Animation Mentor semester 1 reel

Here’s my reel of animation assignments after completing the first semester of Animation Mentor.

It was a tough 12 weeks; you have to get used to the busy workflow (especially if you have a part-time job), and there’s just a lot to learn. I had never done any serious animation before, and even though I had read some books on animation, actually working with the software and applying all the principles take a lot of time to get used to.

Anyway, there’s the reel. There are definitely some things I would change if I could, especially with those walks. But I’m not going to use any of this stuff on my final reel of superb quality, the one I’m going to use to try to get a real job, so better to focus on the current Animation Mentor assignment and nothing else…

By S P Hannifin, ago

Semester’s first Animation Mentor Q&A!

Had my first Animation Mentor Q&A just a little while ago, and it was great; I’m really looking forward to the new semester! Unfortunately our Internet connection seems terrible here at the moment, so the video streaming stalled every now and then… ugh! But it was still good.

Our mentor made a good point about the grades, saying after most universities, potential employers will want to see your grades, but in animation, they don’t care about your grades, they want to see your reel, what you’ve actually done. So you shouldn’t view your grade as: “Ugh! Why didn’t I get an A?” You should view it as a guide to constant improvement. Which is a reason I prefer Animation Mentor to traditional schools. But still, when I mention my “online classes” to other people, what’s one of the first things they ask? “What’s your grade? What grade did you get?” Another thing people ask me is: “Are you still doing it?” As if it’s as tough to stay interested in as traditional school material… it’s animation! It’s the stuff you see in movie theaters! (Of course, most people hear “online classes” and think, oh, meh!)

By the way, it’s just awesome to be able to interact with so many others who are just so passionate about animation and love it so much, since it has a reputation for being “childish” most of the time. Oh, dear fates, please let me work in an animation studio some day!

By S P Hannifin, ago

More boring old novel plotting…

Animation Mentor semester 2 has official begun! So it’s back to having no free time again, but I’m looking forward to it. My new Q&A time is on Wednesday nights, at 10 PM EST, with professional animator Shaun Freeman. I’ll try to upload my progress reel from last semester some time soon, so that y’all can watch it and be jealous of my professional ambitions…

In other news, I’m continuing to plot my novel. I’ve got an outline, detailing what happens in each of the 45 chapters I think I’m going to have. Now, for each chapter, I’m spending an hour or two outlining the chapter itself, making sure I know how it begins and ends, what the characters are feeling and what they want, what the tone is, what the characters might say, etc. It’s like I’m writing notes to some other writer who’s going to write the novel.

I already feel that this will be a great help for when I actually write the novel, as sometimes when I’m outlining a chapter I feel the need to go back and edit my outline for the chapter before it for the sake of continuity, so I think this attempt will be much better than all my other novel writing attempts.

That said, I’ve only outlined 4 of the 45 chapters so far, so this will take a pretty long time… hopefully it will make the writing itself go faster though, as I’ll have a much better idea of what exactly I want to write… I’ll have already figured out a lot details.

My biggest concern, however, is loss of interest. Well, not so much loss of interest as gain of other interest, if that makes sense. I have other novel ideas floating around in my head and they seem like a lot of fun, and it’s tempting to just go work on them instead. So it may be challenging to keep myself focused on this one novel until it’s finished… but I’ll try.

By S P Hannifin, ago

What to do with free time? And stuff…

Animation Mentor progress

It’s week 12 (of 72) and therefore the end of Semester 1!  I’m 1/6th of the way through this!  The weeks have flown by.  Last week was by far the hardest week, not just because the assignment was a challenge, but because I was trying to balance my part-time work with some freelance work, plus a few extra part-time hours, plus a long concert on Friday, plus my Animation Mentor work.  Busiest week of my life, I think.  (Which, I think, shows that I’m ready to be film director!)  But everything turned out OK, save for some major sleep deprivation by the end of it.

