Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"First Date" Blocking Plus

I decided to finally post my "blocking plus" from my short. This posting is not the final animation and it's not the final posting at AM. This is what I submitted to AM for blocking plus at during week 6, but this was before I addressed Ethan Hurd's notes. Just click on the image above and it will take you a quicktime of the short on my site. You may want to adjust your speakers to prep for the music (Miles Davis "Freddie Freeloader").
Side note: My friend Kelvin pointed out that he couldn't leave comments because he wasn't a Blogger or Google member so I changed some settings so that anyone can post comments (so please do!)
Thanks for stopping by.

"First Date" is almost done

I just wrapped up my last class at and I'm almost finished animating my short film "First Date". The short needs about another week to two weeks for the completion of animation. I also need to do some skinning adjustments as well as facial blendshape adjustments. Then it will be onto lighting.

I am considering using point caching in Maya then exporting in the .fbx format to Max. This is so my buddy Vance Miller and I can have an easier time getting great stuff out of Vray. I'm just not a huge fan of the complicated process involved with Mental Ray. Don't get me wrong, I have seen amazing renders from Mental Ray...but it's not an easy task to get great results. I personally find that Vray gives me the exact results I'm looking for with a lot less work and confusion. To add to that, Caius Wong has done some really nice hair setups for Simon in Max. The hair is ready to go and I won't have to figure out how to achieve that in Maya. I'm also a much better texture artist in Max. Basically I can play generalist at a higher level in Max, but I haven't transferred all my knowledge over to Maya's interface yet. I usually only do modeling and animation in Maya. To add to this all, time is an issue. I have to wrap up production soon and get back to working and I need to get the best results in a short amount time. Learning how to get awesome renders in Maya in a like 2 weeks, just isn't going to happen. Vance has offered to help and that alone is a major incentive to go to Max.

Overall, I have learned a lot working on this short. One major thing that I learned is the importance of a solid facial animation setup. I took a HUGE risk by using my own character and while it paid it off in most ways, it was also a negative at times. The positive is that it helps to identify my short among the others and it's a great feeling to have complete control over the look and feel of my short film. The negative is that it's a lot of work to create your own character. If I am serious about continuing this journey of directing, then I need to get used to creating an entire world from my perspective. Luckily, my friend Caius modeled the base model and the clothed version as well. I had to tackle rigging, skinning and building the facial targets all in a 2 week time frame. Due to that short turnaround, the facial targets suffered and it affected the facial animation. I just don't have the amazing facial rig that is present on the AM characters. Again, it's a give and take where I am happy with my choice of using my own character, but I miss some of the advanced facial setup of the AM rig. As a result of this (now that weekly deadlines are over), I have to go back and fix some of the facial setup and reanimate some of it. I also need to do some touch ups to skinning as well as skin the clothing onto the rig. Right now Simon is still sporting his underwear throughout the whole short, which Andrew Weidenhammer pointed out is probably more true to life ;) .

Thats all for now, but stay tuned for a posting of my blocking's for real this time! Hopefully in the next few hours.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Clean desk = Clean mind

There is a lesson in this long post. I promise!

Let me set the backdrop. This is the last week to animate on my short for I was doing great (at least I think it was going great), I had 3 out of 7 shots polished and only 4 left (ha! "only 4" who am I kidding?). I've been in tough situations ALL the time working in commercials. For example, clients that have been looking at a commercial in progress for weeks, suddenly feel that they are not happy with 2 or 3 shots two days before delivery . Now instead of the two weeks you had to do those shots, they are now being demanded in 2 days. It happens on EVERY job I have done. You do what you have to and get it done. That being said, I knew that "crunch-time" was coming as of this past Saturday. A last week of every minute of animation being crucial. Just when I was ready to take on this beast of work...BAM! The man upstairs throws you a screwball! I got sick on Saturday night! Three months of working strong with only one week left and I get sick.

