Friday, December 22, 2006

Animation Mentor Class 3 progress reel



Yeah, I know, I didn't blog at all. But, at least, I give you the latest AM progress reel.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you!

Alex

p.s. CHECK THIS XMAS CARD we did for animoto!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Ugly Duckling And Me Trailer


Hi everyone,

finally Ugly Duckling has been released to some territories around the world (Germany in December). So, feel free to have a look at the trailer:

http://www.uglyandme.com/

This European feature was the first feature film I have been working on (animating around 1 minute of animation with three characters). I had such a blast during that time and can't wait to go on with feature animation again.

Have fun,

Alex

Monday, September 25, 2006

I'll be back... err, I am, already =)


Hi everyone,

can you believe it? Six months have passed since I left AM to take a little rest. And guess what? That was a very good decision. During that time I could deepen the learned principles and also get a life next to animation. That was very important and now I'm feeling like going on with AM again.

After having met all those fantastic AM people at Siggraph I knew I had to continue. Funny enough, some of my former classmates take a break this term so I won't see them again. Since I'm working full time I guess I will have to take another break sooner or later but currently the plan is still to continue with the study at AM until I get my degree =)

So, currently the site is still under maintenance and I will have to wait some more hours before I can get online. Until then, have a great day, everybody and whohooo!

- Alex

Saturday, July 22, 2006

New website is online, too!


Yes, I did it - my new website is finally online and running. Well, I reduced the 4-pages website to a 2-pages website, so you get half the amount of website for the same price!!! Incredible. Well, I tried to make it "easier" and straight to the point.

Tell me what you think and have fun with it!

- Alex

Friday, July 14, 2006

New demoreel/showreel - Siggraph is coming!



Hi everyone,

I finally re-edited my showreel for Siggraph. Unfortunately, since Ugly Duckling & Me is not out in cinemas yet I am not allowed to show animations I did for that feature movie. So I have to stick to other stuff and be patient. Anyway, you can find my demoreel here: http://www.alexmlehmann.com/work.html - there you can choose between two sizes and QT and WMV. So, it would be great if you take a look at it and send me some comments - love to hear what you think.


The weeks before Siggraph are always soo stressfull... phew. But I can't wait anymore!

Have a great weekend,

Alex


Sunday, July 09, 2006

World Cup in Germany...





Hi everyone,

in case you didn't know... Germany just won the "small final" yesterday night versus Portugal and got third. After the match thousands and tenthousands of people went to famous places all over Germany as I did when I got to Leopoldstra├če here in Munich. To give you a little impression of how cheerful people were I put some pictures on my blog. Normally this is one of the 'heavy traffic' streets in Munich - but not yesterday night =)

As for know many Germans cheer for France to win against Italy (though Italy is better, I assume) to avenge our loss in the semi-finals. So, allez les bleus and viva Italia!

- Alex

Monday, July 03, 2006

Alive again...


Hi everybody!

I cannot believe that 3 months have passed already... and that I didn't write anything on this blog during this time. Taking some time off was heavily needed and I now know that this was the right decision. With Siggraph coming up this month and several projects coming up I used my time wisely to gain some strength for the upcoming months.

Well, what should I start with? How about some information about "The ugly duckling and me"? First of all, as many of you may know, there is a teaser-trailer on aFilms-homepage (CLICK HERE). Secondly, there is a German article about the project featuring Rick Cavanian as the main character (a quite famous German comedian which I really like). You can find the article here.

Other than that... I'm still struggeling whether I can afford to go on with AM. Yes, it is a harsh reality that this costs money =) and I still have to pay tax this year - we will see after I did my tax stuff this year and then I will decide.

A lot has happenend in the last 3 months. I visited Annecy for instance which was a terrific experience... I think, everyone who likes animation should come there at least once in his lifetime.

Anyway, just wanted to say: I'm back and alive again!!! And things haven't changed: animation is the best thing one can do for earning a living!

TTYL and God bless to all of you,

Alex

Sunday, April 02, 2006

AM 02 - Week 12 ... a whole lot of sleep to come ...


Hi everyone,

this is it, AM Class 02 is over and I'll be having a break for the next term. There are some people who decided to do so but (almost) all of them are going to come back sooner or later. Some of them have to spare some money and some of them just have to take a rest. I'll count into the later, I suppose.

Anyway, as you all know I didn't have much time to work on the AM stuff this term. Because of that I'm not very proud of what I did (although I'm happy I did make it to the end =). Have a look at the compilation by clicking on the picture above to see my final class 02 reel.

