I haven't updated in a while, perhaps not since I came to Shanghai attempting to start down a new path. A lot has happened since then, both good and bad, and I have been seriously considering what I am really doing, what I should be doing, and what I want to be doing. One the biggest changes that occurred due to my time here, being busy, out and about in the world, and having new experiences, was that I never had the time to watch movies or TV. In the last couple of days, as things have calmed down, and I had some time on my hands, I sat down and watch The Matrix Trilogy, followed by Ghost in the Shell.
I call this post Thought on Quality because my recent experiences, both online and offline, and the films I viewed recently, made me think a lot about what I am doing. For example, I draw a lot. I have an idea I think it cool and I may draw a picture, a character or some other doodle. This is all well and good, but if my goal is to create independent animation, I should be animating a lot, not just drawing a lot. I haven't really animated much of anything outside of the many tests I did last year.
In all those tests, and in so much of my work, I was always trying to find "my style". This really makes very little sense because in reality your style finds you. What I was really trying to do was find what was easy. I was trying to find they way in which I didn't have to put in the work. Time was, no doubt, a factor, as I didn't want to spend a year on a ten minute short, but acknowledge that I was look for the easy road. It was clear as I posted those tests around which one people truly responded to. Deep down, I knew which one was the right one, but I chose to keep on searching for an easier one.
I recently read a book which said, "Successful people are concerned with pleasant results. Unsuccessful people are concerned with pleasant methods." — Brian Tracy
So I watched The Matrix. This isn't the first time I watched all three films back to back. Watching it as whole, I think I have come to understand the negativity heaped on the sequels. I have heard it said that it seems as though different writers were involved in the sequels, or maybe the studio reigned them in on the first one. I don't believe that to be the case. I think the problem lies with us as viewers, and how much we both like and respect Morpheus.
You see, Morpheus gives us our view of this world, by explaining it to Neo. We accept this view as being true, because he is a strong and wise character. We assume he must be right about everything on which he speaks. He has some of the greatest quotes of all time in that first film. We believe them because he seems to be speaking to us and it seems to fit our own feelings. Unfortunately, Morpheus is wrong.
In the scene pictured above, Morpheus says, "I have dreamed a dream. And now that dream is gone from me." This is a line from the bible, spoken by Nebuchadnezzar, after whom his ship is named. Here is where they signal us that Morpheus was wrong from the very beginning. Here is where he loses everything. From this point on, Morpheus is weak. He does none of the cool stuff we have come to know him for. He is almost subservient to Niobe for the remainder of the films.
I think a lot of viewers don't want Morpheus to be wrong. Like the character in the film, they simply can't accept that. I think this is why the sequels don't sit well with a lot of people. I do not, however, believe that this wasn't all planned from the very outset.
If nothing else, never before nor since have mechs been done so well in film or television. I have always said that motion kills most CGI, not the rendering. Things don't make perfectly smooth motions in real life. This is why motion capture always looks jerky. The system exaggerates the minuscule ticks that happen in every real life motion. The artist has a tendency to want to smooth it all out, and then even the motion capture looks floaty, weightless and fake.
Hand keyframes work, especially in films where the actors are real people, is even worse. Too often, especially in the case of machines, the overly smooth keyframes motions, with computer generated interpolation between frames, just doesn't fit. In The Matrix Revolutions, they animated to robots to move more like the stop motion work done in the old Robocop films. It was jerky and mechanical. It felt heavy. It felt real.
I think I have watched Ghost in the Shell 3 times now. Despite its flaws, I seem to keep coming back to it. Some of those flaws, though, are glaring. I never expected it to be a philosophical as the original. I know that wouldn't sell in today's market, but come on. They really dumbed it down. They ruined Batou as a character. He is no longer Batou with the unsleeping eyes, the ranger with abilities comparable to The Major. He is now just typical Hollywood, guy gets blown up and has to have some parts of him replaced. Basically, he wouldn't have done it if not for the accident.
