JUST MAKE SOMETHING



Aspiring Filmmakers, Ava DuVernay Thinks You Should Lose the Desperation and Just Make Something!

"I rarely meet people who tell me what they're doing. I often meet people who ask, "Can you help me?" or "How do I do this?" or "Do you want to have coffee?" "Can I take you to coffee?" "Can we grab a coffee?" "I'd love to take you to coffee and pick your brain a little bit." "Can I send you a script?" "Can you read my script?" "I have a script that I'd love for you to just check out if you can." "Can you be my mentor?" "I need a mentor." "I would love if you could mentor me." "Is it possible for us to talk?" All of that energy, all of that focus to extract from other people is distracting you from what you're doing. All of that is desperation.

When I figured that out, things started to change for me. When I'm meeting people and they're in that moment, I want to say something to them. "Knock it off, because it's never going to work for you." That feeling of "I need help. I need all of these things to proceed." And when I got that, a revolution happened for me."

This is definitely worth a watch.

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WHICH IS BETTER? 2D or 3D?

In the beginning, when I created a short film called Understanding Chaos, I used a software called Lightwave 3D to do via cel shading what was generally done in 2D hand drawn animation in that day. I did this because I hadn’t heard of a Wacom tablet, and had no desire to attempt drawing on paper, scanning it in and colouring all those frames. 3D cel shading and Lightwave 3D made possible what would otherwise have been completely impossible for me. It allowed me to make a film. Since that time, I have continually sought to improve upon those techniques, seeking out new tools and better methods. Some of that improvement went into Shadowskin, but I didn’t stop there. I kept searching for whatever could increase my quality and give me greater speed.

While I have seemingly abandoned Lightwave completely, today, this doesn’t mean I am against it in any way. I still follow it in the industry news and have been getting interested in the most recent versions. One of the primary reasons I don’t use it is simply because I lost my dongle some years ago. I realise the dongle is no longer necessary today, but I also began using Poser. MODO is another tool, created by the original developers of Lightwave, that also kept me from going back to it.

World of Hearts animation trailer test

I never had any illusions that Poser cel shading looked as good as what Lightwave could provide. Lightwave’s cel shader was written by a diehard Japanese animation fan. This is a guy I would run into at Anime Expo and other conventions having nothing to do with Lightwave and 3D, and we would chat just about the art. With the possible exception of MODO, whose cel shader is likely written by the same guy, I have never seen any cartoon rendering system that has a look so perfect for anime as was in Lightwave.

My choice of Poser was all about speed. You may remember I used to sell a Lightwave character model bundle. I spent years building up that bundle and only by reusing parts and pieces of it, as bases, did creating new characters for show ideas I had become feasible. With Poser, I didn’t have to worry about that. Everything you could ever want was just there. It was just a matter of moving dials and creating morph targets to change the many existing characters into whatever one might need. All the clothing and costuming options were available on these huge content sites and they were cheap. You could mix and match things, rearrange existing content into anything you wanted, and because it was cel shaded, you didn’t have the limitations common to 3D. You could just smash one item into another and it would work in cartoon rendering.

Poser cel shading tests

Poser also had some other speed tools. The walk designer which made walking and running easy; The talk designer for automatic lip sync; Good cloth simulation, and those huge content sites also included many great sets and environments which could be easily retextured, kit bashed and repurposed for any use. There are also huge mocap libraries out there, both paid and free, which easily work with Poser. There are certain types of shows where I could still see an advantage to using the Poser method, especially if you wanted to do a series and release an episode every month or so.

Celles et Ceux 2D hand drawn animation

As you know, Gwenn’s Celles et Ceux, which I wrote about in the past, is true 2D animation with very little 3D in it. As you likely also know, I currently do most of my work in 2D, using TVPaint on a Samsung 10.1 Galaxy Note. Fully 3D cel shaded work will never look like Celles et Ceux. The advantage of it is you may be able to get close, and get there much faster. The thing is, back when I started, 2D tech was nowhere near where it is today. You may remember a software I used called Aura back in the days of Chaos and Shadowskin. That was TVPaint version 6 I believe. The latest versions of TVPaint have things which make 2D a real competitor with my cel shading methods now. Also I have been drawing and improving almost everyday for 3 years on this tablet. I have gotten better and faster, which makes 2D even more viable.