And have fun at what you are doing right now! Whatever it is, it will contribute to your experience which will lead into becoming a better animator!

Hugz,

- Alex

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

AM2 - Week 11 - the final stretch

Hi all,

here is the latest version of my assignment. I tried to integrate some more polish stuff and get nicer arcs in the arms. But I guess I have to invest more time. Anyway, check it out, it is not that long =)

CLICK ME

- Alex

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The ugly duckling & me

All pictures are copyright a.film (c) 2006

Hi all,

finally, the first teaser and pictures of "The ugly duckling & me" are out to be shown to the public. Check out the a.film-website. You can watch a small Quicktime trailer here as well. AM colleagues told me that they found this link on 10secondsclub.

animoto joined the board of animators relatively late in the production which is why we were working for 'only' three months of it. That means that each of us animators had to animate around 1 minute of the whole movie (containing 1-3 characters per scene). Today I'm finishing my last scene for the movie and will continue with a different project after my holidays next week No feature work, currently, but it will be fun to do something completely new for a while, too.

I hope you like the pictures, I will keep you updated,

- Alex




Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Continuing on a mid-regular basis with the blog

Like a Yugoslavian proverb says: A good rest is half the work

Hi everyone,

I'm always astonished to see and hear who and what kind of people all over the world read this blog. I love that. It makes me continue these posts. If you would like to share your thoughts and ideas and maybe even wishes with me, shoot me an email to mail@alexmlehmann.com. I'd love to hear from you if this was/is helpful for you or you would like to know more about something in specific.

So, to clear things up. Since I am still working full-time on a regular basis and I will continue learning some stuff during the break. That also means: I will try to continue blogging here, too. There is so much knowledge out there in the world wide web that it would take years reading all that and listening to all the animation podcasts etc. But from time to time I will blog down what I am doing and maybe those links are interesting for you as well.

Having said that: shoot me an email with what you'd like to hear more about. And don't forget: there is nothing like the "real" thing (www.animationmentor.com). So, go there and sign up! It is worth every penny.

- Alex

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

AM week 10 - and finally taking a break


Hi all,

as you may have notived I haven't been blogging for almost two weeks now. You can find my newest assignment by clicking on the picture above. It is just 600kb big. For all of you with little time: sad to say, but I have to take a break before going on with my studies at animation mentor. This school is awesome, the best that happened to me so far, and I hope I can continue my study anytime soon.

Lately I've been working a lot. Like many of you do. I was given the chance to work on a small European feature film called "the ugly duckling and me" which will be coming out late August in Germany. It was a terrific experience and an honour to participate. Though we have been working on this for only three month I had a 60h+ workweek. Doing AM in the evening times and on the weekends my world consisted of nothing else but animation from the moment I got up from bed until I went to sleep again. So work and study ended up with more than 80-100h a week.

I have been working like this for the last 12 months, maybe even longer switching into a job while finishing my first study last year already. In those 12 months I had no time to hang out with my friends, make sports or even go to church. Now, after a strong reaction in my health I realised that this is not what it should be like.

I wish I had the money to study AM full-time straight ahead to the end. But I have to earn money to pay my bills and (luckily) I am also doing animation 10 hours a day. So, I am going to take a break trying to get some time to breathe again. This was a tough decision since I already signed up for the next term. It's also hard to see everyone go on and making progress while I will wait a while but I know that this is the right decision.

So? I just wanted to express my deepest thanks to all of you. You are all becoming great animators and I hope to work with many of you anytime soon. For now, I will take a break, let's see how long it will last. But you guys: keep on swimming! It is worth it. The first "real" acting shot I did I felt incredible happy.

If your body tells you you can't go on, take it seriously and don't be ashamed to take a rest. It is not the distance that kills you but the speed.

So, God bless you, your families and your study, hugz to all of you, there is nothing like AM out there! I may blog from time to time and tell you what I do. I will draw a lot and read books and articles on the web that I didn't have time for before for sure.

- Alex

Friday, March 03, 2006

AM2 - Week 08 Blocking


Hi all,

as promised I finished working on the blocking today, on Friday (video 1 MB approx). No work for me on the weekend - I promised the doc, so I get better (still fighting the flu). For now, check it out, and have fun with it.

