Tag Archives: a moment in the sun

Happy Pointy saves the day

It’s been 21 to 27 May 2017. National Reconciliation Week has just begun here in Australia. Most of my week was taken up with synthesiser-building. The last three nights I’ve been burning the midnight oil building and troubleshooting a Bastl Instruments Noise Squared. It’s all working now and I feel very accomplished. 🙂

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A pin diagram of the MCP6002 linear op amp. Not shown: capriciousness.

AMITS is showing signs of life too! It’s helping a lot that I’m much less uptight about whether it’s going to turn out “good” anymore. RYGCBMK◯ has been useful for that: there hasn’t been much in the way of interest and that takes the mental pressure off. The positive reactions I got from RYGCBMK◯ have encouraged me to tap some of that same merry energy for AMITS. I feel like it’s better for me to just have fun with this and get that fun up on screen.

I drafted a new story pass in note form last Sunday and it’s looking promising! Pointy’s upbeat personality is so much nicer to work with than his previous stupid/mean incarnations. His new attitude means the story flows more straightforwardly, the pace is swifter, the energy level is higher, the humour is spread across both action and dialogue… it’s a good start!

The middle section of the movie sees Pointy meeting a “laser robot”. Pointy’s nerdy excitement for all things laserly and robotic becomes disappointment as the robot turns out to be a malfunctioning dud. Accordingly, I’ve been coming up with unimpressive stuff for the robot to do all week. The ideas so far are unusable, but that’s ok – experience has taught me that usable ideas come from unusable ideas and I just have to keep pushing through it patiently without falling in love with any single gag too much.

The goal here is to create a large pool of ideas then select the ideas which fit together the best while maintaining the tone I want. Having a solid grasp of the movie’s tone removes a major source of indecision for me, and indecision is a big part of why this isn’t done yet.

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Here is the metaphorical pool of ideas I am trying to create. Starfish pattern optional.

That’s all for now. Time to catch up on the last of the soldering before the next salvo of Eurorack kits get here…

Same Sun, different Pointy

It’s been 30 April to 6 May 2017 and A moment in the Sun: Robot is back in development again.

I drafted a new synopsis this week with a fresh take on Pointy as an utter geek for robots as long as they have lasers. I like this new arrangement of two upbeat characters in a situation as opposed to an upbeat character versus a grumpy character.

If Pointy’s seeking out Gronky for his cool robots, as opposed to wandering through the desert aimlessly, there’s much less to introduce and set up, which means the pace is sped up considerably and there’s less movie to make. It also fits together more organically as a story – Gronky’s job of burying stuff in the desert stays the same and even has some relevance to why Pointy meets up with him.

Not much else to cover this week – the day job has been super-draining – so please enjoy this Australian comedy sketch featuring cult favourite Milo Kerrigan (played by Shaun Micallef) attempting to cook a chicken and destroying both the set and the script in the process.

Beat as in “tired”… or as in “rhythm”?

That’s been 26 February to 4 March 2017. And it is both tired and rhythm. One because the other.

On Wednesday, I made the decision to step away from “A moment in the sun” until I finish this heinously draining temporary internal transfer at Easter (mid-April). A narrative animated short film is the wrong project for me until the work stress eases off. Something little and time-boxed would be much better.

So it’s time again for a brief change of creative direction.

I took a couple of months at the beginning of last year to sculpt and do character animation and that refreshed me nicely. This time I’m going to learn Animation Nodes with the intent of making some groovy procedural animation.

The working title is RYGCBMK◯, though RYGCBMKO is fine too. You can probably guess what the letters R G B and C M Y K stand for. The circle is just a circle. The finished piece will be pleasing rhythms for the eyes and ears.

I’ll be working on it until Easter and I’m targeting an Easter Monday release. I’ve written a project brief and set particular limitations around creative methodology, but I’ll talk a bit more about those next week. 🙂

 

Two little things

That was 19 to 25 February 2017. This week I devised a couple of character and plot notes for the introduction.

With Gronky, I want to emphasise a giddy enthusiasm and affinity for technology. He also has a giddy enthusiasm for burying things, which is his “job” in the desert.

For Pointy, I came up with a backstory which shows his anti-technology character trait and explains what he’s doing in the desert. After a big night out, he catches a self-driving taxi but impatiently gives his home address as “Western Australia” before blacking out having a nice sleep. The taxi dutifully drops him off roughly where the words “Western Australia” appear on a world map.

