NEXT STEPS

A recent 2D test on how to draw anime

The holidays are upon us and we are approaching a new year. It's time to start thinking about those resolutions. When it comes to independent animation, my resolutions will be plenty. Far from the usual bids to quit smoking, lose weight or get that better job type desires we often hear about, my resolutions are really about creating, and creating more masterfully than ever. After all, 2012 is approaching, right? :)

In my previous post, I mentioned Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, the writers and directors of the independent animated film My Dog Tulip, which is animated entirely by two people in TVPaint. I've known Paul for, perhaps, over ten years, thanks to the TVPaint community, and he was the first person to get me into Wacom technology and paperless animation way back when. Recently, I have been corresponding via video chat and email and he has given me a lot of advice, inspiration and ideas on where I could go with all that I am doing. As a result, my greatest goal for 2012 will be to simplify!

Simplifying things can have a lot of meanings. You may remember that in times past I had way too many websites. There was this one, the iPhone Alchemy site, the mobile manga reader, the Zahur site, my travel adventure site and a couple of others you probably never heard of. On top of that, I was selling 3D models on Content Paradise, writing articles for Ezine Articles and doing gigs on a few freelance sites. All of that, in the end, served to keep me from the one thing I should have been doing, which is creating more independent animation.

Realizing this problem, I began to, over time, pair things down to just a couple of sites. Later, of course, all my sites went down because my web host from that time wouldn't accept payments from a foreign source. Now that I am back, I have only this site and no others, with the exception that my modo training videos are being sold on Source3D.net. That is one aspect of simplifying that is getting me closer to my goal of creating more. The other aspect deals with simplifying different facets of the work itself.

In the past, I was always heavily influenced by the work of Production I.G., particularly Ghost in the Shell and Jin Roh, as far as anime was concerned. In the 3D world, I always leaned towards very realistic works like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and Beowulf. This led me to spend a lot of time attempting to draw, or create in 3D, very realistic, anatomically correct characters with little stylization. What I eventually found out was this created a situation where I often enjoyed the results of an animated project, but not the process of getting there. I'm sure you heard it said that the journey is more important than the destination. If you don't enjoy the process of creating your own anime work, why do it? I needed to get back to where I enjoyed the doing of the work, because it is the doing that counts, not the final product. As with Stephanie Meyer, the creator of Twilight, the process of writing brought her joy even though she never intended to show it to anyone. Still, look what happened when her sister pushed her to get Twilight published.

Too alleviate this problem in the world of 3D and cel shading, I created the WYSIWYG method which I expounded upon in Anigen: Final Secrets, and which you will be able to see in its entirety when the completed video comes out next year. Even inside that method I began to learn more ways to simplify the process. In the world of 2D, I had to take another path. To simplify meant to rethink my character designs. Studying the work of creators such as Katsuhiro Omoto or the directors at Studio Ghibli, you can see that their character designs are very simple yet so full of life and expression. It is little wonder that they are able to achieve such a high frame rate in their films because their characters are so much easier to draw. See for yourself. Put up a frame of Ponyo side by side with a frame of Ghost in the Shell 2. The difference is night and day. The gains from this consideration are quite a bit larger.

In the 3D world, characters which are very realistic enter into what we call "The Uncanny Valley" where something about them, which we cannot express, turns us off. Something similar can happen in 2D as well, if the designs are too realistic. They don't look alive. In Ghost in the Shell, the often expressionless faces worked for the film because the characters are mostly machine, questioning their own humanity. Even there, characters which needed more expression, like the chief, where more stylized. When you simplify a character's face, it becomes so much easier to add life and expression. Compare a character from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within to a character from How to Train Your Dragon.

After much discussion with Paul Fierlinger, and showing different examples to people around my work and home, I have begun practicing to simplify my 2D character drawings. There are two reasons. One is to add life, the other is to gain speed. I am not just simplifying the faces and adding stylization, I am simplifying the line work, with less emphases on perfectly clean and sharp lines. When I watched animation of this type, like the Kojiro Shishido short Naked Youth, or the anime series Kemonozume, it feels like it has more life.

As I move into the new year, my goal is to create more. I will also keep updating here on this one site to show you how to create your own anime as well. If I am so inclined, I may dare to write a year end review in the next few days. I haven't done that in a while and it is a very helpful exercise to see where you have been, where you are going, and what you are leaving behind. If not, have a happy holiday season and keep creating!!

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

ANIGEN UPDATE: MY DOG TULIP



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!

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

TIME TO START DOING SOMETHING?

Time of Eve

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!

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

NEVER STOP IMPROVING

My Practice drawing anime girls

If you want to learn how to draw anime, it stands to reason that your basic drawing skills need to be up to a polished level. Even if you have been drawing for a long time, you don't want to rest on your laurels. Only by doing so everyday will you be able to gain speed, create better and sharper lines, or generally improve the quality of your images and animation.

I have jumped back and forth between 2D and 3D for years. At times, especially while working in Hollywood, I did 3D exclusively for a very long time. My drawing skills began to slide, naturally, as they did not receive everyday use. Now I am getting back to work on really sharpening those skills. Another issue that arises, though, when trying to learn how to make anime, is the tools.

Of course, if you just want to sharpen your basic drawing skills, a pencil and paper is all that is needed. Still, in the world of digital paperless animation, you might be thinking about things like a Wacom Tablet or Cintiq, or even a tablet PC. I currently use a Wacom Bamboo, the first Bamboo model actually. I have been told it should be retired to a museum. Going back and looking at some of my drawings when I used the Mirage Nomad tablet PC, and comparing them to what I am doing now, the old stuff looked a lot better. While I am certain I need practice, a lot of this is also due to the tools.

When I first got a Wacom tablet, an Intuos 2 9x12 model, it tools me a few days to be able to draw anything on it I would dare show anyone. I had to relearn. That was back in 2002 or so. Even many years later, while living in Korea. Me and my friends pulled out large reams of paper just to sit around and draw for fun. I was shocked at how much faster I was on paper and how much better my drawings looked. To this day I still cannot reach the same level digitally as I can on paper. Does this mean I should draw on paper and scan the drawings in? I would have to say no.

If your goal is to learn how to draw anime, you have to take into consideration many factors. In the studio where I now work, the 2D team did, in fact, still draw on paper, using a light box, and these drawings were scanned in, and probably cleaned, before going to inking and color on the computer. A one-artist-show can't really afford to do that, especially if speed is a consideration, and it should be.

Ideally, you need to adapt your style to fit the tools you have, or get better tools. If you can't go out and get a Wacom Cintiq right now, or a tablet PC, do not sit down and wait for the best tools to fall in your lap. They will probably never do so. Practice every day with the tools you have and improve. If need be, adapt your style to fit the tools you have and start creating. Before you know it, the tools you really desire will find their way to you. The key is to never stop. If you want to make your own anime movie, you should be doing something about it right now, today.

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

THE WISDOM OF CROWDS

I decided it was time to do something a little different. I decided it was time to move things to the next level. What you are about to witness may very well be the future of indie animation, if not independent content creation all together. From the beginning, back when I made my own anime called Understanding Chaos, I always said you don't need millions of dollars or major studio backing. That was based on the technology of the year 2000. Today that statement holds more true than ever. Today we can do more on a single laptop than I could do with the whole room full of equipment with large cables running everywhere that it took to make my first indie animation happen.

Compared to Hollywood, what you really need to make your own anime project work is very little! The important thing, of course, is that you need to survive, while you make your project. You need to keep the lights on and keep food in your belly. If you have a family, you should probably keep them fed as well. When I did that first film, I was still working in EA Games in Las Vegas, working only nights and weekends to make my own anime. You can certainly do that for a short film, but attempting it on a feature project could lead to many bad consequences unless you are of extremely strong constitution.

Now, it seems, some brilliant people have found a way that may enable you to devote everything to your project and raise the funds necessary to do so. That way is called crowd funding, meaning that rather than seeking out a single venture capitalist to put money into your dreams, you seek out a large number of people, the very people who would be most interested in seeing your project come to life, and seek out small contributions from them. I am doing so with Paragon, using the site Indie GoGo. Other sites, such as Kickstarter offer similar serviced. This is something I recommend seriously considering as you move towards your next project.

Also, if you would be interested in supporting this project, click on the widget above and visit my campaign page. Help spread the word. Tell your friends. We can make history together!

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

COMING OF WINTER SALE!

Final Independent Animation Training teaches you how to draw anime movie
Winter is coming and bringing with it the many holidays around the world. What better time then to have a great sale? This gives you great deals on many products in the ArtFX Content Shop, including Final Independent Animation Training for over 30% off! If you want to learn how to draw anime movies, and you missed the opportunity to get this amazing course, featuring 30 hours of video training to give you everything you need to get your projects off the ground, now is the chance to get it. Act fast, as this offer will not be available for long!