- Alex

AM2 - Week 07 Assignment


Hi all,

being sick has one advantage: I have time to upload. The last days I was working a lot and when coming home falling back into bed because of a flu. Now I put myself on hold for three days, trying to get fine again in a rush with some pills and juices the doctor gave me. And now I have time to write some more stuff on the blog.

Well, the last weeks assignment was to finalize our shot. That was a tedious thing. Since I only find the time to animate on the weekend I loose the opportunity of "fresh eyes". That means that you should take at least 2-3 hours off doing something else (planning your new scene etc.) to get a fresh glimpse at your own work.

Then, and this is very important, watch it once - and once only - and write down everything that you know about the shot which does not work. Everything.
Don't watch it twice or more often - you will loose the advantage of having "fresh eyes". Well, the animation didn't turn out 100% imho. I like the second part of it but the beginning still sucks.

But I don't have time to redo it because I am already blocking on the next shot: a baseball player throwing a ball... (see picture). So, check my 1MB "final" version of the last assignment and I will try to upload my first blocking asap.

Have fun,

Alex

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Learning Animation


Hi all,

I love animation, I love the internet and I love blogging. You get to know so many people- that is really awesome. Bala, a young animation aspirant from India, just wrote me asking me how I would learn animation. Well, my first answer would certainly be animation mentor, since this is the best program I know and have heard of so far. Many of my friends studied at various university all over the world and the more I know the more comfortable I feel investing my money into AM.

But that also means that I am in the lucky position of having a job that allows me to pay for this education. And there are many talented people out there that can't afford any animation university - maybe currently, maybe never. So, what to do, where to start?

Well, this is difficult to answer. Actually, it is funny that Bala has asked me that question since I found one of the most complete link lists to animation tutorials I have ever seen on his blog. And that is more than anyone can read to start into animation. But what exactly would I do to start into animation without spending very little or any money at all? Here is a quick sketch (but remember, there is no ONE way, there are many out there to become a freaking animation ninja):

1.) Get a copy of "Illusion of Life" of Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas.
2.) Read it. When you are done then read chapter 3 again.
3.) Draw every single day. Start with circles and lines. Every day. And do life drawings. If you have no money: draw people on the street or (a little easier at the beginning) draw people from photos... they are 2D already. Try to join a life drawing class at arts schools for free. Just ask the professor if you may sit in the backrow. He might help you.
4.) Read every tutorial over at Keith Langos website.
5.) If you want to join the 3D animation community, get Maya PLE or XSI Exp. I personally recommend XSI Exp since I think the program is better but really, that doesn't matter much. A good starting point for 3D animation is Jeff Lew. I really can recommend that DVD. It was a turning point for me for sure. Download a character someone else has build for you. And then animate with that one. Don't model, don't rig, don't render. Just animate.
6.) Start with "boring" bouncing balls. Don't skip the "boring" parts - not in animation and not in drawing. They are the fundamentals and they make the difference in the end.
7.) Read many blogs of animators and try to do what they did: a sidestep, lifting a box, a bouncing ball, a jumping squirrel, a guy falling.... whatever. Take reference and study the heck out of it.
8.) Be patient. Every kind of art takes time to master. Some are faster at the beginning and some are slower. But eventually you will make it. So don't get discouraged. And please, don't start with a "Two people jumping off a helicopter being chased by 20 police men"-scenario.

9.) And finally when your love for animation has grown: If possible, get into an animation school. Once again, there is a reason why I chose Animation Mentor. And I didn't regret that decision a single day since then. Certainly there are hundreds of great schools out there in the world. But I also heard a many complaints. In my humble opinion, AM is the best program out there at the moment and I would take the same route again and again.

So, animation is no Abrakadabra-magic spell... it is a fine art and a craftsmenship. You can learn it and master it. Start with the basics, set yourself deadlines and then keep on going. You decide the course and you will make it eventually.

I hope that helps you. This is what I would do and in some sort did. Sometimes maybe late but that was my way. So, start right now, animation is an incredible experience. Everytime I watch a scene that I have animated myself after hours and hours of work I look at it and say: "Did I do that? How come they are alive but were dead 7 days ago?"...

I love animation!

- Alex

Sunday, February 19, 2006

AM02 - week 06 - Assignment - Re-blocking

This was my original idea but I won't find the time to realise this.

Hi everyone,

this week was re-blocking time. I had the brilliant idea of taking 30 frames each day and polish them so I like them better. So, on Monday I came home at around 10pm after 12h+ of work... and I fell into my bed. The same on Tuesday... and Wednesday... and the rest of the week. Great plan, still lacks the ability to do it, right? My idea is to do the same this week - except for not finding the time to animate 30 frames a day.

