SoDak Animation Festival Recap

My alma mater South Dakota State University had their 4th annual animation festival about a week ago. It was something that I helped with when I was still a student and it is something that I try to get back to each year and see how it grows and progresses.

This year I was able to attend a couple of the speakers and a night of screenings. The festival that started with just 1 night and day when I was a student has now expanded to 3 nights of speakers and screenings in just a matter of a few years. It continues to grow and impress.

The speakers that I had the opportunity to see were Ryan Woodward and JJ Sedelmaier. Ryan Woodward is a storyboard artist for Hollywood and a professor at BYU, but the main reason I wanted to see his presentation was his comic app called “Bottom of the Ninth”. If you haven’t checked it out, I urge you to do so.

That is now 2 conferences I have been to this summer alone and it seems that the lines between gaming, animation and comics/manga seem to be continually disappearing. Bottom of the Ninth will have more chapters so I look froward to seeing how the story and artwork/ interface continue to grow.

JJ Sadelmaier owns a production company in NY and has worked with various big name clients, MTV, Beavis and Butthead, Harvey Birdman and more. He had a very great presentation about the current market and tips for animators in general in the current economic climate.

The screenings always provide a great time. Its a good time to see what is being done in various countries and what ways artists and animators are using software. Are there new techniques they are using?

I also had a great time catching up with professors and even some former co-workers. Be sure to check out the site and maybe give it a visit next year!

Production Update 15

As usual a crazy busy week last week, as you could probably tell since I didn’t get my post up about the SoDak Animation Festival. I will aim to get that up tomorrow for everyone. First  off, last week I started a new studio project, once the previous project goes live I will get it posted up here as well 🙂 After the studio days I stuck around and competed in a 24 hour project where we had, you guessed it, 24 hours to complete a project pitch in a group. After the SoDak Animation Festival entry I will write about this experience as well. I was also in the process of trying to line up some more work.

Those events pretty much ate up a lot of the week, however I did get some Cosmic Rage work in and done so lets get down to business and break it down. I have found that with my consistent traveling and lack of a consistent work area at times it has been kinda disrupting my drawing on a consistent basis. So this week I spent two nights and worked on some gestural kinda drawings and roughed out some drawings for Cosmic Rage. I then was able to flesh out each drawing more when I was back at my desk at home.

I felt that this workflow worked rather well this week so I want to keep using this method since I will be traveling quite a bit for the remainder of the calendar year. I was able to complete 5 drawings this week which I was pleasantly surprised about because of all the work and travel required this week. So with those 5 drawings down we are now down to 16 left. We are still on schedule to have these drawn out by the end of November and that will leave me with December to get inking and painting.

I also set up a render to get me up to speed as to wear I am with the trailer again so I can start working on that again. As for my other projects, I didn’t work on them too much this week. We have had a bit of a set back on one of the projects which I hope will be resolved soon. But as always, we just keep pushing ahead and will keep you up to speed on how everything progresses. 🙂

Japan Adventure Day 8

Today marked the biggest day for me of the entire trip. First thing in the morning we were heading to the Ghibli Museum and as an animator this was a highly anticipated adventure.
I have seen most of the Studio Ghibli films (my top 3 faves: Kiki’s Delivery Service, Whispers of the Heart and Princess Mononoke) and was eager to see so much work from Japan’s most famous studio.

On the way to the Ghibli Museum we stopped at a well known bakery and grabbed breakfast. I had a couple bite sized cheesecake bites that were absolutely amazing. When we got to our final train stop we started to see signs pointing us to the direction of the museum. The signs were decorated with various characters and Totoros as we got closer to our destination.

The museum was hidden away in a very green park with vines dangling on the walls. From the outside we could see stained glass windows with characters from all of the films. We entered the museum and were instructed that we were not allowed to take pictures inside the museum. Our entry ticket also was a ticket into the theater room where we could see an exclusive animated short. The short was very well done and executed without any voice over for the characters or subtitles for that matter. On of the things I love about animation is the ability to tell a story through body language alone. It was a very cute film and it is only one of several that are screened at various times at the museum.

