves changing and developing the idea over time.

    Continue the story engine

    Diverent thinking exercise:

    Look at an object and write as many words, phrases or make sketches as the ideas instantly pop into your mind. You have 2 minutes.

    Convergent thinking exercise:

    Pass the list to another person and they should look a the list of words, sketches and phrases and make associations between them. Combine theses ideas to make a new list of words or images.

    Use elements that are true to life - people need to relate to the events or emotions in the story. Although you are expressing your idea, you are making the animation for the audience. Use ideas that will reach out to them and give them what they need to understand what you are trying to say.

    Characteristics of a Short Story
  • Arresting opening
  • Interesting plot
  • Well developed structure
  • Action
  • Tension
  • Clearly recognizable climax
  • Satisfying ending
  • One or two well developed characters
  • Effective use of dialogue (make a contribution to the story)
  • Skillful exploitation of conventions of the chosen genre
  • Use of setting to enhance the narrative

    All stories are about desire

    Premise or concept of the story is the basic essence of what it all means or the core values

  • Lecture 3
    Reading Assignments:

    DUE: Wednesday, Aug 29th - Reading Assignment 1: Constructing Plot

    Make sure you read the sections from "The Elements of Plot Development" to "Finding the Theme"

    Each student will be assigned a specific aspect of the reading to talk about. Be able to define the following terms and talk about them (according to what the author says):

    Point of View

    What are the different types of Point of View?
    How do you find the theme in a story?

    DUE: Wednesday, Aug 29th - Reading Assignment 2: Mind Map

    DUE: Wed. Sept. 5 - Reading Assignment 3:
    Read Plot Construction, Plot Problems, Dramatic Structure, and Revising Dramatic Structure:

    Make sure you have read these various section:

    Plot Construction: How to Plot, Tell Your Story to Someone, Write an Outline
    Plot Problems: Plot Holes, Illogical Events, Pointless Events
    Dramatic Structure: The Dramatic Arc, Introduction, Development, Resolution, Missing the Arc
    Revising Dramatic Structure: Introduction: The Amazon Village, Conflict Development: Illusia, Resolution

    Seven Sentence Stories:

    What is a 7 sentence story?

    Sentence 1:Introduce Character A and place.
    Sentence 2: Introduce Character B and establish conflict.
    Sentence 3: Problem grows more complex.
    Sentence 4: Character A does something.
    Sentence 5: Character B does something.
    Sentence 6: Climax.
    Sentence 7: Resolution


    1. Randomly select a letter and number.
    2. Go to the Premise Collection Center and find the premise with your randomly selected group letter and number on it.
    3. Make up a seven sentence story based on the premise.
    4. Tell the class the story.
    5. The class contributes to and critiques the story.
    6. The original creator of the premise tells a different story related to the same premise.

    Assignment: DUE: Wed. Aug. 27.

    Part 1: Randomly select another letter and number and create a seven sentence story related to the second premise you selected.

    Part 2: Write a seven sentence story for one of your own premises.

    Turn in the 2 stories in the following format:
    Randomly selected Premise - Group ___ Number ____
    My premise - Group ___ Number ____
    Lecture 4
  • CAC Meeting and visiting artist vote
  • Ottawa Animation Field trip

    Mind Mapping

    What is it?

    Mind mapping is similar to the way we think. One idea leads to another. You can capture these associative thoughts by creating a map of how each of the ideas are associated. Mind mapping can be used to organize thoughts, memorize important concepts, brainstorm possible story ideas, and see the relationship of and understand complex structures. Read more about Mind Mapping

    Basic rules:
  • Use large paper or window in landscape format
  • Start in the center
  • Use color
  • The lines that connect elements must eminate out of the center and get smaller as they go.
  • All words must be horizontal
  • Colors can be used to catorgorize each section
  • Use words and images
  • Size of text stresses the importance of each element
  • Sometimes you can go back and replace words with images

    Assignment: DUE: Wed. Sept. 5. Create a mind map of the story for your animation.

