Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Splinter Cell Conviction

I've been doing some research into upcoming games recently to check out any new approaches to animation pipelines and conceptual ideas. I began looking into the next installment of the Splinter Cell series: Conviction. In it, they talk about a new gameplay mechanic called 'marking.' The premise is that Sam Fisher can survey enemies and environmental elements while concealed in the shadows, and when he springs into action, the game begins to take over, and execute the targets in the order you specify. This allows the user to get the drop on enemies in a planned, orderly fashion, that helps you to feel powerful and in control, instead of like a lame duck as some of the older Splinter Cell games did.

Aside from this being a fun gameplay mechanic, I think its pretty interesting from an animation standpoint as well. Instead of the player controlling all the action, and the game having to interpolate and interpret these inputs on the fly, sometimes resulting in hideous animation, it can specify a single animation or a series of cycles that are planned to run together, resulting in a highly polished, smooth, visceral result. I'm looking forward to being able to try it out. If it works as smoothly as some of the videos show, it could really be a nice improvement to the franchise and gaming as a whole.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pencil Tests

I found this site linked to from Josh Burton's blog today. There are some absolutely beautiful pieces of animation displayed here. It is definitely worth a look if you have any interest in animation whatsoever.

On a side note, I always find pencil tests so beautiful. They seem to have so much more emotion and action than the final cleaned up stuff.

Pencil Tests

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Is coming out on the 18th. Spread the word, it looks like its going to be a lot of fun. At least, I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Replace the Animator?

I just read an interesting entry from Keith Lango's blog. It's dealing with the 'controversy' that arose surrounding the movie Avatar, which is being directed by James Cameron. Someone on the production said,

"Our goal on this movie was not to replace the actor, it was to replace the animator. If you think about it, what a great actor does and what a great animator does are antithetical to one another. "A great actor withholds information. Dustin Hoffman in All the President's Men can sit there and do nothing. No animator would ever allow that, they would put in a twitch. So our objective was to preserve Sam Worthington's performance and have that be what you see in those characters."

Keith Lango had an interesting take on it saying, "I eagerly await the day when mo-cap technology gets so good that animators won't be stuck wiping the poo from the data or twiddling the performance because the director can't keep his hands off it and trust his actors." Which is completely contrary to the initial response many animators are having. (Reminds me a lot of some comments made before Polar Express came out.) He goes on to further emphasize the difference between the intent and purposes of live action (mo-cap) and animation. Its an interesting view, and some points he makes I've never really considered myself. Though, I think I must agree with him. Actors and animators each have their role. I highly encourage the read.

This still plays out a little differently in the gaming industry I think. Here, we're focused more on motion and believability than performance, unless we're animating through a cut scene. I think animators will always be needed to push actions further and tweak things to make the inhumanly possible, which is why games are fun anyway. Take Drake's Fortune as an example. They used mocap, but adjusted the timing and poses to push things further and create the experience they were looking for. Besides that, some things simply can not be captured by a person in a suit. That is where animation, and animators, will always be a necessity.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Inka Bola

And while poking around Gobelins' site, I found this short. It epitomizes the idea that a great short can come from the simplest idea, executed masterfully. Check it out.
Inka Bola


If you haven't heard or seen Oktapodi, its definitely time you were introduced. I found this movie a while back, and it blew me away. Its a student film from Gobelins. I recently went back to the site to see if they'd updated anything, and found out that it had been nominated for the Best Animated Short this past year. It has apparently won a slew of other awards as well. You should definitely check out the site. They have some nice 'making of' featurettes as well.