Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanks and stuff

Happy Thanksgiving to all those celebrating the holiday this weekend! It's been a while since I've posted a significant update here, so I figured it was about time to crank through a few different things.

First off, The Very First Noel is going to be airing on DirecTV beginning Friday, November 24th, and running through December 31st. It'll be on channel 103, with the first show at 7:30 am, and repeats popping up every two hours after that.

More candy ballistics tests are on the way. Shortly after the first installment with Smarties, Steve and friends ran another test with Starburst. How on earth did they manage to get Starburst down the barrel of Steve's gun? What happened to it once it was fired from said weapon? Stay tuned for more candy gun fun...

Some questions have come up regarding further updates to the tweenMachine. I still have plans to add additional features, and even started working on some of them shortly after releasing 2.02. However, those efforts were short-lived, as I was just a little too burnt from the big push I made to get the updated TM released. Things were complicated further when the motherboard on my home box died and I had to get a new machine. My old hard drive survived, thankfully, but I haven't yet re-installed Maya (and to make a long story short, Alias doesn't make that very easy). Anyway, I do plan on picking up the torch again one of these days, but at the moment I'm working on a totally different scripting project that will likely keep me busy 'til the year is out.

And finally, on a more personal note, some of you will be receiving notification of a new e-mail address for me in the near future. While our spam filter does a great job of setting aside junk mail, the ratio of spam to real mail has taken a dramatic leap in the last couple months (about 10:1 at this stage...even worse on my wife's account). If you don't receive a note with the new addy and start getting bounces from my current address, just use the handy-dandy contact form to get in touch with me. (Sadly, even that has needed an update or two recently to deal with form-spammers. Just sick-n-wrong.....)

There are a couple other things I want to talk about, but they're a bit more involved, so they'll be coming later in their own topics.

Disney rips off Chinese culture?

I'm only joking, but that's one thought that came to mind when seeing the hairstyle on this Chinese artifact. (More info about the piece)

Ah, the things that amuse you when you're sick over the holidays.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Blog tweaks

Just migrated to the new Blogger beta, and I'm also switching my blog host to Blogspot instead of hosting on my own server. The look of the blog won't change (i.e. it should still mesh nicely with the rest of my site), but I believe that the hosting switch means that those who are tracking the RSS feed will have to point to the new location: . That said, it's possible I'll be moving it back to my site if I decide to install Wordpress, but I haven't made up my mind yet.

To pilfer a phrase from the inimitable John Berry, catch ya on the flip side! (Okay, so maybe it's not a John original, but he sure says it a lot...)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Fun at work: Smarties Ballistics Tests

Steve Kolbe, who is head of layout and asset management for BOZ, has a modified Nerf gun that he constantly likes to "test". It has much greater air pressure than the off-the-shelf model, and an added tube allows it to shoot the smaller Velcro-tipped darts as well as the larger missile-style rockets it was originally designed to launch.

Most of Steve's tests lately have been attempts to shoot the small darts at my desk, which is on the opposite side of the studio from his, but this past Friday, someone brought in a bunch of Smarties rolls, and it was suggested that Steve shoot one of those from his gun. I didn't have my camera ready for the initial test, but it ended about how you'd expect. The Smarties lost big-time.

Steve's next attempt was with two Smarties packs at the same time, and this time I was ready with my camera. The white dot on the target wall is the impact point from the first test.