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

ANIMATION CAREER REVIEW

I recently did an interview with Animation Career Review, a website positioning itself to become the authority in the animation/design space for aspiring professionals seeking information on schools, field specific salary/employment information, software/technology, and related subjects. The interviews, which feature many names in the industry, are designed to give aspiring animators and design professionals a perspective on the work being done in the industry, what skills employers value, and, from a bigger picture standpoint, to convey to them that there are many opportunities in the industry, and not only in huge firms like Pixar, Disney, and DreamWorks.

You can check my interview, and my thoughts on independent animation and the industry today, by
clicking here.

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

GMO少女

GMO Shoujo a new 3D cel shaded anime project

WOW! It's been over two months since I released the first chapter of my new series Paragon. That is not to say I have been lounging around here, though. As I may have mentioned before, some of the other projects I have been working on may appear on this site. This is one of them! GMO少女, or GMO Girl, is my latest short animation. Have a look. You can watch it on the page or download it in HD. I am not, however, getting sidetracked from Paragon. Look for chapter 2 of that series coming real soon! Until then, check out GMO少女!

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

You can learn to draw your own anime
It's that time of year again, where one expects pumpkins, candy and lots of fake spider webs. Of course we don't have any of that here in China, so I decided to draw up a little something fun for the holiday. Thus, I give you the WITCH DOCTOR! Get it? Witch Doctor? GYAAAHAHAHAHA!!!

Anyway, there's a lot of interesting information about the real history of witches floating around on the net these days. Especially interesting is where the legend of the witches flying around on broom sticks comes from. Look it up. You might be very surprised. Also of note is what may be the true basis behind the epidemic of witch trials and that there was a lot more to gain from them than something ass simple as stamping out paganism. What might that be? The same thing that is behind so many major movements, money! It is said that, in that day, women could only own property through marriage. So, if a widow who owned a great deal of land were to be branded a witch and burned, the accuser, the state or the church suddenly gets all that land, free and clear. Witch hunting was good business apparently.

You never see these kinds of stories being told in animation do you? So why should you think about them? Well, consider this: you are an unknown indie who wants to make your anime and independently publish. It is unrealistic to think that a load of customers are going to drop $20, or so, for your DVD without the marketing dollars a company like DIsney or Dreamworks puts behind a product launch. For this reason, if you did something in the same vein as those large outfits, no matter how well done it might be, chances are you will get lost in the competition.

The key is, of course, to do something wildly different. Do something that the customer cannot get from the majors, thus giving them a reason to take a look at you. If you did something that truly stands apart from the mainstream you can find yourself in a true to life, "If you build it, they will come" situation. Word of mouth will spread. People who are looking specifically for what you have to offer will be led to you and they will happily open their wallets. Piracy will not even be a consideration.

Like Nintendo did when they created some "out there" concepts like Nintendogs or that cooking game, and suddenly the elderly and housewives became avid gamers, you may find yourself with an audience who may not have otherwise watched any animation were it not for what you created.

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

GOING MOBILE

The Iphone showing my manga
Recently I was talking to the creator of the most famous animation here in China and he said that, in making animation, you must know, "Who is your customer?" and "What are you selling?" I took this thought further and added the question "Where is your customer?” Naturally, in consideration of the mobile market, your customer is everywhere! Why is this important? To answer this question, I set about studying the market. I arrived at some interesting conclusions that show that I may have been on the right track in my iPhone Alchemy days, a project, built around the idea to make manga for the iPhone, I, perhaps, shouldn't have abandoned.

Let's start with a discussion of users. If you consider the install base of users who own the iPhone (all versions) or the Sony PSP, you have a group larger than the install base of DVD and Blu-ray combined. If you factor in the rest of the mobile world, considering the large install base of other phones with video capable screens, the numbers become quite staggering. Putting aside the different resolutions and file formats to be encountered, there is no greater potential market anywhere, except possible with physical books.

There are, of course, other advantages to producing content for the mobile world, for the forward thinking indie. The small screen size and the data rates would be one. If you tend to work alone, creating content for this end negates the need for high definition images, incredible detail, high polygons or any of the other requirements that might be associated with producing image based content for the cinema or HD delivery. Even though a couple of the most recent smart phone offerings have screen resolutions that approach 1/2 HD, the screens are still 4-5 inches. No one is going to see the super detail one might put into film or HD resolution artwork. The indie suddenly gains the freedom to be fast, focus on story and get really creative.

If, like me, you have an interest in series work, it all suddenly becomes viable. Mobile episodes tend to be short. While some outfits are simply repurposing television or film content to the small screen, they are not creating an experience specific to the device in the user's hand. They will be outpaced by those who choose to do so. For example, many films contain scenes which are entirely too dark or have characters and other details too small for mobile viewing. A user wanting to watch something while commuting on the train will find themselves staring at their own reflection rather than the movie. Mobile content should be bright, colorful and fit to the habits and motions of the viewer. So, just who is this viewer? They can be pretty much whoever you want.

According to CNN, "...there are 48 million people in the world who have mobile phones, even though they do not have electricity at home..." Far more than the number of people who have DVDs or even TVs, for that matter, there are billions of users out there. This means that every little niche, even the one which is a perfect fit for your story can be catered to. CNN also claims that, "By 2013, more people in the world will access the Internet on a mobile device than on a PC..." This is, of course, talking about the real internet. There are already more mobile subscribers getting content directly from their carriers than there are pC owners or internet users in the world.

This topic always leads to the question of whether or not PCs will go away in the future. I would say the answer is a resounding YES! Of course, not for us, as creators of content. We can't make our shows on a tablet or smart phone, but consider these simple facts. Up until the personal computer was introduced into the home less than 30 years, by the late Steve Jobs, computers were confined to huge laboratories and government facilities. Normal people simple didn't need them. So shall it be again. I would venture than 99.9% of PC users don't do anything that couldn't be accomplished on a tablet or smart phone.

Those of us in the creative industry aren't really using personal computers. We use high powered work stations designed for graphics and other intensive tasks. This market is already minuscule compared to the vast PC market as a whole. Task specific workstations will stay around, but the average user, who does their email, net surfing and other simple things, has no need for such power or expense. Their phone will do it all. We are already seeing this trend in the space conscious markets of Japan and South Korea. PC sales are dying. In the developing world, people can't really afford PCs to begin with. Their introduction will be with a powerful mobile phone. The best of the best phones today will be affordable in the third world tomorrow. This is where everyone will be found. This is where I am purposed to go. For my future projects, I am definitely going mobile!

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

REMEMBERING STEVE JOBS

Steve Jobs 1955 - 2011

The news is everywhere already. Apple CEO and pioneer of the digital age, Steve Jobs, has died. This man truly changed the world with his ideas and innovations and should ever stand as a role model to creators of any industry who wish to carve their own path. His passion for his work gave us devices that made our lives fun, easier and more enjoyable. He made our work simple, and in some cases, even possible because he chose to think different. In a statement from the Apple board of directors, the write, "Steve's brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve."

As an innovator, Steve Jobs has been compared to likes of Edison, in as much as he has truly transformed our world. A great example would be when his foresight allowed Apple to release the iPod in combination with the iTunes music store when the record industry slowly dying because of file sharing. The iPhone was a similar breakthrough. One only needs to look at how nearly every major handset manufacturer has copied it to understand the power of this idea. The great change to the world, though, might be found in his first product, the Apple II, which some consider to be the world's first personal computer.

Imagine for a moment that before this system, computers were something that existed in laboratories and universities. They were huge machines dedicated to work and there was nothing personal about them. The idea of a single person having one on their desk would likely have been seen as absurd. Contrast this with today, when nearly everyone has a PC on their desktop or in their office. If there is another revolution on this scale coming, Jobs will be behind this too, as it may be the iPad and iPhone, or smart phones in general of course, replacing the PC forever. That will be my next article, though.

Back in August, I wrote an article called, "A World Without Jobs" which touched on his resignation from Apple. In that article, I told my Apple story, of how I came to use and enjoy their products, as I still do today, and I also touched on the issue of work and health. I wrote, "I have been working hard for many years to build a dream. Right now, it seems like I am working 16 or more hours every day. I am lucky to get 6 hours of sleep, and, in fact, rarely do. I have been told I am destroying my health and making myself old too fast. So how does one find the balance?" Steve Jobs has written before how much he loved his work, and it shows in every product Apple creates. I do have to wonder, however, if that passion drove him to overwork and neglect his health.

