Animation Character Creation tutorial update & CGmascot news

Hi everyone. Here’s an update on the tutorial and some CGmascot news.

Animation Character Creation-tutorial update

Creative work is a complicated business, fluid and suspectible to change – and you don’t always know what you’re making until it is done.  In the case of my character tutorial, I have had quite clear a picture in my mind, but the more of it I get done the more new things I find – and the more I understand how big a task I’ve undertaken.   Which is why it isn’t yet done.

I never had any doubts about my capacity to do this, nor any regrets of taking it on, but it has been 4 months now and good part of it more than full time and I’m starting to feel it.  But it has been great, too, and I can see the end.  I hope to have it out by christmas eve. No promises, though. Update: Tutorial is delayed by unknown time due to other work taking my time and later more delays than ‘just’ work. I can’t set a date for release.

Animation Character Creation Tutorial final image
Animation Character Creation Tutorial final image

“Why has it taken so long?”, some may ask.  Well, recording a complete character creation, all of it with no shortcuts, is a lot.   But a far bigger timesink has been my perfectionism and desire to make logical steps out of something that for me normally is an organic freeform process. Especially in modeling I don’t proceed in clear steps – I just go at it until it is done.  Recording that would not be any good as a tutorial.  So what I’ve done is to break my work down and do it again many times over create a logical whole.

So there’s the update, unfortunately not yet a release.   Now something to show you:  Here is the end result image from the tutorial.  Tutorial -shows how to model a full character for animation, starting from nothing, and how to detail it and finally how to render and make this poster.  Click for a larger version.

CGmascot News

The tutorial work is the reason for lack of new articles, but I do have some interesting things to share with you once I’m free from the main project.  By the way if you want updates without having to come and check the site, the best options are to Subscribe by Email or Subscribe to RSS, see links at the top.  I will not spam you.  You will receive brief message when something new is up, and can then decide if the full article is worth checking out.  The news are my plans for CGmascot:

  • I want to write more about animation.  I have planned this before but not followed on.
  • I plan to use more video in the future.  It’s the thing of today and I’m running behind.  But the tutorial has had me making about 20 hours of video, so I’ve had lot of practise lately.
  • The site will get a professional redesign and will, I think, be even more usable.
  • The Mascot Service will soon become more exclusive simply because other work takes my time.  I will be able to take only a few clients.  The service will also receive a new starter package – an even more affordable alternative.

Now you know what’s up.  More tutorial stuff will follow, eventually. In the meantime check out other articles on CGmascot.

CGmascot Redesign

CGmascot is back and better!  Took me a while, lots of work and green tea, but now the site is redesigned and up and working.

I hope you like the look and feel.  The visual work is not quite finished yet, will get some polish later.

One thing I am sure you agree has improved is getting around the site and finding things.  One of the most common problem on blogs, in my opinion, is getting to the content.  My old site was like that – just one article available on front page and rest you had to to dig up from archives.  This WordPress-theme (The Morning After by Woothemes) and my implementation should offer a different experience.

I’ve also updated and polished the Mascot Service page, with new flashy introductory slider and a PDF.  See Maskottipalvelu for Finnish and Mascot Service for English.

So, what do you think?

What is Mascot Design?

What makes characters mascots?  How does one design a mascot?  Since I work with these creatures I feel I should write a bit about them.

What is a mascot?

In short a mascot is a representative figure, a symbol and a communication tool for somebody/some organization.  At its best the mascot personifies their values, communicates effectively and helps them stand out from the crowd.  I go over this in more detail here.

I talk about company mascots to keep this simple.  Same things apply to mascots for others, so feel free to replace “company” with something/somebody else.

Note also that I’m writing about mascots designed as company symbols, not about mascots designed for campaigns or for products.  A well designed company mascot does lend itself to campaigns and merchandising, but things don’t work so well the other way around.  There are exceptions, Mickey Mouse being a prime example – Mickey  became an icon for Disney though he wasn’t planned as such.

How to design a mascot?

A mascot is essentially a well designed cartoon character with strong connection to the company it represents.  The following elaborates on qualities of a good mascot – things to aim for.