So… it’s the final week of semester 1… there actually doesn’t seem to be any homework this week, we just have to put together a reel of all of our work this semester, which I’ll also upload to YouTube so’s that y’all can watch it and whatnot.  So I may have a bit more free time this week to work on some personal projects (though I definitely want to spend some time editing/revising some of my animations) and I’ll definitely have some free time next week, between semesters… what should I work on?

(Vote for up to 3.  Poll closes this Saturday.  No purchase necessary.  Restrictions apply.  Void where prohibited.  Many will enter, none will win.)

Which endeavor would you choose?

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Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King concert at WolfTrap

rotk On Friday my mother and I went up to the WolfTrap performing arts place to see the film Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.  They projected the film in HD on a huge screen and had a live orchestra play the score.  It’s really the best kind of concert there is (or was) and probably the best movie to experience such a concert with.  (They could do it with Star Wars; that has an amazing score, but the movie itself isn’t as good, in my humblest of opinions.  They could do it with Jurassic Park.  Hmmm… I can’t think of many… they just don’t make very many epics like Lord of the Rings.)

I had bought the tickets many months ago, before I knew anything about Animation Mentor, so I did not anticipate seeing the concert during such a busy week, but it was a nice break at least!  Now I need to find some orchestral concert to go to in 2011; I think one should go to at least one orchestral concert a year to keep… uh… the orchestra going or something.  For fun, really.

Anyway, WolfTrap’s Filene Center is a great place for a concert.  It’s built “open-spaced” … that is, it doesn’t really have walls, it just has large columns.  So sitting in it is like being not quite outside, but not quite inside.  It’s kinda cool.  It also allows you to buy cheap “lawn seats”, so you can bring some food and sit on the grass.  Though for this concert I wanted to be able to actually see the orchestra, so I went for the more expensive inside seats.  If I lived closer and had a real job, I’d probably buy a subscription/membership, get really good seats, and go to a bunch of their performances.  But that won’t happen anytime soon.

The concert was great.  Don’t really have much to say that I didn’t say in my reviews of the last two concerts of the trilogy here and here.  It wasn’t flawless; there was a moment when the screen went black for 10 seconds and had me in a panic… oh no!  But it came back quickly.  And there were some flubbed notes hear and there, but they weren’t too bad.  For the film, I’m sure they had time for retakes and audio engineers, mixing engineers, recording professionals, etc, had time to make the mix perfect, which you don’t get at a live performance.  Still, it was quite a glorious sound, especially when the ring hovers over the fires of of Mount Doom and choirs are singing at the top of their lungs.  Oh, so awesome.

It’s also fun to hear the audience applaud at the film’s epic moments and laugh when Gimli says something funny.  (Gimli really gets most of the comedic lines.)

Now I really wish they’d redo all the concerts with the extended editions of the trilogy.  I would definitely pay the $165+ to see them all again.  Meanwhile, these concerts are touring the world.  Not the orchestra, just the rights equipment to do it I guess.  So definitely go to one if you can.

And remember, the book about the music comes out October 5th!  Though I might wait until Christmas to get it, as I’d like to sit down and really spend some time with it; if I get it while I have animation work to do, it might distract me with its awesomeness.

By S P Hannifin, ago

No time for anything… and books


It’s been a super busy week. I got some more freelance work, which is good for a little extra $$$, but on top of my animation work, leaves no time for anything else really. I’m almost done the freelance work though, just a few hours more worth of work I think. And this Friday, on the 10th, will be great… going to see Lord of the Rings at WolfTrap! Can’t wait! MAN, did the last couple months FLY by… staying very busy does that I guess.

Library visit

Last night I went back to the university library. (I had to, my books were due, and you can only renew so many times online, unlike a public library.) So I turned in my last set of books and got out some more. These aren’t books that I plan to read cover to cover (I’d love to, but I definitely don’t have the time); they’re just books to flip through, read a chapter here and there.

