Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Even though these two paintings have the same subject, still life, they have totally different characters. The bottom one has very calm and stable atmosphere, but the top one looks more aggressive than the bottom one. It even looks sort of depressed. I wanted to say here is characters doesn't have to have a body and face. Everything around us can be characters. Colors, motions, shapes... can be elements of characters.

Gesture-based interfaces

With digital convergence, gesture-based interfaces are becoming a reality, wherein hand or other gestures by the user drive software instead of a mouse and keyboard. A popular example in film was the interface in Minority Report, but real systems like that are now being prototyped. The Wii is an example of a practical system using gesture-based input.

Some systems also use force feedback or haptics to give the user tactile feedback as he or she navigates around the interface.

It is only a matter of time before animation tools get gesture based interfaces, which would give an oddly reflexive element to animating - you animate gestures in software with other gestures. The tool below is an example of existing technology, and demonstrates the proof of concept, though there is still some way to go before the technology is cheap, portable and intuitive enough to use for the animator.

I've worked on some research projects that involved gesture based interfaces myself, such as the one below which was a 3D environment navigation application driven by a user wearing special gloves.

More information at:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Expanding Motion Capture

Motion capture provides the artist with interpolation curves for all the bones in a simplified human skeleton. The resulting data can be both manipulated and weaved with other interpolation data from a variety of sources. In the first example that I created the firefighter leans forward while reaching out (keyframed) before being blown back (rigid body simulation).

The example above demonstrated a simple switch from a motion I keyframed to a dynamic simulation that was generated. This next example will demonstrate more of a weaving between keyframed, simulation, and motion capture performance data.

The ability to expand a motion capture performance beyond the motion capture stage and the limitations of the human performer while maintaining a sense of realism and fluidity is without limit.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Gesture, Culture and Mirror Neurons

Image taken from

One of my earlier posts listed instances of communities that spontaneously came up with micro-languages based on gesture because of their inability to communicate via speech.

But how closely are gesture and culture related?

I recently came across an interesting study by Istvan Molnar-Szakacs and Dr. Marco Iacoboni that examines the relationship between gesture and culture using a specific type of brain cell known as a "mirror neuron". According to the article, these neurons "fire not only when an individual performs a particular action but also when he or she watches another individual perform that same action. Neuroscientists believe this "mirroring" is the mechanism by which we can read the minds of others and empathize with them."

By measuring brain activity, the scientists found was that American subjects showed higher responsiveness to either American, Nicaraguan or completely meaningless gestures when performed by an American as opposed to the same gestures when performed by a Nicaraguan. In other words, we are programmed to respond more to our own cultural or ethnic "in-group", leading the scientists to surmise that "our brain mirrors people, not actions".

Since the perceived culture of the performer affects our interpretation of gestures, there is a cultural component to gesture. The strength of this connection is still unclear from the article I read, but would determine the impact on animation as it becomes an increasingly cross cultural medium.

Summary Of Dance and Robot Choreographer, Margot Apostolos

Highlights from Margot Apostolos's presentation on Dance and Robot Choreography. Examples of Margot's Robot Choreography are displayed and dissected by Margot as they relate to her experiences in Dance and how they relate to animation. Margot presents her experiences in conveying robot movements into smooth, more graceful and dance-like portrayals, focusing on her efforts of constructing key-frames and in-between keys in her programming to allow the robots to move along curved paths of motion.......a very important idea in conveying fluid natural motion in character animation.

Deconstructing Character Choreography and Thoughts On How Motion Capture Is Receive In The Dance Community

Margot discusses some interesting thoughts on communicating gesture and motion in her dance students. She hopes her students will plan to choreograph their own performances by de-constructing their dance choreography to express their "Movements as Sentences, and your Steps as Words" to convey, successfully, the message of their character gestures and motions through dance performance.

Margot also discusses her experiences with working with Motion Capture technology to create an interacting dance performance between motion captured character performers and live action dancers performing together and how her experiences have shown that many dancers feel hesitant or reluctant to share the stage with a screen projected motion capture character, performing the same dance choreography.

Panel Discussion About Disecting Dance Motions And Gestures From The Point Of Views Of A Dance Choreographer, Traditional 2-D Animators, And A 3-D C.G

In this video the discussion is presented to a panel of Character Animation specialists, A Dance and Robot Choreographer (Margot Apostolos), Two Disney Animators (Andreas Deja and Tom Sito), and a Sony Imageworks 3-D Animator (Maks Naporowski). The discussion is based on the question of how dance motions and gestures are conveyed in choreographed dance to elicit a successful movement of emotion, and if these same guidelines or principles of successful motion are used to critique the success of an animated movement in the choreography presented through the character animation performance.

The Yungang Grottoes

I think this is a example of gesture that is serious and holy. The Yungang Grottoes is influenced by Buddhist religion, the shape and line of the sculpture is clean. The sculpture makes me feel I am just only a small part of this world.

The folling artical is from Wikipedia
The Yungang Grottoes (simplified Chinese: 云冈石窟; traditional Chinese: 雲崗石窟; pinyin: Yúngāng Shíkū) are ancient Buddhist temple grottoes near the city of Datong in the Chinese province of Shanxi. They are excellent examples of rock-cut architecture and one of the three most famous ancient sculptural sites of China. The others are Longmen and Mogao.
The site is located about 16 km south-west of the city, in the valley of the Shi Li river at the base of the Wuzhou Shan mountains. The grottoes were mainly constructed in the period between 460-525 AD during the
Northern Wei dynasty. They are an outstanding example of the Chinese stone carvings from the 5th and 6th centuries. All together the site is composed of 252 grottoes with more than 51,000 Buddha statues and statuettes. In 2001, the Yungang Grottoes were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site The Yungang Grottoes is considered by UNESCO a "masterpiece of early Chinese Buddhist cave art... [and] ...represent the successful fusion of Buddhist religious symbolic art from south and central Asia with Chinese cultural traditions, starting in the 5th century CE under Imperial auspices."

