Monday, March 30, 2009

First Taste

A first taste of flash... bittersweet to be sure. I much prefer animating with keyframes to animating with the graph. I had IMMENSE trouble with graph editing in Maya, and it would appear that Flash is no different. I have this hypothesis that I'm not-so-secretly completely graph-illiterate. I mean c'mon, it doesn't correlate to anything! Just numbers! Sheesh. Frame-by-frame is totally more my style.

I digress. As requested, ye olde flash animation:

Enjoy my failure! :P

For those of you seeking the premise...

Oy! You! Yes, you! The person trying to find my premise!

Its a few entries down, don't be afraid to scroll. If you want more info click on "Older Posts", there's a few tidbits all the way back there.

Although, as per some excellent advice by a fellow classmate I'm going to re-do my premise. I had forgotten that I'd posted a rather loose version, I have since tightened it up (script, storyboard etc) and totally spazzed out by not posting the more final version! D'oh!

The scene opens with Rat, a father and devoted family man to Momma Rat and Baby Rat, rising from a good nights sleep. He yawns as a silhouette, backlit by sunbeams streaming in from a hole nibbled in the wall. as his focus clears he sees his family and smiles.
A long shot of momma and baby rat pulls back as Rat enters the frame from the left, walking up to his family and smiling fondly at them. He prepares himself mentally for another day at his job, gathering odds and ends to collect in true packrat fashion. The family's collection is already immense; their home is cluttered with miscellaneous objects like pocket watches, old slippers, and doorknobs. As Rat and his son share an emotional bonding moment, Baby shivers slightly. Rat knows exactly what he's looking for that day... a blanket for his family!
Rat heads off to work, his character is further introduced/enforced by a long pan following him down the recesses of the wall from his home to the pipe he uses to get into the house. Along the pan we see many of the things he has collected; a pair of hole-y sneakers, some jewelry, old cups, shoelaces, a belt, an umbrella, some baseballs, a few keys, and many other objects. Rat climbs through or behind these objects in most cases.
At the end of the pan the camera switches to a fly-behind (rotoscoped from 3D) of Rat running along the pipe to the hole in the wall past which he finds all the glorious loot. the OTS shot continues until his head clears the hole in the wall for a cut to the long shot of the room establishing the hole's position therein.
Rat climbs down and there's a series of static or quazi-static shots of Rat running along the floor. A focus change OTS shot shows Rat finding what he's looking for... a blanket on the tip top of a bookcase. Worms-eye view camera/local cam switch for his climb to the top of an adjoining bookcase, the only way he can get to the blanket.
As Rat reaches out over the precipice to grab the blanket he realizes it is just outside his reach. curling his tail around the wood of the bookshelf for stability he tries again, extending as far as he can. CU shot as he grabs hold of the blanket... and starts to fall.
Clean cut to a first-person perspective fall-to-hit shot (think Kung Fu Panda, Po) and the screen goes black.
'Blinking' camera work (again first-person) as Rat clears his vision. as the camera chages to a fuller shot we can see that his back legs don't look quite right. the blanket has fallen around him, making almost a nest. Rat struggles, bleary-eyed, to assess his situation. He is clearly suffering to some extent.
Perspective shot as Rat looks towards the hole in the wall, the way home. The room seems to stretch before him.
The camera follows him as he starts dragging the blanket back, slowly. For the most part all we see is the blanket, Rat is basically covered by it. Process is extremely slow and sad. we follow Rat as he gives his all to get this blanket back to his family. When we get to the hole-in-wall shot (from the room side, not from the wall side) we see him struggle up the wall against the weight of the blanket. cut to the wall-side hole-in-wall, light beams streaming in (now the afternoon). Rat's sihlouette appears in the hole, struggling with the blanket. Camera pushes in slightly as he struggles to drag the blanket a little further into the hole.
CU shot of Rat as he clings to the hole, barely holding his focus. He closes his eyes, accepting what he feels is inevitable. As the shot fades he slides from the hole into the room, falling unconcious to the floor.
Back in the 'den', Momma rat can tell something is wrong. the daylight has faded and Rat is usually home by now. She holds baby rat tighter and looks to the door, waiting for her partner to return. baby rat looks peaceful, unaware that he wont be seeing his father again.
juping back to Rat, we have an ECU on his upper body/face. he is clearly skewed, he has fallen for the last time. he breathes heavily a few times before closing his eyes and setting his jaw in preparation.
A slow fade in to the pipe scene from the wall side shows us the blanket, hanging in the hole. Rat managed to bring it all the way back for his family, despite the pain and without the use of his back legs. he sacrificed himself for the health of his son. Fade out to black and final credits.