So, those are the books to kind of scan through for the next few weeks…


I’m not up to anything else lately, just my part time job, Animation Mentor, and some freelance work. They’re keeping me busy enough! My projects on the backburner include that novel and that cartoon show. I’ve got two weeks of Animation Mentor Semester 1 left, then I’ll have a week break (just from Animation Mentor, not from my part-time work!) and I’m not sure what I’ll do then. I’d like to get some TV watching and computer game playing in though… heh.

And whenever I graduate from Animation Mentor, I definitely want to take a little vacation to California, go to the graduation ceremony, and just see the California sights…

By S P Hannifin, ago

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.

By S P Hannifin, ago

Another week of animating and plotting

Animation this week

It’s been kind of a meh week so far. My sleep cycle, which was already all out of whack, has become even more out of whack because I have to wake up at 7 AM to take care of some neighbor’s dogs. Which I don’t mind doing, it just messes up your sleep cycle if you’re going to bed at 3 or 4 AM. So then I have to take a nap later on, and/or get a headache, and/or then stay up even later, or lie in bed not able to sleep, etc… everything just gets messed up. So I haven’t really gotten that much animation work done yet. (I did do some, but it looks awful… I blame fatigue.) So I’m going to try going to bed really early tonight, but I fear I’ll just lie there not able to sleep… worth a try though… doing nothing is always worth a try, and fortunately I have Saturday off this week, so I’ll have that extra 9 hours or so to work on animation.

Book plotting progress

Fortunately book plotting (like blog post writing) I can do at work (when there’s time), so I did get a bit more book plotting done, and I figured out a theme.

I am a strong believer that good stories (at least long-form ones like novels and movies) should have themes, that is, they should say something beyond just the actions of the plot; the plot should mean something. It might be cliche, it might remain unresolved by the story’s end, it might be a bit ambiguous (like “the nature of dreams”), but it should be there. I think I’ve stated this somewhere before on this blog, but the only kind of long-form story that can get away with having no theme at all is the comedy, but even those tend to have little themes (though often cliche; really the comedy itself is the theme).

Ayn Rand, one of my favorite writers, defines what I mean by “theme” here the best: Theme (Literary) in the Ayn Rand Lexicon. Of course, this is by no means a way to objectively judge the art of literature, or a formula… I just agree with it and find it useful.

Anyway, back to the point: I have a theme in mind for The Designers. I’m not yet going to tell you what it is though, ha ha! It’s not a religious theme in and of itself, but it’s sort of philosophically related to religion, so I’m trying to explore different religious and non-religious resources on the matter. I don’t have the entire theme yet; I know I want it to be about X, but I’m not exactly sure what I want to say about X, or what each character will think about X.

So, I consider defining the theme part of plotting, and it’s helping me come up with a really fun ending. Bwa ha ha ha!

Erm… I guess that’s it…

By S P Hannifin, ago

Novel plotting and stuff

Midway through week 8 of Animation Mentor! This week we’re studying the basic walk cycle, so by Sunday I’ll have a basic walk blocked out; next week I’ll do the inbetweens. There’s a lot of stuff going on in a walk, so it does get a bit complicated, especially if you’ve never done it before, but it’s fun!

In other news, I’ve started plotting out my novel, The Designers, which won the poll a few posts ago. Of course, I don’t think I’ll call it that, but that will be its codename. I think it’s quite a strange book. I wouldn’t say it’s innovative, because nothing is innovative, especially if you think it is. But I guess I could say it’s innovative to me… there are a lot of thorny storytelling issues to deal with… how do I create danger for this character? How do I get this character to seem important to an audience? I’m kind of trying to challenge the traditional answers to these questions, though I don’t think I can really escape them. It will be interesting. (But not that interesting.)

(The other novel I was plotting a few months ago was The Protectors, which got no votes. That one still needs a lot more plotting anyway. For now, it will be put aside, along with all those plans I had made. Though I did say at the time I made them that I didn’t think I’d follow them. See, I was right!)

