Thursday, June 30, 2011

Undercover Title Sequence

Hey! Want to see something I didn't art direct?

Earlier this year I did animation for this intro. The client was Visual Creatures and John Cranston gave me probably the best experience I've had with a creative director. The look of the piece was great and well-defined, the boards and direction were clear, and the notes I got back were helpful and insightful. I did some bits of design here and there, like tweaking the characters and such, but I was pretty much just an animator on this spot. That doesn't happen very often and it was a nice break from the somewhat rigorous work, art-wise, that I had going on at that point.

Anyway, check out Visual Creatures. They are good people.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What the 90s were actually like.

Shocking, I know.
I just wanted to set the record straight.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Loopdeloop - Opposites

So I really did mean to get this done in time. Really. A tardy entry for June's Loopdeloop. Check it out, and if you're an animator, you should totally participate in the future. It's a cool idea that attracts animators of all skill levels, and it'll force you to become better just by working within the constraints.

Oh, and the theme in June was opposites, so I did day and night. Maybe next time I'll actually finish it in time. This is high school all over again!

Things have been busy and hectic. We moved (pics when the place is together). I've been pretty hard at work but don't have anything that I can really show as of yet. This summer, however... there will be some big new pieces to show - one of which I am very happy with, another I am still working on. It's eating my brain. My poor brain. See? THIS is why my entry was tardy. HALF-EATEN BRAIN.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Post-Mortem - Kyra's Story

Note - this is the last of the Riverlife post-mortems. For the full treatment check out the other write-ups here and here. Thanks for reading!

Well well well. Here we are at the very last of the Riverlife episodes. I realize that I didn't do a post-mortem for number three, but that was because I was very busy and it was extremely straight forward. Nothing much to write about, except for the fact that I liked the turtle quite a bit and I think Louise is adorable. It was hands-down the simplest one and yet at this point I think that Riverlife has gotten the biggest response from it, so shows how much I know.

Kyra's Story, on the other hand, was anything but simple. It was supposed to be. Originally it was supposed to be easily the simplest of the four spots, a nice peaceful little ending with a cute kid on a bridge, looking at the river. In fact, check out the original storyboards:

But then Stephen over at Riverlife wanted to do something special for the final episode, some sort of big stylistic departure. He was super-cool and left the details and the decision in my hands. Riverlife have been nothing but awesome and flexible this entire time and I wanted to do something cool with their project. I took a couple of nights and came up with the whole revolving-scenery thing and Stephen said "rock on". And so I did and all was well. I cranked out the first and last shots pretty easily over a few nights. They were done in the typical fashion, a blend of 3d and forced perspective. As is tradition, here they are from slightly different angles so you can see how they were put together.

But then I hit a snag. And we are going to talk about it.

I had to come up with a shot that showcased the Smithfield Street Bridge and Station Square during both night and day. The visual direction worked well for characters moving along a river bank, with the river and the far shore parallel to them. But a character walking across a bridge couldn't be easily placed into that formula. The river would have to run longitudinally. And for some reason, my brain just broke. That happens to everyone at some point. For reasons sometimes good and sometimes inexplicable, you just can't think of what to do. For three entire days I banged my head against the wall trying to solve this incredibly simple problem. I started building it several times, only to get a few hours in and realize that it didn't work, or clashed violently with the styles of the first and last shots. I honestly can't remember an instance in which I had so much trouble solving such a simple problem. And then, one morning, while falling asleep after a frustrating all-nighter working at it, my increasingly erratic sketches hatched on something that might work.

Somewhere in the squiggles, near the bottom of the page, it clicked.

Having that kind of experience makes you feel like the most brilliant person alive, and then immediately the stupidest. You realize that solving a problem, while fantastic, is a response to a problem. And sometimes the problem is your own lack of an idea. So the enormity of the solving is also a referendum on the enormity of the problem. And so on. I feel good about it, though. I bashed my way through it and I'm reasonably happy with the results. The client loved it. Sometimes making things is hard, and that's ok.

This spot made me weirdly familiar with downtown Pittsburgh. I don't really spend a lot of time downtown, other that driving through it. I go there for client meetings, sometimes the wife and I take a long walk to the other side of it during the summer, and sometimes we catch the ballet. But after making THREE DIFFERENT angles of it for this spot, plus another for Emily's Story, I know it like the back of my hand. We were driving over the Birmingham Bridge today and I looked out the window and had flashbacks of placing the 130-odd individual little buildings I made for these spots. How did I do it? Secret Weapon. I have to say, making these has really made me reflect on the city in which I live, and notice it more. I feel like I have this odd relationship with it. I feel like I drew it like one of my french girls.

I put one final touch on the episode, and that was Kyra popping up at the beginning. That was also a completely optional idea from Stephen, since Kyra was so swallowed up and far away when compared to how intimately the other narrators were featured.

KEYFRAMES : Because the best things in life aren't procedurally generated.

Also: the other three narrators are in the video, as is a character from one of my own shorts. Upon request from the client, there is an honest-to-goodness football player. Pittsburgh enjoys sports more than just about any place I've ever been. Oh, and the one cyclist has tattoos. That was fun.

I don't usually post-mortem client work for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's not particularly interesting - some motion graphics here, some compositing there. Often it's just not something I can talk about in detail for professional reasons. But these spots were different. I was given a large amount of creative control and the scope of the episodes were such that I wanted to dig into them a bit more. And the client was amazingly cool with me being transparent about the process. I can't remember a time when I've had a more enjoyable and easy relationship with a client. Riverlife have been just fantastic. I've enjoyed making these immensely. I got to try out a bunch of ideas and got to know my own city better. I hope we can do some more in the future.

It's an amusing coincidence that I am moving today to the east end of Pittsburgh. In fact, I am writing this post on Saturday night and scheduling it to automatically post on Wednesday because I'm going to be without internet for a week in the new place. When I finish typing this, I'm going to shut down and pack up my workstation. In a few hours, some friends are coming over to help us move over the bridges, away from the rivers. I won't be taking leisurely walks along the riverside trails anymore, at least not without a drive. I'll have parks and cemeteries and fun neighborhoods to wander around, but I will miss the rivers very much. It was nice to get to know them so well.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Some Pictures I took at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Popular entertainment has caused me to associate butterflies and meticulous mounting with serial killers. Thanks!
Father, why don't we talk to the wildebeests?
One day, son, all of these rocks will be yours.
Who doesn't love a nice diorama? This guy was actually about 5 inches tall. His pants are fabulous no matter what the size.
The wall of harmless local mammals.
All of my favorite sculptures are essentially 2d pictures with a little bit of depth. Again with the flatness!
A comparison of the dna of a human and a chimpanzee in the evolution exhibit, which was hidden away in the safety of the third floor. Apparently the museum believes that reactionary creationists haven't developed the ability to climb stairs.
One can only assume this is exactly what they were doing the exact moment they were gunned down. The Hall Of Mammals is like walking through a nature documentary, only with a body count.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Potential trailer

So I don't usually do trailers, but what the heck. I'm enjoying making this because it's pretty much the exact aesthetic opposite of the client work I've done this year, and roughly 1000 miles from anything Tadly related. In some ways it's actually a companion piece to a music video I did earlier this year which might, by sheer luck, be released right around the time I finish this short. So that might be cool. I also really like a good trailer, often more than the movies they advertise. A good example is the trailer for Europa. I knew I probably wouldn't like it, and every time I watch a Lars Von Trier movie I leave marveling at how memorable it was while also vowing to not watch any more Lars Von Trier movies. But I did watch Europa.