The Wrong Rock – New Short Film
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2017 approaches and I’m back at it, making another short film. After Devils I was adamant I’d not be taking on such a huge (unpaid) pet project again for another decade. Well, life evolved in ways I couldn’t have predicted and I ended up helping out on two other short films for friends, both of which worked out great (The OceanMaker and Napoleon). I also had a lot of wonderful adventures in my professional working life. But once again I find myself with that craving to make something outside of work, and there’s only so many small projects you can do before the big ones come calling. There’s another project I actually could have started that’s been in development for some time but it needs more time to be the best version of itself. In the mean time ‘The Wrong Rock‘ came to me in a moment of soul searching where I brushed aside everything I’d learned about building IP and focused on the issues I felt the most connected to. Then I worked out how could I explore those issues and send a strong message out into the world worthy of the time it takes to make one of […] Read more!
Kameo: Making Of
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I worked on this game for three years over a decade ago. Now there’s a ‘making of’ video doing the rounds. It is a good game… it’s fascinating to see how well it holds up, and how in other areas it’s dated. About half the footage they used here was from my pre-rendered cut scenes. Some good, much of it looking a bit shaky now…. largely I’d put that down to not having the budget and the team size you’d expect on a project like this today (it was also my first time doing pre-rendered HD 3D as well). But I learned a lot from this and there were many, many improvements over what I’d been able to do in the real-time cut-scenes I did for Starfox Adventures (which was somewhat limited by starting out as a cartridge game on the N64). Anyway if anyone is wondering what the fuss is about go get the Rare Replay collection, Kameo is one of the best reasons to get it. Read more!
Unreleased Rare projects
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Over the course of your career you touch on lots of projects that never see the light of day. Usually no-one in the public gets to learn about them but a good decade later a bunch of projects I worked on at Rare have had mini documentaries made and released as part of a collection of games. Kameo 2 Fast and Furiest Black Widow Read more!
Tips for Making Films with a Remote Team
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I contributed some tips to the Artella Blog. Advanced Tips Recruiting – Depending on your own strongest skills it might not be worth recruiting for some skill sets. Recruitment is a commitment in itself and it can be very time consuming reaching out, filtering, vetting and introducing new team members. That might be time better spent working on the project yourself. While some areas are easy to recruit for and benefit the project greatly. Choose wisely. Communication – This is key to every team member, especially when you’re operating a remote project. If a team member lacks the language skills, can’t write responses or even read your notes…. it’s going to be a struggle. Partnership – Find out what your team members want to get out of their involvement in the project, then make sure they are getting it. If people realize they aren’t getting what they want and they’re paid they won’t last long. But if they realize they’re not getting what they want and they’re volunteers, they’ll drop the project so fast, you often won’t even hear about it until you’ve wasted a lot of time chasing them. So make sure both sides are meeting their goals, or […] Read more!
The OceanMaker Insider Part 5 – Pixar
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Continued from Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. It’s the Summer of 2014… a Friday and I was working on the Fox lot in Los Angeles for Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb when I got a call from my friend, Lucas Martell. We were invited to screen The OceanMaker at Pixar, and while we’re at it could we do a Q&A for them too. Pop! …. that was my brain exploding. Oh, and can we do it on Monday? Argh! So after begging my supervisor, Eric, for a day off, I drove up to San Francisco on Sunday and stayed with some friends ready for Monday morning (thank you Paul and Maria… big hug). I was lucky I was close enough to drive. Not all of the team could make it. Luckily Lucas and Christina Martell were in the area at the time. However Henning Koczy, had to go above and beyond to get there from New York. But there we were at Pixar, with thanks to Colin for setting it all up and giving us the tour (on his day off, I might add. How much does he love that place?). The OceanMaker crew arrives at […] Read more!
Podcasts for Animated Filmmakers
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I listen to a lot of podcasts, during my commute, during work, out on walks… etc… It’s a great way to stay up to date and learn things. The topics have varied over the years to include subjects I want to teach myself about, but there are certain topics around Animated Filmmaking that I keep myself subscribed to. I curated a list of the best ones you can still download over on the Animated Filmmakers website. Read more!
“Night at the Museum 3” on Below the line
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My friends at Proof and I were on this project for 10 months or so. This is a really nice article about it on Below the Line. Eric Benedict even got a nod. Nice work everyone. L.A.-based VFX visualization house Proof recently provided extensive previs and postvis services for Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. The film was released by 21st Century Fox Studios on Dec. 19. “Proof started working on this film while we were still prepping,” said VFX supervisor Erik Nash. “While they weren’t the only previs company on this project, they did create many sequences and they stayed on through the end of postproduction as the sole postvis team. Proof brought a great deal of creativity to the table. So much of the movie depicts creatures that come to life – creatures that could only be presented digitally. They provided the first pass, which amounted to blocking the animation for the characters. In many cases, the animation for the characters didn’t change all that much when those sequences were later handed off to the VFX vendors.” Eric Benedict served as Proof’s previs supervisor on the film, working on the project for 10 months. Proof was […] Read more!
