Monday, August 30, 2010

Tadly Episode 2 WIP #5


Wow, is this scene ever fun to animate. And super fast, too! Crazy dieties, or at least the idea of them, are playing a larger part in the scripts and ideas than I had planned. Curse my interest in such things.

Friday, August 27, 2010

My birthday.

Well, I've added another year to the survival streak. I am on a roll now. I can reasonably expect to live another 29 years. I don't have the birthday and age anxiety that many of my peers and family have. I'm pretty happy with what I've accomplished thus far. If I came down with some horrible disease next year, I'd feel awful of course but not cheated. I've done more with my twenties than almost anyone I know, and that feels great.

Almost too-appropriately, Bethany and I spent the day viewing fossils and relics of the past at the local natural history museum. Enjoy this photolog.
The wall in the minerals section issued a strange demand.
We complied.
We approached the hall of architecture.
Approach with humility, this wall of ancient clergy.The lovely wife enjoys art history much more than I.
These rooms were from a house, bewitched by a warlock into shrinking.Bethany searches for the teeny cast of an Agatha Christie book, presumably lurking in the minuscule drawing room.And then, of course, the dinosaurs. LOOK HOW AWESOME IT IS.The triceratops, whose enemies in life were carnivores and meteors, now fears only taxonomy.Moving on to other awesome ancient, giant dead things. LOOK AT THIS TURTLE.
LOOK AT THIS ELK, with the wife.
Proto-horses, frozen at the moment when they were playing with their miniature toys.
Bethany had many adventures as well.
Words cannot describe how hilarious this display is.
Lastly, we dined on Thai with Matt, shown with a traditional dancers. Our loud conversation on the state of chick-lit annoyed those sitting next to us.

All in all, probably the best birthday I can remember having. After that we went and used some birthday money on some exercise equipment, but more on that in like December or so. I forced myself to not do work when I got home (I cheated a bit and made Cap'n Dan's hands) and instead got a bit further through Perdido Street Station and played several matches of Starcraft 2, finally winning a few! May future birthdays be so very rad.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tadly Episode 2 WIP #5

The Cap'n Dan rig makes its debut.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tadly Episode 2 WIP #4

And the script is FINALLY done about 4 weeks late. Had an incredibly busy summer so the next Tadly episode won't be out for a few weeks. I swear it'll be good, though!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Loved it! That's about as far as I'm willing to go into it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Adventures in embedding

One of the reasons I chose to present my animation work on Vimeo is that it tracks what pages embed my videos. I can click through and get to a page like this, which is a snapshot of recent traffic for Rebranding.
As you can see, it usually starts with sites you've heard of like Motionographer or Lineboil or something. But as things go on you get into blogs and personal sites and aggregators, often in languages I do not speak. A fun time-killer for me is looking through some of these sites I've never read to see both what they have to say about my piece and whatever they usually talk about.

Which lead me to this amazing group of stories.
My silly little depression piece, sharing virtual space with hot news of Lindsay Lohan and even hotter pics of Jason Statham? And is that actually a link to a lecture by uber-crackpot David Icke? Oh internet. You never stop giving.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

New site!

I am fiddly with my site designs and my reels. Check it.

Monday, August 09, 2010

This week

Will involve 3 things:

1. Work

2. A trip to Jersey


Thursday, August 05, 2010

Post-Mortem - On The Subject Of Depression

Well, it's finally happened. I've made that leap into autobiographical work. God help us all. You can look forward to such navel-gazing topics as "I miss my best friend from high school" and "I feel like I'm consistently letting everyone down".

Actually, I suppose my deflective jab at the very notion of such titles ensures I'll never do that. It's tough for me to find that line between honest self-expression and self-indulgence, so I just tend to avoid it all together. I've started a few things over the years that were overtly about myself but abandoned all of them out of a profound disgust for solipsism (and yet I ADORE the existentialists. Odd, no?). This is not to say that I avoid putting any of my self in my work - far from it! There's more than a little bit of me in a certain shape-shifting octopus. I just don't like to be so diary-ish.

By the way, buckle down as this might be the longest post-mortem ever. By nature of the subject, it'll also be a bit intimate. If you're just interested in the process, skip down past the next picture.

