A sample of my VFX work. Made using Maya, After Effects, Boujou and several other tools (including Flash). My passion here is dynamics. I love organic movement.
My friend Pericles sent me this by way of Twitter by way of These Are Those Things (all of these interconnections- it's how the interwebs work). It's a really great animated short called "Please Say Something" by David O'Reilly. I think it really touches upon many thoughts and emotions I and others have had concerning relationships and daily life (and even touches upon my annoyance at the unrelenting winds that have been afflicting Boulder lately). It won the Golden Bear for best short film at the Berlin Film Festival this year: Please Say Something - Full Length from David OReilly on Vimeo.
I'm not going to make any empty promises to update my blog more frequently, but I've been posting a LOT on Twitter lately. I'm anticipating grad school news, preparing for South by Southwest, doing yoga and kung fu until I pass out (see: anticipating grad school news) and dealing with a lot of new emotional territory that comes with being alone for the first time in... ever. Oh, and as always, I'm trying to update this damn site because it doesn't make any sense!
I am one of those strange people who was able to teach themselves Maya and ZBrush. It can be done, but it is not easy (admittedly, ZBrush was FAR easier to learn than Maya, but that's beside the point). That being said, if you are a student (or an employee or affiliate of an educational institution) and would like to learn about 3D modeling, animation and/or video compositing Autodesk has a GREAT deal going on right now: For $200, you can get a 14-month educational license of Maya 2009. But that's not all! Act now (actually, I think this deal will be around for a while, so don't impulsively blow money) and you will also receive: Mudbox (a 3D digital sculpting program that is awesome), Toxik (a node-based compositing program that is awesome), Motion Builder (a 3D character animation program that is awesome) and Cleaner XL (which comes with Autodesk everything, whether you want it or not)! If you weren't able to gather from this paragraph, this is awesome! Several months ago, it would have cost me more than $300 just to upgrade to Maya 2008. With the exception of Motion Builder, I have other software that will do much of what these other programs do. This deal, however, might be too good to pass up.
My favorite place to get educational software is Torcomp. You can find this deal on other sites such as Academic Superstore. The license is a few dollars cheaper and a couple months longer at Torcomp/Studica...
If you're not a student, I'm not sure if there is a bundle like this. I honestly haven't looked into it because I'm not yet really making money on any of this software so I have no need to have a full license. Some day, though. Some day...
Also called an exposure sheet or x sheet. I prefer the term "dope sheet" because it kind of sounds dirty. This is a much simplified version of said sheet that I used for my "Obama in 30 Seconds" video (it's official title is "America Speaks"). All I was doing was lip sync, so I really only needed a way to chart the sounds for the mouth animation. I also added some visual cues for the eye elements. For film, this sheet would have a bold horizontal line every 8th frame (film plays at 24 frames per second, so each second gets split into three sections). I just animated this one for 30 frames per second, hence the bold line every 10th frame (though technically video plays at 29.97fps, but this piece wasn't long enough for that to throw me off). Also, this animation only contained one level, but that's not where you would place the action. Actually, now that I really look at it, I'm totally misusing this sheet, but since I was the only animator and the entirety of the art department, I think it's okay! The point was the lip sync.
I recorded the audio and imported it into Adobe Premiere at 30(ish) frames per second. That way, I had auditory and visual cues at every frame to tell me where the speaking sounds were. First, I listened for the hard consonants. They make a distinctive click at whatever frame they start. I'd write the consonant into the dope sheet. After that, I kind of filled in the rest of the sounds, indicating their length in frames on the sheet and drawing a line through the silence.
This particular animation was done in Flash only because I didn't have the proper setup to get everything aligned properly on paper (though all of the original drawings were done with pencil on paper and scanned into the computer). Because of this, my dope sheet became my best friend. It would appear that Flash has a habit of playing the video and the audio at different frame rates, so I just had to trust that as long as I had the "m" mouth shape where I had heard the "m" sound on the video that everything would sync up later! Luckily, it did. There's probably a way to fix this, but I don't have enough interest in Flash to figure it out.
In the meantime, I'm saving my money for a 2D animation program called Toon Boom. Flash wasn't meant to be a real animation program and Adobe hasn't seemed to catch on the the fact that people want to use it in this way (though the rumor is that they will at least be including inverse kinematics* tools in the next release of Flash). *the short answer to what this is is that it makes legs move like proper legs rather than blocks of wood on hinges.
It's a little late to be posting this- voting closed a long while ago. I felt it was appropriate, though, seeing as how it looks like Mr. Obama is going to be our Democratic nominee. It's also appropriate because, well, I actually have time to post it! It looks best if you click play and then the little "monitor" icon in the middle of the right hand side to play it full screen. It was drawn in pencil. At such a small size, it's pretty hard to see. I made this for moveon.org's contest called "Obama in 30 Seconds." Obama was my second favorite Democratic nominee (and no, Clinton was not my first, though I liked her too). I really do like the guy, though, and I'm happy to vote for him. Politics aside, there was a $20,000 prize (redeemable in video equipment) and it gave me a chance to play with character animation. I drew several pictures that I scanned and animated in Flash. The lip sync was a little tricky because Flash seemed to want to play the video and the audio at two different frame rates, so I just had to trust my dope sheet (I'll try to post a page from that tomorrow and explain what it is). The animation is a little... basic... but it was my first full-blown character animation with lip sync and it was supposed to look "grassroots" (which is now an adjective). It's really amazing to see a character that you drew come to life before your very eyes. Carl Fuermann was the voice of America.
