The latest theatrical release from Makoto Shinkai, the director who began his career with the independent anime film Voices of Distant Star, has topped the Chinese box office, becoming the highest grossing 2D animated film of all time in the country. This is after a record breaking release in his home country of Japan, where he rose to be the second highest earning anime film of all time, behind Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. The film was given a special release permission to play in China, which generally only allows 34 foreign films to screen each year in its local box office. There are a number of reasons why this special permission was granted.
While I do believe that we are seeing what will be an expanding trend, as the Chinese market continues to open up, it also, in the end, comes down to money. This is similar to Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge, which was given a one month extension at the box office, (foreign films are typically allowed only one month total) because it was raking in the cash.
According to The Japan Times, "Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top officials have said the two nations should expand the positive aspects in their relationship…", but Shinkai's film was also helped by it's TIMING, and the potential to make a huge splash. These days, potential demand, among the target audience, can be gauged online before a film even comes out, and, in this case, online buzz was already at frenzied levels.
You have 200 million young people, who are the audience with the most disposable income, and they are driving the box office boom in China. They are increasingly interested in international material, and anime, manga and games are at the top of that list. Makoto Shinkai's film, which is a love story targeted exactly at the age demographic, couldn't have arrived at a more perfect time!
Artist Paul H. Paulino, with experience in look dev on films such as Independence Day: Resurgence and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, writes about his journey into the world of visual art in this amazing, must read article!
"During my studies I realized the process was more important than the final result. I knew since the beginning I didn’t want to become a professional illustrator. My goal was to develop my creativity and critical eye in a way that could be helpful as a CG artist.
In order to draw believable subjects I had to spend a good amount of time collecting references and doing research for each theme. When I did that I began expanding my visual library and creativity skills without even noticing it. I studied a variety of patterns, forms, and colors that I had never noticed before.
In other words, I could say that I finally learned to see and leave preconceptions behind. Instead of imagining how a bird looks in real life, I was able to do research and understand it. And that doesn't mean having a perfectly rendered drawing. If you can capture the essence of the subject with a quick sketch, you already learned a lot. It's all about visual communication."
Check out the full article here!
I was reading an article about what killed the Saturday morning cartoon. Back in those days, to produce a half hour of television cost as much as $330,000 USD. That was the 80s. Today a show like Avatar: The Last Airbender can cost as much as $1 million per episode!
The cost of producing animation is just too high. At least, that's the case if you do it the traditional way, the studio way. There is another road. The indie road! You don't need millions of dollars or major studio backing. You can create the show you want to create. The tools are available to everyone today. And you have no idea what kind of interest you may attract if you do so!
The question of the day is do you have an audience? We will look into this question with some examples of anime that dared to be different, including Aku no Hana and Real Drive. The answer for you as an indie creator may be a very different story than it is for the big studios!
I was recently watching the epic, summer blockbuster Independence Day Resurgence. Of course, as with many huge budget Hollywood outings these days, I immediately noticed the appearance of famous Chinese actors and a number of lines spoken in Chinese language. I couldn't help but laugh, though, when I saw them video chat using QQ.
This QQ software happens to be the very chat software I use on a daily basis here in China. It's one of the most popular messengers around. The company behind it, called Tencent, is also a coproducer on the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle sequel. We are seeing greater and greater involvement of the Chinese government and huge Chinese mega corporations in the creation and distribution of Hollywood movies. There are two reasons for this. One is to get past Chinese censors, which limit the number of foreign films allowed in the local market. By entering into a coproduction deal, the film counts as a Chinese product.
The second reason is that these films can potentially make more money in the Chinese box office than is possible in the US box office, and this has happened on a handful of recent films. When you spend $150 million or more on a movie, you have me double or triple that back to be profitable!
Does this mean China will eventually take over Hollywood? Well, lets not forget that in the 80's the Japanese economy was rapidly expanding and they were buying up US land, hotels and movie studios. Then in the early 90's their economy tanked and pretty much never recovered. There's nothing saying the same will happen in China. Maybe things will go the way Joss Whedon predicted in his Firefly TV series.
I want to talk about why 2D animation will eventually die. I am speaking entirely from a commercial perspective, as the reason will certainly be because of money.
I know many fans don't like cel shaded, CGI anime shows, but you look at some of the current shows, like Bubuki Buranki, Ajin, or Knights of Sidonia, you can see that the quality of said cel shading just keeps getting better and better. It stands to reason that there will come a day when that quality looks identical to the 2D animation that fans know and love. This has already happened with CGI in other aspects of the industry.
Take spaceships for example. In the old days, spaceships were done with really large and heavy plastic models which had to be hung on a motion control rig in a studio to shoot. Not only that, they had to shoot it in multiple passes, to get the different lights, the glowing parts and so on. This was a tedious and expensive process. Along comes CGI, and while the early shows using CGI for spaceships, like Babylon 5, or Space Above and Beyond, didn't look as good as the models, by the time you get to shows like Firefly, or the new Star Trek films, CGI has 100% replaced models for spaceships.
