30 November, 2009

Who is Sho Kosugi?: "Ninja Assassin" Review

I think there's a commercial in front of this clip, let it load.

This Thanksgiving (2009), after binge eating turkey to fill the entire year, me and the family needed to work it off, so what did we do...watch "Ninja Assassin"! This movie was highly entertaining. Yes, the movie is predictable, we know what's going to happen to the star (Rain), that he's going to survive an attack and you know what's going to happen in the end. But still, regardless of the predictability, it was still engaging, kudos to the group who were able to put this movie together.

For those of you who have seen the movie, I included a clip with this post that shows some of the training and timing involved in creating some of the action shots. I thought it was nice to watch after watching the film. Oh yeah, and if you are a visual effects fan, you'll be happy to know that the special effects shots were directed by John Gaeta of "The Matrix".

Seriously, lots of serious movie goers and critics are not giving this film good reviews, but we're talking ninjas folks, they don't care what you think, they just want to kill you.

Here's what I liked about "Ninja Assassin":

Great timing:
We are used to action scenes in movies, and the timing of the scenes in "Ninja Assasin" were well executed and edited. Good job.

Ninja Supernatural Ability:
Going back to my experience in watching ninja movies back in the 80's, it was interesting to see how this was portrayed, we really haven't seen this before. We see ninjas appearing out of shadows, and disappearing and reappearing in the fight scenes to trick your senses. I thought this was a nice upgrade. Also, add to this, the supernatural, heavy duty, turbo, shuriken throwing skills and you get lots of fun. After seeing this, I really believed that ninja stars can pepper the outer shell of a BMW. Wow!

Story Variety:
I liked how we trained with the young assassins in an old Japanese temple and how we followed them until present time. The timeline jumps back and forth in time which is a nice attempt to make things interesting. It works.

CG Animation:
The CG animation of the main character's weapon was well done. There is also lots and lots of CG blood splatters and decapitations. Although, in my classes, as we discuss the film perhaps, this took away from the film. Lots of people would have liked to have seen more elaborate squib work. Okay - point taken.

The lead actor in the film is believable in serving up some major wup ass. Some girls also think he's good looking (that's for you Athena). He looks like lots of asian guys I know, that's a great conversation starter at parties (Brandon?).

And the best part...

Sho Kosugi:
Sho was the original actor who starred in many of the ninja films in the 80's and I thought it was awesome that he played the father of the ninja clan in this movie. The movie pays homage to his contributions and his appearance was fitting, who else would be the father of the most dangerous ninja clan in the world?

I hope the success of this movie opens up more opportunities to explore the ninja genre in film. In video games and anime however, its always going to be popular, we love ninjas.

Now for a history lesson for all the kid ninja maniacs. The original trailer to "Enter the Ninja" starring Sho Kosugi...I know, you may the white ninja is Stormshadow, but he's not. There are some caucasian ninjas too you know. Enjoy and check out the movie.

23 November, 2009

Head Modeling Demo in Maya

Just as there are many ways to draw the head, there are just as many ways to model a head...one of the most difficult things to create in art and CG.

Of all the methods we've researched, this demonstration seems to be the fastest, and easiest to create within the Maya workflow, specifically because of the ability to use the "Insert Edgeloop Tool". This method, from the very beginning, also establishes a nice rounded shape for the area around the chin and mouth - it turns nice so nice and smooth after you "Mirror" the geometry.

It is placed on this blog for future reference and for easy access.

Let us know what you think.

19 November, 2009

"Legion" 2010 - Rated R Movie Trailer

This movie caught our attention this week. "Legion" premieres January 22, 2010 and is an action adventure/supernatural/horror film about the Apocolypse, where God, disappointed in humanity, sends his angels to destroy humanity. I guess its up to Dennis Quaid and a small group of people in a desert diner to save us all. Why is that so funny :- ) Where is Mel Sharples when you need him?