So hopefully thats a bit clearer of a piece description. Enjoy! :)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Music and such

I've been perusing my extensive soundtrack collection and have gotten really excited about a few different prospects for composers that really hit home for this piece. So far I'm super psyched about Danny Elfman a la "Milk" (light, positive despite minor blends etc) and Nico Muhly (works in "The Reader", dark but full and satisfying). I'm also tinkering with Kerry Muzzey, but his stuff is fairly soft and there's no real positive swell in his work.

Overall I'm still open to suggestion, though. Because there's no dialogue (the entire column on the script document is just "X") the music has to speak volumes for the scenes. I can see it being a confusing piece on mute, which is dangerous territory... but the result WITH the music when I've shown the tests to a couple of my fellow SCAD-y's has been 100% positive.

I finished rough digital scene 1 storyboards and started on 2-3, but I'm not happy with how digital looks (not loose enough). I'm going to go back and re-do all the scenes in pencil and scan in to tone. I laid out the big introductive pan in blocking and mapped out the character path. So the foundations are all there for me to go ahead and do background work for scenes 1-5, since they're flat backgrounds. I'm just scared of digital painting because I haven't done it in so long.

OK, honesty time... I really haven't opened Flash since last class. Its just so scary!! I had it explained to me very briefly, but to be perfectly honest I'm hoping to spend all the time I can in programs I already understand (photoshop, mostly). I could have knocked out the first few tutorials, but since I do need the extra help I opted to do it with the class so I can learn from the ground up exactly how to do this thing.
Also, I'm going to be perfectly frank and say that I'm having trouble with the characters in all their poses. I'm having problems reconciling the 'pudgy' style I'm going for with the movement of a rat. I haven't done pencil tests yet, but i think a lot of this will rely on my life drawing (and lots of it). So we'll see... we'll see.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Script... Check!

I went ahead and finished the script for the film, it's got quite a healthy scene load but luckily multiple environments are re-used and they're mostly matte painting so it should go pretty quickly. I'm worried specifically about a 'fall follow' camera move that I'm... not confident about pulling off effectively. I'm looking to the fall-to-hit camera move in Kung Fu Panda for inspiration. the trick will be to replicate it in Flash. XD

Anywho, I may try to hack out some rough storyboards tonight if the lab clears out a bit, although secretly I think I'm gonna end up laying down the 3D forms as the basis for my big opening matte painted pan. I guesstimate it to be roughly 7 full frames high... it'll be one heck of a jpg!

Peace, y'all. Happy animating!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Inspiration via

OK, so this gentleman (user "dward") from just has awesome all-round aesthetics. Example:

Basically all his characters are pretty freakin' sweet. I won't be animating in that stylized a form of line, but i reckon its pretty dang interesting anywho. (Oh, and for kicks... here's his link:

This gentleman is a bit closer in terms of overall form to what I'm going for, but still not the aesthetic. He kind of harkens back to an artist I know as "Shoomlah" who has always been extremely good at making global shapes work well. An impressive skill to be sure.

Alright, I'll be frank... the rat idea is not unique in hollywood. They tried to do it in Ratatouille (and lets face it, didn't do the best job at actually capturing the ways of the rat) but that doesn't mean that I can't. If we as artists didn't do something that'd already been done there'd be no new art!
The tragic thing about it is that I LOVE all the art from the movie. The sketchy 'Parisique' style is what I'm going for. In the pic above it gets a little too 'cutout' for my tastes, but lets not split hairs. In the end my style is never going to be identical to what I'm hoping to emulate so really being picky is all relative, haha! I'll have to scan in some pictures from the book unless I can find a better archive online, 'cause Google aint got no love for me at the moment.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Official Stuff

Right-o, so I'm super psyched about this project! I've gone ahead and titled it for sure either "Different Perspective" or "Perspectives". I may shorten it later on but for now full title stands at DP. I did some rat studies today thanks to a few little friends. XD
Rats move SO FAST! My gosh! I mean, obviously I knew they weren't lazy bums... but the issue is so much more obvious when you're armed with a drawing implement. Anywho, they're super fun and I'm definitely seeing some character potential in the basic shapes.

