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Month: October 2010

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.

Popular websites by the alphabet

With Google giving results instantly while you type, it is easy to find the most popular website for a given first letter… and since this blog lacks originality, quality, and readership, why not blog those results? Some of this depends on my location, so you might get different results… what fun!

A – Amazon
B – Bank of America
C – craigslist
D – Dictionary.com
E – eBay
F – Facebook
G – Gmail
H – Hotmail
I – Ikea
J – JetBlue
K – Kohl’s
L – Lowe’s
M – MapQuest
N – Netflix
O – Orbitz
P – Pandora
Q – BrainyQuote
R – Washington Redskins
S – Southwest Airlines
T – Target
U – United States Postal Service
V – Verizon
W – Weather.com
X – Xbox
Y – Yahoo!
Z – Zappos
1 – Nineteenth Amendment on Wikipedia
2 – Year 2010 calendar
3 – 30 Rock Comedy TV Show
4 – 4 (number) on Wikipedia [what a lame result!]
5 – 500 Days of Summer
6 – 60 Minutes
7 – 7-zip
8 – 84 Lumber
9 – 9:30 Club

More animated shorts…

Here are some more animated shorts I thought were cool… by the way, you should push these up to the highest quality and full screen them if you can… don’t want all that other stuff on your computer to distract you!

First, simple black and white with minimal character design and wonderful comedic timing. If you go to their YouTube channel, all their animated shorts are great.

I love the color, atmosphere, and cinematography in this one. Also it’s a great blend of 3D with 2D; almost like a video game at times. The music is a bit wonky though…

This short is just a really fun idea, seeing what the character sees…

And finally another short one with great use of color (dark borders, bright centers) and a great atmosphere to it, kind a sci-fi-ish but warm and welcoming.

Playing with light – Mon ami le robot from Cube Creative on Vimeo.

Fun stuff!

Accomplishing much?

Here’s a fun website: Things Other People Accomplished When They Were Your Age

It’s a great way to depress yourself by comparing yourself to other people! Perhaps not good for your mental health, but maybe you can stop being so self-conscious and find it funny… and be sure to also look back at what other people accomplished before they were your age, just to rub it in.

It looks like the site’s author is also accepting achievement submissions from the common man, so sprinkled in with the famous accomplishments of famous people are some accomplishments you probably don’t care about. I’m not sure what the point of that is; perhaps it’s an effort to pull you out of depression?

And you’ll see on that page there’s a link to Help for the Attitudinally Challenged, which might help if you now feel miserable.

How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon came out on blu-ray yesterday. I missed seeing it in theaters, looks like it would’ve been fun to see in 3D. Anyway, I had heard great things about it from other animation students and it didn’t disappoint; it’s a really fun film with some great flying dragon epicness. It also has the best film score I’ve heard this year, as you can hear by this sample (if it hasn’t been removed for copyright violation yet), music by John Powell:

And here’s just a little talk with some animators from the film who graduated from the animation school I’m currently attending, Animation Mentor:

Finally, here’s a podcast interview with the directors of the film. Fun stuff!

Beauty and the Beast also recently came out on blu-ray, and it looks fantastic; blu-ray is truly the way all 2D animated films should be seen. The clarity of the drawings are just awesome. You can really see the pencil markyness like never before. And the backgrounds also look especially vivid.

Google TV and the future of television

Google TV is coming out soon. I’ve been watching it for a while and I think it’s pretty exciting. The technology for the Internet and TV to merge has been with us for a while, but I think most content providers (TV channels, DirecTV and Dish, ISPs, etc.) are not willing themselves to fully initiate this merger. After all, it will force them to make huge changes to their business models. I’m sure they know they’re going to have to eventually (many TV channels do now put shows online for a limited time), so it’s only a matter of resisting it as best they can for as long as they can.

Two things about Google TV: First, it’s only a first step. Or maybe a fourth or fifth step, since things like Apple TV are already available. But Google TV is a significant step because it allows users almost complete access to the Internet, and it offers apps that are designed to be used on the TV. (And, just as popular sites have “mobile” versions, many will eventually have “TV” versions as well.)

But it’s not a final step. That will probably not come for another decade or two (or three). The separation between computer and TV is still a strong one, as is the separation between TV content providers and ISPs. Unfortunately I’ve read that Hulu.com is blocking access from Google TV. This may seem like a bummer for us excited about Google TV, but it’s actually rather revealing just how important that control over your TV screen is to the networks. Very revealing indeed. And, to me, makes Google TV seem more exciting. Because Hulu’s weary of it.