The same thing has happened with other hard surface objects, like cars or planes in the real world. I recently wrote to a buddy of mine still working in Hollywood and asked him if we have reached a point where it is easier and cheaper to do a plane flying by in CGI rather than go out and shoot a real plane. He said we have long since passed that point.
Another case where we have seen incredible improvement is in human characters. In early work, like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, the CGI characters looked a little off, or creepy and there was much talk of the uncanny valley. In more recent efforts, though, such as in Superman Returns, you have many shots where a CGI double is used and people, even some profession artists, can't tell. You see CGI human characters getting more realistic like in Tron Legacy, with the CGI Jeff Bridges, or Terminator Genisys, with the CGI Arnold. The best example might be in Fast and Furious 7, where they needed CGI to finish the scenes involving actor Paul Walker because of his untimely accident. They did nearly 400 shots of the Paul Walker double, using a few different techniques. I have watched the film numerous times looking for them, and I have found lot, but nowhere near 400. This means that there are a lot of shots in there that have fooled us all.
I mention the CGI humans because I believe that it is a lot more involving to create a realistic human character on screen than to make a cel shaded character mimic a 2D drawing. The day is surely coming where they will get there, and audiences will no longer be able to tell. On top of that, once they get there, the only place to go is faster, cheaper and easier.
2D animation has never gotten cheaper. If you read the Disney book, The Illusion of Life, you will see how the company had to deal with enormous financial burdens as 2D animation just kept getting more and more expensive over the decades. It will only continue to get more expensive. There has never been an innovation that made 2D animation cheaper. The reason is there is no technology which can make a human artist draw better or draw faster. To achieve this, you need more time and/or more manpower, and both make the process more expensive.
I am aware that there will always be artistic reasons to want to do 2D. People love to draw and love to see drawings in motion. I love 2D animation and always will. Another thing to consider, though, is that the people doing artistic 2D works, like Richard Williams, Bill Plympton or Glenn Keane, are getting up there in age, and will one day retire. To make matter worse, if the schools around here in Asia are any indication, fewer and fewer students are even bothering to learn 2D. The reason is simple. If you learn 3D, there are more job opportunities and the pay is better. A LOT better.
You can't even survive on a 2D animators wage anywhere in Asia right now. If, however, you learn 3D animation, and get good at it, you got it made. You will have a good salary, a good career and a good life. So in the future, if a commercial publisher or company wants to do a 2D animation project, the manpower may not even exist to make it happen. Yet, there will be dozens of cel shading artists or studios who can make it happen for a tenth of the cost.
Learn more at: http://www.studioartfx.com
"In a post-apocalyptic times, where a rogue government collect children for tax, we visit a small township where an extraction starts to take place and its already taken a turn for the worst when you deny them."
The technology is here. It has been for a while. Writer/Director Julian Herring decided to make use of it to bring his own dreams to life. Thanks to the tools available to every creator today, he was able to write, direct, edit, and using Lightwave 3D, do all the VFX for his project.
Entered as part of the My Rode Reel 2016 short film competition, Herring hopes to win the equipment from the very large cache of prizes offered by Rode, and partners such as Blackmagic Design and Adobe, so that he may own the means of production and continue his quest to create original content his way. Check him out and vote for him here.
The question, is 2D animation really dead? There are some cases, and some places, where this may seem to be the case, but the reason is not what you may think. It's not because audiences out there are tired of 2D, traditional animation and no longer want to see it. The reason is largely because of the cost to produce said 2D, traditional animation.
When you go to make a $150+ million movie, you can't take any risks. This means the studios are going to go with what has worked before. In this case, the animated movies that have made a lot of money in recent history, have all been 3D. But that's not the only reason.
2D animation has survived on television mainly because of Flash or other forms of vector based animation. It is only through the use of these vector based tools that 2D animation can remain competitive in the modern market. You see, the cost to produce a half hour episode of animation in Flash, can be as little as a quarter of the cost to produce traditional, 2D animation, and this is talking about the kind of limited animation used in anime TV series!
The cost to produce 3D animation, however, just gets cheaper and cheaper, as is the case with any form of technology. I talked in the previous episode about game engine rendering. Tools like this are making the production of high quality 3D animation fast and inexpensive. So now you see a lot of shows on television, especially here in China, being done in 3D animation. They are simple, but pleasant to look at and audiences are connecting with them.
This isn't to say that audiences don't connect with 2D, but there is yet another reason. You now have a generation of young people who grew up on video games. They live in a world in which 3D has always existed. Toy Story is pretty old after all. For this generation, 2D animation is something old. They are simply more used to 3D.
On top of this, there are more job opportunities in the world of 3D animation, and they pay more. In some places, a LOT more, which is certainly the case in China and Japan. So what are kids going to study? They are going to go where the money is. This means there are fewer and fewer people even interested in learning how to do 2D, traditional animation.
The famous film director Hayao Miyazaki said that when 2D finally dies, it won't be because people no longer want to see it, it will be because the artists with the true skill to do it will have all disappeared.
