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Projects for March 2014

This month, I’m pretty much continuing all my projects from last month.

Middle grade fantasy novel

I completed my first draft of the novel in February; I’m now working on a second draft and hope to begin querying potential agents sometime this month.

Short stories

I’m still co-authoring a couple short stories, and still hope to write some more on my own after I finish a second draft of the novel.

Nickelodeon’s animated shorts program

I’m still working on my entry for this, but I only have two more weeks; entries are due on March 14th. I already have a script I can submit, but I was hoping to submit storyboards as well. However, my drawing skills are pretty awful, especially after more than a year with no practice, so I’m not really pleased with my sketches so far. I may end up just submitting the written treatment rather than storyboards, but I’ll keep trying for the storyboards until time runs out. Actually, perhaps when the weekend is over, I’ll consider temporarily dropping the other projects and focusing only on this until March 14th, because I would hate to waste this opportunity; who knows how long they’ll keep doing a program like this?

Slow cartoon drawing progress…

I’m not sure how many drawings the typical cartoon show pitch has, but I have 4 done and 23 more planned, most of them pretty simple character poses. So far, it’s taken me between 1 and 2 hours to draw each one. That’s mostly because I’m just not a very good drawer and am just now starting to learn the craft, and partly because I have to get used to the character designs and work at keeping them anatomically consistent. Not sure how long it will take me to do 23 more drawings or whether or not I’ll end up changing my mind about some of them.

I will say, drawing with a podcast or an audiobook on in the background is quite relaxing. Frustrating when I can’t get things to look quite right, but overall pretty relaxing.

Cartoon show pitch progress

In addition to staying busy with Animation Mentor (we’re starting on our most complex animation assignment yet: a multi-shot two-character scene… it’s the jackpot!), I’ve been continuing to work on my cartoon show pitch; more specifically, I’m drawing character sketches and really trying to finalize their designs. The experience of drawing is strange. I don’t think my cartooning skills are completely horrible, but they’re not terribly refined either. Looking at my sketches, you can probably tell what I’m going for, even if my proportions and angles are a bit off. I’ll post some pics at some point. My plan for now is to sketch the characters in different sorts of poses that show off their personalities, then scan them into the computer and colorize them digitally.

I think the text of my pitch is pretty much done; I just need to do more drawings, format the text and the pics together in some sort of pleasing design, then I’ll be set.

Last week I bought and read David B. Levy’s book: Animation Development: From Pitch to Production. It’s a good companion to Joe Murray’s book I mentioned earlier, Creating Animated Cartoons with Character. They’re both about the same thing (developing cartoon shows), but they both approach the subject from different backgrounds and experiences, so it’s interesting to get their different perspectives.

Got a Wacom tablet… and other random things I’d like to say at this point in time thank you very much and how long can I make this title anyway? I guess this is too long already so I’ll just stop

Animation studies

Whew, busy month! It’s week 3 of class 4 of Animation Mentor. Last week I got through blocking out another practice shot, which I’m continuing to add breakdowns to and I hope to start splining soon; next week will consist of polishing. I’ll upload a video eventually… maybe.

Drawing

In other news revolving around the self, I bought a Wacom Intuos4 Medium Pen Tablet! I can’t draw very well at all, but this device should at least make it much more fun and convenient to practice, if I can ever find the time. (I am still quite interested in learning the craft.) But it’s also great for animating in Maya; it’s just easier to move around the screen than a mouse. There’s so much more precision you can get in your cursor movements, and it’s much more comfortable for the arm, hand, and wrist when you’re animating for hours on end (though my back posture is still awful since I have no way to get a monitor at eye level or higher). I really should’ve bought one earlier.

I also bought Stan Lee’s How to Draw Comics, which I’ve been scanning through. It seems to give a great beginner’s overview of the comic-drawing process, but I wish it went into more depth; it sort of just touches the surface of a bunch of topics. It’s still nice as an intro, but I’m going to want more eventually… If anyone out there knows of any good drawing books, let me know! Especially if they’re oriented to the more cartoony side. Or good drawing videos on YouTube… I found a few, though I haven’t spent any time with any of them.