Should I even get into the Major? This also feels so typical Hollywood. She is unique, the first of her kind. She is super special. No. Aside from being very skilled at her job, which is due to experience, she is not unique. She is not special. Most of Section 9 is just like her. The world is full of people exactly like her. The first film even intimates that someone else can use the exact same body as her. She is not special. Most of what makes her great at her job would still hold true if she were mostly human. She does not have technology that no one else has. This is what leads to the bulk of philosophical considerations in the original manga and films. In Hollywood, they basically made her into Robocop.
There are other things which bother me. Like the garbage men who are simply taken over and mind controlled, and starting shooting up the streets. In the original, the hack done to them (and the camo guy) was truly special, so powerful that they were doing these things of their own "free will". Kuze, in the original, was unnaturally likable. People wanted to hang around him, follow him, and do what he wanted. He never had to force anyone to do anything.
What bothers me most of all, though, is they used some of the best elements of both animated films and both TV series. If they somehow managed to be successful, what were they going to do next? Perhaps make things worse with a totally original story conceived in Hollywood? Well, unfortunately, the movie was a colossal failure, so we will never get to know what they would do next, or how they might have improved it going forward. If nothing else, the film no doubt screamed quality.
Which brings me to why we are here. We are here because we want to make animation, games, comics or other artistic creations, and it has dawned on me that whatever it is we are to create, it must be of maximum quality. Dare I say it must be competitive. All my efforts to find the easy road, my unwillingness to do the hard yard, are precisely why I am stuck where I am at the moment, and have no advanced. The evidence has been around me all the time, but I chose to believe that I could do things differently and still reach a goal only reached by others who put out maximum quality.
Like Morpheus, whose ship went down in ball of flame, so too must I adjust to a new reality. In this new reality it is exceedingly difficult to get audiences to give up their precious time and attention to watch something, even if it is free. Only by offering the best of the best can one even hope to gain a moment of someone's time. Time is everything. It is through time, and how we use it, that one finds happiness or loses it. In order to get someone's time, your offer must be worth it. I now realize that I must create with this always in mind. Think of it like this. How cool would something have to be to get you to stop what you're doing and watch it?
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You know how it is. As life goes on, and things change, opportunities arise and one finds new things on which to focus.
I am back in Shanghai and getting more deeply involved in the work I am doing here in China, and also my family, especially my 3 year old daughter. These occupy the vast majority of my time. Combine that with constantly rising web hosting and domain registration prices, and I feel the time has come to put to rest my web store and video training. What does that mean for you?
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With so much content out there on the Internet today, it is extremely rare to come across something that actually impresses. Recently, I came across something that did just that. Featuring a very creative mix of 2D hand-drawn animation, 3D cel shaded work, and 3D VFX, this work is one of the most amazing independent projects I have seen coming up in a very long time.
The creator, who goes by the name of Daetrix, posted to the Black Science Fiction Society Facebook group saying:
"I almost never let my sci fi anime out for public viewing due to a few people telling me "Black people don't like science fiction" This labor of love is based on my life and bouts with Sleep paralysis and lucid dreams. I joined a few groups in hopes to find like-minded folks to share it with. "
So why am I so impressed with this? Well, one of the things that stood out immediately for me, was the sheer creativity behind this. Most independent projects out there, including some of mine I must say, are just rips of things that already exist. They just want to copy anime, or Marvel comics, or other properties that we have seen before. That is not the case here. This project is showing some amazing imagery which is really new for our industry.
This creator is also following a true independent path. Rather than jumping on the bandwagon of major publishers, he is looking to forge his own road. Hoping to find like-minded people in order to share his talent with, he has set up a page on Patreon. You may remember that I spoke about this service in the Chaos Retro video. This lets creators connect directly with their fans and receive support for their creative endeavors. This means that artists can create what they want to create without editors and publishers telling them how to do it. You can see his Patreon page here.
Seeing this has definitely motivated me to do more, push harder, and be more productive in my own efforts. How about you?
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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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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.
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 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.