When you consider these things, one must really weigh all the pros and cons when choosing whether or not to do show in 3D cel shading or real 2D hand drawing. One must also weigh which one will be more ENJOYABLE for the artist, as any method is still going to be a lot of work and a huge time investment.

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YOU JUST HAVE TO BEGIN

Celles et Ceux des Cimes et Cieux from Gwenn GERMAIN on Vimeo.


I came across this early in the morning and it got me thinking. Celles et Ceux des Cimes et Cieux is a short student film by Gwenn Germain. Studying at the French school Créapole, Germain lit the Japanese internet on fire last month with this release. Taking her inspiration from Hayao Miyazaki, Moebius and Syd Mead, it is easy to understand why. The short appears to be a trailer for an as yet to made feature film. It seems there is already quite a bit of hope out there that this project will grow into something bigger.

Germain herself said of this film that it was, "5 months of intensive production all alone in my cabin" and the final project for her five years of studying at Créapole in France. If there ever was an example that you just have to do it, this is it. If you have a dream of seeing your own ideas go across the screen, there's nothing stopping you from making them come true. As seen by this short film, which already has people all over the world hungry to see an entire feature made, you just have to begin!

Think about it. From this starting point, she could easily attract funding from a wide variety of sources, even major studios. She could also, however, parlay this into a Kickstarter or other crowd funding campaign that would likely be extremely successful. She could sign up for Patreon, a different model for supporting artistic endeavors and do a series of shorts to continue her story, with people pumping money is as she goes. I suspect any road she takes will lead to success.

If you are looking to make your own splash on the internet. DO something. Begin today. If you're not sure where to start, all of my training, including my 2D animation courses, are on sale right now. There's nothing standing in your way. You can get started on your dreams right now.

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INDIE DONE RIGHT!



There is a saying that goes something along the lines of ‘be so good they can’t ignore you’. This is an indie film that exemplifies that saying. Normally, this is the kind of independent content I would try my best to avoid on sites like Youtube or Vimeo. From the beginning, though, The Rieth Brothers, who created this work, did everything right. Their poster frame, which shows a guy standing in front of a corn (or was it wheat?) field, which in and of itself is just an amazing image, raises so many questions. I just had to watch it.

Like most supposedly artistic indie films, this movie has no dialogue. Very much unlike so many other pieces of indie content around, however, this movie exudes professional quality from the very beginning. It looks, at the very least, as good as mainstream television content, and artistically, in many places, stands above the majority of mainstream films. This does not look like some friends playing around with a DV camera.

As the film progresses, it can be a bit slow at times. It can also be hard to follow. There were a couple of places where I considered giving up. The imagery, however, just gets more and more beautiful and the directors raise questions at the right moments which make the viewer HAVE to see what will happen next. I have to admit that were it not so well shot and so astoundingly beautiful, I likely would have clicked it off.

This is by no means meant to advocate all style over substance. Even the best VFX reels can only hold my attention for a couple of minutes. This film shows why you need the right mix of both. Were the exact same story to be poorly shot and cheap looking, it would not have worked. Visuals of this quality without a good story would also not have worked. Too many films are either one or the other. Hollywood films are often visually impressive with nothing to back it up, while indie films are too often good ideas held down by cheap visuals and poor acting.

If you want to capture an audience, or ‘be so good they can’t ignore you’, take a note from The Rieth Brothers. Back up your good ideas with good production values and visual artistry. Your audience will beat a path to your door.

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NOT COMPLETELY OUT

I wrote some time ago about Studio Ghibli closing the doors of its animation department shortly after the retirement of Hayao Miyazaki. Apparently, the studio was said to be focusing only on managing IP and keeping the Miyazaki museum open. However, it seems they are not completely out of the picture.