My eventual amibition (perhaps years or decades down the road, if I actually put in the practice hours), aside from trying some simple 2D animations, would be to write and draw a graphic novel. Maybe even turn the novel I’m writing now into a graphic novel; it’s very visual, especially since it takes place in non-Earth worlds. It could be so much fun to come up with a look and feel for different worlds, yes?

I don’t have any fancy drawing software like Photoshop yet, but since I’ll just be practicing, I can probably just make do with some simple free programs.

Google plus

Thanks to Luke for Google plus invite! A while back, somewhere, I blogged about how Facebook needed to allow you to “follow” strangers and celebrities as you can on Twitter, instead of having to mutually friend everyone. Google plus allows just that, along with privately organizing friends into “circles.” For example, you could group some friends into “old annoying high school classmates.” Then you can easily hide their boring annoying updates and shared links, hide your own updates from them if you want, and they’ll have no idea that they’re in such a group. I wouldn’t be surprised if Facebook soon steals this concept.

So I like the overall concept of Google plus; it’s just the kind of social network I want. But they still need plenty of more features (something like Facebook’s “fan” feature, “tag” feature, verified celebrity accounts, integration with more stuff so it’s easier to share links, etc.) and more users, and if it doesn’t get them soon enough, people will lose interest and it’ll quickly become archaic. I’ll be interested to see where it goes.

Hugo trailer

The trailer for Hugo (based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret) came out recently. Aside from some awful cheesy dialog here and there and some awful cheesy feel-good pop music accompaniment which does not at all go with the magical mysterious spirit of the book, the trailer looked interesting. Visually, it was quite good; I think they really captured the look and feel of the world, and the casting seems good. I hope Howard Shore’s score suits the film better than the trailer music. Shore is responsible for the brilliant Lord of the Rings scores, but most of his other scores have been more standard; I hope his work for Hugo is more melodic and fantastical. I look forward to hearing what he’s come up with. And I do hope to see this film in 3D.

Cars 2

I saw Cars 2 the other day. Despite hearing many bad reviews, I thought it was good! It just doesn’t try to make you cry like many other Pixar films do, which is fine with me, because those sentimental moments tend to seem forced and cheesy to me anyway. (Finding Nemo and Ratatouille are the ones that really work for me; the beginning of Finding Nemo just gives me shivers, as does Ego’s flashback.) But the story was fun and the humor, though sometimes corny, had me laughing out loud like a big dork. (“That’s right Mater, you are the bomb!”) Overall, the movie reminded me of being a kid playing with toy cars. You don’t imagine them going through some Doc Hollywood story about a small town in troubled times; you imagine them racing and shooting and crashing and falling off cliffs and flying, and that’s what Cars 2 delivers; it’s what the first Cars should’ve been. Pixar is still standing strong in my books.

(Although that Toy Story short that preceded the film was as awful as watching the Disney Channel.)

The Lion King 3D

Preceding Cars 2 was a trailer for The Lion King 3D rerelease. I have mixed feelings about it. Some scenes looked really awesome in 3D, when they were really able to separate the different layers. Other scenes just look funky, especially facial close-ups. It looks like they just “bubbled” the characters, stretching them out in one direction for one eye, and the opposite direction for the other eye. The overall effect is: “Uh… hmmm… huh? Eh…” My overall judgment: Disney, you either have to put more effort and money into 3D-izing something like this, or forget it. But I’m a hypocrite, because I’ll probably still go see it.

Cartoon project

I started planning out my cartoon. I don’t know if I should blog about it much, because in all likelihood it will never come to fruition, with my track record of fruitioning things. But I started working on the character design.

It’s very interesting to work on character design when you can’t draw well. But I’ve been trying to follow two main principles: simplicity and contrast.

Simplicity – the characters are based on very simple shapes: circles, squares, ovals, rectangles. And their clothing and hair is mostly textured right on the shape, just for ease of drawing. They’re nothing like Disney, with nice flowing clothing and such. If you can’t draw very well, you gotta keep it simple. Especially since the idea is to animate them.