(Note: heated/bigoted/negative political comments to this post will be deleted- sorry, but that's what every blog seems to become these days and no one ever said mine was a democracy! I alone hold the power of comment approval! Mwa ha ha ha!)
Next up: "Snow Flukes" I'm going a little bit out of sequence, but this was the next video that I felt like publishing. This is "Snow Flukes." I happened upon this 16mm silhouette footage several years ago. I was told that the artist who drew the cartoons was Otto Messmer (Felix the Cat) and that the skater is Dorothy Hamill, but I'm not sure. All of my searching has turned up very little on this little film.
I'm glad I have breathed some new life into it (and I always credit Otto and have never made a cent off of it- I'm really not sure if this footage ever fell into the public domain). The "psychedelic" background is shrink wrap and the skater is made of the same liquid crystal paint that went into "The Light Touch Dust Nebula" (ah, that's probably why I felt like following it with this video). I really love the fact that a paint activated by heat can be made to look like snow (note: this film is also silent):
So, I've had a few people comment on/ask about my eating habits recently. Eating is one of those strange rituals we have as humans. It's an act that is necessary to our survival, yet we seem to take it to another level- it's social, it's a statement, and sometimes, it's even art. As Remy the rat (above) says in "Ratatouille," humans "don't just survive, they discover, they create...I mean, just look at what they do with food!"*
The first food question I get asked quite a bit is "you're vegetarian?" I'm often taken aback by how this surprises or bothers some people, but first, I shall italicize the inflections, because this can actually be three different questions:
"You're a vegetarian?" The "v" word. To many people, this is a bad thing. As if I am putting my life at risk by not eating the corpse of a rotting animal three times a day. Indeed, I am probably putting the lives of others at risk and keeping the entire American economy teetering because beef is not what's for dinner. Furthermore, I'm probably vocally political and annoying. Most likely, I will lecture you about the evils of Nike, scold you for having a goldfish bowl, or make you feel bad for liking "Transformers," rather than delighting in an obscure, heavily depressing documentary about how bad you should feel every day of your life for even existing.
"You're a vegetarian?" As if I should "know better" or I just generally have a "meat eating" look about me.
"You are a vegetarian?" Which brings me more to my point. This is asked by people who swear they have seen me eat meat at some point in time. Didn't I, that one time, eat a piece of steak? And didn't I, that other time, enjoy a bowl of steamed mussels with saffron sauce?
Why yes, I did. In fact, when asked if I'm a vegetarian (which usually comes up only because I've ordered something with tofu or have asked someone to leave the ubiquitous "chicken" off of whatever dish), my answer is usually: no. I don't typically eat meat, but I "can." For the most part, I don't like it. It just doesn't appeal to me. It's not a black and white "decision" or a "statement." I also don’t care for cooked green bell peppers, but this doesn’t bother people as much as my distaste for pork.
(And for the record, while I do find that there are better shoe brands to choose from and do occasionally enjoy the obscure, depressing documentary, I loved "Trasformers" and have two fish bowls.)
This all began for me while I was living in Paris. I'd often see "beef" on the menu. Just like that- in quotes. "Steak" frites, for example. When I asked why this was the case in the less expensive restaurants, I was told that "beef" or "steak" usually meant "horse." I had a horse. I adored him. I also had a rabbit, which someone tried to force feed me at a fancy Parisian restaurant. Once, when my rabbit was cornered by my dog, it screamed. Yes, rabbits scream, and I remember it vividly. To me, eating horse or rabbit is the equivalent of eating my cats. Now, eating cat is generally thought to be taboo, but all of this made me wonder, why?
Why is it okay for us to abuse and cruelly slaughter one kind of animal and not another? When we hear about someone kicking a cat or beating a dog, most of us are horrified- indeed there are laws against it. The kind of cruelty animals raised for meat endure is unimaginable. They are usually malnourished or force-fed and many of them never even see the light of day. Chickens have their beaks broken off so that they don't fight in their close quarters, employees of slaughterhouses have been caught many times "playing" with the animals before boiling (to de-feather) and skinning them alive. Some of them aren’t even well enough to stand by the time they are brought to the slaughter house. If the image of a skinned, sick or crippled cow covered in blood and writhing in pain is not enough to make you think twice about that hamburger...
And that's all I ever ask anyone to do: think. If you're fine with all of that, so be it. As long as you have a reason other than "the commercials/news/my dad told me," I respect it whether I agree or not. We learn to tune so much out simply because it makes us uncomfortable. We in turn numb ourselves by overindulging in what we think makes us happy or getting angry at others for shattering our illusions. Our culture has a special place reserved on every plate for chicken, beef, or pork, but I don't think it always needs to be that way. I think the "fake" chicken nuggets taste just as good, if not better, than the dead ones. If everyone replaced that meat spot on their plate with a substitute just once a week, it would have a major impact on the environment and their health.
