Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Otto's coming out party, with some back-up help from Garfo.

Here's a high-res QT version for you to download and frame through if you feel so inclined. There are some interesting things going on here. Smears, mixed 1's, 2's and even 3's, lots of kinetic transitions that aren't precisely literal, static parts mixed with moving parts, etc.

I'm really pleased with the way this has turned out. The style of animation is right in that sweet spot I've been aiming to hit for the last few years. I like how the energy comes through the rough edges. The idea is to let the viewer sense the hand of the animator showing through, to let the immediacy of the creation moment remain perceptible, even if it's not perfect.

I worked on this in my spare time over the last 3 months. Otto's rig underwent about 3 or 4 major revisions/rebuilds along the way. I'd start animating, hit a roadblock or find something that just didn't work the way I wanted, then I'd back track, gut his rig and rebuild it, move forward, etc. For example, the first singing Otto part is from a completely different rig than the second part. When all was said and done I finally ended up with a rig that's really solid and fun to work with, as well as a fun little proof of concept on the animation style.
If folks are interested I can post info detailing the animation approach. 


Nate Lane said...

Haha that's awesome Keith! Glad to finally see that little guy animated :). I'd love to see how you approached the animation!

Anonymous said...

The style really grows on you, the more you watch it. WOW! Very nice!!

Brian Horgan said...

Oh man.. that's just awesome!

I've been trying to teach myself all aspects of 3D animation for a couple of years (started buying VTS back issues recently and find them fantastic!) but I really love good 2D and stop motion, like stuff from Chuck Jones, John K and Aardman.
The really slick CG style of animation that's popular often leaves me cold.. I'd love to see more work like this around.. particularly the really cartoony stuff.

And even better I'd love to try and approach that style myself some day.. any info on how you work on something like this would be golden.

Inspiring stuff!


Mike B said...

Great stuff Keith,
that tune just gets stuck in your head a good way. Who doesn't want to be funky? Anyways, I'll be scrubbing through to get a better understanding of the style. Any advice you have on the animation or rigging process would be great. You're an inspiration to many.

Simon Unger said...

great style Keith! I love the hand gestures and the guitar guy's loop.

I'd be really interested in seeing more on the approach and the rig itself. I'd love to get my hands on a rig like that. he looks like a lot of fun.

Unknown said...

Has a really nice feel to it. I would definitely like to hear a bit more about the animation process, especially working with the variable timing.


JDireen said...

That is a fantastic bit of animation. I love the visual texture. really matches well with the style of your characters. Definitely going into my collection :)

The smears are a sweet touch too. are you achieving those with ffd volumes or some other form of witchcraft?

I don't want to take the discussion too far away from the animation, as that it is the real star here, but as a character TD, I can't help but ask:
Would you mind elaborating on what the challenges were that you mentioned you had with the rig? Skinning/joint placement, control setup/functionality.


Brian Robinson said...

Nice Keith, you have a lot of awesome things going on there that you don't see enough. I'd love to see a whole film with this kind of feel. simple and stylish...

...makes me want to put that kind of stuff in my own work!

Keith Lango said...

Thanks, everybody. Glad y'all dig it.

It was a combination of several things. I started off with the facial controls riding on the face mesh, but found it hard to get at some times, so I made them able to pop on or off the face mesh into a more "Osipa-like" control panel whenever I liked. The facial rigging under the hood wasn't playing nice with the body rigging. So I needed to re-route the deformation system to get things more stable. That required re-doing the skinning and facial system. The torso controls were OK, but I didn't like how the arms were behaving. I at first didn't want to have offset deformer controls for the arms and legs (to create a bendy look), thinking I could get that with the smear tool, but I found I needed to put those offset controls in to get the specific shapes I wanted. The smearing is from a tool that applies an influence object mesh plane to the current camera and projects it out into the world as an FFD type deal, just like that one guy's XSi demo of a similar mesh defo tool from a couple years back. And lastly I didn't like how the hands worked, so I ripped those our and re-did them to get a little more detailed control.

Hope that helps!

geoff said...

The silhouette of the tambourine player = gold :)

Andrew said...

wicked aniamtion! i like a lot the feet movement on the puple guy
and the smearing tool sounds awesome! any chance you could share it?

