Menu Home

Month: March 2012

A thank you to Animation Mentor

It hasn’t quite sunk in yet that Animation Mentor is over. I am now an Animation Mentor alumni! I still find myself thinking: “Hmmm, where am I on my assignment? Oh, wait… it’s over…”

I recently filled out my last Animation Mentor survey, and I just wanted to make a public record of my final words in the “say anything” field. Not that it’s tremendously poetic or inspirational or anything, but I do want to sing my praises to Animation Mentor because it’s made a huge difference in my life. Not that I’m now off to Hollywood to make a fortune being the next John Lasseter, but that I went from being someone who only dreamed of animation to someone who actually feels confident in pursuing work in the industry. And whenever I stop and think about that, it never stops feeling incredibly awesome!

To Animation Mentor:

THANK YOU!! I went from being a bored computer science major daydreaming of the art of animation to being someone who can actually animate something! I thought I was doomed to a life of computer work for at least the next few decades… I never thought I’d be able to learn animation. Now, two years later, I have not only learned a TON about animation, but I’ve also learned that I can do more than I thought I could. Animation Mentor has truly completely changed my life. I THANK YOU so much for the opportunity!

I think Animation Mentor is not only a leader in the field of animation education, but in the field of education in general; so many traditional educators put so much emphasis on prerequisites (“we must approve your portfolio before we let you learn here!”), and so many traditional educators put too much emphasis on grades (by rewarding higher grades with certificates and awards). At AM, I never felt like I was being overly judged; instead, I was constantly being encouraged and inspired. Animation is a lot of hard work, and I am so thankful to have had such welcoming support for AM’s staff and mentors, and not the sort of grade or degree or achievement-driven judgmental mentality so prevalent in brick-and-mortar schools which does little to actually encourage the passion for the art.

Keep up the great work! You are truly changing lives.

Distraction: some random thoughts on Internet media

I’ll be spending the next several weeks really diving into developing my ideas for a cartoon series (which I’ve mentioned every now and then on this blog for while). I’m putting together a pitch and will try my best to sell it. If that doesn’t pan out (it’s a super-competitive market, after all), I might look into Internet distribution.

Two things got me thinking about the Internet as a form of video distribution. First, there was this post on Cartoon Brew. I myself have often wondered about the possibilities of marketing cartoon content on the Internet. No one has really figured out how to monetize videos yet, except in very limited ways (ads on YouTube, mainly, which don’t pay nearly enough to guarantee an income for someone just starting out; making a living off of YouTube ad revenue takes a combination of continuous hard work and luck; that is, you can’t guarantee a ton of people will see your work like you can if your work appears on a popular TV channel).

I was also recently thinking about the art of film editing after having watched The Cutting Edge – The Magic of Movie Editing. The documentary makes mention of the fact that audiences today seem more capable of handling (or are more hungry for) extremely fast-paced rapid cuts (such as during chase scenes and fight scenes). And I took particular note of something director Martin Scorsese said about this:

What I’m afraid of is the tendency for everything to go by quickly and I’m afraid of what it does to the culture… a sense of consuming something and throwing it away as opposed to being enveloped with something, taking the time to see and experience time in a different way.

If you take a look at what sorts of comedy videos become popular on YouTube (such as Fred, The Annoying Orange, Smosh, etc.), they share one main important feature: short length. These video creators do not ask viewers to become involved in a story the way TV shows and movies do. They are short and gag-driven.

Why is this the case?

It is my theory (not that I’m the only one to have this theory, of course) that it is because when viewers watch videos on the Internet, they are close to their keyboards. They are ready to type chat messages with their friends on Facebook. They are ready to watch the next video on the side of YouTube. They are ready to load up a new website. It’s just so easy to be distracted, to go on to something else, that they are probably not going to sit through a 22-minute or 43-minute or 90-minute video narrative of something they’ve never seen before. (By narrative video, I mean a fiction-story-driven video, not a documentary or a lecture or an interview, etc.)

If they want to have that sort of longer video watching experience, they’ll go to the TV, where they have a more comfortable seat, a better viewing distance, and less distractions. Or they’ll turn their TV on while they do something else and use the TV’s narrative as a background experience. (Which really isn’t great for your mind, but if you’re working on something dull, like folding laundry or history homework, it can help the time go by.)

If you want the best distraction-free narrative viewing, you go to the movie theater. The lights are dimmed, people’s cell phones should be off, there’s no rewind button, there’s no house phone, there’s no refrigerator for you to get a drink from, there are no commercials… it’s just you and the movie. You go there to be absorbed entirely in the story of the movie.

So… my point is that if we’re going to try to monetize the narrative video viewing experience on the Internet like it’s monetized with advertising on the TV, we have to take into account all the possible distractions people have while they sit on their computers. If you want to distribute a 22-minute cartoon episode (or really anything over 5 minutes), maybe force full-screen? Er… I’m not sure I can think of anything else that might help counter the distraction problem at the moment, but I think that’s what video distributors need to be thinking about: how to stop viewers from being distracted. Until then, I think the classic TV in the living room will remain the dominant distribution method for longer narratives.