These moments only make you stronger, so I plowed through Sunday morning to post my work for Ethan. Unfortunately, that night after posting, it all got worse. For the next couple of days, I couldn't concentrate on frames, poses or even stare at the monitor for more than an hour or two. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday fly by as I try to recover. Wednesday strolls around and my "brother from another mother" Alfredo Gomez comes over to pick up something. We talk a lot about illustration/drawing (as usual) and I tell him to excuse me for the chaos that erupted on my desk. He responds something like "I like to keep my work area clean. I feel like it represents my mind state in some way." Alfredo drops some well needed advice! He leaves and my situation of finishing the shots on time isn't any better. I look at my desk and start cleaning at like 12:00AM Thursday. I sit down and start working on a shot...and what was unclear is now crystal clear! I'm big on the power of the subconscious mind and how we can put things in motion without realizing it. Could my cluttered desk been a sign of what was going on in my mind? Was my lack of confidence regarding how to finish these shots being represented in my surroundings? Or, was my desk simply a result of working so much the last week? Some food for thought.

Either way, I feel great after cleaning up and I am back in the game. My sickness is fading away and I will make the most of the remaining time. If things aren't flowing for you, try to change up your may be surprised with the results. Thanks Alfredo!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

MTVu Woodie Award!

Hey everyone,

I just found out from my buddy and Lead Designer (Federico Saenz-Recio) over at Version2 that we won a "Woodie" award for our Madvillian "Monkey Suite" music video. The category was "The Left Field Woodie" award and can be found on the following page. I am shocked that it won because we made that video in an unheard of amount of time. The video was meant to be live action and some CG (computer graphics) stuff but ended up being all CG. It was basically like 2 1/2 weeks for 2 1/2 minutes of footage. For people who don't do animation...that is insane. Oh yeah and it was like a super small CG team (like 3 of us fulltime and 2 part time). I was CG Lead on the video and it was directed by Daniel Garcia. In the end, I was happy with the results considering the time constraints. If you haven't seen the video, just click the photo above (or the word "video") and it will send you to my website where you can view a small web version of it. I am a big fan of MF DOOM and basically the track is a great one.
Hope you enjoy.

Monday, November 12, 2007

"The Best of Mr. Bean"

Before starting on my short, I started to look for good reference for physical comedy. I did a search for Mr. Bean and came across a DVD title "The Best of Mr. Bean". It's a great collection of Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) clips from various the series. The DVD pretty much sat in my collection wrapped for months...until today! I wish I would have seen this before animating.

I think for any aspiring or successful animator this is a must own. Rowan's comedic sense is brilliant. Everything from timing, to expressions, to situations and writing. One of the things that I also noticed is that he really has a great sense of staging and his posing is awesome. I also love that you can clearly see what he is thinking through his anticipations and pauses. Great stuff to study from.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Lil' Girl

This is something I sketched this morning. After talking to Lunchbox, I realized that I haven't been drawing at all! I used to use the subway as my hour or so to draw daily. So this morning I did a quick 10 minute sketch and this is what came out. I've been looking at a couple of artist's sketchbooks (like Lopez's Mariachi Samurai) and saw some really cool kids drawings. Why are drawing kids so fun? I guess it's that they are usually oblivious to society's thoughts of them (which is awesome). Anyway, I might do some slight touch-ups and use this as an digital coloring exercise for myself.

Hope you like it!

Monday, November 5, 2007

The "AWESOMENESS" that is Alberto Ruiz

As I stated in a previous post I would get to writing about my meeting with Alberto here goes. Its lengthy so get ready:

I have been a HUGE fan of Alberto's work for sometime now. I actually found his work by mere chance one day when I was over at Midtown Comics in Manhattan. It was this huge spiral bound signed sketchbook (trying saying that fast 5 times) with a funky female character on the cover. I picked it up not really knowing much...and man was I floored. Those who know my artistic taste (Alfredo)...know that I am a "Line" man. I love someone's ability to create and suggest form with just lines. Proper line variation is like music to my eyes. Not to say I don't appreciate things like value, color, and composition but for me I am drawn to pure line. That being said, I open the sketchbook and it hit me like a brick to the face! KAPOOWWW! His work is simply wonderful. This all happened a few years back (maybe 3 years ago) when I had just started freelancing in nyc.