Okay, without further adue here is the file - it is 1.6 MB big and a Quicktime 7 h264. I sometimes think that the h264 doesn't run 100% smoothly and studders but that might just be me or my 3Ghz PC =)

Tell me what you think, still one more week to finally nail this animation.

- Alex

Thursday, February 16, 2006

San Francisco Video Report


Hi everyone,

as promised here it is: my video report of San Francisco. Well, before I post the links please remember the following: whenever a camera is put on me a misterious 'bad-English' virus suddenly takes over and I start to studder and make bad grammar mistakes. Then again, I didn't do any rehearsals (which I should have done and will do next time). And finally, I didn't take a tripod with me so the camera is really, really shaky. Nonetheless the video hopefully gives you

- a good impression about Animation Mentor Headquarters
- a funny glimpse of ILM (?!)
- and a look at Pixar's entrance and their main hall

Whatever, I hope you have fun watching it. If for nothing else, then at least for fun, right?

You can find a WMV 10 version here: http://am.alexmlehmann.de/SF06_AML.zip (38MB)
For all Mac users I also have a H264 version http://am.alexmlehmann.de/SF06_AML_h264.zip (42MB)

Tell me whether that was a good idea and I should create a better one next time I am there (and then take a tripod, hundred English classes and Steven Spielberg as director).

Well, animate on,

- Alex

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Pixar, ILM, Siggraph - a normal week in San Francisco

Yes, my friends, San Francisco in winter time... well, not always like that, but once in a while... ahh, beautiful!


Hi everyone,

here it is, finally, my blog entry about the travelling to San Francisco, February 2006. Originally I was traveling there because I got the chance of working as ex-student volunteer (XSV) in the Siggraph courses committee which had to decide on the course that are going to be represented this August in Boston. Just click here to get some more information about Siggraph.

That is the Boston Convention Center where Siggraph 2006 will be held.

The process for creating the program was full of fun and getting to know many 'famous' people among the CGI-industry (CGI = computer generated images). Next to working all Saturday there were also times when we went to a restaurant and had the famous 'earthquake' ice which had 20 scoops of ice. Yummy!

In the middle you can see this incredible 20 scoops of icecream earthquake!

In the end we got a nice courses program which will have interesting courses for everyone - on every single day of the conference. I'm really happy that it turned out that way because it is difficult to get everone's interests in one convention. I hope we did succeed.



I got to San Francisco early to meet some awesome people from the animation industry. Among them were Bobby Beck (Pixar, now CEO of Animation Mentor), Rick o'Conner (lead animator at ILM), Shawn Kelly (Ninja animator at ILM), Doug Dooley (my current mentor and body mechanics master at Pixar), Anthony Wong (former Disney 2D artist, now at Pixar) and Michelle Meeker (currently working as a freelance artist, animated on Lord of the rings, Bug's life, Antz etc.). I was pumped just knowing I would meet them and in the end my expectations were all fullfilled and even more than that.

The first day (Monday) I went to Animation Mentor headquarters, located in lovely Berkely not a 5 min. drive away from Pixar - but actually, 1h 20min away from Mountain View where I stayed at Dave Shreiner's house. I had a great car (a 8 people Hertz Gold member Van) which I was given for no other reason than asking kindly - well, maybe asking for a Hummer was a littlebit frank but in the end I got this awesome car for the price of a Honda Civic. Anyway, I drove all the way around the Bay up to Berkely and eventually made it to:

Many of you should know this sign by now due to our weekly videos

Meeting Bobby, Jay, Taylor, Becky, Rosie and all the others was totally fun. I came right on time for lunchtime and so we had pizza together while chatting. I could talk to Bobby about the school and how we as students could spread the word (blogging for instance?) and was able to take a closer look at his office and all the toys he collects there (whoot!).

One of hundreds of awesome toys Bobby has in his office.

Later this week I will be able to release that video to this blog and the AM forum but more on that later.

Bobby right before getting some pizza...

Not only AM is fun online but the headquarters as well. People are as nice as they appear on the video and the overall feeling is relaxed and open. Should you ever feel like going there, do it. The staff is just amazing and they have some awesome stuff to show, too. In the end I made it to the video news to demonstrate people the meaning of timezones and that people from Germany (like me) would sleep at the time we were shooting the video:

timezone demonstration visually expressed

AM HQ was fun and so the week had started off... AWESOME (you are going to hear that word a lot from now on - Shawn Kelly infected me there!). Talking about Shawn. Shawn works at ILM together with Rick o'Conner. Rick is a lead animator currently on a very interesting show. I look forward to it. I was able to visit both and see how they work and what ILM is like. Let me say this: ILM is one of the coolest places to work at - that is for sure.

