Lots to show and tell.


I got back from California the other day. I was able to see many friends and artists. I got to walk around many of the studios there as well. I have many interviews to post and thanks to the animation expo, I have a ton more coming. There are some amazing things happening in Burbank and I can't wait to share some of the stories and talk about the people I met. This picture shows just a few of the up coming artists that I will be interviewing too.

The Art and Making of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs Video





I can't say it enough... Sony Pictures Animation have the best "Art Of " Books! If you were able to get their last two books (Open Season and Surf's Up) then you know how much art they put in them. Sony's books are HARD COVERED, BIGGER, MORE PAGES, AND HAVE LOTS OF CHARACTER DESIGNS! Tracey Miller-Zarneke and the people over at Insight Editions really know how to put a book together too. Tracey Miller-Zarneke was the same person who Authored The Art of Kung Fu Panda (Which is sold out now). I would like to thank the person at Sony for sending me this book and everyone who signed it too. My honest opinion is that you will really enjoy having this book and it will also get you excited to go see the film.
I really love it when someone puts out a good product, and I want to make sure everyone knows about it... So to all those who helped put this book together... A BIG THANKS!


The Book is normally $50 but if you get it at Amazon now, you can order it for $31.50 which is well worth it.



By the way, there's more than 2/3 of the book that isn't even in this video.

Also if you enjoy the art from that book , you might also want to consider getting "Flint Saves the Day" It has some more artwork by Carey Yost and Pete Oswald both character designers that worked on the film.



French Roast

French Roast
An animated short film by
Fabrice O. Joubert

In a fancy Parisian Café of the sixties, an uptight businessman is about to pay the check when he finds out that he's lost his wallet. To save time he decides to order more coffee...

French Roast is a character driven short animated film about appearances. Without any dialogue, the story is told through character animation, music and sound.





Fabrice, when did you start creating French Roast?

I started working on the idea of FRENCH ROAST a few years ago. At the time, I was working abroad and I think that my nostalgia of Paris played a big part in getting the film's idea. I started with a simple story line - a man who loses his wallet and can't pay the check in a restaurant - and developed the plot around it. Very quickly the businessman and the tramp were born and the other characters came as the story built up.

How long did it take to create French Roast?

In total, it took 6 months of development, on and off, and then a full time year of production with a team of 65 artists and technicians at Pumpkin Studio.



Where is your studio located?

Pumpkin Studio is a small animation studio located in Montreuil, near Paris. Montreuil is quite famous in french film history for having been the place where Georges Méliès built the very first cinema studios in 1896.
However the production of FRENCH ROAST didn't start at Pumpkin Studio, but in a school. In fact, as I was still searching for a production company to finance the film, I was able to start the production a group of students from an animation school called « Ecole Georges Méliès »... a funny coincidence! The students worked with me during the summer of 2007 and that's when Pumpkin Studio arrived to take over.



Who were the artists that helped create the style of the film?
How where you able to work with Nicolas Marlet?

As the story got more defined on paper, I was eager to start working on the look of the film and especially on the character design, so I could begin to draw the storyboards with the proper look of the five protagonists. This was very important for me because the story asked for a very choreographed staging, with a lot of interactions between the characters, and the constraint of a camera shooting a single shot in one axis only. For all those reasons, I needed to know exactly how the characters were going to look like.

At the time, Nicolas Marlet was already a close friend and asking him to create the characters' design for my film was quite obvious. Moreover, his graphic style was fitting perfectly with the story and with the atmosphere that I wanted to get.

My wife, Aurélie Blard-Quintard, designed also some of the secondary characters in the film. You can visit her blog here: http://aurelieblardquintard.blogspot.com/

For the set design, I asked Louis Tardivier to create the backgrounds for the film.
I wanted the background elements to get a certain amount of looseness in their shapes and contour lines, which was perfect for him as it is his natural way to draw. The aim was to make the background more organic and graphic, and thus more in harmony with Nicolas' designs.

I showed Louis a lot of Ronald Searle's drawings that I had pined on my wall at the time I was writing the story. I gave him also a lot of pictures from books about parisian cafés and restaurants, as well as tons of photos that we took with the students during our location scouting in Paris. Photographers like Robert Doisneau, Henri Cartier-Bresson or Willy Ronis were a great inspiration to recreate the parisian life of the sixties. The films by french director Jacques Tati, which always fascinated me on an aesthetic level, were also an important reference.

From the drawings that Louis had done, we started building the set in 3D. Then a digital matte painting was created by Julien Georgel. We used a technique called “camera mapping” which allowed us to project the 2D painting directly onto the 3D model of the set, thus preserving a very stylized and painterly look.