A final test later in the afternoon involved a repeat of the shotgun test, but shot inside the studio (in the back, where there's large, mostly-empty space). However, I wasn't aware of this test until I heard the gun go off, then the sound of Smarties raining down on filing cabinets, old monitors, etc. Fun stuff. :)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Very First Noel

We just wrapped production on a really sweet project: The Very First Noel. I animated a few shots on the side from my main work, and had a great time. It's definitely going to DVD, but the directors are pushing to get it on TV as well. Anyway, check it out and get ready for the holidays!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

NFB puts 50 animated shorts online

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I watched a lot of Canadian TV, and was exposed here and there to some of the great animated work done through the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). When a DVD was released of some their top animated shorts, I jumped on it. While it's not all character animation, even their experimental stuff intrigues me. Recently I also learned of the release of a DVD cataloging the work of one of their more popular animators, Norman McLaren, and I'll jump on that when I get the dough. And now I find that the NFB has put fifty of their animated short films on their web site! Sweet!!!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Everyone's Hero clips

Just posted a couple Everyone's Hero clips on the animation page. One is from the film, the other is a fun test from pre-production.

And yes, I know this note is redundant considering that I posted the same note to the front page of my site, but that page doesn't have an RSS feed. One of these days that front page will be this blog...or this blog will be the front page...or something...

Everyone's Hero, Part 2...sort of

I'd originally planned to post this part closer on the heels of the first one, and ideally before the film was released. Now that the film has been out for a short stretch, it probably won't mean as much, but here it is in a nutshell...

I'd heard/read several comments prior to the film's release about how the first trailer gave away the plot of the film, and people were less interested in seeing it if they already knew the ending. True, it did reveal a lot about the begininng and end of the film. What it didn't reveal much, though, was the middle...the journey.

You see, if films were about nothing more than beginnings and endings, they'd be dull. A lot of what makes them interesting and appealing is the journey in the middle...the experiences the characters go through on the way from the beginning to the end, and how those experiences change and influence them. While the end of a film is certainly important, it is nothing without the journey. So while we may say we go to a film to see how it ends, I have a hunch we're really going for the journey. It's the journey that gives the ending its power.

Now, while the journey in Everyone's Hero may not be earth-shattering or mind-blowing in its depth and complexity, it most certainly has an impact on the end, and there are some fun things that happen during that journey that make the end more meaningful. So even though you may know how the film ends, I think it's worth seeing for the journey.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Everyone's Hero, Part 1

My involvement with Everyone's Hero has a bit of an odd twist to it. It started when I was working as the lead animator at DPS, which was/is a sub-company of IDT. Somewhere during late 2003/early 2004, we got word that the head of IDT, Howard Jonas, had written a story called Yankee Irving that he wanted to have made into a feature film. At first, all I knew was that the title character was a young boy, and the story had something to do with baseball. Next we heard that Christopher Reeve was going to be directing it, and he even came through the DPS office at one point (I saw his bald forehead as he rolled down the aisle on the other side of my cubicle wall and into the editing suite for a meeting). Before I left DPS in the spring of '04, modeling had begun on a Yankee and the baseball, Screwie, but I still didn't know anything more about the story. After leaving DPS, I freelanced for Reel FX before they hired me full-time in the summer of '04.

Fast-forward to the late fall of 2005. I'm walking past one of the Reel FX conference rooms, and as I glance in, I catch a glimpse of an animatic that's being projected on the wall. My eye latches onto the lower part of the image, where I read "Property of IDT Entertainment." That made me stop and look more closely at the animatic drawings, and I saw that they were of a boy and a baseball. Was this Yankee Irving? I checked with my sup, and sure enough it was. We were bidding to help with animation and lighting on a project that I almost worked on at my previous job. How weird is that!

Not long after that, we started getting the character rigs to play with, and by late January of this year, we had started animating the first shots out of of roughly 20 minutes of footage that we were assigned from the film. A short while later, we got word that the name of the film had changed to Everyone's Hero, and about that same time I had to shift gears as I was starting to take over as animation supervisor for the BOZ video series. In the end, I only animated five shots for the film, and I'm probably only going to post one of those on the animation page of my site once the film comes out. Despite my short time on the project, I'm pretty happy with how my shots turned out, and I'm grateful for the things I learned in the process.

I was going to write more tonight, but I gotta crash. In Part 2, I'll be responding to a comment/complaint I've heard about the film's trailer...

tweenMachine v2.02

Didn't announce 2.01, so I'll cover that and 2.02 in this little update...