Sunday, December 9, 2007

East Asian calligraphy

I think it is very interesting. In Chinese language,the evolution of some character are formed by the gesture itself. it's called hieroglyphic.Gesture can represent something and it is meaningful. It helps people to remember it easily. The following artical is from Wikipedia--
Asian calligraphy typically uses
ink brushes to write Chinese characters (called Hanzi in Chinese, Hanja in Korean, Kanji in Japanese, and Hán Tự in Vietnamese). Calligraphy (in Chinese, Shufa 書法, in Korean, Seoye 書藝, in Japanese Shodō 書道, all meaning "the way of writing") is considered an important art in East Asia and the most refined form of East Asian painting.
Calligraphy has also influenced
ink and wash painting, which is accomplished using similar tools and techniques. Calligraphy has influenced most major art styles in East Asia, including sumi-e, a style of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese painting based entirely on calligraphy.
Historical evolution of Eastern calligraphy
Ancient China
ancient China, the oldest Chinese character we still have are Jiǎgǔwén characters carved on ox scapula and tortoise plastrons, while brush-written ones have decayed over time. During the divination ceremony, after the cracks were made, the characters were written with a brush on the shell or bone to be latter carved, perhaps by a separate individual and in a specific workshop (Keightley, 1978).
With the development of
Jīnwén (Bronzeware script) and Dàzhuàn (Large Seal Script) we continue to see "cursive" signs. Moreover, it is evident that each archaic kingdom of current China had its own set of characters.
Imperial China
Imperial China, the graphs on old steles — some dating from 200 BC, and in Xiaozhuan style — are still accessible to us.
220 BC, the emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first to conquer all Chinese basin, imposed several reforms, among them Li Si's character uniformisation, which created a set of 3300 standardized Xiǎozhuàn characters. Despite the fact that the main writing implement of the time was already the brush, few papers survive from this period, and the main examples of this style are on steles.
Then, the
Lìshū style (clerical script) which is more regularized, and in some ways similar to modern text was then developed.
Kǎishū style (traditional regular script) — still in use today — is even more regularized. It can be seen that the Kaishu shape of characters 1000 years ago was mostly similar as that at the end of Imperial China. But tinies slides have be made, in example in the shape of 广 which is not absolutely the same in the Kangxi dictionary of 1716, than in modern books. The Kangxi and current shapes have tiny differences, while current stroke order is still the same, according to old style.
simplified Chinese script was created by the Chinese communist government after World War 2, in order to promote simplification of writing and increase the literacy rate. Simplified script is often considered a corruption of general Hanzi text and is not used in calligraphy.
Cursive styles and hand-written styles
Cursive styles such as
Xíngshū (semi-cursive or running script) and Cǎoshū (cursive or grass script) are "high speed" calligraphic styles, where each move made by the writing tool is visible. This styles especially like to play with stroke order rules, creating new visual effects.
Native writers, moreover, create their own style and stroke order rules to ease and speed their own use, which imply wide variations in the resulting character shapes from one word and one writer to the same word by another writer (and other stroke order/shape).

Glove puppetry

this is traditional puppetry in Taiwan.The gesture and color is dramatic and vivid, because that the original idea is from local opera.There are some kung fu actions. the gesture is acting by the hand.Combine the gesture and dress and voice, I can feel the character.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sun Wukong puppet in pò·-tē-hì.
Glove puppetry (
POJ: pò·-tē-hì; Chinese: 布袋戲; pinyin: bùdàixì), also known as budai mu'ouxi, shoucao kuileixi, shoudai kuileixi, chang-chung hsi (pinyin: zhǎngzhōngxì), xiaolong, or zhihuaxi is a type of local opera using cloth puppets that originated during the 17th century in Quanzhou or Zhangzhou, in China's Fujian province, and has been historically practiced in Quanzhou, Zhongzhou, Chaozhou in Guangdong, Taiwan, and other parts of southern China. The puppet's head uses wood carved into the shape of a hollow human head, but aside from the head, palms, and feet, which are made of wood, the puppet's torso and limbs consist entirely of cloth costumes. At the time of the performance, a gloved hand enters the puppet's costume and makes it perform. In previous years the puppets used in this type of performance strongly resembled "cloth sacks," hence the name, which literally means "cloth bag opera."
Glove Puppetry performances
Glove Puppetry (Pò·-tē-hì) performances, similar to those other types of
Chinese opera, are divided into a first half and a second half show. During the first half, known as the "show platform" (戲台), the audience is shown a demonstration by a master puppeteer on the stage. The second half consists of the puppet master, the orchestra, and the spoken parts. Several key points of a show to be appreciated include: the dexterity of the master puppeteer's manipulation of the puppet, the accompaniment of the orchestra, and the poetic spoken parts of the voice actors. With few exceptions, from traditional pò·-tē-hì to modern performances, human vocal music and operatic singing is rarely heard.

Character gesture

This is the character gesture which I apply in chinese art.I did this painting in my undergraduate.It's a delicate painting.I use chinese ink to draw. I want to transmit ponder feeling from the gesture.