What type of design style where you going for?

I really wanted to go for a stylized look. I love animation because it's a medium that gives you the freedom to create characters and environments that don't exist in reality and then to make them believable for the audience. Realism was never a goal in the creation of the film's look... on the contrary.

How many different versions of character designs did you go through?

Not too many. I think Nicolas likes to work around one idea to explore the possibilities of shapes, patterns and textures. That's what happened on FRENCH ROAST.

First we talked a lot about the story. I had written a complete description for each character and this helped Nicolas in getting what kind of mood I was going for. The film being a comedy relying essentially on characterization, but being also of a short length (the film is less than 8 minutes long), I wanted to make sure that the characters were clearly portrayed from the very beginning of the movie. Since I didn't have any dialogue nor enough time to establish the five protagonists as well as I had done in my word processor, character design seemed to be the only way to achieve that.

So Nicolas started to draw in a large sketchbook with a colored pencil. He drew one page for each of the five characters, proposing different variations. He added colors and textures using pencils and ink. It was really at that moment that the film's look was born. I didn't have to ask for more, as those first sketches were absolutely fantastic, full of life... the characters were there.

At that point, I just had to pick the versions that I preferred, the ones that felt best for the story. Retrospectively, I realize what a luxury it was!



Being the Director, did the final look and feel of the film meet your expectations?

It actually exceeded my expectations...
In fact, establishing the look of FRENCH ROAST took more than a year. I had a pretty good idea of what I was aiming for, but I have to say that I always tried to leave some space for the artists to bring something to the visual aspect of the film.

The work done by the texturing department for example has been crucial in concretizing the painterly look that I wanted for the characters, as much as the matte paintings did for the backgrounds.

Also, the modelers did an amazing job in translating Nicolas' designs into 3D, preserving successfully the stylization of his original drawings. Creating the tramp's hair and beard has been a pretty big challenge, because I really was pushing to get the original graphic style back in 3D... and it was eventually quite successful. Cloth simulation, special effects, lighting and compositing... all played also a huge part in the process.

That is why the final look is actually more satisfying than what I ever could have imagined.

Have you been able to receive some awards for the film?

FRENCH ROAST has been traveling a lot for the last 6 months and has been screened in about 20 festivals as of today. The film has won 3 awards, among them “Best Animation” at the Foyle Film Festival in Northern Ireland, and “Best animated short” at the Atlanta Film Festival. It has also been selected at SIGGRAPH 2009 and is in competition in the “Best of Show” category, which is really great!




What film are you planning to do next?


At the moment I am writing a new story for an animated film. I am also working on a script for a live action short... which is something I really want to do.


Is there a way to buy French Roast on DVD or Blu-ray?


Not yet. The film is still touring the festivals all around the world. I assume it will get a dvd release quite soon.



To contact the director:
contact@frenchroast.fr

The film's website:
http://www.frenchroast.fr/

The film's production blog (in french only, sorry)
http://making-of-french-roast.blogspot.com/

A link to look up where the film will be screened next:
http://www.shortfilmcentral.com/film/1353/

I'd like to thank Fabrice for giving us a little more insight to his wonderful animated short. I can't wait to have my own copy of the DVD or Blu-ray. I'll be sure to let everyone know as soon as it is available. (Here's hoping they have a lot of cool special features, with even more insight, on the disk).

Pixar's UP Storyboards

Here are some wonderful storyboards from Pixar's UP. With the amount of storage space on Blu-rays now, it would be fantastic if Disney could have an option to view the film as a full screen Animatic (animated storyboards). And I'm not talking a small little pop up window, I’m talking full screen... As you can see, from these delightful storyboards it would be great to see that happen.

Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.



The Art of Monsters vs. Aliens


It's a bit late, but I wanted to show everyone how awesome this book was. Make sure you view the video in HD


Erich Sokol

One of my favorite artists is Erich Sokol. His character design, storytelling, and colors are just amazing. Sadly Erich died in February 2003. His artwork and books have gone way up in price but you can still see some of his work on the internet. I have links to download many of his pictures…a total of 58. Due to the amount of pictures and their large size, I have decided to put them up on Rapidshare for all to download. Some of the pictures you might have seen on the internet and many that you may not have.

So click on the links - which will take you to the download area. Then click on the free user button on the left, below the speedometer. Then wait for the 30 seconds countdown after which the download button will appear. Finally click on that and your download will start. It’s free, it’s fast, and very safe (no viruses or adware).

http://rapidshare.com/files/222593163/Erich_Sokol_Day_1.zip
http://rapidshare.com/files/223324082/Erich_Sokol_Day_2.zip
http://rapidshare.com/files/223828647/Erich_Sokol_Day_3.zip
http://rapidshare.com/files/223828648/Erich_Sokol_Day_4.zip
http://rapidshare.com/files/223828649/Erich_Sokol_Day_5.zip
http://rapidshare.com/files/223828650/Erich_Sokol_Day_6.zip
http://rapidshare.com/files/223828651/Erich_Sokol_Day_7.zip

I hope you enjoy these as much as I have.