All of this can make it seem like 2D is dead, but there is one arena where it doesn't have to be. That is the arena of the independent creator. The indie creator can use the amazing tools available today to create fast and cheap 2D animation, without the restrictions of the big studios. The indie can take those risks! The independent animator can leverage the techniques and software on the market today, some of it even free, to create the way they want to create, and keep 2D alive.
Finally we take a look at Anigen Final Secrets.
This is the fastest and easiest animation technique ever developed, to help any indie creator get started on the road to seeing their dreams come alive on screen!
This is the first in what I hope will be a series of informative videos to help creators on the road to getting your project done. It doesn't matter whether you want to do independent animation, comics, games or films, you will find, in this series, information on the industries, the tools and software being used and even learn new and innovative ways to use them.
This series will help introduce you to The Indie Life, which is who you, as a creator, can take control of your destiny by using your skills, as an artist, musician, filmmaker or game designer, to make living doing what you love. Yes, I am going to talk about how to make money doing what you love, be it graphic novels, animation, games or films.
In this first video, I will discuss realtime rendering using Game Engine technology and some thoughts I had about this after coming across Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness. I tell the story of how I used to go into this small restaurant in Southern China, near my office, and always notice the bosses son watching Kung Fu Panda. It took a while before I realised he wasn't watching the film every day.
After I started looking into the Kung Fu Panda TV series, I started thinking a lot about rendering in real time with Game Engine Technology. If you look at the trailers for amazing PS4 games like Uncharted 4, you will see that game engines can render the most amazing images and scenery today. The question then becomes: Can this technology help you create your own show? I believe it can! Today, with tools like MODO 10, which has many new features ideal for work in games, and Unreal Engine 4, you have a pathway to create freedom before your eyes!
We'll take a detailed look at this in the video.
Finally, I will show you Anigen Final Secrets, the fastest and easiest animation technique I have ever developed. A WYSIWYG method of creating shows that puts everything in your control, and your dreams at your fingertips.
Here is why you have to build momentum well in advance of the release of your project. Louis CK apparently surprised fans with the release of his new web series Horace and Pete. With no build up, getting a hungry audience waiting for the release, he found himself in serous debt as a result.
According to the A.V. Club, "CK says he became so enamored with the idea of surprising fans, he kind of forgot he had to sell the thing as well:"
"I didn’t tell anybody about it cause here’s the thing: I got so excited by the idea of having a show appear from nothing. So I made the first four and I didn’t tell nobody, and it made a nice little amount of money, but when I got to episode four I was like “Hey gang, I don’t have any money!” So I had to take out a line of credit… I’m millions of dollars in debt right now."
Rather than use established services like Vimeo on Demand or Amazon, Louis CK chose to sell the show for approximately $3 per episode from his own website. You may remember he made big news years ago, and I certainly wrote a lot about it, when he released his own comedy special for $5 from his website and made over $1 million is a couple of weeks selling it. We can only hope as press continues about his latest endeavour, that fans will jump in and buy the show, allowing him to profit enough to pay actors like Steve Buscemi and Alan Alda their cut.
The animation production software Toonz, developed in conjunction and used by Studio Ghibli, will be released Open Source on March 26th. A Japanese developer, Dwango, has apparently acquired the software from the Italian developer, Digital Video, and will release the "Ghibli Edition" of the tool under the name Opentoonz.
Atsushi Okui, the Executive Imaging Director at Studio Ghibli, said, “During the production of Princess Mononoke in 1995, we needed a software which enables us to create a certain section of the animation digitally. We checked for what was available at that time and chose Toonz. Our requirement was that in order to continue producing theater-quality animation without additional stress, the software must have the ability to combine the hand-drawn animation with the digitally painted ones seamlessly. From then onwards we continued to use the software while going through major updates to make it easier for us to use. We are happy to hear that this open-source version contains the Ghibli Edition. We hope that many people inside and outside of the animation industry will utilize this software for their work. We would like to extend our gratitude to the staff of Digital Video.”
Read more at AWN.
Aspiring Filmmakers, Ava DuVernay Thinks You Should Lose the Desperation and Just Make Something!
"I rarely meet people who tell me what they're doing. I often meet people who ask, "Can you help me?" or "How do I do this?" or "Do you want to have coffee?" "Can I take you to coffee?" "Can we grab a coffee?" "I'd love to take you to coffee and pick your brain a little bit." "Can I send you a script?" "Can you read my script?" "I have a script that I'd love for you to just check out if you can." "Can you be my mentor?" "I need a mentor." "I would love if you could mentor me." "Is it possible for us to talk?" All of that energy, all of that focus to extract from other people is distracting you from what you're doing. All of that is desperation.
When I figured that out, things started to change for me. When I'm meeting people and they're in that moment, I want to say something to them. "Knock it off, because it's never going to work for you." That feeling of "I need help. I need all of these things to proceed." And when I got that, a revolution happened for me."
This is definitely worth a watch.
