Redesigns

April 10, 2007 - posted in work in progress


Scene 2 of the Mystery Work in Progress is coming along nicely. (I’m only on scene 2! Dear God, when will it end?!)

Scene 1 was pretty much done when it became apparent a major character redesign was needed. At every step of the process, the characters have asserted their “robotness,” even though I wanted to make them very organic and bendy like the original sketches. They just seem to want to move and act like machines. I think it serves the story well, so I’m letting it happen. And by “letting,” I mean struggling through hours and hours of painful trial and error. But in the past week I’ve stumbled on bodies that are beginning to work, and am nearly done reworking scene 1 and some of scene 2.

In the early stages of animation on a short, it takes a while to get the rhythm of the characters. Especially when you don’t know what you’re doing. So there tends to be a lot of “over-acting” which mellows out as I move along. (get lazy)

To the right is a still from scene 2. I didn’t want to spoil anything, so I shrunk it down a little.

A Shark Dream

April 9, 2007 - posted in sundries


I dreamt that I was scheduled to give a lecture on the subject of Sharks at some university in St. Petersburg, Russia. I showed up at the campus with some friends and family. They were planning on going to a museum while I gave my talk. I hate giving talks and I wished I could go with them instead.

About an hour before the lecture I realized I had forgotten everything I ever knew about sharks. (In the dream I had apparently given this talk before) So I sat in the hallway and tried desperately to remember something– anything– to say about sharks. All I could come up with were vague feelings of awe and fear.

Then I remembered that I had been faking my way through the previous lecture as well. I know nothing about sharks and never have. And I remember thinking that these people were easily fooled– not only had they failed to call my bluff the first time, they’d actually invited me back to speak again!

When it was time for the lecture I said to the students, “Rather than listening to me drone on and on about sharks, let’s make this an open discussion. I want to hear what you all have to say.” And it went pretty well. I faked my way through it yet again!

I only mention it because somehow, deep down, that dream probably had something to do with pretending to be an animator.

Jaron Lanier, Adapted for Storytelling, with Apologies

March 29, 2007 - posted in sundries


A bastardized quote:

How do we make beautiful films? General animation principles… are good enough to create elegance, but not beauty. Beauty requires an awareness of human affairs outside the studio.

…and another one:

When storytelling decisions aren’t made in reference to human concerns, they can only be made in reference to each other, leading to a self-referential bundle of nonsense suspended by a sky hook…

When we treat our stories as no more than conduits between human imaginations, grand vistas open up.

I’m far, far removed from the main animation community, being an amateur who lives in the Midwest. But I do read some animation blogs and books here and there. Many seem to be concerned with industry related matters, or with craft, or with technical issues. Rarely do any of them talk much about why in the hell anyone would make or watch cartoons in the first place. Where does the original impulse come from? What is their real, useful function in the world, and how are they different from live-action films, comics, theater, and music?

I find thinking about this stuff helps me to put off doing my work.

Jaron Lanier is a computer programmer, musician and humanist. Oddly, I think he has produced more inspiring and useful writing on these matters than most people — even though he’s usually talking about software. He has a beautiful mind. (also, he’d make a wonderful cartoon character, wouldn’t he?)

The bastardized quotes from above are from an essay he wrote for the Association for Computing Machinery, on the subject of “hope in the next 50 years of computing.” With apologies to Mr. Lanier, I replaced a few words (”software” with “film,” etc.) and presto! the quotes seem to apply to animation.

I suppose these particular excerpts might apply to just about any creative profession.

Still, there are some strange parallels between the software and animation businesses. Both are faced with figuring out how to make money when everything can be duplicated and downloaded easily… Both are perpetually locked in a struggle between the needs of large, industrial proprietors, and those of small, independent or individual innovators… If they expect to thrive, both industries must figure out how to escape the shadows and defy the legacies of some powerful, looming corporations.

There might be real human usefulness to be found somewhere in both fields. Maybe (as Mark Mayerson has suggested) animation has never warranted this kind of consideration. Maybe it’s all just childish little drawings made by lonely introverts. Ugh. It’s so easy for animation to lapse into self-reference. Our cartoons are way too often derived solely from older cartoons.

I don’t know what my point is. I’m just putting off my work. I hope I have helped you put off your own work for a few minutes.

Below are the real quotes from Lanier’s essay.

Lanier:

How do we make beautiful software? General engineering principles… are good enough to create elegance, but not beauty. Beauty requires an awareness of human affairs outside the computer.

…and:

When software design decisions aren’t made in reference to human concerns, they can only be made in reference to each other, leading to a self-referential bundle of nonsense suspended by a sky hook…

When we treat information systems as no more than conduits between human imaginations, grand vistas open up.

Toy Camera

January 3, 2007 - posted in work in progress


More background research!

Last summer I bought a cheap toy camera at a toy store in Florida. It’s a plastic Holga-like thing that takes 4 pictures in rapid sequence on a single frame of 35mm film. The view finder is a little plastic rectangle that hinges on the top of the camera, and the lense is cheap plastic. So 90% of the photos come out complete crap. But the other ten percent are nice research for the Mystery Work in Progress.

I was thinking maybe there would be a kind of dream-like haze in this cartoon. These photos are not exactly the right look, but they do have a certain feeling I want in the backgrounds. (see the previous post about background research)

Untitled Document