On that note, the other question I get asked is “how do you stay so thin?” Usually, this question is asked of me because I am eating French fries or chocolate cake.
That’s a far simpler answer than the vegetarian thing: I never diet. That being said, I also don't eat those things all the time. I think the best way to set yourself up for failure is to tell yourself you can’t do something. It turns that thing into something else... something "tempting" and "forbidden." Once it becomes that forbidden thing, it’s hard to get out of the habit of seeing food as a part of a battle. Then when we "give in," we give in good! We go way too far, eat way too much, and do it while feeling guilty or convincing ourselves that it’s what we really, really want or need to be happy. But what’s the point of eating, then, if it’s either mindless or torture? Just like with the vegetarian thing, I "can" eat French fries every day, but I find that I don’t actually want to. In the words of Anton Ego (yes, I’m quoting this film a lot- I adored it and it's about food, so back off!!!!) I stay thin because:
"I don’t like food, I love it. If I don’t love it, I don’t swallow!"
I simply try to make consuming food something I enjoy and savor rather than something that is easy, fast, indulgent, or can occupy my hands while I’m watching television or working. Last night, I ate a huge salad consisting of things that were grown right in my yard- fresh leaves of lettuce, green beans, bok choi, fresh herbs. It was more than food, it was an experience! It took me back to planting the seeds months ago and watching them sprout and grow.
When it comes to the food that I put in my body, I don't like just gulping something down mindlessly. I love to cook, I love flavor and ritual. To quote Remy again: "If you are what you eat, then I only want to eat the good stuff! " Whether that includes meat or French fries or not...
Oh boy! Juicy Hollywood gossip! There's been talk lately about tensions arising between Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Much speculation exists over why this might be happening to this couple we know absolutely nothing about but who look cool and get their pictures taken wherever they go. Some of the theories are as follows: they fight over which democratic candidates they should support, which charity to donate money to, which horrific disease one of them has, who is cheating on whom, etc. (no, I didn't make any of those up.) I'd like to propose a new theory. I have discovered that Brad Pitt has secretly been directing my favorite films:
When I first read this and saw the photo, I thought, "wow, that Brad Pitt is a pretty smart guy when it comes to animation!" Of course, everything made sense when I saw that it was not Brad PITT who said this, but Brad BIRD (who looks like this):
I also feel that I should point out that Brad Bird neither directed nor wrote "Finding Nemo." That honor goes to Andrew Stanton. I got to "meet" both of these heroes of mine in L.A. last year when I drove out for the Screenwriter's Expo.
"Ratatouille" is quite easily the best film of the year, so far. That's my humble opinion and that only includes films that I have seen, but I have seen a lot, so... take that! Incidentally, if you are wondering what the worst is, in my opinion, I would have to give that award to "The Number 23."
Brad Bird has a habit of directing films that I love (damn him). He directed "The Iron Giant," which I've seen about a million times, and "The Incredibles" (see previous comment). He also worked on "The Simpsons" and created "Family Dog." Does anyone remember seeing "Family Dog?" If you do (and have fond memories of doing so), we should get ice cream. I loved that show.
I should start writing about films again. Ratatouille deserves more than just a blanket "it's awesome" review. Plus, I like coercing people into seeing movies that I love without resorting to "go rent 'The Iron Giant' or the bunny gets it!"
Now that I have my technical wires uncrossed, I plan to post one of my 16mm films here every day for the next few weeks. Although the compression looks much better than I thought it would, I do have to take a moment to say that this is not the preferred format for my films. They are best seen in their original 16mm format in a darkened theatre. Well, not all of us live near an experimental film venue, nor do we have finances at our disposal to rent film prints from places like Canyon Cinema, The Film-maker's Coop, CFMDC (Canadian films) Light Cone, or Le Collectif Jeune Cinéma (though you can click on any of these if you do- they have many great films in their collections). I decided to make my films available online, too. You can also subscribe to my podcast (you'll need iTunes) or check out my blip.tv channel.
Okay, enough. Here is my first film, "Gossamer Conglomerate" (click the image to play- note: this film is silent):
All matter is made of mostly empty space- it is the way in which the particles within that space interact that makes it what it is. I'm paraphrasing K.C. Cole, science writer for the Los Angeles Times. I was just thinking that the same can be said of film. I think that's one thing I don't like about working with video (though for the most part, I DO like working with video): there's no space between. Most of my films can be thought of as animation. Whether I'm shooting off of an animation stand of sorts (which seems to be my preferred method lately) or hand painting the frames, there is a certain magic in the filmmaking process that brings the work to life. Most of the time, the camera is off and I'm adjusting things. The actual frame exposure is quite brief. When I do expose a frame, the thing I am photographing is stationary. In the end, though, the light seems to move and interact in its own unique way.
Even still, more than half of the finished film is darkness! The shutter blocks the light as often as it lets it through. The filmstrip itself tends to block more light than it lets through (or every film we saw would be white light). The motion is as much an illusion as the keyboard on which I'm typing!