Fast foward to a few months later. I was at a close friend's bbq where I had met her brother who was working for Apple at the time. We started talking about artist and I mentioned that I had just come across an artist by the name of Alberto Ruiz. He looks at me and says "No way! He lives right by me. I am good friends with him". Right away the skeptic comes in and I start thinking this guy is pulling my leg. He proceeds to say "I can introduce you if you want. Alberto is cool like that". I stood there trying to digest this all. So I pass this info to my wife and she gets so excited. She says she is going to set it all on and so forth. Cool right!?...Wrong! I punked out. I don't like to be that annoying fanboy...even though I may secretly be one (don't tell anyone). I didn't want to bother someone, even if they inspire me.

Time passes. About 2 years. All this time I have been scambling to keep up with Alberto's work. Then, it all becomes easier once he starts Brand Studio Press. Alberto begins an independent book publishing company and gets himself along with most of my favorite artist (like Sean Galloway aka Cheeks) to publish under his company. I immediately started placing orders for books. A few days after placing my order, it's about 7pm and my doorbell rings. Here in nyc apt building you have to buzz people in (which is a nice thing). I ask who it is and the voice says "Delivery". I knew the books were coming but not so soon. So I buzz them in and wait by my door. I see the elevator door open as I am peeking out the hole and I then had to do a double take. It was Alberto! I had seen his photo online and knew it was him. Alberto Ruiz is hand delivering my books! You read that right! Dude came over to my apt. So I yell to my wife "Alberto is here"...she responds "Alberto who?"..."Alberto Ruiz!". I couldn't believe it. Instantly, I start asking questions. What is your process? Have you always been this good? etc. Things continue and he is answering everything and drawing in front of my eyes! Impromptu lesson in my dining room. I tell him about how I met my friend's brother and how I was supposed to meet him. He remembered and asked why I never came over. He said I should have. I then show him my collection and he is shocked I have all this stuff in mint condititon. He ends up leaving after about 3o mins and I was left in awe.

A couple of days pass I order another couple of books off the site ("Chola" being one of them). Sure enough he comes over again. Repeat first encounter. Impromptu lesson again. Other important convo's happen (regarding the book I am secretly working on). He ends up leaving after about 30 mins again. Again I was left in numb. Not only is this guy sooooo good, but he is damn cool. To me the best thing is to meet someone who is humble. I've always wanted to be that artist that lets thier work speak itself. That is Alberto. Filled with thanks for you even buying his work. How cool is that?

To wrap this long posting up...I was reading his blog and read that he was releasing a book with Heavy Metal as a retrospective. In the posting he says that preorders will get an original drawing. I immediately placed a preorder and sent him an email. Today comes and I get an email..."I'm going to your house right now, I'll be there at around 12:30". I'm thinking no way. He's kidding...but no he wasn't. 12:30 and sure enough my doorbell rings. He comes up with a signed copy of his new book "Bocetto". We start talking about it and then he pulls out something spectacular. He says "here is the drawing". He continues to tell me how this is one of his favorites and I have to promise to take care of it. We talk some more and off he goes. So I am sitting here in my house with this stunning drawing in my hands and a new book. I can't say it enough how much Alberto has already influenced and inspired me. I hope to continue to be able to chill with him from time to time.