The first floor of the museum was very satisfying as an animator because it had several displays and exhibits on the various processes of animation and techniques. They had several stop motion exhibits that varying in pictures but also larger displays that used flashing lights to break up the motion blur on actual moving objects to give you a sense of stop motion. They had 3D models of characters all lined up to replicate the various drawings you would see in a characters run cycle for example. There were multi layered cels in deep frames so you could see the various layers of depth in cel animation. I spent most of my time here checking out all of these exhibits. I was proud that the museum spent so many resources on the first floor to show people the process of animation which sometimes gets overlooked, especially in the digital age. This floor would give anyone a greater appreciation of the animation process.

The second floor boasts several exhibits about the animation process at Studio Ghibli. The exhibits spanned the entire second floor and had concept and reference drawings hanging up on all the walls from various films. The first exhibit focused on the content creation of the films and how each got their starting point/concept. The second room had a replicated desk of an animator with reference materials scattered around. I know how that happens 🙂 The other side of the room had a colorists desk set up, with all sorts of brushes and color tubes scattered around for painting on cels.

In a small adjacent room, there were completed storyboards for each of the films and you could page through several binders for several films. One of the final rooms had some compositing and camera exhibits that kids were enjoying quite a bit. One was a crank that would move the background behind a hot air balloon. Kids were surrounding that station waiting for a chance to turn the crank and see the results.

The third floor had a couple non-Studio Ghibli works and a couple gift shops. At one gift shop I picked up a little stuffed Ponyo and the other gift shop I picked up a book about the museum along with pictures and also a book breaking down the film of Princess Mononoke. The fourth floor was the roof which had a couple sculptures, one was the giant robot from Castle in the Sky and the other was of a cube I believe from Castile in the Sky as well. The museum had several doors, stairwells, bridges and areas that made even the most serious person feel like a kid and want to explore the museum more. I fell in love with the museum on the trip.

I was just finishing up my rounds in the museum as we were preparing to head over to Shinjuku and the world’s busiest train station. At Shinjuku we made a small excursion to the Square Enix store to check out their goods. It was a lot of Kingdom Hearts content.

After the Square Enix store we ventured to an arcade by our meeting spot and played an epic 3D shooter arcade game. The game had rumbling seats, air guns and such to give you an immersed feeling. The air guns would blow in your face when a door opened or when a zombie/creature would jump out at you. Pretty awesome experience, we easily dumped in 700 Yen into that game and played a couple levels.

We left the arcade and went to a nearby rooftop beer garden for a last meal with the group before they would fly back to the states the next day. The garden had little grills and trays where we could make our own food with various sauces and such. We were also allowed to drink as much as we wanted, we started to pile up empty glasses and then found out that we had to return empties for full ones and that workers didn’t retrieve empty glasses like here in the states. It was a rather funny cultural difference. We headed back to to the hotel and got some rest for our final day with the group.

*(First and second images are a couple of the Ghibli Museum signs we saw, the third is the robot from Castle in the Sky on the roof and the final image is our grill at the beer garden in Shinjuku).

Production Update 14

Its late Sunday and I am currently watching the re-run of the new episode of the Walking Dead and decided I would get my production update in a little early. This last week was a pretty eventful one. My freelance work extended into the week a little later but that project is winding down and look forward to sharing it. This week was also my alma mater’s animation festival which stretched for 4 days, I was able to make 2 of them around my schedule. There will be a post on that coming later in the week.

I also got some more work in on another project as well as continuing progress on another. Around all of that business I was able to get a few drawings in this week. I didn’t touch the trailer this week, I have been mulling over a few tweaks to two of the latest scenes that I completed on it. Later this week look for a recap of the SoDak Animation Festival and also another Japan update.

Japan Adventure Day 7

Day 7 was another travel day. We were leaving the countryside from our 3 day retreat of relaxing at the ryokan and enjoying the onsen and heading back to Tokyo. I had such a great time at the coastline that I decided that I was going to wake up and catch the first train back to the coastline and was going to meet up with the group at a train station outside of Tokyo. I wanted to explore and hike more for a few hours since there was such a large area and we were only there for a couple hours. I fell in love with that countryside over the course of 3 days.

The first train of the day started at around 5AM in the morning so I got up early and snuck out of the ryokan ninja style and made my way to the train station. The trains had a brief stop at another station where I was suppose to get off but failed to. So I had to take the train again and only lost a little bit of time before I made it down to the coast.

I was able to hike around the area for a few hours, it was very calm with almost no other travelers or hikers around. I did see a lot of fast and small bugs on a trail but I didn’t get a chance to take a picture to find out what they were.  That morning was a little wet and rainy, one of the few days it rained while we were there.