  • Connection to company profession and values.  Simplest thing is to have character do the job the company is best known for.  Then give the mascot personality, style and way of doing things that reflect the best things the company stands for.  Colour palette-connection would help as well.
  • Background story.  Giving a mascot a story makes all future decisions easier as we know WHO he/she/it is.  Personal goals and story give mascot things to do, provides material for campaings and overall offers mascot some beliveability.
  • Appeal.  A live-action actor has charisma, animated character has appeal.  With people charisma means a lot more than just ‘cute’ or ‘handsome’, and so it is with cartoon characters, too.  There appeal stands for simplicity, pleasing design and charm/magnetism.  Why these give appeal?  Simple is both easier to read and communicates better than complex.  Pleasing design means good forms and it doesn’t always mean they are pretty, more like well drawn and stylised.  What visual style is effective varies from character to character, but one overall solid trick is exaggeration in dimensions and characteristics.  Finally we have charm or personal magnetism;  It is, in my opinion, the ability to communicate with emotion (usually something positive).
  • Style for target audience.  Cute mascots attract the female and young children audience. Cool (and sexy) is a bigger hit with males.  Consideration here should of course be about your company image, what represents it better?
  • Props and accessories add to the design and are way to say more about the mascot.

Above points are about design, but note that your character doesn’t become a mascot without Active and Consistent use.  Company mascot has to be out there to become known.  Use it in all suitable mediums, but be consistent – don’t let the tool or the campaing define who you mascot is.  An example of what not to do:  A company uses a random mascot with no personality, have no story to go with it and tend to change the mascot a lot between campaings.  Then mascot serves mainly as eye-candy – it may help the campaings stand out from others, but really this is the least you can do with a mascot.

There you have my take on the subject in brief.  I may get back on the subject later (especially if requested).  What would you add to the list?  It is hardly complete.  Have you got a story to share about a mascot success or failure?

Mascot Service Release

It is A-LIVE! I am is happy to release the Mascot Service.  It is available in Finnish and English.  Go read and see 4 mascot examples.

Why a mascot?

A mascot gives friendly face to an organization, stands out, communicates the company values and sticks in your mind.  It is the perfect representative, positive and sympathetic figure that can be your trademark and a brand.  Mascot also saves both time and money, often beats regular photo shoots and models – it really rocks in advertising.

I have looked for a special service I could offer, something that uses my skillset nicely and the software pipeline I have set up, and this is it.  I think it offers lots of value and might do well.   Though the release time is worst possible for Finland:  the whole country more or less closes down for the summer.  Time will tell, I guess.

This is why I haven’t blogged quite as much of late.  Well, I’m back and shall keep writing.

What do you think about company mascots in general?  Would you be interested in learning more about them?

CGmascot hiStory

What drives people to blogging?   And what’s up with that CGmascot?  Here’s a story about my motivation for both.

Teaching is something I’ve done in one form or another since 1998.  Why I was originally expected to be good at it I don’t know, perhaps my calm personality seemed to suit the job, but I found I AM good at it and enjoy it.  Still it was the wrong subject(web design) and never became a big thing for me.

3D is another animal entirely – ever since I became reasonably capable in it I’ve wanted to teach it.  I’ve been developing a learning material concept for dvd-rom, but as planned it would have been a one year project, full-time.  Several reality-checks later I came across a person that is far more ‘hip’ on web 2.0 than I will ever be, and she suggested blogging.  And what do you know, it suits me well.  So here we are.  This is not the material I planned for the dvd, but it is a venue for me to share what I know and also to let my skills be known.

So why the mascot? It goes back to my childhood and drawing what little boy thought was cool, which, at the time, was Lord of The Rings, Tripods, The samurai, and many other things including some ever awesome animals.  We got to design an ex libris for ourselves in art class, and I went for an eagle.  Since then the eagle sort of stuck even though I (later) knew it is cliché as a symbol.
Origins of CGmascot, ver 1. 2001.

In 2001 came the first 3D-eagle (I started doing 3d in the year 1999 or 2000) .  I made this head with a mascot in mind, but didn’t like the result enough to continue.

In 2005 I rebuilt the bird and experimented with some rather odd clothing.  And please don’t even mention the eyebrows.  Didn’t shape up to a real mascot yet.  The pictures have CG nudity, so don’t click on them if that’s an issue for you.
Origins of CGmascot, ver 2. 2005.Origins of CGmascot, ver 2. 2005.Origins of CGmascot, ver 2. 2005.

Origins of CGmascot.  Final version. 2010.Finally in 2010, my mind set on the learning-blog, I decided on CGmascot-name partly because I always wanted to finish the damn bird and it seemed like an original title.  Hence I rebuilt the 2005 eagle to CGmascot.  So there you have it:  Childhood fixation becomes something usable later in life.

What got you writing?  Please, share your story.