Devils Angels & Dating: Storyboards
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Here are the storyboard panels for Devils, Angels & Dating. In the heat of production there was never the time to prepare them for presentation and I didn’t have access to the right tools to do it. Since the animatic was always the most up to date version of the film and it communicated what we needed I didn’t worry too much about a storyboard presentation like this. But I did want to do one, so it’s been on my to-do list for sometime. Although the majority of the storyboard panels were drawn by me, I have to give credit to Natalie Massone who lent a hand for a little while. You’ll notice the style change fairly easily. My work tends to have the blue rough lines, and I also did the thumbnail versions. Her panels were an older character design style and a much rougher, darker pencil style. Read more!
Fast and Furious 7 – Trailer
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The first trailer for Fast and Furious 7 is out. I worked on this for about seven months in 2013. It was a highly creative project, and I got to create entire action sequences. This trailer features clips from several of them, but I’m really looking forward to seeing the final film. After Paul Walker passed on, I became involved in another project so I never had to deal with the challenges that would have followed. But I left it in very capable hands and I’m curious to see how everything was accomplished in the final product. Read more!
Showing my portfolio at Disney Florida
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I was visiting Disney World Florida, with my family when I was a kid. It was my first time in America and the first time being that close to an animation studio. They had a fully operational animation studio in Florida back then and you could take the tour from Disney World as if it was part of the park. It was a major draw for me, and I was pretty excited. My parents were being very supportive in taking the family in the first place. I’d long ago stopped taking family holidays with them in order to focus on making my own films instead. But I wasn’t going to miss this one (they were very cunning). During the tour you end up in a room with one of the experienced 2D animators at his drawing desk talking to the crowd and showing them what he does. We watched his demonstration. My parents, not knowing anything about the process of getting work in the industry, encouraged me to walk up to him and ask him if I could show him my portfolio and ask about a job. I (kind of) knew that it wasn’t the way to do it, but […] Read more!
IK vs FK
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Most debates (or arguments) inside an animation studio have a correct (or at least) best case solution and eventually end. But there’s one type of debate that never ends, and it continues to come up project after project. Essentially, every time a different combination of people starts working together the battle between FK and IK will rear it’s ugly head… every time. It doesn’t usually start out as an IK vs FK debate, but once you’ve peeled away the layers that are concealing it… and it continues to keep going, it becomes obvious that’s what you’re talking about. Every time it happens it makes me smile. Because once you realize that’s what you’re talking about, you won’t be able to end the argument by selling the virtues of your preferred method. You realize you’re all wasting time repeating the same argument and you have to change tactics to find a way to end it. This is where I tend to lean on my experience, and reach back into my archive of projects to highlight the pros and cons and their end result on the final product. Only then do people realize they’re in a holding pattern and there’s not much […] Read more!
Interviewing the Devils Team
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It’s been a little over two and a half years since ‘Devils Angels and Dating’ was released on YouTube. It’s recently enjoyed a spike in popularity and passed two million views. To thank the team I wanted to touch base with them, give them a chance to showcase their work and let us know where they’ve been with their careers since then. Many have gone onto do great things and built up quite strong credits. That’s probably more an indication of their tenacity and talent than the success of our film, but it’s still very encouraging. In particular it says good things about collaborating on other short film projects in the future. If nothing else I’m grateful for getting to know these talented people, because without the film I wouldn’t have known. Read the interviews here: http://devilsangelsanddating.ning.com/profiles/blog/list See the film here: Read more!
Panda Pander on Crackle: 2,572,030 Views
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I made a random discovery today…. my old student film, Panda Pander, was on Crackle before they changed their business model, and it gathered a lot of views back then but I never had any evidence… until now. I found an old feed that showed a few view counts. I don’t know if the highest one was the final count before it went offline but it’s a nice little memento from the past. I was working in Scotland when this was happening, it was quite incredible and I had no idea what a high view count could do for you. These days a high count on YouTube or Vimeo can get you noticed, but (at least for now) those counts generally stay visible. This one disappeared and I wish I’d taken a screen shot. It was the second highest viewed piece of animation on their site all the way up to it’s disappearance. 2,572,030 Views   Read more!
Finish your Film
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Kenny Roy’s book ‘Finish Your Film! Tips and Tricks for Making an Animated Short in Maya‘ features ‘Devils Angels & Dating‘ several times. It discusses the making of an animated short film. It’s available at all the usual book retailers. Read more!
How to Cheat in Maya 2014
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Kenny Roy’s book on ‘How to Cheat in Maya 2014’ features an interview with me. It’s available at all the usual book retailers. Read more!
DSM Mobile App: Storyboard
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Alongside the art direction for this product demo commercial, I was working on the storyboards. This turned out to be the fun part. I recently bought myself a secondhand Wacom Cintiq. It’s been on my wishlist for a decade, but they’ve been prohibitively expensive until recently. It’s also hard to justify a purchase of a grand or more for something you’re not sure you’ll use regularly. I’d walk up to them every time I saw one in person and doodle to see how good they’d gotten. Usually I was disappointed with the disconnect between the tip of the pen and the actual line being drawn.. i.e. the space between the surface and the screen, and the lag in the responsiveness. That hasn’t been entirely solved but it has gotten better as computers get faster and the screens get better. Recently tablets have become popular (finally!), and Wacom has made a stand alone tablet with their pen technology in it. This is essentially the device I’ve been dreaming of for my entire career (seriously? it took that long?), but still…. it’s too expensive. It has, however, had the effect of driving more second-hand units out on to the market. So for […] Read more!