Anyways, the visuals look cool and it appears to be loaded with lots and lots of eye candy, lots of new things to see: angels with badass martial arts skills, knife and ballistic skills, high kicking angels with leather armor, demonic old ladies who scale walls (freaky - good job on this grandma - check the picture - goosebumps on my arm when I saw this) and a very rare, rated "R" trailer. When was the last time you saw a rated "R" trailer (there's profanity in it, so kiddies watch out)?

As always, this trailer gives way too much away, but I think it might be worth keeping on the radar, so let's pay attention to see how it does as the premiere draws near.

18 November, 2009

Tank Concept: Simply Maya 3D

Simply Maya or Simply 3D, a nice resource for CG artists, has a nice section of downloadable models that we will be using in this week's assignment. To teach background design, I encourage my students to take an existing model and to paint over it primarily because the model render takes care of the lighting and small details, that would otherwise be too difficult to create by hand especially if there is a time constraint.  

Used primarily for speed, the CG model will provide us with the lighting and general details then, we'll be using Photoshop to put elements of the painting that make it look real, like atmospheric perspective, rock texture, clouds, snow, ground detail and fog. 

The above image below what we started with. Its a tank model from the Simply Maya 3D site. If you know of a similar resource that we can use to learn from, please let us know. We'd like to keep tabs of sites that exist to help us out. Thanks for all of your help.

There was a lot that we covered in today's demonstration and I was pleased to see everyone follow along and keep up.  In all, we painted for about two hours. Perhaps I should create a video tutorial about some of the processes I used to create the shot for future reference. Some of the skills we learned in this assignment were:

  • Maya setup
  • Maya rendering
  • painting mountains / blockin and detailed contours
  • snow on mountains
  • creating and adjusting cloud perspective
  • color harmony
  • atmospheric perspective
  • foregound elements
  • essential Photoshop hotkeys
  • ground texture
  • lighting effects
  • adjusting focal point by using the burn tool
  • clean up and refinement
Attached to this post are the final demonstration examples I created from class. Adding snow came last, and took about 15 minutes to add. I'm calling it "Winter Playground". How do you guys like that? Below is the original shot.

When you get a chance, check out the Simply Maya 3D Site. I just learned that they are now on Twitter, so we can get updates on their latest tutorials and resources. Nice...

Fire it Up Everyone! Keep drawing, painting and animating. 


15 November, 2009

20 Animations Nominated for Oscar Consideration

The Hollywood Reporter posted the list 20 features were nominated for Oscar considerations this year (11/11/09). That's great news. It shows that the general public likes the medium, and that the industry supports it. In the past, only three films could be nominated, but since there are now twenty, five will be selected. Here is the list...thanks Dr. Duncan for the heads up...exciting to see who will win.

Does anyone here have a favorite? Me? Meatballs!

  • "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" (Fox 2000)
  • "Astro Boy" (Summit)
  • "Battle for Terra" (Lionsgate)
  • "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" (Sony Animation)
  • "Coraline" (Focus)
  • "Disney's A Christmas Carol" (Disney)
  • "The Dolphin – Story of a Dreamer" (20th Century Fox)
  • "Fantastic Mr. Fox" (20th Century Fox)
  • "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" (20th Century Fox)
  • "Mary & Max" (IFC)
  • "The Missing Lynx" (Kandor Graphics, YaYa! Films)
  • "Monsters vs. Aliens" (DreamWorks Animation)
  • "9" (Focus)
  • "Planet 51" (Sony)
  • "Ponyo" (Disney and Studio Ghibli)
  • "The Princess and the Frog" (Disney)
  • "The Secret of Kells" (Les Armateurs, Viva Film, Cartoon Saloon, France 2 Cinema)
  • "Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure" (Disney)
  • "A Town Called Panic" (Studio Canal)
  • "Up" (Disney/Pixar)

13 November, 2009

"2012" : Tsunamis and Vegas Destroyed

Las Vegas in the movie "2012"? Can you recognize those buildings? There are two featurettes below that I found interesting as the movie premieres tomorrow. The movie looks good. As an animation instructor all I can say is "Yay - more research for me".