Contrast – to make the characters easily distinguishable from another, I’m trying to make them each have very contrasting sizes, colors, and shapes. (And hopefully voices and personalities, when/if I get to that.) This is probably an obvious point. I just don’t have much else to blog about.

I would post pictures of my character designs, but I signed a non-disclosure agreement, so I can’t. But I will say there will be five characters. And a sixth character who only pops his head in every now and then. I am currently aiming to be finished by the Summer 2012, before the end of the world. That’s my daydream at least. If I can’t get this to be a cartoon, I could at least turn it into a podcast.

I’m guessing I will blog my progress, though I won’t show any examples until I actually have a product, or until I’ve given up. It’s called “Blather” after all, so I have to blather about something…

Oh, I’m probably also really shooting myself in the foot with this project. The wise old man in me tells me that I should instead focus any spare energy on creating a really amazing short film that could land me a job somewhere, rather than spreading out my time and energy over something episodic. But for now, the episodic idea excites me more.

Comics and virus and animation

Hannifin World – Season 2 begins!

The second season Hannifin World begins today! So be sure to check that site daily for a horrible corny joke… there are 84 comics waiting in line, so the second season will run daily until November 23rd. Woohoo! Should update everyday at 8 AM eastern time…

Virus of doom!

Everything on my computer seemed fine and dandy and then all of the sudden “Security Suite” popped up and said “You have a bunch of viruses!” … though of course I quite suspected this “Security Suite” was the real virus. (According to Wikipedia, “AV Security Suite can infect computers using Adobe flash or other Adobe components found in regular websites, and so does not require voluntary download of software by the user.” How nice.) So I quickly erased my hard drive and destroyed my RAM to ensure safety. OK, actually I turned off the computer and used my other computer to do some research into this nasty virus. Upon logging in, the virus basically starts itself up and locks your computer up so you can’t do anything, like run anti-virus software. It then wants you to pay for “Security Suite” so that it can remove the viruses that it pretends to have detected. It’s like a hostage situation.

So I restarted the computer in “Safe Mode with Networking” which allowed me to update and run my Windows Defender software, doing a full system scan. It found some stuff and deleted it, but unfortunately didn’t get rid of the virus. So I spent some time online looking for free non-scam anti-virus programs (it’s amazing how many are scams), finally found one, did a full system scan, it found some nasty looking stuff, deleted it, and finally everything seems to be OK… for now… hope it stays that way!

(Some people on the Internet reported that they couldn’t even restart in safe mode; thankfully that did not happen to me.)

By the way, the ordeal convinced me that everyone should always have two computers… in fact, it’s about time for me to buy a new desktop… OK, not really. I’d like to build one eventually. Someday. Hm.

Animation Mentor

It’s week 10 of Animation Mentor! Just three more weeks of the first semester left! Then we have a week break before diving into Semester 2!

Here’s my progress from the last three weeks:

The first shot is of “Tailor” … a little squirrel like sphere thing. The point of the exercise was to show the overlapping action of his tail. It’s always a step behind him, and the last segment of the tail is always a step behind the the middle segment of the tail, and so on, so you can sort of see a wave travel through it. There are some things I might change about the animation, the bounces especially seem rough, but watching Tailor die tragically brought me much happi… I mean, it was very sad.

The last two shots are of the “vanilla walk” which is just a plain ordinary average walk. The first phase is “blocking” … planning how each third frame will look. The second phase is, of course, to do all the inbetweens. I found the assignment to be quite difficult, there’s just so much stuff to keep in mind. In the end, I finally got the knees and head to move nice and smoothly, but you can see that I had to sacrafice some of the head’s up-and-down movement, so now the legs look too straight and stiff. When the ball shifts his weight to his forward foot, the leg doesn’t bend, causing the ball sort of lack an illusion of weight. Hopefully I’ll have time to continue to work on this and refine it.