DSM Mobile App: Commercial
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I spent a few weeks working on this interesting project. On paper it could have been a potentially dry product demo/commercial, but actually the script had a little spark to it and the client had an interest in keeping things engaging. So with the same spirit I took to creating the visuals. It was supposed to be two minutes or less. But when I got the script at two and a half pages long, I had to challenge the length and see if we could trim it. But ultimately this was about conveying specific information, rather than abiding by any fixed time slot. So the video ended up being 25% longer than it was originally planned for. Take note… one page of script is roughly one page of screen time. Of course it can vary wildly depending on how it’s written and what the content is. But if you start there you’ve got a good guide. I’ve been on other projects where the producers didn’t know this and it’s come back to bite them in the butt later when, for a fixed bid, they’ve found themselves producing a lot more screen time than they anticipated… for free. So be careful […] Read more!
Free on Amazon – Guardian of the Highlands
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You can now watch Guardian of the Highlands, or at least the first ten minutes of it free on Amazon streaming. This is a film is worked on way back in 2006 and 2007. Don’t expect too much, lower your expectations… no… lower, lower… that’s about right. Limited means, and a crew filled with fresh graduates. Neither was really a problem. In fact I’d say we pulled of mini miracles, but nothing could save the material. At least we’ve all gone on to do much better things. Today there’s a strong comradery amongst the ex-team members for this film. Read more!
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Trailer 3
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The third trailer for Dawn of the planet of the Apes is out now, and it showcases a few shots I worked on, and many more I recognize. I worked on the film at MPC for a couple of months last year. It’s exciting to see it coming together. I’m still on the prowl for a big poster to take a picture alongside. Read more!
Motion Control Camera Experiment
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After the two large Skylanders projects had been completed the small team of staffers left at Panda Panther turned to creating some new showreel pieces for the company reel. They’d recently bought a motion control camera rig to shoot stop-motion elements. We moved it from one New York basement to another and took several days of professional training from a British master of motion control to learn all it’s tricks. The desire was to find a good way to blend live, modeled and stop motion elements into CG and 2D animated elements. It was something I’d wanted to have a go at for some time and a good excuse to experiment. The idea was to create an intro and outro for the company reel. The visual elements came purely from the the creators and owners of the company but within that brief we experimented with how to make something that gelled well between all the unique elements. A unique challenge was trying to make a camera move in Maya, that would not make the real world camera collide into the walls or ceiling. The basement roof was covered in pipes and there were pillars to avoid. This is a very […] Read more!
Annie Awards 2014
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I went along to the Annie Awards with Julie and my buddy Dan. It’s the biggest awards ceremony for the animation industry. Still very US-centric but there is some international representation there. It’s still quite an under-appreciated event. Just as glitzy as many other awards ceremonies but you can still buy reasonably priced tickets to get in and watch from the balcony. We met quite a few interesting people in the party afterwards. Read more!
Love in the Time of Advertising
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Love in the Time of Advertising is online. The fascinating thing is how many people I have come across over the years that had a hand in making this film. It’s been a long time coming, and I was lucky enough to see several early versions. But even then it was really strong… and really knew what it was. It just had to go through production. I guess the earliest versions I saw were in the last few years of production, but I’d have loved to have seen some of the versions way back when it was still in story development. That would have been fascinating, as it’s such a wild idea and getting the tone, the world and the rules of the world working would have been quite challenging. Anyway, it’s well worth checking out. An inspiration to short filmmakers. Read more!
2 Years Online – The Stats for ‘Devils Angels and Dating’
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It’s been just over two years since Devils Angels and Dating premiered online on YouTube. In the full spirit of disclosure, that we’ve run this project, I wanted to share the statistics behind the people viewing it. As you can see we’ve passed 1.4 million views, most of which came in the first summer. You can learn much more about the making of the film at the development site, http://devilsangelsanddating.ning.com/ Read more!
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Trailer
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I spent the summer working at MPC with a great crew at MPC in Santa Monica, LA (many of which I’m still working with, two movies later). It’s astonishing to me to see a trailer for this so soon. There’s a lot of talented people working very hard on this right now. I can’t say much about it yet… just watch the trailer. What I will say is that I very much liked the 4pm tea and biscuits routine the company had (British company in the middle of La La Land… it felt very eccentric). Read more!
Sir Billi – Animated Feature
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It’s been a seven year wait but finally… I had the DVD in my hands. Back in 2006 I took an enormous risk to quit my seven and a half year tenure at Rare, a large character focused games studio owned by Microsoft, to work on a little known animated feature in Scotland, called Sir Billi the Vet (later renamed Sir Billi). I spent six months there, ultimately supervising about 30 minutes of the animated footage and pulling together a respectable animation crew that thrived during a very troubled production. I finally watched the film… It would be very easy to criticize it (and many have) but watching it has been quite enlightening for me. It’s possible I’ve grown my first patch of grey hair doing so, and I may have a permanent frown from the wind changing while I was watching (old wives tale). But it was interesting. It holds up as an excellent example to filmmakers… of what not to do. I think it could be used in classes to highlight many typical flaws that most filmmakers only skirt past without ever really doing so badly that they’d get called out for it. But here it’s all on […] Read more!