Somewhere, a chief ops officer is seeking emergency legal advice…

These two things give the characters a sharp point of difference that plays out in the story. I’ve been down the “recounted backstory” path before though and I’ve found it tricky to do well, plotwise. And so it goes into the ideas bank, along with my other ideas. If I still like it next week, I’ll take that as a good sign. 🙂

That’s about all I got done, movie-wise. I’ve just been too busy this week enduring high stress and late finishes at the day job, swotting up on cognitive behavioural therapy and sensory processing sensitivity, cutting my caffeine intake in half and getting withdrawal symptoms, tapering off diazepam, and training myself to follow a screen-free pre-sleep routine.

Somehow with all this going on I still have some weird primal need for creative expression. So instead of animation, I’ve started making music again, improvising jams with old-school electronic instruments and dreaming up some new sonic toys to play with. The workflow is pretty loose and unstructured and fun, and I managed to make at least one piece I really like. But that’s a whole different blog post. 🙂

A light in the ongoing rough patch

Time to recap 12 to 18 February 2017. This week I’ve focussed more on getting well than making stuff.

I got the pitchamatic for the second and third part of the movie cut together and put it in front of a couple of reviewers. The feedback I’ve got is that things are weirder than before but still funny. Funny-weird is fine by me. 🙂

After months of not having the story in video form, it’s great to see the characters up and moving again. Even from that I’m getting new insights into where the characters come from, and the kind of story I’m telling is much clearer. Hopefully that clarity will assist with the tricky task of writing the introduction.

Alas. Job stress, anxiety, lack of restful sleep and other stuff have made it hard to maintain a clear creative vision of what I want. My brain is just too unsettled and preoccupied to really focus. It’s far from ideal.

Figure 1. What it’s been like on the inside of my head lately.

Without a good sense of what I’m aiming for, I’m liable to get stuck in endless tweaking and trying other things. (“Do I like this? How about this? Do I like anything?)” Even with that vision, I could be super attached to a particular idea one day, then dump it for a new idea which makes the story more concise and interesting but gives me more work to do. (“Did it really need to be changed?”)

Anyway. Instead of floundering and tweaking and getting nowhere in a cloud of self-doubt, I’m writing down prospective in unstructured point form as an idea bank. I know I have particular plot points to hit – points like “Gronky meets Pointy”, “Pointy is lost”, etc – but it’s more pragmatic to bank interesting little ideas that I don’t have to commit to rather than trying to piece together something bigger (or tweak something that already exists), especially without a strong notion of what I’m aiming for.

Little things I can do. Big things will just have to wait until I’m feeling up to it.

Navigating a rough patch

It’s been 5 to 11 Feb 2017. It’s a quick entry this week by contrast to last week’s 19th Century Russian novel!

I was working on the introduction again this week. I had an outline I liked. I scribbled thumbnails down one side of it on Sunday (see header image) and I was feeling really good about it. I even tweeted that I had it. I let it sit for the mandatory day or two and – surprise surprise – it’s not where it needs to be.

Getting carried away with early drafts happens, but it doesn’t help that I’m also going through a rough patch right now. I’m dealing with way higher stress levels at the day job than normal; I’m staying back late at work much more often. Even figuring out how to make the new employment arrangements work effectively has been a challenge, let alone getting work done. It’s severe enough that I’ve been in counselling for anxiety for a few weeks – it’s helping, but there’s a lot to work through. Unseasonably winterish weather here in Perth with record low tempeatures and rainfall isn’t helping matters either, since I’m very much a summer person.

So with all that’s been going on, I’ve been especially wiped out and it’s made me super indecisive. So instead of getting bummed out with aimless tweaking work on the introduction, I’m going back to the layout images I already have to create a pitchamatic (narrated storyboard video). Seeing the second part of the movie unfold in video form should give me a much more tangible sense of what I need to introduce and how, and it’ll be encouraging to see Pointy and Gronky do their thing again. 🙂

See you next week!

Rewriting the introduction: a case study

It’s been 29 January to 4 February 2017. I wrapped up the last of the layout images late on Saturday evening so it was finally time to re-attack the intro again.

This entry is necessarily text heavy, but I’ve inserted some pictures of Australian animals to break the text up a bit.

“How can I turn this two-scene epic into something quicker and funnier…”

At the start of the rewrite, I had two scenes to condense.