Anyway, this week looks like a lot of fun. It will still be some hard work, but we’ve got to animate a personality walk … that is, a walk with personality, duh! It can be anything. Maybe he’s excited, tired, drunk, arrogant, scared, stupid, etc. Should be some great fun.

More comics soon and novel plotting

Appendix or no appendix?

The last poll about whether or not I should put an appendix with all the “magic rules” at the end of my fantasy novel as a resource to readers only got two votes, 1 yes, 1 no, so that’s no help! (I guess I might have gotten more votes if one of the choices was “Who cares?”) So the issue remains open for now… not that it’s really an issue, or something I should even be worrying about at all… it’s just blather really…

Plotting The Designers has begun!

Now that the rules of magic are just about all in place (there are a few little issues I haven’t quite worked out, but I don’t think it’ll matter for the purposes of this story), I have begun plotting. Act 1 is pretty much done, easy intro stuff, the conflict starts, seems like fun to write. Haven’t outlined specific scenes yet, but the overarching story is all there, I don’t foresee any problems with it. Act 2 and 3 however are quite tricky. I have a bunch of Act 3 done, and I pretty much have half of the climax figured out, but I still need to decide what exactly will happen to certain characters. And I still need figure out Act 2, how they get from the end of Act 1 to the beginning of Act 3. I’ve got some of it, but the details are tricky to work out.

Anyway, that’s how I’m plotting, just kind of going all over the place (though I like to get the ending set in stone as soon as possible, as it helps figure out what should precede it).

And, as I said before, I’m resisting the urge to turn this into a huge long epic (since I don’t trust myself to actually finish writing an epic). The rules of magic allow for tons of possibilities, but I must resist the urge to allow all those possibilities to be explored, which, I must admit, is hard! But I can always write sequels, I keep telling myself. KISS!

Hannifin World – Season 2

I’ve been continuing to draw comics for Hannifin World, it’s just a pain to scan them all in and resize them, upload them, etc. so I think Hannifin World will be a season thing; I’ll save up comics, then scan them in and upload them all at once.

So Hannifin World Season 2 will start on September 1st! I have about 70-something saved up, so it will run daily until sometime in November.

Can I learn to draw?

I’m trying to write this blog post from work, and Sundays are just awful, it just gets way too crowded. It’s just insanity! Insanity, I say! Aaaahhhhh!!

Upcoming music album and such things…

Anyway, my manufacturers should, by their own estimation, finish creating my album sometime this week. Then it will probably take another week or so to ship. So we’re getting closer…

I finished reading an excellent book called Music 3.0: A Survival Guide for Making Music in the Internet Age by Bobby Owsinski. It’s a rather quick and easy read, and it’s great for getting some ideas about how to make money with music in these technological Internet times, what the author calls the Music 3.0 era. Unfortunately, one of the top ways to make money is to tour and perform. Makes sense, but when you’re writing classical orchestra music (and can’t play an instrument anyway), that’s not very feasible. I guess one option is to try selling the sheet music to schools, but I don’t think I’d be comfortable doing that since my music has never been played by a real orchestra before and could have some orchestration problems, or might be too difficult to play, the harp parts especially. They’d have to be reorchestrated.

What I would like to do is to create a “guide” for the album. A free PDF with the complete scores to all the pieces, as well as a page or two about my process of composing each piece, kind of like a short episode of The Compose Pile, but written out.

I also need to figure out how to take orders right from hannifinrecords.com, so people don’t have to wait for CD Baby and Amazon to process the thing. I think I can slap on a PayPal button easily enough, right? I just have to figure out how to charge sales tax for people who buy from Virginia, as I’m guessing I’m supposed to do that, right?

Right? RIGHT? Don’t you know?

Can I learn to draw?

Also, I’m once again interested in learning to draw. A year or so ago I went through this guy’s YouTube tutorials, which are very good, and drew some of these things (I think that old man Gerri came out the best). However, his method seems to be based mostly on looking at stuff and redrawing it, trying to get the spacing and constrasts right. I could continue to practice this method, since I’m obviously not that good, but… that’s not exactly what I want to be able to do with an ability to draw. I want to draw dragons and castles and knights, oh my. I want to draw from my imagination, without using references. I have a few ambitions:

1) To be able to create something as awesome as this stuff just for the joy of it.