After I got my hiking in, I made my way back to the train station and met up with the group several stops down the line. Some of them were pretty surprised I woke up so early to go out hiking. As the train made its way closer to Tokyo, the rain started to subside and the sun started to peek through the clouds and shine.

Our first destination was to head to Odaiba. Odaiba was having a giant fireworks display that night, but Comiket was also going on. Comiket is a super huge comic convention. So needless to say there were thousands and thousands of people in the area and everywhere was extremely packed with people. We worked our way through the crowds at a mall and went shopping at the Shonen Jump store. I was hoping to score some Dragonball Z stuff, but it was mostly relegated to just some manga. The store was packed with One Piece and Naruto stuff.

Post-Shonen Jump store, a couple of us made our way to the Gundam Plaza to see the RX-78 gundam. Who doesn’t like giant robots? The Gundam activated and did its thing, after that it was on to an arcade. I played a few crane games and won myself some Pokemon from the machine. I am a sucker for toys that look cool, such as an Axew. Unfortunately, I ran out of 100 Yen coins and someone won 2 toys that I got close to winning from the machine. It’s all good though, they went to 2 little kids that were pretty stoked to get a toy that day. i think my favorite aspect of the arcades is that the crane games are completely winnable, lots of us won toys from machines. When you win at a machine people working at the arcades will announce it over the speakers in the arcade so others know that people are winning and on what machine.

After the arcade we grabbed some eats and headed to our tarp for fireworks. The fireworks display was solid and lasted well over an hour. The trains were packed leaving Odaiba.

As we approached our hotel again, some of us decided to sing some karaoke. We went to a karaoke bar and got a room that fit all 14 of us in and we proceeded to drink, sing and have a great time. Next weeks Japan adventure day is one of the sole reasons I went to Japan, stay tuned 😀

*(first image is of the sunrise outside of the ryokan, second is an image of the rainy day from my seat on the train, the third is a cool building I saw on the way to the coastline, the fourth is the Shonen Jump store and how packed it was that day, fifth is the Gundam Front, finally is the crowd that was there for fireworks that night).

Production Update 13

First off, I apologize for the late post. Mondays are a little hectic nowadays but for all the right reasons. However, Monday night I find myself lacking internet sometimes. Its been a super crazy week. The first thing I had run into this week was I recently found out I rendered over some files I needed for the trailer… So my work on the trailer was pretty limited this week. I had finished up a render from last week and files I had rendered out, I rendered over the top of the others I needed. I can honestly say that is the first time that has ever happened in all of my projects I have worked on. So I had to set up another render to redo the majority of that sequence. I will hopefully be able to get back to working on the trailer this week.

I was also able to get some drawings done this week as well and I even prepped a few others too. I starting counting down the drawings I have left in this scene and the magic number is at 24. 24 more drawings until the scene is done and the drawing for the first episode will be all done unless I need to add a drawing in here or there. I feel pretty good about my goal of being done by the end of November.

This last week I had some more freelance work full in. not including my current couple days of studio work. I also spent some quality time outdoors before the snow starts to fall. I have to get my outdoor time in while I can, its kinda depressing that it is starting to get dark so early these days too.

I also started another goal of mine this last week which I had to dedicate quite a few hours on. I look forward to sharing that project once it is done as well. I feel the need to work on all of these projects because Cosmic Rage is such a large project that I need to have a few small ones here and there so I have that sense of completing something. There are a lot of things I want to get done and I look forward to getting them all done, handwork and determination are not lacking here. Japan adventure day coming Thursday!

Anime Review: Tari Tari

Along with the production updates and posts about my recent trip to Japan I wanted to also start posting about some content I have been watching. While in Japan, I saw several advertisements for all sorts of shows. I took pictures of several advertisements and decided that I was going to watch some of these and check out their production value.

My typical process has been to wait until series come to the States so I could watch them while I work since they would be dubbed already. However, when I go to conferences and such people have had access to some of these titles already by watching them on simulcasts. Secondly, it also puts me about a year or two behind current production techniques and such. So, I made the decision that I am going to start to watch a little bit more stuff and focus on some of the production value in these series.

The first title I decided to check out was Tari Tari. I had never really watched a series about school life or anything along those lines in anime before. I have been mostly a Shonen/action fan. To give you an idea of some of the visuals for Tari Tari, check out the opening here.

