29 December 2008

Alive...for now

Life is good at throwing you unexpected things. I expected to come home for the break and get a whole lot of work done. I did not expect to get sick.

Now, I'm not dying, but it certainly throws things off enough to put me further behind even though I'm currently "catching up". It's hard to stay focused and do good work when you're feeling miserable.

But I wanted to post some new things up. It's just a few color keys for the beginning part of the film. These are mock-ups solely for color and are not the actual backgrounds. If I play my cards right, those will all end up as watercolor paintings, but if things get sticky, I can fall back on them fancy-pants compooter programz.

The sun is streaming into the sky but hasn't really broke the horizon in these ones.

Contrast is important for images to read quickly, but I really like times like this when I can push it. I looked to a piece of Wall-E color script for inspiration.

Everything you're looking at is still being tweaked here and there, and since these are just mockups, the finals will be vastly different, and ideally a little simpler.

Don't mind the photograph for the sky. I took that picture myself while at the beach. I got up at dawn and took a series of photos as the sun rose. I didn't know two years ago how much that would help me with my thesis.

But the photograph will be replaced with my painting--inspired by that photograph. (The sea is a gradient because a 3-4 drawing cycle of waves will be on top of it, each key fading into the next...effects are exciting!)

This one is still in progress but lacks a lot of contrast on purpose.

So I've been busy, but not busy enough. I am happy to say though that I'm finally into the animation part of things, which is a great relief. Until I get there I just feel like I'm spinning my wheels, working, but not really working. Still...I'm kind of dreading the start of the upcoming (and final) semester of school for me. I know that in order to finish this film, I'm going to be working at least 80 and probably closer to 95 hours per week on the film alone.

But hey, that doesn't make me special or anything--all of us thesis students are stuck in the same boat. Here's to us, here's to 2009!

07 December 2008

Updates soon!

Hey guys, I'm in too much of a crunch to update anything right now, but look for a whole lot of new stuff in about two weeks!

03 December 2008

Theory vs. Practice

Boy, this thesis stuff seems easy so long as I'm not sitting at my desk actually trying to make headway on it.

Once I actually start to work on it, Photoshop freaks out on me, files are magically the wrong size, I've forgotten my Flash shortcuts, my backgrounds are a jumble of letters and numbers--seriously, how does that happen!?

At this point, I'm like, "Go ahead, thesis files, go nuts. I'm going to make something out of you anyway." Mostly because I don't have a choice...

In other news, I downloaded "Ninja Rap" off itunes today and it kind of made my day.

In other other news, I am a big dork. Go ninja, go ninja go!

19 November 2008

I have an IMDB!

It's a small entry, but it's real. (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3162198/) Congrats to everyone who worked on Superjail!, especially the interns. We all have IMDBs now!

06 November 2008

That's My Dog

“What kind of dog would you make it?”

That was the first question Howard asked me when I agreed to add a dog to the film.

Without any second thoughts I replied, “An Airedale, it’s a terrier.”

Airedales have been part of my life since I was very young. I know what they look like, what their character and temperament is like, and how they move. Indeed, the dog in the film is heavily based on the two Airedales I’ve been lucky enough to have in my family. (I’ve known a few other Airedales too, but they didn’t belong to us.)

Our first family dog was Cooper.

I was only 4 years old when we got him. For some reason Mom thought it would be a good idea to let me name him, so I chose Cooper. It stuck, and he was probably the greatest dog I’ve ever known. For the most part, the dog in the film is based on Cooper, and is in fact named after him. He isn’t quite all Cooper though. My perception of Airedales has been added to by our latest dog, Encore. She’s gentle like Cooper, but is really more of a mush than anything. Whereas Cooper would never even sit on the couch if you were in the same room, sitting on the couch with Encore around will usually compel her to crawl up and lean on you.

What they have in common though is that they’re both chowhounds. It’s a characteristic that drives many dogs, and is also the single biggest motivation of the dog in my film.

Of course, those who know me personally know I've left someone out so far:

Andy and Encore are close buddies.

30 October 2008

About the Story

And it goes without saying if you read this post, you’ll spoil the ending…

After spending the past three years vowing never to be like “those seniors” running around, stressing out, begging for help with their thesis films, I’m slowly turning into one. (I’m not to the begging for help part yet, but hope not to get there.) The principal reason I’m in this spot is because of the story.

I had a viable thesis idea.

I wrote it in a freshman storytelling class and promptly took that and made it my second year film. (Viewable in two parts on Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOdCad3MZp8 and here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kscIBF1zKps) It was by no means a bad film, but in the long run I’m glad it isn’t my thesis. Way back then I figured I had plenty of time to come up with another story, but I didn’t know how long it would take me.

Well, it took me right up to the first August thesis deadline. I kept coming up with ideas but knew that they weren’t thesis material. There was a point I met with Howard about two weeks before the deadline and I was pretty bummed I still had absolutely nothing to show. He assured me “You’ll think of something,” and I believed him, but the specter of starting thesis year without a story was beginning to haunt me. For someone who had wanted to start animating at the start of the school year, I was pretty behind. Finally, one week before the deadline, I had the beginnings of what is now my film.

The game-changer here was that I limited myself to a single theme or idea, and I chose flight. Flight is one of myriad fascinations that I have. When I was very little I wanted to be able to fly, and to some degree, sometimes I still have that desire. And a film about flight or flying things is easily made in animation versus, say, live action.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the very first story idea was about a man in a boat. He was stuck at sea with no land in sight, no wind, no food, and no water. He sat back and watched the seagulls fly over head while the sun was slowly baking him. After awhile it all begins to get to him and he starts to go crazy. At this point, he took out a bag of tools (sure, he has a bag of tools, why not) and begins to dismantle his boat, building a giant pair of wings. What he doesn’t notice is that as he’s doing it, the weather is changing quickly. It has become very stormy, and right as he finishes making the wings, he is about to get sucked up into a waterspout. He does, and glides to land that he sees far in the distance. There was more to this story as far as payoffs and such go, but they’re not worth mentioning here.