In conclusion, show the guy some love. I have added him to my friends links on the side and some of the text on this posting will have links to his work. Oh and that drawing at the top of this posting...that is sitting in my living room. ;)

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

"First Date" Rough Blocking

I wanted to post my "rough blocking" of my short with a low res version of my character Simon in place (modeled by my friend Caius Wong). This posting is in stepped mode (meaning only important poses and no fluid animation inbetween). An important note regarding this posting is that I have yet to address Ethan Hurd's (my current mentor) notes to the shots. This is unedited at this point. I hope to have all my blendshapes for the face done this week so I can add some facial expression. Feel free to leave comments on what you think.


Team Fortress 2

I had to add a post about this game just because of how incredible it turned out. I was a HUGE Team Fortress 1 fan years ago on my PC and I have been eagerly waiting the return of my favorite online multiplayer game. I had really high expectations and when my former mentor Matthew Russell told me he was leaving DNA and going to Valve I knew they were working on something wonderful. Everything from the writing, character design, animation, texturing, lighting and art direction are so refreshing and creative. The game isn't just pretty, it's addictive.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Sketchbook Update

I have finally added some new images to my sketchbook page. It takes so much work to update that particular page, that I rarely do it. I added 11 pages of newer work. It's still not 100 percent up to date, but it's getting there. Above you will see one of the new drawings (click on it to see a larger version). I did that on the subway on my way home from work. It's one of my favorites because it's the drawing that has kick started me to draw the entire character and not just the head. My plan is also to ink and color this drawing as my first full illustration in a long time (since "Nunja"). I am really making an effort to draw more and draw full body drawings. I have always been afraid to, but since my run it with the AMAZING Alberto Ruiz (I will explain in a separate blog)...things have changed. I am no longer intimidated by full body drawings! Well enjoy!

Here is a link to my sketchbook page of my full website:

Friday, October 5, 2007

Stash 37

Just wanted to post this great bit of news. The Bioshock launch trailer has made Stash 37! It's alongside some other great work (like the amazing Pysop Coke spots). Apparently it features a "behind-the-scenes" look at the making of Bioshock launch trailer. So check it out because we all worked really hard on making the final trailer.


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Keep Truckin' Kid

IT has begun. After a long hiatus, I am finally back to to finish my last class and complete my short film "First Date". What's great about this last quarter is that I just found out who my mentor is and I am extremely happy with the outcome. I'm lucky enough to have Ethan Hurd to guide me during the animation stage of my short. I love the work coming out of Sony Imageworks (especially Surf's Up) and Ethan was an animator on that along with a bunch of huge titles at Dreamworks and Pixar. I plan to pick his brain as much as possible and get the most out of my last quarter at AM.

Now that all sounds great, but sometimes things don't come easy. This first week is one of those "sometimes". It all began with Simon. As you may or may not know, I decided to create my own character (Simon) instead of using AnimationMentor's characters for my short. I knew this was a risky move, but I wanted my short to be completely my own content. The AM characters are great, but they aren't mine. If I am serious about making films one day, I need to keep true to my vision. So how did things go wrong? Well, this past Sunday was my own deadline for having my character rigged and ready to animate. Caius (see link on right) and I were cutting close but we on schedule. I started to create a temporary rig for Simon when I quickly realized that the proportions I had created for him were wrong! That meant having Caius rework the model and get it back to me...which also meant i was starting on day 1 behind schedule. Tuesday came around and I still had no idea what to do. I was ready to give up on Simon and use the AM character instead. I didn't want to risk making a bad impression in my first week by not being up to speed. So I called Caius and told him to forget the model. It was going to be too complicated to finish and be able to animate a portion of my short by Sunday. I was really bummed out, but Caius was really persistent and truly felt that he could have the corrections for me the next morning. He felt we could do it. Its Wednesday morning and sure enough Caius comes through strong and makes the necessary changes. I get to rigging right away and I am happy to say Simon LIVES! He's ready to go! I may have lost a couple of days of animating, but I am more driven than ever about getting this done. First thing tomorrow morning....ANIMATION TIME! Hopefully you will see the final version of Simon soon. Caius is making some minor adjustments to him, but nothing that preventing from rigging a proxy.