To provide you a quick synopsis of the story, Konatsu is a girl who wants to start a new school choir club after not being able to perform in the current choir club. Since she needs several members to start, she is able to recruit enough people to start the choir and sometimes badminton club. The group then practices in hopes of performing at the school festival.

Over the course of 13 episodes we see the group come together and we also have episodes that focus on each character and some of their history and past events.

Since my presentation at SGMS this past year was about CGI in anime, it was good to see several of the techniques I talked about used in the show. There are several shots that involve 3D environments, and 3D objects such as cars filling the streets. The character animation is well done. The coloring and effects in the environment are very well done. As you can see from the opening, there are beautifully painted backgrounds throughout the show.

There are even several nice subtle effects in the show. Shots that use depth of field (blurring of the background to focus on the foreground), subtle camera shakes and even lens flares in outside shots add some really nice production value to the series. You can tell that the series is newer based solely on the production value of the show. Throughout the series there are several really nice panning shots that seem to have several layers of depth in them. Tari Tari has scenes that are very brightly colored and even some scenes that are muted due to rain, that still look very good.

Tari Tari was a great show to see a wide variety of CGI techniques throughout the short 13 episode series. The series also didn’t seem to have much filler in it at all. If your looking to see some beautiful artwork and have time to fit a short series in, you can check it out on crunchyroll and be sure to keep an eye out for some of the effects 🙂 Production update coming on Monday!

Japan Adventure Day 6

Breakfast was provided by our ryokan again in the morning. As usual it was a large 2 platter breakfast, but most importantly we had fresh fish caught by local fishermen  that morning. We had our usual grills that morning so we grilled our own fish. I am not sure what the fish was but it was delicious. It was important to have a good breakfast this morning because after breakfast we were headed to the coast to do some hiking.

We stopped at a convenience store before we got on the train and to my surprise I found some special Pepsi cans that had featured Gundams on them for the Gundam Front in Tokyo. I found a few more cans throughout the trip, but I was pleasantly surprised because I had read an article online before we left on the trip and knew they were going to be out when I was on the trip. I was able to bring a few home.

The Jogasaki coastline was amazing. The ocean water was such a bright blue color it was unbelievable. You could see to the horizon in almost 180 degrees, it really was one of the highlights of the trip. There was even a bridge to cross over part of the ocean too. The wind blew the bridge a little, which added to the feeling of being free and in nature. We hung out in the area for a couple hours and I shot quite a bit of video and seeing how close I could get to the water without getting wet.

One of the interesting things, at least in my opinion, was that I found several bugs and they were all very bright yellow. Caterpillars, spiders and even some other bug I never seen before were all black and a very bright yellow.

We walked back to the train station, and we had a conversation about all of the bigger and more western style houses in the area. We found out they had these bigger homes because there was more room outside of the city to build bigger homes. There were lots of homes that had landscaped their yards and had neatly trimmed trees and bushes.

After we arrived back at the ryokan, we were able to relax in the onsen again and we had a few hours in the afternoon to hang out, relax and to do what we wanted before we headed to our fireworks destination. We arrived at the train station and it was already starting to fill up with people. Little did we know how packed this event was going to be.

We arrived at our destination and the city was filled with people everywhere. Everyone split off into groups and went to find some food before the fireworks display that night. There were even more food vendors out than there was the last couple days we were in the area. I had to have Takoyaki one last time (deep fried breaded octopus) and it had to be topped with japanese mayo and green onions 🙂

After finding some food, we headed to the beach to find a place to set up our tarps for fireworks. We found a spot and hung out before the display. We had a few drinks and shared some stories. As night time started to set in, test fireworks were fired into the sky. Soon we discovered that there was going to be fireworks launched from several sites in the bay.

The ensuing fireworks display was the best display I had ever seen. It lasted almost 2 hours and the spectacular at the end lasted almost ten minutes with the sky being so covered in fireworks that it was as bright as day in the bay.  After the fireworks there was a giant sea of people headed to the train station to get home. We were fortunate enough to get to the station and get back to the ryokan. On the walk back to the ryokan from the station, we learned that last year they missed the first train and were at the station for over two hours.

That night I went to bed a little early because I wanted to go for a hike the next morning back at the coastline.

