Monday, April 25, 2011

Animation Schools: Looking for Them?

Animation Schools... There are tons,
There are the The Art Institutes, up north is Sheridan College, Westwood, Academy of Art University right across the bay, Savannah College of Art and Design, ITT Tech for the gamers, for the eager Animation Mentor, and the big one with a lot of weight to throw around: California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts)

But I want to Talk about one: California College of the Arts

     I went four years through their animation program and now I'm animating at Pixar. Yes I am 23 years old.. If you haven't guessed what this post is by now, get ready, I'm about make THE CASE of why you should go to California College of the Arts for animation. And since this is my school, hell yea I'ma go ahead and say this school is one of thee best, this will be hard-core juiced, ultra favorably biased, and VERY VERY DETAILED, the good the better and the best of CCA.

California College of the Arts: Is it The best Animation School?
     -Danny explain yourself..

     First I'd like to get to the point, It is unbearably close to Pixar :) I leave the parking lot of Pixar and can get to California College of the Arts in 5 minutes, says it's seven minutes, but what do they know.
     And the consequences of being so close to pixar..  a lot of our animation faculty who work here lead double lives.. Pixar Animators by day, teachers by night. The student to teacher ratio is TINY. An animator teacher rarely has more than 12 students in their classes. They like the intimate face-to-face time, it seems to help the students learn more and develop better. Revolutionary.. I know..
Who's Teaching now at CCA? 

     We've got story artists, animators, directors, art and design... To throw a few names out there can tell you that Andrew Gordon is amiably teaching animation, director of future Pixar film Mark Andrews is teaching his brutal Visual Story Telling class, Anthony Cristov amazing drawing skills are also at work here, Brett Parker teaches in experimental animation and as well as Film based classes, Don Crum is on top of good old traditional animation and making sure the students are exposed early in their curriculum to the basics (His class I can say was AMAZING) I can not leave out Stop Motion! Doug Sheppeck is busy in those trenches teaching this fascinating style of animation and keeping it alive. I can go on and on with our faculty and the classes CCA offers.
      Do not get me wrong, Pixar is great but we also have other faculty that are also worth boasting about. They hail from Tippet Studios (awesome place) and other Animation studios that conveniently in the area CLOSE to California College of the Arts. (Tippet is located just up the street from CCA towards Berkeley as well.) We even have teachers who worked at Disney in their Second Golden Age that work here now. Yes CCA is spoiled when it comes to faculty... but it doesn't stop there. Connections baby..
      You want complete connection to professionals who still have their feet wet from the business, This is the place to be. With the small class sizes they are not only your teachers, they end up being your friends. I was going to save this juice 'till the end but I'll just spit it out now. -

Monday April 25th, Pete Doctor will be giving a talk at California College of the Arts. Why?

       Because he can. He's a boss. He can talk where ever he wants, and he wants to talk at CCA. (He was originally just going to talk to just a lucky class of students, but he ended up choosing to talk in our lecture hall.)
       This is open to the Public. And will be either around 6:30 pm or 7pm in NALL HALL (Right around the corner to the animation department) Be there, you know I will. *cough *cough.. It's only 5 minutes away.. Are you applying to CCA yet? Fine, ok here's some info on the Anim Department..

The Animation Department: 

       Has a lot of good things going for it. The Department is still in it's infancy (only barely on it's 3rd graduating class) and it's growing exponentially every year. CCA will supply you with anything you need. You need Down-shooters for your 2D short? We have a whole room for them. Animating on maya? They have rows and rows of spanking new powerfull imacs for you, each one with a Wacom tablet. Have you ever animated on a Cintique? Well you will here, tons of new Cintiques to use for animation (seniors get priority on these.. nice..), there's nothing like Animating 2D directly on a screen and pressing the arrow key for a new blank page..