The Character Design Forum

The first Design Challenge was posted, but there’s still time to accomplish it, here’s the information about the challenge.

Have you ever seen an animated film and wished you could re-design a character or two? Well this is the Art & Design Challenge for this month.

Re-design Roger Rabbit and/or Jessica Rabbit from the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Post all of your Pictures in the April 2009 Art & Design Challenge thread by April 30th, and then at the first of the next month (May 1 - May 3) all members will vote for the best Re-design. Both professional and non-professional can participate in the challenges.

Here are the rules... Roger needs to be a white bunny, and Jessica needs to be a tall red head (if you color it, that is). Remember to keep the characters in the same art style as the film. Other than that, shapes, sizes, and what they are wearing can be up to you.

If you want to participate in the challenge, or view everyone’s designs in the thread, hurry and register here… http://characterdesignforum.forumotion.net.

Awesome! Damon Bard sculpts as well as answers reader's questions.




Betsy Bauer asks…
Damon,
What is your process like? Do you begin your sculpture with a wireframe/tinfoil and gradually build everything up all at once, or do you tend to work in "pieces?" How long does it normally take you to complete one sculpture?


Betsy,
I normally start with an aluminum wire armature to set the pose and hold the sculpture upright. I then gradually build up everything at the same time to keep the whole thing cohesive so nothing gets left behind. Also, sometimes I build things in pieces like for stop-motion puppets. Usually, depending on how refined/detailed a sculpture is, it can take a matter of days to weeks. It just depends on what the sculpture is for.


Caio asks…
What kind of deadlines do you have? Do you work directly with a character designer? And if so, after you get the designs, model sheets and stuff what's usually the deadline time you've got to accomplish your work? I don't understand too much about sculpture for the entertainment industry so it'd be nice to know a little more.


Caio,
Deadlines vary. Sometimes I have to finish something in a few days, other times I may have a few weeks. Again, it depends on the sculpt and what it is for. A quick take on a character or a sketch can take a few days and if we really want to nail the design in the sculpture and have a solid detailed maquette it can take several weeks, so it depends. Yes, I work directly with many other talented and gifted designers and on a lucky occasion I am the only person on a character's design especially if it is for a stop-motion project since it is the puppet sculpt that is the final rendition of the design that everyone will see.


Lel asks…
How did you learn Maquette sculpting? do you always need specific design instructions or are you able to just design a character as your making it? what are stop motion puppets actually made out of?


Lel,
I learned Maquette sculpting by working with clay since I was very young. I also took some workshops or classes and was exposed to other artists and asked them how they approached what they did. I learned alot that way and by trying things on my own.

No, I don't always need specific design instructions but a character description helps. Sometimes I just have that, other times I have just one drawing, and then there are times when there are dozens. It really doesn't matter to me if I have almost no direction or if I have very specific drawings that I must follow. I just try and work with what has been asked of me and with what I been given. I like having less information at times since I can explore design options and have things be more spontaneous. It's fun that way. Stop-motion puppets can be made of a variety of materials from plastics, rubbers, metal, fabric, clay, wood, really whatever works since it is dictated by what the character is and how you want it to look.



Fabián Fucci asks…
Does remakes (maquettes that have to be done again) happen for sculptors in the way they happen to animators? If so, how do you handle changes or modifications in your sculptures?


Fabian,
Making changes is part of the process of sculpting. As I am working, we may notice that things need to be altered like if the arms are too short, or the head is too small or too big, but if the changes are too extreme or if it has gone all over the place I will usually just start a new sculpture and work it out from there. But yes, I have started sculptures over many times. It can be a great opportunity to get a fresh start on something that has not been working or if you want to try a slightly different version of a design.


Cannibalistic Cacti asks…
I've noticed most of your sculptures have some rather delicate details. Is there a certain technique you use to get it right, or is it a lot of trial and error?


Cannibalistic,
Steady hands and sharp eyes are my best allies when it comes to detail. Also, small dental tools can help when my hands can't get into a small area. So, in a way, it is alot of trial and error to see what works for me.


Garry Mike David asks…
Hi Damon!
Once you finished a sculpture, do you let go of the sculpt or do you still supervise in later stages of the desgin-pipeline?


