Entries Filed Under "Animation"

September 13, 2010

SIGGRAPH 2010: Pixar Walking Teapot

Filed under 3D, Animation, SIGGRAPH

Pixar Walking Teapot

Pixar’s walking teapot is always the best swag of SIGGRAPH. Every year it is a different theme. This year is Mr. Potato Head in honor of Toy Story 3.

Why a teapot? Because it has become the standard model for showing off computer rendering techniques.

The line to get the teapots was ridiculous this year. They give out a batch each of the 3 exhibit days. I stood in line on the first day and they ran out by the time I got close.

The next day, I got in line over an hour early, and I was still several blocks from the start of the line. I did get one, though.

Based on the certificate of authenticity, they give out 1,500/day.

Here is a nice video clip showing how long the line was.

August 5, 2009

SIGGRAPH: Evening Theater

Filed under 3D, Animation, SIGGRAPH


The Evening Theater was amazing…we saw a lot of impressive work.

New this year is a 30 minute real-time section. A presenter interacts with the work to show how it updates (and prove that it is not just a video).

Stand-outs in real-time:

  • Flower for the PS3. I’m going to pickup this game.
  • AMD’s Froblins. Everything is running on the graphics card, including the artificial intelligence…very impressive.
  • Fight Night Round 4. Mike Tyson versus…SIGGRAPH Keynote Speaker Will Wright?!?!? It was hilarious to see Will take down the champ.

Next up: Juried Reel, work selected by the Computer Animation Festival Jury
from hundreds of international submissions. Here’s what I liked best:

The last section was the Curated Reel, work invited by the Computer Animation Festival Chair. My favs:

  • ILM showed clips from Star Trek, Terminator Salvation, and Transformers. No link for this, but you can see it on Friday’s at noon if you come for a tour.
  • Pixar showed its short “Partly Cloudy” (shown before “Up”)

SIGGRAPH: My Cuz Made the E.T.!

Filed under 3D, Animation, Family, SIGGRAPH

I went to the SIGGRAPH E.T. tonight. E.T. once stood for “Electronic Theater,” but now stands for “Evening Theater.”

The E.T. shows the very best in computer graphics from the past year. It is a great honor to be selected.

I was thrilled to see my cousin’s (Anne Johnson) music video is part of this year’s E.T.! I had no idea it was going to be included.


It is a really funky video…must see material.

See Gnarls Barkley’s “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” here.

Congrats Cuz!

July 29, 2009


Filed under 3D, Animation, Celebrity, Computers, SIGGRAPH

It’s almost time! I’m heading to New Orleans on Friday for SIGGRAPH 2009. It will be my 13th in a row.

I plan on actively updating this blog (http://davidlenihan.com/ORIGINAL_davidlenihan.com) and my twitter account (http://twitter.com/davidlenihan) while I’m out there. Let me know if you will be doing the same and I’ll track you.

Here are some pics from SIGGRAPH 2008 that I never got around to posting…a few computer graphic celebrities.

Jos Stam (I told him I was collecting photos of the tallest people at SIGGRAPH and he won).


And Ken Perlin (I think he needs a new shirt…check out the link!)…



SIGGRAPH uploaded a few videos to whet your appetite for the New Orleans event.

SIGGRAPH overview…


Technical papers previews…

Animation festival preview…

A new category at SIGGRAPH, real-time rendering animation festival…

July 26, 2009

Pixar Visit

Filed under 3D, Animation, Travel

P1020619 P1020634

I’ve been trying to get a tour of Pixar for quite a while now.

And I finally did…thanks to my buds Rachel and Jason.

Visitor Badge

I met them for lunch on Thursday. We grabbed some Mexican pizza from Cafe Luxo and ate outside.



Front desk


Open area in center of building P1020627 
Pixar has an art exhibit featuring work from various stages of development of their last project. Up! was on display when I visited. There is a lot to see…I wish I could have spent more time looking at this.

Pixar is filled with the characters from their movies.

Luxo Jr.

P1020632 P1020633 CIMG0050


The Incredibles


Finding Nemo



Monster’s Inc.