Divergent – Trailer shots
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I worked on Divergent very briefly at Third Floor as a Shot Creator (or Previs Artist), and I’m stunned to discover that a couple of shots from my sequence made it into the trailer. They’ve probably been revised a million times since I touched them, so I won’t get too excited. That’s what happens when you’re not the last man standing on a project… plus of course they can always shoot it differently on the day. But still… I wasn’t paying attention in the cinema, then suddenly I realized I was looking at some very familiar shots. I almost dropped my popcorn! Read more!
Musicals Un-Frozen
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Frozen comes out soon and with it, I think, a reboot for Musicals. I liked Tangled a lot but the songs in Frozen are, to my taste, much stronger. Growing up with Aladdin and The Lion King… animated musicals have a lot to live up to with me, but I think Frozen was definitely a step in the right direction and it’s comparable with Beauty and the Beast. I love animated musicals… not for every single animated feature, it’s great to have seen the medium pull away enough to try other things, but there’s plenty of room to go either way now that we’ve cleansed the pallet for a few years, if they’re done properly. (Actually there’s even room to diversify further in animation but that’s a different blog post.)   The songs in Frozen were largely memorable, well performed and integral to the story. I didn’t know much about the film when I arrived in the theater so it was a bit of a shock when the first story based songs started. But once you realize what you’re watching it’s pretty good. The film does skew towards a young female audience, but that’s ok. This is definitely feeding the […] Read more!
Animated Bird Movies
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With the release of Free Birds I thought I’d do a little research on animated movies focused on birds. They have a patchy track record and I have some theories about that. But here’s a good list of the most memorable ones of recent years. Year – Title – Studio – Rotten Tomatoes – Worldwide Gross 2000 – Chicken Run – Aardman – 97% – $224,834,564 2005 – Valiant – Vanguard – 31% – $61,746,888 2006 – Happy Feet – Animal Logic – 75% – $384,335,608 2007 – Surf’s Up – Sony Animation – 78% – $149,044,513 2010 – Legend of the Guardians – Animal Logic – 50% – $140,073,390 2011 – Happy Feet 2 – Dr D. Studios – 46% – $150,406,466 2011 – Rio – Blue Sky – 72% – $484,635,760 2013 – Free Birds – Reel FX – 18% – $110,150,480 2014 – Rio 2 – Blue Sky – 47% – $449,566,926 Happy Feet (which I was lucky enough to work on) was a bit of a surprise hit at the time, and even went on to win an Oscar. It racked up a lot more money many than I think most people expected. I don’t remember […] Read more!
Frogs
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For some reason I was inspired to design frogs last week. Don’t worry the compulsion has passed. I just keep adding doodles to my website gallery. I’ve started going to a regular sketch group again. I used to attend a really good one in Austin, Texas on Wednesday nights in a Cafe. I’m in Los Angeles now so I began my hunt to find a good alternative. There’s actually several and it may come down to where I’m working as to which one I frequent at any given time. But for now I’ve been going to the ‘Drink and Draw’ in Casey’s Irish Pub in Down Town LA on Thursday nights. Read more!
Updates – Character Designs and Film Credits
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I’ve been drip feeding my portfolio website with new entries and content lately. There’s some new sketches for some pet projects in the gallery. Some more movie credits in my filmography. Even a little animated project I did while I was freelancing a few months back. While I’m at it ‘Devils, Angels & Dating‘ will be awarded an honorable mention at the Santa Monica Independent Film Festival this weekend. I’ll be going along on Sunday the 22nd of September to absorb the atmosphere, see who there is to see and swap notes with the other filmmakers there. Fingers crossed I’ll meet a few Devils team members while I’m there. Read more!
Dating for Animation and VFX Artists
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It’s hard to openly talk about the topic of dating, but as the guy that developed his short film around the topic, ‘Devils, Angels and Dating‘, I felt it was my duty to expand on it for all the past, present and future lovelorn creatives it was aimed at. The Animation and Visual Effects Industry has been plagued with issues for some time, and many of those issues are only now being exposed and discussed. There are a lot of problems that have compounded over time and there are no solutions that address them all quickly. There are plenty of other better writers out there that you can read up on to find out more on the industry. But I wanted to talk about something that makes a huge difference to an individuals life, that we all can do something about. When I started my first job as an animator I had a 9 to 5 job. To many that sounds wrong. That’s because most jobs I’ve worked in recent years the core hours are either 9 to 6, 10 to 7 or even 10 to 8. This may be a big city thing, a US thing or I suspect… […] Read more!