Yoda fountain - "Me you must seek, ILM you will find"

It was funny to also meet some of the people featured in the videos like Kevin (Martel?) and Charles Alleneck who (btw) has the biggest Lego Star Wars collection on EARTH! Well, that was my impression, at least. At ILM Rick showed me a lot of very, very cool stuff: How they work, which tools they use, how the animators sink into their chairs behind their desk, hundreds of maquettes and photos and pictures and models and Star Wars props... and also their lunch area.

While having lunch in this terrific building (you can see the Golden Gate bridge to the left, Alcatraz inside the Bay and Downtown to your left) we had a question and answer session where I kept bugging Rick and Shawn to the extreme about age limitations, VISA questions or moral issues. It was awesome, totally honest and extremely interesting and the discussion went on in emails even after I left ILM (thanks again, Shawn). Unfortunately I wasn't able to film inside ILM but you just have to believe me that you are feeling like walking through the history of computer animation.

The place is huge, the building awesome but foremost are the people cool and friendly guys creating some incredible work there. Definitely still the top notch place to work at when you are aiming for CG work in live action films!!!

I also met many AM students who were cool enough to leave their seats for one day and come down to the Cha Cha Cha in San Francisco downtown. We had a great time and I tried to talk to as many as possible there. Hopefully I didn't miss too many - in the end, I had a wonderful time just seeing all of them.

One of the few pictures where you can see anything. The ChaChaCha was quite dark....

Thursday was the day were I visited Doug Dooley and Anthony Wong and that way: Pixar. I've been there once for the geeky fact of just shooting a foto of me in front of Pixar but now I was able to turn into the drive way and get into the building as registered guest.


I got into the hallway where people are being picked up by employes. The entrance hall is huge and full of cool stuff. There are a lot of toys around, 4 giant statues of the Incredibles and a brand new car for Daytona racing (for those who don't know yet, Pixar is releasing Cars this year in cinemas). The place is - like ILM - packed with drawings from the movies Pixar has created (remember, together with Cars that are 'only' 6 so far) and walking there you feel like walking through a big version of the making of art books.

Doug and Anthony showed me the cinema they have (wow, that is a bigger one) and the rendering hardware - it is big, loud and has millions of blue and green lamps. I guess it is fast, but that is mostly all I can say about it. Then we turned into the animation "hall" where every single animator has his own little building to live in. And I mean building. They have alleys and walkways and verandas and a huge kitchen, some have a couch and a TV, others a castle made out of bricks, some are pink, some are plain white, some animate while standing... this place was full of creativity.

Doug showed me some cool figures they found on eBay from a carousel. They hadn't been plugged in yet but they are supposed to still work... amazing. The whole place had so much life going on you really have to know where to go to first before starting. Well, I was lucky and got to meet Carlos Baena too and we talked a littlebit about AM and Europe, too. All in all it was great meeting him and he certainly has the same energy that he shows in the videos every week. His office too was awesome. All Pixar animators have a huge 40"(inch) display that is just huge big (well, I guess some 'just' got 23" ones but I'm not sure).

Doug's office was especially cool since it had two levels (one on top of the other) where the second one had a couch and a tv. He was even able to build a staircase into that 3x3m big office... way cool. Anthony has a more convenient office together with Nancy K! Also, a very impressive mentor mostly working as campus mentor there! It was super cool meeting her.

As at ILM I just couldn't resist to buy some way cool stuff (two shirts, the Moma-book and some toys at Pixar, two shirts and a mug at ILM)... and the best thing is: no one cares if you act geeky - everyone is. I mean, even Pixar employees buy their own stuff. Totally amazing.

Then Doug, Anthony and me had an AWESOME discussion about AM and this term. We talked about story and personality and I got to know Doug better which was super cool. I also had a glimpse into how keen Pixar is about story and how well things have to be thought off before animating on them. They teached me a mini-10-min lecture there. Whoot!

I could film some of the entrance hall and you can see that in my video later this week.