The project: I am what you would call a happy, balanced person, as people go. I'm chatty. I'm very comfortable in my own skin. I'm all into living life and making choices and stuff. I'm positive! I am very curious, always reading and watching things and singing and riding bikes. I'm learning to play the accordion, for crying out loud! In fact, I doubt anyone outside of my wife and my family have any idea that I have any issues at all. But whenever this thing comes up, it just slows me down. My metabolism drops through the floor, I find it so difficult to motivate myself (though not to the detriment of project, prospective clients!), and everything just gets gray and bland for awhile. Consequently, momentum is a big thing with me. I am happiest when I am spending an evening hanging out with my wife and cat and making cool things, but I literally cannot stop working for long stretches of time without having a terrible time getting back into it. Most of my good ideas happen at 5am after hours of work. I mean, I wrapped up 2 weeks of work on ATA ep.8 with this cartoon. I'm moving directly on to the next Tadly episode and freelance work. Repeat. This is fine with me. It helps me to power through the low times. I've been out of a studio gig for about a year (still looking, if you're interested!), so when I get health insurance again I will most likely look into some very light medication. I also have a bit of an issue with that in general. I was diagnosed with ADHD and bipolarness in high school, but when I look into that now it just seems like I was an antsy, smart, over-emotional misfit in a school with no arts program of which to speak. When I started my first band at 15, a lot of my bipolarity went away, leading me to thing it was nothing more than hormones and angst. Some people really do have chemical issues, but every generation seems to have some "disease" foisted upon it to explain away the kids that are a puzzlement to their parents. You can fill in the blanks with what that is now. Again, this is not to say that there are not people with actual issues, but the lines are fluid enough that it seems that almost every bad mood or hard time in your life can be medicated. You take a pill to calm your nerves. That beings you down too much so now you take a mood stabilizer. But the mood stabilizer makes you unable to sleep, so now you're on a sleeping pill. Again, I know that this is sometimes necessary and really helps a lot of people, but I feel like I'd be losing something authentic, unable to know if it's just me or the medication speaking. It also irks me because being lightly bipolar seems like a privilege. I'm an middle-class white guy in a hip urban neighborhood in the US. I don't really worry about being gunned down, or starving, or being bombed to death, so I get to sit and complain about my "momentum". Ugh.

All this was fine until the past 18 months or so, when these low periods have been getting worse. I can feel them coming on. I don't break down and cry or anything, and I've never once in my life been suicidal or self-destructive. It's just that more and more of my wonder, my curiosity and my enjoyment of life (which is usually a considerable amount) get turned down for a week or so. It's a bummer for my incredibly supportive wife and I'm sure the cat notices that I'm not nearly as prone to playing with him. He just sits there meowing at me to go wave the feather-wand around or throw his stuffed sheep down the stairs.

So, I figured that just opening up about it and making a little cartoon about how I felt about it would help out.

Like a lot of my stuff, this was made almost entirely in After Effects. I find it easier to work with one program when I can. My style is simple enough that AE can handle almost everything I need. When I need to rough out some art or do some frame-by-frame, I go to Flash. Any other image work, or if I just want to break out the brushes to texture something, I go to Photoshop. I keep telling myself I'll go to Cinema 4d for... something or another. The comp is just a simple 3d stage with 2 spotlights (pale yellow and pale blue), a house light (a pale point light), and the greenish light that shines through at the end, also a point light. The centered camera is pulling back slowly from the subject, which seems to be something I do alot. Hm. Maybe it's all the Kubrick I watched in my youth. In any event, I seem to have some subconscious attraction to animations based around stages. Observe:

I didn't even do it on purpose.

What worked: I was a big fan of the little cars. I don't like drawing cars. I find them dull. So, like many other things, I decided to draw them as I'd like them to be as opposed to the way they are. These were super simple to make, but a lot of fun.
They were made all from flat planes, masked and colored and nulled together. The null was animated to create the wobbling. You probably notice when the one car flips over, it's construction is laid bare to the viewer. That was a bit of a thematic choice, but it was also that my philosophy is to use After Effects like a big box of stuff I'm rummaging through. I don't mind things looking a bit cobbled together at times, it adds to the charm and it's not as though the After Effects world doesn't have enough glossy, white slickness.

And seriously, who doesn't love that music? I need to do a full post on World/Inferno, but you really do need to check out one of their last 3 albums. They are simply a fantastic band, and are very generous with allowing humble animators to knick their music. I've been getting more into sound design recently and this was a simple and fun exercise in stereo design.