Off-Site vs On-Site
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Working remotely requires a strong capacity to trust other people. By default, meeting good reasonable people in person builds trust. Getting to know someone immediately in front of you will generally result in much stronger bond of trust than working remotely. I’ve noticed that the further away from ‘in-person’ you are from a relationship the more people instinctively demonize each other, or ‘them’. Regular video chat can be helpful, talking on the phone is almost as good, instant message is the next step, email is convenient but its the absolute limit of a modern day working relationship. Anything less and the other person becomes the enemy. What’s alarming is how two sets of reasonable people with the best of intentions assume flaws, fault, laziness, selfishness, and all kinds of other issues upon each other as the communication methods reduce down to email. Cultural differences throw up defenses even faster. I’ve caught myself making the same assumptions at times, but I push through it and try to see the other side’s perspective. The less you know about the other person though, the harder it gets to relate to them, so it’s only natural for us to demonize the unknown. Different personality […] Read more!
Virtual Studios and Remote Collaboration
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For Siggraph 2013 my friends and I put on a presentation along with a question and answer session to talk about remote collaboration. The following is a summary of the introduction I gave and two videos containing the audio, slide shows and clips we showed at the event. The speakers included: David Andrade and Mark Olson from http://www.theoryanimation.com Matt Berenty and David Bokser from http://www.loveinthetimeofadvertising.com Kenny Roy from http://collabs.arconyx.com Michael Cawood and Shane Davis from http://devilsangelsanddating.com The United Nations predicts that by 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in the cities. Can you imagine that? In terms of mankind, as one big machine, cities are essentially more efficient. But on the individual level, they’re expensive and you can expect a lower quality of life for your earnings. I’d like to challenge that prediction, and suggest that the U.N. hasn’t accounted for the increasing development of remote collaboration, and in the case of our industry, Virtual Studios. I’m going to use animated features as an example for our discussion, but many of the principles apply to visual effects, TV series, commercials, games and many other industries. Let’s jump back in time first to remind ourselves of some of the […] Read more!
Kickstarter vs IndieGoGo for Animation
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Kickstarter is not suited for most animated short films. Ok that is a little bit of an over simplification. What I want to say is that Kickstarter isn’t the right platform for raising money for projects you aren’t prepared NOT to make. Kickstarter is really just generating drama for it’s audience and animated filmmakers are providing the fuel for that drama for free. What do I mean by this? Animation is a staggeringly labor intensive medium so when someone finally gets to the point they are ready to spread the word about a project and potentially impress someone enough to give them some money…. they’ve usually invested so much time, effort and resources that there is little chance they are going to abandon that concept if they don’t make the money they would like to get. This is a pitfall I’m seeing far too many short animated filmmakers going into. They post their projects on Kickstarter because that’s the current popular buzzword and assume their idea is so strong that they will meet their target. But you have to remember that Kickstarter doesn’t take the money if you don’t meet your goal. So you can put in a lot of effort attracting […] Read more!
Parkour for Layout and Previs
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Some time ago I animated this Parkour piece as a one off exercise and it’s been in my animation reel for a while. You can read about it here. But as I was thinking about doing new pieces for my layout / previs reel I realized it would be a great piece to build on. Originally I kept the camera very plain so that the focus of the piece was the animation on the character. There were no cuts, as that could have been perceived as a way to hide cheats in the animation. But for this new piece that wasn’t important. So I could cut as often as I liked, explore angles and even use slow motion. It’s a work in progress and I intend to come back to it. I want to spend some time playing with the layout of the buildings, improve the textures, add motion blur, depth, focus, foreground elements passing the camera and possibly even light and render it. I had fun playing with Maya’s new Camera Sequencer to put this together which made speed changes very easy. It has a great tool for batch playblasting what ever shots you select in the sequence which […] Read more!
Animated Filmmaker groups on Linkedin and Facebook
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I’ve started two groups for like minded Animated Filmmakers to share and connect with each other. The first is on Linkedin and the second is on Facebook. There’s currently quite a good list of great animated shorts posted on the Facebook wall. Feel free to add your favorites. Read more!
The Ocean Maker – The Insider Story – Part 4
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Continued from Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. The first screening went very well and over the coarse of our production we had a lot of similar screenings. My memory of all the screenings on the island blend into each other. But ultimately there was a lot of cheering, respectful compliments and constructive feedback. Note giving is an art into itself, and so is taking notes. The results can be very different in different settings and mediums. We sent out versions of the film through Dropbox links to key filmmaking friends of ours to get feedback. You get very different responses that way. The remote feedback ranged from solid filmmaking notes to complete mis-understandings of certain concepts, and this was the best feedback of all as we could make sure to address big oversights. If something important was missed by even one of our friends you can bet that a much larger number of people with no knowledge of the animation process will fail to understand the same things, so it was crucial to find those oversights and make sure they were clear.The team feedback was really good as we could see exactly what they did and didn’t understand. Standing in […] Read more!