Justin S Barrett said...

That is a thing of beauty, sir. Glad that someone is taking the plunge into other waters besides the already-crowded (and likely peed-in) everything-is-moving-on-every-frame pool, and doing it with such style. Major kudos on a "test" that stands in my eyes as a gorgeous piece of art.

Josh Bowman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josh Bowman said...

Ha Ha! Love that guitar player, he's so cool B^)

You've really captured the relaxed, confident, enjoying the moment essence of the characters as they play/sing.

One thing i noticed at frame 57ish when he points is his wrist seems to start bending a little to far away from the hand, it feels like the wrist is staying rigid and the forearm is the thing bending. I notice it on the other hand too, he's holding the mic and rather than the arm curving up to meet the hand the wrist is again stiff, breaking up the nice curve that would have gone through to the thumb.

That's a very minor thing though, as a whole it all works so well it makes me want to get up and dance.

Thom said...

Interesting experiment, Keith. I'd like to see where this ends up.

Crowpie said...

Love the animation style, I just wanted the clip to keep going! I'd love to know how you implemented all that squash and stretch into your rig, truly inspiring!

P.S I love the animation for the tambourine player!

andyoko said...

That's brilliant and very inspiring! Thanks for sharing, Keith! So is this going to develop into a short film? Surely, you must have a story idea for these guys, right? :)))
And yes, it would be awesome to read something on the approach you used in this animation. Thanks!

Jean-Denis Haas said...

Coool! Love it!

Anonymous said...

VERY COOL to finally be seeing some Keith Lango animation!!!!

MikeBelanger said...

Love it!

Brian Horgan said...

Really appreciate the info on the rigging side of it too, I work with Cinema4D right now so I don't have access to that cool smear camera tool you have in Maya and XSI but I'm determined to come up with something along the same lines as I love the effect it gives. It seems to me that the more 2D thinking you bring to 3D animation the better the results.

I don't know what the plans are for VTS right now as I'm not a subscriber yet (I will be when I've caught up on more of the back issues) but I'd be very interested to see a VTS on how you approach something like this, from an animation and/or rigging point of view. The information you've given so far is intriguing but opens up many more questions for me!


Tim said...

If I had any money, I would hire you to animate for me. I would keep you on a string like a monkey and you would animate every time I played my hurdy gurdy. What a team we would be.

Keith Lango said...

Tim! You have a hurdy-gurdy?!?! Sign me up, man. We can form a band-- I'll borrow Kurt Heinecke's theremin.

Omar said...

wow its great!
and im sure we'd all like a post on the process,

Samuel Peter said...

wow Mr Keith that was brilliant! absotutley love the timing, keep up the awesome work!

Anonymous said...

Keith, that made my day!

Loved it. I'll echo peoples thoughts on a post detailing the anim approach.

Love Otto too, he looks like great fun to play with.

Chris said...

Well... it was certainly neat to watch, and a cool experiment... but I was very aware of the hand of the animator behind it all. As much as people around here bemoan the overly smooth style in feature films, watching a feature film done in this style would be tiring for me.

A short film done in this style? That I could watch.

Oh, and Otto looks like an intensely fun character to animate. I do love how he was rigged.

Brian Horgan said...

^ It comes down to personal taste I guess.. if you'd find that tiring as a full length movie then you probably wouldn't enjoy something like The Nightmare Before Christmas or Coraline.. two movies I absolutely love and that I feel have much more charm and appeal than many fully CG movies.


Virgilio said...

Beautiful stuff, Keith! :)

+1 on the guitar guy performance! :D

Wonkey the Monkey said...

Is the tool you used for smear something that is available, either for free or to purchase?

I loved the whole thing, especially the contributions from the background characters -- the funky walk is a treat! Otto definitely has a nicer feel in his second appearance than in his first, which might be because of the rig improvements or perhaps because you were settling into the style you wanted.

Did you keep most of the animation in stepped keys? I noticed that poses were often totally held with absolutely no movement for two frames.

Keith Lango said...

Glad y'all are liking it.

