WHO RULES THE WORLD?

It may be time for me to accept that Windows still rules this world and that I need to seriously consider getting something like this:

hp-zbook-x2-mobile-workstation-2-in-1-tablet-laptop-surface-book

"HP will be showing off the new ZBook x2 at Adobe's Max conference today, raising the stakes for pro-level 2-in-1 devices after Microsoft announced its Surface Book 2 yesterday… HP is labeling the ZBook as a detachable workstation and claiming it's the "world's most powerful detachable PC." Nonetheless with a starting price of $1,749, the ZBook can't help but be compared to its fellow Windows hybrid system." — from ZDnet.com

Even though it is clearly more expensive than getting one of the new Cintiq Pro models to attach to my Mac, there are other reasons for this. We still, after all these years, live in a world where certain tools are developed for Windows only. One such tool would be Akeytsu, the 3D character animation tool I learned about on my recent trip to Japan. Another, is one of the most amazing tools I have seen released in ages, CACANi.



Although I am not suggesting that I would move over to CACANi in lieu of TVPaint, but apparently they can work well together, and why not have more tools for the arsenal!? Getting a Cintiq on my MacBook would certainly mean I could draw better, but I would still be excluded from using these new, amazing tools, or, at best, waiting around until they decide to do a Mac port.

Now, granted, I don't have two pennies to rub together right now, so I am not sure how I'll be getting any of these expensive tools. I guess the first step will be to get creative with what I have and start making stuff again!!

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WHY NOT PAPERLESS?

I recently got into a discussion about anime production budgets and CGI versus 2D hand drawn. Because of the BLAME! animated film, which I wrote about earlier, I had been thinking about digital paperless animation. Here in Asia, be it China, Korea or Japan, many studios still draw on paper.… Read More...
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THE BEGINNING OF THE END?

We have all heard about how robots and AI will begin to take over the majority of jobs. Whole industries will be wiped out, and masses of people will have to find new ways to earn a living in a completely new kind of economy. One area I thought would not be affected, at least not for ages to come anyway, was the realm of art and animation. I may have been wrong… Read More...
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WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN

Nothing pisses me off more than a show that "could have been". I think I may have written about this before, back during season one of Outcast. The first two episodes were some of the best television I had seen and held such promise. The show went straight downhill from there… Read More...
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SOMEONE DREW THAT!

I found this incredible Akira blog on Tumblr which features original cels, layouts, backgrounds and other materials from the 'Art of Akira' exhibit. It got me thinking… Read More...
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ONE OF THE GREATS

We have been having some great discussions, in the comment sections on recent posts, about the world of animation and the path of the indie creator. Much has been said about how our animation should look. I think, in the past, it was the noted Disney animator and character designer Glenn Keane, who brought us characters like Belle, from Beauty and the Beast, and Ariel, from The Little Mermaid, who said that animation looks the way it does simply because of a technical limitation of the times… Read More...
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WHY MESS WITH PERFECTION?

I remember seeing the posters for the live-action Beauty and the Beast movie, in the subways of Shanghai, it seems like years ago. Considering the direction Disney had gone with films like Cinderella, Maleficent, and Alice in Wonderland, I had no reason to expect that they would do a faithful remake of the original 1991 animated film…. Read More...
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THE IMPORTANCE OF QUALITY

I don't keep up with anime often. In fact, I don't even know if I could be called a fan anymore. I used to absolutely love it. In the days when it was on VHS and DVD I would buy several titles every week. Now, there's very little I'm interested in watching. Don't worry. I'm not going to go into a rage about the good old days… Read More...
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YOUR NAME TOPS CHINA BOX OFFICE

The latest theatrical release from Makoto Shinkai, the director who began his career with the independent anime film Voices of Distant Star, has topped the Chinese box office, becoming the highest grossing 2D animated film of all time in the country. Read More...
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LEARNING NEW SKILLS

Artist Paul H. Paulino, with experience in look dev on films such as Independence Day: Resurgence and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, writes about his journey into the world of visual art in this amazing, must read article! Read More...
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THE COST IS TOO HIGH

I was reading an article about what killed the Saturday morning cartoon. Back in those days, to produce a half hour of television cost as much as $330,000 USD. That was the 80s. Today a show like Avatar: The Last Airbender can cost as much as $1 million per episode! Read More...
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DO YOU HAVE AN AUDIENCE?