The story of his passing is significant to me, not just because I am typing this on a Macbook Pro or dream of getting the next iPhone, but because I also very much love what I do and, perhaps, overwork at the expense of my health. I have a desire to do what Steve Jobs did. I don't design cool devices or create world changing technology, but animation is about ideas too. The impact this man has had extends far beyond his own products. He was something of a mentor to other great creators who have changed the world on some level.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote, "Steve, thank you for being a mentor and a friend. Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world. I will miss you." We all know that Facebook was a latecomer to the world of social networking, but quickly took over that market. The founder of Yahoo similarly wrote, "Steve was my hero growing up. He not only gave me a lot of personal advice and encouragement, he showed all of us how innovation can change lives. I will miss him dearly, as will the world." HIs wisdom, however, wasn't limited to the technology field. There are statements from politicians, entertainers and CEOs of nearly every type of industry claiming great thanks to Steve Jobs for sage advice that helped them achieve what they did.

I never met Steve Jobs, though I wish I did. His creations, however, have had a tremendous impact on my life, allowing me more creative freedom than I dreamed possible in the old days. More than that, though, his ideas have made me want to be the greatest creator I can possibly be, so that I might also change the world, even if just a little bit.

I think nothing can sum up the loss of this legend better than this quote from President Obama, "The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve's success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented."

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

YOU CAN'T SAY THERE'S NO PLACE

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
I have written before about how the world of animation, both 2D and 3D really, tends towards monotony. In contrast, a film like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is considered a colossal failure, and as such, people apparently don't like this kind of animation and there is no place for it in the market. This, however, is simply not true. The fact of the matter is there is no place for it in the market at that cost. To illustrate this, I will provide a simple example.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within grossed just over $30 million at the domestic box office. That is a lot of money when you think about it. Most people would be overjoyed to see that kind of gross on their film project. The problem, however, is that Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within cost over $130 million to produce, and probably an equivalent amount to market. This makes for an incredible loss of money for those involved. As a note of contrast, The original A Nightmare on Elm Street films of the 1980s, starring Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger, also grossed around $30 million at the domestic box office. These films, however, cost from $2 million to $4million to produce, making them amazing successes. That same box office take, in this case, means people love this kind of movie and it spawns 5 or 6 sequels.

This brings us to the question, then, if 2 films can gross the same $30 million at the box office, and this box office take means that people love one of them and that there is a big enough market for it, how can the other be a failure? We already know, of course, it is because the other film cost entirely too much to produce. The matter then turns to whether or not the the film considered a failure could be produced for the same cost as the one considered a success. This can certainly be done, though with a few caveats.

Such a production will likely never happen in the U.S. through Hollywood. It is also not likely to come out of the bloated studio system of any country. In the world of independents, though, it becomes a real possibility. This, however, will even require said independents to think differently and abandon prejudices often imposed by the mainstream industry. Just to give an example, from a recent thread on CGTalk, there still seems to be a heavy prejudice against certain software applications, such as Poser, Daz Studio, Vue, Bryce and a few others. While it may be true that there is a vast amount of low quality images associated with these particular tools, it is by no means the fault of the tools. Also these prejudices are years old, and often those who tout them are unaware of the major strides these tools have made since their opinions formed.

A Daz 3D CG character
Just a quick look around the Daz3D gallery and I see examples that show that quality approaching FInal Fantasy: The Spirits Within can certainly be achieved using these tools, if in the right hands. From what I read there, it seems these tools are constantly improving, offering cloth simulation, better rigging and a host of other features commonly associated with more professional CG applications. Their latest character models are some of the best I have seen, and they beat many original character models built from scratch that I have seen recently. The key is to get in your mind the question of what is important to you. Do you want to make your movie, or do you feel the need to say you did every little thing in it?

A beautiful Daz 3D CG character
If you truly care about getting your movie done, then you will use the tools that remove as many barriers to entry as possible. If your movie must be done in Maya, with Zbrush sculpted characters and every single element built from scratch, you will likely find there is no place in the market for it, if it should ever be finished at all. This movie will require immense man power, like any other, and the budget will inflate to a point where it is no longer viable. The people who think like this never start, because they need millions of dollars to even consider doing so. The people who really want to get it done, however, will use whatever tools make this possible at the highest level of quality in the shortest amount of time. They will find a place in the market, because their films will cost little and be enticing to buyers.

An Awesome Daz CG Render
If, like me, you like realistic characters and dark, mature stories in your animation, there is no reason to look around at the funny, family friendly mainstream films and conclude that there is no place in the market for what you like. Those films have to be funny and family friendly because when you spend $100 million or more to make it, you have no choice but to appeal to as many people as possible. The answer is simple. Don't spend that much. Keep your movie, and budget, small and do it quickly. You may be surprised at the niche markets out there just waiting for exactly what you want to make!

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

THE LAST DAYS

Final Independent Animation Training teaches you how to draw anime

No, it's not the end of the world, but summer is pretty much over, so if you wanted to get your hands on my Final Independent Animation Training, the best course there is to teach you how to draw anime, while it is still at the special introductory price, you have two days left to do so. This special low price won't happen again, so if you want to get in on "the last course you'll ever need", act now! Other items on sale for this summer special will be returning to their normal price as well. Head over to my store now and get in on the action before this sale ends!

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

BUILDING YOUR NAME

Independent Animator Bill Plympton
As you create your independent projects and get them out there, along with it goes your name. This name you must continue to build if you are to grow your success. As this name grows, along with your independent projects, many opportunities will come to you that will allow you to use the skills you have gained to help others with their projects. You must be very careful in your selection of which projects to take on, and which projects to refuse, for two important reasons.

The first reason is balance. As your name grows, opportunities for other projects will come to you with increasing frequency. Early on, your independent projects, involving making your own anime, may generate more name value than they do actual revenue for you. For this reason, the side projects may appear to be something of a necessity, as you need to eat and keep the lights on in order to continue towards your dreams. You must take care, however, to never forget your true goals. While the money coming in from side projects may be good, it can also serve to take you off the path to your independent future and let your own anime projects slide to the back burner.

This may be doubly so if you have a family. Your spouse may see little value in your desire to make your own anime projects, and have little understanding of the great future they can create. In contrast to the real money that side projects may bring in now, your family may view your independent anime projects as a waste of time. Not everyone will share your vision, nor will they necessarily understand, or be able to project, what might happen when the independent projects gain steam and take off. Because of this, your family, and others close to you, may be constantly pushing you to continue taking on more "real work" to the detriment of your dreams as an independent and free creator.

You must do something on your independent projects everyday, even if it is only an hour. Never allow side projects to overtake your schedule such that your projects fade away, or you may wake up years later realizing you have truly accomplished nothing of your own. This, then, brings us to the next important reason you must be careful in choosing how to build your name, time.

Every project you do, which is not built around your desire to make your own anime, takes time away from your true dreams and goals, no matter how well it may seem to support it. While it is true that certain projects will fall in line with what you want to achieve, for example, doing a music video or an advertisement, for someone else, in your visual style, they are still not your projects. They can, however, do a lot to help build your name and provide money to allow you to continue your projects, particularly if you did a video for a musician who has a name, like Bill Plympton did for Kanye West. You must note, however, that Plympton still put out a number of his own short animated films that same year.

Time is the one thing you never get back. The money "lost" from not taking a particular project can surely be made up for when your independent anime projects find an audience, but years lost doing too many other projects, while neglecting your own, can never be made up for. If you are ever to see the bright future promised by your independent projects, you must begin now. You must begin to build your name now, and do so in a fashion that is always on one path to your goals and dreams.

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

BURNING OUT

Anime and manga artist burned out from overwork
No matter what kind of project you choose to undertake, if you want to make your own anime, even if it is your highest passion, you must always protect yourself from burning out. This is doubly true if your independent animation project is not your sole means of earning your daily living. All manner of things, events and circumstances will arise to take time and energy away from your project, and they will always seem far more important as well, especially to other people. In order to keep your own project on track, and see it to completion, you will have to prioritize. The things that appear to consume your time, after all, will not just be those relating to "real work". Even a task as simple as washing the dishes, or doing laundry, has its place, but will consume both time and energy the same as any other.

The first thing you must realize is that you and you alone can decide what your priorities shall be. Other people will naturally ask and expect you to give up your project first, particularly if it will mean your ability to meet their demands on your time. The thing to always keep in mind is that your project is not their project. It is yours. You want to make your own anime. It only holds that position of highest importance to you, and no amount of explanation will let others inside your head to the degree that they can see your project on the same pedestal on which you might place it. What you may see as your grand future and great dream, they may see as a waste of time or just "playing around on the computer".

The question which, then, arises is how is one to manage all the demands on their time and still complete a dream project? To answer that, I will supply some words of wisdom often encountered in studying the successful. One quote would be to put your big rocks in first! The idea is that if you had a large glass jar which you had to fill with sand, small pebbles and large rocks, how would you go about it? Well, if you put the sand in first, followed by the pebbles and finally the rocks, you may find yourself running out of space before you fill the jar. If, on the other hand, you first put in the big rocks, you will find that the pebbles will flow around the big rocks, and the sand will flow around the pebbles, allowing the jar to be filled. Your independent animation project should always be your biggest rock, and it must come first.

