Stewie Tennis Camp

I'm now into week 2 of Class 3 here at Animation Mentor, "Advanced Body Mechanics."
One option for Class 3 is Anim Jam, where we compose a set of 3 shots into some form of meaningful sequence. The emphasis must be on physicality, but a degree of storytelling and characterization can be embarked upon provided it is in appropriate measure.

I'm very happy to rise to the challenge. After much deliberation I worked out a sequence named "Stewie Tennis Camp." I thought I'd share the summary composition I did of this today. Perhaps I should have gotten this done last week, as did many of the "really organized" students, but there were a number of technical challenges I had to work through first. I did present the plan last week, but I hadn't yet gotten to "modding" the characters.

The mod process took longer than expected... as does just about everything and anything in the realms of creative effort (and life in general). I managed to break Kid's rig when setting up the constraints for the tennis racket, so I had to go back a few versions and sort that out. There were the usual frustrations with Maya (I'm "born and bred" in XSI, so far as 3D work is concerned. Maya still feels clunky, but I'm getting there).

I'm hoping to run with a background that is simply a digitally painted image I prepared last week. I can do fancy modeling texturing etc., no need to be getting tied up in that at the moment: I would like to maintain a reasonably efficient focus on animation work with minimal distractions; and this is a core learning philosophy at AM to begin with. We're here for the animation first and foremost.
I'm sure anyone who has observed my work will see, however, that I prefer a rough edge to a polished one; chaos to order; texturality and a degree of complexity. I like the look of flat artwork like this in 3D work, it's a decent style.

For the first shot, I'm working on in this sequence, Shot 2, I also ventured into the new territory of doing a pencil test. At the start of the year, I got a copy of Digicel Flipbook Lite for pencil tests ($78, and there was an AM student discount, very affordable). I hadn't really gotten around to doing pencil tests so far, however. So I did this one to help me get rolling on this shot.
One thing I'm hoping to do is to break away from naturalistic motion and posing, and to push the artistry and expression. I've always had a tendency to remain comfortably within the naturalistic realm. But hopefully I will find some stylistic distinctiveness as I go. This particular test is still naturalistic. You might think it was rotoscoped, for example, but it wasn't. A good study, but still not quite where I'd like it to be.
It's a good question: is there any point doing pencil tests like this?
It's definitely more work than simply going right at it, in blocking.
I expect it could be fruitful in finding the most essential aspects of timing and poses. It could be a good way to take a fresh look at something, free from the technicality bog that working within Maya can be. But sooner or later those poses have to be built in Maya, and there aren't really shortcuts for that in this time and place.
The week is "getting on" and I do have to block this whole Shot 2 thing out by Sunday, so I definitely am going to get on with it all directly in Maya now all the same.
I'm working on the shot in a sandwiched way: this above test involves the first bit, I have a flourish for the last bit, and then, depending on how long each of these two sets of moves takes to accomplish well, I'll "simply" fill in the inbetween bit with some fast volleying.
A note on the flourish: Pro is a girl, and I've been looking for just the right sort of "in your face" move. That has been a bit of a challenge. I spent about a day simply doing that: looking for the right move for her. Youtube is very useful. But my own acting it out was half-decent too, oddly enough. When I put ref together, I tend to have a tightly cut set of concise actions strung together, like a series of dance moves. Perhaps in time it will all simply flow straight from the imagination, because I can visualize it fairly well all the same. BUT I do make a point of looking around. There's something to be said about "authoritative motion". I learned that with my Riverdance sequence last class. Certain types of motions are highly polished when carried out by those who have the skill. In these cases, no amount of effort, in terms of generating one's own reference video, will ever match the quality of these authoritative sources. It's good to look for such sources, and to then study what comes on good authority.

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