There is a saying that goes something along the lines of ‘be so good they can’t ignore you’. This is an indie film that exemplifies that saying. Normally, this is the kind of independent content I would try my best to avoid on sites like Youtube or Vimeo. From the beginning, though, The Rieth Brothers, who created this work, did everything right. Their poster frame, which shows a guy standing in front of a corn (or was it wheat?) field, which in and of itself is just an amazing image, raises so many questions. I just had to watch it.
Like most supposedly artistic indie films, this movie has no dialogue. Very much unlike so many other pieces of indie content around, however, this movie exudes professional quality from the very beginning. It looks, at the very least, as good as mainstream television content, and artistically, in many places, stands above the majority of mainstream films. This does not look like some friends playing around with a DV camera.
As the film progresses, it can be a bit slow at times. It can also be hard to follow. There were a couple of places where I considered giving up. The imagery, however, just gets more and more beautiful and the directors raise questions at the right moments which make the viewer HAVE to see what will happen next. I have to admit that were it not so well shot and so astoundingly beautiful, I likely would have clicked it off.
This is by no means meant to advocate all style over substance. Even the best VFX reels can only hold my attention for a couple of minutes. This film shows why you need the right mix of both. Were the exact same story to be poorly shot and cheap looking, it would not have worked. Visuals of this quality without a good story would also not have worked. Too many films are either one or the other. Hollywood films are often visually impressive with nothing to back it up, while indie films are too often good ideas held down by cheap visuals and poor acting.
If you want to capture an audience, or ‘be so good they can’t ignore you’, take a note from The Rieth Brothers. Back up your good ideas with good production values and visual artistry. Your audience will beat a path to your door.
It seems the studio will be co-producing an animated feature film by Oscar winning director Michaël Dudok de Wit. The film will revolve around a man who survives a shipwreck only to find himself stranded on a desert island. His attempts to escape his fate are thwarted by a giant red turtle.
The film is also produced by the Paris based film sales group Wild Bunch. Their chief, Vincent Maraval, visited Studio Ghibli some years ago, before Miyazaki made his exit. While there, Miyazaki showed him the Oscar winning short film Father and Daughter, by Michaël Dudok de Wit, and said, “I want you to find the director for me. If one day Studio Ghibli decides to produce an animator from outside the studio, it will be him.”
Maraval tracked down Dukok de Wit who apparently had little interest in doing an animated feature, until he heard that Studio Ghibli wanted to be involved. Imagine doing work that attracts the attention of one of the greatest names in animation history. You never know who your work will reach or who it will touch. Even a short film can have incredible reach and value. Don’t underestimate the power of any art you create. Don’t worry about getting a million views. It only takes one viewer to change everything.
Two years ago, today, Marvel got the rights back to some of their popular characters. In this case, Blade, Punisher and Ghost Rider. They were in no particular hurry to make new movies with these characters, however, largely because of the lackluster success of the previous outings involving them. Why were these previous films so lackluster? Everything Marvel puts their hand to is gold, most proven by their $1.5 billion grossing Avengers. The problem is that they didn’t put their hand to those previous films,
Before Marvel Studios existed, beginning with the creation of their first truly independent film Iron Man, they license their popular characters out to the major Hollywood studios in the hopes to bring them to the big screen. Aside from the three characters mentioned above, this also includes The X-Men and Spider-Man. Those studios didn’t always do things the way Marvel would like. The fans weren’t always happy either. Now that Marvel has a single unified world for all their film properties to exist in, the absence of their character for which they have not recovered the rights is very noticeable.
As you create your own indie properties, and success begins to find you as they take off, there is a temptation that will come to you. Larger outfits, possibly even a major Hollywood studio, will come calling wanting to make use of your characters or stories in their films. There is almost no version of this where you win, keeping control of the product and getting the financial return you deserve should they become a huge success. In fact, more often than not, you lose completely, and they take your stuff. This story has happened over and over to creator after creator.
As your own indie creations grow, fight off the temptations. Do what Marvel is doing now. Do it all yourself!
The internet has truly changed everything. Technology in general had changed everything and, because of this, Indies have a voice. One example of this is The Adventures of Jamel: Time Traveling B-Boy. This is an independently produced comedy series premiering on Vimeo. That in and of itself is a huge part of this revolution. Thanks to sites like Vimeo, Youtube and a few others, indies have palace to premiere their work. Of course, they can even do so on their own website with the tools available to today. That, however, is only one piece of the puzzle.
Back in the original Anigen series, I began to talk about cameras. Since this show is live action, this bears some discussion. An indie can get an HD camera, that shoots 24 FPS, similar to film, and that delivers a professional film look, for under $1000 USD. Depending on your production budget, you can go higher and higher, but even the top of the line cameras available now cost less than 10% what it used to in order to shoot at a quality equal to a major motion picture. The indie can own the means of production.
On a simple laptop, an indie can have the post production, editing and visual FX tools previously reserved for multi-million dollar Hollywood studios. There is nothing stopping an indie from creating a show that is in every way competitive with works on major Tv channels or in cinemas. It is happening right now. It is already being done.