Tom Sito speaking

summary:(1)Facial expression is very important to the personality of the character.(2)Every scene means something to the character.(3)Animation has many different techniques.No matter what techniques we use,the performance is the most important concept.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Miwa Matreyek

Miwa Matreyek's work (which was presented recently at the department's Redefining Animation symposium) stands at an interesting juncture between animation and performance. Typically, an animator performs through the animated character, but in Miwa's case, she performs with the animation. Thus, for example, she interacts with projected animation during her live performance.
In a sense, her work questions the distinctions we create between live-action and animation (and even different forms of animation), and invites us to think only about the performance, echoing the comments of our guest speakers this semester.

Here is a video of her at Platform Int'l Animation Festival this year:

Check out for more.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

character emotion change

It's pretty embarrassing to upload this footage, because it was almost my first character animation test- the actual first character animation was character bouncing ball. But the reason I'm uploading this footage is I think it could be a good example of changing emotion and status of a character. Well... enjoy.

Andreas Dejas speaking

1. Good, fancy drawing is just a minor element for a great character animation; good performance and acting are the most important.
2. Animators should understand the inside of the characters- what's in the character's brain and heart.
(We'd be better study about the character before we really start animating.)
3. Animators should love their characters; animators should have honor and responsibility on the characters.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Applying Data

Applying motion capture data is relatively simple. After capturing the data during the shooting process, and reconstructing the data (filling interpolation gaps), one only needs to take the resulting c3d data and apply it to a specifically named character skeleton. In the example I created (above) it shows a character comprised of 2D surfaces being driven by a skeleton with motion capture data applied.

This example shows the same character holding a torch with a fire particle emitter parented to the tip.

Capturing Data

This is an example of a motion capture shoot. As you can see I'm wearing a suit with markers. I'm standing in a volume surrounded by twenty 4-mega pixel cameras that are shooting 120FPS. When shooting motion capture performances, the performer assumes a T-pose before and after the performed action to aid the next process which is data reconstruction. As you can hear I like to make my own sound effects to enhance the performance.

Maks Naporowski & Motion Capture

During Maks Naporowski's presentation regarding motion capture he made two key points:

1. (Patriot) - When in the pursuit of authentic motion use performers who are trained to move in the desired fashion.
2. (Spiderman) - Despite the design / limitations of the character being driven by the motion capture data, the data will indicate the source performer's design / limitations. Spiderman was keyframed because the motion needed to be super-human and nothing less.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Madame Tutli Putli & Performance Capture

Continuing on the subject of the threshold between having character and being a character (as well as the emotional connection that determines what we perceive as a character), Madame Tutli Putli is a really neat example of a mixed media character design. This is a stop-motion film, but the eyes of the main character were composited in from footage of a live actor who was recorded after the animation. The result is a very unique, often creepy, look.

This process is a unique form of performance capture in which the performance occurs only after the animation, and is probably why this film has avoided the controversy that typically surrounds optical motion capture such as Beowulf.

But in a sense, Madame Tutli Putli is much closer to reality than optical motion capture, simply because there are no markers, but the actual actor footage is used. Moreover, the eyes are arguably the most important component of facial animation. Certainly, the footage is used very creatively, but there are a lot more adjustments and tweaks to the data in the optical mocap pipeline.

One key difference lies in the role of the animator. In Madame Tutli Putli, the animator's performance drives the actor's contribution, whereas in typical mocap productions, it is the actor's performance that is most important. A subtle difference, but one that appears to be central to the mocap debate.

Friday, November 23, 2007

More thoughts on what makes a character

Can water or smoke be a character? In the era of big-budget effects films, it's common to hear people refer to "hero" waves or drops or puffs. So are these "hero" elements characters as well?

Animators are taught from the very beginning to exaggerate what they see in real life, an idea that is manifest in various principles such as squash-and-stretch, anticipation, breaking joints, etc. But even though an animation as simple a bouncing ball can have character, this does not mean that a bouncing ball IS a character. To give an animated object character is to imbue it with personality, but a character is more than just personality - it is an entity that we can recognize as a living, thinking being i.e. one of our own.

That is not to say that a bouncing ball can never be a character (there are obviously shades of grey here), but I feel that there is a threshold that separates the bouncing ball with character from the bouncing ball that is a character.

Phew, that was a real tongue-twister of a post.

The first few seconds of this video also depicts the difference between having character and being a character. The water has personality, but then morphs into a water character.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Automated Anticipation?

I came across a paper entitled "Anticipation Effect Generation for Character Animation". Basically, these researchers were looking at automated ways to add anticipation to existing animation (presumably 3d animation). It's an interesting notion, and seems to tackle the subtleties of animation from the opposite perspective as motion capture. This technique aims to make it easier to improve keyframe animation. Most animators would object to this approach on the grounds that anticipation is subjective and not easily derived automatically. The researchers found the same thing - they could not automate the duration of the anticipation and needed human intervention.

Here's the abstract:
"According to the principles of traditional 2D animation techniques, anticipation makes an animation convincing and expressive. In this paper, we present a method to generate anticipation effects for an existing animation. The proposed method is based on the visual characteristics of anticipation, that is, “Before we go one way, first we go the other way [1].” We first analyze the rotation of each joint and the movement of the center of mass during a given action, where the anticipation effects are added. Reversing the directions of rotation and translation, we can obtain an initially guessed anticipatory pose. By means of a nonlinear optimization technique, we can obtain a consequent anticipatory pose to place the center of mass at a proper location. Finally, we can generate the anticipation effects by compositing the anticipatory pose with a given action, while considering the continuity at junction and preserving the high frequency components of the given action. Experimental results show that the proposed method can produce the anticipatory pose successfully and quickly, and generate convincing and expressive anticipation effects."

