Snowgum Films
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“DISCWORLD® and TERRY PRATCHETT® are registered trade marks of Dunmanifestin Limited.  All trade marks used under licence.  © Dunmanifestin Limited

© 2019 Snowgum Films Pty Ltd

 

BOOT CAMP

Animating Mica

 

You want to help with animation? Awesome.

Let's get you started.

 

 

 
What You Need

You need a copy of Modo, at least 902. Grab the free trial here.

 

Next install the Content for Modo packages from the Modo installation page (that’s 3 separate downloads, totalling a few GB).

Download the entire Mica project folder from here.

You also need the Auto Character Setup (ACS) 2 plugin here

Finally, ask Ahren for a real non-trial Modo license.

If you jump ahead on the tutorials below and find you're having performance issues (Mica is a hardware thirsty beast), please watch this video here to learn how to free up your Modo processors and improve your frame rate.

Please do keep the ACS2 link confidential. You as Trollbridge animator earned a copy of ACS2 for keeps, it's one of the perks of joining this project, but for the general public it is a commercial plugin that is not even released yet.

How these three things come together is explained in this video:

  • how to install the ACS2 plugin

  • configure Modo to be familiar to Maya or Max animators

  • setup the right viewport options- dock the Animate shelf in the viewport

    NOTE: ACS2 installation procedure has changed since the video was made. For Modo 10 you need to grab ACS2.01_GoldMaster_00, make sure the official Modo Content is installed, and drag the .lpk file into the Modo viewport.

 

 

The following videos should get you up to speed with everything you need to know. They are specifically designed for people coming from Maya or Max, but they are obviously limited to the Animation part. If you need a more general introduction to modo, I recommend watching these playlists from The Foundry:

Once you get a shot assigned, it will show up in under "My Tasks" in the top menu in Shotgun. The next steps are all explained in this video:

  • what items are in the rig scene

  • how to locate and import your plate and audio

  • import and export of actions

  • making a preview and posting it as new Version

 
Modo's Animation Tools

If you're coming from XSI/MAX/Maya, or you're not quite as familiar with Modo's animation tools yet, then the next video will get you up to speed:

  • modes for item selection

  • configuring and working the graph editor

  • motion path editing

  • time tool

 

In case your shot happens to be a moving plate with a tracked camera, the workflow is slightly different. Then you need to follow the steps in this video:

  • where to find the camera track

  • how to import it into the rig scene

  • tips for not messing up the camera

 
Animating with the Mica rig

After watching part 1 to 4 you should be fully set up. Ready to animate? Great. Now you need to watch this video about the rig:

  • Options for making the Mica rig respond faster

  • How to control Mica's body: torso, head, arms and feet

  • Finger sliders

  • IK-FK switching

 

And the next episode tells you everything you need to know about the face rig:

  • Eye controls and eyelid shaping

  • The hierarchical levels of the face rig

  • Mouth shaping

  • Lip Synch controls

 

 

Finally, lucky number 7 wraps up this tutorial with some notes to the costume rig and tips for cleaning up your animation curves:

  • Secondary animation on the costume

  • Adjusting the belt to help the cloth simulation

  • Filtering static keyframes with ACS2

  • Secret Modo command for keyframe reduction

  • Stealing poses from other shots

 

Please keep in mind that Mica's general body shape is not human, but rather monster-like. Think: Sally from Monsters Inc, but less cartoony (in most scenes). Pin this Character Sheet to your Desktop as a reminder:

 
The Three Movements of Mica's Personality

Mica has a definitive arc that leads him through an extreme range of emotions and animation styles. The important thing will be keeping both of these things logically cohesive so that shot leads to shot in a rational progression.

The troll at the end of the film is drastically different to the troll at the beginning.

Even though these movements are described as three separate acts, it’s important to work through them and connect them logically to one another. When in doubt – follow the reference actor’s (John Jenkins) performance. By workshopping and rehearsing through the entire character arc, there is an emotional truth to his performance that can easily be overlooked when approaching it on a shot by shot basis. Every shot that made it into the cut was chosen from many takes, and you bet we picked that one for a reason. The reference actor is your journey guide for progressing through each movement – take advantage of his blueprint.

1. Monster Mica 8:52 – 12:18 (TB 00720 - TB 01380)

We are introduced to Mica as the classic troll you may have seen in Middle-earth or your favorite troll based fairy tale. He’s a bit of both these things, but absolutely a complete monster. During our time with the character, his movements are extremely physical and exaggerated and should feel very lethal. He’s a monster (admittedly a dim-witted one) but still a threat to our old barbarian. While he doesn’t need to come across as specifically evil, he does need to feel like a force to be reckoned with. Scare the audience!

 

 

2. Heart of Gold Mica 12:18 – 17:09 (TB 01390 - TB 02080)

 

 

2. Heart of Gold Mica 12:18 – 17:09 (TB 01390 - TB 02080)

The point of realisation. This is Mica at his most adorable, and his performance should absolutely be milked for it. It’s here we discover that his entire monster routine is an act, it’s a job, and it’s what he’s expected to do. He’s absolutely no threat any longer – just a loving father trying to make a living. Here the animation style is the most Pixar-esque of the film. Mica's movements are still exaggerated, he’s excitable and somewhat star struck. If you’re looking for the heart of gold in the film – here it is. Make the audience fall in love with him!

The point of realisation. This is Mica at his most adorable, and his performance should absolutely be milked for it. It’s here we discover that his entire monster routine is an act, it’s a job, and it’s what he’s expected to do. He’s absolutely no threat any longer – just a loving father trying to make a living. Here the animation style is the most Pixar-esque of the film. Mica's movements are still exaggerated, he’s excitable and somewhat star struck. If you’re looking for the heart of gold in the film – here it is. Make the audience fall in love with him!

 

 

3. The Real Mica 17:09 - 22:26 (TB 02100 - TB 02490)

His eventual humanization. While the rest of the film was somewhat cartoony in nature – now it’s time to get serious with the character. We’ve opened the audience up with some laughs, now let’s emotionally brutalize them. What follows should be a series of reflective and internal moments for the character and an exercise in winding back his performance to something almost minimalist in nature. A reserved steady approach needs to apply, and subtle animation is going to win the day here. He’s no longer a monster, or lovable comic relief… he is a real person with real feelings.

This is a running theme throughout the Discworld book – the humanization of monsters or fantasy creatures – and at this point we need to make his performance as grounded and realistic as possible. Don’t move his body too much unless it’s with purpose, as you will upstage his eyes. A lot of his words in this section and are often extensions of his own thought process. As such bring the audience to you – don’t come to the audience. This third act or movement is the most difficult, it will involve a lot of restraint as you convey his internal monologue, and the close up nature of the shots means that they will need to be approached with finesse and subtlety. There are moments he breaks through this – but they should be the exception and not the rule. As his thoughts are internal and sometimes conflicting – take your cues from the actor and try and physically feel the stunned emotions Mica is going through yourself… it will come out in your animation.

 

 

And there we have it. Mica’s emotional journey and arc, summarized. As you can see the movements are very distinct, and we’re keen to convey that through the stylistic interpretation of his performance. He’s a great character with a huge amount of depth to him, and accommodates a wide range of animation styles!

If there are any questions left, or if you have a comment, please do not hesitate to drop a note on the Animation Department's wall.