3D animation

Major Trends in Animation in 2020

The top five grossing films of 2019 had one thing in common: they all relied heavily on visual effects & 3D animation

The top five–Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King, Toy Story 4, Captain Marvel, Frozen II–all used the cutting edge of what computer imaging had to offer in 2019. So as we dive headfirst into the new year, New York Film Academy (NYFA) surveyed our instructors and alumni who worked on dozens of movies, games, and television shows this year to find out what 2019’s biggest trends were and how they will lead to the big trends of 2020.

Paradigm Shift in Buyers

If you want to pitch an animated show, you are lucky as there have never been more producers buying animated works. In the recent past, the main purveyors of animated series were Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Fox, and Comedy Central. A good amount of those developed internally use a library of existing IP. 

But with streaming services like Netflix and Amazon now major players in the industry, more series than ever are being made. Hulu, TBS, Apple, Disney+, HBO Max, and Quibi have also thrown their hats in the ring, and more major and minor services are right on their heels. Because the streaming competition is international and because animation (generally) travels well overseas and is not ballooning in cost like live action productions, animated series are becoming a staple of streaming services.

2020 Animation Trends VR

Virtual Production

Visualizing the final film before it shoots it has never been more difficult. Modern tentpole films require more and more VFX, digital sets, CG characters, which means what you capture on set is bits and pieces of plates, as well as green screens that will need to be stitched together in post. This makes it hard for directors and other creatives to ensure what they are getting in camera is right for what they want.

That’s where virtual production comes in. Virtual production is when you use real-time 3D tracking and visualization to approximate what the final set extension or 3D VFX will look like in post, on set while capturing actors reacting to them in real time. A rudimentary form of this  technology has been used in line broadcast for decades, like the first-down line on a football field that is keyed to the ground and matches perspective across mulit-cam cutting; or the real time weather graphics that respond to the meteorologist’s movements. However advancements in game-engine and real-time rendering has allowed franchises like The Lion King to use VR technology, like that NYFA Game Design alum Guillermo Quesada helped develop, to visualize what a fully CG set looks like when captured using conventional directorial and lensing techniques.

Work Stations in the Cloud

Despite decreases in GPU costs, a modern top-of-the-line workstation can still set an artist back $5000. This spread across hundreds of artists can mean quite a costly investment for traditional VFX companies, which is why some artists and VFX houses are turning to “cloud” computing.

The most resource-intensive part of most shows is rendering. If a company does not need to own a render farm or even need to use a RAM farm that can generate previews, they would be able to have hundreds of thousands of dollars and spend more time on the art rather than the computing. This is where cloud computing comes in. Artists, companies, and supervisors are able to “rent” time calculating the preview or render of the shot they are working on, only paying for what is needed from more advanced computers to visualize what they are working on and then switching back to their home (local) stations for tweaks and then sending to a cloud farm for finishing. This process will allow boutique houses to compete with bigger competitors while keeping most of the money on the screen.

Real-Time Technologies

One of the most time-consuming parts of the VFX and/or animation process is rendering. For the first Frozen film, it took 30 hours to render a single frame, and with 24 frames a second, the render times add up fast. Video games on the other hand have been rendering at 60fps for decades but not quite at the quality expected for broadcast or theatre experience. The Unreal game engine is changing this. With strides in real-time rendering driven by the success of Epic Games (Fortnite) pouring resources into real-time rendering for use in animation and VFX, it is possible to render media in seconds what previously would take hours. For those looking to learn the tools of this future, Unreal is the software for you.

2020 Animation Trends

 

AI and Machine Learning

“Deepfakes” and “machine learning” have become daily terms in our newsfeeds, and they are affecting the VFX industry as much (if not more) than anything else. Being able to do head replacement, digital doubles, or de-aging, or having an actor give a postmortem performance as see with Peter Cushing in Star Wars: Rogue One, requires a tremendous amount of frame-by-frame pixel perfect work across dozens of software packages. This year, a deepfake plugin was released for After Effects, allowing artists to use this tremendous technology of machine learning to “photo-realistically” create deepfakes with little to no coding knowledge–training the algorithm yourself on your home machine. 

written by Matt Galuppo, Associate Chair of NYFA 3D Animation & VFX

9 Hilarious Animated Films for the Whole Family

When it comes to animated films for children, parents resign themselves to watching the same few entries over and over and over again. That’s why they are always thrilled to find something that is hilarious for both children and adults, and more importantly, has replay value.

