AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

November 2017 happenings

Greetings, interweb. Here’s what I got up to in November 2017, starting with…

A secret project!

Can’t say much about this yet. It was a freebie album cover which I took on for the experience and to stretch my abilities beyond my comfort zone. I relied heavily on a certain Space VFX series and a classic thread on BlenderArtists for inspiration and techniques.

Once the associated project is out, I’ll show it off. 🙂

Animation and other Blendery stuff

The speedy green antics of AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA have been shelved for the foreseeable future. My heart’s not in it, but at least it yielded a great little cockatoo rig who also fits into the visual style of AMITS. Maybe he can hang out with Gronky and Pointy…

Does the cockatoo need big thick eyebrows as well? Answers in the comments.

Speaking of those two, I patched a nice zappy electricity arc sound for the robot in AMITS. This is a random five second excerpt from that session. (Warning: loud.)

Electronics and other beepbooping

Through the magic of soldering, I’ve added distortion, another audio mixer and another sequencer to DASYRAC’s arsenal of goodies. Here’s the distortion, featuring its quirky LED limiter section.

at least I got the Optodist finished. look at those little green blinkers go!

A post shared by S J Bennett (@quollism) on

I also bought a drum machine because I got tired of patching together basic drum sounds every time I want a beat. I’ve started looking into Arduino to see what I can do to trigger it from the patchbay instead of needing to rely on MIDI.

I started doing write-ups on all the modules in DASYRAC too. There’s about fifty of them so I’ll still be doing write-ups a year from now if I can’t get through more than one per week.

That’s all for November. See you again soon!

Inktober week 5 (and a whole lot more)!

It’s been 29 October to 4 November 2017 and there’s been a little bit of everything this week!

Inktober

Here’s the rest of my Inktober drawings, including a happy little robot:

#inktober #inktober2017 29. United! Everyone brings their own thing to the team.

A post shared by S J Bennett (@quollism) on

#inktober #inktober2017 30. Found! Robots are good at finding things. #invaderzim

A post shared by S J Bennett (@quollism) on

#inktober #inktober2017 31. Mask. It's dinosaur Halloween!

A post shared by S J Bennett (@quollism) on

It was a challenge to work with physical media for a bit, but I’m glad it got me learning how to work with the brush pen. I’ve carried around that pen with me every day for two years so it’s about time I got some use out of it.

It’s been good to pick up a slightly larger following on Instagram as well and see what people are up to over there. It’s definitely not just for selfies, though there are a lot of those too.

The return of AAAAAAAAAAAAAA

I’ve got a quick and dirty “mouth foley” soundtrack happening for AAAAAAAAAAAAAA, finally. Like many 1980s kids, I thought Michael Winslow’s character from Police Academy was awesome and tried to copy what he did.. and I’ve never really stopped making weird noises with my face since! 🙂 It’s certainly a helpful skill to have for stubbing out funny sound effects quickly…

The soundtrack is a little bare right now but I wanted to share it anyway because I really like how those monks sound. The pyramid shot’s working nicely now that it has sound.

Happy little beeps

To finish off this week, here’s a few happy little beepboops from DASYRAC. The rack is getting pretty close to full up now which means having to make decisions about how to use the space I’ve got, and whether I want to free up existing space to put something else in. There’s also a couple of misbehaving modules which could use some troubleshooting, but I don’t want to make too many more changes. They get kind of expensive!

Here’s a lovely sound I got out of DASYRAC last night. It uses the hard sync on the Befaco EvenVCO driven by another oscillator sitting at a constant pitch to turn a little pentatonic melody into an Underworldy drone. I like it. 🙂

 

See you next week!

Away with you, September!

It’s been 24 to 30 September 2017. I’ve been sick all week. Again. Ugghh(cough-cough)gghhh! I’m back on antibiotics and bedrest again and hopefully that kills this stupid lurgi once and for all.

I want to apologise to all regular readers for being such a gloomy gus the last few weeks while I’ve been ill. It’s bad enough coughing constantly and feeling like hell, but not having the energy to work on stuff spirals me down into some pretty unhappy places on top of all of that. I lose the energy to work, then I don’t want to work, then I lose confidence in myself, then I get withdrawn and don’t want anything to do with anything – not even watching shorts which might pick my spirits up because I’m worried I’ll just feel bad that I haven’t worked on mine for a while.

Anyway. this week I’m less sure that abandoning all animation projects for crunching on portfolio stuffing makes a lot of sense right now. I put that decision down to the aforementioned withdrawnness. I want more characters and scenery to show off what I do, and AAAAAAAAAAAAAA will give me that, but I don’t want it to be a constraint on my creativity if I feel like doing something completely different…

…and this is all kind of moot for the next 31 days because I’m going to be trying my hand at Inktober for the first time. See you with drawing number one (Swift) tomorrow!