Studio Ghibli produces The Red Turtle

It seems the studio will be co-producing an animated feature film by Oscar winning director Michaël Dudok de Wit. The film will revolve around a man who survives a shipwreck only to find himself stranded on a desert island. His attempts to escape his fate are thwarted by a giant red turtle.

The film is also produced by the Paris based film sales group Wild Bunch. Their chief, Vincent Maraval, visited Studio Ghibli some years ago, before Miyazaki made his exit. While there, Miyazaki showed him the Oscar winning short film Father and Daughter, by Michaël Dudok de Wit, and said, “I want you to find the director for me. If one day Studio Ghibli decides to produce an animator from outside the studio, it will be him.”

Maraval tracked down Dukok de Wit who apparently had little interest in doing an animated feature, until he heard that Studio Ghibli wanted to be involved. Imagine doing work that attracts the attention of one of the greatest names in animation history. You never know who your work will reach or who it will touch. Even a short film can have incredible reach and value. Don’t underestimate the power of any art you create. Don’t worry about getting a million views. It only takes one viewer to change everything.

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FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS

Marvel Characters


Two years ago, today, Marvel got the rights back to some of their popular characters. In this case, Blade, Punisher and Ghost Rider. They were in no particular hurry to make new movies with these characters, however, largely because of the lackluster success of the previous outings involving them. Why were these previous films so lackluster? Everything Marvel puts their hand to is gold, most proven by their $1.5 billion grossing Avengers. The problem is that they didn’t put their hand to those previous films,

Before Marvel Studios existed, beginning with the creation of their first truly independent film Iron Man, they license their popular characters out to the major Hollywood studios in the hopes to bring them to the big screen. Aside from the three characters mentioned above, this also includes The X-Men and Spider-Man. Those studios didn’t always do things the way Marvel would like. The fans weren’t always happy either. Now that Marvel has a single unified world for all their film properties to exist in, the absence of their character for which they have not recovered the rights is very noticeable.

As you create your own indie properties, and success begins to find you as they take off, there is a temptation that will come to you. Larger outfits, possibly even a major Hollywood studio, will come calling wanting to make use of your characters or stories in their films. There is almost no version of this where you win, keeping control of the product and getting the financial return you deserve should they become a huge success. In fact, more often than not, you lose completely, and they take your stuff. This story has happened over and over to creator after creator.

As your own indie creations grow, fight off the temptations. Do what Marvel is doing now. Do it all yourself!

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INDIES HAVE A VOICE

The Adventures of Jamel — Episode 1: "Connecticut" from The Adventures of Jamel on Vimeo.



The internet has truly changed everything. Technology in general had changed everything and, because of this, Indies have a voice. One example of this is The Adventures of Jamel: Time Traveling B-Boy. This is an independently produced comedy series premiering on Vimeo. That in and of itself is a huge part of this revolution. Thanks to sites like Vimeo, Youtube and a few others, indies have palace to premiere their work. Of course, they can even do so on their own website with the tools available to today. That, however, is only one piece of the puzzle.

Back in the original Anigen series, I began to talk about cameras. Since this show is live action, this bears some discussion. An indie can get an HD camera, that shoots 24 FPS, similar to film, and that delivers a professional film look, for under $1000 USD. Depending on your production budget, you can go higher and higher, but even the top of the line cameras available now cost less than 10% what it used to in order to shoot at a quality equal to a major motion picture. The indie can own the means of production.

On a simple laptop, an indie can have the post production, editing and visual FX tools previously reserved for multi-million dollar Hollywood studios. There is nothing stopping an indie from creating a show that is in every way competitive with works on major Tv channels or in cinemas. It is happening right now. It is already being done.

The final aspect is getting it out there. Well, how did I find out about this show? Sharing! This is the greatest weapon in the indie arsenal. People who use sites like Vimeo can link to their own social networking circles and get their followers to link it to theirs. People can spread the word with a click of a button, a button that will put the entire show right in front of new viewers. Word of mouth alone has made immense successes of some indie short films and series. The key is patience and persistence. Very few indie productions go viral overnight. The true creator must be prepared to build their audience over time, even if it is years. They must not give up, as I have seen many do, just when things are about to take off. You can’t stop digging 1 meter from the gold.