I'm gonna go knock out a basic layout for the opening pan. the JPG should end up being EXTREMELY long, as the pan is going to go thru the opening credits. It'll be just a pan on a still image in flash, the only animated parts will be the drips the camera follows and the occasional flash of the main character behind the stuff (frame-by-frame, easy as pie). its pretty much just color w/texture in terms of the animation.

This is going to be so wicked cool to work on!

EDIT: I did the basic fly-thru of the wall scene today, it looks pretty killer. I'll do some texturing and basic lighting and export it with a Toon shader to see what it looks like on the other side of rendering. woo!

The Game is Afoot!

OK, kids... I have an epic plot.

Basically I was perusing my storyline and really couldn't see any way I could use a coherent story in what I'd laid out. There was no motivation and no conclusion, it'd be just a worthless few minutes of a quicktime file that you would have no reason to remember.
So I broke it down. "What leaves a good impression?" I asked myself. Well, humor does... but the style that I plan to animate in for this piece is not conducive to humor as a global motivator. I'm going for a cluttered, common, every-day look with emphasis on age and imperfections. What about exploring imperfection?
I hit on a great idea. Despite myself being a positive person, I really wanted to have this animation touch a heartstring or two. It would bring unity and a message to my animation and really give me a reason to sit down and work out almost 2 minutes of material. The scene change is minimal (excellent, less painting of backgrounds for me!) and the number of active characters is small.

I'm going to introduce the concept of a rat family, dad (protagonist), mom (supporting), and 2 new kids. Except when dad the packrat goes out on his daily search for food and random items to bring home he just doesn't come back. the short can open and close with the same bookending of scene and characters and really pull it all together.
I'm still not sure how i want to (excuse my blatancy) "kill off" my father character, as the style of the film is kind of kid-friendly and i certainly dont want a violent death. maybe he's getting the perfect thing for his kid and something falls on him, that's what I'm going with right now.

But i like the new direction. It has the chance of elongating my story by up to a minute, but i'm more than confident that its within my realm of ability.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Basic Premise, y'all

Not gonna lie. As our dear Professor Delao was introducing the syllabus I couldn't help but let my brain go freakin' crazy with self-suggestion. I have the feeling I'll be biting off more than I can chew but chewing it anyway here. I'm going to get started on storyboards today before my 8 pm class and do some 3D rough fly-thrus to see if it'll work.

But basically, I want to do a 3d world and rotoscope it into flash with a frame-by-frame animated character on top. I have this fantastic sequence in my head of following this protagonist as he runs along a pipe in a wall, coming to the opening in the wall and meeting a blinding light which fades out and shows the scene beyond... an empty living room.
I love and own rats, and (while carefully avoiding any similarity to Ratatouille) I want to do a short called "Different Perspective", which is basically the world and situations as seen thru the experiences of the rat. A bit of comedy, a bit of tradgety, overcoming some obstacle that i'm not exntirely sure about yet, and finally going back home after a busy day.

The shot opens above the rat's 'bed' (he's slightly anthropomorphized, not as much as ratatouille), panning down following some drips. He lives in some kind of stone hollow area in a house. he wakes and starts his day, cut to the scene as described above. The background would be limited animation and the rat would basically have a looped run cycle to cut down on frame-by-frame drawing time.
Anywho, he goes into the living room and to be honest... after that point i'm not sure what happens.

But for a proprietary look at my animation I'm super psyched about this concept. I'm gonna go bang out some 3D tests and if I can I'll post 'em up here (or perhaps some stills).

My Favorite Animation EVER!

Alright, now technically this is supposed to be a Youtube embed, but Jennifer Hager is SO awesome that this animation was just too cool to be put there. (And SCAD apparently can't get Quicktime Pro so I can't save it off the website and upload it myself, le sigh)

Regardless, here's the global link to the Calarts page. If you scroll down to the film "Sky Bound" by Jennifer Hager and click on the picture it'll bring up the streaming quicktime window. Let it load for a bit and enjoy!