The question of the day is do you have an audience? We will look into this question with some examples of anime that dared to be different, including Aku no Hana and Real Drive. The answer for you as an indie creator may be a very different story than it is for the big studios! Read More...
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THE CHINESE ARE TAKING OVER

I was recently watching the epic, summer blockbuster Independence Day Resurgence. Of course, as with many huge budget Hollywood outings these days, Read More...
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WHY 2D ANIMATION WILL EVENTUALLY DIE

I want to talk about why 2D animation will eventually die. Read More...
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INDIE CREATORS ARE DOING IT!

The technology is here. It has been for a while. Writer/Director Julian Herring decided to make use of it to bring his own dreams to life. Read More...
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IS 2D ANIMATION REALLY DEAD?

The question, is 2D animation really dead? There are some cases, and some places, where this may seem to be the case, Read More...
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CAN GAME ENGINE RENDERING HELP YOU MAKE YOUR OWN SHOW?

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of informative videos to help creators on the road to getting your project done. Read More...
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BUILD THAT MOMENTUM

Here is why you have to build momentum well in advance of the release of your project. Read More...
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STUDIO GHIBLI TOONZ SOFTWARE RELEASED FREE!

The animation production software Toonz, developed in conjunction and used by Studio Ghibli, will be released Open Source on March 26th. Read More...
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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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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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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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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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MODO 601 IS HERE!

Modo 601 is here!!!

For nearly ten years now modo has been a big part of my overall workflow. This is apparent in both my Final Independent Animation Training as well as my Anigen Final Secrets method of creating animation, both of which involve the use of this tool. It all started because of a project I was working on all those years ago, called Daniel: Visions and Dreams. At the time I was using a different toolset for creating models and ran into some issues with a temple I needed to build for one scene. I just couldn't do it. With little to lose, I decided to give it a try in that first version of modo and was met with shock. This model, which was giving me so much trouble, and which I couldn't wrap my head around, just happened in a few minutes. The toolset in modo was that different!

Now, so many years later, we arrive at modo 601, which has to be the most comprehensive upgrade to this software yet. Gone are the days of modo being a simple modeler and renderer. Over time we have seen the addition of complex environments, sculpting, an animation timeline and the famous replicators. Now they have gone even further with the addition of bones and character animation tools, volumetric effects, particles and even dynamics. This puts modo in the big leagues, right up there with the major players in the industry.

Modo Characters

I haven't personally tested these new features, but on paper it seems there is little lacking to make modo a possible tool of choice for all of one's 3D animation needs. Of course, we live in an age, now, where using many different software packages to achieve the final result is common. That doesn't mean it wouldn't be great to see some of those tools fall by the wayside. For me, one tool which may be falling out of use will be Vue Infinite.

For years, I absolutely loved Vue Infinite and the power it gave me to create natural scenery, especially for the fantasy style backgrounds I like to do in animation. Still, it was one more tool adding complexity to the workflow. When they came out with version 6, which introduced the amazing clouds, which had a look that always reminded me of the skies in Macross Plus, I was hooked. Great as the results were, though, Vue was far from easy, and certainly never fast. Over time, as you can see in my modo nature video tutorial, modo began to add the tools which created fewer and fewer reasons to go to Vue. Now, in modo 601, they have gone over the top.