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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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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WHat does it really cost to make a good animated film these days? Light Chaser Animation in Beijing, China is answering that question with their upcoming CGI animated feature Door Guardians. While in the past, it could be said that Chinese animation, though very cheap to produce, was lagging far behind western standards of visual quality, Light Chaser Animation is seeking to change all of that. In the trailer for their new project, we see cloth simulation, realistic water effects, skin shaders and other technological advancements we would expect from high quality western CGI. The gap has closed.
I have been living in China for five years now. One of the reasons I was first invited here is because of my western animation experience, which was valuable to both schools and studios playing their part in improving the domestic animation scene. The government, at the time, was putting a lot of money into creating an animation industry that would rival the world’s best. Over the years I witnessed the slow growth of an industry as studios acquired new technologies and skills. It seemed, for a while, that it might be ages of playing catch up.
This raises some serous questions. In an age where Dreamwork’s Jeffrey Katzenberg had his salary cut by more than half, and the studio laid off 500 employees, studios in China are aggressively hiring, even foreign talent. Chinese studios have been pumping out hours of animation content for a fraction of what it costs to create in the west, or even other Asian markets. The only saving grace of the west was that the quality of Chinese animation work was not up to par. Now that seems to be changing, but the price isn’t. What is their left to justify the cost of these $100 million animated films?
This raises another scary issue for those who work in the industry. If the same quality can be produced in China at nearly 10% of the price, won’t all the work go there? Regardless of what artists think, there are still bean counters sitting atop the Hollywood heap who are only going to look at the numbers. If those numbers say they can get the same quality that equals the box office returns they are used to, while producing in China on a micro-budget, the writing is already on the wall.
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About 12 years ago, MODO was developed by a small independent company called Luxology. This group was composed of former developers from Newtek, their Lightwave Team, when they split over creative differences. For nearly ten years, this group toiled away building up MODO, which began as a simple but extremely powerful modeler, into a full fledged 3D package. This caught the interest of people like John Knoll and ILM. As a result, about two years ago, with a push fro the professional VFX community, Luxology was acquired by The Foundry, a large VFX software developer known for tools like Nuke, Katana and Mari.
The Foundry is a UK based company known for making very high end visual FX tools used in the biggest of Hollywood pictures. They are owned by a private equity firm known as The Carlyle Group. Late last year, this private equity firm announced that they were putting the company up for sale. Word has it that they purchased the company for about £75 million, some years ago, and it is now valued at around £200 million, earning £10 million in revenue per year. Clearly it was a worthwhile investment.
Adobe apparently sees an opportunity to apply The Foundry’s tools to a wider business community. This is where things could get interesting, because the price range of The Foundry’s tools is in an entirely different league than any Adobe offerings. The Foundry targets the largest VFX studios, and their prices reflect that. Adobe targets a wider user base with much cheaper products.
It should be noted that should such a purchase take place, Adobe, having never been involved in 3D before, may have no interest whatsoever in MODO. The Foundry’s Nuke has taken over the professional compositing and post production market, leaving tools like After FX in the minor leagues. Other tools in their lineup, like Colorway and Katana might also be great additions to the Adobe production suites. A full 3D package like MODO could very well get left out in the cold in such a deal.
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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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As an independent creator, you need to get your head squarely and completely out of those clouds. We are not a part of that game. Trying to get into or become a part of that game is nearly an exercise in futility. You need to create your own game.
A perfect example of this is the indie creator Signe Baumane and her recent micro-budget feature film Rocks in my Pockets. This film was apparently on the short list for the Oscars, but was not nominated in the end. Being a realistic tale about depression and suicide, based on true events, maybe it was too indie for them. While many Hollywood animated features are little different than live action blockbusters, she travels the paths that only animation can travel. She spoke about this not long ago in an interview with Vice.
“Telling that amount of history in a live action film is nearly impossible. Showing how a person feels from inside, how depression works from inside, is also nearly impossible in live action.
Do you remember that film A Beautiful Mind about the mathematician who went crazy? To depict his state of mind, they used blurry spinning images. This is all the language you have in live action. In animation it's different; you can just walk into a person's mind and you can show everything going on in there. In animation you're free to do anything you want.”