    In class: Create a mind map of your life. Start with an image that represents you or aspects of you in the center. This can be very symbolic and not directly representational.

  • Incidents and events with a cause and effect relationship that rise to a climax and then get resolved.
  • Beginning, Middle, End
  • Problem and solution, protagonist and antagonist
  • Plot - difference between incident and plot
  • Complications - makes the resolution harder to obtain
  • Story Structure - Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, Conflict, Resolution

    Acting / Story Telling Concepts
  • Thinking leads to Movement
  • Action / Reaction
  • Purpose ( objective )
  • Playing one action to the next action
  • Empathy ( emotion )
  • Negotiation (conflict, Obstacle)

    Story Development:

    First and Foremost, As an animator you "ARE" a story teller.
    I would like for you to ask yourself a few questions...
    What is the message you are trying to say with your story / animation?
    How does this story relate to you? What beliefs have you put into this story?
    Why did you put them into the story?

    For your animation to be successful, you must have a personal belief backing your story. If you do not have a firm understanding on "why" you are telling the story, you might as well not tell the story at all. This would be like telling a joke but not knowing the punch line. Having strong convictions behind your story will enable you to build stronger characters, scenes, and ultimately lead to better animation. Personal belief behind a story will motivate and give you that extra push needed in those 10 remaining days of finishing the film.

    As you start to develop your story ask yourself what the conflict is in your story?
    Does your main character have a conflict? Every story should have a conflict. If your story does not have a conflict, you are more than likely telling an incident and an incident is not a story. When I use the word conflict, I do mean conflict with a negative connotation. A conflict can be solving an issue, such as taking a right turn or a left turn, going to your "animation class" or sleeping in. As Ed Hooks says (Acting for animators) think of it in terms of a " negotiation ". What is the negotiation that you are trying to work through in your animation?

    With that... lets break down a story. First you need a plot.

    Plot - a sequence of events in a story and their relation to one another.
    The plot of a story usually involves a conflict or struggle between opposing forces. This does not mean that the conflict has to be negative. The plot can be broken into three sections.

    Beginning - this is where we build up or develop the problem

    Middle - this is where we are introduced to various complications in trying to over come the problem. This will prolong the suspense and make the struggle to resolve the conflict more meaningful.

    End - this is where we have the conflict resolved.

    The First stage of a plot is called the exposition. This is where the characters, scene, time and situation are introduced.

    The Second stage of the plot is called the rising action. The dramatization of events that complicate the situation and gradually intensify the conflict.

    The Third stage of the plot is called the climax. the emotional high point.

    The Fourth stage of the plot is called the falling action. problem presented proceeds towards resolution.

    Last stage is the story's ending. Often contains an element of surprise.

    If you are having trouble looking for inspiration to develop a story I suggest looking at philosophical writings, short stories, fables, poems, past experiences, personal beliefs, or even current world events. Your story could be politically, environmentally, or even spiritually driven. But, not to forget, you must have some sort of personal belief backing your animation.

    Story types:
  • Man vs. Nature
  • Man vs. Self
  • Man vs. Man
  • Man vs. Society
  • Man vs. Machine
  • Man vs. God
  • Man vs. everyone

    Standard stories:
    Brainstorm different types of archetypal stories

  • Loss, Longing, Reunited
  • Boy meets girl and lives happily ever after

  • Lecture 5

    Ottawa reminder

    SketchUp meeting 9pm tonight

    Web design job

    Notes from Karen Sullivan's lecture on Story Telling

    Assignment due Monday Sept 10: Character Profile questionnaire, blog entries, & Character Model sheets

    Character Development and Design

    Physical traits
    Point of view
    Video Referencing Lecture
    Using Video for references for 3D animation