Modo 601 has volumetric rendering

The new volumetric rendering engine has brought amazing looking clouds to modo. Of course, it doesn't stop there. The new volumetric rendering in modo is in combination with replicators and their new particle engine. This means you can do smoke, fire, and many other fully animated effects which are not as easily achieved in Vue. When you look at what is possible with modo's surfacing, via the shader tree, the replicators, the environment system and now with real volumetric rendering, you can actually do more than was possible in Vue and you don't have to deal with the incredibly slow renders or flickering.

Needless to say, I am very excited about the new modo 601, even if just for what can be done on the nature side of things, or for backgrounds. When you factor in the new developments in character animation, who knows where this can all go? I haven't actually played with it myself though, so we will see how things develop in the near future.

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IS THERE A MARKET?

Game of Thrones Poster
I woke up this morning, in a small quiet town in the south of China, far from the big city race of Shanghai, with an idea about what I really wanted to make. I began to ask if there is even a market for it. It is written that one would not go to the heart of the desert and expect to do successful business. It is also written that an ice cream parlor would do better in a warm climate than in Greenland. This makes sense, right? Hollywood continues to make very similar, formulaic movies in order to reach the widest possible audience. It gives the impression that this is the path you must follow if you want to achieve success, right? Well, just how big is this market?

If you consider the domestic box office of a very successful movie, and also take into account the price of a movie ticket these days, even the movies which gross hundreds of millions of dollars are, in fact, viewed by less than 10% of the population. Some of those tickets sold are likely to people who view popular movies multiple times also. I can also imagine that when it comes to the huge, FX driven films now common in Hollywood, it is very likely the same 10% that is watching these films. What, then, are the other 90% of people watching?

Let's take a look at the HBO series Game of Thrones. This fantasy is definitely not Harry Potter or Dungeons&Dragons. The show contains a lot of gore, plenty of nudity, graphic sex and is very slow paced. In the entire first season there are only two or three monster appearances and only one CG creature. This show is heavy on the drama and characters. It is also hugely successful, having picked up for a second season after just one showing of the first episode. I am willing to bet that, while there is some audience crossover, this caters to a very different crowd than the typical Hollywood summer movie.

In the world of games, Nintendo began to find entirely new audiences with products like Nintendogs and that cooking game. Suddenly, housewives and the elderly were playing video games. Facebook has a number of very popular games among people who don't consider themselves gamers, and they are nothing like what is generally considered popular in the mainstream market. The mobile market, especially the IOS market has opened up entirely new avenues to reach entirely new players.

There is no reason to believe that you have to make what they are making in order to be a success. You don't have to follow Hollywood formulas or feel that you need to make a Disney or Pixar clone for your animated movie, just because everyone else is doing so. Deviating from this doesn't mean you are attempting to make an ice cream parlor in the cold north. We have the internet at our disposal. It may take you bit longer to build up, but the people who would most love to watch what you want to make will eventually find you.

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THE FINAL SECRETS ARE HERE!

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

Get ready to experience the fastest and easiest method of creating 3d, cel shaded anime I have ever devised! You don't need millions of dollars or major studio backing! These secrets will give you all you need to create stunning work in minutes! Yes, minutes! The tools and technology are here today and you can do your dream project right now! CLICK HERE!

As many readers will know, I have been working on and updating my 3D, cel shaded, anime techniques since Understanding Chaos over 10 years ago. YES, over ten years! Can you believe it? Well, it really has been that long and the technology and techniques have come a long way since then. I have gone through different software packages and tried many different ways, all with the idea that I could achieve the dream of doing a series.

What I finally came upon was the fastest, most powerful technique I ever encountered. Like many things I did in the past, I am sure it involves stretching the software in directions the makers probably never intended for it to be used, maybe even that they never imagined. The result, though, is a method that really makes the dream possible. If you thought doing 10 minutes in a month, on Understanding Chaos, was an accomplishment, you haven't seen anything yet. I won't even tell you how much is possible in month with this technique. You wouldn't believe me. You have to try it for yourself.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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