For v2.01, which was posted a couple weeks back, the major update was to make the tweenMachine play well with character sets. Now you can easily key character set data with it, using one of two methods. You can create a custom character set group (using a special menu item) that will key the active character set, or you can import your character sets into the tweenMachine.

2.02 just got posted, and adds the ability for those using Maya 7 and higher to toggle the use of Maya's "special" tick color for keys created using the tweenMachine.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

tweenMachine v2.00 is ready!

Yep, it's approaching 5:00 in the morning. And I'm gonna get an earful from my wife for staying up so late. But at this point, I really don't care. I've felt this crazy urgency to get v2 of the tweenMachine assembled ever since all the upgrade ideas came to me late last month, and this is the final push to get it out there for people to use. There are still some "icing" features to add, but those will come more slowly. For now, I'm happy with the "cake" I was able to assemble during the last month or so, and hope it tastes good to the folks out there.

In releasing this beastie that has taken so much of my free time and brain power lately, I must first and foremost give thanks to God for giving me the capacity to make this tool and share it with the animation community. Thanks to the folks on my "beta team" for their patience and willingness to take it for a spin in the early stages of development, and for helping me work out various display issues and bugs that cropped up. Thanks for the notes of enthusiasm I've received, in reference to both the original version and the beta of v2. It makes me feel good to know that it's helping folks with their animation process. I'm especially grateful for comments I've received from folks making the transition from 2D to 3D, expressing how the tweenMachine has helped make the shift easier.

All right, off to bed wit' me. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

tweenMachine v2 in the works

While a tiny UI with one slider that operates on selected objects is useful, it's also extremely limited. I'm in the early stages of development on v2.0 of the tweenMachine, and wanted to let folks know what's coming. This will be a major update with a number of new features, including:

Sets: Users will be able to create custom sliders that affect a specific set of controls. With this feature, you can more easily sculpt the start of a breakdown pose without selecting a single object. For example, make a slider that affects the entire body, another that only affects the spine, one for the left arm, etc. Controls can be assigned to any number of sets.

Groups: Any number of set sliders can be organized into collapsable named groups. For example, you could create a group for each character in your scene.

Save with scene: Data for groups and sets is saved with your scene file. When you reload your scene and start the tweenMachine, it will read the existing data and rebuild the UI automatically.

Load/Save: Save data for all groups and sets to a text file, and load it into another scene.

Import: Import specific sets or groups from a saved data file.

Timeline ticks: Enable/disable ticks on the timeline for any set or group, so you can see where your poses are without having to select anything.

Stay tuned for more!

Friday, July 14, 2006

New animation software: Reflex

Work buddy Bryan Engram just shared some info he found about a new animation package being developed by some CG animation industry vets. Gotta keep a close eye on this puppy...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

tweenMachine Update

Updated the tweenMachine tool last night (a.k.a. early this morning). Now it recognizes when channels are selected in Maya's channel box, and only operates on those channels. This allows you to easily favor specific channels in different ways, which should make it a lot easier to block out arcs, overlap, and other things I probably haven't even considered. I've been wanting to add this feature for some time now, and finally got the "oomph" after reading a post on an Animation Mentor forum from David Martinez that he was looking forward to it. Ask and ye shall receive and all that. ;)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

La Linea

La Linea! It's online! I remember watching these cool little animated shorts when I was a kid. A student on posted a link (found on the Drawn blog) to this site that has 50 of the shorts online. Now here's the funny part...I remember watching them on American TV, they're of Italian origin, and now a French site is hosting a bunch of them. Gotta love it!