2) To illustrate my short stories and/or create some graphic novels.

3) To create some animated shorts.

4) To become a billionaire.

One thing I’ve noticed with artists who draw from the imagination is that they tend to work more from the inside out, starting with a bone structure in the position they want and putting flesh on it.

So… how long will that take to learn? Too many years? Guess we’ll find out. Long have I wanted to be able to draw, but only now and then do I feel like practicing.

I joined DeviantArt at wizardwalk.deviantart.com … I’ll see if I can upload my sketches there so that you can see my bad sketching morph (hopefully) into good sketching. I guess I’m way behind on my skills, but if I can get to be OK by the time I’m 30 years old, it will have been worth it, yes?

Watch the movie first, don’t read the book

I woke up with a really bad headache today.  Fortunately by the time I had to go to work it had subsided enough that I could act normally, but it didn’t fully go away until about 10 hours after I woke up.  So I didn’t do anything but rest and pace around in the morning.  After work, though, I did draw about a week’s worth of new comics for Hannifin World.  It gets addicting when you start doing a bunch of them.

I’ll probably start watching Dollhouse on Hulu again because, from what I can tell, the creators are indeed going to try to wrap up the story as best they can in the final episodes, so hopefully there will be some closure.

And now I shall dedicate the rest of this post to talking about why you should watch a film before reading the book, or at least why I prefer to:

WATCH THE MOVIE FIRST

I know a few people who, when a movie based on a book comes out, they refuse to watch it until they read the book version. When such a situation comes up, I prefer to watch the movie first for a couple reasons:

1) Time Investment – The movie will take less time to watch; reading the book could take ten times as long, or longer. If the story ends up to be stupid, it’s better to spend less time experiencing it, in my opinion.

2) Books always seem better – Books and films are two different art forms. You tend to get less *story content* with a film, because films only have a couple hours to tell the story. Reading the book first gives you a high risk of comparing the stories of the two different art forms, and of course the film’s story will then seem like a “watered-down” version of the story, as they almost always have to take things out for a film, because of time and pacing considerations. In other words, reading the book first tends to taint your expectations for the film, which sets you up for disappointment. If you don’t read the book first, and you find the film to be good, there’s a greater chance you’ll also enjoy the book, as it will then seem like the story has been expanded. If you don’t enjoy the film, you may or may not enjoy the book, but at least you won’t have wasted more than two or three hours with the story.

That said, my favorite films based on books tend to not only just take out story content, but also change the story content, so that what’s left flows and fits together nicely. The Prestige is one of the best examples I can think of at the moment. The Harry Potter films, on the other hand, I find terrible, and not just because of the acting. (Actually, even though it would’ve made far less money, I think Harry Potter would’ve worked much much better as a TV miniseries.) (John Williams’ Harry Potter themes are brilliant, however. I cannot imagine more perfect melodies to fit the Harry Potter world.)

So, when a film comes out based on a book, I just watch it!

Some people might argue that watching the movie first makes them think of the actors playing the character in the movie when they read the book.  To which I say: well, then, you must have a weak imagination!  But I suppose it’s a valid argument…

My new webcomic

Is it “webcomic” or “web comic”?

Anyway, I spent the day creating the Hannifin World site, my new web comic.  Not sure how long I’ll be able to keep it up.  Not sure I’ll keep the name either, but I couldn’t think of anything better.  I definitely won’t keep the web design, but it’s something to start with at least.  I spent a while scanning in at least a week’s worth of comics, so it’ll at least keep going for a week!

Other than that, I enjoyed the Monk series finale.  I would’ve written it differently, but it definitely gave a sense of closure.  And the montage at the very end was nice.  Gah, I’m really gonna miss not being able to look forward to new episodes of Monk! *sigh*