One of the biggest differences between successful and happy people, and people that perpetually struggle, is that successful and happy people constantly check themselves. They measure every aspect of their life to see how they are doing and ask perhaps the most important series of linked questions possible: “Is this what I want and where I want to be? If so, how can I achieve even more? If not, what do I want and where do I want to be? And what do I need to do to get there?”
It’s very common for people to keep track of and routinely measure a car’s gas mileage, internet speed, financial investments, blood pressure or weight gain or loss, but most people rarely stop to take inventory of their career on a deep level. The good news is everything you do can be measured and improved.
Before formulating a plan with specific action items to improve results, you must take a detailed look at your current situation. You can’t possibly blaze a clear path to where you want to go without first knowing where you are.
Here is a powerful self-audit that can help shed some light on important areas which are in need of attention, if not a complete makeover.
Take your existing career and make a list of the three main duties involved for your two to three most-important functions. Break down each of these duties into specific steps or tasks needed to perform each duty. Now, break out each task into three areas: competency, passion and purpose.
Competency: How well do you perform each duty? If you are not competent with your duties, the amount of effort and energy required to perform them results in a massive dissipation of your time, not to mention it will inevitably add untold amounts of stress to your life, both personally and professionally. Perhaps more profound than being inefficient, the stress and negative energy caused by incompetency can seep into any number of additional nooks and crannies in your mind and body which builds up over time and inevitably leads to other problems.
Passion: How excited are you about your career? One of the most undermining actions that one can take is that of engaging in a career and in a lifestyle that holds no passion. When you think about your clients and your industry, is your stomach filled with butterflies or does a sick, sinking feeling wash over your body? You may be the most competent, efficient person on Earth at performing certain tasks, but if there is no passion you essentially serve as a robot on an assembly line. Or even worse, if there is contempt for what you do on a daily basis, this negativity will permeate your entire being and can easily turn into self-loathing. After all, what you do is often equated, at least on some level, to who you are. If you hate your job but you continue to accept it day after day, year after year, your mind can eventually learn to resent itself.
Purpose: How relevant is what you do to ful- filling your professional duties while also advancing your passion purpose? How much does your involvement and advancement of your career help others? Even if the duties you perform are done with great competency and passion but do not provide a significant benefit either to yourself or others, it would most likely serve you best to seek a different purpose.
Take a deep, introspective look at each of the breakouts you’ve created and rate them on competency, passion and purpose from one to 10, one being least and 10 being most. This analysis can provide you with a very revealing status check on where you stand professionally which can have a profound effect on your entire being and those around you. Any category rated six or below indicates something that needs to be improved, changed, delegated to other people, or removed entirely and replaced with something that fits. Anything rated seven or above serves you well and helps serve others. Make it your mission to find ways to improve and refine your seven-and-aboves until they’re all 10s.
Self-checking your core duties and responsibilities in your chosen career based on competency, passion and purpose, can provide a profound awareness of where you are, where you want to be, and a roadmap of how to get there. The longer you wait before performing this self-audit, the more you risk wasting the most precious commodity of all: your time. [ Martin Grebing is an award-winning animation director and producer who has focused on smaller studios and alternative markets. Today, he provides private consulting and is the president of Funnybone Anim-ation, a boutique studio that produces animation for a wide range of clients and industries. He can be reached via www. funnyboneanimation. com.
The 2016 Annecy festival was a victory for the host nation on pretty much every front. In addition to being another well-run and delightful celebration of the world of animation, the festival demonstrated the strength of French animation with a special focus that ran from the opening-night film, Michael Dudok de Wit’s La Tortue rouge (The Red Turtle) — earning a standing ovation — and the world premieres of Illumination Mac Guff’s Paris-produced The Secret Life of Pets and Jean-François Laguionie’s Louise, through the closing night awards ceremony that saw the feature Cristal go to Ma vie de Courgette (My Life as a Courgette).
The only damper on the celebration was the wet weather, which only infrequently stopped long enough for the summer sun to dry out the idyllic lakeside village a bit.
This year’s fest welcom ed 9,153 badgeholders (up 10.3 percent over 2015) representing 85 countries, watching some 500 films screening during the festival. The MIFA market and conference alone drew 2,800 badgeholders (up 4.5 percent), marking its most successful year yet after a steady increase in attendance over the past 12 years.
The wider animation industry was out in force as well, with presentations that included new footage from Fox and Blue Sky Studios for Ice Age: Collision Course and Disney for Moana.
DreamWorks Animation also presented sneak peeks at several upcoming projects: A Masterclass by Guillermo del Toro on Trollhunters; a WIP Feature session on Trolls; a focus on the Voltron: Legendary Defender Netflix series; and on upcoming feature, Boss Baby.
CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg was a surprise guest, and was awarded the first-ever “Golden Ticket” granting him lifetime admittance. Chatting with Katzenberg Animation Magazine had a rare opportunity to meet one-on-one with Katzenberg during the festival and talk about the studio’s projects.
With Trolls delivering a vibrant new look for CG animation, and more competition than ever in the market, Katzenberg says technology has never driven creative decisions at the studio.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a time when the answer was, well the technology isn’t up to delivering to the creative mission of the movie; it’s just the opposite of that,” he says. “I don’t think there’s ever been an instance where a filmmaker at our studio said, ‘Well, I want to do this,’ and somebody said, ‘Sorry, but the technology to do that doesn’t exist.’ It’s just never happened. (The technology) may not have existed, but they didn’t say they couldn’t deliver it.”
Katzenberg says Boss Baby — due in theaters March 10 — is a perfect fit for director Tom McGrath, who previously helmed the Madagascar trilogy and Megamind for the studio.
“He has just a very unique sensibility and a unique sense of humor and I think this movie has actually captured that Tom McGrath magic more than anything he has made up until now,” he says. “I think it’s one of the best original movies we’ve made at the studio in a long time.”
Attending Annecy for the final time as head of DreamWorks, Katzenberg says the festival’s growth reflects the growth of animation as a respected medium all over the world.
“Annecy has always been a kind of heart and soul for the real animation cinemaphiles,” he says. “It’s really a place where it’s a true celebration of it, and that was long before anybody was paying attention in the rest of the world. Annecy was always this oasis that everybody could come to and just for a handful of days get completely immersed and lost with ... (thousands of) geeks, like us, that really love this stuff.”
The special programming around French animation offered insight for both international admirers and local producers. François Hollande, the president of France, and Audrey Azoulay, the French minister for culture and communication, came and met the professionals on June 16.
Frédérique Bredin, president of the CNC, spoke about the opportunities for French animation programs abroad at a panel moderated by Animation Magazine editor in chief Tom Mc- Lean. And the SPFA gave its 2015-2016 review-outlook of French production.
Euro Awards Prep The first European Animation Awards’ General Assembly took place June 14 under the auspicious guidance of Peter Lord (president) and Didier Brunner (VP). Special attention was paid to the French and European animation feature film industry, a significant and strategic theme discussed during two meetings: the European Film Forum Panel Discussion, organized by the European Commission and Europe Creative; and the Conference organized by CITIA talking about the positioning of independent European films in theatres.
The 2016 Animation Personality of the Year Award went to Lord and David Sproxton, founders of the celebrated British studio, Aardman Animations.
More than 800 candidates were selected to take part in 60 recruitment sessions. More than 60 of the most well regarded studios in the world (Illumination Mac Guff, Pixar, Ubisoft, Mikros Animation, Xilam, etc.) met with the brightest young professionals in the market for over 100 job offers. [
The fast-footed mutant steals the spotlight again in with a scaled-up rescue sequence that set a new VFX bar for the franchise. By Bill Desowitz.
ture Past, Days of Fu- agement and efficient workflow design. RSP also manipulated Quicksilver’s surroundings to heighten the comic effect of his whimsy.
What were the most difficult parts? “Feeding lots of photo-real high-res geometry into rigid body simulations prior to simulating high-res volumetric and hard body interactions undergoing time manipulation,” says Jones.
“We learnt lots about retiming simulations on the previous film and applied the same principles here only on a grander scale,” Jones says. “Previously we manipulated mostly raindrops and particle effects with a touch of custom volumes such as a muzzle flash.
“This time, entire rooms are being simulated for destruction and then volumes such as smoke and fire are simulated within the destructing environment. These get simulated at real speeds and then slowed down to a fraction of normal speed for rendering. At this point, we also use the sim to add higher frequency detail such as dust and fine debris.”
RSP used 3DEqualizer and Maya for all scene setup, animation and asset creation; Mudbox, ZBrush and MARI for asset detailing and texturing.
In addition, Houdini was used for all effects elements, including building, room and prop destruction; debris and dust; smoke; and fire. A custom destruction workflow was implemented during production, allowing a faster and more predictable result for the foundation destruction sims.
Arnold was the main rendering platform with all lighting scenes assembled and managed within Houdini. Together with Mantra, Arnold delivered deep stereo image sequences for final compositing in Nuke.