The final aspect is getting it out there. Well, how did I find out about this show? Sharing! This is the greatest weapon in the indie arsenal. People who use sites like Vimeo can link to their own social networking circles and get their followers to link it to theirs. People can spread the word with a click of a button, a button that will put the entire show right in front of new viewers. Word of mouth alone has made immense successes of some indie short films and series. The key is patience and persistence. Very few indie productions go viral overnight. The true creator must be prepared to build their audience over time, even if it is years. They must not give up, as I have seen many do, just when things are about to take off. You can’t stop digging 1 meter from the gold.
There has never been a better time to get your show done. You don’t need millions of dollars or major studio backing. You just need patience and the right tools and you can do anything!
I came across this tech demo from Square Enix, based on Final Fantasy XV. According to Hajime Tabata from their business division, they are pushing the envelope of real time 3D with the help of Microsoft (Windows 10 and DirectX 12) and NVidia (GeForce GTX). They are supposedly moving 63 million polygons with 8K resolution texture maps. On top of that, they are doing hair without the use of transparency maps, but actual geometry with specialized shaders to give the appearance we see in the video.
In the past we would see tech demos like this and though the claims that they were realtime might have been true, all of that amazing imagery would be impossible when an actual game needed to run, with enemies, A.I., physics and so on. Today that is no longer the case. We are finally at a stage where the actual game can be seamless with the most realistic cut scenes therein. At last year’s E3, many companies had demos for the Playstation 4 in which a realistically rendered cut scene would transition directly into gameplay without any cuts or fades.
WHat does this mean for the indie today? If you wanted to do realistic 3D animation, you have tools like Unity 5 and Unreal 4, game engines that are accessible to even artists. Of course you can also use them to make a game, which is a very valuable way to deliver a story and IP these days. You can also, however, use them just to do a movie, which both engines have shown in their demo materials. This technology is only going to get better, although it is hard to imagine how much better it could get.
The next step will be content libraries, full of models, textures, motions and more, to make it even easier for the artist to get amazing images on the screen quickly. You will be able to focus on getting your story told. The time has never been better for the indie to do their project.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. and DC are having a bit of trouble creating a unified universe for their superheroes like Marvel has done. While Marvel has producer Keven Feige to oversee all projects and make sure everything fits together, including their TV series outings, the DC cinematic universe seems to be largely leaderless. Not only do they not have anyone to take the reigns of the entire operation, the policies for how individual projects are handled are, to some, questionable.
It’s been said that the minds behind the Wonder Woman feature film are trying an interesting strategy to get a script. They hired multiple writers, not to work together, but to compete to create the script that will end up in the final film. The writers themselves are apparently running into the problems because, without a concrete universe, the rules apparently change right out form under them as they write, and their work can easily become useless. One industry insider said that this is, "throwing shit against the wall to see what stuck”. This is not the way to get projects moving forward.
THE FOREVER MOVIE
Now Warner Bros. and Channing Tatum are in the mix to get the project made. Tatum’s studio, however, is lined with Sony, and they are in the mix as eel, hoping to snag this project. This battle may very well keep the film from happening yet again. According to Deadline, as of yesterday, Warner Bros. outbid Sony and should be in business with a new franchise. Franchise is what this is all about as they see the possibility of multiple movies, merchandize and the whole nine.
THE INDIE WAY
The indie creator doesn’t need 25 years, millions of dollars or major studio backing to get their project done. Sun Creature Studios, the creators of the popular short film The Reward are proving that over and over again. After having raised well over $100,000 USD for the Tales of Alethrion project, which expanded the world of their short film into a complete universe, they are returning to Kickstarter a second time to raise fund for a full animated series, and their fans are responding.
While Warner Bros. and big Hollywood studios get tangled up for years on projects that cost over $200 million USD, these indie creators are going a simple route. They are letting backers on their Kickstarter project vote on the direction things go by what level of backing they provide. Imagine that. The fans having a say in what they want to see! The indie doesn’t need the red tape and bloated production budgets that stifle creativity at the majors. Innovation can get the indie a lot further a lot faster.
Anyone who has any level of interest in anime will, by now, know about Mamoru Hosoda. I first learned of his work when I came across The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. I immediately noticed the similarities between his work, and that of Studio Ghibli. His work features very simplistic character designs composed with amazing detailed and beautiful backgrounds. His work also features very simple, family oriented stories, not just for a family audience, but often centered on family. I was surprised, however, to learn that there is more to these similarities than one might think.
Many have said that Hosoda may be the next Miyazaki, but what I did not know was that he actually worked at Studio Ghibli in the past. In fact, he was set to direct Howl’s Moving Castle. The film, of course, went on to be completed without him.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get along with the staff on an artistic and logistic level, but still, I’ve learnt many things during my short time there…I thought to deliver a message I had to make tortured works. But in fact, while working on Howl’s, [I] realized being simple and clear was more satisfying to deliver the message. Even if it looks better, complicated things can’t reach the audience as well as simple ones…The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars are the results of this observation.”