The entire paper can be found at: and the pdf is at

(You may need to be on USC campus to be able to access the links)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Beowulf's Cousin

This is an example of motion capture that I did this semester at USC using a live performer.

The clip illustrates two things: first, mocap can produce very subtle and natural movement when it comes to body motions. Second, as demonstrated by the problems with the character's arm when he falls down, motion capture is prone to problems due to occlusion (i.e. the markers are not visible by enough cameras), and data needs to be manually reconstructed by an animator.

Character Research

Here is some of my own work that examines what constitutes a character - in this case, it's a bridge.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

chinese sculpture

Chinese artifacts date back as early as 10,000 BC -- and skilled, Chinese artisans have been active up to the present time -- but the bulk of what is displayed as sculpture in Euro-culture museums come from a few, select, historical periods. The first period of interest has been the Western Zhou Dynasty (1050-771 BC), from which come a variety of intricate cast bronze vessels. The next period of interest was the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) -- beginning with the spectacular Terracotta army assembled for the tomb of the first emperor of the very brief Qin Dynasty that preceded it (Qin Shi Huang) in 210–209 BC.) Tombs excavated from the Han period have revealed many figures found to be vigorous, direct, and appealing 2000 years later.
The first Buddhist sculpture is found dating from the Three Kingdoms period (third century), while the sculpture of the Longmen Grottoes (Wei dynasty, 5th and 6th century, located near Luoyang, Henan Province) has been widely recognized for its special elegant qualities.

A wooden Bodhisattva from the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD)
The period now considered to be China's golden age is the Tang Dynasty (coinciding with what in Europe is sometimes called "The Dark Ages"). Decorative figures like those shown below became very popular in 20th century Euro-American culture, and were made available in bulk as warlords in the Chinese civil wars exported them to raise cash. Considered especially desirable, and even profound, was the Buddhist sculpture, often monumental, begun in the Sui Dynasty, inspired by the Indian art of the Gupta period, and many are considered treasures of world art.
Following the Tang, Western interest in Chinese artifacts drops off dramatically, except for what might be considered as ornamental furnishings, and especially objects in jade. Pottery from many periods has been collected, and again the Tang period stands out apart for its free, easy feeling. Chinese sculpture has no nudes --other perhaps than figures made for medical training or practice -- and very little portraiture compared with the European tradition. One place where sculptural portraiture was pursued, however, was in the monasteries.
Almost nothing, other than jewelry, jade, or pottery is collected by art museums after the Ming Dynasty ended in the late 17th century -- and absolutely nothing has yet been recognized as sculpture from the tumultuous 20th century, although there was a school of Soviet-influenced social realist sculpture in the early decades of the Communist regime, and as the century turned, Chinese craftsmen began to dominate commercial sculpture genres (the collector plates, figurines, toys, etc) and avant garde Chinese artists began to participate in the Euro-American enterprise of contemporary art.

tri-colored glazed pottery of the Tang Dynasty

For me,it is a cut sculpture.In Tang Dynasty,Chinese is a prosperous and strong country. The culture is open at that time.the gesture of the sculpture is relax and free. I can see the soft sensibility gesture.
tri-colored glazed pottery of the Tang Dynasty is the essence of chinese art.the color is glaze on the pottery.the main color is yellow,green,white.the pottery reflect the style and the age feature in that time.the warrior figure pottery are all strong and powerful.the horse and camel are husky.the woman are all plentiful and fat.the figure shape are vivid and can see the shape is more open and relax.It shows the Tang Dynasty is strong and rich.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Laban Movement Analysis

Our seminar speaker, Margot Apostolos, mentioned Laban in her discussion of gesture and dance. Along these lines, I took a closer look at Laban Movement Analysis (LMA). What's interesting about Laban Movement Analysis is that unlike our earlier posts on classifying gesture into iconic gestures, emblems, etc., this approach relies more on understanding movement as a continually changing, but orderly and intentionally sequenced series of gesture elements. In particular, this approach looks not only at the elements of the gesture (i.e. Shape) but also the way in which the elements are put together (i.e. Effort).

Thus, two gestures that very similar in structure (an example on Wikipedia is punching someone in anger versus reaching for a glass) can be differentiated by the intensity or Effort of the gesture.

In contrast to simply categorizing gestures, I think that this form of gesture analysis also leaves plenty of room for emotion as a driving tool for gesture, which is something that both the animators and dancer at our seminar presentation stressed.

Synthesis and Acquisition of Laban Movement Analysis Qualitative Parameters for Communicative Gestures
Liwei Zhao, Norman I. Badler


