Production Update 200: Con Season

Hey everyone, catching up on a few things after the busy rush. I have some wedding planning and design to do for my wedding this summer, which now less than a 100 days away, it’s getting real 🙂 There was also some really unseasonably warm weather this past weekend so I took the opportunity to get a lot of hiking in since a new winter storm is due for the upcoming weekend.

This past week I changed gears a little and started focusing on the type of content I want to be creating in for episode 2. I have a little more work to do on this front and I also am starting to plan my convention schedule. I have a lot of family events in the first part of the summer so I am planning on putting conventions on hold for the first part of the summer and focusing more on the fall and finding a new convention to attend as well.

More on this to come!

Production Update 199: Back At It

Hey everyone, my apologies for the multiple week break here. I’ve been hard at work putting in some extra hours and also started a new session of teaching assisting so everything kinda bottlenecked a bit over that period of time.

I have some personal things to get caught up on this week but my goal is to get back to my lip syncing animation tests and doing some work on planning the upcoming convention season as well.

Stay tuned and thank you for your support!

Work Break

Hey everyone! Things have been a little quiet on the update front last week. I have a lot of work I am catching up on so I need to take a break from the blog for probably a week or two to catch up on some work and I need about every waking hour I can get on some of these projects. I will get back at it as soon as I can and look forward to continuing work on episode two and animations tests.

Thanks again for the support, it is greatly appreciated!

Production Update 198: Pause

It has been a little bit of a rough past week. I ended up tabling my animation tests due to migraines all week. The previous week before I had a cold and a sinus infection and I am not sure if the subsequent migraines were a result of just getting back to full health or if they are part of something else. I have been exploring a new diet recently to see if that will help, it seems like when I try new things to see if they work it solves the problem but then it comes back. It could also be a result of not being able to get out doors and naturally spending more time in front of the screen too. I am going to find a solution to this.

On the animation test front though, I completed a minor test that I mentioned before, using 4 mouth shapes of dialogue scenes. The next test I want to do involves using 7 shapes and seeing if that offers a more fluid solution. My aim is to render these scenes out side by side and share them.

This past week I also started a new session for teaching assisting through School of Motion, something I have been doing for a year now. I love to help get people into animation and that is what I love doing at School of Motion. My aim is to bring some of that animation eduction to Cosmic Rage as well, I am still working out the best solution for that. But this also allows me to build up some funds to cover the recent tablet I purchased and also going to help cover costs of VO for episode two along with funds from Patreon.

I really appreciate all of your patience as I get back into the full swing of things this week.

Production Update 197: New Tools, New Workflow

This week I started working on some animation tests for Cosmic Rage. The first issue I wanted to tackle was mouth movements for the characters. The workflow adjustments I am making here, involves using a tool called lipsyncr. This tool allows for After Effects to analyze the voice over file and make adjustments to cue up certain frames for mouth shapes called phononyms. That way, I can get around using just lip flaps and also drawing each frame individually. This tool allows for you to use various levels of detail in this regard. In this test, I used only 4 mouth shapes, testing out the low end of the spectrum. The high level of detail allows for 12 mouth shapes. My next test is going to involve the in between setting that uses 7 mouth shapes.

Keeping up with the theme of “New”. I ordered my first new tablet since my very first one I ordered in college. For the second episode, I want to do more frame by frame drawing and a traditional tablet, just wasn’t working the way I want it to. Some lines were jittery, and it may take several strokes to get a line the way that you want it to. I felt that in order to really make this an effective workflow, I needed to upgrade my tablet situation. So say hello to my new Wacom Cintiq.

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I spent the later half of the week exploring the tablet a bit and working on setting up some various settings for hot keys to really make working with it efficient. I am planning on using the Cintiq for my next animation test using lip syncr. I will break down these various forms in depth upon completion.

This week I am starting a new session of teaching assisting online as well to kick of 2017. So when I am not at work or critiquing work, I will be working on the new animation tests.

I am so ready for 2017!

Recent Reading: Inuyashiki Volume 1

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Over the holiday break, I took some time to catch up on some manga that I have been meaning to get to. The first item up for reading, volume one of Inuyashiki. This series became my priority for reading, since I read that it is supposedly getting an anime series. It is done by Hiroya Oku, the creator of Gantz. Gantz is one of my favorite anime series, due to the social commentary it contained, but admittedly I have not read all of the manga. One of my favorite things about that franchise is the difference between the manga and anime. I wanted to flip the script on this series and tackle the manga first and also before I fall too far behind, so let’s dive in and see what this series is all about. I wanted to see if it packed the same social punch as Gantz.