Is this really true? Of course we know it is, but you might not think so looking at the big films in the industry. They are just as formulaic and, in some ways, lacking in artistry as any Hollywood Blockbuster. For the indie, any attempt to mimic that would be a recipe for disaster. This is a notion of which I am often reminded by independent animation veteran Paul Fierlinger, who has long been advising me to put more realism and more of myself into my work. He is adamant that the indie trying to directly compete with Hollywood, or anime, or anything else mainstream will find themselves without an audience. Signe Baumane certainly has her style and definitely speaks from her heart in her films. This makes them decidedly different than the mainstream.
“...what really bums me out is that animation is misunderstood as a medium for children; this makes me really upset. Animation has been around for ages, it was the first moving images. Then sometime around the 1920s, it was hijacked by children.”
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The modo 601 shader tree can be a very powerful tool once that power is unlocked. Combined with the vast array of procedural textures that modo ships with, the shader tree allows for the possibility of adding untold realism to your CG creations without the limitations often associated with traditional texturing methods. To that end, I have created a new video with which you will go deep into the processes which make the shader tree such a powerful tool, and learn how you can take advantage of it to add incredible detail, weathering and realism to anything you wish to create!
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Following up on the email I sent out concerning forgetting the rules, I really did something. After looking at the little clips and shorts that Kevin "Q" Quattro had done, I really got inspired. For those who were unable to find his Youtube page, you can search under the name "pixelsmack". His short videos and animations are sometimes funny, sometimes serious, sometimes just expressing an idea. It's the idea that's the important thing. With that in mind, I decided to just make something.
You can see it on its own media page by clicking here.
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As mentioned in the previous two posts, I have arrived in a new place and have opened the door to the possibility of new focus on my projects. In celebration of this new beginning, I am starting the Autumn Super Sale which gives you outrageous discounts on everything available here.
This sale gives you 50% off most items in the store, with some specials, like Final Independent Animation Training , the best course there is for learning how to draw anime, over 66% off! Take advantage of this incredible sale while it lasts and get the training to help you get your projects done today!
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Secondly, as some already know, there is the modo 601 Interior Lighting and Scene Setups video. This video is both about how quickly you can setup scenes due to the speed of using the modo content library and bringing dynamic realism to your scenes through lighting. You can see that trailer here.
That's not the only new thing to report though. As mentioned in the last Indiegen video, I have once again returned to Guizhou Province in the south of China and Dede and I have found a new place to setup shop and really begin focusing on my projects. This place is amazing and the environment is very conducive to creative endeavors. The cost of living is so inexpensive that it makes the independent life a true dream.
As you can see from the trees outside the window, this place in not in a huge city like Shanghai. It's not exactly out in the country, but probably as close as you can get and still have all the comforts of modern life. With the rent being $110 USD for a fully furnished, 3 bedroom apartment, with a patio we can barbecue on, you can imagine why I am so excited about the future I can create here. That, of course, is not all.
I finally have my own perfect little space which I can setup to be my studio. There's not much there now, aside from the cool desk and shelves built into the wall, but of course I will deck this place out with everything I need to make the shows I want to make and continue to show you how to draw anime. One of the things I will surely be decking this place out with is the Samsung 10.1 inch Galaxy Note.
With this tablet solution, I won't be limited to working at my desk of course. I will be able to work anywhere. With the 3G model, that anywhere means staying connected while doing so. I guess I wouldn't be able to keep making updates to this site from out in the field, since I use Apple specific software for that, but I can do just about anything else I want for that. Who knows? Like I did in Korea, I may add a web based way to continue to add updates as was done while I was in Korea. Now that I think about it, there is a software extension to this web design tool that allows that. That is something to worry about later though. Right now, I am basking in the delight of new things, starting anew on ld projects, and creating a new life!
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This is something that has been a long time coming. modo 601 has finally given me the tools I need to really do the projects I was meant to do. After floundering around on the best technique with which to create Paragon, I can finally say I have found it! Even though modo 601 was release back in March, it took some time for me to really grasp all that this release meant. It meant being able to go back to the ways of Chaos. It meant being able to do all that was possible back then and more. Look for another Indiegen video with further explanation of all that is happening now.