Monday, October 29, 2007

History of Performance Capture

1. History of Motion Capture (1970-1994)

  • 1970's Disney's Snow White - Rotoscoping

2. A Practical Approach to Motion Capture (Using Acclaim's Optical System)

Animation's Direct Influence From Silent Actors

Of all the famous characters that have been established in Animation, Felix the Cat was the original success story of comic art to superstar. This success can be credited much to how he was marketed and how the audience received his silent humor on screen. Much of his success has been credited directly to many of the panamime actions he performs, and of course the clever metamorphoses Felix performs by transforming his tail into a variety of objects for use in his adventures. In early silent films, the success of the film depends largely on the success of the silent performance of the actor, their facial gesture, and interaction with their stage environment. With Felix, we find an equaled success in the facial and silent panamime he performs, but find that with animation, Felix is able to manipulate his environment and surroundings based of the comic metamorphoses he performs, giving the character a unique fantasy-like comic ability that no live-action actor could effectively attempt to mimic. In this particular short film of Felix, "Felix Goes To Hollywood", we see the character directly interpret the actions of Chaplin in an animated run-in of sorts. The cartoon finds a way to visually poke fun of the influential ideas and personalities that were derived to form Felix's character in a sort of visual pun. The scene shows Felix humorously chased from an acting studio for "Stealing" some of Chaplin's material to make it big in a Hollywood acting studio. What should be noted of this cartoon, is that aside from soundtrack, all motions are conveyed silent to convey story and mood, as presented in early silent live-action cinema. Although some thoughts seem to be expressed through comic "thought-bubbles", it is the silent actions we are studying and their effectiveness in the performance of Felix and the ability to convey messages through silent gestural character animation. I think it is equally important as well to note the facial gestures of Harry Langdon and how facial gestures are used in characters in effective ways throughout the film as exaggerated gestural representations of emotion. For a direct reference to the Felix/Chaplin scene, scroll into the clip till 6:40.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Another website idea from Tim

Check it out:

Performance Capture

There are many different ways to capture a performer's motion. Here is a list of the current methodologies:

  • Optical: multiple cameras triangulate the position of spherical markers on the body
  • Inertial: sensors (accelerometer, gyroscope) on the body transmit wirelessly to PC
  • Mechanical: performer wears an exo-skeleton and measures motion with mechanical parts
  • Magnetic: position and orientation of performer derived by the relative magnetic flux
  • Computer Vision Based: captures motion in a volume without sensors.
  • Electroculography: captures eye movement with electrodes, and sensors placed around the eyes.

  • Mova Contour System: cameras capture movement by evaluating patterns in phosphor makeup on the actors face.

Monday, October 22, 2007

about layout

I really like the layout idea Hyun design.Here are some other ideas I think about (1)

we can add a brief introduce when click the button.(2)It's another simple layout.the animal they dance in their bubble.The bubble keep going up.when you click the bubble.the bubble will break,and the animal will become bone stick animal dancer (3)when we need use the images to show on the website.we can use the mac flash.when you touch the image it will become bigger(the images near that one are also bigger.),and show the picture.I can't post flash on this blog.So I just use simple might help us think about the design of our website.I didn't have any completed idea yet.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

What is a Character?

This is a question that we haven't directly addressed yet, but I think it's important to consider. Certainly, a character in animation is not limited to the rounded biped anthropomorphized animals that we see most often in commercial animation.

There are at least two principles that come to mind when defining what constitutes a character in animation:

As we've learned from multiple seminar panelists this semester, humans are preprogrammed to recognize other humans. Thus, we are visually tuned to recognize both human faces and movements. In addition, we have an innate tendency to 'see' likenesses of ourselves even in inanimate objects. Thus, the headlights and grill of a car are a face to us, as are icons such as :)

(Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics goes into this subject in much greater detail).

In my opinion, squash and stretch, silhouette, and other principles of classical animation derive from this innate tendency to see ourselves in the world. In other words, even highly exaggerated/abstracted character animation 'works' because our minds are programmed to fill in the gaps. (The facial gesture reserach group also has looked into this)

Since we can recognize even highly abstract characters physically, a series of moving drawings/images become a character when a viewer can can identify with it emotionally. Moreover, this property can be independent of how realistically the character is rendered. For example, in his celebrated film 'Blinkity Blank', Norman McLaren pushes the idea of abstraction to an extreme. His character - a hen - is composed of the simplest graphic shapes, but is remarkably expressive as it dances around the screen. The character even disappears for several frames at a time, but the discontinuities do not prevent the viewer from looking at the hen as a character.

A still from 'Blinkity Blank':

Bill McClure mentioned during his presentation at seminar that all emotions are learned, an observation that implies that character animation is poised between the delicate interplay of nature (i.e. abstraction, which is genetic) and nurture (i.e. emotion, which is learned).


Another layout idea

I took Hyun's idea and modified it so the moles are a little more of the focus of the image. What do you'll think?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

website layout idea

my idea for the website is making like a mole game. As you see in these pictures, when a character is hit by the cursor, the character dances with his stick body.
What do you guys think? and any other ideas?

(click the image to see it clear)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Aardman website

Check out this site that Kathy showed me:

The character walk by and when you click on them, something happens to that character. Perhaps we can have something similar, so that when you put the mouse over the character, we get a brief caption below the character (e.g. "Gesture and the Brain"), and then when you click on the character, the character does a quick action and then the browser is redirected go to the blog.

Just a thought.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Charlie Chaplin-Modern Times-eating machine scene

This particular clip is interesting in terms of facial gesture and also some of the minor characters explain to Chaplin how to use this machine with only gesture and no speaking which is interesting as well. very funny clip, shows off the versatility of facial gesture to evoke humor and mood.

Charlie Chaplin- Boxing Scene

This is another piece that i felt could sort of be incorporated as successful movements in terms of the choreography involved to influence the humor of the boxing match. Boxing in itself is sort of a dance like presentation of two figures interacting with each other and in this case Chaplins choreography invokes a strong humorous quality to what should be a raging battle between two fighters. Also some very succesful gestures in the referee's motions and the secondary characters in the audience as the rant and rave over the fights actions.

Charlie Chaplin -- Modern Times (1936)

I particulary enjoyed the presentation of gesture and dance that is presented by Chaplin in this piece. Being that we are going to have a presenter who is particularly interested in the art of dance motion as a conveyer of character in story (Margo Apostolos), i think this film provokes and excellent characterized look at how dance and gesture can successfully be interpreted in film. It also serves as a successful way to show how audiences react to Chaplin's motions, although they too are part of the movie.