Here are nine hilarious animated films the whole family can enjoy, even if they end up watching it dozens of times. 

Frozen

Two very different sisters – one ordinary and one with magical ice powers – are emotionally separated after an accident as children. With the help of some new friends and a sister’s big heart, they learn that love can thaw the “iciest” of situations.

This blockbuster hit was popular with viewers of all ages. Not only is the lovable, huggable snowman Olaf full of little quips to keep viewers giggling, but Anna is by far the most awkward and relatable Disney princess to date. Fans of the film will be glad to hear its sequel, Frozen II, worked on by NYFA Animation instructor Kelley Williams, will be released later this year.

Shrek

Dreamworks release three sequels and a spin-off to Shrek in less than a decade, so fans of ogres with Scottish accents have their options, but the original has a level of hilarity that is nearly unmatched. The groundbreaking film created a brand new subgenre of CGI kids films brimming with modern pop culture references that parents could laugh along to.

Austin Powers star Mike Myers is a comedy natural, but even his scenes are stolen by fellow Saturday Night Live alum Eddie Murphy, as Donkey, and Antonio Banderas’s adorable-but-deadly Puss in Boots.

The Lego Movie

President Business is out to destroy the world, but not if the prophecy of the Piece of Resistance is true. Can an ordinary construction worker truly be the special master builder who has the power to stop an evil tyrant from freezing the entire Lego world in time?

Combining amazing animation that mimics stop motion, laugh-a-second gags, a surprisingly heartwarming story, and an all-star stellar cast, The Lego Movie was a gigantic hit upon release as well as a critical darling. Accolades include a BAFTA Award for Best Animated Film, the Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Animated Feature, and countless other nominations.

 

The Secret Life of Pets

What do your pets do when you aren’t at home? Some may laze around; others may go on an adventure to find their lost friend while avoiding a band of “flushed pets” who hate both humans and their beloved animals.

Made by the artists behind the Despicable Me series, this film offers a fun-filled time by depicting pets as very human-like while also keeping their animal-specific personalities intact. The Secret Life of Pets provides lots of laughs while also featuring relatable, adorable characters that even the youngest members of your household will be able to giggle at.

Minions

The title Minions’ sole purpose in life is to serve the biggest, baddest badguy boss in existence, but their clumsiness makes it difficult to keep their jobs. A prequel to the hit movie Despicable Me, this story follows three brave minions who venture off to save their tribe by searching for a boss that will cherish and need them for years to come.

Minions most impressive achievement is sustaining 90 minutes of fun and story despite the constant warbling of the characters’ gibberish language. Indeed, not only was the film a success, but cemented the little yellow creatures as animation icons.

Despicable Me

There would be no Minions if not for the success of the original Despicable Me, which won audiences over with a modern style of humor, a subversive take on superhero tropes, and a hilarious leading performance by Steve Carell at the height of his comedic powers. But the movie is also a perfect family film, as the supervillain Gru (Carell) becomes a surrogate father to three daughters and finds true meaning in a suburban family unit.

 

 

Wreck-It Ralph

Poor Ralph never wanted to be a video game villain; he just wants to be accepted by his fellow game characters. Eager to prove himself more than just a villain, Ralph leaves his home game in hopes of showing that he can be a hero. His plan backfires–if he doesn’t return to his game in time, it will be unplugged and shut down forever, leaving him and all his friends without a home.

Wreck-It Ralph is a blast from the past for parents who grew up playing vintage video games during the 80s and 90s. But you don’t need an interest in Nintendo and Atari to enjoy this fantastic film, especially considering it was directed by Rich Moore, director of iconic comedy shows like Futurama and The Simpsons.