Of course, here you realize that your independent animation project is immense and seems to require more time that is available. How, then, to tackle this huge task while dealing with everything else in your schedule? Well, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Hide the elephant if you have to and focus on that one bite. Over time, the elephant will be gone. This reminds of a story the esteemed actor Will Smith told in an interview. He related that during his childhood he was tasked with building a large wall. The job seemed impossible when considering the whole. He was, however, instructed not to think about the wall, but to just lay one brick as perfectly as it can be laid. I don't remember how long the task took, be it months or more than a year, but the job was completed over time. So it must be with your anime project, if it is to be at all.

In order to protect yourself from burning out, the key is to focus your energies and apply them in this best way to suit a modern life and still accommodate your project. If your time is limited, purpose to spend even one hour per day on your dream project. This may mean waking up an hour earlier or cutting out one hour from in front of the TV, but you might be surprised how easy it is to find a lost hour in your schedule. If you have more time, it would be even better to focus on how much animation you can complete in a day, even if it is 5 seconds. This may seem a paltry sum, but consider it from another perspective. Looking back over the previous 5 years, how different would things be if you had completed an average of 5 seconds per day on your dream project?

The problem, of course, is not looking back, it is looking forward. Thinking of the large amount of time it might take to complete the project could be disheartening, but what is the alternative? If you look back over the last five years and think that you could have done something, you may know that you will, after five more years, find your self in the same place if you don't do something now. Go over your schedule, hour by hour if need be, and begin to make the time for your most important projects. It doesn't matter if you can do 5 seconds, 3 seconds or even 2 seconds per day. What matters is that you do something, and start now. Doing just a little bit every day will not only see your project to completion in time, but it will keep you from burning out.

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

WHAT IS YOUR STYLE?

How to draw your own manga super fast
When you begin to create your independent anime, or animation works, and really make them yours, it is absolutely necessary to discover what is your true style. If you're doing your first project, you most likely won't find this. Your first project will very likely be heavily influenced by all of the things you have seen that inspired you to follow this path in the first place. Your first work will probably contain a fair amount of imitation, based on the works you love, perhaps those of your childhood or those that are a great inspiration to you now. When you get down to the actual doing of your work, though, you true style will begin to dictate itself to you. You will know this by how you feel about the doing.

I remember a comment, long ago, on the old version of this site, where someone mentioned that they had to get through the boring bits, or parts they don't like in their project in order to get to the stuff they enjoy. I replied to that commenter that when you create your own independent anime project, it should never have boring bits or parts you don't like. If your project has parts you don't like, is it really your project? The whole point of independent animation is to do creative work you want. If you are spending your time and effort on parts you don't like, you may as well go work for someone else. At the very least, you need to seriously consider why you are doing this project and who you are doing it for.

My past projects contained both a lot of influence from the things I liked at the time, and a good dose of those "boring bits" or parts I didn't like doing. If you look at my latest project, though, you can see I am moving away from both of those obstacles to creative expression. I don't mind, though, as the whole thing has been a learning experience. I had to learn to separate what I enjoy watching from what I enjoy making. I watch and love a large variety of movies, TV Shows, anime, and even game cut scenes. Just because I love watching these things, it does not follow that I should equally love to make something like that. I had to learn that what you enjoy making has to be about what you enjoy making! Notice the present, active tense. It's not about the end result. It's about the doing.

An Evening With Kevin Smith
I remember watching one of those lectures that film director Kevin Smith is famous for. He often travels to various universities, around the world, and gives talks on the industry and his life and work. In one instance, he talks quite a bit about why he passed on doing the $70 million USD budget The Green Hornet picture and opted to do Clerks II instead. Of course, one of the reasons was creative control, which would never exist on such an expensive Hollywood picture. There was, however, another reason he explained in detail. This reason was more about the doing. He talked about the difference between working long hours on his funny, dialogue heavy comedy versus working on an epic action picture. These differences he learned by doing Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, which had a considerable amount of action compared to his usual work. He discovered that he hated working those long hours to only end up with a few seconds of finished product at the end of the day. His style was dictating itself to him, and he learned by doing.

My experience has been quite similar. I may love to watch an epic fantasy movie with huge army battles, but I would never want to do one. Actually, I tried, though on a smaller scale, in my old Daniel project, which had a battle scene. I remember it took days to do one shot. It was excruciating and then I wasn't even happy with the final result. I learned by doing, and discovered what things I like to do and what things I do not like to do, and as such, may hold me back.

Now what about those who may ask, "What if your story requires you to do the army battle?" This should be impossible. If your story can require, or worse, demand anything from you, it is not your story. At this point you need to ask why this element has appeared in it. Was it because you want to do it, or because you thought you had to do it to please someone else? Shakespeare's stories have huge army battles that take place entirely off the stage. A wounded soldier may walk in and through him we learn what is happening or what has happened in said battle. The events of the story are the same. It is all in how you tell it. You get to choose. That battle need not be in there unless you first want to do the battle. Only by doing it, though, will you be able to know if that is your style, or if you're still trapped in the style of someone else.

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

WORK/LIFE BALANCE

Skeleton Working at Computer
I mentioned before how I came across a thread discussing people in this industry working themselves to death. In the last article I focused on the business aspect of it, but this time I want to talk about the actual working oneself to death issue. According to this story, the artist, likely on a big film project, worked something to the tune of 75 straight days, of 14-16 hour days without any break. He chose to cope with the high stress by smoking. The food was catered, in an effort to keep the artists in their chairs most likely, and it was unhealthy burritos and fast food fare. The guy supposedly gained a large amount of extra weight in this short time, and eventually had a heart attack. Regardless of whether or not that particular story is true, the picture that it paints of the industry, and how it operates, is most certainly true. I have seen it first hand, sans the heart attacks fortunately.

Now the first question that might come to mind is, why would the guy put up with that? Well, according to the story he was getting $1000 USD per day to put up with that. There is no doubt, some of the larger studios have no problems shelling out huge amounts of money as incentives to get artists to attempt the impossible. The thing is, these same companies don't care if they destroy the artist's health, or if they destroy marriages, break up families, or anything else that happens outside of that office, or even that particular project. As much as I hate to admit it, they are not wrong!

Just like it is not wrong for a company to outsource their labor to India, where they can receive the work they want for 25% of the cost, it is equally not wrong for them to offer a great artist and outrageous sum of money to work nearly impossible hours to get their awesome movie done on time. The reason it is not wrong is, simply, that the artist has a choice. If someone dangles a carrot on stick in front of an artist, and said artist runs off the edge of a cliff chasing that carrot, he chose to do so. This means it is the artist who placed greater importance on that incentive than his health. It is the artist who placed greater importance on that incentive than his marriage. Even if this artist should have a heart attack and die, it is no ones fault but his own.

Steve Jobs failing health
Let's look at this from another perspective. I recently wrote about Steve Jobs resigning from Apple because of health concerns. Seeing more recent pictures of him, and his near skeletal form, I fear he may have irreversibly damaged his health, and for what? Steve Jobs is a billionaire. He has been for some time. He could have quit ages ago if he desired to do so. There is no one holding incentives over his head. He is the boss. Whatever his current situation, he chose to continue working at whatever pace, or for however many hours, put him where he is now. Still, it was his choice. My understanding is that he so loves his work that it would be difficult to pull him away from it. The same could be said of Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets and The Dark Crystal. He died of an illness easily treatable in todays world simply because he refused to stop working and go get treatment. This makes me seriously consider the importance of work/life balance.

I imagine that most artists love their work. When I was younger, it was easy to find myself in the studio, working until the sun comes up, simply because I just had to finish something. This had nothing to do with bosses, who had long since gone home. This was all me, because I couldn't let it go. Granted, in that day, I was young and single. Many artists I worked with, though, were not, and they were right there with me. I saw health begin to fail and marriages fall apart. I also saw the parking lot become populated with porches and BMWs, and heard rumors of huge house purchases, so there was certainly some incentive. I feel fortunate that I took some of that incentive and used it to create my own work.

Work/Life balance is extremely important to me today. Without travel and gaining new experiences, from where comes the inspiration to create? Without friends, family and relationships with loved ones, from where comes the heart and drive that goes into your creation? Sitting in front of a computer for 16 hours per day does not lead to greater creativity nor productivity. In fact, studies have found that spending that much time at work leads to the exact opposite. Look at how things have shaped up in many European nations, with some working as little as 6 hours per day. The reason is simple. It leads to happier, healthier employees. Some go as far as to say that having a limited amount of time makes employees more productive, such that they don't spend time surfing the net or chatting at the water cooler.