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I believe in taking risks. I obviously took a big risk in coming out here in the first place. I am not just talking about coming to China, but leaving California in itself, as I did four years ago, and traveling around seeking my dream. I feel like I possibly allowed that adventurous spirit to get lost somewhere. I forgot my PURPOSE. I got too settled into things which, in the end, were not MINE. The result, as always, was that my true projects were not getting made.
Here is something interesting. Over a year ago, in the first post on this new site, I wrote, "I remembered days gone by when I just did my thing, 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." Nothing has changed since then, as far as my feeling, but part of the problem is also that NOTHING HAS CHANGED. This means I am still doing those things I supposedly never wanted to do.
In the second post on this new site, still over a year ago, I talked about media. I said I am an artist and that I want to create. My plan was to populate this site with media. The problem is, aside from GMO Shoujo and the first chapter of Paragon, that media page has not changed much in the year since I wrote that. What happened?! I suppose I could make a million excuses, but none of that matters now. The point is that IT DIDN'T HAPPEN. I didn't create. The media page did not get populated. I let things get in the way.
The solution to Paragon is simple. I wrote in the production blog for that show that, since modo 601 has introduced all the character animation and cel shading tools, that would allow me to do everything that was done back in the days of Understanding Chaos, Paragon will be done with this technique and no other. I spent enough time waffling on the best way to get that project underway. The best way to get any project underway is to GET THE PROJECT UNDERWAY. Task a risk. Stop thinking. Start doing. I write this as much for myself as for any reader.
As you might be able to tell from my writing I am very unhappy right now. That is why I am going to take another risk. I am going to make a big change. I am going to try something new. If I don't go down in flames, then it will mean this site can finally become what it should have always been. I can fill in that gaps that have been missing for the last few years and, wasting no further time, begin populating this site with the content that those readers who still come here looking for something can appreciate and then SHOW HOW IT WAS DONE. I remember that mission. That is how it began with Understanding Chaos. That is also how it will end.
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I am very excited about what has been happening over these last several weeks, but the things I foresee coming, in the next few weeks, are even more exciting, possibly challenging and, like my explanations of my experiences when I was actually there, more mind expanding!
Remember, back then I said the experience was life changing. I found I had less interest in the things that used to clamor for my attention. I found myself wanting something different from life, from work, from everything. Now, it seems, some of those desires are actually coming to pass.
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I have learned an incredible amount just this year and I am still learning. The evolution of my own production processes and those I have learned working with teams here in China will surely change the way I do things forever. Some of these things will be elaborated on in my Indiegen video casts. Others may appear in the Paragon production blogs. Still, others may appear in a new book, an update to Animation on a Shoestring, if you will, for our new, highly mobile world.
I have high hopes for the independent future. In fact, I see it as the only future for the creatives of our generation. Join me in making that future draw nearer to us everyday! I look forward to the amazing things that are coming.
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This is not to say I have anything against video. I very much enjoy making videos and some things are certainly better demonstrated by video. If, for example, you wanted to learn how to draw, watching a video or a show like The Joy of Painting, will take you further than reading about it, even if the book has pictures. Learning 3D software by way of training videos serves far better than the manual in almost every case. There is no question that video is better for a number of things, but that's not what I am really talking about either.
With the partial exception of mainstream news, we have seen blogging and article writing descend into tweets and Facebook updates. We are seeing video pop up everywhere and it seems there is no one without a Youtube channel these days. We also have more people consuming online information via their smart phones or tablets. Everything is becoming instant and bite sized and few seem to take the time, or even have the time, to sit and read anything.
All of this makes me think about how I convey information here, and whether or not this site would be better served by making the move to video. This doesn't mean going so much in the direction of the original Anigen, a series built to teach you how to make anime, but perhaps something a bit similar, a way to disseminate the information, tools and techniques to readers, or viewers, and meet them where they are. If viewers would, in fact, rather watch a quick three minute video clip, than read a long and informative article, I would certainly prefer to make said video clip. In fact, I've been doing it already, as can be seen by the clips I do on the Japancast.net video episodes.