Harry Langdon in THE STRONG MAN

Harry Langdon in The Strong Man (Langdon had very exaggerated facial expressions that accompany a variety of silent acted postures and gestures that evoke an emotional state or mood very successfully)

Early Gesture Applications in Silent Films

Hey Gang,

Here is a little bit of the research i have been doing in the past few weeks. I have particularly been studying some of the origins of character animation in terms of where characterized movements derived in early cinema and what were some of the influences of the character animators of the past. With the increasing popularity in silent cinema back the in day, many animators found influence from the pioneer actors of silent pantomime films such as Charlie Chaplin and Harry Langdon. Included in this blog i have posted a few clips from some very successful silent Chaplin and Langdon films that show some of the early exaggerated actions and gesture motions that animated artist would frequently reference in terms of telling story or provoking emotions through silent acting. Especially through characters such as Felix who was a walking, talking, cat version of Charlie. The clips prove to be very successful in provoking mood and actions that can be read and interpreted by the audience with little or no sound at all. The clips should be included below this post.....enjoy! :)

Also I included two links that i think are very detailed and interesting to look at. the first one is a blog that happens to be about Gesture in Animation. The second one is an article that discusses gesture and I think Hyun can find some interesting interpretations of gesture and emblems in this articles, just scroll down till you find the particular section. There is alot of information in the second article so just scan through till you can find related topics. Hope these are helpful, informative links for you all.

A Nice Gesture- Art & Animation Blog:

Gesture Article:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Questions for Seminar Panel

We'll be moderating seminar next week (Oct 3). Please post your ideas for questions for the panel in this thread.

If possible, try to structure your questions in a way so that they can invite comments from all members of the panel.

Margo Apostolos Bio

Margo is both a dancer and a roboticist (!). Seems like she will be a really interesting resource for trying to understand how we perceive and interpret gesture.

I found a neat article that she wrote about robots choreography:
Since the article is on JStor for which you need a subscription, you may need to be on campus to access the above link (USC provides free access).

Here's her bio from the USC website:

Dr. Apostolos has authored and presented numerous articles on her research and design in Robot Choreography. In addition to her doctoral and post-doctoral studies at Stanford University, she earned an M.A. in Dance from Northwestern University. She has served as visiting professor in the Department of Psychology at Princeton University and has taught in Chicago, San Francisco, at Stanford University, Southern Illinois University and California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo. A recipient of the prestigious NASA/ASEE Summer Faculty Fellowship, Dr. Apostolos worked for NASA at Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech as a research scientist in the area of space telerobotics. At the Annenberg Center for Communication, Dr. Apostolos conducted research on facial expressions and human-computer interactions. Her work in this area continues in collaboration with the USC neuroscience program. She was named a Southern California Studies Center faculty fellow, where she is surveying theatre and dance in the Southern California region. Currently, Stanford University is providing funding for Dr. Apostolos’ work in the area of “Dance for Sports” in collaboration with the Stanford Athletic Department. This work was presented to the International Olympic Committee in Sydney, Australia, for the 2000 Games and in preparation for the Salt Lake City Games in 2002. Dr. Apostolos developed the Dance Minor program in Theatre, directs the dance concert each semester, and coordinates the Open Gate Dance Program. In 2004, she presented at the Athens IOC meeting on Dance for Sports and at the World Congress of Dance. This past spring, she was instrumental in bringing internationally-renown director/choreographer Mark Morris to campus for a workshop that integrated motion capture technology and robotics with modern dance. Most recently, she co-founded the Cedars-Sinai/USC Dance Medicine Center, a specialized treatment center – the first of its kind in Los Angeles – offering preventive care and treatment specifically designed for professional and recreational dancers.

Maks Naporowski Bio

I think Maks' career is really interesting because he's done character animation, character setup, and also has experience with keyframing over mocap data. He's done a lot of high profile work at Sony, and as a result, I think he's in a really good position to comment on both the technical and artistic sides of 3D animation. Also, if you didn't already know, he teaches both a rigging and a 3D animation course at DADA. He's currently working as a character animator on Beowulf.

Below is a bio that I got from the DADA website:

Born in Kielce, Poland in the seventies, Maksymilian Naporowski studied art, philosophy, and psychology at McMaster University in Canada. In spring of 1996, he graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy, after which he moved on to Sheridan College in Toronto for a summer art program. The following fall semester, he switched to Seneca College, and studied digital animation, focusing on Softimage and Alias/Wavefront's "Power Animator" software. In 1997, he received a teaching position for the same program, teaching digital animation and character setup for two semesters. In 1998, he took a demonstration artist position for a Toronto based company called "Puppet Works".

There with Puppet Works he developed character demonstration content, presentations for visual effects oriented shows such as Siggraph and NAB, and provided training, consultation, and development services for clients. He provided character animation development and training using the PuppetWorks digital input devices for a variety of high profile companies and shows. This included training, character animation, and motion capture tests for the "Duke Nuke'em" title at 3D Realms in Dallas as well as internal 3d character content for Lockheed Martin in Florida. He also trained staff, did character rigging, and created animation tests for "Merlin" and "Lost in Space" at the Jim Henson Creature Shop in the UK, as well as for "Atlantis" at Walt Disney Studios in California. His character animation tests on the "Incredible Mr. Limpet" at Pacific Title/Mirage were with actor-comedian Jim Carrey and on the 1998 spoof comedy "Jane Austen's Mafia!" he produced character rigging, animation, and structured the pipeline for Swansons Production.