There has never been a better time to get your show done. You don’t need millions of dollars or major studio backing. You just need patience and the right tools and you can do anything!

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WHERE TECH IS GOING



I came across this tech demo from Square Enix, based on Final Fantasy XV. According to Hajime Tabata from their business division, they are pushing the envelope of real time 3D with the help of Microsoft (Windows 10 and DirectX 12) and NVidia (GeForce GTX). They are supposedly moving 63 million polygons with 8K resolution texture maps. On top of that, they are doing hair without the use of transparency maps, but actual geometry with specialized shaders to give the appearance we see in the video.

In the past we would see tech demos like this and though the claims that they were realtime might have been true, all of that amazing imagery would be impossible when an actual game needed to run, with enemies, A.I., physics and so on. Today that is no longer the case. We are finally at a stage where the actual game can be seamless with the most realistic cut scenes therein. At last year’s E3, many companies had demos for the Playstation 4 in which a realistically rendered cut scene would transition directly into gameplay without any cuts or fades.

WHat does this mean for the indie today? If you wanted to do realistic 3D animation, you have tools like Unity 5 and Unreal 4, game engines that are accessible to even artists. Of course you can also use them to make a game, which is a very valuable way to deliver a story and IP these days. You can also, however, use them just to do a movie, which both engines have shown in their demo materials. This technology is only going to get better, although it is hard to imagine how much better it could get.

The next step will be content libraries, full of models, textures, motions and more, to make it even easier for the artist to get amazing images on the screen quickly. You will be able to focus on getting your story told. The time has never been better for the indie to do their project.

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GETTING IT DONE RIGHT

The DC Cinematic Universe?

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. and DC are having a bit of trouble creating a unified universe for their superheroes like Marvel has done. While Marvel has producer Keven Feige to oversee all projects and make sure everything fits together, including their TV series outings, the DC cinematic universe seems to be largely leaderless. Not only do they not have anyone to take the reigns of the entire operation, the policies for how individual projects are handled are, to some, questionable.

It’s been said that the minds behind the Wonder Woman feature film are trying an interesting strategy to get a script. They hired multiple writers, not to work together, but to compete to create the script that will end up in the final film. The writers themselves are apparently running into the problems because, without a concrete universe, the rules apparently change right out form under them as they write, and their work can easily become useless. One industry insider said that this is, "throwing shit against the wall to see what stuck”. This is not the way to get projects moving forward.

THE FOREVER MOVIE

The Forever War takes forever to become a movie
Hollywood is no stranger to taking forever to get something done. The 1974 science fiction novel The Forever War has been in Hollywood’s sites for years. The project was apparently set up in 2008 at 20th Century Fox, with Ridley Scott attached to direct. He allegedly waited 25 years for the rights to become available. That project burned in development hell for seven years and never ended up as a film.

Now Warner Bros. and Channing Tatum are in the mix to get the project made. Tatum’s studio, however, is lined with Sony, and they are in the mix as eel, hoping to snag this project. This battle may very well keep the film from happening yet again. According to Deadline, as of yesterday, Warner Bros. outbid Sony and should be in business with a new franchise. Franchise is what this is all about as they see the possibility of multiple movies, merchandize and the whole nine.

THE INDIE WAY



The indie creator doesn’t need 25 years, millions of dollars or major studio backing to get their project done. Sun Creature Studios, the creators of the popular short film The Reward are proving that over and over again. After having raised well over $100,000 USD for the Tales of Alethrion project, which expanded the world of their short film into a complete universe, they are returning to Kickstarter a second time to raise fund for a full animated series, and their fans are responding.

While Warner Bros. and big Hollywood studios get tangled up for years on projects that cost over $200 million USD, these indie creators are going a simple route. They are letting backers on their Kickstarter project vote on the direction things go by what level of backing they provide. Imagine that. The fans having a say in what they want to see! The indie doesn’t need the red tape and bloated production budgets that stifle creativity at the majors. Innovation can get the indie a lot further a lot faster.