It seems that with the Youtube generation, there just isn't a lot of reading going on. The comics industry has been steadily declining and viewership on animated content has never faltered. Even comics in the digital realm, now revitalized on tablets like the iPad, are trying to add elements of sound and motion. What does that say about simple reading? Well, we all know there are different audiences for different mediums and the success of independent authors on Kindle shows that there are clearly people with no interest in mainstream books that will come out in droves for something more catered to their tastes. Still, that's not the internet, which is where we are now. It seems that video may rule the roost when it comes to web, mobile and tablet content. Am I wrong?
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I wrote before about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 inch tablet and my desire to draw on such devices, considering my experiences on the Mirage Nomad tablet I used in the days of Anigen. That tablet is, however, not out yet, and I certainly wouldn't want to postpone drawing until it should arrive. I however, was not entirely happy with the small tablet I had been using. It was great for its mobility and easily transportable in my bag as I travelled, but the drawings I was producing on it were not up the quality I desired, certainly not compared to what I could do on paper.
I may have mentioned sometime ago that Wacom invited me to test the Inkling some months before its release. As a thanks for that testing they gave me a much larger Bamboo than what I had been using. Since mine was also near 4 years old, the newer Bamboo featured 1025 levels of pressure, as opposed to 256 and a larger 16x9 drawing area. I hadn't really used it much though.
Recently I decided to bring it out and develop what I could on it. Thinking about what Robert Rodriguez would say, you have to make the show you can with the tools you have, right? So I began to practice, and every day I improved a little. Now I am quite satisfied with the drawings and animation I can do on this new tablet. My speed is increasing as well. It makes a big difference in my creative process. Thanks to the new brushes I have been exploring in TVPaint, I am even developing new methods of drawing and painting backgrounds which I had not delved into before and I am happy with the results.
While I agree with the sentiment that one must make the best show they can with what they have. There is some measure by which you must have the right tools. Nothing could, for example, make me be satisfied with the drawings done on that small, old tablet. And one does need to be happy with their creation if a project is ever to get finished. While waiting for the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 inch tablet may not be advised, sometimes it can be beneficial to at least wait for something that is good enough.
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One of the things I have spent some time working on lately was backgrounds. I wanted to develop a method that had a nice look and was a good fit for the type of animation I desire to do. With that in mind, I began further exploring the painting tools. Of course, I knew where they all were and how they worked, so I proceeded to simply use them and work on developing my skill rather than worry about tools. What that meant, though, is that I didn't check for new tools.
Having some time on my hands today, I decided to continue my practice. Aside from the default tools, there were a couple of natural media style brushes that I used from the custom panel. Today, though, I noticed one of them was not there! Eventually I found that it was still there, it had simply been renamed and had a new icon. Noticing this, though, also led me to see that there were many new brushes of which I was wholly unaware. I began testing them.
Many of the new painting tools deliver the most natural and realistic effect I have ever seen in digital painting. It reminds of an old TV show I used to watch called The Joy of Painting. I learned many techniques that I continue to use in my own painting from that guy with the afro on the program. The most interesting thing is, for the first time since I have been using digital painting programs, these techniques really work just as they did in the real world! Had I not taken the time to just experiment and try these things, I would never have found this out. It really pays to explore your software and find out all of the cool things it can do. Don't get too set in your ways or your own workflows. There is always something new to learn!
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For nearly ten years now modo has been a big part of my overall workflow. This is apparent in both my Final Independent Animation Training as well as my Anigen Final Secrets method of creating animation, both of which involve the use of this tool. It all started because of a project I was working on all those years ago, called Daniel: Visions and Dreams. At the time I was using a different toolset for creating models and ran into some issues with a temple I needed to build for one scene. I just couldn't do it. With little to lose, I decided to give it a try in that first version of modo and was met with shock. This model, which was giving me so much trouble, and which I couldn't wrap my head around, just happened in a few minutes. The toolset in modo was that different!