BUT SERIOUSLY. I can't say enough about how awesome this student film is! My goodness! It may not be technically complete but c'mon, for a student film this is freakin' amazing. Her softness and sense of pleasing line and shape is unrivaled by any modern animator that I know of. She uses convincing weight and timing in her subtle animation and her story is simple but extremely potent and long-lived.
But I'll be honest here, apart from the animation my very favorite part of all of Jennifer Hager's work is her SOUNDTRACK! My lord, I don't know how she produces or procures her audio but it just smacks me in all the right places.

Enough drooling. Here's the only thing on Youtube that I've ever been able to find on Hager. Its her demo reel, but even that is astounding and I totally dig it.

Also, because I'm a nerd/nut and just REALLY love the character animation in this demo reel by Jordan Krahn:

So there you have it. You can see that I am indeed a bona fide nutter for good pencil animation. As for 3D animation, you'd better bet your britches that I am 110% enamoured with basically all of Kung Fu Panda. The '2D' sequences especially.

the asthetics, smoothness, secondary action... *shudder*
its just all breathtaking and insanely inspiring. I strive every time I sit down to animate to get that same fluidity and believable weight that the whole Dreamworks team achieved with every character.

Really for me it comes down to the subtleties that most folks wouldn't catch. ear drag, jaw drag, even toe drag... after doing it myself I know how insane it is to keep up with every single secondary, tertiary, and quadary (yes, I made up a word JUST for this occasion) movement and resepct it all the more.

So kudos, all you artists out there who feed my rabid animation dreams... you are fully awesome.*

*quote provided by Rhino

And thus it begins...

Well, its that time. That first terrifying foray into the completely unknown and possibly hostile world of Flash animation. Ladies and gentlemen, I won't lie to you... I'm scared out of my britches. Flash has taunted me for many a moon and despite futzing around in the program a few times I remain clueless and adrift in the proverbial seas of FAIL.

But I digress. I suppose I should share some words with the general blogosphere about who I am. Hmm. That's a pretty tall order. Lets see... here's a random list about my life in no particular order of importance for your personal perusing pleasure.
1) Clearly, I'm a fan of alliteration
2) I enjoy long walks on the beach
3) Vegetables are NOT my friends
4) Since I was a wee tyke I've had an unnatural affinity for all things plaid
5) I'm one of those weird freaks who sees every continuity error in a movie and ruins it for everybody else
6) I've lived in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Brussels, Australia, and Chicago but have visited every continent except South America and Africa (yes, that does include Antarctica)
7) I really, REALLY love string cheese
8) My dog's name is Rambo and during his winter coat phase he looks like a Yak
9) My secret dream is to one day own a waffle iron of my very own
10) I clean people's houses when I visit and have nothing to do

Truth be told, its difficult for me to pick a single most influential artist. I suppose animation-wise I most admire Milt Kahl's 2D work. He's the reference I look up to most and the guy who made my childhood vibrant and expressive as a result of his work. Living in places without people who spoke my language and no cable to speak of meant that animated movies were basically the only friends I had.
... Wow, that sounded like it should be on the Dr. Phil show. But seriously though, I wasn't a nutcase. That only happened recently.

Alright, down and dirty time. You want to know the intricacies of my animatory self, I suppose. Well, there's not much to it. I'm just a crazy animatior. I live, breathe, and eat animation. I actually almost committed involuntary manslaughter when I asked my last professor for extra work during finals week. He laughed so hard he almost fell of his chair.
Yes, I'm one of those 'over achiever' types. Give me a project and I'll double it. That may take my stress levels out past what should be humanly possible, but I love every second and wouldn't trade it for the world.
When I first got interested in animation 20 years ago (about the time the doctors clipped my umbilical cord) I was VIOLENTLY adament that 2D was quite simply the only way to go. I studied the greats and knew Milt's name and work before I knew my multiplication tables (which in hindsight isn't actually a great point of reference, because I STILL don't know my multiplication tables). I actually spent a lot of time protesting even attempting 3D animation, but much to my surprise and following a period of intense frustration and hours of eye-cracking labor in Monty room 114 I discovered that not only was I interested... I was LOVING it!

So consider me a happy convert. Lets just hope the same flows true for this whole "Flash" thing.