Hosoda now has his own successful studio from which he directed and released Wolf Children. If you have seen this film, you know that it epitomizes that stated quoted by him above. He also went on to receive some very impressive awards. He is now preparing for the release of his next feature, Bakemono no Ko, or The Boy and the Beast. The film looks to continue along the lines he started with his previous efforts with very relationship driven stories and simple, beautiful artwork.
I wonder if his statement above has any bearing on why many of the anime properties I like, shows like Jin Roh and Real Drive, do not find a great level of success. They are anything but simple and clear after all. I watched Jin Roh many times before I could really understand it, and this is not just because of the language barrier. It is a complicated world and story. I happen to like that, though. That is what I want to see more of. It is also what I want to make. Does this mean I am hurting my own chances of reaching the kind of audience I want?
WHat does it really cost to make a good animated film these days? Light Chaser Animation in Beijing, China is answering that question with their upcoming CGI animated feature Door Guardians. While in the past, it could be said that Chinese animation, though very cheap to produce, was lagging far behind western standards of visual quality, Light Chaser Animation is seeking to change all of that. In the trailer for their new project, we see cloth simulation, realistic water effects, skin shaders and other technological advancements we would expect from high quality western CGI. The gap has closed.
I have been living in China for five years now. One of the reasons I was first invited here is because of my western animation experience, which was valuable to both schools and studios playing their part in improving the domestic animation scene. The government, at the time, was putting a lot of money into creating an animation industry that would rival the world’s best. Over the years I witnessed the slow growth of an industry as studios acquired new technologies and skills. It seemed, for a while, that it might be ages of playing catch up.
This raises some serous questions. In an age where Dreamwork’s Jeffrey Katzenberg had his salary cut by more than half, and the studio laid off 500 employees, studios in China are aggressively hiring, even foreign talent. Chinese studios have been pumping out hours of animation content for a fraction of what it costs to create in the west, or even other Asian markets. The only saving grace of the west was that the quality of Chinese animation work was not up to par. Now that seems to be changing, but the price isn’t. What is their left to justify the cost of these $100 million animated films?
This raises another scary issue for those who work in the industry. If the same quality can be produced in China at nearly 10% of the price, won’t all the work go there? Regardless of what artists think, there are still bean counters sitting atop the Hollywood heap who are only going to look at the numbers. If those numbers say they can get the same quality that equals the box office returns they are used to, while producing in China on a micro-budget, the writing is already on the wall.
Bill Plympton, the king of independent animation, is returning to Kickstarter for his next feature film project called Revengeance. After his success with his 7th animation feature film, Cheatin’, which raised over $100,000 on the popular crowd funding service, Plympton seems sold on crowd funding as a means to get indie projects off the ground. For his 8th animated feature project, Plympton is, for the first time, collaborating with animation artist. In this case, independent animator and cartoonist Jim Lujan.
“REVENGEANCE tells the story of a low-rent bounty hunter (named Rod Rosse, The One Man Posse) who gets entangled in a web of seedy danger when he takes on a job from an ex-biker/ex-wrestler turned U.S. senator named "Deathface." Rod has to find what was stolen from the senator and find the girl who stole it. Soon, Rosse finds there’s more than meets the eye to this dirty job. Between the ruthless biker gangs, the blood thirsty cults, and the crooked cops - Rod Rosse is a marked man. If the bullets don’t kill him - the California sun just might!”
Those of you with experience handling your own crowd funding campaign can easily see the value in this. Connection with the project, and a real connection with the artists who create it, is the big difference between indies and the big studios. Users want to be a part of something they love and enjoy. They want to contribute in as many ways as possible, and they want to connect. These new methods of getting your project out there, whether we are talking about Kickstarter, Indie Gogo or Patreon, all mean the indie artist can directly connect with their fans. The fans can not just feel like, but really be a part of something.
If you as an indie creator aren’t taking advantage of all the ways available to directly connect and interact with the people who love and, hopefully, support your work, you are missing a huge part of path to indie animation success.
About 12 years ago, MODO was developed by a small independent company called Luxology. This group was composed of former developers from Newtek, their Lightwave Team, when they split over creative differences. For nearly ten years, this group toiled away building up MODO, which began as a simple but extremely powerful modeler, into a full fledged 3D package. This caught the interest of people like John Knoll and ILM. As a result, about two years ago, with a push fro the professional VFX community, Luxology was acquired by The Foundry, a large VFX software developer known for tools like Nuke, Katana and Mari.
The Foundry is a UK based company known for making very high end visual FX tools used in the biggest of Hollywood pictures. They are owned by a private equity firm known as The Carlyle Group. Late last year, this private equity firm announced that they were putting the company up for sale. Word has it that they purchased the company for about £75 million, some years ago, and it is now valued at around £200 million, earning £10 million in revenue per year. Clearly it was a worthwhile investment.