    Step by step instructions:
    1. Using a firewire video camera and a tripod, video tape someone performing the action. Have them do it multiple times so you have choices.
    2. Import your movie into iMovie and remove extra frames so that only the part you need is left. Select the area you want (yellow) and Edit - Crop
    3. In iMovie - File Export, Quicktime, Expert Settings - Share.
    4. Next dialog box click Export: Movie to Image Sequence
    5. Use: JPEG 29.97
    6. Click OPTIONS - JPEG, 29.97
    8. Click OPTIONS - Best Depth - Medium
    9. OK OK, Make a folder for the images, Name it and Save

    10. Move your frames to the Source Images folder in your Maya Project

      NAMING THE FILES (Maya insists that the naming convention is: Name.jpg.0001 NOT .jpg at the end.)

    11. Take a copy of SiliWin from the homework folder and put on your desktop
    12. Install the software by clicking Setup.exe - follow the instructions
    13. Go to the Program menu and start SiliWin
    14. Pick the first file you want to change
    15. Put Name.jpg
    16. Remove the info in Type of File
    17. Number of Padding = 000
    18. Remove all references to .SGI
    19. Rename the files - it does all files in the folder

    20. In Maya: In the Front window, View - Image Plane
    21. Import Image - pick the first image in the sequence (on a Mac you may need to select Best Guess)
    22. Keep the Image FIXED
    23. In the Attribute Editor, Select USE Image Sequence

    Other References:

    BBC Motion Gallery

    Getty Images Footage

    Books: Eadweard Muybridge - The Human Figure in Motion

    Final Animation Production Bible

    (modified from an original written by Lowell Boston, University of the Arts)

    What is the Animation production bible?

    The Animation bible is the attempt to organize into words and pictures the idea, vision and style of your film or TV project. It is a guide that contains detailed aspects concerning nearly all levels of the project's production - your premise, character descriptions and designs, story context, storyboards, etc. In this process of creation an animator immerses themselves into answering and resolving any unforeseen questions, and problems that might arise. The bible therefore becomes:

    The act of organization, visualization and full realization of your idea.

    Production bibles can be tailored made for many different things - writers and directors, production crews, style guides for licensing and merchandising, pitch bibles, or grant proposal supplements for foundations. The content and format depends on the nature of your idea and whom it is for. The look and content then stems from there.

    For this class we will follow a 'generic format'. Many bibles you will find will be similar in content, while others may be different.


    1. All of your bibles will be created in laser printed quality type. Handwritten bibles will not be accepted, or those printed in handwritten-like fonts. Legible handwritten information may be presented with hand drawn artwork - model sheets, layouts, storyboards, etc. That will be the only exception.

    2. All bibles must be presented in formats that can easily be reproduced. 81/2 x 11, 81/2 x 14, or 11 x 17 size paper. If it cannot fit into a copy machine, do not use it. Multiple paper sizes may be used, for example, if your bible contains any foldout pages, (layout samples, character line ups, storyboards, etc.) but all paper edges must conform to one general size.

    3. Proper spelling, punctuation and grammar count. Design your bible to be comfortably and easily read by others. Unprofessional mistakes will reflect on you, casting you as an amateur.

    4. No original artwork is to be placed in the bible. Everything must be a CLEAN reproduction of your artwork and writing, and designed to be reproduced neatly. If you have color, you must present it as a color copy - not the original work!

    5. Cover artwork is optional.


    Your animation production bibles are to be formatted in the following order:


    Table of Contents

    Expanded Premise (see below) - Two pages maximum.

    Character description in paragraph form (for all characters)

    Character model sheets (in color)

    Pose /Expression sheet - optional, but worth extra credit.

    Script - must be presented in professional script writing format (maximum of 2 pages)

    Setting concept art in color

    Character in the Setting concept art in color

    Additional concept art (props, secondary characters, etc.) - extra credit

    Storyboard (reproduction in a size that fits in the notebook) DVD containing the following: Animatic as a Quicktime, images of 3D modeled settings, props, and characters. The DVD needs to be inserted into a DVD sleeve in the back of the bible.