I’m also trying to keep the overall plot nice and short. My last few novels that I’ve planned or started writing (I’ve never finished one) were huge epics. OK, maybe not huge, but probably too complex for a first novel. So I’m trying to keep this one really short and tight. Just two or three character storylines with short overarching plots. Hey, I can write sequels if I want, let’s actually finish something first. For now, nice and short and to-the-point. I’m going to try to make the “epicness” come from the ideas, the plot, not the length.

To help me plan out the novel, I created a private wiki for myself, kinda like Hanniwiki, except it’s a top secret private one that I can’t tell you anything about. The secrets within would just blow your mind, you can’t handle the truth! Anyway, it’s been quite useful so far; if you know how to install it and set it up, I think it’s a very useful tool for writers, great for keeping notes and stuff all organized and in one place.

By S P Hannifin, ago

Graduation speech and animation and stuff

Valedictorian unhappy with school – part 2

Back on August 4th I posted a link to a graduation speech in which the valedictorian went over some major criticism of the current American education system, which I mostly whole-heartedly agreed with. After all, I’ve ranted about the education system on this blog quite a few times. I said that I couldn’t verify the speech though; it was only posted on the web from a second-hand source. However, I finally came across an actual recording of the speech, which seems to have been uploaded to YouTube by the speaker herself. So, for your enjoyment, or for your frustration with young people these days, here’s the speech:

Woohoo! Yes! Indeed! That’s right!

Do you agree with this speech?

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Animation Mentor progress

Week 8 (of 72) starts today! I’m pleased with my assignment this week, though of course I can still see areas that could use some tweaking, but you only have a week, so running out of time is inevitable. I’ll upload it to YouTube tonight or tomorrow. I was hoping to revise my pendulum assignment from last week, but never got to it. (I got sick that week so didn’t spend as much time on it.) Oh well.

The transforming room

Someone on Facebook posted a link to this very interesting video:

Of course, here in America, if you have enough money to afford designing and building something like that, then you probably have enough money to just buy a more spacious place, unless I suppose there’s some squished location that you really really want to live in. It would be awesome if someone opened up apartment buildings or hotels in which every room was like this; should get some good business just for the uniqueness of it. (Probably apartments; hotels would probably need too much maintenance.)

By S P Hannifin, ago

Mental breakdown

Don’t you hate it when you have a good idea for a topic you want to blog about, and then the next day, when you have time to blog, you forget what it is?

Anyway, haven’t been up to much these last couple days, just working and animating. I’m staying busier than I was in high school or college! Of course, in high school and college I 1) could get away with procrastinating every now and then and 2) hated doing the work in the first place, which is why I procrastinated. Though animation can be a bit frustrating at times, it’s something that I really want to do, and I wish I had more time to do it. Having my paid job interrupting my more interesting animation work is the annoying (but monetarily necessary) thing. I’m scheduled to finish Animation Mentor in Fall 2011, and, after paying my last tuition, it will be very tempting to try to leave work at that time and work on animation full-time for my last semester, with the intent of course of polishing a demo reel and getting a real animation job. And in 2012, take a vacation, a real vacation, ahhhh… but I must snap out of it! It probably won’t happen! Focus on the now! But, geez, the now is pretty intense! The ice I skate is getting pretty thin, and the water’s getting warm so I might as well swim! Can’t even fly out of a window! A tree doesn’t think it’s a tree, it is a tree! Ah-he-who-ha-ha!!

Oops, I had a mental breakdown there for a second. Please forgive me.

Do you forgive me?

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Anyway, I’ll post this week’s assignment on YouTube tomorrow night. I don’t think I’ll ever post that pendulum assignment. It turned out terrible, and I don’t think I have time to do a revision like I had hoped, so too bad, but I think this week’s assignment looks a bit better.

By S P Hannifin, ago