Adobe apparently sees an opportunity to apply The Foundry’s tools to a wider business community. This is where things could get interesting, because the price range of The Foundry’s tools is in an entirely different league than any Adobe offerings. The Foundry targets the largest VFX studios, and their prices reflect that. Adobe targets a wider user base with much cheaper products.
It should be noted that should such a purchase take place, Adobe, having never been involved in 3D before, may have no interest whatsoever in MODO. The Foundry’s Nuke has taken over the professional compositing and post production market, leaving tools like After FX in the minor leagues. Other tools in their lineup, like Colorway and Katana might also be great additions to the Adobe production suites. A full 3D package like MODO could very well get left out in the cold in such a deal.
As an independent creator, you need to get your head squarely and completely out of those clouds. We are not a part of that game. Trying to get into or become a part of that game is nearly an exercise in futility. You need to create your own game.
A perfect example of this is the indie creator Signe Baumane and her recent micro-budget feature film Rocks in my Pockets. This film was apparently on the short list for the Oscars, but was not nominated in the end. Being a realistic tale about depression and suicide, based on true events, maybe it was too indie for them. While many Hollywood animated features are little different than live action blockbusters, she travels the paths that only animation can travel. She spoke about this not long ago in an interview with Vice.
“Telling that amount of history in a live action film is nearly impossible. Showing how a person feels from inside, how depression works from inside, is also nearly impossible in live action.
Do you remember that film A Beautiful Mind about the mathematician who went crazy? To depict his state of mind, they used blurry spinning images. This is all the language you have in live action. In animation it's different; you can just walk into a person's mind and you can show everything going on in there. In animation you're free to do anything you want.”
Is this really true? Of course we know it is, but you might not think so looking at the big films in the industry. They are just as formulaic and, in some ways, lacking in artistry as any Hollywood Blockbuster. For the indie, any attempt to mimic that would be a recipe for disaster. This is a notion of which I am often reminded by independent animation veteran Paul Fierlinger, who has long been advising me to put more realism and more of myself into my work. He is adamant that the indie trying to directly compete with Hollywood, or anime, or anything else mainstream will find themselves without an audience. Signe Baumane certainly has her style and definitely speaks from her heart in her films. This makes them decidedly different than the mainstream.
“...what really bums me out is that animation is misunderstood as a medium for children; this makes me really upset. Animation has been around for ages, it was the first moving images. Then sometime around the 1920s, it was hijacked by children.”
For nearly ten years now modo has been a big part of my overall workflow. This is apparent in both my Final Independent Animation Training as well as my Anigen Final Secrets method of creating animation, both of which involve the use of this tool. It all started because of a project I was working on all those years ago, called Daniel: Visions and Dreams. At the time I was using a different toolset for creating models and ran into some issues with a temple I needed to build for one scene. I just couldn't do it. With little to lose, I decided to give it a try in that first version of modo and was met with shock. This model, which was giving me so much trouble, and which I couldn't wrap my head around, just happened in a few minutes. The toolset in modo was that different!
Now, so many years later, we arrive at modo 601, which has to be the most comprehensive upgrade to this software yet. Gone are the days of modo being a simple modeler and renderer. Over time we have seen the addition of complex environments, sculpting, an animation timeline and the famous replicators. Now they have gone even further with the addition of bones and character animation tools, volumetric effects, particles and even dynamics. This puts modo in the big leagues, right up there with the major players in the industry.
I haven't personally tested these new features, but on paper it seems there is little lacking to make modo a possible tool of choice for all of one's 3D animation needs. Of course, we live in an age, now, where using many different software packages to achieve the final result is common. That doesn't mean it wouldn't be great to see some of those tools fall by the wayside. For me, one tool which may be falling out of use will be Vue Infinite.
For years, I absolutely loved Vue Infinite and the power it gave me to create natural scenery, especially for the fantasy style backgrounds I like to do in animation. Still, it was one more tool adding complexity to the workflow. When they came out with version 6, which introduced the amazing clouds, which had a look that always reminded me of the skies in Macross Plus, I was hooked. Great as the results were, though, Vue was far from easy, and certainly never fast. Over time, as you can see in my modo nature video tutorial, modo began to add the tools which created fewer and fewer reasons to go to Vue. Now, in modo 601, they have gone over the top.
The new volumetric rendering engine has brought amazing looking clouds to modo. Of course, it doesn't stop there. The new volumetric rendering in modo is in combination with replicators and their new particle engine. This means you can do smoke, fire, and many other fully animated effects which are not as easily achieved in Vue. When you look at what is possible with modo's surfacing, via the shader tree, the replicators, the environment system and now with real volumetric rendering, you can actually do more than was possible in Vue and you don't have to deal with the incredibly slow renders or flickering.
Needless to say, I am very excited about the new modo 601, even if just for what can be done on the nature side of things, or for backgrounds. When you factor in the new developments in character animation, who knows where this can all go? I haven't actually played with it myself though, so we will see how things develop in the near future.