Giving up right

Preface: This post deserves some background. For the month leading up to this I’d been depressed, physically ill, getting switched around on projects at the day job and generally having a crappy time of things. My living routines were disrupted, the illness was making it hard to catch a whole night of sleep and things that were once possible seemed completely implausible. And through all this, I still had a journal to write…

It’s been 17 to 23 September 2017 but I’m posting this at dawn on Sunday the 24th. I can’t seem to shake this cough and I don’t think I’ve had a full night of sleep in a week. Tonight will probably be more of the same.

This would have been the weekend that AAAAAAAAAAA wrapped up, being as this is the Queens Birthday long weekend, but bouts of illness and dayjob stress all ground its precious momentum to a halt before it reached any kind of releasable state. There’s still no soundtrack and it’s still three shots long.

Truth is, I’m not inclined to pick it up and keep going with it, either. I’ve lost my taste for doing any animated film stuff, honestly. Doing the solo animated film thing isn’t viable for me right now anyway, so it makes sense to switch to something else.

Something like learning how to use all these nifty plug-ins I’ve bought (e.g. Retopoflow), or getting to grips with bits of Blender I avoid (e.g. hair system and physics), or just smashing through the model-rig-texture workflow over and over without trying to fit the result into an overall project. Something like honing skills and getting out there: entering competitions; drawing (or speedsculpting) during work breaks; identifying and filling skill gaps; generally keeping the juices flowing while banking a lot of short focussed work. I went through some of that process with music so I already know the value of it.

“I’m grinding” doesn’t sound as grandly impressive as “I’m making an animated film”, but I can live with that. My ambitions are more practical now.

Thanks for reading!

Afterword: Not much changed as a result of this resolution. I continued to cough and splutter my way through the week and feel out of sorts. Resolute blog posts change nothing.

Potato

It’s been 27 August to 2 September 2017.

Lately I’ve been hit with a mixture of bad sleep, mid-project boredom, dayjob stress and general restlessness. AAAAAAAAAAAAAA has stalled and I’m even finding it hard to get my head together to write a blog entry. This mental fuzz is truly brutal.

So let’s forget about all that stuff this week. Here’s the long version of Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up” which I could happily listen to until the heat death of the universe.

I’ve also been watching a ton a YouTube puppet show called Glove and Boots. It’s a mix of comedy sketches, inept let’s plays and live streams. You may know them from their Vertical Video Syndrome PSA, their helpful product testing videos or their song parodies (from which I borrowed this week’s blog title). Lately they have also been doing a brisk trade in catchphrases:

I got super inspired by watching these jokers having too much fun, so I set up Open Broadcast Studio and figured out how to get my recording setup and modular synth streaming to YouTube. I also briefly fantasised about doing my own puppet show because I miss doing voice acting and animation is slow, but then I remembered I have too many hobbies as is.

Sorry for the abrupt ending but I’m about to be late for something and I’ve tried about thirty times to finish the blog properly. As promised, here’s an image of a potato which has nothing to do with anything other than the blog title. See you next week, hopefully with no need for a potato.

I hereby potato this blog entry for its own good. Potato potato.

The cactus speaks!

It’s been 20 to 26 August 2017. In short: I got the rest of the shot rendered, then I got sick.

Here’s an ungraded version of that render with a draft sound effect for the magic cactus. I don’t think it’s quiiiite there yet. See what you think!

 

I don’t have an idea for where to go with Shot 4 yet, except that there should be no more spinning for a bit. The last shot had spinning in it too. Enough spinning for now, I think.

Since I’m focusing on sound, some kind of sound-related gag would work. I don’t even have an actual “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA” sound recorded yet, just ideas. Having that sound could lead to all kinds of silly and fun places. I can certainly give that some thought while I’m back-filling the rest of the shots with sound design.

Hurry up and wait, it’s rendering time!

It’s been 13 to 19 August 2017. The animation for Shot 3 is done and I’m midway through 36 hours of rendering as I type this. There’s 286 frames to render in total with each 16-bit 1920*1080 OpenEXR frame rendering in 11 minutes on my desktop and in 19 minutes on my laptop. As of right this minute, there’s about 37 frames left to do. It’s all looking fine so far with nothing obvious to fix up in composite.

No need to wait for this though – here’s a boomsmash of the final (unrendered) animation, based on last week’s blocking. I might tweak a few frames in final edit, but it’s render-ready. 🙂

 

Not all cactuses levitate when you scream at them, but you should always try it just in case.

Instead of hopping directly into Shot 4 once Shot 3 is rendered, I want to jump over to sound editing for the existing shots so I don’t get too backlogged there. Also I just took delivery of a nifty frequency shifter which should be super helpful for creating the hum of a levitating cactus…

Speaking of Blender 2.79 though, it’s going to be a big release: I’m already using the new render denoising and filmic colour LUTs for AAAAAAAAAA; surface deform will likely come in very handy down the track; and Blender users have been patiently awaiting a principled shader and shadow catcher for literally years. Also the simplifications to the video encoder panel are awesome. If you’re a Blenderhead, go grab the release candidate, read the release notes on what’s changed and report any bugs you find! 🙂

See you next week!

