Posts from the “Animation” Category

Medium in Movies: Alike, Paperman, Forrest Gump


Story is about father discovers his love for his son. Father’s love for his son is demonstrated in the beginning by his color recovered by hugs with his son after work. The son learning writing is the medium on which the diminishment and recovery of love play. Learning writing comes from a common sense of school. Engagement of audience is enhanced by eye touches of father and son, and father’s poses at the end.

It’s very smart that the movie takes advantage of the power of poses to intuitively connect and engage the audience. If the son is able to draw for learning writing at the end, instead of the father do the poses of playing violin, audience would feel less engaged and fulfilled.


Paper is the medium for starting the story. It comes from the guy holding the paper in the begging.

Forrest Gump

Feather has been throughout the story as the medium for untold purpose – it comes from heaven and it follows common sense.


Keep Moving: Storyboard to Animatic

Hit the first issue developing the film: reconcile critics of the storyboard. Exciting!

Problem: my friend, Henry, a professional animator, pointed out that the storyboard is wrong in a lot ways, which my client and I weren’t aware of. Specifically, the order of which the characters appear is wrong – they should all appear in the first place, and go through the entire storyboard. Whereas in the current storyboard, the characters appear at different times.

Discussion: Henry’s criticism makes sense to me, but I don’t understand why all characters should appear in the first place and go through the entire storyboard. For the story we’re developing, is Henry’s opinion better than what we have now?

Solution: answer the following questions:

  • Why should all characters appear in the first place for all types of story?
  • If yes, figure out what’s wrong in the current storyboard, and adjust the storyboard for all characters to appear in the first place
  • If no, stick with the current storyboard, then keep moving to animatic by researching art direction

Edited Solution: it’s reconciled by adding voice on each scene to convey the key message. In the current storyboard, the main characters indeed go across the entire storyboard, but they don’t look obvious to the audience without knowing the key message. Because key message help the audience understand which are the main characters, and which are characters for assisting the story. Example of multi-characters in one story with narratives: It’s So Brill by Animade [1].

Thought: it feels challenged and frustrated and lost when Henry told me that the story is wrong. Because my client and me worked deliberately on every bit of the development of story and storyboard for a month. However, that’s good challenge. The point is to stay calm to figure out the real issue. Henry essentially got lost of the story in front of all the characters, so we need to convey the story to the audience. That way, the audience understand which are the main characters, and which are for assisting the story. The solution is to use voice-over to narrate the key message of each scene, because we do have concrete key messages to back the story.


[1] London animation studio | Animade. It’s So Brill.

The Beauty of Developing Animated Film with Client Not Knowing Animation Techniques

Everyone has the sense of aesthetics, which is enough to guide animated films. That’s beautiful.

Focusing on the technical side of developing animated films when working with the first client, it could easily forget my belief of founding Dopamine Animatic: animation could be purely guided by aesthetics, which exists in everyone. Dopamine Animatic is here to address technical difficulties, and facilitate the aesthetic in client’s mind. Here comes the question: how to avoid forgetting to ask client about aesthetic opinions, such as art directions of character style, color palette, dimension, and music?

In Dopamine Animatic, we work with client to develop the story, during which both the client and Dopamine Animatic obtain a deeper understanding of the story, as well as facilitate the sense of aesthetics for the film. It was not until a quiet evening that the client’s imagination of the art direction of the film as we discussed in the previous meeting came to my mind, and I found it is exactly the goal of Dopamine Animatic – take client’s sense of aesthetics to guide the art style of the film.

Thank to the quiet evening to pure the inspiration to my mind to answer the question: during each meeting, no matter how technical it is, always ask client’s opinion of anything related to the style, aesthetic of the film. That should be the default habit of Dopamine Animatic.

Storyboarding Comparison: Boords vs Storyboarder

Storyboarding could be challenging for those who can’t draw, someone like me. It’d be critical if a storyboarding tool addresses this problem. In addition, to enhance the logistics of creating animated films, efficiently adding / deleting / editing / rearranging frames of storyboards, and syncing / tuning / editing backing track in the finest granularity level (i.e. per frame) would save a lot time for pre-production. Because these feature would allow for quick iteration cycle for developing animatic, which includes storyboards, music, and actions.

In a nutshell, two features required for storyboarding for those who can’t draw:

  • Aid storyboarding for those who can describe a storyboard but can’t draw
  • Augment logistics for creating animatic

Boords by Animade, and Storyboarder by Wonder Unit, two storyboarding tools I’ve been exploring for, seems promising to meet the above requirements. Here’s a comparison of Boords and Storyboarder in price-wise, feature-wise, and robust-wise:


  • Price: subscription-based
  • Features
    • Aid storyboarding for those who can’t draw? NO
    • Augment logistics of creating animatic? YES
      • Drawing Tool: pen. Insufficient for basic storyboarding styles
  • Robust: augmenting the process of creating animatic is very robust


  • Price: free
  • Features
    • Aid storyboarding for those who can’t draw? YES. This is a killer feature – it automatically generates storyboarding shot from script
    • Augment logistics of creating animatics? YES. An example can be found from Matt’s YouTube tutorial [1]
      • Drawing Tool: light pencil, pencil, pen, brush, note pen. Sufficient for basic storyboarding styles
  • Robust:
    • Aid storyboarding for those who can’t draw: It’s unclear of the efficiency of storyboarding from script. How long does it take to find the proper scene, what’s the efficient way to best describe a scene in order to generate the proper layout? But since it supports tuning details of a storyboard shot to approach accuracy, it really worth a try to at least get ideas of the scene
    • Augment logistics of creating animatics: Not clear either. Because it’s an new tool, and I haven’t spent time to test the feature. However if it turns out to be inefficient, can always resort to Boords


[1] Matt Workman. 2017. “Storyboarder – Best Free Storyboard Program 2017”. Cinematography Database.