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OBAMA THANKS JAPAN FOR ANIME



President Obama thanks Japan for all the cool things which it has brought to America, including karate, karaoke, manga, anime and even emoji. This is interesting when you consider the level to which foreign words like manga and anime have infiltrated modern culture. You can say these words and people will actually know what you are talking about. It wasn’t always like this.

When I first got into anime and manga, nobody knew what it was. In fact, back then, the word Japanimation was still in use. We don’t here that much today. Manga was even less well known, since, at that time, there may have been a fw anime shows on US TV, but publishers hadn’t started bringing the printed works over. Things exploded in the late 90’s and the early 2000’s were probably the peak. In those days, anime and manga were taking over mainstream bookstore and video store shelves. Things, of course, crashed big time after that.

Macross Anime series debuted as Robotech in America
Even though the US anime and manga industry has shrunken considerably, the terms are now household words. Everyone knows about it. They talk about it in mainstream movies. Even mainstream US properties get manga adaptations now. It really has become a part of culture. I find this funny because one of the first anime to really make waves in the US, called Macross, was all about culture.

Japan is doing something Hollywood has alway sheen known for They are exporting culture. They have people the world over mixing Japanese terms in their speech, regardless of what language they use. Kids want to be samurai and ninja, no matter their own heritage may have to offer. They are making their ideas into our ideas. This is the power of media. This is the power that artists and creators have. Those of us who desire to create should be thankful to those that paved the way.

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KEEPING IT SIMPLE



Anyone who has any level of interest in anime will, by now, know about Mamoru Hosoda. I first learned of his work when I came across The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. I immediately noticed the similarities between his work, and that of Studio Ghibli. His work features very simplistic character designs composed with amazing detailed and beautiful backgrounds. His work also features very simple, family oriented stories, not just for a family audience, but often centered on family. I was surprised, however, to learn that there is more to these similarities than one might think.

Many have said that Hosoda may be the next Miyazaki, but what I did not know was that he actually worked at Studio Ghibli in the past. In fact, he was set to direct Howl’s Moving Castle. The film, of course, went on to be completed without him.

Howl's Moving Castle

“Unfortunately, I didn’t get along with the staff on an artistic and logistic level, but still, I’ve learnt many things during my short time there…I thought to deliver a message I had to make tortured works. But in fact, while working on Howl’s, [I] realized being simple and clear was more satisfying to deliver the message. Even if it looks better, complicated things can’t reach the audience as well as simple ones…The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars are the results of this observation.”

Hosoda now has his own successful studio from which he directed and released Wolf Children. If you have seen this film, you know that it epitomizes that stated quoted by him above. He also went on to receive some very impressive awards. He is now preparing for the release of his next feature, Bakemono no Ko, or The Boy and the Beast. The film looks to continue along the lines he started with his previous efforts with very relationship driven stories and simple, beautiful artwork.

I wonder if his statement above has any bearing on why many of the anime properties I like, shows like Jin Roh and Real Drive, do not find a great level of success. They are anything but simple and clear after all. I watched Jin Roh many times before I could really understand it, and this is not just because of the language barrier. It is a complicated world and story. I happen to like that, though. That is what I want to see more of. It is also what I want to make. Does this mean I am hurting my own chances of reaching the kind of audience I want?

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THE TRUE COST OF PRODUCTION



WHat does it really cost to make a good animated film these days? Light Chaser Animation in Beijing, China is answering that question with their upcoming CGI animated feature Door Guardians. While in the past, it could be said that Chinese animation, though very cheap to produce, was lagging far behind western standards of visual quality, Light Chaser Animation is seeking to change all of that. In the trailer for their new project, we see cloth simulation, realistic water effects, skin shaders and other technological advancements we would expect from high quality western CGI. The gap has closed.