Garry,
Once I have finished a sculpture I sometimes do just let it go but I have also supervised the designs in later stages of the design pipeline to ensure that the design stays on model and that it doesn't change too much if we need to make compromises for whatever reasons.


Silent Cookie asks…
Will you be selling any of the maquettes you've created for Dreamworks?


Silent,
No, I do not sell any of the sculptures I have done since the sculpts and designs are owned and copyrighted by whatever studio I have done the work for. It is referred to as “work for hire" and you basically have no rights whatsoever to any of the images that you create unless it is stated otherwise in your contract or something.


BERGGEIT asks…
Do you use any digital sculpting software (i.e Zbrush, Mudbox) before starting on the actual maquette sculpt? How long have you been working as a sculptor?


Berggeit,
No, at this point I do not use any digital sculpting software in my work. Currently, I am looking into incorporating that process into my workflow but I need to become more familiar with the software. I have been working as a professional sculptor for about 20 years now.


Dave asks…
Hey Mr. Bard!
What are your inspirations? And what’s your favorite part of your job?


Dave,
My main inspirations are movies, art, science, astronomy....things that cover broad ideas with creative solutions. The favorite thing about my career is that it is my career and I get to do what I love to do. It sounds a little corny, but it's a dream come true.


CMAC asks… What are some of the more difficult issues that arise while translating a 2D design into a sculpture? In general how many passes does it take you to arrive to the final end design? What does it depend on?


CMAC,
One of the more difficult things in translating a 2D design into a 3D design is if there are too many drawings. They can sometimes contradict one another and you have to make choices and decisions that work best for the sculpture and the design. On how many passes it takes, sometimes I can nail a final design on the first or second try but other times it can be dozens of passes before it gets there. It just depends on the vision of the director and/or how many changes are requested.

Thanks for all your questions everyone, I enjoyed answering them.
Happy sculpting!

Thank you so much Damon for taking the time to answer all of these great questions. We will have to do this more frequently. And thank you to all who asked those fantastic questions.

To see more incredible sculptures from Monsters vs. Aliens as well as sculptures from several other animated films go to his website at http://www.bardsculpturestudio.com/

Coraline Maquettes Over At Damon Bard's Website

With Coraline coming out today, Damon Bard has put up loads of pictures of all his Maquettes he did for the film. I was able to ask Damon a few questions about his work on Coraline (see below the pics). To view more of Damons work, go to his website at http://www.bardsculpturestudio.com.

Damon how many sculptures did you do for Coraline?

I did quite a few sculptures for the film. I don't remember how many, but a big chunk of it is on my site, it was alot though. I was involved with the project for about 3 years on and off.

The delicate shapes in those characters are amazing. Was it a challenge creating some of the sculptures?

Part of the challenge is the delicate shapes. Also, getting in tune with Henry Selick (or any director) can be challenging as he is very demanding when it comes to what he wants. Another challenge is the engineering of the sculptures for the puppet fabrication, making them functional for the animators to animate, and easy to maintain and replace parts that blow out during shooting. Basically, every character in a stop-motion film has its own unique set of problem solving challenges that need to be met in order to make a functional puppet. And all that is just with the characters, the sets and environments are a whole other animal. They also require demanding creative approaches that will impact the puppets once they get on stage. The biggest challenge in a film of this magnitude, with so many physical objects being made that have to work together, with literally tens of thousands of engineered parts, is that it all has to be planned out to go as smoothly as it can go. That as a whole is a tremendous challenge for every department, and everyone has to work together. Personally, I love that kind of a challenge. Stop-motion films are one of my most favorite types of projects to work on and it's fun to have to figure it all out.

Is this your first time stop motion animated film?

No. I have worked with Henry on many things since James and the Giant Peach and on various television commercials that require stop-motion puppets. It is a very comfortable medium for me to work in.

Did you approach your work any differently because of it being stop motion?

Yes, as I mentioned above stop-motion puppets require a huge amount of work, time, and planning to come to fruition. The sculpting process is the same but the foundation of the character/puppet building process is the maquette, that is the beginning. You have to know how the puppet will work once it is finished, even before it has been made. After that, a puppet sculpt is done based on the maquette and is engineered so it can function properly as a puppet and pave the way for the rest of puppet fabrication processes. It's like working in the present and in the future at the same time. The way I approach it deviates almost immediately from the start.

Damon, what do they do with all your sculptures once the film is done?

The original clay sculptures are destroyed in the mold process but the casts of the maquettes are either stored, on display at the studio, or go on tour. The same goes with the finished puppets. Sometimes puppets, parts, or sets are given to a few lucky people at the end of a film too. I have been fortunate enough over the years to receive a few special things from past projects. :)

http://www.bardsculpturestudio.com.