Working closely with John Dykstra (production VFX supervisor), MPC teams in Montreal, Bangalore and London (led by VFX supervisor Anders Langlands) worked on nearly 1,000 shots for the final battle, the Cerebro Room and multiple mutant powers. City Breakers
Modo was getting some heat even before The Foundry acquired it and began to incorporate it into its suite of products. After numerous iterations, advances in UV mapping, animation and an incorporation of a sophisticated Boolean tool called MeshFusion, Modo is up to version 10.1 and its momentum doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
The biggest splash for Modo 10.1 is the addition of what is referred to as the layer stack — which is a dynamic and procedural way to model and rig. Now, to be honest, this idea isn’t groundbreaking. The 3ds Max modifier stack is based on this concept. And anyone you talk to who works in Houdini — well, “procedural” is the name of the game. But for longtime Modo users, or Maya users who have migrated to Modo, this idea of procedural modeling could be a game changer.
The concept is that a model is made up of a number of tasks: create base mesh, select faces, bevel, subdivide, etc. But frequently, this is a linear process, and it’s difficult to go backward. Procedural modeling keeps each step alive and accessible, and (to an extent) if you make changes upstream, those changes will propagate throughout to the end of the change. It’s quite powerful.
These procedural methods have been incorporated into other new tools such as some advanced text tools. The layer stack allows you to change text, font, etc., without having to remodel.
But Modo doesn’t stop at modeling. The parameters in the tasks are open to data input and can be driven dynamically by conditions or by user input. So the structure of the model can be set up to change based on circum- stances. Modo has adopted a Houdini-Ice-Bifrost type of nodal system to control the rig. In this day and age, it’s really the best way to go. Everyone’s getting into the act.
Not all of the model tools have made their way into the layer stack as of 10.1, but plans are to continue to migrate them as the software evolve. With Modo jumping into this modeling methodology — and I predict Bifrost’s philosophy will bleed throughout the rest of Maya — we are going to see a mass movement with modelers toward this way of thinking. And once clients get wind that you can dynamically iterate versions, they will demand it. If you are still in the old-school, linear-modeling mindset? Well, you just better be a damn fast modeler.
Mocha Pro has made itself the go-to tool for tracking, track-assisted rotoscoping and object removal. So much so, that its team was awarded a Science and Technology Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Not too shabby. And their latest version makes the tools even easier to incorporate as well as expanding into new technological fields.
The biggest announcement for Mocha Pro 5 is that there are plugins that open a pipe directly from After Effects, Premiere Pro, Avid or HitFilm into Mocha Pro. What does this do? First, because the tools are sharing data there is no need for additional file sequences for Mocha to track — it can use what is available within After Effects (for example), including compositions. Not only can the footage be used for the track source, it could be the element that is tracked into the plate. And in turn, tracks and masks can be sent directly back to the host software.
Additionally, other procedures can be pulled from Mocha, and then rendered directly in After Effects. Object removal for instance, would be processed in the comp, rather than being required to render out an entirely new sequence.
And don’t worry — the plugin for Nuke is on its way.
Because of the open pipe between packages, this means that Mocha Pro can be used with other plugins in the mix. For instance, a problem that is becoming more and more prominent as virtual reality becomes a thing is incorporating VFX into VR, or repairing it — like ... where does the film crew hide? VR tools such as Mettle allow for reconfiguring and processing of VR data. The VR footage can be flattened and manipulated, and then fed into Mocha where objects can be tracked in, or objects removed. Then the footage is restored to it original format for use in the target VR system.
If you are in VFX, Mocha Pro should already be in your arsenal. If you are starting to look into virtual reality, you are walking into a minefield of post-production unknowns, and the Mocha team is one group that is looking forward into the problems of a nascent industry.
The latest version of After Effects has a bunch of cool tools that make things easier and faster for us compositors and designers. But I really want to focus on a tool that, in fact, is still technically in a preview state. And that is Character Animator. When it first came out, I was pretty dismissive of it as a viable animation tool. And, due to the simplicity of the setup and the lack of a requirement of any earned skill, I predicted that we would probably see a whole ton of awful animation before it eventually got into the hands of artists who knew what they were doing.
And finally, it happened. Through a collaborative effort between Adobe and Film Roman, the tools were refined and honed to help create a live Q&A with Homer Simpson. The experienced animators from the show took the tools Adobe has created, provided feedback (which Adobe took to heart) and they crafted it into something kind of amazing. And following on their footsteps, Cartoon Trump appeared on Late Night with Stephen Colbert in a number of live segments. This was all done with a new feature in Character Animator that feeds the animation — driven by a performance captured on a webcam — and then transposes the motion to a rigged character, and then feeds to the broadcast.
And it’s all technology that is available — just add talent and stir.
That said, I’ll briefly touch on what Character Animator does. You set up a character in Photoshop or Illustrator in various states — phonemes, head turns, etc. Those are brought into After Effects and tagged as specific elements, which are then driven by you on your webcam. The lip sync, movements, etc., drive the triggers and call up elements depending on the performance. All of which can be overridden, of course, to fix, refine or add to animation.