I have been living in China for five years now. One of the reasons I was first invited here is because of my western animation experience, which was valuable to both schools and studios playing their part in improving the domestic animation scene. The government, at the time, was putting a lot of money into creating an animation industry that would rival the world’s best. Over the years I witnessed the slow growth of an industry as studios acquired new technologies and skills. It seemed, for a while, that it might be ages of playing catch up.

Upcoming Chinese animation film Door Guardians
Now enter Gary Wang, the creator of Light Chaser Animation. Wang is known locally as the creator of the famous video sharing site tudou.com, which not only hosts user generated content, but secured contracts with studios worldwide for the legitimate broadcast of anime and Tv shows from global partners. Wang purportedly sold the site for over $1 billion USD, and then reemerged with a new dream. That dream is Light Chaser Animation, and they are producing a film that appears will in every way rival a $100 million USD, Hollywood, CGI animation, for only $12 million dollars.

This raises some serous questions. In an age where Dreamwork’s Jeffrey Katzenberg had his salary cut by more than half, and the studio laid off 500 employees, studios in China are aggressively hiring, even foreign talent. Chinese studios have been pumping out hours of animation content for a fraction of what it costs to create in the west, or even other Asian markets. The only saving grace of the west was that the quality of Chinese animation work was not up to par. Now that seems to be changing, but the price isn’t. What is their left to justify the cost of these $100 million animated films?

This raises another scary issue for those who work in the industry. If the same quality can be produced in China at nearly 10% of the price, won’t all the work go there? Regardless of what artists think, there are still bean counters sitting atop the Hollywood heap who are only going to look at the numbers. If those numbers say they can get the same quality that equals the box office returns they are used to, while producing in China on a micro-budget, the writing is already on the wall.

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KICKSTARTING ANIMATION FUTURE

Revengeance animated and directed by Bill Plympton

Bill Plympton, the king of independent animation, is returning to Kickstarter for his next feature film project called Revengeance. After his success with his 7th animation feature film, Cheatin’, which raised over $100,000 on the popular crowd funding service, Plympton seems sold on crowd funding as a means to get indie projects off the ground. For his 8th animated feature project, Plympton is, for the first time, collaborating with animation artist. In this case, independent animator and cartoonist Jim Lujan.

Independent Animator Jim Lujan
Jim Lujan is a Los Angeles based cartoonist and animator whose work can be seen on his own youtube channel here. He apparently first met with Bill Plympton at a San Diego Comicon in 2006. He handed Plympton some DVDs of his work. According to Plympton, if he watched every DVD he was handed, he would never get any of his own work done, but because he thought Jim Lujan was such an interesting character, he decided to put it on one rainy afternoon. HE fell in love with Lujan’s work. Lujan does nearly all of his animation, voices and music himself. Plympton called him up and suggested they collaborate on a project. Thus, Revengeance was born.

“REVENGEANCE tells the story of a low-rent bounty hunter (named Rod Rosse, The One Man Posse) who gets entangled in a web of seedy danger when he takes on a job from an ex-biker/ex-wrestler turned U.S. senator named "Deathface." Rod has to find what was stolen from the senator and find the girl who stole it. Soon, Rosse finds there’s more than meets the eye to this dirty job. Between the ruthless biker gangs, the blood thirsty cults, and the crooked cops - Rod Rosse is a marked man. If the bullets don’t kill him - the California sun just might!”

Bill Plympton Kickstarter rewards
The Duo are offering rewards that would be highly sought after by Plympton fans. These include digital products like streams or downloads of the film, DVD and Blu-ray copies, while larger contributions will net physical products like original caricature drawings by Plympton, his hardcover book Independently Animated, a signed screenplay or even a phone conversation with Plympton himself.

Those of you with experience handling your own crowd funding campaign can easily see the value in this. Connection with the project, and a real connection with the artists who create it, is the big difference between indies and the big studios. Users want to be a part of something they love and enjoy. They want to contribute in as many ways as possible, and they want to connect. These new methods of getting your project out there, whether we are talking about Kickstarter, Indie Gogo or Patreon, all mean the indie artist can directly connect with their fans. The fans can not just feel like, but really be a part of something.