The Ocean Maker – The Insider Story – Part 3
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Continued from Part 1 and Part 2. So the team set to work on the film. As the point man put in charge of documenting the production I was encouraging everyone else to take pictures and videos… to get coverage while I sunned myself in the corner and watched them work their socks off! … Ok, not quite… I actually set myself the task of interviewing each team member so that we got everyone’s initial impressions. Not an easy thing for everyone to do as we’re not all comfortable with the camera and it was something that we all had to get used to. But we got through it and captured a few great conversations as we got to know the team. While I was doing that, everyone else was setting up. Tray went to task setting up a way for us all to share files. Essentially his laptop acted as the server, and we each pressed a sync button on our laptops that sent all our changes to the server then downloaded any chances to our machines. It was a lot more data than we all really needed but on a local network it worked fine. A dirty but […] Read more!
The Ocean Maker – The Insider Story – Part 2
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Continued from Part 1. So the The Ocean Maker was effectively underway in a virtual way, with some team members in Austin. One up in Canada who was just starting to figure it all out. Lucas bouncing around between cities, and me in New York starting to deal with story issues. There was much more to it than that but I’ll let the other team members tell you their story. We did get the chance to hangout a little bit and meet up with each other over Google Hangout at one point, which if nothing else, just made it all a little bit more real. One key thing we had to deal with before we set off to the Caribbean was hardware. One or two of us had laptops powerful enough to work on but many didn’t and Lucas opted to buy a laptop for each of us to use. They were very respectable machines, nothing special but very capable for what they cost and had a large screen. Henning and I both got one and began setting them up ready for use. It wouldn’t have been possible for Lucas to bring over all the hardware himself as that would […] Read more!
The Ocean Maker – The Insider Story – Part 1
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The Ocean Maker started it’s IndieGoGo crowd-funding campaign and the Director, Lucas Martell, has been posting videos, news, interviews and much more related to the project giving everyone a sneak peak at the film and the unique production that created it. I thought I’d chip in and tell a little of my story surrounding the film. Way back in 2008, I first contacted Lucas when I was researching my move to Austin, Texas. He was not far from completing his short film Pigeon Impossible while I was simultaneously getting up to speed developing Devils, Angels and Dating. We got to know each other over the years and became firm friends.Jump to 2012 and Lucas was working in the same studio as me in New York. He told me he wanted to have a chat about an independent project and we met to discuss this outlandish concept of forming a team to make a short film in a remote location. He does a great introduction to the concept in his video for the crowd-funding campaign so I won’t go into too many details. Suffice to say, it wasn’t an easy sell initially and there were plenty of problems to anticipate. But he was pretty passionate about the […] Read more!
The Devils Team – Where did they go from here?
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Since they worked on ‘Devils, Angels and Dating‘, where have the team moved onto? I was recently asked what I’d say to a University aged version of me if I could, and one of the top tips I’d give is to keep working on personal projects in your free time to compliment your day job. This ensures that your portfolio grows (even when the work you get paid for is canned, or kept from the public for years). One fantastic way to do that is to work on short films, and it’s something I wish I’d gotten into much earlier. While directing your own film can be a bit of overkill, contributing to other projects is a much more manageable way to get motivated to do something new for your portfolio. I’m really fortunate to have had some great talents pass through my little project over the years but I thought it was important to show where those talents moved onto afterwards. We can’t assume that their work on Devils was entirely to credit for these opportunities, but no-doubt it formed part of a broader body of strong work from each artist. Here’s a condensed list of some of the […] Read more!
Viva Pinata – Robin Animations
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Way back in 2006 I spent six weeks helping out the animation crew working on Viva Pinata for the XBox 360. We were cast to different characters and I was animating the Robin. For some reason I never got around to putting any of this online, but it’s so cute I thought I’d put it out there. It’s the kind of stuff I would have put in my reel a while back but unfortunately there’s a bit of a bias against games animation (and unrendered shots) when you’re applying for non-games work, so I dropped all my games work from my main reel years ago. It’s a shame really… good animation is good animation, but unfortunately I’ve noticed you get more credit for sloppy animation rendered impressively. It’s not as bad as it was, I’ve definitely seen more acceptance of games work as valid animation in recent years, but it really depends who’s looking. Some people from Film and TV are still frequently quite biased against it and they close themselves off to talent without judging the animation on it’s own terms in many cases. I’ve noticed many games animators render their in-game animations now and find ways to blend them together […] Read more!
Storyboards and Animatics
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I pulled together a collection of some of the storyboards I’ve done over the years that have made it online. It’s a curious mix of quick thumbnail storyboards and more carefully illustrated panels. Most of these projects I’ve essentially been the Director and primary artist so I could get away with what ever it took to get the point across and rarely had to take it further than that. Someday I’d love to get my hands on a Cintiq and some proper storyboard software to do something quicker and prettier, even better would be a tablet setup so I can create without being locked to a desk. So far most of my storyboarding tends to be in little boxes on standard paper (A4 or letter format), scanned in and arranged in Premiere to a temporary soundtrack.   For further details here’s a summary page about the projects I’ve storyboarded on over the years. Read more!
Skylanders Swap Force – Commercial
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Wow that was fast. I only just finished working on this spot Monday night, and it hit all the news portals immediately turning up on dozens of YouTube channels by Tuesday! I worked, primarily on the last two Kaos shots, the ones with the Duck and Baby legs. I also helped out with a few other things including the text and titles. It was an incredibly quick turn around and the small team at Logan did a great job given the schedule. Read more!