In Preview 4, things have become more streamlined, where character setup used to require elements to be explicitly named for the tags to work, you now can connect the tags visually. So, you can have Square486 be the right eye if you want — but I wouldn’t recommend it. You can now setup auto blinks to happen randomly or based on behavior. The facial analysis algorithms have more fidelity. And it works with Syphon (on OSX) to feed the animation into a live broadcast situation — like Simpsons or Colbert.
I was skeptical. But I’m happy to be proven wrong.
IRumiko Takahashi’s anime classic took Japan’s tradition of gender-switching stories to new places and new heights. By Charles Solomon.
n the United States, cross-gender entertainments are usually novelties — Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie or a performance of Shakespeare with an all-male cast. In Japan, there’s a long history of blurring gender lines in popular culture, from the onnagata (transvestite heroines) in Kabuki to the all-female Takarazuka Revue.
That phenomenon extends to animation and manga. The father of Oscar François de Jarjayes, the heroine of the adventure- fantasy Rose of Versailles, wanted a son so desperately, he trained his daughter to become an master swords-woman, a crack shot — and an officer in Marie Antoinette’s royal guard. One of the most sympathetic characters in Yuu Watase’s overblown romantic fantasy Fushigi Yûgi: The Mysterious Play is the transvestite warrior Nuriko.
But nothing takes gender bending further or funnier than Rumiko Takahashi’s anime classic Ranma½ . The title character, Ranma Saotome, is a 16-year-old, black-haired martial-arts champion who attends Furinkan High School. Because he fell into a cursed spring in China, Ranma turns into a buxom, red-haired girl whenever he’s splashed with cold water. (Hot water restores his proper gender.)
Ranma and his father, Genma, who turns into a panda when hit with cold water (he fell into a different spring in China), are permanent freeloaders in the home of Soun Tendo, the long-suffering owner of the Anything Goes Martial Arts Dojo. Genma and Suon decide that Ranma and Soun’s youngest daughter, Akane, are engaged and will inherit the family dojo, despite the couple’s vehement objections.
The diametric opposite of the traditional meek Japanese girl, hot-tempered Akane Tendo is a formidable martial artist who can beat the mochi out of anybody. Ranma complains that she’s “uncute”; Akane calls him a jerk. Akane and Ranma are forever having to aid each other while battling rival martial artists in such outré activities as Survival Flower-Arranging, Obstacle Course Cooking, Martial Arts Calligraphy and Bath House-Fu. But every victory leads to another argument, with their many would-be suitors adding often hilarious complications.
A Comedy of Romantic Errors A number of guys at Furinkan High — including school kendo champion and windbag Kuno — nurture crushes on the lovely “pigtailed girl” who mysteriously disappears whenever Ranma shows up. Shampoo, the Chinese Amazon, is equally dedicated to killing girl-type Ranma and marrying boy-type Ranma. The geographically challenged Ryoga — he once got lost trying to find the vacant lot behind his house — worships Akane and dreams of pounding Ranma into so much wasabi. When Akane realizes her dream of playing Juliet, the competition to become her Romeo turns the balcony scene into a WWE Smackdown. Al- though he wins the role, Ranma isn’t going to outshine Olivier. After Akane speaks, he asks, “I got lines?”
“Am I Pretty” in season three may rank as the funniest episode in a very funny series. When he insults her cooking for the Nth time, Akane clobbers Ranma with a cast-iron skillet, which somehow brings out the feminine side of his nature. The usually loutish Ranma suddenly becomes obsessed with frills, gourmet cooking and maidenly modesty (he blushes at the sight of his own jockey shorts). The results are uproariously incongruous.
The filmmakers balance the freewheeling mayhem, metamorphoses and martial arts with just enough warmth to leaven the insanity. Ranma, Akane and Ryoga use kindness to defeat a Snow-Woman ( Yuki-onna) and a bizarre Abominable Snowman who threaten to freeze the town of Furinkan. To assuage Akane’s hurt feelings, Ranma eats the cookies she baked, knowing ptomaine is inevitable. Like the Simpsons and the Ricardos, Ranma and Akane really do care about each other, but they also drive each other crazy.
Some critics have interpreted Ranma½ as a commentary on relations between the sexes in Japan — an idea Takahashi dismissed: “The situation was supposed to focus on the wackiness of a guy becoming a girl. I never explored any deeper implications of such things in the comic — nor would I have wanted to. I just wanted it to be part of the comic story telling.”
Millions of fans feel she succeeded. [
Personal bias may be showing, but: whether you caught the limited U.S. theatrical release of this long-buried gem of Japanese animation or no, Belladonna on Blu-ray is well deserving of a slot on your must-have list. This psychedelic, psychologic story of an innocent young woman corrupted by her own victimization is everything adult animation should be. Eiichi Yamamoto’s cult film is e have GKIDS to thank for getting two treasures on disc this