Archive for the ‘Animation’ Category

My Journey into Sheridan College’s Computer Animation Grad Program

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

The last eight months have been somewhat grueling. I was in the Computer Animation Graduate Program at Sheridan College. Wow, that was challenging. Learning how to make an animated film is not for the faint of heart. You have to really want to do it and not for the possibility of a job or money or fame – just that you really want to do it.

My reason was that I really wanted to learn how to make my sketchbook characters come to life and to tell their stories. And I did just that with a Toad.

Toad (pencil/sketchbook) by M-J Kelley 2014

Toad (pencil/sketchbook) by M-J Kelley 2014

But first came the learning of software…3D (Maya), rendering (Vray), sculpting (Mudbox), compositing (After Effects) – just to name a few.

If I had known anything about animation, virtual sculpting, compositing, editing, or rendering prior to the program, my life would have been immediately better. Instead, I had to learn all of that in addition to modeling, UV layouts, lighting, texturing, shading, cameras, rigging, etc.

My first three months I was way behind. It wasn’t because I didn’t work hard. It was because there was just so much to learn and the language was different – pipeline, UVs, IK handles, CVs, dope sheet, anisotropic, etc. By December, I began to catch up and that was because of storyboarding. Pencil and paper, I knew how to do. And that gave me just enough time to really focus on rigging and animating and so before I left for the holidays I was on track.

When I came back, the very best smartest thing I did was I focused on my Toad’s animation. My story has 34 scenes – which is a lot of for a 1:42 minute film. That means it has jump cuts and a lot of those isn’t always good. So working on the animation, meant I also worked on the timing, the cuts, the camera angles, which in turn improved the telling of my story. All the same, that was a painful ten weeks. My animation isn’t perfect, but I became a much better animator for having worked that hard for that long on all of those scenes.

I pretty much stayed on track that is until I hit “how to texture the terrain” bump, which was really more like running headlong into a brick wall. There are a lot of different ways to do it and I really wanted to use image projection offered by Mudbox. I really wanted that to work…but it didn’t, which meant I lost a huge amount of time. And you just can’t lose time on this project. So I had to come up with another procedure which made me spin my wheels for a bit. Eventually I bought a bunch of very expensive high-res rock images and used Maya’s planar projection mapping, created a Vray sand shader, and finished it off with Maya’s Paint Effects — all in the nick of time so I could keep up with the film’s impending deadline. Deadlines are good. They are so very helpful for sorting out what is important and what is not.

My film is finished. And yet there is still so much to do. But it tells a story pleasantly and effectively and that was my goal.

Two days ago was Industry Day. It is where you show your film to the animation industry. I have mixed feelings about Industry Day. I wanted to take home a richer experience than I did. But that would be hard to do, because the last eight months were the rich experience. How could anything much top making one’s own character come to life? Well actually today could. Because I am ready to start a new film…I’m going to flip through my sketchbooks and find just the right character and just the right story and start again…

Attending Sheridan’s Computer Animation Graduate Program Fall 2013

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

About a month ago I decided to apply to Sheridan’s graduate program in Computer Animation.

It was time to meld my two worlds (art and IT) together. Both fields are undergoing major changes and I felt it was time for me to go in a new direction as well.

I kept it a secret for as long as I could (a few days) and then I told my mom. If you knew my mom you would know she is the type of person that is always there for her family and friends. And as expected she was over the top excited for me and asked to read about the program.

My mother is very thorough. She called me back and said “did you know there is a graduate school open house tonight? You should go.” Somehow I missed this. It is this kind of “no stone left unturned” that my mother is capable of. And for this I am grateful.

I attended the open house and I was able to meet with the CA program director. He was great. He answered all of my questions and told me about various aspects about the program. I asked him about the portfolio submission and what they were looking for. He said, “We want you to send us what you think is your best work.” He also added, “We are looking for artists.”

Not very often do you hear “we are looking for artists.” This was so welcomed. And so, with his advice in mind, I rigorously reviewed the program descriptions and requirements and began to prepare my submission.

It was hard to choose 20 of my favourite images for my portfolio because I have quite a few pieces that I like. But I started with a few traditional figurative works then added some animal drawings, cowboy illustration art, a landscape painting, some surreal art, a few sketchbook drawings and finished with one of my all-time favourites, Stuffed Bunny Head on a Stick with Poison Mushroom Caps.

In addition to my portfolio I had to write a 500 word answer to the question “Why are you applying to this program?” and submit a resume. My resume was the easiest to pull together. The 500 word essay took some time. But it came together nicely. It was simply the truth about when I started in the arts (20+ years ago) and how my journey has brought me to this decision. When I reviewed my submission it dawned on me how it was a cohesive package. Everything went together extremely well and told the same story.

So with everything pulled together I ventured to the post office. I sent it Xpresspost. It was to arrive Monday – just in time for the deadline. I tracked it. But it didn’t arrive. It didn’t arrive on Tuesday either. I was a bit beside myself. So I pulled together another submission package and drove it to Sheridan (2 hours away) and hand submitted it. I was a bit fearful that my submission would be too late at this point and so talked with the program administrator who was understanding and helpful. She said she thought my application had already been completed. She wondered if she had already received my earlier application. Both of us were a bit mystified. All the same I was relieved and began my return journey home.

Shortly after arriving home I checked online to see if my application was now “complete”. Instead it said, “ACCEPT YOUR OFER AND DISCOVER SHERIDAN!”

What? Again mystified. So I clicked on it and a big blue image said “Congratulations! … We are pleased to offer you admission to the following program(s): Computer Animation…Fall 2013”.

Such joy! And that is where I will be this fall!