What didn't work - Is it too self-indulgent? I'm not sure. If I wanted to spend more time on it, there would've been a few more turns of the wheel and some more things in forest section. But given that I spent very little time on it I'm pretty happy with it. And that forest section never quite got the fall grandeur I was aiming for, but oh well. Whatcha gonna do?

Final verdict - I've been more than a bit overwhelmed by the response to this. Thanks so much for the emails and the kind words. It's already done what little I wanted to do, and more - but I ascribe that less to the piece itself and more the create mass of lovely people who saw it and started talking about it to me and others. This has opened me up to the possibility of more autobiographical work, but for my own sanity the next one will have to be happy, just to balance this one out.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Post-mortem - Animation Tag Attack Ep 8

Well, that was fun! Check out the preceding episodes collected a few posts back and then watch this.

The Project : I am not an action animator. I had the best intentions of this being an insane, bloody, over-the-top sequence with knives thrown into faces and fallen enemies used as human shields. My first thought was to have the duck attacked by some sort of hit squad and have him fight his way out. I seem to be one of those odd animators who is primarily interested in quiet, reflective moments as opposed to physical comedy and action, as the notion of a big hyper-kinetic fight scene bores me to tears. Maybe someday I'll get around to doing one.
So I took it somewhere I found more interesting. The duck is killed from afar, never getting to even face his assailant. He then reunites with his friend(?) the bear. After a nice moment, the celestial bear bestows upon him his strength or something. Meanwhile, back on this mortal coil, the duck's corpse has been swiped by some guys who seem very interested in dissecting our duck friend. If you're interested in what they might be after inside our waterfowl friend, watch episode 4 again (though it's right there on the poster inside the van). Unfortunately for them, whatever is going down on the ethereal plane reaches up and out of the van, resulting in the big fun explosion at the end. I left a lot of this ambiguous to give those who take this up after me some more stuff to play with.
It was made with my standard combo of After Effects, Flash, Photoshop and Soundforge. I did use Cinema 4d once to model out a reference for the van. Want to see it? It's probably the most beautiful thing ever polygoned.
Since I am STILL a novice with 3d, I shot a short rough of the van tumbling and then took the frames into flash, where I rotoscoped them and tweaked till I was satisfied. I then took it into AE which as usual did most of the heavy lifting. I am consistently amazed by the versatility of that program. The van shot took the longest of any in the piece (one and a half nights!), though I only spent about two weeks on the full thing. If anyone wants to know how anything specific was created, feel free to drop me a line.
What Worked : I was happy with a few bits of this more than others. Obviously, the money shot of the whole thing is the celestial bear ray scene. I'm telling you, more people should be using 3d Stroke with the adjust step turned way the heck up for those fun dotted lines. You'll be seeing those in the opening shot of the next Tadly cartoon, by the way. But more than the visuals, I'm actually happiest with how the sound design worked out in that scene. If you put on headphones it's actually better, what with the clocks ticking in your left ear and the train crossing dinging in your right. Also, I realized I need to make more nonsensical, fakey video games in my work.
And wow, did I ever get my time's worth out of those 3 big cloud patterns I drew right at the beginning. They were HEAVILY used throughout.

What Didn't Work : Do the fireworksy things at the end work for you? They do for me, but then again I know what they are really supposed to be. I was afraid they'd come off as a cheap ending. I originally wanted the energy to grow into a massive duckbear made of energy, but I thought I'd leave that to the next person. NOTE TO NEXT PERSON : MAKE A DUCKBEAR OF PURE ENERGY. THE PEOPLE DEMAND IT. Furthermore, I hadn't really played around much with the rain thingy in AE before. It's workable, but in the future I'll stick to making my own loops.

Final Verdict : I'm also not much of a stream-of-consciousness type of guy. I like to know from the start what I'm saying. I really prize communication as a huge part of expression. That being said, there are loads of exceptions and this project really opened me up to the notion of making some more surreal and seat-of-my-pants type stuff. I'm also happy that no one found it odd that I used a songbird noise for the duck. ARE YOU EVEN PAYING ATTENTION? I can't wait to see where it goes now. And please, check out all of the other artists who have contributed spots to this - many of them far better than this one.