Cars (on the right)


They have “hidden” rats drawn in various places…


My last stop was the company store.


I got a few new work shirts for me…


   …and some shirts for my nephew and niece.



Thanks again to Rachel and Jason! They were great hosts…now it’s my turn!

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October 24, 2008

And Then There Was One...

Filed under 3D, Animation, Software

Wow! Autodesk purchased Softimage.

There was a time when there were 3 companies that battled in high-end 3D animation software. The competition was fierce and every year brought new features meant to outdo the other packages.

No more...all three software packages (Maya, 3ds Max, and Xsi) are now owned by Autodesk.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. It seems silly for one company to keep all three packages since they have so much overlap.

My prediction: Maya will become the only 3D package Autodesk sells, with features from the other packages integrated into Maya.

What are your predictions? Post your thoughts in the comments. First with the correct prediction wins a prize!

August 24, 2008

SIGGRAPH Day 1: Ed Catmull - Managing the Creative Environment

Filed under 3D, Animation, SIGGRAPH


Ed Catmull, president of Disney Animation and Pixar, spoke candidly about his experiences running Pixar and Disney.

The talk was fascinating. I wish I had the whole thing on video. I jotted down some notes on what Ed said.

Why Pixar is successful...

What makes Pixar so successful is that Pixar focuses on the story.

BUT...*everybody* says they focus on the story. So saying "we focus on the story" is really meaningless.

If focusing on the story isn't what makes Pixar successful...what is?

Ed came up with two more possibilities: good people and good ideas.

Which one is more important?

Good people.


  • Good Idea + Bad People = Bad Implementation
  • Bad Idea + Good People = Fix Idea or replace idea with a better idea

An example of this...

Pixar had their "A" team work on Toy Story and then Bug's Life. "A" team worked well together and were very successful. "B" team started working on Toy Story 2. "B" team didn't have the same "magic" as "A" team. Toy Story 2 wasn't working and was in trouble. When "A" team finished with Bug's Life, they took over Toy Story 2 and started over (new script) with only 8 months until the movie was scheduled to finish. The movie was finished on time and was a huge success.

Every 1st version sucks. The next iteration sucks less. Keep iterating until it is actually good.


The software is used internally by Pixar and sold externally as a product. Pixar once tried to keep new features internal before releasing them to customers so Pixar would have a competitive advantage. Net result: customers stopped trusting Pixar and lost faith in the product. Releasing all features fostered a better relationship with customers and meant new features were vetted by a larger audience which improved the product.

Peer reviews...

At Pixar, people have to present their work to an audience on a regular basis in an unpolished state. Because of the frequency, people quickly get over the embarrassment of critical reviews. Also, the whole group learns from the criticism.

Desired Qualities in employees...

  • Have to be a filmmaker
  • Have to be honest
  • Have to be able to criticize people you may idolize. Once you are successful, people give you a "free pass" because they assume you know what you are doing. Everybody needs criticism to perform their best work.


You can't be successful by avoiding crises...because they always happen. *How* you respond is what determines success.

July 29, 2008

Motion Tracking

Filed under Animation, Software, Video

image After I saw the new TR2N trailer this weekend, I thought it might be a fun project to see if I could clean up the video (and learn how to use Adobe After Effects CS3).

The first step was getting the bootleg video. I wasn't able to get the source from the link above. I followed the advice from this Yahoo! Answers and used the trial version of Moyea SWF Kits to extract a youtube.com version of the video (which is no longer up). The extracted source video is here (24 MB).

I used After Effects to do the rest.

Look at the source video and you will see lots of problems. The video...

  • is small
  • is not centered
  • is rotated
  • changes size as the camera is zoomed
  • has a youtube time-slider and youtube logo
  • has erratic motion from handheld video recording
  • is missing parts of the trailer

I didn't worry about fixing the last one...too much work.

The first issue I fixed was the erratic motion, which made the other issues *much* easier to fix. I used this page for directions on how to do video stabilization.