The whole thing was really contrived, but it was the beginnings of a better story. I was excited and kept working.

In his initial critique Howard brought up a good point, that we didn’t care for the character enough. Even if he survived everything, so what? With that, the man was placed on land first. He was made older and given a young granddaughter, about 4 years old. His occupation was a kite builder, and early one morning he leaves on a trip. The granddaughter stays at home (I felt this was okay because it took place in a town and there were other people around) and waits for him. He travels for the day at sea but at night encounters a freak storm. Again, we’re at the point where he builds wings out of his boat, only this time he hasn’t gone crazy, he’s a kitebuilder, and he knows these things. He glides a ridiculous distance home on crosswinds and air currents and returns home, where from his granddaughter’s vantage point, he appears to fly out of the rising sun, right into the breaking waves on the beach.

Overall, this version was more dramatic, and at times, sappy. Now maybe the audience would care about the characters, but probably not in the way I wanted them too. On top of that, we still didn’t have a reason why he left home in the first place. And that point is what led us to the last version of the film.

Howard suggested to make the main character a lightkeeper (though he’d still be a kitemaker in his spare time). Another big point of his was to give the girl a dog. Every time the design and character of the girl was brought up, Howard would always say, “She should really have a dog,” and “you know, a dog would be good here.” It seemed like just one more thing to animate until I thought about it. The dog could be given a real reason for being in the film. With that, not only did the dog become sort of a comic relief and the token “cute” character, he provided the reason for the man to go out to sea: to get more food from the mainland.

From there, it’s basically the previous story all over again. He leaves the island, goes to the mainland, and on his return trip, encounters the storm and the waterspout. He builds his wings out of his boat and glides back to safety on the island.

The entire film is jam-packed with acting, and there is no actual dialogue. Writing this story in words will do it no justice, so keep an eye out for an upcoming post in November of a rough cut.

Next up—who’s that dog?

11 October 2008

A Character's Journey

It goes without saying that things change as you work on an idea, especially something like a film. There are so many variables, from location, time period, character, plot, and music, to name a few. My thesis story has changed a few times since its original incarnation, and with that, the main characters have changed as well. Here's a look at how the main character has evolved since August.

The very first version of the story was about a man stuck at sea with no supplies, no wind, and no land in sight. He was much younger than than he currently is, and except for a few seagulls, no other characters made it into the film.

While trying to design this younger man, I doodled this older guy. Something about him made me laugh, and I liked him. At an earlier meeting, Howard (my advisor) had suggested making the man older and introducing more characters. I decided to keep working on this design and see where it would take me.

The design is a little tighter now, but lots of variation in his head shape, face structure, and hair patterns.

Now I was starting to get somewhere with him. I decided to take it a little more towards the "cartoony" side of things. It's easier to animate simple shapes, and I felt that a more basic look for the characters would balance out the backgrounds, as well as make Howard happy. Besides, I love dot eyes.
So now I was here. At this point, the setting of the story was much different, so his clothes reflected that. But in the third and final version of the story, the setting changed from somewhere in the Mediterranean in the early 1800s to somewhere off the coast of Maine in the 1890s. With that, he got some new clothes.

Everyone that sees him says that he's Howard himself. I can see the resemblance, but I don't think he's quite his twin. Don't worry, when I draw Howard, you'll know it's him. For now, we've got this guy.

Next post...how the story came to be!

06 October 2008

The State of the Blog

Well I'm happy to say that I've finally come up with some actual ideas to talk about on this blog. I realize there's been little of substance up to this point, but check back this weekend because there's going to be a whole bunch of new stuff.

It's a time crunch until then, but I'm pretty excited for the way things are going. Cheers!

27 September 2008

Character design

The growing down of a character:

Still needs work though. I might have made her a little too young.

26 September 2008

Concept- Island

Internet troubles = less posts.

Also I've been busy, so the only thing I have worth showing you right now is this early layout:

Since blogger isn't letting this image load larger when you click on it and I'm not a techie, here are some details of it:

Of course, I haven't just been working on this...more to come soon!

13 September 2008


Finally, some stuff about thesis. I don't have a title for it yet, but I'm working on it. Here is a third round of character designs. Don't mind the anatomy of the dog too much, it's going to "work" when I have more than 5 minutes to draw if for a model sheet. Here is one of the "backgrounds" I submitted as well. This is going to be part of a larger pan, but right now all we're looking at is some digital coloring over the linework of a Flash scribble from the animatic.
This is another background. It's an early layout, so I guarantee that this whole design will change, but it's going to be a kite builder's workshop.

With any luck, I'll be updating this at least once a week with material. It helps keep me accountable, as well as keeping my work presentable. No one wants to put up ugly looking drawings on the internet for the world to see.

My advisor is Howard Beckerman, a living piece of animation history. I'm honored to have him on board with me. (There will definitely be posts about him in the future.) The storyboards and animatic are still undergoing revisions, but parts of them will show up here in time. For now it's back to work, not just with thesis but freelance as well.

Questions, comments, arguments--go for it. Cheers.

02 September 2008

Still busy

Still settling in for the school year. Once that all settles down, I'm going to be tackling thesis and freelance. More to come soon!

28 August 2008


Well, whaddya know, a blog.

Once I get this up and running, there'll be thesis posts, ramblings, all sorts of crazy, random stuff you probably don't care about unless you're my Mom!

It's also a good way to keep in touch, so drop me a line sometime, will ya?