In 1999 he moved to Los Angeles to work with incredible artist and director Mark Swanson on a CG feature called "Fish Tank". Within six months they developed the characters in 3d, built a solid character animation/motion capture pipeline, and provided over three minutes of animation tests for the feel and look of the film. When the funding fell through, he moved on to a job at Centropolis FX where he helped develop the motion capture/animation pipeline for "Patriot" and choreographed/animated some of the large battle sequences. After "Patriot" he spent a few months working as a 3d animation consultant for 2G Productions/Elektrashock where he rigged and animated content for a video feature called "You're mine", a music video for No Prisoners called "Fiction, dreams in digital" by Orgy, and a feature film named "Vertical Limit".

In 2000, he took on a cg artist position with Sony Pictures Imageworks and started on "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" as a technical animator, where a majority of his time was spent on the musculature of "Fluffy", the 3-headed dog, the troll, the Centaur, the digital humans- "Harry" and the kids for the "Quidditch" match. For the sequel, he provided both the animation pipeline and support for the animation team. He has been working for Imageworks for over five years and his duties include character setup, pipelines, support, modeling, and character animation. He has taken a lead role on a number of shows and has focussed on character animation in the recent past. His credits at Sony Pictures Imageworks include

Ghost Rider
Superman Returns
Polar Express
Matrix Revolutions
Haunted Mansion
Bad Boys 2
Charlie's Angels 2
The Chubbchubbs ! - Oscar Winner for best Animated Short Film
Stuart Little 2 - VES Award for best character animation in an Animated Motion Picture
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

In addition to the production work, in recent years he has been teaching character rigging and animation in Maya at the University Of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts.

Andreas Dejas Bio

Andreas Dejas is one of the main 2D character animators at Disney. I believe he studied under the Nine Old Men, and I think it'll be interesting to get his take on some of the recent technological developments in animation since he's almost exclusively a 2D artist.

His Wikipedia page is pretty informative and I'd recommend checking out this interview and this other interview as well.

emblems- example

Ice Age
(click here)

Monday, September 24, 2007


I think I can begin from sculpture.This is an example of gesture that is stiff and humble.I can feel tense from the gesture.
The premier sculpture is 兵馬俑(bing ma yong) .It's wood or clay figures of warriors and horses buried with the dead.They show serious emotion.Most of gesture is tighter and manners.Because they are ready to fight.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Wikipedia says,

The words emblem and symbol often appear interchangeably in day-to-day conversation without causing undue confusion. A distinction between the two may seem unnecessarily fastidious. Nevertheless, an emblem is a pattern that is used to represent an idea, or an individual. An emblem crystallizes in concrete, visual terms some abstraction: a deity, a tribe or nation, a virtue or a vice. An emblem is an object or a representation of an object.

Emblem gesture presents message. We get emblems by learning. Like we have hard time to read the original Shakespeare's play because of the old words, our everyday words are slowly changing. Because of that, people can get different emblems by their culture, generation, and so on. So it's not easy to find understandable emblems to everyone in the world.

examples of emblems;

More on Gesture and the Brain: The Mind's Big Bang

I watched the second video that Kathy recommended to us.

A quick summary:
According to the video, although modern humans evolved 100,000 years ago, starting about 50,000 years ago there were dramatic changes in the technology and culture of humans that eventually led to our dominance of the planet. The video links the "Mind's Big Bang" to man's tendency towards increasingly complex communication and social interaction strategies. Thus, this period witnessed the birth of art and culture, including primitive beads and cave painting.

One of the examples that the video puts forth is the case of deaf children in Managua, Nicaragua. These children spontaneously came up with a complex series of gestures to communicate with each other. The children also resisted attempts to make them learn ASL.

More details can be found at:

The development is pretty remarkable and it's relevant to our research because it establishes that gesture is not necessarily only a secondary element of communication (after speech), but can take over the entire function of transmitting information among individuals in complex interactions. In turn, this observation reinforces the widespread animation practice of animating poses and body movement first, before moving on to facial expressions, as well the importance of silhouettes. Also, the video talks about "meems" or cultural transmission through imitation, and it appears that the Nicaraguan Sign Language is an example of this phenomenon. Consequently, one would expect that there is a strong culturally-specific aspect to gestures. In support of this notion, there's other cases where similar micro-languages based on gesture have arisen:

Interesting essay on Motion Capture

Although we're not looking at mocap in detail yet, we should do so at some point in the semester. I found this really good survey essay on mocap that talks about the tension between mocap and other forms of animation.

The article is written by Maureen Furniss, who teaches at USC, so she'd be a good resource for any questions:

I liked this passage because it links animation and dance, and we're looking at both those areas too:
"From this perspective, we might see the animator's work as a form of visual 'notation'. That is how Lisa Marie Naugle describes motion capture in terms of her dance performance work. Notation, as I use the term here, generally refers to a recording of movement in print form, so that it might be preserved, studied, and perhaps re-enacted at some future time. Ethnographic researchers can use notation, for example, to record ceremonial dances that are on the verge of 'extinction' because the people who perform it are becoming integrated into another culture. One of the best known forms of dance notation is called the Laban dance notation system (actually a software program called 'LabanWriter' can be integrated into the motion capture process). Naugle compares Laban and motion capture, as two forms of notation, with the use of video and film recording. She explains that the benefits of using motion capture over other sorts of notation are that it allows analysis from any point of view and that it can be visualized in 3D form. She explains, "Looking at dance images from different locations and perspectives, notators, choreographers and dancers can create annotations or list notes about the work. . . . While video may be used repeatedly to extract information about color, motion, and, to a limited extent, depth, it is often lacking in detail or definition. Even if the video has been edited from several different perspectives, the medium does not allow for a full exploration of movement in three dimensions."24

Saturday, September 22, 2007


What I want to research is to focus on gesture in old painting and sculpture.Before animation coming out,people also can show movement and emotion in the painting.In different culture, people have habitual gesture to show often.Maybe I can research 1. "the same gesture show different emotion" or "the same emotion show different gesture" in the old painting and sculpture. culture affect gesture to show character. 3. present the gesture in different type of art before animation coming out in old painting.Will it work?I am not sure if it worth to do the research?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Gesture types

Gestures, the movement of arms and hands, are different from other body language in that they tend to have a far greater association with speech and language. Whilst the rest of the body indicates more general emotional state, gestures can have specific linguistic content.