The Ocean Maker – Short Film
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As many of you know Lucas Martell started a new short film and I got reluctantly roped into it [rolls eyes]… just kidding, it’s been pretty awesome working with one of my very best friends. He just posted his new website and along with it some images and video (included in his reel). I’ve been a bit busy lately getting setup in LA, but hopefully I’ll find some time to get back to helping out on this thing. This is Lucas’s baby but really want to follow through on it and make it the best it can be. We’ve put a lot of time into it already… well I say that but actually I’ve only worked a couple of months on it solidly… it’s just that this things has come together so quickly that a couple of months is a big slice of the overall production schedule. This is a far cry from our previous films, Pigeon Impossible and Devils, Angels and Dating, both eating up over five years of our lives. Read more!
Orson Welles Award
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I went to San Diego over the weekend to the California Film Awards to accept the Orson Welles Award on behalf of our film. It was a long ceremony with a lot of categories but it turns out the Orson Welles Award was way up there towards the most prestigious categories, so it was quite an honour. I asked someone to use my phone to shoot video of my speech but unfortunately I forgot to press record when i handed it over, and they didn’t either… so I’ll paraphrase roughly what I said: “This film was made for roughly… zero dollars, so I want to thank the Animation community for putting up with all the begging and grovelling we had to do to get this film made. But mostly I’d like to thanks the one hundred or so talents artists that volunteered their time to make this film. Thank you!” As a side note… the life of an animator isn’t compatible with an award like this. We often have to keep moving around, and this thing is soooo heavy! Read more!
Devils, Angels and Dating – One Year Online
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So it’s been a year since ‘Devils, Angels and Dating’ was first released onto YouTube where it recently passed a million views, which was a very nice Christmas present! http://youtu.be/rkddkbu-EMA Our film’s composer, Phil Rey, has a great new album out that I’m listening to now… and wow! …. it’s good. Check it out, well worth a listen: http://phreymusic.bandcamp.com/album/age-of-the-fallen The singer, song writer for our credits, Andrea Perry, ran a very successful KickStarter campaign to fund her new Album which passed it’s goal by a significant margin: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/andreaperry/andrea-perrys-4th-album-2013 I’ve been encountering a lot of Devils team members over the years. Several popped up at my leaving event in Austin which was a surprise and I worked with a good number of remote animators from the team while I was in New York. Most notably I worked alongside Jamil Lahham for six months or so, which was a real treat and we’ve become good friends. He’s also making his own short film. http://jblogger-animart.blogspot.com/ It really is nice for me to meet all these team members but what’s even cooler is hearing about them bonding over Devils when they cross paths on their own. It’s going to be a go-to conversation piece […] Read more!
Portfolio Website Update
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I’ve posted a number of website updates to include some recent work. I did a short stint in New York working on previs for commercials. It was a surprisingly quick job, but we generated a lot of content in that time. You can check it out here. In other news I’ve moved to Los Angeles and I’m looking forward to catching up with my west coast buddies. Devils, Angels and Dating picked up the Orson Welles Award, which I’ll be going to the California Film Awards ceremony to accept. It also passed a million views on YouTube over the Christmas break. Read more!
Skylanders Giants
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I had the pleasure of going to New York to work on the pre-rendered game cinematics for the new Skylanders Giants for all console platforms including some unique stereoscopic sequences for the 3DS. The games are currently being splashed all over the Disney channels ready for the Christmas season. I’ve written up a little about my experiences working on both sets of sequences here: Skylanders Giants Skylanders Giants 3DS Read more!
Cloud Catchers – Short Film
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I’ve been working on Lucas Martell’s “Cloud Catchers” short film. We’ve been good friends for a few years now but had yet to work together and I couldn’t pass up this chance to blend our directing styles. I couldn’t do it initially when he first asked me but as my schedule freed up I was able to slip in as the last recruited member of the team. There will be more news on this project later on as it approaches completion over the coming months. In the mean time you might want to subscribe to the blog which will be updated in due time. http://theoceanmaker.com Read more!
Production Tips – Recruiting Database
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Continuing on from the last Production Tip blog about Tracking Production… The Recruiting Database This might seem creepy but I kept a spreadsheet with some basic information on everyone on the team… or anyone interested in joining the team. The key thing I used this for was to remember their strengths, up to years after I last had any contact with them. We had over 400 volunteers sign up and many more that I spoke to outside of our development site. It could get very difficult for me to remember every encounter, especially since most were only over email. I tended to remember shots in reels better than the specifics about my conversations with each artist. Some would be people that left the project and rejoined a year later, and it was key to remember their strengths and weaknesses. I would score them in a few very important areas: Talent (0 to 4) – The quality of their reel, this would be updated with each encounter and if their work on the film differed from the work in their reel. Communication (0 to 3) – Their communication skills including written English and responsiveness. A world wide project can have some severe problems with […] Read more!