The smearing isn't built into the rig, but is done using a MEL script written by a very bright Ringling student named Bohdon Sayre. His instructor at Ringling is a good friend of mine and he kindly offered to have me test it out. I think it's great. I've found it's best used quickly for a single frame here and there. He has a page where you can download the script, along with a bunch of other ones he developed. You can find it at

And yes, most of the animation (but not all) is on stepped. I animate at 12 fps, then switch to 24 using a MEL script that I wrote that keeps the animation on 2's. Then I shuffle and adjust things here and there to end up with a mix of 1's, 2' and 3's.

I gotta write up that process post soon. Gotta catch up on other work first, though. heh

Keith Lango said...

Whoop. Turns out Bo has taken his smear tool offline. He apparently wants to bring it back under his proprietary wing for a bit as he works through some stuff with it. But he has some other cool goodies there, still.

RVG said...

awwww this is one of my fav animations of all time!! Really awesome style.

I love how you really show your manual touch by not being afraid of "breaking" the character, and showing such effect through just the poses. What i mean by breaking it is that for instance in one of the poses of the saxophone guy his hands are not holding the saxophone, yet in the pose before and after he is holding it. Again same thing with Otto at the begining...looks like his bow tie drags him forward in one of the poses, which really plays in an awesome way when you watch it!! And another final example, just how Otto's mic bends a great lot when he is doing that big swing from far back to front (mic stand seems to intersect a tiny bit with the foot, but maybe im wrong??).

For a novice like myself I surely would have been told off for these kind of poses because I would be "breaking" the rig. I really wanna "break" the character like you've done here, but unfortunately I seem to break the rig instead. Such a hard balance... Dunno I might be using the wrong terminology here to describe this phenomenon.

I love style in animation, and this is definetely one of the greatest inspirations ever in CG, thanks for sharing Keith!!

davidmaas said...

Love it! Frame by frame it really has the controlled feel of hand-drawn. Which pushes me to the verge of begging: can you show us what rigging issues you encountered and how you resolved them?

Graham Ross said...

nice stuff man.

Alok said...

Everythings great Keith. Though at times I felt that the visual focus tends to move around a lot. Like from 160-250 its really hard to focus on the guitar guy and the walk cycle, and you want to see them both in details. Of course, if that's intetional teaser sort of thing, then you've got what you want.

Anonymous said...

WOW!! What a music video clip!!! ;) it's a great animation Keith, thanks to post it. Please, post info detailing the animation approach, as you suggest.

Agora... como você mora no Brasil algumas partes do ano... Cara, que animação massa, show, dez. É esse tipo de estilo de animação 2D que estou tentando chegar a ter.

Abs. e obrigado.

Onymations said...

Really fun stuff, Keith. I like the "imperfect" style you're going for, it has a lot of nice 2d and stop-mo qualities to it, something that I think would be nice to get back into 3d animation.

It'd be cool to see you're animation process as well as methods you used to rig your characters. I'm really interested in designing a character and rigging it as well and it would be useful to get your insights on the process.


Alex Kong said...

Maaaaaaaan, you are ROCKSTAR Keith!

Finally the world can see what Keith Lango is made of, no more theory, here is the master at work kids!

I´ve been wanting to write you for a while, I´ll write a nice not so short email in some days.

In the meantime go an watch my Shortfilm, this is stuff taht I worked using the workflow that you taught me SWEET! I´m Job Hunting so I retook it and I´m gonna finish this baby. After a year working, I can now see a lot of stuff, so I´ll rework the acting and comedic timing

And also a sample of the work that I did in the not so happy world of TV Ads Land!

Damn, this turned into an email itself.

Sorry bout that, the scene is simply genius Keith, you never stop to inspire me.

Alex Kong

Olivier Ladeuix said...

it is great to see someone experimenting with cg animation. Animating on 2s and 3s deliberately is definitely not usual. Nice. Thanks for sharing the behind the scenes too Keith.

versat said...

Awesome , its really good, congratulations,
And thanks for all the sharing here, it helps me alot.

j.dates said...

I'm glad to see you back animating!

Very inspirational! Also, when do you find the time for all of it!? :-)

Great work bud. Hope all is well.

Dietrich Magnus said...

i would love to see a short film :) but you are a busy busy man. Anyhow i love the funky-walk especially, very nice.