It is written that after the second world war, and the resulting rise in technology, many nations saw incredible leaps in productivity and increased growth in GDP. America, supposedly decided work harder and go for ever greater leaps in wealth. Many countries in Europe however thought they could work a lot less and keep the same level of productivity and growth. I like this mode of thinking. When I did Understanding Chaos, I worked very hard to do a ten minute short, 3D, cel shaded, anime film in a month. The thing is, technology has advanced so far since then. If I wanted to work 14-16 hour days, seven days per week, I could now do 30 minutes or even 45 minutes in a month, and it would be a higher level of quality than Understand Chaos! I prefer, however, to work a lot less, enjoy travel, friends and relationships, while continuing to do ten or fifteen minutes of animation per month. It's enough!

What is the rush? If you want to make your own anime, your project isn't going to run away. With a little bit of effort each day, it will get done. It is fear that causes haste, and when you work from that mindset you likely compromise your own project anyway. Relax! Let your project come alive in its own way. Get out from in front of the computer and go experience some real life. Your projects will not only benefit from this, your health and relationships will benefit greatly from this as well.

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

WHY YOU SHOULD PREPARE TO CREATE YOUR OWN WORK

Skeleton Working to death
I was reading a thread in another animation forum, about people working themselves to death with long hours, bad food, and little vacation time, in return for the sometimes extremely nice salaries provided by the industry. This lead me to two topics I want to discuss. This article will cover the first of, said topics. I remember reading in that thread that someone once overheard George Lucas walking through the parking lot, of his own company, and he allegedly said, "You know what the problem with this industry is? Look at this parking lot! Too many BMWs!" We all know that George Lucas has operations in Singapore now.

From the stand point of big business in America, sadly, Lucas is right! That may not be good for the artists working in the field, but that is exactly what big business wants; Lower the costs and increase profits. If Davy Jones, from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, could be done in the third world for $10 per day, that's where they will go. I hate to say it, but I believe that day is coming.

With the advent of a global market, the idea that you cannot get high quality for extremely low prices has gone out the window! I once did a whole commercial, through one of those freelance sites, with graphics, voiceover and music, for something like $500. I was living in the Philippines at the time, so that money went a long way. The expectation that these are "low rung" or bottom of the barrel clients, who will get pitiful visual quality for their money, is outmoded. They can and will find someone who can do amazing work for that price.

I would say that the only exception to this rule is the highest tier (think ILM or WETA) VFX in Hollywood feature films like Transformers: Dark of the Moon or Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Everything else you see, on TV, games, commercials, print etc. can be and, in many cases, probably already is being done in Bulgaria, China, Korea, India and so on.

Even the big feature work won't be too far behind. Leading U.S. artists are being paid salaries amounting to several thousand per month (if not week) to train the up and comers in these emerging markets. It won't be long before they can tackle even the most difficult movie VFX for 1/10th the price. Take a look at the credits of your favorite blockbuster this summer. Chances are you already see a large number of Indian or Thai names in the credits. I am told that these small overseas outfits are limited to match moving, wire removal and other menial work for the time being, but how long will that last?

George Lucas doesn't want pay the artists, who make his films a reality, a salary that allows them to buy a BMW, and he shouldn't have to! Let's not think ill of him for holding this notion. If there was one guy who could do his film for him, and deliver it for $500, shouldn't he, if he be a sane man, go to that guy? Of course he should, and for this reason, the industry is going to change, and it is going to change in a huge way very soon. Luckily you needn't worry about any of this. There is one person who can do your film for you, and deliver it at the lowest possible price. That person is you!

Paul Fierlinger, the independent animated film director behind the movie My Dog Tulip, tells his students, at the university where he teaches, that the days of graduating and going into one of the large studios as an animator are coming to an end. The students need to prepare to create their own work. He should know. He's been doing it for 50 years! Only by creating your own work will you be able to open far more doors to far more opportunities than is possible as an employee anywhere in this global market today. Did you get into animation to compete with an artist willing to work for pennies in Bangladesh? I am guessing you got into it because you had a dream, a vision of something you wanted to create. It's time to start nurturing that dream. It's time to start creating.

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

ALWAYS CHANGING

Test of my internet speed from speedtest
About a week ago, I moved into a new apartment, here in Shanghai. I should say, I moved into a real apartment, since the place I lived before was really more of a business complex with far more offices than living residents. Just this morning they hooked up 10Mbps internet in my room. The actual result I get from speedtest.net is quite a bit faster, but I am not complaining. It is smoking fast. This makes me think about how things are always changing. When I left California, 3Mbps was the fastest available. Warner Cable was about to roll out 6Mbps the very week I was moving on. Things have come a long way in some places, but not so much in others.

When I went to the Philippines, 2Mbps was the fastest offered in my area. It is likely the fastest one can get in most places outside of the financial district of their capital city. Eventually, one of the companies began to offer 12Mbps, but it was outrageously expensive and only in a limited area. When I went to Korea, however, I experienced the fastest internet in the world. The big drawback there, though, was that WIFI was not at all popular. People's cell phones were faster than WIFI so why would places carry it? Only in a few coffee shops could I work on my site, or do anything internet related from my actual computer, where everything is Mac based.

When I arrived in China, 2Mbps was the order of the day, even in Shanghai, arguably the most advanced city here. Some companies offered 4Mbps, but it was severely overpriced. Of course, I mean overpriced here, since standard internet service is about $100 USD per year. Things didn't remain that way for long, though, Soon there were rumors floating around the net of 10Mbps being offered by the largest provider here. It was available only in limited areas when I first heard of it, but now it already seems to be common. The price is not bad either, being about $300 USD per year. I also noticed, when I signed up, that they have a 20Mbps package as well. Maybe I'll think about that later when the novelty of 10Mbps fades. After all, even though it is nowhere near as fast as in Korea, where you could stream HD movies with little effort, I never actually experienced doing any actual work on my computer at those speed, so I am not missing anything.

Once, while traveling on the elevated highway, I saw a billboard for 56Mps service here in Shanghai. That is the same speed as is offered in Japan. I suspect it will not be long before we see speeds matching Korea here. Of course, Korea is talking about rolling Gigabit speeds next year.

The only drawback to the service I have now compared to the service I had living in the business complex, is that in that place, the upload was faster, a lot faster actually. This was a huge plus when uploading huge videos to my store. I guess I will have to learn just how much patience is a virtue if I need to upload another multi-gigabyte video to my website.

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

WHAT HAPPENED TO BLOGGING?

Macintosh Keyboard
I was reading some different blogs over the weekend and started asking myself why I stopped blogging like I used to. I even found an old post of my own that touched on this very subject. In that old post, I wrote, "One of things that has stopped me from posting so much is that I forgot the essence of blogging. I remembered a long time ago I used to sit in my favorite restaurant or cafe and blog on my Sony PSP. Today, though, I have an iPhone, which is a much better tool for that sort of thing, and is not limited to WIFI, since I can use cellular data networks, but I still don't do that. One of the reasons is because I got too caught up in pictures and making each blog post like a fancy magazine article layout. That's all well and good, but the need to do that made the barrier to entry for simple blog post to high, so I didn't do it so much."

Since that time, when I was in Korea, I believe, other factors came into play including, of course, my site being down altogether. That certainly didn't help things. In my old site I had over 1000 articles on various topics, usually related to independent animation, the anime industry and other somewhat related fields like games, movies and comics. Back then, there was no thought of SEO, internet marketing, or a lot of things I got into that totally sapped the fun out of blogging. Back then I simply wrote all that stuff because I wanted to.

Wanting to do something is one of the most important ingredients for success in any endeavor. It may sound overly simplistic to say it like that, but think about your day job. How into it are you? How much of yourself do you put into it? Now compare that to your passion, your personal project, or your own art. There is a difference, right? Basically, all that stuff I learned about internet marketing, though not entirely useless, I should say, turned my blog and my website into work!

Here is the interesting thing. When I was just doing it, I gained astounding numbers as far as readership and traffic. I had almost 100,000 monthly unique visitors coming to my site. I don't know where they came from, or how they found me, but they did. All the efforts I put into internet marketing didn't really change much. In fact, it only served to make working on my site a lot less fun and thus updates became fewer and far between and eventually stopped.

This new Paragon independent, 3D, cel shaded, anime show I began is part of getting back to just doing it. Very similar reasons are behind my lack of new creative endeavors as well. I decided to stop listening to all the voices outside and just focus on the one voice inside. It had only one thing to say. "Make something!" So I am turning things around now. I have a new series underway, and another idea in development. I am returning to blogging, simply because I want to write, have things to say, and there is no place to say them. I have been on different forums here and there, but there is no place which is like what I once built right here.

The world of independent animation has changed. There are new avenues out there for all of us to make our own anime movies or series and get them in front of our audiences. There is a lot to talk about now, so I will start talking right here. Join me. Leave a comment. Let's start a conversation. Where will we go from here?

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

PARAGON

Paragon, original, 3D, cel shaded, anime Series Premiere Poster

After a long hiatus from any independent creative endeavors, I am finally back with a new animated series. I took many turns and went down many paths that didn't lead to what I really wanted to do for ages, but I finally found my place again. My current goal is to make this series weekly. Because of other commitments, that may not be possible as yet, so I will say, for the moment, that I will get the episodes out as fast as I can. Anyway, check it out!