In the source video, you will notice a couple of lights above the movie screen. I told After Effects to track the lights. It did a really good job. I only had to help with the tracking at around 0:43 because of the zooming. The rest of the tracking was done automagically.

After the motion tracking was finished, the video was very steady. I had to rotate the image several times to keep it aligned correctly. I also scaled the video to make it fit the full frame width. I translated the video to put it in the center of the frame.

Then I added masks to give the video a 2.39:1 aspect ratio, which is what I'm guessing the teaser was filmed in. I also added a mask to cover the youtube time-slider and the youtube logo.

The final video is here (5 MB).

I'm *very* impressed with how easy it is to do motion tracking and how steady the final version is compared to the original.

July 3, 2008

Boba Fett is a MANIAC!

Filed under Animation, Funny, WTF



Filed under Animation

This may be the most impressive animation I've ever seen.


March 18, 2008


Filed under 3D, Animation, Computers, SIGGRAPH, Software


I registered for SIGGRAPH 2008 this morning. This year it will be in Los Angeles August 11-15.

Registration opened yesterday. Register before July 4th for the best rates. Become a SIGGRAPH member and save $50.

One notable difference this year: no Electronic Theater viewing day selection in the registration. I actually can't find any mention of the ET. The closest was this quote about Computer Animation Festival changes:

Computer Animation Festival
For SIGGRAPH 2008, the festival has adopted a new format. Each day of the conference, it presents competition screenings, showcase screenings, and panel discussions with filmmakers, instructors, and artists involved in the creative process. The traditional Animation Theaters will not be available for SIGGRAPH 2008.

I hope this doesn't signal an end to the ET...it is one of my favorite parts of SIGGRAPH.

Sounds like several things have changed (or at least changed names).

Here's a list of future SIGGRAPH's...

Year Location
2008 Los Angeles
2009 New Orleans
2010 Los Angeles
2011 Vancouver (first time held outside of the US)

This will be my 12th SIGGRAPH in a row! It never gets old!

February 13, 2008

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Filed under 3D, Animation, Movies, Work


Wow! Some interesting news dropped today.

Lucasfilm Animation's first project, The Clone Wars, is going to be released as a movie August 15th followed by a TV series on The Cartoon Network and TNT. More details here.

The trailer is here.

January 22, 2008

I Feel Another Oscar Coming...

Filed under 3D, Animation, Movies

imageNominations for the Academy Awards were announced today. Ceremonies are Sunday, February 24.

In the Best Achievement in Visual Effects category, ILM has two of the three nominees: Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

The other nominee is The Golden Compass.

ILM has won 15 previous Oscars for visual effects, including last year's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men's Chest.

I will be *shocked* if Transformers doesn't win. The effects amazed me, and that doesn't happen very often anymore.

Good luck Scott!

January 19, 2008

Wanted: Somebody That Works At Pixar

Filed under Animation, Travel


I stopped by Pixar today. The above picture is about all you get to see if you aren't a guest of a Pixar employee.

I *really* want to see what their studio looks like inside, but I don't know anybody that works there.

If you know somebody that works for Pixar that wouldn't mind showing me around, please let me know. In exchange, I'd be happy to show them around our campus.

November 7, 2007

The Pixar Story

Filed under 3D, Animation, Movies, Reviews

image I saw "The Pixar Story" today. It is a documentary following the creation of Pixar and the people behind it.

The director, Leslie Iwerks, did a Q&A session after the screening. Leslie's grandfather, Ub Iwerks, is the creator of Mickey Mouse.

I loved this film because I could relate to so much of it. Many of the movie events chronicled in this film made me want a career in computer graphics.

This is a great film...go see it if you get the chance or rent it when it comes to DVD.


January 23, 2007

Got a New Job!

Filed under Animation, Events

It's official!

I received my offer letter today from Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) in San Francisco. ILM is located in the Presidio, next to the Golden Gate Bridge.

ILM is one of the top special effects companies. They have an impressive resume of films including: the Star Wars films, Jurassic Park, Twister, Terminator 2, the Harry Potter films, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Here is a complete list of their films. Here is a list of movies that ILM is currently working on.