Production Tips – Tracking Production
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Kenny Roy asked me to contribute some anecdotes for a presentation he’s putting on, and I thought it would be a good idea to share them here. Tracking Production I’m a keen addict of a good Excel spreadsheet that tracks the progress of each project. My short film was no different and over time I was able to show the progress of each department across the duration of the film. I let Excel save out an image of two charts that were then synced to a public folder on Dropbox. The first just showed the progress level in the main categories  It was published to our development website and quickly allowed anyone to see how far we were. It was also embedded into the beginning of the animatic edit. The image simply overwrote each time I saved so it was always up to date and showed up in each export of the animatic that I published about once every two weeks. The second graph showed the progress over time. This was very useful as we could aim for a date and see roughly when departments were getting behind. It allowed me to respond by changing assignments, recruiting more or less in each skill […] Read more!
‘Best Animated Short Film’ – Burbank Film Festival
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This is the Award our film won for ‘Best Animated Short Film’ at the Burbank Film Festival   Read more!
Updated Layout / Previs Demoreel
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I’ve been doing a lot of spit and polish on my portfolio recently while hunting for work. Half of the shots in my Layout / Previs reel are new thanks to the release of Skylanders Giants. Read more!
Devils Angels and Dating – Directors Cut
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I had some niggling doubts about the pacing of the first half of the film and I decided it was worth the time to make a few easy fixes for this Directors Cut exclusively for Vimeo. It adds 30 seconds to the overall length and it’s designed to clarify a few things. Read more!
Guiding vs Micromanaging
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This is a tough balance for any Director. You want to communicate your vision and give your team firm direction as they go along, but if you tell them how to do their job down to the finest detail there’s nothing for them to get any satisfaction from. They’ll quickly realize there’s no point in using their creativity, and problem solving skills, and they’ll lose their personal investment in the task. Then all you have is a clock punching drone, waiting to go home. But that’s in the work place. On a volunteer based film production it can mean you lose their interest entirely, and you lose a team member. Since ‘Devils, Angels and Dating’ was produced entirely online I can’t even be sure when that happened to my team mates. I’m positive it must have occurred on some level for some people, as we had plenty of turnover with team members, like any volunteer based project. But without dealing with them in person it’s hard to figure out where that line is with each team member. Usually in person you can tell. Body language, mood and tone of voice are going to tell you a lot about how someone is taking […] Read more!
The Layout Sandwich
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I started my first full time job in animation and, along with another person starting the same day (later to become a close friend of mine), we found ourselves being taken into a large room with a cinema screen high up on one wall. We were sat down and told we’re about to see what we’re going to be making for the next six months. What we saw was (for its time) a very impressive action adventure role playing game filled with characters and cut-scenes (FMVs or cinematics as many prefer to refer to them). It was my first day at Rare, a 200 strong, growing company with a very strong pedigree working under Nintendo’s wing. My friend and I were given an outline of what we’d be expected to start working on. He was a software engineer so we weren’t going to be doing the same things but we were going to be working together a lot. I was fully prepared to be doing in-game cycles, when the Director turned to me and casually told me I’d be making the cutscenes. I forget now if it was verbal, but I know that in my mind I went “Wahoooooo!”. It was more […] Read more!
The right time to get story feedback
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There’s mixed stories about when you should get feedback on your ideas. In animation it’s common for people to say that you should get feedback early and often but I’d argue that’s not always true. If you do that you risk ‘too many cooks’ and you can water down the elements that would make the film what it needs to be to make it resonate with a targeted audience. Better instead to protect the idea, and explore it fully for as long as you can, taking breaks so that you come back to it fresh and with other perspectives filtered through you. Only when you’re returning to it repeatedly from a fresh perspective and you feel it’s gone as far as it can, is it time to get feedback.       At this point it’s time to ask yourself if you have surrounded yourself with the kind of people that can give you valuable, constructive feedback. Whether you recognise it or not, your idea is still fragile and undeveloped and other people will see it. You need to be sure that the next person that sees it understands the fragile nature of an early idea and that they can […] Read more!
The Origins of a Man on a Mission
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Devils started out in the skies between Sydney and London. I’d spent years trying to get into film after five years studying animation, followed by seven years working in games. Finally I got an opportunity to work on my first film for a meager four months or so in Australia. The risk I’d taken to walk away from my games job to do this seemed immense at the time, and it was meant to be the beginning of something big. But what I came back with wasn’t an incredible new reel or a foot in the door at a film studio, I wasn’t rich, and I hadn’t learned much more to further my animation skills. Instead I came back with an insight into how much further I had to go, how much harder I had to work, how much more I had to climb to get to where I wanted to be. But I also got a glimpse into how much competition there was and how far I’d fallen behind the curve. I’d left University at a level I felt was well above the norm… later in life you realize that’s how a lot of bright graduates feel only to be crushed by the real world. In my case, I’d […] Read more!
Devils Angels & Dating at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre
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I thought I’d kick off my official blog posts here on blogger by showcasing our short film, ‘Devils Angels and Dating’. It’ll be screening at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on the 16th of August at the HollyShorts festival. It’s been amazing to have two articles in 3D World, and two in 3D Artist. http://devilsangelsanddating.ning.com/photo/albums/press Here’s our official website where you can see lots of behind the scenes content. http://www.DevilsAngelsAndDating.com/ Read more!