Well, that's it for now. The whole trip was more than exciting, mind-blowing, awesome, enormous, captivating... whatever you can say. I'm super thankful to have been able to meet all those people. They were kind enough to show me far more than I had thought of. And San Francisco is a wonderful place to live in, too. So, I will be working hard on getting there some day when I can't stand Munich anymore. For now, I better start animating seriously good stuff to be able to show it around.

Feel free to shoot me some questions. Though I tried not to harm any legal issues I hope I still could tell some interesting stories.

- Alex

AM02 - week 05 - Assignment


Hi everyone,

today I hope to find the time to write some interesting blog entries about my traveling as well as the last weeks assignment. For now, let me start with the assignment first. Well, we could choose between four different assignments each of varying difficulty. I tried the assignment where Stewie (with no arms) is supposed to jump from post to post. This sounded like a fun assignment though I and Doug (my mentor) didn't like the character with no arms attached.

Therefore I tried to make him look like his hands are put in his pockets and Stewie is just totally cool while jumping over this deadly canyon. Quite surprisingly my sister came for a visit which took some time (it was great, though) but I was able to finish the first rough blocking right on time. So, I will definitely work more on the contrast in timing and might as well add some more inbetweens before going into refinement but the overall motion and idea is already put into Maya.

So, check this video file (click on the picture above) - it is just 1MB big - which also means that I had to switch to a new codec called H264. For those of you who never heard of that: it is the new codec that will also be used for HD-video files. It is a very powerful codec able to minimize filesize drastically but you will need the free Apple Quicktime 7.0 player (Quicktime with iTunes - Quicktime Standalone Installer). I totally recommend those programs and even more to go PRO - which means to pay 30$ for a full unlocked version. It has some nice features like creating H264 video streams etc. From now on, Quicktime 7.0 is a must for AM-students which I find a good decision. That way all files stay small and people won't have to wait forever to see the assignment of someone.

Anyway, I hope you like the new assignment. These coming weeks are all about personality in the character and won't focus on story. I will try to put as much personality in the jump as possible. Have fun,

- Alex

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Back from SF - AM week 04

Hi all,

I am back from San Francisco and jet lagged. It is 1am and I am still awake even though I worked all day and stood up at 6:30am... well, anyway, it was AWESOME! And I mean that kind of Shawn Kelly AWESOME! This huge AWESOME! Well, awesome...

I will try to edit a little video about this travel to SF later but for now I just submitted some late planning for last week. Check it out and I will try to get some sleep!

- Alex

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

San Francisco is absolutely awesome

Hi all,

I've been here before and I tend to think that I know the streets here better than in Munich - weird isn't it? At my first visit I was driving around a lot and found several nice places to stay at. This time I stay in Mountain View which is a really nice place 1h away from SF - depending on traffic.

Staying at Dave Shreiner's house (the chair of the courses committee) I have the opportunity to find out how it is living in the States. I can tell you - I really like it. Even though I catched a cold/flu and I have to take some medicine to stay at it I really like the way they are living here. And if 10°C is the worst that SF gets during winter time then bring it on.

Anway, I will drink some more of this bad tasting Vitamin C tea and then work some more.

Hugz,

- Alex

Sunday, January 29, 2006

High above the clouds

Technologically advance is an astounding thing nowadays. After watching Chicken Little in 3D with great CL-glasses on my glasses I jumped aboard the Lufthansa LH 458 today - the world's first airline that brings internet to their guests. You basically pay 10$ per hour and I did get a coupon for 30 min off and 50% of the price so it is really cheap for me.

Right now we are somewhere above the northpole - but though I was looking thoroughly I couldn't see the Polar Express. I guess, Tom has one day off...

Anyway, isn't it great to go online when you are on your way to San Francisco? I can check my emails, my new critique (Doug finally likes the idea) and even download the new lecture. Man, that is awesome.

So, this blog entry is kind of unique I guess. It was written high above the clouds and also uploaded there. I really like this airline...

Hugz from da clouds,

- Alex

AM02 - week 03 - Assignment


It is 5am... the sun is almost coming up again. Though I should be tired I am not... maybe the idea of flying to San Francisco keeps me awake. I don't know.

Today I had to make a tough decision: either follow Doug's mentoring suggestion to animate "Ballie stepping into a bucket - which has to stand on the ground" or creating a totally new story three weeks into this term already which Doug never heard of... Since I couldn't come up with any idea of Ballie turning around and stepping into a bucket which wouldn't look silly or not unbelievable I decided to create a complete new story once again - the forth time this week.