I've been doing flight simulator work for the past 10 years, now I will be in the movie business. I'm excited about the change, both the job and the location. This is a dream job and and I couldn't be happier!

Now I need to quickly find a place to live! So much time, and so little to do! Strike that, reverse it.

September 4, 2006

Back to School (or how I saved almost $9,000)

Filed under Animation, Maya, Software

I am officially a student again! I'm taking a 3D Animation class at El Centro College, which is just 2 blocks from my apartment.

Why am I going back to school? While I was at SIGGRAPH in Boston, I saw a bunch of high end software I'd really like to have...but it is *really* expensive. I talked with a company that had a booth at SIGGRAPH called JourneyEd. They said if I was a student, I could get the full versions of software at academic prices.

Two years ago I bought a 3D animation tool, Maya 6.0 Complete. It cost me $2,000. Maya has a *very* poor upgrade policy. When Maya 7.0 came out last year, it would have cost me around $1,500 to upgrade! No thanks.

So now Maya 8.0 is out. There are two versions: Complete for $2,000 or Unlimited for $8,000. Academic prices are a *bit* lower: Complete for $289 or Unlimited for $399. I decided to "splurge" and go with Unlimited. Being a student saved me $7,600 off Maya!

I've also been looking at moving to Adobe PhotoShop. Corel's Paint Shop Pro has served me well, but it isn't the industry standard like PhotoShop is. I was also interested in moving from Ulead's Media Studio Pro to Adobe's Premier Pro. If you are going to get both software packages, it is much cheaper to get the Adobe Production Studio Premium, which comes with a bunch of interesting Adobe applications:

  • PhotoShop (image editing)
  • Premier Pro (video editing)
  • Illustrator (vector editing)
  • Audition (sound editing)
  • After Effects (video compositing)
  • Encore DVD (DVD authoring)

The regular price for Adobe Production Studio Premium is $1,700, but students can get it at JourneyEd for $649. That is a saving of $1000.

All told, I saved $8,600! The cost to be a student, after my company kicks in some dough, is $25!

I registered and got my student ID in the same visit to El Centro. As soon as I got my ID, I ran home and placed an order for the software. I wanted the software to get here quick so I paid for next day shipping...which turned out to be really stupid since JourneyEd is located in Dallas. Oh well. The software arrived in 5 days (including a weekend).

To prove I was a student, I just sent JourneyEd a picture of my ID. They said I am eligible for student discounts for one year with my ID! I may have to get Microsoft's Visual Studio Pro 2005 next!

Now that I have my software, I could drop out. But I am not going to. I'm going to stick with my 3D animation class. It's fun! I'm self-taught in 3D animation, so it is likely that I will pick up some things in the class. The class is small...just me a girl. The class is using Apple Macs. The last time I used a Mac, they were black and white (and I'm not talking about case colors). So this is good environment for me to learn about how Mac OS X works. We are using Newtek's Lightwave, which I have never used.

May 27, 2006

Dallas' Time Square

Filed under Animation, Architecture, Video

This is going to be way cool. This is what the south side of the American Airlines Center will look like in November of 2006. This is the main entrance to the AAC, called "Victory Plaza", which is part of a bigger development called "Victory Park." On either side are two 4 story buildings that will be packed with cool restaurants/bars/shops. ABC's WFAA will move their studio to the bottom of the front, right building and broadcast live with people in the background (like Good Morning America does in Times Square). The coolest part are the 8 huge LED TV screens that *move*! It is hard to explain, so check the video out here...

This is the part I *really* like. The TV's will be showing short (5 minute or less) videos about 16 hours a day. This is called the Victory Media Network. There are a total of 11 screens to work with and 12 discreet channels of audio. If you have an idea for a cool animation that can utilize their screens, they are taking submissions. This is going to be a continuously running and changing digital art exhibit! If you want to submit something, read this. I really want to get something on those screens, so I'm definitely planning on submitting something.

The "W" is set to open in the next month. At 33 stories, it towers above the AAC, right at the end of Victory Plaza. Check out the virtual tour of the Ghostbar at that W link...it has glass, see-through floors protruding from the W towards the AAC, 33 stories above the ground!