EDIT: Apologies to Justin Weg for not properly crediting him as the source of the post on AM.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Trailer for Everyone's Hero

The first trailer for Everyone's Hero is up on the film site. Kinda small, though. Oh's up!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

"The Myth of Talent"

Found a link on a photography forum to this really cool article called "The Myth of Talent". Very inspiring read!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Site up for Everyone's Hero

The official site is up for Everyone's Hero, a film we're helping with at Reel FX. We just finished animating about 20-odd minutes of footage, and we're lighting a good chunk more than that. The characters were very fun to work with, and the story's got some heart to it. I only animated about five shots on it before I had to back out and focus on supervising the next BOZ video. It would've been fun to do more. Here's hoping I'll be free when the next one comes along...

Monday, April 03, 2006

House up, e-mail down

Well, it's not exactly like that, but anyway...

With the move into our new house that happened last weekend, we've had some hiccups getting phone and DSL service installed. Long story short, I've been without access to my home e-mail account for just over a week. So if you've written and haven't had a reply yet (or if my mail server is bouncing stuff 'cause it's full...I hope not), I apologize. Only a few more days to go before it'll be up and running again. Thanks for your patience...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Crazy Hair Day at Reel FX

To celebrate the release of the first two BOZ videos, the folks here did a five-business-day countdown with different activities each day. Today being the final day, with the theme "Wild about BOZ!," the challenge was to come to work with crazy hair. It was about time for me to cut mine anyway, so I decided to be creative with the cut. My wife helped to sculpt the back into the nice V shape. And of course I couldn't stop at the hair, so I decked out the rest of me as well. Pics are posted in our family photo gallery.

And I won! Woohoo! :D

Saturday, February 25, 2006

"You're nuts...I applaud that!"

Following the ceremony for the first Texas Avery Animation Award last November, Reel FX hosted a private party at the studio for award recipient Brad Bird, Reel FX employees and their families, and selected other guests. I had my camera in tow, and shot a ton of photos and video throughout the evening. This is just the first of several posts I'll be making to share little tidbits from the event.

The focus of this first post is a comment that Brad made to a budding young filmmaker. Chuck Peil, our executive director of business development, told Brad that the young man wanted to be a filmmaker. Here's the entire exchange, which I was lucky enough to capture on video...

Quicktime - H.264 - 1.44 MB

I like Brad's final follow-up remark just as much as his initial reaction, because it really says a lot about this industry. There's nothing the least bit logical about making animated films. Where's the logic in taking several years to craft an experience that's over in an hour or two? Or in telling stories with characters that don't really exist except as drawings on paper, or as numbers on a computer? Logic has nothing to do with it. It's all about emotion. If you're willing to let your emotions -- and your desire to share those emotions -- carry you through the roller-coaster ride that is the creation of an animated film, you've gotta be just a teensy bit loopy.
Personally, I think that's part of the attraction. :)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Gugulix and Sushipajamas online!

Quick note to plug a couple blogs. First is a new blog created by a friend of mine, Doron Meir (nickname: Gugulix). I worked remotely with Doron when I was at DPS a couple years back. He was the anim supervisor at DPSI (DPS Israel), so we got to chatting quite a bit online. He's quite an accomplished artist in both 2D and 3D, and his work has inspired me a lot. I was stoked to hear about his new blog, and I can't wait to see more of his work on a regular basis!

On another note, my friend Lydia Williams (latest nick: Sushipajamas) put up a blog not too long ago. She's currently a student at SCAD, but we first met several years ago when I was working at Big Idea. She's learning a lot at school, and is developing a really fun style with her artwork. In addition to studying animation, she and some friends started a program to teach animation to students at an elementary school near SCAD. Way to go, Lydia!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Simplicity and story

Just read a great bit of commentary from a story artist on the beauty of simplicity when it comes to story. Well worth checking out!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Ray Harryhausen coming to Dallas!

Got wind of this from a friend a couple days ago, and today the official announcement is online. Woohoo! Can't wait for this one! I've still gotta post some stuff from the Brad Bird event last fall. Not sure when I'll get to that...hopefully soon.