Well, and now it is finished... and I don't feel too happy. Actually I think that the other ideas would have been much stronger and more funny - which is why I still integrated them into the movie file. I understand Doug's criticism about those stories and he is right about it - but I tried to concentrate on the body mechanics and didn't want to tell a whole feature film in 8 seconds.

Well, the new idea is clear and simple - yet - maybe even boring. I shouldn't use the cycling in the air and I didn't but I think that even the new story would have been better if the vase crashes to the floor and Ballie jumps away like a maniac.

Anyway... I was trapped and there was barely a way out. Hopefully Doug likes the new story at least. I couldn't talk about it earlier and I felt really uncomfortable going against his suggestion. The animation had to be done really quickly and is somewhere between a blocking stage and some refinement. There is still a lot missing but those four stories took their tribute... so, sorry for such a crappy animation...

But you better just check that yourself. You can find the animation here - it is 10MB big.

Everyone, now it is time for me to go to bed. My plane will leave Munich at around 4pm tomorrow and then it will be one week of pure San Francisco visiting... I look forward to that and all the people I am going to see there.

God bless you,

- Alex

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

AM - one week of almost getting nowhere...

Hi all,

for everyone who is interested in my workflow...I just wanted to show two versions of ideas that I won't be taking in the end (one from yesterday)... so, they are very, very rough and I couldn't finish them since I'm working on something more KISS still... I was very tired and did this test after work... it is bad, I know... but just for you to see that everything is a process involving a lot of work... sometimes I just show the results and not the many failures =) so, here it is:

2.5MB MOVIE of WIP


- Alex

Monday, January 23, 2006

AM02 - week 03 - public review process

Hi all,

Doug's the fastest mentor in AM, I suppose. He critiqued my work superfast and told me that he didn't like the overall story elements since Ballie must have seen the Bug he was stepping on in the old version. Since I'm travelling to San Francisco next week I have to finish the second phase of blocking and the refinement process this week already... phew.

So, I roughed my new idea into the computer to show Doug what I was going for - and here is the process. I hope he will make it in time and give me greenlight or direction where I should be heading to.

Feel free to send me your thoughts about this new roughed in blocking. The poses overall are awfull and off balance and I'm going to change that as soon as Doug agrees with the story line.

Here we go (please click on the picture, 3.5MB):

Be brave and click the picture, young hero!
Till later,

- Alex

Sunday, January 22, 2006

AM02 - week 02 - Assignment

Tachchen auch...

Hi everyone and welcome to the end of week 02!

I'm glad you joined me once again on my trip to animation land. This week we had to start blocking in our shots. Since I submitted two ideas Doug narrowed this down to one decision: skip the ball animation I suggested and go for the 180 degree turn. So, I worked on that and did some thorough planning.

Guys, AM is true... I did plan more as I did work on the computer in the end. Because I had a good idea of what I wanted to do in the computer in the end I just needed around 3 hours to put everything in... I mean, just three hours... that is nothing. I know that Rick'O'Conner does animate a whole shot in 3 hours (a senior ILM animator who totally rocks) but for me 3 hours is blazingly fast. I wish I could animate like that at animoto and get such results...

Speaking of, this is just roughed in and it is just blocking. But following the rules KISS (keep it simple, stupid) and "show early show often" I wanted to show Doug this version before I go on and start to refine things. I think there is a lot of work to do on it still but you will get the idea I'm sure. So, here is the movie - it is just 5MB big... just click on the picture to load it =)

yes, click on the picture right away =)

Well, I'd love to know what you think about it, so shoot me an email if you feel like it.

Now, onto AM features. The AM feature of the week is the new lecture/assignment site. It features various changing videos every week for the lecture and the assignment, as well as the keypoints we have to stick to each week. Also we have some kind of a definition list to animation terms there, so if you feel helpless if someone is saying KISS all the time you can go there and check what it means...

So much for now, ttyl and God bless you all,

- Alex

Monday, January 16, 2006

AM02 - week 01 - Assignment



Hi everyone,

I'm still exploring this new insanely cool AM website... man, it got huge and we have soo many new awesome features. Next to that I finally got started with my work and I seem to have overcome the artist's blocking... so, it seems like things are moving finally, now I just have to turn that into animation =)

I currently hear some music from a fellow animentee called mc chris. Chris, if you read this, pretty neat stuff. Oh, before I talk about my this week's assignment just another thing: I finally booked my flight to San Francisco in just two weeks!!! This is oh so cool, I can't believe it! Man, I will visit many great people over there and if I'm lucky I can stay at the house of the courses chair.