Toy Story

The original Toy Story transformed the animated film genre with its computer animation, but the impressive artistry and technology would not have captivated audiences the way it did without an, imaginative story, gut-busting one-liners, and a lively cast voiced by some of Hollywood’s top talent, including Tom Hanks and Tim Allen.

Twenty-five years later, the iconic Pixar characters Woody and Buzz Lightyear are still dominating the box office, along with all their old friends as well as new ones, including Toy Story 4’s breakout character Forky, played by recent New York Film Academy guest speaker Tony Hale.

The Incredibles

Toy Story walked so The Incredibles could run. The 2004 Pixar film depicted a family of superheroes and perfectly captured the love (and hostility) that exists between a mother, father, and their children living under a roof, whether they have superpowers or not. Every member of the family will find something to love from this action/comedy/family drama and it’s must-watch for parents and their children.

If you’re interested in studying animation and visual effects at New York Film Academy, you can find more information on our programs here.

5 Animated Short Films That Pull At Our Heartstring

Sometimes all you need is a few minutes to tell a heartfelt story that leaves an impact lasting much longer than the film itself. Here are just five of the countless touching animated short films out there you can seek out and enjoy:

Feast
Directed by Patrick Osborne
Length: 6 minutes

Few animals on our planet offer the same companionship and loyalty as a dog eager to see you return home, share a meal, and follow you wherever you go. Feast touches on this age-old relationship by telling a story revolving man’s best friend.

In Feast, a single man named James adopts a stray Boston Terrier puppy and names him Winston. Along with kibble, Winston also gets to enjoy portions of James’s meals, including the junk food James especially loves. James eventually embraces a healthier lifestyle to impress his waitress girlfriend, which doesn’t please Winston, who’s now slipped vegetables. When James and the waitress break up, Winston realizes his owner’s sadness and finds a way to reunite the couple.

Dear Basketball
Directed by Glen Keane
Length: 5 minutes

It’s in our nature to admire the people who inspire us. From comic book heroes and musicians to filmmakers and our own parents, most of us go through life receiving motivation from those we look up to. Whether you grew up watching Kobe Bryant dominate the NBA, or recall when your favorite athlete played their final game, Dear Basketball is a moving hand-drawn animated film that hits close to home.

With Dear Basketball, co-creator Kobe Bryant chose animation to express the myriad swell of emotions felt on the eve of his retirement from the NBA. Bryant goes on to describe the dreams, challenges, and glory that basketball gave him across a career spanning two decades. The short film resonated enough with sports fans that in 2018 it made Kobe Bryant the first NBA player to win an Academy Award.

Bao
Directed by Domee Shi
Length: 8 minutes

Who knew that a sentient steamed bun could be used represent a bittersweet moment in a parent’s life? Winner of the latest Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, Bao tells the emotional story of an older woman feeling so lonely that she somehow brings a traditional Chinese treat to life. The woman raises the steamed bun, pampering and coddling it throughout its life, only to become devastated when it grows up and prepares to leave the house.

In the end (spoilers), it’s all an allegorical dream. The steamed bun simply represents her actual human son planning to leave with his fiance. A touching story of a woman suffering from empty-nest syndrome, Bao offers a special glimpse at what most mothers and fathers go through when the children they raised for years are ready to set off on their own.

Bear Story
Directed by Gabriel Osorio Vargas
Length: 11 minutes

This film tells the story of an elderly bear and his mechanical diorama featuring a bear similar to himself. The bear takes his diorama down to a street corner and rings a bell, hoping that someone will pay a coin to look into the peephole of his contraption. When a young bear does, he gets to watch the story of a mechanical bear taken from his wife and child by militant figures. Captured, he’s forced to perform in a circus for years before making a great escape and reuniting with his family.

At the end, the bear with the diorama takes out a photo of his family, implying that he too once had a family that he’s currently separated from. Serving as the first Chilean film to win an Academy Award, Bear Story is inspired by the director’s grandfather, who was imprisoned during the 1973 Chilean coup d’état and then exiled for the rest of the dictatorship.