That said, Internet TVs will, I think, certainly change things. At least they have the potential to as they become more popular. It will be interesting to see whether they make longer narrative videos more popular on the Internet or introduce more distractions into the normal TV-watching experience. Or both. But I think that’s the boat to be on. I think YouTube is simply too distraction-driven for longer narratives to find potential audiences.

(That said, even with Internet TVs, there will still be no guaranteed way to make money off your content; the competition is simply too strong. Luck will always be a factor, no matter the content or the manner of distribution. We can not hold up something like The Annoying Orange and claim it became popular for some innate reason. Likewise, we can not hold up some video that failed to become popular and claim its unpopularity was due to some innate flaw or some sort of artistic ignorance. Success simply can’t be mathematically manufactured; it is a product of a social system far too complex to design for.)

Melody Generator for the web progress…

Finally fixed this blog’s recent comment-spam problem by adding a CAPTCHA plugin.  Duh.  Why didn’t I think of that before?

Anyway, my Melody Generator for the web is slowly coming along.  It mainly consists of two pages.  First, the "Compose Melody" page:

mgw2

Above you can see all the functionality the melody generator should have.  Right now, none of those options actually work, except for the “Melody name” field and the “Compose melody” button.  The rest still needs to be programmed, which is what I’ll be working on for the next few weeks or so.  After you hit the “Compose melody” button, the melody plays as a MIDI file at the top.  If you like the melody, you can download it right away, or you can save it to your Library.

And that’s the second page, “My Library”:

mgw1

The library section should be pretty self-explanatory; you can go through your list of saved melodies and download them, play them, or delete them.  You’re allowed to save up to 5,000 melodies, though if you actually compose that many, you are probably somewhat insane.

After I finish programming the functionality for the melody generation options, I’ll have to program some user-settings (such as the ability to change your password).  Not sure how long it’ll take, but I’ll keep the blog updated.  Maybe.

VUDU looks useless

This article seemed interesting. I guess the movie studios are really hating not being able to capitalize on Netflix’s streaming success (which, quality-wise, isn’t even that great):

At a press conference today in Los Angeles, the company announced that, as rumored, it’s launching a new program called the Disc to Digital service. Starting on April 16, anyone can bring their DVD collection into a Walmart store, and copies of each movie will be loaded onto your account on VUDU…

To make this happen, Walmart is partnering with 20th Century Fox, Universal, Sony Pictures, Paramount, and Warner Bros., and it sounds like the program will include any DVD released by those studios. (Executives from all five took the stage at Walmart’s event.) The system will also integrate with the UltraViolet digital locker platform that the studios have been pushing, making UltraViolet titles available through VUDU.

Um… I guess that’s nice, but are they really loading your movies on to VUDU, or just unlocking access to them? And if they’re just unlocking access to them, should that really cost so much?

I personally prefer to watch blu-rays on my laptop. A movie theater provides the best movie-watching experience (though I wish I could help them get the sound and focus at just the right levels), but a blu-ray on the laptop is the next best thing. Then DVD. Then streaming. Streaming is awful, quality-wise. VUDU says it allows HD streaming to TVs via various devices, but I’m not sure most Internet connections can support that yet, at least not around here; and even if they could, it seems like a terrible waste of resources. And it doesn’t support HD streaming to PCs. And it doesn’t support mobile Android devices.

And the prices to rent or buy digital content from them are ridiculous.

So, as far as I can tell, this is pretty much useless at the moment. I’ll stick to buying blu-rays, or renting them from Netflix.

Web-based melody generator?

Grrr, my poor blog here has recently been getting overly abused by the WordPress comment spambots (of the “You, sir, have valuable information here, I will check back for more of your posts” variety) of which quite a few are slipping past WordPress’s Akismet plugin. I don’t want to have to moderate all the comments to prevent the spam from showing up, but if it doesn’t die down, I might have to do that, at least temporarily… for now, I’m just manually deleting the spam. How annoying…

Anyway, about that melody generator… I’ve heard some interest from people who don’t have Android and therefore can’t use my melody-generating Android app, so I’ve been hoping to make a web-based version of the program for some time now. And since I recently redesigned the algorithm to be much more efficient computing-power-wise, I think it should now be perfectly feasible for a server-side program to handle it. I don’t plan to abandon the Android update I’ve been working on, but it may be delayed a bit; a web-based melody generator just has a far larger market. So I’ve been working on that for the past couple days, really brushing up on my web development scripting skills. It will still be a lot of work, but I look forward to seeing how it will turn out.

Dumbledore’s existential crisis

I was recently reminded of Dumbledore’s words from the last Harry Potter film. Harry Potter has been killed, or thinks he has been killed, and has a vision of the old dead wizard. He asks his vision something like: “Is this real? Or is it just happening inside my head?” To which Dumbledore (or Harry’s vision of him) replies something like:

Of course it’s happening inside your head, Harry. But why on earth should that mean that it’s not real?

Questioning the nature of reality is in and of itself all well and good. But I have trouble having much respect for a wizard who would encourage, nay, corrupt the youth of this world to fail to distinguish between the objective existence of this world and the fantasies of the mind. No, it cannot be happening inside Harry’s head and be “real” in the sense that Harry is talking about at the same time. Dumbledore, YOU FAIL! This is a stupid quote.

Or maybe he’s not even answering Harry’s question, and is just trying to tell him it’s not real using the Socratic method?