There was an opening scene in the desert where the two characters start apart from one another. Pointy has lost his car and is stumbling around blindly looking for it by clicking his immobiliser remote and listening for the “doot doot”. Pointy is literally blind because the sun really hurts his eye when he opens it for more than a fraction of a second. Meanwhile, Gronky has just finished burying Pointy’s car because that’s what he does (burying things). They eventually find one another (hence last week’s “doot doot” remark). Pointy ends up in shadow and can open his eyes again. He asks if Gronky can see a car. Gronky can’t see a car around anywhere. Pointy throws his keys away and asks how Pointy asks how to get out of the desert. Gronky buries Pointy’s keys and Pointy realises Gronky buries stuff. It’s implied that Gronky agrees to help Pointy because of what happens in the next scene.

The next scene was the original opening of “Robot”. Gronky is singing into his beatbox radio thing for fun and Pointy is impatiently asking how long it’ll take to get to the bus stop. Gronky is dancing around having fun in blissful ignorance of Pointy’s discomfort. Pointy is having trouble keeping up and gets blinded by the sun because he can’t manage to stay in Gronky’s shadow. Pointy finally puts his foot down and says either Gronky calms down and shows him to the bus stop in a sensible way or Gronky can dig up something for shade that he can take with him. Gronky considers a few options which he’s previously buried, decides on one of them and then pulls out his shovel.

Cut to the robot being dropped onto the desert floor. (Everything from this point on has been through layout.)

Here is a picture of a tammar wallaby for making it through those two giant walls of text.

Wallaby break!

I made little cuts here and there to things that didn’t matter. A big win came from changing the sequence of events to make certain actions overlap.

As originally written, Pointy sees which direction Gronky’s pointing in before he wanders over to bury the keys. From that the audience understands that Gronky is instrumental to Pointy getting to the bus stop, but they can see it’s not going to be straightforward.

I rewrote it so that when Pointy throws his keys away in frustration, Gronky instantly sets off to bury them and Pointy is blind again – Pointy doesn’t even get to see where Gronky is pointing anymore. But he still convinces Gronky to take him to the bus stop. Cue the second scene with them walking. Cue the robot dropping to the ground.

This was helpful (and much funnier) but I had a feeling I could take even more out of the story.

Here’s an unrelated picture of an owl getting a scratch on the head to give your eyes another rest.

Owl break!

Somehow I got to the idea that Gronky didn’t feel like being helpful. Instead of taking Pointy towards the bus stop, he points in a particular direction cheerfully and leaves Pointy to it. Pointy asks if Gronky can take him and instead, Gronky says no. Pointy is suddenly facing the prospect of blindly walking in a direction and hoping for the best. He loses his temper at Gronky’s lack of helpfulness and asks sarcastically if there’s anyone else who can show him to the bus stop. Gronky then is reminded of something.

Cut to the robot being dropped onto the desert floor.

With that, I’d managed to chop out the entire walking scene. Result! Cue Celebration Wombat!

Celebration Wombat is stoked!

But it still felt a little undercooked and not ready for thumbnailing yet. So I looked for some more comic opportunities and found them in the situation itself. It’s annoyingly difficult to convey them in text however because the simultaneity of it all makes it look like a complete jumble of activity.

In addition to asking Gronky the way to the bus stop, Pointy’s also trying to get back into Gronky’s shadow, except Gronky keeps moving out of the way because Pointy’s behaving strangely, almost turning the scene into a game of chasey. Pointy is also depending on Gronky to get him out of the desert, so he doesn’t want shout at him to bloody well stay still so he can get back into Gronky’s shadow to see which direction Gronky is pointing, and yet Gronky is not being co-operative at all.

With that extra bit of polish, I think I’ve got a scene. Hopefully that first scene plays out more funny than painfully irritating. 🙂

The bettong didn’t make it to the end of the post. I hope you did!

So I hope this little tale of rewriting and polish has been interesting! I want get started on thumbnails tomorrow before heading back to my dayjob on Monday where it promises to be an interesting but exhausting week. So hopefully tomorrow is nice and distraction-free. 🙂

Thanks again for reading!

When the intro- has the wrong -duction..

And now for a little 22 to 28 January 2017. It’s a long-ish post this week so I’ve put in lots of layout pictures to break up the text. 🙂

This week I started layout on the scene where we meet the robot for the first time.
There’s literally two more shots left in that scene to do layout for and I may even get to those later today. Hooray! I even managed to avoid doing a minor rewrite earlier this week after I spotted a conflict between staging and continuity. Hooray! 🙂

“Amazing! A rewrite was averted! Full water vapour is ahead!”