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

A WORLD WITHOUT JOBS

Steve Job and the iPad
No, this is not an article about the severe economic downturn in the U.S. and the rising rate of unemployment. This is about the official resignation of Apple CEO Steve Jobs and what that might mean for me, the world of computing, and the future of consumer electronics. It's no secret that Steve Jobs has been ill for quite some time. There have even been rumors of his demise, though unfounded. After three leaves of absence in the last few years, now it seems Jobs is gone for good.

This is quite a personal issue for me. It's not because I am a card carrying Apple fan. I'll tell my Apple story later. It's because Steve Jobs is a model of independent success. He is not an animator, of course, but his story follows a creative path that those of us who want to contribute something to the world via our ideas could only dream of. As someone who intensely studies the mechanics of success, through stories like that of Jobs and other visionary CEOs like Henry Ford, this raises some very important questions and strong emotional reactions for me.

First let me tell my Apple story. I was never a big fan of Apple. I got my start in the late 1980s on a computer called The Commodore Amiga. This followed my introduction to computers with the previous Commodore 64. This Amiga computer was light years ahead of its time. I could do much of what I am doing today that, now, 20 year old machine.

Apple computers were, of course, in existence back then. I would inevitably, in the world of computing in that day, run into the professors of the Mac religion, touting how their computer had more colors, or better fonts, or whatever might have been the case. I admit, I saw some impressive graphics, especially since Macs were really coming to prominence in the print advertising world at that time, but I didn't see anything that led me to believe I could make what I wanted to make on those computers. Even some of the software that allows me to do the shows I do today, like Lightwave and TVPaint, were around on the Amiga so many years ago, and got their start there.

In the early 1990's the Amiga died out. It was time to embrace something new and different. The world as whole seemed to have moved in the direction of Windows, and so did I. It would be almost ten years before I regained the ability to do everything I wanted to do again. Starting in the horrid Windows 3.1 I felt like I had lost an arm.

Over time, each version of Windows improved, and the software I knew and loved began to migrate to this platform. Before long, I was able to create again, and had all the power I once enjoyed to do full video with sound and editing and music. This was thanks, in large part to the advent of MiniDV. Not long after, I created Understanding Chaos.

Over the years I continued to grow with Windows, refining my workflow, gaining efficiency, and dreaming of creating new things. I was not wholly unaware of Apple and the Mac. There was a MAc guy working in one of the studios, who often touted the greatness of his chosen platform. He was often the guy who got the most jokes thrown at his computing preference. I also was already using iTunes, and Apple product, for my music and organizing my sound FX libraries. It is because of iTunes, actually, that things changed drastically.

There came a time when I wanted to do a series called Anigen. I wanted this series to be in the form of a video podcast, properly synched with iTunes and easily downloadable to supported devices. Me and a friend of mine struggled to figure out how to make all this happen using out Windows computers and software. We worked on it until 5:00 AM in the morning and never saw any progress. The next day, in the studio, I mentioned to that Mac guy we always laughed at what I was trying to do. He said something like, "Oh, that's easy!" He was already sitting at his Macbook Pro, and he opened some different iLife tools and did everything we were struggling all night to do in about two minutes. That very day, I went to the Apple store and bought my first Mac.

The Mac Mini
I didn't completely switch over. For years I ran both, using the Mac for what it was good at and continuing my workflow on the PCs I had always used. I also did my 2D animation on a WIndows based Tablet PC. Over time, though, I began migrating more and more tasks to the Mac, and things got better and better. I didn't have a plan to give up Windows, but when it came time for my travels to begin, I could only take one computer with me. I had to choose. Because of all that had transpired, including buying an iPhone somewhere in there, and where my workflow was at that point, I chose to go with the Mac.

So that's my Apple story. It doesn't seem to have a lot to do with Steve Jobs, right? Well, let's look at some aspects of that. First, I still very clearly remember the emotional impact of the death of the Amiga computer. In many ways that changed my life. It seemed to sidetrack my dream of creating. In the first couple of years, there was no more Lightwave, no more TVPaint and no equivalent software that, at least not that I saw as viable, with which I could continue. I was handicapped.

I should say, at this point, I do not expect Apple to suddenly die off like the Amiga did. I believe they are in good hands with Tim Cook, the former COO running things. I do however, believe that, over time, things will change. Things must change. Right now, though, as I have reached my highest level of productivity and the greatest workflow I could ever devise, I don't really want things to change, not anytime soon anyway. While it is true that all the major tools I use, like TVPaint, Vue, Poser, modo and others, exist on Windows, and the latest versions of WIndows are being touted as quite amazing, there would still be an inevitable downtime during transition. Worse, I don't see anything resembling iLife, which is really the glue that makes me current workflow as strong as it is. Everything talks to each other and is able to share data seamlessly. I would seriously miss that and feel, again, handicapped without an alternative.

Although that issue is something of a worry, it is not a huge deal. I have transitioned before and came out unscathed for the most part. The other issue, relating to Steve Jobs, is WHY he is resigning. It is because of his health. As I mentioned before, I am somewhat who intensely studies success and follows the stories of those, especially in any kind of creative field of endeavor, who have achieved success. The story of the self made man who puts everything into building success, but loses his health in the process is far too common. Is it a prerequisite? This is about finding balance. We all know that Jim Henson (The Muppets, The Dark Crystal) dies of an illness that is hardly life threatening in this day and age, but he died because he refused to stop working, take a rest, and go get treatment.

I have been working hard for many years to build a dream. Right now, it seems like I am working 16 or more hours every day. I am lucky to get 6 hours of sleep, and, in fact, rarely do. I have been told I am destroying my health and making myself old too fast. So how does one find the balance? My way has always been by improving my workflow, gaining efficiency and leveraging technology to make the impossible a reality. Is it enough? That remains to be seen. I certainly have no desire to work like this for the rest of my life, long or short. I know what my ideal life would be like and I am doing this now in order to get there, but what if when I get there I am already fit for the wheelchair? These issues of work/life balance have been of greet concern to me for a long time.

Although I don't have all the answers, and I doubt Steve Jobs does either, there is another issue surrounding this story, which I have to mention

THE HATE

What is with all the hate? Reading the comments indifferent news sites and blogs concerning this story, I am astounded at the amount of hate being directed at Steve Jobs. While I understand that no one can please everyone, and I myself have stopped even concerning myself with it, why would people actually wish this man dead, and his company gone? That, to me, is unfathomable.

Indiana Jones 4
Do people hate success? I have long given up on trying to please everyone out there. I would rather make my things and let those who are looking for that find it. Look at George Lucas and his new Star Wars films, or even the venerated Spielberg and the recent Indy sequel. All great successes and yet the amount of hate directed at them is astounding. There is even an unreasonable amount of hate directed at James Cameron and his Avatar, which may be the most successful film of all time. It's a battle you can't win. I have seen that clearly in the internet age.

For this reason I will do what makes me happy. By that I mean where the doing is what makes me happy without caring about the result. It may sound like strange proposition, but that is one thing I have found in common with all the successful people I have studied. Steve Jobs worked so long and hard, perhaps too hard, because he loved what he did and reveled in every second of it. I want this same thing, though I also desire to keep my health while doing so.

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

SOMETHING NEW AND IMPROVED

You Wanna Learn How to Draw Manga?

Click the image above and you'll be taken to my media page where you'll find a new video, based on a new idea that recently came to me. It might be more apt to say that resurfaced, since I may have mentioned this before. The idea here is whether or not we sometimes have too much reliance on the tools. Don't get me wrong. Great tools allow us to do what was once impossible, but I am talking about if one doesn't have all the right tools, or hasn't yet mastered them, but they have ideas, imagination and are itching to get stories told.

In the past, I mentioned avenues such as visual novels and graphic novels, but that takes on new meaning today. Today we have the iPad2 and a mobile phone market, worldwide, which is seeing constantly increasing screen sizes with better resolution and color. Most of these mobile customers want content, and many of them happen to be fans of manga and animation. These are new avenues just waiting to be explored.

So what if you don't have Maya, 3DS Max, or whatever tools you may think you need to get your idea across in movie form. I am willing to bet you have a paint program. It doesn't really matter which program because they all basically have the same tools and workflow, which hasn't changed since DPaint on the Amiga in 1989. With your handy paint program, you can begin creating something cool right now. If you say you can draw very well, I am now going to show you how!

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

THE INDUSTRY BANDWAGON

The Amazing Spider-Man
I was on a forum where I came across a discussion of the new Spider-Man reboot project. They had posted pictures of the new Peter Parker and the new Spider-Man costume. There was a link to the trailer, but I am currently at the office, where the internet is too slow to watch any video. I will try to check it out when I get home. That's not the focus of this post anyway. It's about why they felt the need to do this reboot, and a pattern that we are seeing in Hollywood, despite the fact that this pattern met with repeated failure.