It has been a stressful couple of days, but it was worth it! Like my dad always tells me "Keep truckin' kid!"

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"First Date" Animatic

(EDIT: Just in case you are new to blogs, just click on image above to see the "First Date" animatic play.)
I just finished having an intense week of work over at Stardust (nyc location) and its not over yet. After getting a moment to breath, I quickly realized that the beginning of my last class at was coming fast. Less than 2 weeks until I start full production on my animated short "First Date"!

For the first time (post high school), I am going to take off 3 months to completely focus on my school work. During my time at AnimationMentor and School of Visual Arts I have always been working and going to school full time. This lead to a lot of complaining on my part regarding the quality of work (or more like lack of quality work) that I produced while going to school. I always felt that every instructor/mentor I have had, has only seen a fraction of what I can do. They never see my full potential. Well this is it. The "time to put money where my mouth is". This is the time to challenge myself. Thanks to my wonderful and supportive wife, we have managed to save enough money to allow me to do what I have always wanted. It's not going to be easy. I really want to show my upcoming mentor and the AnimationMentor community what I'm made of. To add to this all, I decided that I wanted to use my own character "Simon" to tell my story. Most students opt for the characters provided by AM, but I want to finish this short and submit "First Date" to film festivals. I want the short to be entirely my own conceptual content. At this moment I have an awesome friend who helping this happen by modeling Simon. Caius Wong is this talented modeler who is giving me a helping hand in bringing Simon to life.

In light of my upcoming class, I thought it would be cool for anyone reading this to get a look at my animatic that was created while under the amazing guidance of Shawn Colbeck over at House of Cool. Its a simple story with a modern twist. One important note, the character in the animatic is property of and is not Simon. He was simply used as a stand in. I am sure the short will change somewhat when I start to actually animate it. Some shots will probably need more time and maybe others will get cut down. I am really trying to stay well under a minute in order to finish in time. For those of you new to animation and did read that correctly. It will take me 3 months to finish LESS than 1 minute of animation.

Enjoy and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


So I decided to post an image of the character (Simon) from my upcoming AnimationMentor short titled "First Date". I will be taking off 3 months to complete the film and I plan to post the ongoing process of completing my short film. So I hope to post expression sheets soon. I drew this a while back (before even writing my short film) and when I started to think about designing my own character for the short I went back to my older sketchbooks to see what was there. Low and behold...I found this drawing that I had done about a year and half ago.

That being said, any feedback on the design would be great and very appreciated. Love it or hate it? Drop a comment.

Thanks for passing by.

Bioshock Launch Trailer

Thought it would be a good cool to post a link to the Bioshock launch trailer that I had the incredible opportunity of being Lead Animator on over at EyeballNYC. I couldn't have asked for a better team to work with on this project. I was even lucky enough to contribute to the actual box art too! One extra little tidbit of info - it was all hand-keyed animation.

Be warned it isn't for kids! Enjoy!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Making it happen

I have officially jumped on the bandwagon! With all the amazing blogs out there, I couldn't help it. If you are reading this you are either my loving wife or my mom...anyone else must be doing well appreciated charity work.

So...why this blog? I basically wanted some way to chronicle two things . My first goal is to be able to document my exploration and learning process in both animation and illustration. My second goal is to be able to track my path towards my ultimate dream of directing animated films (key words "ultimate" + "dream"). Entertaining people is what I LOVE to do. In my mind there is nothing better than a great story. I will be working my hardest to try to tell those kinds of stories.

In addition, this blog well help me share my own stories in the various mediums that I choose to explore. It will also be another avenue for me to be able to share my thoughts and my work with anyone who is bored enough to pay attention (and maybe even comment).

Thanks for taking the time to read, it's time to make it happen.

Your friendly neighborhood animator,
Ricardo Vicens