Peter & the Wolf
Directed by Suzie Templeton
Length: 33 minutes

A multinational production, this film was a collaboration between talent from the UK, Poland, Norway, Switzerland, and Mexico. Their efforts paid off as Peter & the Wolf went on to earn plenty of praise and awards, including the Academy Award in 2008 for Best Animated Short Film. Along with its stirring story, this short film is also memorable for its unique puppet animation style.

Peter & the Wolf tells the tale of a young boy named Peter living with his abusive grandfather. Forbidden to enter the forest surrounding their cottage, Peter nonetheless does so to play with his only friends, a runner duck and a hooded crow that can’t fly. When a wolf appears and eats the crow, Peter’s furious grandpa shows up just in time to help catch the wolf and take it into town. When the caged wolf gets taunted and abused by the same bullies who chastise Peter, the boy shows compassion for the wolf by setting it free.

Inspiring Advice from 3 Top Animation Studios

No matter whether you’re about to start your program at The New York Film Academy’s 3D Animation & Visual Effects (VFX) School or are already deep into your journey into the magical wizarding world of professional animation and effects, we are sure that the hard work and long hours you put into your work are motivated by a lot of passion and a lot of creativity.

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Because you work so hard at what you love, we rounded up some inspiring advice to give you a boost. So regardless of where you are on your path as an animator or effects artist — whether you’re gearing up for class, tackling a tricky challenge on a project, or hunting down your next professional animation job — we thought you could use some extra insight and inspiration from animators who work for Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, and Dreamworks.

Here are 8 great tips to inspire your animation and effects work:

1. Research

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Just like actors who do research for their role, animators should do research too. Even if you’re just jumping into a shot, take the time to draw or do video research. Make sure that it becomes a habit.

2. Animation Motion

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Chances are that at some point in your career, you’ll have to animate something that you aren’t familiar with creating. If you need to, break the animation down into simple components to help you.

According to Andrew Gordon and Robb Denovan, directing animators for Pixar’s  “Monsters University,” the team had to color-code Terry-Terri’s tentacles to help during the process.

3. Drawing It Out

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Aaron Blaise, an animator for Walt Disney Animation Studios, tweeted, “Try forcing yourself to draw by just laying single lines down. No searching lines. This will force you to think about every line.”

4. Mastering Technology

According to Scott Wright, an animator for Dreamworks, always look to enhance your skill set. He wrote on Twitter, “Technology changes fast. Don’t rely on mastering one program. You never know how the next software package will enhance your imagination.”

Don’t be afraid to use the different types of tools that you have. Computers and software can do CGI well. Put your efforts into the performance and let the computers help you fine-tune everything.

 

5. Polishing Your Work

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If you prioritize correctly, you will know what aspects of your project may need more polishing. Animation requires a great deal of time and effort to bring an idea to life, and you will need to spend a lot of time to achieve a level of work that is polished and ready to share.

6. Show Your Work

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It’s better to show your creation early on versus keeping it under wraps: you can gather valuable feedback, see your work from a new perspective, and find new opportunities to collaborate or flesh out an underdeveloped part of your idea. Creating solid animation is teamwork and that means being open to critiques.

7. Seek Out Advice

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There will be times when you feel stuck while working on an animation project, and there may be a time when someone else’s work fits better in a scene. If that is the case, go find the person who created the work and talk to them. Some animators will open up and go over scenes to show another animator how they made a scene work. Again, collaboration and critique are vital tools to help you grow and improve your work, so don’t be afraid to ask for advice from your colleagues and peers whose work you admire.

8. Live Your Life

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Animation is similar to acting in that it requires emotional understanding, a passion for storytelling, and an awareness of life experiences to develop believable characters.

Your creativity and discipline at work will draw from how you live your life, so take the time to travel or go see a show, watch people, and write about memorable experiences. Your own life can serve as a valuable resource and support for you as you develop animated scenes, whether you excel at creating funny scenes or subtle and dramatic scenes.