If you as an indie creator aren’t taking advantage of all the ways available to directly connect and interact with the people who love and, hopefully, support your work, you are missing a huge part of path to indie animation success.

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ADOBE MODO?!

According to The Telegraph, Adobe, famous for Photoshop, After FX and Premiere, are allegedly preparing a bid to purchase The Foundry, the UK visual FX software company that currently owns MODO. For those asking, “Where did this come from?”, I will give a little background.

Allen Hastings, Brad Peebler and Stuart Ferguson, the creators of MODO

About 12 years ago, MODO was developed by a small independent company called Luxology. This group was composed of former developers from Newtek, their Lightwave Team, when they split over creative differences. For nearly ten years, this group toiled away building up MODO, which began as a simple but extremely powerful modeler, into a full fledged 3D package. This caught the interest of people like John Knoll and ILM. As a result, about two years ago, with a push fro the professional VFX community, Luxology was acquired by The Foundry, a large VFX software developer known for tools like Nuke, Katana and Mari.

Tom Cruise in Live, Die, Repeat\

The Foundry is a UK based company known for making very high end visual FX tools used in the biggest of Hollywood pictures. They are owned by a private equity firm known as The Carlyle Group. Late last year, this private equity firm announced that they were putting the company up for sale. Word has it that they purchased the company for about £75 million, some years ago, and it is now valued at around £200 million, earning £10 million in revenue per year. Clearly it was a worthwhile investment.

Adobe Creative Suite

Adobe apparently sees an opportunity to apply The Foundry’s tools to a wider business community. This is where things could get interesting, because the price range of The Foundry’s tools is in an entirely different league than any Adobe offerings. The Foundry targets the largest VFX studios, and their prices reflect that. Adobe targets a wider user base with much cheaper products.

It should be noted that should such a purchase take place, Adobe, having never been involved in 3D before, may have no interest whatsoever in MODO. The Foundry’s Nuke has taken over the professional compositing and post production market, leaving tools like After FX in the minor leagues. Other tools in their lineup, like Colorway and Katana might also be great additions to the Adobe production suites. A full 3D package like MODO could very well get left out in the cold in such a deal.

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WHEN IT WAS ONLY ANIME

When I was a kid, hot on the bees of Robotech having been broadcast on television in America, me and a group of friends got together with the idea that we were really going to build an amazing robot. Granted, back then, we had no idea of the billions of dollars in research and development that would be necessary to pull such a feat off, nor the physics knowledge necessary to make a huge bipedal machine stand or walk. We were simply going to do it, because that’s what we want to do.

When I got older, I eventually went on to study mechanical engineering in university, still holding on to this idea that I would create amazing robot technology. At this time, however, I had also already been introduced to CGI and was slowly developing techniques that would allow a single artist to make their own anime. It soon dawned on me that what I really wanted to do was learn how to draw anime about cool robots rather than make them for real. After all, the technology just wasn’t there. The cool stuff I envisioned was never going to happen in my lifetime, right?



Fast forward a number of years and I eat crow. Of course, the exoskeleton above, from the Japanese startup company Skeletonics, is far from the amazing robots of anime, but I think that is an important point. This product is being created solely for entertainment purposes. It is a toy, for people who probably had visions, like me and my friends did when we were kids, except now they can get in a cool suit and really play those visions out. Their plan is to sell these suits to vendors, rather than individual users, and those vendors could rent them out to people, for an hour or two, to play with. This is by no means, however, meant to imply that the real stuff isn’t happening.



As I mentioned in Anigen II, companies like Boston Dynamics, in the USA, and Perceptual Robotics Laboratory in Italy, whose video you see above, are making it happen for real! The robot exoskeleton pictured in the video above is truly a mechanical wonder, giving the user super human strength. IT would, for example, allow the user to life extremely heavy items and control them with accuracy if the user were, for example, working on an aircraft. It has been claimed that companies in this field are experimenting with directly controlling the technology from the user’s brain.