      The facility got a make over with a new lay out that include new classrooms and a new sound recording studio included. The thing I always repeat about CCA is that they don't have any other agenda other than to make you the best artist YOU want to be. You just want to be a modeler or story boarder, go ahead, you only want to do experimental animation, fine! Character animation is your interest, CCA will help you be what you want to be. This is no cookie cutter Art College, these teachers will FAIL your ass if you suck garbage, or maybe they'll just let you know that your work is bad and then tell you how to fix it. But ultimately you are your own person and the Medium of animation is at your mercy. You will not be FORCED to changed, but you will be showed how to become great. 
     With all the improvements to the department, you are missing out on a great experience if you pass this school up. The sweetest addition to the department in my opinion was the Light Table bar that lines both sides of the whole entrance way to the animation department. It is open 24/7 you will always find some one flipping their animation there. 


California College of the Arts:  

     CCA is over a hundred years old (1907). It didn't start out as an animation school but was founded during the Arts and Crafts movement. So this school is ARTSY. It has a very, very, VERY broad range of disciplines here. Here's a few:




Glass blowing,





Stuff we don't even have names for!

        As well as.. Fashion Design, Graphic Design, Architecture, Illustration, Industrial Design, Jewelry and Metal Working, Tons of Drawing classes,Visual Studies, Writing and Literature, Fine Arts, Film, Community Arts, and more.

-CCA is an ART SCHOOL, more no less. It's not just filled will tech heads or JUST animation students, you get EVERY possible kind of artist you could think of! (Fine art, Abstract, Impressionist, psycho, emo, hipster, introverted, bubbly, troubled, conscientious, yoga enthusiast, urban, B-boy/girls, activist, face value type, passivist, too serious, partyer that always has a funnel, the stoner, the straight edge, the coke fiend, the zen master, the liberal, the conservative (Very rare) the rocker, the gay the straight the in-between, black shades beat poet, promiscuous, nerdy, and All the internationality's you can think of..etc etc I can go on)
     Being an art school so close to University of California, Berkeley has history of being involved in social issues. Being so close to San Francisco and hippie lifestyle Oaksterdam University it comes kinda expected that The Princeton Review would name CCA one of the most 'Green Schools of 2011'. The bottom line is that CCA has a diverse population of artists. And you constantly get to see their work and mingle such as Spring fair help on campus for selling and trading art.

     HOLD UP. Don't think it's all fun and games. This school is accredited. You do earn a REAL bachelors that can be used to get a job other than animation or art.. you WILL have to to take english and science still. And being right next to Berkeley, one of the best universities of the world, we do get teachers from Berkeley teaching at CCA. (Art school producing well rounded artist?  whaaAA!?!?)

-CCA has two campuses,
     One San Francisco and one in Oakland (animation is in Oakland) There is a shuttle between the two campuses. Sometimes you might have a morning Life Drawing class in Oakland  and then Philosophy class on San Francisco campus. :) San Francisco offers the urban modern feel while Oakland keeps it Old school and full of nature.


Student Life:
       Hands down what CCA is good for is scholarships.. I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for those scholarships. California College of the Arts might not be the biggest school on the map nor the most famous one, but it is one of the best. CCA has tons to offer. Your experience there will be one of a kind. Your first year you will most likely be in the Dorms.


     Dorm life IS the business..

 ..for like only a year. You could only handle so many dorm room parties haha, and with Berkeley down the street and San Francisco 15 minutes away, you will never run out of fun things to do. And Oakland has some fun spots as well. I've been here 4 years and am still finding new spots here in the bay. You can go hiking, bomb fire on the beach, drive to the snow, visit one of countless museums here, be a tourist, I can go on for a while and this post is already quite long.
      So I hope I made my case of why you should pick CCA as your animation school or just as your art school in general. I came from no where, a slummy, run down, druged out, hood banging neighborhood, single parent mom making under 25,000 a YEAR and Look at me now. You would of never known. Maybe it was CCA, maybe it's because I worked my ass off, maybe it's no ones credit and it's the way the cookie crumbles...

Either way, California College of the Arts a bad ass school and it's waiting for you.