    Notes and Appendix - Optional
    Expanded Premise - The bible's expanded premise is a tight, succinct over-view of your project's idea/story. Rather than told in a cinematic, shot-by-shot fashion, the premise is written in a manner that conveys the plot's beginning, middle, and end. At least one page in length, but no longer than two, many animation bibles follow a specific format to readily communicate information to the reader.

    Paragraph one - log line

    (Title) (format - animated series, short or feature film) (target audience) (plot summary).


    The Devil's Due is a short, animated film for teens and young adults, about a poor Kansas farmer who sells his immortal soul in order to save his farm.

    Paragraph two - context and character.

    The time, place and social/cultural setting of the story are conveyed here. For genre-based stories - sci-fi, fantasy, horror, etc. the story's context must be fleshed out before any character can be introduced.


    Kansas, 1939. The Great Depression has left the American heartlands as nothing more than struggling dustbowls and ghost towns. Beset by a seemingly endless drought, the homesteads and farms of the small town of Fallon have been foreclosed and sold one by one; all save for Connor Wilkes', the town's last homeowner, and hero of the Great War. Discovering secrets within the pages of his immigrant grandmother's journal, the Kansas farmer finds the only way out of ruin and homelessness, but at a final, terrible price.

    Paragraph three - Production methods and/or value

    Describe any interesting production methods that will cause your project to stand out from others.


    Traditionally animated and digitally composite with lush, water colored backgrounds, the production design of The Devil's Due captures the light color, and atmosphere of 1930's Americana that is both haunting and mesmerizing.

    Also mention in this section any music, musician, or composer who will also add value to your production.

    Paragraph four - Theme and/or message

    In the premise's last paragraph reinforce 'why' you believe your project should be produced. Often underscoring any vital message or theme that the story may convey best does this.


    What is the cost of happiness? The Devil's Due explores the choices one makes when one has everything, and nothing to lose. Set to a stirring, original score, this animated film with take viewer on a visual journey to a tactile world of hope and betrayal.
    Continuity Style of Editing
    1. For a natural cut, cut on the "look" or where the person glances
    2. The eye line determines spatial relationships in the scene space
    3. The viewer is placed in relationship to the subjects on the screen
    4. A character in your shot must look at objects before picking them up, etc. This glance direction must be exact.
    5. Leave extra space on the side of the frame where the character is looking
    1. Create intimate relationship with the characters in the shot
    2. Could be a violation of privacy (you see something you should not, you are too close for comfort, intruding)
    3. Closeness like being near a loved one
    4. Cultural customs of privacy, how close is comfortable? What is the accepted distance between people?
    The balance or imbalance of any frame is dependent on the frames before or after the current frame.
    1. Avoid putting main items in the center of the frame - there will be no eye movement around your frame
    2. Position the character to one side or the other
    3. Watch the rhythm of the eye movement as viewers watch a film.
    Extreme Close-ups
    1. Eyes, mouth, and ears are often used for extreme close-ups
    2. Extreme closeup of a person crying is very effective
    Medium Shot
    1. This is the most common shot in film
    2. Captures the gestures, body language and facial expressions
    3. Common with group shots or dialogue shots
    4. Use medium shots in conjuction with close-ups
    Full Shot
    1. Not used as much any more
    2. Usually used as establishing shot
    3. Use it when it is necessary to connect the character to the location
    4. Typical to do a Full shot then Medium and then closeup - but do not return to the full shot directly after this
    5. Position the character off center on long and full shots

    Line of Action
    1. Organization of camera angles to establish consitent screen direction and space
    2. Avoid reversal of left and right screen space (never have a character ont he right then next shot they are on the left)
    3. When a subject is moving through the frame in one direction, they should continue to move through the space in the same direction in subsequent shots

    180 Degree Rule / Axis of Action
    1. Stay within the 180 degree area when cutting back and forth between 2 characters
    2. If you use a shot taken outside the 180 area, it will disorient the viewer
    3. Use the Triangle System to place cameras
    4. All shots of the interaction between two characters can be taken from 3 points within the 180 area