The other thing: yes, I know, we can all already hook up our computers to the TV (and watch Hulu on our TV). Geeks have been able to do it for a while. But I still think hooking a computer up to a TV is too inconvenient even for most geeks; they only do it when they need to, and it’s still hard to get comfortable using your computer from a couch without a desk in front of you.

TV is extremely easy to watch; users just have to know how to turn it on and change the channels. Computers and the Internet and Internet connections can be more of a hassle. Maybe not for us geeks, but for the rest of the population. It’s easy to underestimate how many people out there either don’t have the Internet, or don’t really understand how to use it effectively. Google TV won’t give people an Internet connection, but it will make TV Internet browsing significantly easier for non-geeks. I think that’s what a lot of geeks might not realize. And that’s why it has the potential to be pretty powerful. (Especially since Google TV’s OS, Google’s open-source Android, allows anyone to develop apps for it, which is more freedom than Apple likes giving to developers.)

Nobody knows what anybody wants.

Consumers do not know what they want until it’s actually available to them or until they try using it. (Like how Facebook is now mostly pretty much a private fancy Twitter with comments, likes, and apps. Users didn’t want it or ask for it, but now many users use it almost every day. If it were up to the users, Facebook would probably still be plain old profiles with wall-writing. And it would probably be as unpopular as MySpace.)

Similarly, producers and content creators don’t know what people want. They don’t know if their products will be successful until they’re actually out there, until people actually have a chance to see and play around with the products.

This is why it always annoys me when companies say they will evolve based on customer feedback. That’s great, but you can’t rely on that. You have to be constantly thinking of ways to improve and change and experiment on your own as well. Just listening to customers won’t make you successful.

The future, eventually

Eventually, the TV networks like ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, will simply have to give up their control of showing shows when and only when they want. VCRs first started giving viewers more control when to watch TV content, then DVRs, then cable companies offering certain on-demand options, then sites like Hulu. Eventually, when our connection to TV and the Internet are combined, sold as a package, and come into the home via one connection, most content will be on-demand. It’s probably still decades away, but I think it will be a good future. (And us geeks may get there sooner, yes.)

Also, there are a few things that will really change how TV content is watched, but they are unpredictable… I predict some unpredictable things will happen.

Hey, I thought Google Wave was really exciting, and I don’t think Google ever really let it do what it was supposed to do, and it became an epic flop. I also thought the iPhone was a dumb idea, and now tons of people love it. So who really knows what the heck is going to happen…

What type of cartoon to make?

As I continue to plan out the cartoon I’ll probably never make because I’m too busy and lazy and untalented, I’m having trouble deciding what kind of cartoon it should be. Should it be one of those continuous story cartoons, in which there’s an entire “season” that has an overarching story? With those, you can really build up the story, but viewers have to watch the shows in order to completely understand what’s going on. Or should each episode be a self-contained story?

What kind of cartoon should I make?

  • Bunch of self-contained episodes (67%, 4 Votes)
  • Season with overarching story (17%, 1 Votes)
  • You'll have make two cartoons, one of each (17%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 6

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(Poll expires at the end of October 2010.)

Some animated shorts for your soul…

Just a few animated shorts I thought were great:

Margarita – This short looks like it came from a full-length feature and the music and art are just fantastic and match each other perfectly. And there’s no dialog, which you hardly notice. The story might seem a bit odd until you understand that the “star” is like a achieving a dream… well, you’ll have to figure it out for yourself. I love the flight in the boat and the whales in the clouds. Very awesome and fantastical.

MARGARITA from HAMPA STUDIO on Vimeo.

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The Third and the Seventh – This really isn’t a story-oriented short, it’s more of a… non-story short. I don’t know what you would call it. It’s more atmospheric I guess. It’s all computer rendered (as far as I can tell), but some of the rendering is so awesome that it looks completely real. (Well, I’m not sure mapping textures from photos really counts as “rendering” if one wants to get technical about it.) It explores some very welcoming architecture and features music from the wonderful sci-fi film Gattaca. (At least, I think that’s where the music is from…)

The Third & The Seventh from Alex Roman on Vimeo.

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Alarm – A fun short. Love the Pixar references in the background, and the character and world design are wonderful. Nice clean animation as well. And it’s the first ever time a CGI character brushed his teeth and went to the bathroom at the same time, so it makes animation history!

Enjoy!