*(first image is the delicious fish we had for breakfast on its grill, second is the coastline where we went hiking, third is a shot of a random beach on the train ride, fourth is the packed train station when we arrived for fireworks, fifth is our spot on the beach for the fireworks, finally the sea of people after the display heading to the train station).

Production Update 12

Time for your weekly production update involving the Cosmic Rage universe. First off, I have a bit of news that started last week and got lost a little in the shuffle with the lead up and recap of the SGMS conference (which I can’t believe it’s already been a week)! Anyways, the news is I am going to be working in studio for the next few months on Monday and Tuesdays for the most part. Which means I will have more freelance work to show off once it gets completed. On that note, I am really excited for the opportunity to create the work I will be creating and also working with a new group of creatives and seeing how they work!

As for Cosmic Rage, the week started off kinda hectic and busy but I have put together a couple of strong days to close out a pretty productive week. First off, I got a test render done for the next scene of the trailer. I haven’t had a chance yet to look at it and see how it turned out, that will be reserved for about mid week once I finish up studio work this week.

I did get several drawings done for the final scene of the motion comic. I finished up 4 today alone, which bodes well for getting them done by the end of November like my self imposed deadline dictates. I should get a counter going to give everyone a running countdown.

As for other projects, I had a bit of reworking to do on the second of the “super secret” projects. I will have a bit of work on that this week as well as I look to get the first stage of it wrapped up. The project is getting closer and I don’t think I have been so excited to get something done as I have been with this project.

Also on the “other” project list, is a new website. As some of you know I have been wanting to design a website for a while and this week marks the beginning of really clamping down for a few days, digging in and getting a solid start on it. In some time, that site will go live, the domain will get revised and the blog may move to that site as well. Thats jumping the gun quite a bit but just informing everyone of some of the future expansions that will occur in regards to Cosmic Rage. 🙂 Be sure to check back later this week for an updated Japan post!

Japan Adventure Day 5

Day 5 in Japan started off with a giant 2 platter breakfast for everyone brought on by ryokan staff. Easily the biggest breakfast I had ever seen. After breakfast we had some time to relax in the onsen. An onsen is a natural hot spring that is heated by the Earth/volcanoes. It was super relaxing after walking around Tokyo for the previous few days. There were 3 onsens, one for males, one for females, and a private one for couples.

After getting ready for the day, our first stop was Atami castle. The best story of the trip was when we got into taxis to go to the ropeway and the head lady at the ryokan walked into the road to stop traffic so our taxis could stay together on the way to the ropeway. Now thats customer service!

The ropeway provided us with an amazing view of the seaside city and we were able to see all over in every direction. Atami castle had all sorts of content in it for us to check out. My favorite floors were the top floor, which had a balcony for us to take pictures looking out to the ocean and the floor that had models of other castles in Japan. I can only image the amount of work and patience needed for that process.

After the castle we headed to another restaurant that featured a drink bar (all you can drink coffee, lattes, juice, soda etc. over 40 kinds). It was pretty hot out so the iced lattes and air conditioning were well worth the walk. After lunch some of us headed to the beach for some more time in the ocean, I was one of them.

We splashed around in the ocean for a few hours. We took some pictures with some of the other beach goers. We posed for a few pictures and had a brief conversation with some English and hand signs. Before we left the beach more people wanted a picture. We had a lot of fun at the beach, everyone in the city was very nice.

We headed back to the ryokan to get ready for the night’s events. Some onsen time was in order and then came the time to wear the yukata again. Tonight we headed to a stage by the shore to watch a taiko drum show. There were several performing groups that took the stage and played a wide variety of songs. It was the first time I had heard a taiko drum performance at length, it was very relaxing. We sat in the grass and watched as the sun set. People were free to come and go as they wished, allowing them to go to food stands and get things to eat during the performances.

One of the highlights on the trip in terms of food, was the grilled squid I had. The cook grilled it at his station and the meat was very good. I wanted to try the grilled octopus as well but I was full from the squid, it gives me a reason to go back right?

We grabbed a few more things and headed back to the ryokan and played some board games until the early hours of the morning. It was nice playing games and getting to know some of the other travelers a little bit more. We headed back to our room and got some sleep for tomorrow, our final full day in the seaside city.

*(The first photo is a picture of the ocean outside of our ryokan, second is a photo looking back at the city from the ropeway car, the third photo is the beach we went too and finally the taiko drum performances. That picture was taken of one of the first performances which is why it is still early in the night).