Now, so many years later, we arrive at modo 601, which has to be the most comprehensive upgrade to this software yet. Gone are the days of modo being a simple modeler and renderer. Over time we have seen the addition of complex environments, sculpting, an animation timeline and the famous replicators. Now they have gone even further with the addition of bones and character animation tools, volumetric effects, particles and even dynamics. This puts modo in the big leagues, right up there with the major players in the industry.
I haven't personally tested these new features, but on paper it seems there is little lacking to make modo a possible tool of choice for all of one's 3D animation needs. Of course, we live in an age, now, where using many different software packages to achieve the final result is common. That doesn't mean it wouldn't be great to see some of those tools fall by the wayside. For me, one tool which may be falling out of use will be Vue Infinite.
For years, I absolutely loved Vue Infinite and the power it gave me to create natural scenery, especially for the fantasy style backgrounds I like to do in animation. Still, it was one more tool adding complexity to the workflow. When they came out with version 6, which introduced the amazing clouds, which had a look that always reminded me of the skies in Macross Plus, I was hooked. Great as the results were, though, Vue was far from easy, and certainly never fast. Over time, as you can see in my modo nature video tutorial, modo began to add the tools which created fewer and fewer reasons to go to Vue. Now, in modo 601, they have gone over the top.
The new volumetric rendering engine has brought amazing looking clouds to modo. Of course, it doesn't stop there. The new volumetric rendering in modo is in combination with replicators and their new particle engine. This means you can do smoke, fire, and many other fully animated effects which are not as easily achieved in Vue. When you look at what is possible with modo's surfacing, via the shader tree, the replicators, the environment system and now with real volumetric rendering, you can actually do more than was possible in Vue and you don't have to deal with the incredibly slow renders or flickering.
Needless to say, I am very excited about the new modo 601, even if just for what can be done on the nature side of things, or for backgrounds. When you factor in the new developments in character animation, who knows where this can all go? I haven't actually played with it myself though, so we will see how things develop in the near future.
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As I am sure you know, especially if you want to learn how to make anime, my Anigen Final Secrets video delivers the fastest, easiest and most versatile system for creating high quality animation that I have ever developed. Still, what if there was a way to add even more power to this amazing technique? Well, there is, and it is not anywhere near as expensive as one might think.
I have been hearing about Microsoft Kinect for some time, but I never really took the time to look into it deeply. I had even heard it was used for low cost motion capture, but I had no idea how low, or just what was really involved. Now that I have looked into it, the results I have discovered are nothing short of amazing.
The Kinect device itself is something of an innovation in its own right. I was surprised to learn that its original purpose wasn't really for motion capture per se, but as a type of human movement driven game controller for the Microsoft XBox 360. Basically a player could stand before this device and their on screen character would copy their motions in realtime. You can imagine how this might work for a boxing or tennis type game. Apparently, many people imagined this because it sold something like 10 million units in a very short time, becoming the fastest selling consumer electronics product in the world.
Someone at the company Ipi Soft, however, saw a different possibility with this machine. They saw a means by which you could use this device to do motion capture, without the need of spandex suits and markers, and without multiple, expensive infrared cameras. With this one device, and their software, you are ready to go, and you see your results in realtime! They export to all the popular mocap file formats and it works in just about any tool you might want to use, including Poser or even the free Blender. Imagine what this means for the world of independent content creation and those who want to learn how to make anime! The techniques of Anigen Final Secrets, combined with the most affordable mocap system ever devised is a sure win!
When I talk about affordable, this Kinect device costs around $150 USD. The software, which does have a 30 day free trial, ranges from $395 to $895 depending on which version you need. That's it! You are up and running with your own motion capture studio! They call it motion capture for the masses and it seems they are not kidding. Go to Youtube and search Kinect Motion capture and you will see plenty of samples of what is possible. This is really the future. You don't need millions of dollars or major studio backing. This statement couldn't be more true than it is today!