Well, the new AM feature of the week I want to talk about is: our new orientation videos. To explain the new features of the website AM has created over 30 minutes of videos explaining how it works. Bobby is showing all buttons and shortcuts and stuff and believe me, it is awesome. I mean, it is not complicated but it has hundreds of cool features. So many, that you have to show it in different videos.

Well, I will talk about new features from now on as often as I find time for it. About my new assignment. We could choose between different assignments and I offered two things to my mentor: a heel kick (believe me, no KISS - keep it simple, stupid - story) and a turnaround 180°. The incredible fast mentor Doug Dooley did his critique yesterday (yack!) already and explained me, why he like the 180° version better which is totally fine with me, I like it too.

He then changed my - step into a gum - into something like a bucket and I'm currently discussing with him whether to choose a flower to step on. But enough said, for this week this is my planning.


Rick'o'Conner was giving this week's lecture and was discussing on how he handles a shot. This wasn't only one of the most fun lectures I've seen so far but full of cool stuff, too. So adopted a lot of his work method into my workflow and my planning, check it out:


I still have to change the second part since Ballie won't step into a gum anymore but I will do that once I've discussed this with Doug. For now I think that the planning is pretty solid and the animation will be fun, I am sure.

So, enough for this week's assignment, I have to plan a flight to San Francisco, yehaa!

- Alex

Thursday, January 12, 2006

AM02 - week 01 - AM has gone incredible...

Hi everyone,

I'm very, very sorry for NOT having written anything during the whole holiday season. I was busy like crazy doing an After Effects job for a company in Stuttgart and I also visited many friends in good ol' Hamburg. But for all those curious fellas out there I have tons of things to tell because soo much has happened. I don't know where to start and I will definitely tell it over the weeks.

First of all: AM has gone V2! What does that mean? It means that the best has become the perfect. They created a totally new website system in HTML taking 9 month of suggestions from mentors and students into account. What they created is the most incredible online school system I can think of. Chats, better video quality, orientation guides, direct buddy list, sort by mentor, integrated forum... it would and will take some time until I can write all that down into my blog.

Anyhow, AM02 has started and it also has been reworked completely. What does that mean? Well, students from higher semesters said that there was a big gap between AM01 and 02 and it was difficult for most people to follow. Now they changed the syllabus and it looks great. We are the lucky first ones to be part of the new syllabus. I will start with a Ballie and his heel kicking a ball... you will see a lot about this the coming days and weeks here.

Now for the big news: I have a new mentor and he is called: DOUG DOOLEY! This guy is freaking awesome. He worked on Ice Age (Blue Sky) and went over to Pixar for Monster's Inc., Finding Nemo, Incredibles and Cars... I guess right now he works on Ratatouille... but I'm not sure. This awesome animator is not only MR.BODYMECHANICS himself (he is mainly assigned to heavy body mechanic shots at Pixar) but also an incredible teacher. He loves teaching and thinks a lot before he goes online.

He is said to be a tough grader which is good for us. Being patted on the back all the time doesn't help me at all - though I sometimes NEED that. His grades are A for extra-terrestrial work that just kicks butt, B for production quality, C for work on it, D for you need more time and E for no way.... don't want to talk about F...

The Q&A with Doug tonight at 5am (German time) was incredible and he told us many important things already.

One last thing: I was accepted as one of five first XSVs for the Siggraph ever. XSV stands for ex student volunteer and you have to apply for it as well as being promoted by others (thanks Mk, Sacha and Mr. Keppler). Now things are coming along. I had to find 5 tertiary reviewers to help me with the review process and I'm honoured with an incredible team:

Michelle Meeker (Pixar, PDI, Weta, EA), Shawn Kelly (ILM), Tony Longson (CalState LA), J├╝rgen Richter (Amblimation, Munich Animation, animoto) and Anthony Wong (Disney, Pixar).

If everything works out I'm going to visit some of them this coming February in San Francisco. This heavily depends on how much work we will have to do each week for the 'secret' job I am currently working on. I hope they let me go for one week though I love every minute working here =)

Anyhow, so much for now. Animoto, AM, Siggraph and the trip to San Francisco... there is a lot to talk and blog about and I hope to see you here often. I try to update as much as I can. Spread the word and lure some people here. I hope that I can transfer the excitement of AM to this blog and answer many unasked questions that are out there.

God bless you all,

- Alex