In Japan, there is another robot creator who makes no secret of his sci-fi influences. He called his lab CyberDyne and was inspired as child by novels such as I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov and the anime TV series Cyborg 009. This creator is Professor Yoshiyuki Sankai of Tsukuba University. His robot suit, unabashedly called HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) , is the epitome of bringing anime and sci-fi into the real world. Built on the idea that the brain sends tiny electrical signals to the muscles of the body, his suit can analyze these signals and perform its tasks. It also greatly increases the wearers strength.

Professor Sankai’s robot suit also contains complex programming related to A.I. which works in conjunction with the analysis of signals from the brain. This means that if the user, for example, had lost the use of their legs, the suit would be able to compensate for that and being able to perform the tasks given the legs via electrical impulses received from the user. That is a huge difference in comparison to other such robot suits currently in development. In fact, that sounds a lot more like something out of an anime such as Ghost in the Shell.

While Professor Sankai can’t name names, he has been contacted by certain militaries who would desire to gain his technology for use in future weapons. The idea would be to use his HAL suit to create what is essentially a super soldier. If that isn’t an anime story waiting to happen, I don’t know what is. Luckily, the Professor believes that robot technology should be used to help people, allow the elderly to work, or the disabled to walk and function. He does not believe it should be used to hurt or kill people. For this reason, he has refused such offers.

Even though I personally chose to learn how to draw anime about the technology of the future, rather than pursue a career trying to build it for real, it is happening. Stories right out of science films are playing out right here in the real world today. While I don’t see myself attempting to return to that field in any real sense. I would definitely like to further explore these concepts through my own art.

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ROCKING THE INDUSTRY

When we look at the world of animation, the thing that usually comes first to mind are the big films. By this I mean the $100 million or more epic features like Big Hero 6 or How to Train Your Dragon 2. We hear and dream about the big studios behind these features and consider the large sums of money being thrown around in their creation. We gasp at the fate of big animation executives like Dreamworks Founder and CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, whose salary was recently cut by over half, and how he must now struggle on a mere $6.4 million per year. Nevermind that a few whole movies could be made on that money, which is less than 10% of what is being spent by the majors.

As an independent creator, you need to get your head squarely and completely out of those clouds. We are not a part of that game. Trying to get into or become a part of that game is nearly an exercise in futility. You need to create your own game.

Rocks in my Pocket

A perfect example of this is the indie creator Signe Baumane and her recent micro-budget feature film Rocks in my Pockets. This film was apparently on the short list for the Oscars, but was not nominated in the end. Being a realistic tale about depression and suicide, based on true events, maybe it was too indie for them. While many Hollywood animated features are little different than live action blockbusters, she travels the paths that only animation can travel. She spoke about this not long ago in an interview with Vice.

“Telling that amount of history in a live action film is nearly impossible. Showing how a person feels from inside, how depression works from inside, is also nearly impossible in live action.

Do you remember that film A Beautiful Mind about the mathematician who went crazy? To depict his state of mind, they used blurry spinning images. This is all the language you have in live action. In animation it's different; you can just walk into a person's mind and you can show everything going on in there. In animation you're free to do anything you want.”

Indie Animated film Rocks in my pocket

Is this really true? Of course we know it is, but you might not think so looking at the big films in the industry. They are just as formulaic and, in some ways, lacking in artistry as any Hollywood Blockbuster. For the indie, any attempt to mimic that would be a recipe for disaster. This is a notion of which I am often reminded by independent animation veteran Paul Fierlinger, who has long been advising me to put more realism and more of myself into my work. He is adamant that the indie trying to directly compete with Hollywood, or anime, or anything else mainstream will find themselves without an audience. Signe Baumane certainly has her style and definitely speaks from her heart in her films. This makes them decidedly different than the mainstream.

Rocks in my Pockets Indie Film

“...what really bums me out is that animation is misunderstood as a medium for children; this makes me really upset. Animation has been around for ages, it was the first moving images. Then sometime around the 1920s, it was hijacked by children.”

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