Either way, it’s important to learn to draw from real life, as that can give you immense insight into understanding what makes a scene entertaining for the audience. After all, your audience is full of people living their lives, too.

Do you have any inspiring advice for our animation students? Let us know below!

5 Types Of Animation: Finding Inspiration In All Styles

As you pursue your 3D animation and visual effects studies with NYFA’s Animation School, it’s important to understand the history and techniques that shaped the field of animation and led to the development and popularity of today’s advanced technology. Whether it’s the cartoons we re-watched as a kid or the flipbooks we bought, the cute adverts on TV tempting us to buy certain products or even the “Madagascar” and “Ice Age” films we love to watch in 3D, animation is an integral part of how we understand storytelling. As you develop your 3D animation and visual effects skills, understanding the principles of other types of animation can open you to new ideas and inspirations. After all, animation is more than cinema — comics, games, graphic novels and even some toys borrow from this tradition. And your animation work can find inspiration in all kinds of places, as well.

Broadly speaking, there are five types of animation. As you develop your animation skills, interests, artistic vision, and software expertise, you can learn to draw from various theories and traditions in animation as you develop your own signature style.

1. Cel (Celluloid) Animation

Norman_McLaren_drawing_on_film_-_1944

This is the original hand-drawn cel animation where the artist literally has to draw thousands of images on special paper and have them photographed, frame by frame. Before the digital revolution, traditional animation was the norm of the industry, including Disney.

Traditional animation is a great skill to have in your arsenal, especially if you particularly enjoy traditional media: color pencils, glass painting, water colors. The main drawback to traditional animation is that it’s a very lengthy process. However, don’t let the old-world flavor of this style put you off, as there’s plenty of inspiration to draw upon within this style of animation: take a look at A-ha’s music video “Take on Me” and the breathtaking Aleksandr Petrov film “The Old Man and the Sea,” based on the Hemingway tale.

2. 2D Animation

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This is vector-based animation, and has two distinct advantages: it is cheap and easy to access. You need a basic understanding of key frames and know how to use Adobe Animate CC.

3. 3D Animation

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3D animation and visual effects are, quite simply, the way of the future. 3D animation operates on different principles, and is more akin to puppetry than traditional animation. For this, you need to learn how to digitally model a character, sculpt it perfectly and give it a skeleton that you can move and manipulate. You’ll have to pose the model at certain frames, and then let the computer do the rendering.

Why is 3D animation so important to understand? Those who want to break into the industry frankly must master the ins and outs of 3D animation. CGI has become the norm for all blockbuster animated movies and in certain live-action sequences which requires a lot of VFX, because of its attention-to-detail and realism. This is why NYFA focuses on 3D animation and VFX, offering aspiring animators the training they need to develop professional skills.

4. Motion Graphics

This visual effect technique involves moving graphic elements such as text or logos, mostly using software such as After Effects.

Works Best For: Those working in the advertising industry or doing multimedia projects, or even designing the opening of film titles.

5. Stop Motion

Stefano_Bessoni_Canti_2014

Stop motion is like traditional animation, except instead of drawing, you have clay models and a set that you have to carefully manipulate to produce animation. Stop motion can also be done with puppets, cut-outs, silhouettes and even action figures. In the past, stop motion was used as a form of special effects for live-action films, and has largely been replaced by 3D animation and visual effects work. However, there are filmmakers — like Tim Burton — who work almost exclusively with stop-motion. Think: Laika Films’ “Coraline,” “ParaNorman,” and recently “Kubo and the Two Strings.”

For aspiring animators, stop motion can be a wonderful medium to make art, on your own terms. Stop motion has its own flavor, which can’t quite be reproduced in any other medium, and is extremely labor intensive — much like cel animation. Understanding stop motion can also unlock a deeper appreciation for 3D animation and visual effects.

So, as you create your own original animations, think of the film or clip that you’d like to make. Ask yourself, what should this creative product look or feel like, and how can I best achieve that? Think about your artistic skills and the great history and traditions of animation you can draw upon and experiment with inspiration from all animation styles. Ready to learn everything you can about animation? Check out NYFA’s Animation School.