Here we go...Water is one of the most difficult elements to animate, and in this movie, there is plenty of it. Its hard to control and difficult to make realistic. The featurette below talks about some of the processes involved in the creation of water. I saw this featurette a long time and ago, and felt the need to watch it again, its pretty cool to watch.

And since many you are from Las Vegas, here's the featurette that describes the process for destroying Las Vegas in the movie. See if you can recognize some of the buildings on the Strip. I saw Encore, Wynn and the Venetian. If you happen to check out the movie, let us know how you liked it.

Fire it up!


12 November, 2009

"Clash of the Titans" : New Trailer

So how do you feel about remaking old movies? Fine by us as long as they are well done and entertaining. Here is the trailer for "Clash of the Titans". The movie looks stunning, and its great to see (however short they may be) the redesigns, of Calibos, Witches and what looks to be a great Medusa scene. Let the snakes go girl!

The original premiered in 1981, how old were some of you? Some of you were not even born, so be sure to check out the original before watching the new one.

11 November, 2009

"Despicable Me" : Villains, Villains and More Villains

Its about that time of year again when animations begin to flourish and entertain us in dark theatres while we sit and digest the holidays. It seems to be a nice tradition that everyone looks forward to. This next animation looks way cool.

"Despicable Me" is an animated feature that shows lots of promise. From the creators of the Ice Age movies, it is simply unique - it is a story about "bad guys" or "villains". The characters are well designed and made me crack up the first time I saw them. The main character in this trailer not only looks funny, but is also very independent, confident and charming, something every villain needs these days.

In class, we view many trailers of animations that are being released, and we discuss if whether or not if they would pay to go see a particular animation. "Despicable Me", scored high on our list.

I'm also diggin the spy, hip hop, ultra lounge soundtrack too. When you get a chance, be sure you check out the official movie site. Check out their awesome URL, probably one of the first to use that .me URL ending. The site below is lots of fun. Hopefully this movie performs well, it shows great promise.


Enjoy - Fire It Up!


07 November, 2009

New Longer "Avatar" Movie Trailer & Official Site

As news of the premiere draws closer, I always find it interesting to see how the producers choose to market a film in preparation for a particular season. In this case, the Holiday Season. Notice how different each of these trailers are. Which one do you like best?

Pay attention to how different the tone is for each. I think you will like watching both as each gives a little more insight into the story, something very important to us. Have fun checking out these two trailers. Check out the official site at the bottom as well as the various interactive toys such Avatar iTag that just look way cool.

We can't wait!

Visit the offiiclal Avatar Movie Site here >>

Visit the cool Avataritag site as well to see what's available to play. I haven't done this yet, if you have, feel free to leave feedback. Visit Avataritag here >>.

And I couldn't resist, here is a clip of the Avatar iTag in action. Be prepared to trip out guys.

Jean Denis Haas: "Shark" Animation

Here is some personal work from one of our favorite animators Jean Denis Haas. Jean is based out of California, animates for Industrial Light and Magic and has worked on Star Wars III and Pirates of the Caribbean II.

You can learn a lot from his animation, when you watch it, pay attention to his timing, posing, pauses, camera angles, overlapping action and moving holds. His handling is subtle, but still very interesting.

There's a lot to be said about starting and completing projects on your own. The process keeps you energized because its fun, and it makes you sensitive to all the nuances needed to create realistic movement.

Personal projects don't have to be complex. They should be simple, fun and engaging, enough for you to work on it after a hard days work.

Hey, keep up the great work Jean. Looking forward to seeing more. To learn more about Jean, check out his blog and website below.



03 November, 2009

"How To Train Your Dragon" : Movie Trailer

Watched this trailer in both of my classes today and was well received. Great animation and what seems to be a great story. Hopefully we'll get another animated feature as good as "Panda" - that was awesome, still my favorite animation. Personally, I'm hooked on how beautiful 3D has been.

And, while we're on the subject, does anyone remember the animated intro below...

I think you can play this now on DVD.