The story centers around Ichiro Inuyashiki, a 58-year-old man who is very shy, timid and lacks confidence in himself. We get glimpses of his life, how his interactions with his family and how he fits into society. Needless to say, it’s very uninspiring and you can see that Inuyashiki’s strategy is to basically get by in life, remain hidden from trouble and not to cause any form of confrontation, whether with family or strangers.

But his personality and place in society is not the only thing going wrong with Inuyashiki. We also find out early on that he has cancer and doesn’t have long to live. This life changing diagnosis, inspires him to purchase a dog and they quickly become best friends. A friend that Inuyashiki feels like he can talk to, quickly developing a relationship more in depth than that even with his own family. However, one night, Inuyashiki takes his dog for a walk and has a terrible, unexplained, accident.

Throughout the next few days, Inuyashiki struggles with himself, not feeling like he is the same person he was prior to the accident but also still confronting the fact that he is nearing death.

If you don’t want the first volume to be spoiled, I would suggest not reading much farther.

Inuyashiki, feeling ill, visits doctors and more to get clarification on his diagnosis. These medical tests all come back with errors and the doctors are baffled with the situation. It is revealed that Inuyashiki has now become a robot. With his newfound robot capabilities, Inuyashiki starts to change and decides that he can explore his new capabilities.

While out, Inuyashiki comes across a homeless man that is being assaulted by a younger crowd of kids. This is a topic that makes it’s way into Gantz, so I am eager to see how this develops in future volumes. Inuyashiki is able to help stop the attack and even uses some social media components of his new powers to share the attack and information with other people through sites like Youtube and more.

I felt that the first volume of Inuyashiki was pretty intriguing. I don’t know of other series that have an older super hero. There are also many different social angles I am interested in as well, the role of the homeless (given the fact that it was involved in Gantz as well), how Inuyashiki will handle and adapt with his powers, but most importantly, this concept of public shaming the attackers through social media. I will have a review of more volumes of Inuyashiki as I get them read, I think there are currently 4 or 5 volumes out so far.

Production Update 196: Animation Test 3

I hope you all had a fantastic holiday break! My holiday break was much needed. It offered me a nice chance to unplug for a bit and get away from the computer. I spent some time over the break doing some reading and playing some new board and card games which I always enjoy. After several attempts, my family and I were able to complete Oregon Trail and we even got in a good game of Walking Dead Risk, which saw so many zombies take over that we had to use colored trucks that come with the game to make up all of the zombies because we ran out of game pieces.

I scored some goodies for Christmas, some new anime and manga. On the anime front I got some new movies and series like Death Parade, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Coppellion. I got two more volumes of Bakuman, which I need to complete the series. I have a few more volumes I need to get as well. I even got the Archer art book too, which offers a lot of information on the history and process of the show. But enough about the holidays, let’s dive into the first production update of 2017!

I wrapped up my final animation test this past week. I spent some time experimenting around with a new plug in for After Effects called Paint and Stick. It offers the artist the ability to draw frame by frame within After Effects. I loved the idea of that, since I work with the program daily but I didn’t like the brush set within it. On the surface, it doesn’t appear that  have full control over the brush like I would have with Photoshop. I can do a lot of the other things in Paint and Stick as I can do within Photoshop, such as creating various layers, coloring and more. However, part of my hesitation to fully commit to Paint and Stick, is the unknown of future updates and workflows. So with this in mind, I am going to do my in depth animation tests using the Anim Dessn extension for Photoshop. I will post these up when I get them done. I am going to start tonight on my first test, and working with some lip syncing tools to get more mouth movements for the characters.

On a similar note, as much as I love my Wacom Intros tablet, it was time for me to upgrade. I ordered up a Cintiq this past week so I have more control over my drawings in the second episode and also for frame-by-frame drawing. I am very excited to get started with this new tool. I will use this on one of the other animation tests I will be working on in January.

Finally, I also have been doing a bit of reading this past week too. I recently ordered a book called Independent Animation by Ben Mitchell. It covers a wide range of elements in independent animation, ranging from music videos, collaboration, funding and more. I am about 25% done with the book. I have really been enjoying it so far and it’s quite nice to hear another perspective on the independent animation scene. I will be offering up a full review once I get it completely read.

Thank you for your continued support!

Recent Viewing: Tower


Last week, I took one night to go and check out an indie movie at a local club. I saw the trailer to Tower and immediately knew I had to go. If you haven’t seen it, check it out above.

The reason I wanted to see the movie, was really two-fold. The topic itself, a school shooting from the 1960s. Being a millennial, I honestly thought the first school shooting was Columbine and never would have guessed that it happened prior to that, let alone in the 1960’s. The other reason, the art style. I have been crazy about rotoscoped work for the last few years now, ever since Flowers of Evil came out.