For the sake of simplicity, I'll call this pattern The Twilight Bandwagon. I will grant that the Twilight films were far from the originator of this pattern, but they may be the best known example of it, so I think it a fitting name. Since Twilight was a huge success, it can't really be said to be part of the problem, but more of a great reveal of the lack of creativity currently in Hollywood.

The absolute best example of the industry jumping this bandwagon would be the film Red Riding Hood. This film had Twilight written all over it. It hit all the plot points, filled every cute, young character spot, and even had a huge werewolf. What more could the audience ask for? Well, apparently, the audience wanted something different because the movie failed at the box office.

I would have thought the movie version of I Am Number Four would have been a shoe in for success on the Twilight Bandwagon. I loved the book. It had all the elements, including the characters actually being in high school, which seems to be a necessary part of the equation. Shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Smallville and Teen Wolf show that TV is not exempt either.
Still, I am Number Four failed at the box office.

So now we have a new Spider-Man being put back into high school. I don't expect this one to fail, certainly not on the level of other attempts to cash in on this trend, and I suspect that unlike the first Spider-Man film series, he will never get out of high school this time. The question was asked, in that forum, why couldn't this same story be done with the original cast? Well, the original cast are now too old for the Twilight audience. Movies have been skewing younger for ages now. I read somewhere that even The Expendables sequel will be adding fresh young faces to the team, which seems to go against what that movie was about. I guess they'll be adding tough, ass kicking women to the group now too.

The more I write this post, the more I start to wonder why I even waste my time looking at what Hollywood does. It's always about lowest common denominator. The reason is simple. When you spend that much money on a film, you have no choice but to try and draw the largest possible audience. This is why you won't see a Bogey style mystery in the cinema anytime soon, or an Alfred Hitchcock type film either. I suppose I should focus on the world of animation, but do I even want to get started on where the anime industry has gone?

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

WORKING OUT THE KINKS

I am not sure why, but it seems I am having trouble putting up video in this blog. I guess this should be expected to some degree. With any new endeavor there will always be obstacles, big and small, to overcome. Luckily, these usually only have to be overcome once. I had my site running like a well tuned machine for years, but then it went down. Now I am back, but with a new web host, on a new server, and attempting it all from a new country.

Many things are different in the online world here. Of course, there are the banned sites, but it stretches far beyond that. There are also speed issues with connections to certain servers. Visiting a Chinese video portal may be lighting fast, but doing a Yahoo search may be excruciatingly slow. It becomes difficult to know, being faced with all new software and tools today, where a problem lies. For example, on my computer, I may click on a video and see the Quicktime logo, so I wait. The video doesn’t load, but the internet may just be slow. On another computer, however, I see the broken Quicktime link. Only then do I know there is really a problem. This is how all these things work out.

It can be the same way in managing independent anime production. I spend a lot of time focused on things other than making my own anime movies. This has moved me away from how things got started in the first place. I started everything with Understanding Chaos, a ten minute short, 3D, cel shaded, anime that launched all of this. Thinking back, that is what has been missing for a long time. That is the reason I created my media page. The idea is to populate it with new comics, manga and anime or animation. It is there I must place my focus and continue to work out the kinks to get this site up and running at the level it should be!

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

ANIGEN UPDATE: WHERE ARE WE TODAY?



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!

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

ANIGEN FINAL SECRETS

Anigen Final Secrets teaches you how to make 3D cel shaded anime movies

It’s not over for Anigen Final Secrets. I was recently reminded that this series had not yet been finished, and I have more to say to complete the explanation of this WYSIWYG method of working on your 3D cel shaded anime movies. In the next few weeks, I will complete the instructional videos on this method, beyond what was originally shown on my website. I will cover how the figures can be combined in realtime with a few different background methods and how it all can be put together. The final product will then be available in the web store just like the original Anigen Bundle!

SEE OLDER POSTS

Comments

HOW FAR ARE YOU WILLING TO GO?

The City of Shanghai

I was having a discussion, recently, with a fine artist, here in Shanghai, about making a life from your own work. The idea that seemed to interest both of us was gaining the ability to earn one's living by their own hand, their own skill, and use one's time to do exactly what one wants to do. I actually know people who do this, some even in forms of art one would never expect could make such a life possible. I myself have done it. This makes me ask the question, what would you be willing to give up to make such a dream a reality?

The artist I was talking to does oil paintings and exhibits them in local galleries for potential sale. This is apparently a very difficult prospect and one can go a long time without making any money. He seems to have little interest in commercial art, and he shouldn't need to have such an interest. The question here is about doing what one really wants to do, after all.

I know an artist who does reproduction Greek and Roman pottery. From my background, I couldn't begin to understand how such a line of work could result in a living, but it does. One reason is because the artist was willing to make sacrifices to make such a living possible. I am not talking about living like a pauper, certainly not forever. I am talking about making sacrifices to gain the time needed to build your name. Having done so, this pottery artist not only has loyal clients who buy her work, but was even commissioned to produce pieces for a couple of recent huge budget fantasy movies. Her sacrifices early on netted a tremendous gain in the long run. Would you do that?

So what about me? Those who have followed me at this site since its inception (it's been ten years now! Can You believe that?!) will know that I have done exactly what this article speaks of on more than one occasion. I began, pushed into it by my layoff from Westwood Studios actually, with selling the DVDs of my original, independent, 3D, cel shaded, anime movies, Understanding Chaos and Shadowskin from this website. Compared to working in a large game company, the income represented a drastic cut, but it was, or at least could have been, a living. I hadn't yet learned how to make the necessary sacrifices. I was still wasting money in the same fashion I did as a single guy, with no debt, and with a huge salary from a large game company.

I am, of course, older and wiser now. As the saying goes, if I knew then what I know now I could have made that early run build into something great. We live and learn, right? I followed up with some freelance and then the original manga works for TOKYOPOP, which was still living mostly by my own hand and power, but not exactly doing what I wanted to do. In 2005, I returned to the world of full time employment in a studio, this time a Hollywood studio doing film VFX work.

Working in the studios lasted about 3 years, but luckily, in this case, about halfway through, I really began to build up my website, name and products, teaching how to make your own anime movie, with creations like Anigen, The Ultimate Model Bundle and others. When the writer's strike hit and the major decline in production, and thus jobs, hit, my site was already going again. Of course, it wasn't going well enough to live in an expensive city like L.A. This raised the question, how far would you be willing to go to make this work? For me, the answer was about 10,000 miles.

An old friend of mine had retired early from the company where he worked with a small pension. He also rented out the house he had in the U.S. His monthly income would barely cover the rent in the place I was staying in L.A., but he was living an amazing life of adventure in SE Asia. Most importantly, he didn't need to work, ever. Granted, he used his spare time mostly for World of Warcraft, but I saw different possibilities in what he had done. I began to really look into this. I found more stories, even one of a guy who began doing freelance online, for what might be considered peanuts in California, but it got him out of the rat race and over to Asia where he was happily living a dream life. I won't dare tell you what he started out with. Anyway, this had me convinced.

When the writer's strike hit, I had two choices. I could step into the unknown or stay where I was in California, where I knew exactly what was going to happen, and where I would be in the next five years. I chose to step into the unknown. I sold everything I had, got a laptop, and got on a plane. I made plenty of mistakes, to be sure, and I ran into some rough patches here and there, but in the three years since that decision, I have also been around The Philippines, Korea, and Japan, with no job, doing my own thing, making my own anime and teaching you how to make your own anime movies, and having total freedom. The point is I did it. The question is how was I able to do it?

Well, back to my discussion with the fine artist in Shanghai. Shanghai is by no means a cheap city to live in. It really is not that different from L.A. and some parts can be even more expensive. Basically, it is not the place to do this. Believe it or not, there are places in the Philippines where one could really live on as little as $300 per month, if one is willing to make sacrifices. I am not talking about the room being $300. I mean all life. It can be done, and there are actually places even cheaper. The adventurous soul may find locations in India or Thailand where a life can be created for less. The goal to keep in mind, though, is that the purpose of such a measure is to build your name, build your website or other means of bringing in income by your own power. You have all your time to yourself and your work, not someone else's.

After spending months in such a place, I had built my website to where it was making as much as $3000 USD per month. That would be enough to live in most places in the US. The problem is, though, I needed time to get there. This time I would not have had were I spending all my days working for someone else while in the US. Only through the freedom gained by this choice, and having every single hour of my days mine to use as I chose, to create my own anime movies, could I build my site up to that point.

So the fine artist asked me why I didn't stay there and continue to do that? Well, that is another story. Maybe I'll write a book.

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

THE SHAOLIN TEMPLE

The Shaolin Temple
Normally I would post something like this on my travel and adventure site, but that went down the same time as this site, and I don’t know that I ever want to get back into it again. I am trying to consolidate my efforts into one place and my work into one focused path. When I am not working, however, I love to travel, and last weekend, I went to The Shaolin Temple.