Dance cocky dance!

It’s been 6 to 12 August 2017. I made some progress on Shot 3 and cocky is now dancing!

In my head this sounds like “AAAAAA-ZWHOOSH FWSHwhshwhsh. (beat) .. AAAAA! woobh-woobh-woobh-woobh..”

In terms of timing and action beats, this shot feels good to me. I’ll polish up the animation and maybe fiddle with the materials a bit more before I render it out, and then it’s onto shot 4.

This is my phone background now. It can be yours too!

I wanted to produce AAAAAAAAA on a two week schedule per shot, but that momentum is hard to maintain alongside the modular synthesiser stuff, getting an adequate amount of downtime from the day job, etc. I’m still doing a ton of things by hand though – rigging/skinning, materials, modelling, etc. There’s almost certainly some workflow wins to be had by using resources that already exist. Rigging and materials in particular come to mind – it’s not like I haven’t got Blenrig and Cycles Material Vault sitting there idle. Something to look into!

That’s all from the world of AAAAAAAAAAAAAA this week. (Truly, any amount of As more than eight is fine.) For synthesiser-related bits, stay tuned! 🙂

Hello cocky!

It’s been 30 July to 5 August 2017. I took this week away from the day job to relax and recharge, catch up on some movies, maybe get Shot 3 of AAAAAAAAA done. but mostly I wanted to get on top of an impending backlog of soldering.

The soldering I managed, and I made at least some progress on the middle goal too!

Do you think their arms get tired while they’re in T-pose?

This cute little cockatoo will be riding the cactus in Shot 3. I want to have it rigged and ready to animate tomorrow. Since I have no more synthesiser kits to build, that could very possibly actually happen…

On Monday I’m back at the day job next week and I’ll be hitting the ground running, so we shall see whether this cocky gets to dance or not. Hope so!

Plans meet reality, reality eats plans

Editorial note: This entry was originally way more downbeat than it is now, so I decided to rewrite it to help consider my situation in a different light. Sorry for the wordiness.

It’s been 16 to 22 July 2017 and what a week I’ve had: a 2:15am finish on Thursday night; the emergency phase of this high-visibility high-priority project that I’m technical lead on got extended for an extra week; trying to get fit enough to do an hour of exercise a day, doctor’s orders.

End result? My sleep is super out of whack and I’ve been too tired to unleash whimsical mayhem on my grey cyclorama world. I honestly thought going into AAAAAAAAAAAA that I’d have the capacity to come up with a new scene every two weeks, but for reasons both within and beyond my control I’ve lost my focus and it hasn’t worked out that way.

To elucidate further: animation demands focus and patience and confidence. If I go in tired then I can’t think straight, I’m put off by the thought of sustained mental effort, and I can’t even decide whether I like an idea because I don’t have the presence of mind to give it lucid consideration. The extra hours of screen-staring are not great for my neck or back either. So the project waits for when I’m feeling up to it, whenever that is. If at all.

Accordingly, it’s been yet another slow-going seven days for poor old Shot 3. I’ve got a shot plan and character designs which were OK last I checked, so I’m theoretically ready to wrestle a happy little bird and/or a cactus out of Blender tomorrow. I might even get far enough to animate something.

Lately though I’ve been giving much more attention to music-related stuff than animation. Maybe it’s just the novelty of getting to be creative without a computer being intimately involved, maybe it’s just a relief to follow a procedure to get a working module instead of having to make creative decisions, maybe it’s because I’m learning interesting things in a new field, maybe it’s because I’m compulsively buying these kits and haven’t begun to deal with it like the expensive addiction it is, maybe it’s because playing with a synthesiser is something I can do while I’m tired and animation really isn’t.

If I’m being super honest, music is OK but I get a lot more out of unleashing whimsical mayhem than I do from soldering together linear shift register based clap modules or patching up envelope-controlled through-zero frequency modulation. It’s not like waveforms have silly muppet eyes, though sometimes my patches make cool shapes in a phase scope.

This is the aforementioned thru-zero frequency modulation on a quadrature sine oscillator. It’s all spinny and stuff.

So even though I’m a bit stalled, I still want to keep going with AAAAAAAAAA at whatever pace I can manage because I need that kind of giddy absurd childish fun in my life and I want to build my animation-making skills up without intensive pre-production. I won’t always be able to knock out a new scene every two weeks, and that’s an annoyance because if I get stuck with an idea for too long I can’t help but tinker with it as it gets stale for me, but I’m sure I’ll suss it out if I can just switch off my soldering iron for a bit and show my animation some love again.