-Daniel Gonzales

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Noticing Something Different

"Danny! Where have you been?"

    Animating. Yes Cars 2 is done, but I am currently animating for the California College of the Arts Animation Show. They asked me to do the Opening Title Card of this years show in May. MAY!? Wait, that's like.. Tomorrow! I know. That's why I have been busy animating like a beast. I'll be sure to post it once my animation is done.


   --In the mean while I want to touch upon  a little rant on work flow and on how to make your work a little unique.

    You can ask a thousand times for the best tips and what do the Pro's do to stay focused but it all that doesn't really help when YOU are in YOUR work flow. But maybe my way of staying focused when I'm in the middle of doing a marathon of animation (like I am now) and the finish line seems so far away.

    I need something thought provoking, something to makes me think. What makes me think? Great art makes me think. But hanging pictures and stuff on my walls doesn't cut it all the time. I need the ear phones on full blast. But there's a lot of crap out there that tries to call it's self music. A lot of music I like for two reasons, 1) either I like HOW IT SOUNDS, or 2) I like WHAT IT SAYS. and when I come across something combining both elements.. well that's rare. (Like The Beatles)

    This is a recent song I found that has both elements for me. And the best part is that it makes me think, and when I think: I animate faster (I don't know why) I seem to solve problems faster and everything flows smoothly. (Holy crap! Is this what A BRAIN IS FOR?????)

Lupe Fiasco - 'Words I Never Said"

      I like it. Not because what he says is controversial and true, no I like it because HE is putting his thoughts on the forefront of his work. He is not  talking about b*tches and getting those Dolla Dolla Bills. You feel like you know him after you listen to the album. And I love when people put themselves into their art to make it specific. If you cannot tell nothing about a person after seeing a chunk of their art then it most likely there was a very good chance the work was dull, superficial or flat. It's not wrong if it is flat or superficial, it just is what it is.
      I try to inject my thoughts into my art when ever I can. Most noticeably in my roughly put together piece for my schools animation show in 2010 "A Comment on Animation" You see little things on how I like things outside the box, thoughts about the animation business, my like for science fiction zombie flicks, me being an atheist, how I like nature (otherwise I wouldn't of spent two weeks animating that damn seedling growing) etc etc...   You cannot be timid to say what you want to say. Even if it's political or personal, just say it.  

    If you ever want to stick out of a crowd, STOP wasting time looking for unique ideas when The most unique thing in the world is RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU.

    Nobody is like you. NOBODY IS EXACTLY LIKE YOU. So you want your demo reel to stick out from the rest? Inject some personality in it, your personality. Say what you want to say and make do you best work on it, make it GOOD.

-Daniel Gonzales

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Animating 101.5: 'Balance and Weight'

       A teacher or Mentor would give you the following video and say study this... what they need to say... HOW TO STUDY THIS..

FIRST: A Rant On 'The Responsibility of the Animator.."
       I see a lot of green animators having a hard time animating balance and weight, but here we see ROBOTS are great, mastering it, with 1,2,4 legs.. I bet they can also do it with 8. Very sad when a robot can learn to walk before you can learn to animate a very convincing gait. If a robot can do it, so can you! but do not take for granted the work you have to do. If you think your job should be easier, bc you think all you have to do is drawing, while that robot calculates all day since morning, then it is not alarming, that you darling, are have such a hard fucking time day in and day out with that mouse in your hand the pencil in your mouth, animating. :)

Just because you made a life choice, to do your part and make some art, it does not excuse you to be ignorant. So here is my rant about give learning a chance and learn that the world has more to it than what you take in from first glance. Your job as an artist is to observe the world around you carefully, just looking doesn't count, and memorizing patterns is such a wasteful account, you need to learn the fundamentals to understand reality. WHY and HOW should be the basis of your new philosophy.