Tower blends rotoscoped footage with original footage from news broadcasts and other clips from the actual event and interviews. Based on the credits, I believe they hired actors and actresses to play out the more cinematic and rotoscoped scenes that help paint the story of the eye witnesses. I thought this was an interesting approach, obviously that footage didn’t exist so using the rotoscoped footage to create these sequences really help put the viewer into the scene and help paint the actual situation and build that suspense.

The film tells the stories of a handful of people impacted by the shooting, from a pregnant student, a kid delivering newspapers, a teacher and more. Seeing their stories starting to cross and eventually seeing how their story played out to this day, was simply amazing to hear and see. Again, as a millennial, school shootings in our lifetime have revolved around high-powered weapons and typically the gunmen end their own life. Seeing the events of other acts of terrorism and how the police have started using robots and drones, the film also talks about logistical problems of the 1960’s that we simply don’t think about. As you can see from the trailer, the shooter is a sniper in a tower. The movie at one points says that they tried to shoot the sniper from a plane, a method you simply wouldn’t see today.

One thing that really struck a nerve with me in the movie Tower, is hearing the survivors stories about gun violence and how this has been something that has impacted people and educational institutions for 50 years now. Ever since Sandy Hook, I have questioned what it would actually take for elected officials to do anything try and reduce the amount of school shootings. Unfortunately, 20+ kindergarteners were not enough to get any traction.

I really can not emphasize how much I enjoyed Tower, I was in suspense the entire time and it was a pretty intense film that was well crafted from the various people’s stories and also from the blending of rotoscoped footage and archival footage. If you get the chance to see Tower, go. Share it with everyone you know.

Production Update 195: Animation Test Part 2

Another week, another animation test. I love testing out new workflows and seeing if there are areas that I can improve and make more efficient. I’m really excited to test out the potential winning workflow and give it a more in depth look. Last week I explored Adobe Animate or the equivalent of Flash.

This week I dove into Adobe Photoshop to do some testing. There is a tool available online called AnimDessin, which gives the artist more of a traditional timeline and tools set, similar to Flash/Animate. Things such as onion skinning, inserting blank frames with the click of a button and more. The appeal of this workflow versus last weeks is the fact that I can use a variety of brushes to help get a more traditional look, some nice line qualities and importing these files into After Effects is going to be much easier. So far I am leaning towards this workflow but I still have one more to test out.

The remaining workflow is a unique one, using a tool called Paint and Stick in After Effects.  This tool let’s you draw frame by frame right in After Effects. My initial concerns center around brushes and file sizes. On the plus side, if I have any issues, I can hopefully resolve them right in After Effects.

It was a pretty good weekend to do some animation tests, we had some very frigid weather and snow that needed to be removed when things warmed up ever-so slightly. I went to see an animated documentary called Tower, which I am going to be reviewing this week yet before the holidays. Check out the trailer below, and come back mid-week for a review of the film!

Production Update 194: Animation Tests

I spent most of last week getting caught up on some work and other random things that have been piling up. So my plan this week is to execute some animation tests and explore a couple different workflows. The purpose of these types of tests is not only determine the best software to use but also the most efficient way to layer artwork, composite and the overall look and mood of each scene. In terms of animation, I will still use the same aesthetic or look as the first episode, characters done in 2D and the environments will be done in 3D. However, I want to push the character animation farther and that requires a bit of planning ahead so I don’t come across any limitations in production.

I will release some videos for each of the workflow tests I have been doing as well. Hopefully by sharing these I can shed some insight into other to the animation process for other animators but also if I am overlooking something, then someone can also help me out.

The first animation test I did was a combination between Adobe Animate (used to be Flash) and After Effects. I used to use Flash when I was in college so I have some familiarity with it. Some of my initial thoughts are, while I enjoy the timeline and being able to see the keyframes, I am not entirely sold on the brush or pencil tool in that program. That might be the deciding factor, but we’ll see. Like I said before, I will do a video soon about my exploration.

The next workflow I am going to explore is going to be a new plug in for After Effects, called Paint and Stick. This allows for frame by frame animation inside of After Effects with a visible timeline for each frame. My initial thought is that it also supports brushes from photoshop, so I can have more of that hand drawn feeling as opposed to the clean vector look of Animate. My concern however, with this workflow, is that file size could get out of control. All of the Paint and Stick data is saved outside of After Effects. If my initial testing looks like this is going to be the route to go, I will do a little bit more of an in depth animation test to see if I can gauge how large files could get.