Pixar team gives animation tips

KUALA LUMPUR: The Pixar Toy Story 3 Lecture Series is a success, with the more than 600 animation professionals and students who attended singing its praises.

Among them is Johan Nawawi, director of multimedia company Johan Nawawi Sdn Bhd, who said the talks gave him a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes of a Hollywood movie.

“But the most pertinent thing that we learnt is the Pixar way of thinking. Pixar Animation Studios people are not superhuman, we see, they allow themselves to make mistakes until they get it right,” said Johan, 45.

Ritakamal Saidin, director of Visual Xtreme Sdn Bhd, a production house, was floored by the level of detail that goes into the planning and animation process.

“What we do in Malaysia is simplified compared to what Pixar does. It was a very informative and inspiring lecture,” said the 50-year-old.

Praises also came from across the causeway. Singaporean Zeph Ng, 26, is a full fledged animation graduate who jumped at the chance to learn more on animation from the Pixar team.

“Even though I have spent three years studying animation, I feel that I can learn more from them. Animation is a very in-depth process, which means non-stop learning and being a student forever,” he said.

The job of an animator is very important, said Ng. “He has to understand body language and transfer these (nuances) to the character, to make it more believable and that’s what the Pixar team shared with us,” he said. “And it’s not everyday you get to hear from the team that did such a phenomenal job with Toy Story 3. The long bus ride across the causeway (and to Kuala Lumpur) is well worth it,” he added.

Twenty-five-year-old student of The One Academy of Communication Design, Pham Duc Duy, who is from Vietnam, said the lecture showed him the thought processes of the Pixar team when creating Toy Story 3.

“The team know how to focus on the vital points of the story, whereas we animation students sometimes make the mistake of getting carried away with the technique. It’s all really about the story,” said the final year student.

South Korean Kim Dong Hyun, 28, who is a former One Academy student, said the talk was very educational and very inspiring. He is a 3D senior technical artist (lighting specialist) at the E-One studio in Kuala Lumpur.

People watching

One highlight of the lecture series was a talk on Character Animation by animator Allison Rutland. She shared her experiences on bringing art characters to life.

“It is about knowing body language,” she told In.Tech. “I sit in cafes for hours, studying people. Good animation should be real and not cartoony. Every single limb (on a character) has to move naturally. To get to this level, an animator must study people,” said the 30-year-old.

She said that creating a character involves conveying a range of emotions and there are a lot of complexities to deal with. “It’s a lot like bringing a character to life through good acting,” she said.

Allison spent nine hours days, five times a week for a year, perfecting the characters of Woody and Buzz in the Toy Story 3 film.

“People don’t realise the amount of effort this takes. You can work on a five minute sequence for a week. An animator needs a lot of patience and you sometimes need to take a break from it every now and then,” she laughed.

Tatsun Hoi, The One Academy principal, said the whole idea behind the lecture series is to help make Malaysia a digital art and creative hub in the region.

Tan Chin Wee, joint general manager of the academy, chipped in to say that such talks also help raise the profile of animation in the country.

“We will have many more of such events. We will be bringing Shawn Kelly, the lead animator for Transformers 2, in December,” he said.

Other experts

The other Pixar speakers were concept artist Timothy Evatt, shading and grooming artist Beth Albright, matte painter/shader painter Paul Topolos, layout technical advisor Mahyar Abousaeddi, Sim/FX technical director Martin Nguyen, character and set modeller Mike Krummhoefener, set modeller/set dresser technical director Amy Allen, and lighting technical director Minhyung Lee.

The lecture series comprised a two-day 3D animation masterclass for professionals and a separate day-long animation seminar for college and university students. Also, a seminar for students was held on Aug 12.

The lecture series was organised by The One Academy and the Multimedia Development Corporation, which is guardian of the MSC Malaysia initiative.

Toy Story 3 is the second highest grossing film of 2010 worldwide; it raked in a total of US$734mil (RM2.4bil) at the box office.

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