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Academy Ekko vs Cyborg Zombies (January 2018 – April 2018)

No one believed Ekko when he said he was late to class because of zombies...

A leap outside of my comfort zone! This exercise was to focus on snappy timing, stronger poses, and polish.




Lessons Learned

1. Posing

This seems obvious, it's one of the first things you learn as an animator. I recieved a lot of great feedback from Jason (shout out to @shumface) and one thing he brought up was the “Movie Poster” idea. Take a look at your animation, pick a frame at random and ask yourself “would this look cool on a movie poster?”. It's extraordinarily difficult to accomplish, but it's a way of thinking that leads to being less reliant on Maya for in-betweens.

2. Spacing

Most of my past work skews towards realism over a cartoony style. Having exaggerated timing is something that I've always wanted to try. I have a bad habit, when it comes to tracking arcs, to make the spacing even. It's a problem of becoming too focused on what an object looks like from one frame to the next frame rather than what the object looks like over a group of frames. Straying away from “clean” spacing and making it “dirty” is something I still need to work on, but this was good practice to take a step in the right direction.


Things that went right

1. Polish

Development schedules are often tight and you don't always get the chance to polish as much as you'd like. I took the opportunity to really focus on tracking arcs and taking the time for secondaries. This model has a bunch; a bag, three screwdrivers, shirt flaps, collar, headphones, and a chain. It's something the viewer may not necessarily notice upon a first viewing, but hopefully something that they feel.

2. Taking a break

I started this shot less than a week after finishing the Riot/Polycount contest (which lasted three months). I had multiple freelance jobs at the same time while trying to work on this piece in my spare time. In the beginning I was excited to work on something new and a different pace, but after a few weeks I wanted nothing to do with it.

I reworked the ending and I had a lot of back and forth conversations with Jason which were very insightful and usually reinvigorated me. Since I was trying something new, pushing the style, I had a lot to learn. On top of that it was ~10 seconds long and involved four characters. It was very daunting at times and I got burnt out. I realized I needed a break and took an entire week off of any animation that wasn't necessary and it helped a ton.

Without getting too preachy, this industry tends to glorify working overtime. I feel guilty when I'm not progressing my career or skillset. It's okay to take time off and recharge! Gather motivation and inspiration from other sources. Animating with pure focus for one hour can be more productive than five hours of distracted animating.


Bonus: Cutting room floor





As mentioned earlier I originally had a different ending in mind. My goal was to showcase his time-control ability while taking advantage of the rig props (screwdrivers!). The idea was to activate a time-stopping bubble, throw the screwdrivers into the bubble (causing them to freeze and act as platforms), have Ekko traverse the screwdrivers up to grab his bat that is stuck in the wall, and end by stabbing the last zombie cyborg.

The issue came with trying to convey the amount of distance from Ekko's initial starting point to where the cyborg enters. The space is very wide, but the camera foreshortens the view. Having the camera chase Ekko made it tricky to get the right feel and posing so I decided to cut it.



Cyborg rig- https://gumroad.com/truongcgartist

Ekko model- Riot Games

Ekko rig- https://vimeo.com/kenzchiang