Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bird Jitter

I was just forwarded a post from another animator's blog (Keith Lango), who is playing with jittering inklines n' stuff. I posted a comment in his blog and would like to show my initial jittering inkline test for all to see. This was from 2003 or 2004, for a short film proposal that never went through. I wanted to make it look like each frame was done with watercolor, so I played a lot with making the color bleed outside the lines, having areas of increased saturation (where paint pooled), and a watercolor paper texture in the background.

This quicktime was the seed to the last 6-7 years a lot of stylistic exploration. And it ain't stopping any time soon! I'm not using this technique on my current film, "Perfect Detonator", because of time constraints.

It's funny how much work I undertake to make CGI stuff look hand-drawn. Why make CGI animation look hand-drawn? What's wrong with pixels and polygons? I'm liking what David O'Reilly is doing with computer animation. There was a modeller teaching at Gnomon who was doing some amazing low-poly figure modelling back in the day as well.

I've posted a small version of the test below, you can see a bigger version on Vimeo at: http://www.vimeo.com/12032864 And the ultra-jittery version is: http://www.vimeo.com/12034041

If anyone wants to tell me a good way to put up big animations in blogspot, I'd love to hear it so I can post more animation. i.e. what's the best codec / file size / dimensions / html to use.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bird Timing

Looks like it's going to work. At the end the bird dodges one thing, then gets hit with something else. This is just pen and ink, now I colour it on the 'puter.

Lots of bush fun today. It's amazing how fast the human body adapts. I made a summer-long goal to be able to keep the pace of a trotting dog in the bush, wearing barefeet. After two weeks, I'm already able to do it wearing runners. I don't think I'm going to do the barefoot thing now though, because there's too much potential for broken toes and deep bruising on the tender middle of the foot. (This is speaking from many years of experience. I was known as "the kid in barefeet" by the adults in the neighborhood where I grew up, and I never stopped. At the end of the summer, when I have to wear shoes again, the hard callused layer of my feet peels off in big chunks.)

So my new goal is to be able to maintain that same pace in sneakers, but keeping quiet as a deer. Huge challenge! It's easy to move quick through the bush and crash through everything. Picking the perfect places to step and move with man-feet that cover 10 times more surface area than a deer is nutty, if not impossible. We'll see.

Another thing I'm noticing is the increased use of my hands. I'm starting to feel like a primate. You know when you're running through rough terrain, how your feet kind of choose the right place to land without you thinking about it much? You look ahead about 5-20 feet and your brain kind of registers where your feet will land before you get there. I find that happening with my hands as well. They're pushing aside the right branches, grabbing onto roots and handholds without me thinking about it. While I was running today I just thought "Man, my hands sure are wet and dirty", and it hit me how much I was using them.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Half-inked bird frame. This shot has about 120 frames, classically animated. 1/3rd of them are on ones, so thats about 80-90 pages of frames. I'm animating straight ahead with no pencil tests, so it's always a surprise to see how the shots turn out. So far I've only had to fix one. I've been roughing in timing with 3D software, so I know where it's gotta be punchy etc. (Just moving a sphere around in 3d, basically, and referring to it while I animate).

It's getting harder to work on the film now, probably because it's so close to being done and the perfectionist in me starts taking over.

I'm also finding far more enjoyment being outside than inside, even when it's raining. I've been going on huge bushwhacking walks (walking through the bush, not on trails). I'm going further every day and discovering new and wonderful places. I've done a lot of bushwhacking in the past, but for some reason I'm far more adventurous now - more willing to push further, and to take routes that appeal to me even though they look tiring or hard to move through. The rewards are amazing. I'm finding some really special spots, and having some incredible moments of exhausted joy and quiet awe.

Moving through second-growth west coast rainforest is pretty gnarly. Very wet, lots of ups and downs, slippery logs, etc. But I'm already starting to learn some tricks. There's an astonishing amount of game (deer) trails on Vancouver Island, because all the deer's natural predators were killed off long ago (farmers don't like wolves.) Game trails give the quickest route if they're going in your direction, but you often have to get down on all fours and crawl under stuff. Carrying anything, even a small backpack or a camera, just gets in the way. Fallen logs and streams (if you're okay with getting wet) are also good pathways.

I'm not sure if I'll take any photos of the places I'm going, at least not to share on the internet. A photo on a digital camera does nothing to bring across the watery and earthy wonders lurking out there. It almost feels disrespectful.

I may do paintings and drawings instead. By doing that I can try to infuse some of my experiences into the image - some mystery or abstraction or spirit.

(found a good swimming hole today! watch out, summer, here I come!)

Friday, May 21, 2010


So I've moved out of the city again. I like smaller towns, but it's more than that: I like the raw quiet of a wild forest. Watching animals and learning from them. Feeling moss and rocks under my bare feet, finding tracks in the mud. Stopping in wonder at the light passing through leaves, or the sound of the wind.

This blog is going to be two things from now on:

1) A diary of my art and imagery
2) A recording of what I'm learning about living closer to our natural roots.

A friend suggested starting a separate blog, but I prefer to keep them together. Art is life, and all that. I suspect there will be an interesting correlation between the two subjects.

Zing zang!

It's important to me to know how things work. I prefer to ride a bike because I know how to fix it. I like PC's rather than Macs because I can get behind the hood and do stuff in DOS / BIOS if I need to. I want to get under the hood of LIFE, man! I would far prefer to know where my water comes from - even better if I put in the pump myself. I would love to build my own cabin. Talk to the farmer who grows my vegetables. Maybe even hunt for my own meat, and because of that, show a lot more restraint and respect for the animal who gives its life for me to continue living.

We'll see how far this goes, but that's my trip for now. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Haven't had much of a chance to work on the ol' film lately, but I still think it's going to be done in late June. Hoo-raaa! Maybe early July.

I'm too zonked to scan any drawings so let me paint you a mental picture:

A family of five eagles soaring over the mountaintop cedars;

First visible riding the thermals in the far horizon, coming closer, then passing straight overhead.

Laying in a lawnchair, hung over, watching them.

The cool breeze turns to misty rain.

Close your eyes.

Monday, May 10, 2010


What's that? Not telling - but it's part of the film!

Many people have helped complete this film in tonnes of different ways. This is a particle system (and, most importantly, a tonne of different particle sprites) that I got someone else to do.

They did the particles using software that I haven't used in almost a decade, which was a pain in the ass at first, but now I'm working smoothly with it again. Feels nice to be keeping my paws on more than one piece of 3D animation software.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bird From Bot

A frame from shot number 67. This is my favorite shot I've ever done. Sometimes when I'm drawing I think "this is the best drawing I've ever done. This is just a small doodle, but I would never have been able to do it without the years of drawing and experience I've accumulated before this."

That's how I feel about this shot. I like the animation, I'm proud of the feeling of weight the robot has. I like the background painting. The way the robot interacts with the background, tearing down trees, birds scattering.. I'm just very happy with it. I'm not often happy with my work so it's nice to be there.

I've been wondering what to do with these years of practice developing my own process and style. Keep making short films? Start thinking about getting funding for a larger film? Start a studio? I'm not especially keen on rejoining the Video Game or Televised Cartoon industry, nor am I interested in working on the uninteresting animated features that most American studios put out. I think I've gone too far down my own personal road to find fulfillment in working on someone else's (diluted) idea, in someone else's (not especially unique) style.

But I have to remind myself to stay present and get this son of a bitch film finished first. (Which I'm really enjoying, by the way, even if it is an s.o.b.!)