If you consider the domestic box office of a very successful movie, and also take into account the price of a movie ticket these days, even the movies which gross hundreds of millions of dollars are, in fact, viewed by less than 10% of the population. Some of those tickets sold are likely to people who view popular movies multiple times also. I can also imagine that when it comes to the huge, FX driven films now common in Hollywood, it is very likely the same 10% that is watching these films. What, then, are the other 90% of people watching?
Let's take a look at the HBO series Game of Thrones. This fantasy is definitely not Harry Potter or Dungeons&Dragons. The show contains a lot of gore, plenty of nudity, graphic sex and is very slow paced. In the entire first season there are only two or three monster appearances and only one CG creature. This show is heavy on the drama and characters. It is also hugely successful, having picked up for a second season after just one showing of the first episode. I am willing to bet that, while there is some audience crossover, this caters to a very different crowd than the typical Hollywood summer movie.
In the world of games, Nintendo began to find entirely new audiences with products like Nintendogs and that cooking game. Suddenly, housewives and the elderly were playing video games. Facebook has a number of very popular games among people who don't consider themselves gamers, and they are nothing like what is generally considered popular in the mainstream market. The mobile market, especially the IOS market has opened up entirely new avenues to reach entirely new players.
There is no reason to believe that you have to make what they are making in order to be a success. You don't have to follow Hollywood formulas or feel that you need to make a Disney or Pixar clone for your animated movie, just because everyone else is doing so. Deviating from this doesn't mean you are attempting to make an ice cream parlor in the cold north. We have the internet at our disposal. It may take you bit longer to build up, but the people who would most love to watch what you want to make will eventually find you.
Get ready to experience the fastest and easiest method of creating 3d, cel shaded anime I have ever devised! You don't need millions of dollars or major studio backing! These secrets will give you all you need to create stunning work in minutes! Yes, minutes! The tools and technology are here today and you can do your dream project right now! CLICK HERE!
As many readers will know, I have been working on and updating my 3D, cel shaded, anime techniques since Understanding Chaos over 10 years ago. YES, over ten years! Can you believe it? Well, it really has been that long and the technology and techniques have come a long way since then. I have gone through different software packages and tried many different ways, all with the idea that I could achieve the dream of doing a series.
What I finally came upon was the fastest, most powerful technique I ever encountered. Like many things I did in the past, I am sure it involves stretching the software in directions the makers probably never intended for it to be used, maybe even that they never imagined. The result, though, is a method that really makes the dream possible. If you thought doing 10 minutes in a month, on Understanding Chaos, was an accomplishment, you haven't seen anything yet. I won't even tell you how much is possible in month with this technique. You wouldn't believe me. You have to try it for yourself.
In this update I want to talk about an independent animated movie that truly epitomizes everything that I have been talking about on this site for years. Paul Fierlinger, the writer and director of this feature film, is really doing it. This full length feature not only got done, but got international distribution. He has also done a lot to help me in moving forward with my own creative works, which I will talk about later. Also, if you want to learn how to make anime for your own projects, take a look at the trailer for my new Final Independent Animation Training: The Last Course You’ll Ever Need!
You may remember back when I started doing Anigen videos, the series which teaches you how to make anime, I talked about an artist named Yasuhiro Yoshiura, who almost singlehandedly created a short 2D/3D, hybrid, animated film called Pale Cocoon. I bought that DVD from Japan back then and studied it well. Lately I decided to check up on what independent artists like him were up to these days, and I discovered Time of Eve, a six episode original net animation (ONA as opposed to OVA) which he wrote and directed.
This series uses similar techniques as his previous works, combining highly detailed 3D backgrounds and engaging camera work with fully hand drawn, 2D characters. The overall effect is nothing short of amazing. As you might expect from a smaller independent series, the show has very few locations. This is not a globetrotting adventure. The entire story almost takes place is a single cafe called Time of Eve, which does not allow its patrons to discriminate between humans and robots. Only a few scenes take place outside of this venue, in 3 or 4 other locations we see over and over. None of this detracts in the slightest from this amazing story.
Another interesting note is the pace of the production itself. Most episodes are about 15 minutes in length and it was produced at a rate of about 3 episodes per year. He did not, however, animated this by himself as in previous works, and a staff is listed in the credits. When the series finished its run on the net, it was collected, with some scenes updated and some new scenes added, and it was released as a feature film in Japanese cinemas. You may remember a similar path was followed with Macross Plus over a decade ago. IN both cases, the quality was more than good enough to get there. The point here, though, is that if you wish to learn how to make anime, with your eye on seeing your project on the big screen, there are many possible roads to travel. You needn't waste your time or energy pitching to studios or trying to sell your script. DO IT< even if a little bit at a time, and it will get done. If the quality is there, you will find your place among the greats!
In this update I’ll play catch up a little bit, having been gone for so long, and take a look at where we are today in the industry, starting with what I recently experienced in China. Also take a look at the trailer for my new Final Independent Animation Training: The Last Course You’ll Ever Need! If you ever thought, “How do I make my own anime”, your answer is here!