    5 Basic Camera Setups for shooting 2 people interacting

    Angular Singles

    Master Two-shots

    Over the Shoulder Shots

    Point of View Singles

    Profile Shots

    Establishing a New Line of Action
    1. When a person the camera is looking at turns their head to look at something, the camera can follow thus establishing a new 180 - now you must stay in this 180 until you establish a new 180
      • This is called the pivot shot and it calls your attention to something new
      • You can go back to the old 180 after you have used the new 180 a bit
      • Have an action or glance that triggers the change back to the old 180 - you do not need a pvot shot
    2. Another way to establish a new 180 is when a character crosses out of the 180 area and the camera shows the new relocation
      • This establishes a new 180 area and you need to stay within this area until you reestablish a new one or return back to the old
    3. Another way to show a shot outside of the 180 area is to have a Bridge or Cut Away shot.
      • You can have a shot of a person then cut to an environment then cut back to the person in a different spot

    Action Sequences and Line of Action
    1. Follow the dominant direction of the motion
    2. Do not change the direction of the motion
    3. There is an implied sight line if you have a car or other human driven vehicle so you could do a POV shot
    Crossing Line of Action in Action Shots
    1. Can change the line of action when the subject changes directions and you use a pivot shot
    2. A new suject can enter the frame and the camera can focus on them thus establishing a new 180 area
    3. Can follow a subject to a new 180 area
    DO NOT place cameras on the 180 line or close to it (179 degrees)
    Temporal Connections

  • Cause and Effect - make logical sense between shots
  • Ask a question (with a shot) then provide an answer (with another shot)
  • Ex. Throw a ball then shot of glass breaking

    Spatial Connections
  • Ex. Wide shot of village with houses then a closeup of one of the houses Logical Connections
  • Ex. Wide shot of woods then a mid shot of squirrel (the squirrel would most likely live in a forest)

    Sergei Eisenstein - famous film theorist
    Thesis - Antithesis - Synthesis
    Dialectical Montage
    Shot 1 and 2: What is the connection between these 2 shots? Answer is shown in shot 3.

    Ex. Shot of person looking, then shot of what they are looking at

    Can alter the order of the Q + A pattern
    Rhythm and timing can be altered by witholding some expected narrative information for a while then revealing it later.

    Ex. Answer first then Question
    Shot of Bug then shot of woman's face scared

    Ex. Question first then Answer
    Shot of woman's face with scared look then shot of bug

    Ex. Question, other material used to delay the answer, then Answer
    Shot of ransacked house, shot of raining day, shot of rusted cars, then shot of crooks running

    Ex. Question, Partial Answer, Partial Answer, then Answer (who and why)
    Shot of dook knob turning, shot of feet, shot of gun, shot of man picking up gun

    You can also have more than 1 question

    Instead of showing us the answer, show us stuff that leads us to figure out the answer on our own
    Decrepit town = trash blowing, CU of closed sign, window shutter hanging off building
    Cutting on the Action/Movement

    Before the actual climax of the event, CUT to CU of event then CUT back to finish of event
    NEVER cut at the very begining or end of an action

    Ex. Full shot of woman lifting cup to lips, cut to CU of cup as it touches lips, she starts to lower the cup and cut to mid shot
    Exits and Entrances

    Shot one: cut to empty street then a person enters from left side and walks to the right and exits the frame completely
    Shot two: cut to new part of street then the same person enters from the left and exits completely on the right side

    **Always hold on scene for a number of frames before the person enters - DO NOT have the person enter right away.

    Shot one: person is slightly in the frame on right and walks left. Before they reach the absolute end, CUT to next shot
    Shot two: CUT to a different place with person slightly on frame on the right and they walk left till almost off the frame.

    By using exits and entrances, you can both indicate a passage or time and also a continuation of time.