Your an artist but more than that you are a human being.
-'but danny I do art bc math and school were just not my thing"

Then you should not be doing art, bc in school 'Learning' was the trick. And learning in ART, is just as hard! ..if talent was not given to you as a natural gift. It is hypocritical to say you are going to learn art and animation inside and out, but when told to deal with the Math of a walk cycle, with it's frames per seconds and spacing, you start to groan and shout.

imagine how much potentially better work can be with a little more understanding and knowledge.

The End...


Now: A Non-Rhyming Rant On "Weight, Balance, and Forces":
     There is no weight, there is no balance, those are descriptions. It is GRAVITY. You are not "selling" the weight.. Nor are you making the balance "work"... What you are trying to do is convince me that gravity EXIST and is acting upon your character or what ever you might be animating. So when a teacher says, "it needs weight.." it should be translated to, 'Your gravity is not convincing.' 

      Look at the video around ( 0:18 seconds) here is a one legged robot doing a nice job keeping it's balance. It lands it's leg exactly where it needs to be to counter the gravity that is always pulling down on it. Here are WRONG drawings of a robot trying to keep it's balance...

     This is wrong because the robot would still fall over.. the placement of the 'foot peg' DOES counter the gravity but not the Momentum the robot has moving towards the Left... so not only does the foot need to be under the robot, but it also needs to be opposite of the direction that the momentum is going. This will counter act it and result in the robot coming to a stop...
Here is how it should be..

      This is much more physically correct, and thus believable.

      It's all about knowing what forces are acting upon the thing you are animating. That is it. All 4 basic forces work either as a push or a pull. Electro Magnetism, Gravity and the Strong and Weak nuclear forces all either push or pull. This is 7th grade physics. Every day, all day these forces act as either a PUSH OR PULL, (note to get diagonals and arcs, multiple forces have to be in play..more on that later) there are no flying or side-ways actions, gravity doesn't say 'im tired, im not gnna work today'. Even when your character or object is doing nothing, gravity is still happening...

      -So direction of force is a key concept to move any object... You can push in the opposite direction of where you want to go (hmm this sounds familiar.. what is is called.. can this be ANTICIPATION????) So if you are going to the LEFT and down.. you want to push to the RIGHT and UP.
     NOTE: ever see something over animated? most likely they are using too big an anticipation (force) than the action needs in real life.

      Gravity, is a PULL. The more you pull at something the faster it will go as long as there is nothing pushing or pulling in the opposite direction...
     THIS TIES IN WITH SPACING: when something falls it gradually will pick up speed... (the spacing of your frames will get bigger and bigger)
     Gravity pulls on everything equally. unless there is another force at work. So the spacing of a bowling ball falling and a ping pong ball falling ARE EXACTLY THE SAME. a body falling from the sky, a dinosaur foot landing in a walk cycle.. the SPACING WILL BE THE SAME period. (Galileo 101 people.. jeez..).

The only difference is the bounce UP.

    -The ping pong ball, having more elasticity, can Push against the floor resulting in high bounce. (you see this as squash and stretch)and all the bounces after that work the same.. THE BALL NEVER BOUNCES GREATER OR BACK TO ITS ORIGINAL HEIGHT. Each bounce being smaller than the last because the energy is being lost as movement and heat while the pull of gravity never lets up.. resulting in smaller bounces..)

    -The bowling ball on the other hand cannot squash and stretch as much and there for the Push off the floor is not as strong. BUT like a smart logic seeking student you are, you ask, 'Where did the energy go?" It transferred as heat and vibrations. The ground where the bowling ball hit immediately after the bounce is slightly warmer than the surrounding surface.
      If you do not believe me or SCIENCE in general.. Fine, You can test this out your self by bouncing a basketball over the same spot of an extendent amount of time.. you will then feel the heat on the bottom of the ball and on the floor.

     The sooner you learn to see these forces as clear as you see how fast food is made from the shittiest quality food EVER... then you it'll be very very easy to tell if something animated is not 'feeling' right.   :)

An Example of pushing:
    -when you stand you are pushing. your foot is not resting in it's natural shape. It is pushing against the floor. 