Gestures have three phases: preparation, stroke and retraction. The real message is in the stroke, whilst the preparation and retraction elements consist of moving the arms to and from the rest position, to and from the start and end of the stroke.


Emblems are specific gestures with specific meaning that are consciously used and consciously understood. They are used as substitutes for words and are close to sign language than everyday body language.

For example, holding up the hand with all fingers closed in except the index and second finger, which are spread apart, can mean 'V for victory' or 'peace' (if the palm is away from the body) or a rather rude dismissal if the palm is towards the body.

Iconic gestures

Iconic gestures or illustrators are closely related to speech, illustrating what is being said, painting with the hands, for example when a person illustrates a physical item by using the hands to show how big or small it is. Iconic gestures are different from other gestures in that they are used to show physical, concrete items.

Iconic gestures are useful as they add detail to the mental image that the person is trying convey. They also show the first person or second person viewpoint that the person is taking.

The timing of iconic gestures in synchronization with speech can show you whether they are unconscious or are being deliberately added for conscious effect. In an unconscious usage, the preparation for the gesture will start before the words are said, whilst in conscious usage there is a small lag between words and gesture (which can make the speaker appear manipulative).

Metaphoric gestures

When using metaphoric gestures, a concept is being explained. Gestures are in three-dimensional space and are used to shape and idea being explained, either with specific shapes such as finger pinches and physical shaping, or more general waving of hands that symbolizes the complexity of what is being explained.


Regulators are used to control turn-taking in conversation, for example in the way that as a person completes what they are saying, they may drop their arms, whilst a person wanting to speak may raise an arm as if to grasp the way forward.

Affect displays

Gestures can also be used to display emotion, from tightening of a fist to the many forms of self-touching and holding the self. Covering or rubbing eyes, ears or mouth can say 'I do not want to see/hear/say this'. Holding hands or the whole body can indicate anxiety as the person literally holds themself. Self-preening can show a desire to be liked and can indicate desire of another.

Beat gestures

Beat gestures are just that, rhythmic beating of a finger, hand or arm. They can be as short as a single beat or as long as needed to make a particular point.

Beating and repetition plays to primitive feelings of basic patterning, and can vary in sense according to the context. A beat is a staccato strike that creates emphasis and grabs attention. A short and single beat can mark an important point in a conversation, whilst repeated beats can hammer home a critical concept.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

What is Gesture?

The term 'gesture' itself is pretty loaded, and there are a wide variety of definitions that I've seen. For our purposes, however, perhaps it's more interesting to look at the different types of gestures.

This paper - - has a taxonomy that might prove useful. According to the paper, gestures can be classified according in a tree-like structure. We're mainly interested in Communicative gestures, and here's my paraphrasing of what the article says:
1. Mimetic gestures mimic an action e.g. dribbling a ball
2. Deictic gestures e.g pointing to something within a space
3. Referential gestures refer to the environment e.g. a circular motion that describes a steering wheel
4. Modalizing gestures change the meaning of what's being said e.g. a shrug of the shoulders

I'm not sure as to how exactly this will tie into our work, but I think it's important to have this sort of definition/classification as a guide throughout the semester. In addition, I think we could potentially do some simple animation to illustrate these types of gestures.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Links to other DADA research blogs

Sept 5th – Visualizing Science and Visual Effects
Sepehr Dehpour - Team Captain
Melissa Fontanini
Chao-Tung Huang
Wyatt Poist
Elizabeth Ryan

Sept 12th – Documentary and Animation
Renae Radford - Team captain
Ryan Lovelace
Alan Kininsberg
Melissa Bouwman
Mike Robinson

Sept 19 - Visualizing Science - Art & Science
Joe Micallef – Team Captain
Jacob Albers
Dave Horowitz
Rie Takayama
Qingyuan Wang

Sept 26th – Visual Effects, Stereoscopic and perception
Amanda Tasse – Team Captain
Laura Yilmaz
Michael Fallik
Aaron Biscombe
John Helton

October 3rd – Character Animation and performance, gesture kinetics, dance
Arjun Rihan – Team Captain
Hyunjung Rhee
Chia-Chi Tseng
Tim Garbutt
Ryan Chen

October 10th – Facial gesture, emotional resonance through animation and cinema
Deborah Allison – Team Captain
Dave Damant
Steven Day
Diana Reichenbach
Gabriel Soto Campa

October 17th Consciousness and sound
Jan Pfenniger – Team Captain
Malak Quota
Ying-Jing Wang
Brian Lee
John Arellano

October 24th – Death, time and animation
Sean Cox – Team Captain
Pooya Ghobadpour
Paul Shepherd
Shinobu Ochi
Brittany Biggs

November 7th – Fine Art, cinema and The Virtual Window
Joanna Griebel – Team Captain
Nahomi Maki
Colin McCall
Bethany Sparks
Wen Huang