An even taller building, 43 stories, is planned for 2008 called "Victory Tower." It will be built next to the W, closer to I35. There is a bunch of development going on, read about it here. I live in a very cool neighborhood!

May 26, 2006


Filed under 3D, Animation, Computers, Maya

I registered for SIGGRAPH 2006 today. This will be the 10th consecutive SIGGRAPH I've attended. This year it will be in Boston in late July/early August. I plan on spending a few days checking out Boston before the big show starts (I've never been to Boston before).

Now that I have this blog thing down, I plan on doing SIGGRAPH trip reports directly on this site. Should be fun! If anybody else is going...let me know and we'll hook up at the show.

April 23, 2006

Character Animation

Filed under 3D, Animation, Maya, Reviews, Software, Video


I played with a very cool application this weekend. It is called Endorphin by a company called Natural Motion. Endorphin is used to generate motion for 3D character animation.

Trying to animate a character by hand (using a package such as Maya) is tedious and likely will not capture all the subtleties of motion. An alternative to animating by hand is motion capture or mocap. Mocap requires a studio with expensive equipment that records the location of positions on actors bodies. This motion data is applied to 3D characters so they behave just like the real life actors.

Endorphin is a new twist on character animation. It uses a different approach. To capture motion, you place a "dummy" into your 3D scene. This dummy has highly tweak-able "behaviors" that make it react in a very convincing fashion. Once your scene is setup, you press the "simulate" button to calculate what will happen. Simulations run in real time, so feedback is very quick.

Here is an example I threw together in about 5 minutes. It is very simple. I applied a force to the chest of the dummy to simulate a gunshot. I also applied a behavior to the dummy called "stagger" that is responsible for how the dummy reacts to the gunshot. Then I pressed play to see what happens.

Here is a more complex example. This was also very easy to setup...probably about 10 minutes. I started by having the dummy jump by giving the dummy a jump behavior. I tweaked the jump behavior until the dummy's hands were close to the pole. Then I added a constraint that locked the dummy's hands on the pole. The hand constraint causes the dummy to rock back and forth on the pole. I added another behavior called "legs kick" that adds a bit more life to how the dummy moves his legs move back and forth. Then I undo the constraint to let the dummy fall to his death. It is really fun killing dummies.

The next thing I tried was posing a character. For example, how do you position a character so that it looks like they are sitting in a chair? With Endorphin, it is very easy. Since the dummy reacts like a real human, you just place him in the seat. His body will collide with the chair (not go through it) until he is sitting. And since the dummy understands how humans move, the resting position of the dummy in the chair is very believable. For example, if you try to place the dummy's arm on the arm rest, the rest of the body will react appropriately without letting you create an arm position that a human cannot possibly have. Positioning a character in Endorphin is very easy and a huge time saver verses doing it by hand.

Several big name video games are using Endorphin for their character animation. The new Indiana Jones video game is one example coming out in 2007. Namco's Tekken 5 also used Endorphin for generating the animations of two players fighting each other.

Endorphin is not cheap. The full version costs $9,495 plus 12 months of maintenance for $2,395. If you can't afford to buy their software, you can rent it for $1,195 a month. If you want to use this app for non-commercial purposes, you can get the student version for $995.

I used the free trial version this weekend. The only difference between the free version and the full version is what you can export. The full version will let you export data (via FBX file format, for example) that can be read by an animation package like Maya. You can also export movie clips. The trial version will only export movie clips.

Since you can do all your work in the free trial version, it may be cheaper to get your scenes setup in the trial version and then rent the software for a month in order to get the motion data out. I'm not sure if their license allows you to do this, so I'd check with Natural Motion first.

Natural Motion has several very impressive video clips on their website that show off much more complex examples. Check them out here.

Final thoughts...very fun program to play with. When I do character animation in the future, I will certainly consider Endorphin as the fastest/easiest/cheapest way to get good looking character motion data. Highly recommended.


About Animation

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to David's Blog in the Animation category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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