    -A very nerdy way of thinking of animating is that animating is The Controlling and Manipulation of Directional Energy.  ..add some knowledge of texture, principles and timing to this along with a concept and acting choices and.. HEY, you might be making ACTUAL art!..


     -Remember that things need directional forces to move. and in order to CHANGE direction: one force must be greater than the other.. The greater the inequality the faster it can change direction.
     Visualize: A five year old trying to tackle you... you won't budge more than 2 inches. Now imagine a whale tackling you..   ..Exactly :)

    Thought Exercise: In any action it can be very helpful to break down what forces are happening. For example: Raising your arm to point to the TV screen..

     Is this a push or a pull? WHAT is pushing or pulling? It will be the shoulder muscles and some triceps (lets just say elbow) But more shoulder than elbow. The shoulder will LEAD the movement and everything will follow. this is how you would show that the elbow is pulling

     The pull of the shoulder is a force, but do not forget there are other forces at work here. Gravity will be fighting against this movement of the shoulder. the easiest path of compromise between these two forces is this ARC..

     This looks natural and effortless.Any other arc would be wrong, unless it's done on purpose. You would need a stronger pull from the shoulder (bigger anticipation) then you can get a showy showman gesture like this,

       So This is it for my rant. I hope this gave you insight on a new way to think about animation and the world around us. To show weight is to show gravity. It's not magic, gravity is not the weight of god's expectations on you, haha, it's good old fashion space time distortion and it's effect on you. Think that's just some fancy explanation scientist just made up? no way, gravity affects lots of things. Even time: farther away you are from a gravitational mass, the faster time seems to pass. So this means the clock in a satellite ticks faster than the one of your wrist. GPS satellites are well aware of this and have compensated for the different time speeds. Did you learn something new? Good, I hoped you liked it. Now go get lost in wikipedia.. all human knowledge at your fingertips.

-Daniel Gonzales

Friday, April 1, 2011

Cars 2: What I've been Working on...

So I've been busy.   ..busy animating a movie...

         -Pixar redecorated it's walls in preparation of the hoard of journalist that are about to flood the studio..

        Working on my first production has been CRAZY. You get to see the 'machine' in action. The whole studio buzzing, everyone with a job to do and guess what, they ALL do their job damn fucking good. 

         My animation job at Pixar can be called no less than basically 'Quality Control'. There are 12 of us that are on this 'quality control' team. We are the last animators to touch the film, and once it leaves us, it better be mistake free bc there is no one after us to catch it. Talk about putting on the pressure right? 
         So what kind of things come up that we have to check and fix? Well they can be little mistakes, like a blink or some intersections... but we also get heavy fixes such as; having to reanimate a lot of dialogue, and sometimes they even tell us to just redo the whole shot. There are a variety of fixes that come our way that we encounter, so our knowledge of animation (technical and aesthetically) has to be always fresh, we have to be on top of our game every day.
         Between us 12 fixers (thats what they call us) we easily hit more than a hundred completed fixes a week. like nothing. because we're bosses like that. (winning) It's been a real hell of an experience sitting within 20 feet of John Lasseter and the other animation leads as they direct and over watch the making of this film...

         Well I'm not here to geek out and gloat about this experience but I do want to say that this movie WILL be entertaining. It will hit it's target audience like a hurricane. I'm sorry you older people but you guys are gnna have just take it bc this movie is not for you, it's for the 4-10 year olds that for some reason LOVE, with a capital L, Cars to death. They made it a little people phenomenon bc Cars has made easily over 8 billion dollars world wide JUST on merchandise. Little boys like cars.. who knew? haha. here's the trailer (UK version bc i do think this one is better than the US version) I do hope you check it out and be on the look out for my name in the credits! 
I know this is CARS.. but I've seen the movie... and I'm STILL excited to see this movie. All I'm saying that you better go to a movie theatre with a bad ass sound system...

Stay classy,
-Daniel Gonzales