The story in the previous post is actually part of my travels in the Shaolin, which translates as small forest. It was some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen since I have been in China. That comes later, though. In the beginning, I was in the city in Henan, and we took a bus from there to the small forest, which is on a mountain. We continued on foot to the temple where after a quick introduction, we were presented with a martial arts demonstration.



A Plaque Explaining the History
After that we entered into the historical parts of the temple. A number of plaques explained the history of the temple, and the story of the monk from India who taught the basic precepts upon which the temple was founded. After entering, we were taken around numerous historical sites, some going back as far as 1400 years. There were large tombs for important monks from the temple’s history and many great statues of ancient gods and the Buddha. This was, overall, a great learning experience and, of course, a major inspiration for me. One of the greatest inspirations, though, came from the gorgeous scenery.

After taking the tram ride to the mountain top, we were met with some of the most amazing sites one could imagine. We walked along a very narrow trail cut into the mountain side, from where we could shoot photos of the gorgeous scenery. This gave me so many ideas for the kinds of beautiful settings I would like to create in my future works. I may even do a training video on creating such scenery in the very near future.

A trail along the Shaolin Mountain

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

THE MISTY MOUNTAIN

The Misty Mountain

Inside Our Tram Car
We traveled in a lonely tram car through the misty mountain. High above the landscape, we watched the clouds roll beneath us. The scenery was absolutely beautiful. We were experiencing real nature in all its glory. As we watched the people passing by in tram cars going the other way, we could only imagine what great sites they had seen. We got more excited about our destination.

The Beautiful Scenes

The Mist Surrounds Us
Very quickly, the mist began to surround us. Visibility dropped dramatically. What was once distant fog, began to crowd right around our tram. There was a bit of tension in the car, but we continued on, automatically propelled along the cables to our destination. Before long, there was nothing. We couldn’t see anything outside our window. The cables gave no indication of where we came from or where we were going. They simply disappeared into the endless fog. We were beginning to get a bit nervous.

We talked nervously about what might lie ahead. No matter where we looked there was nothing more than a never ending grey. Finally we noticed the cars passing us on the other side, had no people in them!

The Empty Tram

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments

ROLLING ALONG

When I wrote that first blog post, I had no idea how quickly things would fall into place and start moving. The very next day, I found a web host that would accept my Paypal account and the ball got rolling. Being out of the country, though, there were a few minor hurdles as far as documents they needed to prove my identity. Still, within a day, my web hosting account was up and running. I pointed my domain name to the new server and waited for things to propagate throughout the internet.

I immediately started building my pages. The basic skeleton of the site is all done already. Even though I still haven’t posted anything besides a quick “under construction” page, most things are all setup. The last major issue getting my online store going, which I remember to be a rather difficult task based on my previous experiences with iPhone Alchemy. Beyond that, there will simply be the task of populating the new site with media. That’s really what this new site is about. I am an artist, and I want to create my own anime!

My own anime and manga media page

In the last post, I said I would go into why I haven’t created anything worth noting in so long. There are a number of reasons for this which can be divided into a few categories. This first category which I wish to cover is:

THE TECHNICAL

Somewhere back in 2006, or maybe 2007, I discovered Poser. Up until this time I had pretty much used Lightwave 3D, modo and TVPaint for all my 3D, cel shaded, anime work. Poser, I thought, was not a useful tool for any professional graphics work, and had little value beyond possibly doing extras in the background or tiny people walking around in matte paintings. When Poser 6 was released, though, with the new characters therein, I changed my tune. I also discovered Vue Infinite around this time as well. Basically this was a radical change to my entire workflow.

Those who followed my old blog will remember how excited I was at the wonderful new tools available in Poser. I was playing with the Talk Designer, the Walk Designer, loads of content and posting every little new test I created with enthusiasm. The quality of my work, in my view, improved, but the speed at which I could create skyrocketed. Vue played a huge part in this too. It finally began to feel like I could realize a dream. I could create fast enough to make production of whole series possible.

My older 3D cel shaded anime characters

The problem, though, was I got caught up with something. You could call it “Keeping Up With the Joneses.” This doesn’t mean there were actual people, certainly not named Jones, that I was trying to match or outpace. This means I was chasing after technology. Rather than taking what I had and getting deep into creation of a 3D cel shaded anime movie, I began to chase each new thing I could get my hands on with thoughts of improving even further. Poser 6 quickly gave rise to Poser 7. Vue 5 Infinite gave rise to Vue 6. Companies like Daz3D and Efrontier were constantly releasing new characters, new costumes, and great content, each thing being better than what came before it. This led to something of a backlash.

Newer characters may have looked better than those that came before, but they were also higher in polygon count, making them slower to work with or more difficult to control. Newer features often meant longer render times for 3D, cel shaded, anime characters, or more difficult setups. Couple this with the seeming need to produce everything in huge HD resolutions and suddenly the entire creative process became unnecessarily convoluted, and generally not fun. The result was nothing got finished, aside from a lot of flashy looking experiments with new technology.

New 3D cel shaded toon rendered anime characters

I am sad to say, after all these years, that what I had discovered back in 2006, with those old characters and that old technology, and those first exciting test, was, in fact, the way to go. I remember not long ago, while being totally burned out on this overly detailed, super high resolution project I was doing, taking a step back and looking at the old ways. I did side by side tests. I then called a number of normal people, meaning people who don’t do CGI, don’t draw, and generally don’t care about the little things artists might fuss about, to look at this stuff. They saw no difference between the work I burnt out putting all that effort into, and the super fast creations using the old techniques I developed when I first got these new tools. At that time, I knew things had gone horribly wrong, and it was nobody’s fault but my own.

A test of a simpler hand drawn anime style character

That incident, though, was back in 2009! I should have had the technical aspects solved at that time. Although I did get sidetracked with other things, the technical battle still wasn’t over. Poser 8 came along with even better features and more new characters and content, and I stated experimenting again. It took me many more months to get where I am now, realizing that I had it right early on, and feeling like I can finally just sit down and create my own anime film. I will look at some of the other categories into which I divide the reasons for my lack of productivity in future posts.

SEE OLDER POSTS

Comments

STARTING OVER

I am writing this even though I do not yet have a web host. I do not yet know when this will be published online. I am writing it, though, because I can’t wait, and I feel a strong urge to write. It has been almost an entire year since I posted anything, even though my site has actually been down only a few months. How did this come to be? Well, I guess I should start with that story.

Shanghai is where I make anime

I am currently living in the amazing city of Shanghai in The People’s Republic of China. It is a city of the future. Anyone who has followed me for the ten years since my independent, 3D, cel shaded anime, Understanding Chaos, will remember that very old blog when I chronicled my first trip to China in 2002. I have wanted to return to Shanghai since that time, and now I not only did so, but I live here. I have partnered with one of the guys I demoed with back then, who now has his own small studio, and we have a few projects in the works. So what does that have to do with my website going down?

I have been traveling for three years now. I have spent time in Japan, where the real anime is made, Korea, The Philippines, Hong kong and now China. Somewhere in all that, my bank accounts and cards eventually became all foreign. When it came time to renew my website payment, I found out that my web host didn’t allow payment from foreign cards or accounts, not even a foreign Paypal could work. Basically, there was nothing I could do, and after a short time, everything went down.The next question, I suppose, would be why didn’t I immediately get things back up? I don’t really have a concrete answer for that. I knew I didn’t want to host locally. I also knew there were probably web hosts that would accept Paypal. I guess, on some level, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to do the site anymore.

I remembered days gone by when I just did my thing, make my own anime movies, and didn’t spend all my time on the internet, posting in forums, chasing down leads, managing ad campaigns, or worrying about internet marketing. I am still quite certain I never want to get back into that. I just want to create. I have stories to tell, and images to get out of my head and onto the screen. Still, I often come up with an urge to write and I had no place to do so. I still needed an outlet. I found outlets for some things. My modo videos have been selling on Source 3D, and that has helped me a lot out here. I was content, in fact, to just sell all my content on other sites, and enjoy my time off the internet. The problem, though, was that urge to write, and some of the topics had no fitting outlet other than my own site and blog.

Terrence teaches how to draw anime at the Hangzhou Comic and Animation Festival 2011

Most of the time I spend on the internet these days is wasted, I feel. One of the reasons is because I am just consuming, often, useless material, but I am not creating, making my own anime, and I am not contributing. My time could be better spent doing other things. I am not sure how much time I will spend on the internet even with this new site. When I have the urge to write, and something to say, I will be here. Other than that, I hope I will spend my time creating content, original anime movies, and improving my skills as an animator and storyteller. That’s another huge issue I will go into at some later date, the question of why I haven’t really created anything in so long.

SEE OLDER POSTS
Comments