Path to Automatic Animation

Since there’re massive factors involved in animation development, automate the process may not be possible via a single animation engine (need to do a thorough review :P). Instead, automatically puzzle existing tools together may be more practical. Because we could get out the most of each tool. For example, if tool x is the best in painterly style, tool y is the best for animating, they are golden combination to produce film z, then it’d be nice to efficiently transfer the result between each other.

Notes of 2018 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts

Dear Basketball

by Glen Keane and Kobe Bryant

The hand-drawn visual and Kobe’s monologue make the animated short stand out.

Contre Temps

Jérémi Boutelet, Thibaud Clergue, Tristan Ménard, Camille Perrin, Gaël Megherbi, Lucas Veber

Stunning visual with beautiful sound.


Visual and sound together makes up a movie. Either each of them can fully express the story.




so my brain is crazy now,

I believe it’s fun to record.

The animation trailer for BBB is going well so far.. we landed off the initial story to make it as silly as possible – Candy turned my super logic and technical story to one that’s silly, fun and make-no-sense.. But I love it! Somehow I think being silly is a golden trait… because it makes you laugh then u just remember it! One common thing we agreed with is bringing personalities to things – that’s good. it means we’re keeping the essentials of the story while filter out redundant thoughts during brainstorms.

I doodled the initial color scripts with color pens this morning, along with text in Mandarin and English to complete the story. To complete the color scripts, I have to add mood, emotion, and lighting to the doodled color scripts. I initially wanted to use Microsoft’s Paint 3D, as it looks fairly easy to scratch 3D models. But when I tried it in Microsoft Store this evening, I found the rendering is not fast enough for quick sketching. Okay, we still need the color scripts. I’ll just draw the color scripts as it’s important references of the joints of the story, since drawing is the most intuitive and convenient way.. Maybe after the color scripts I could ask some artists to refine them.

Once color scripts are done, the next step is to animate the trailer in the shortest time. It would be simple and crude, but that’s fine – the idea is to refine the story over and over again by watching the story being animated. Once the story is polished, we could polish the art and style of the trailer.

I am so excited that I’m directing an animation trailer! Even I am scared that some animations take long time (years) to finish, I’d like to see how my first animation trailer ends up to be.

Dopamine doesn’t end up being useful on color scripts.. I am sad for that.. but I think if we decide to render in 3D, I could try Dopamine..

I am exhausted and excited. Heavy things come in the same time.. My skill is absolutely lacking. But I should stop fear and keep going!

NLP Reading List

Creation of Computer Animation from Story Descriptions by Kenneth Michael Kahn

This thesis, is a piece of art! It properly addresses the beauty of mathematics and corrects the bias of it from the real world. As for animation, the idea of animating via pure movements means something connected to human intuition.

Favorite quote:

Popular views of mathematics, including the one that informs mathematical education in our schools, exaggerate its logical face and devalue all connections with everything else in human experience. By doing so, they fail to recognize the resonances between mathematics and total human being which are responsible for mathematical pleasure and beauty.

Seymour Paper [Paper 1978] p. 104

Fun discovery:

The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics

by Chuck Jones and Les Goldman

Steps to Implement Motion Transitions with Spacetime Constraints

I think it would be nice to make anthropomorphic transitions between a few basis motions. So here is the paper I am referring:

Efficient Generation of Motion Transitions using Spacetime Constraints
Charles Rose, Brian Guenter, Bobby Bodenheimer, Michael F. Cohen

Note: every symbol presented in this post can be found in the original paper.

The meat of the idea is described in section 3.1 and 3.2. As what I understood, the joint angles during the transition of support limbs are controlled with inverse kinematics constraints, and other limbs are with spacetime constraints. Here I list the steps to compute the joint angles during the transitions of unsupport limbs.

Basic definitions

Objective function to be minimized:


Gradient of the objective function:


Pseudo-Hessian Matrix, H, is updated with the gradient g.

New step direction:



For each iteration:

Check whether the iteration converges with the sum of the magnitude of the joint torques.

If the objective function converges: exit the iteration.

Else update the joint angles for all the joints.

For each frame t:

Compute velocities, accelerations, net torques, and forces at each joint starting from the root node and working out to the tips of all the chains in the tree. (Appendix A.2)

Compute the joint torques starting from the tips of the chains back to the root node. (Appendix A.3)

Compute gradient. (Appendix A.4)

Update pseudo-Hessian. (TBD)

Update new step direction.

Update the joint angles in current frame with the new step direction.

Sum up the magnitude of the joint torques.


Sum up the magnitude of the joint torques.


Bvh file Player in OpenGL

I found this blog very helpful about describing bvh file parsing and have successfully built my own bvh file player with OpenGL.

One important tip not mentioned in the blog is to use GL_LINES as the kind of primitive to draw when calling glDrawElements with indices and the vertex buffer object.

Here is the screen shot: (the motion capture data is from cmu mocap database)