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Here in the south of China, in the province called Guizhou, I have seen many amazing things. This really got me thinking. Where does inspiration really come from? The day before yesterday, I travelled to a small city called Duyun, about forty minutes from where I am currently staying by bus. On the road to this city, moving along an often elevated highway, we passed through many areas of beautiful country. The scenery was astounding, sometimes appearing like something out of fantasy. I had a similar experience when I first arrived here, viewing misty mountains hidden in fog with but the tips of trees peeking out.
I can imagine that artists like Hayao Miyazaki and his staff visited places of similar wonder as they gathered reference material for making a fantasy epic like Princess Mononoke. The location itself visits upon you idea after idea of mystical creatures, magic and hidden treasures. Of course, this doesn't happen only in nature settings. Our purpose for visiting this town was primarily to see the lantern festival, which is a tradition that runs throughout the Chinese new years.
It is not, however, only the things you see with your eyes that can bring inspiration. It can also come from experiences, particularly the more outstanding things that happen to you in your life. A few days, we took a similar trip to another small town. This time, we were not on a full size bus using the highway. We took something more like a small van along narrow, winding country roads. Once again, one can imagine an artist who experienced such a travel wanting to capture that feeling on film.
One the way back, shortly after we left that town, our van broke down. We were sitting on the side of a little country road in the middle of nowhere. There were a few seemingly abandoned buildings around, but almost no people. I immediately began to imagine bandits riding down the hill to loot the unsuspecting travelers. Luckily, that didn't happen. What actually came down the hill was a herd of goats!
There was a man walking along that road with a large bucket. He began to shake the bucket, rattling the contents inside. This apparently alerted the goats that it was feeding time and they came streaming down the mountain to where he began to throw out, what I guess was some grain, on the ground for them to eat. We all decided to get a good look at them while waiting.
Eventually, another van stopped and gave our driver something in bottles. Maybe it was oil or gas, I don't really know. In order to get back on the road, though, we had to push the van until it was on a downhill slope before it would start again. This worked, and though it soon became dark, we were back on the road. The driver continuously apologized and rather than take us to the bus station, he actually drove us right up to the front gate of our building.
You can't put a price on real experiences. The number of things I have seen and done, since I began my travels, eclipses practically all of my previous experience of adult working life. Inspiration is not likely to strike while sitting in front of a computer or television. It's out there. It is waiting to be experienced.
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I am currently in the south of China in a province called Guizhou participating in their Spring Festival. This is also known as the Chinese New Year. The event is marked by the getting together of families on every level for food, fun and a lot of fireworks. In the day, I was gather with 18 people, a family ranging from grandparents, parents, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, cousins and even babies. It was quite an event. We set off a large line of fireworks and then set down to the ultimate. Later that night, as 12:00 rolled around, we prepared for the spectacular fireworks display you saw in the video above.
Unlike a major fireworks show often associated with events like this, in this little town, everyone is doing it, not just an organized group. Normal everyday people are shooting fireworks on the level of a huge Independence Day parade. This means they are everywhere, all around you, and if you're not used it, it might seem like you're in a war zone. I can scarcely describe how amazing an event it was to witness and experience, and then it got me thinking.
It was January 23rd. A new year? I can imagine many of us are used to December 31st rolling around and making all kinds of plans and resolutions about how we will make next year the year of our success. We are finally going to start that novel, get that new job, create that new animation. Usually these resolutions don't last two weeks. People start off all fired up and ready to really change their life, but after a short time the flame is more like a cigarette.
What if, however, you could do it all over again without waiting another year? Imagine, in just 23 days, after the first, another new years celebration rolls around. You have the opportunity to look at where that fire started to go out in the past three weeks and rethink things. Go over your accomplishments so far this month and you will get a fair idea where you stand. How do you feel about it? If you feel like making change, Happy NewYear!
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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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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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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!!
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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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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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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.
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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!
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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!
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You can check my interview, and my thoughts on independent animation and the industry today, by clicking here.
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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!
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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!
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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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!
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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.
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
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.
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.
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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!
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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!
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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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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!
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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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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