Once the robot intro scene is laid out, I’m going back to the opening scene that I started layout on at the end of December 2016. I was having trouble staying motivated so I halted layout work on the introduction and cut my teeth on the more fun scenes towards the end of the movie instead. It was a good move, because now every scene except the introduction is laid out (aside from those two shots but who’s counting?)

I like how “Robot” has come together – it’s anarchic and silly and quirky and fun. The “introductory” scene on the other hand has a few too many problems to ignore:

  • the story just blips in out of nowhere
  • the “intro” feels like an escalation scene, not an establishing scene
  • it doesn’t have the same tone as the rest of the story, so it doesn’t set the tone like a good introduction should
  • we don’t really get to know the characters or understand their relationship to one another (also a note I got from “Sombrero”) which can be a sticking point for some audience members
  • it uses characterisations which are more “Sombrero” than “Robot”
  • the focus is Gronky goofing off, but should be more on Pointy’s struggle to fit the rest of the story
  • nothing particularly funny happens, though it is kind of playful and cute which I’ve discovered is an acceptable stand-in for funny – but funny is better!
  • it doesn’t set up gags and cause-effect scenarios which play out later, not as strongly as it should at least
  • it also sets up ideas which don’t pay off
  • I never actually finished writing it – there’s “insert gag here” panels in the thumbnail sheet, and doing those gags is going to take a lot of time
  • somehow it’s still over-long

When I wrote it back in December, I was trying to give the story a concise introduction to keep the running time down. However, mere conciseness isn’t enough! A lean introduction is great, but not if it misses setting the right tone, meeting the characters and their situation properly while keeping the tone funny and sweet and a little bit quirky. There’s only one thing to do.

“Wait — you’re rewriting AGAIN!? You’re going to give yourself a rash or something!”

There’s another good reason to rewrite the introduction but it takes longer to explain:

I got notes at Blender Conference 2016 about “Sombrero” (thanks Colin!) about how Pointy’s problem was repeatedly being solved then unsolved to create another problem. It made the pacing very stop-start. In “Robot”, the only time Pointy’s problem gets solved with any certainty is at the end. To do that, any solutions to Pointy’s problems have to be an obvious, unacceptable compromise upfront. That compromise isn’t obvious in the intro at all, and to make it adequately obvious I have to shift the focus of the scene dramatically. Frankly, the scene isn’t that amazing that I feel a need to salvage it in its entirety. More than anything, the start of the story wants a re-think.

And it’s already begun to get one! I mentioned last week that I started thumbnailing a new introduction. I’m going to develop that as the new opener, if for no other reason than I think it’ll be cute when Gronky imitates a car immobiliser, much to Pointy’s confusion.

“A what?”

You’ll see. Catch you next week!

Layout gets crazed, Pointy gets chased, deadline gets erased

It’s been 15 to 21 January 2017. This week I started and finished layout work on the chase sequence where Pointy gets chased away by the helper robot. AMITS has never had an action sequence before and it was really good fun to draw.

Quollity practices for quicker layout

I’m working much smarter with layout this time. Here’s some workflow changes I’ve made to get through more work quicker:

  • Instead of leaping straight into drawing the AMITS cast, I’m settling in first with a throw-away piece of unrelated warm-up art. It gets me thinking about perspective, construction, staging and generally gets me in a better mood to draw than starting cold.
  • I’m reusing existing assets whenever I can.
    • I draw my layout images on layers so if a background or specific character doesn’t have to change from image to image, I don’t have multiple copies of it to deal with in case of corrections.
    • If one shot has the same element as another shot except at a different zoom level (e.g. cutting wide on action), I scale and reposition elements appropriately.
    • If there’s a shot setup which is identical to something in one of the older movies, I’ll reuse it out of the old source files.
  • I’m rendering out quick scale references in Blender so that the framing and staging can be more consistent between hand-drawn layout and rough 3D. It’s super useful when I’m struggling with proportioning the characters correctly. I can also trace and tweak the 3D versions more exactly if I’m feeling particularly dumb or tired that day (most days).

Robot, Gronky and Pointy models posed roughly in Blender.

Robot, Gronky and Pointy in hand-drawn layout. Notice how Pointy’s much more panicked, Gronky’s much more tense and the speed trails indicate movement.

  • Finally, I’m heavily using Krita’s G’MIC Colorize tool in interactive mode for making mattes where characters on different layers pass in front of one another. It is a godsend to be able to draw loose and still get fills. Krita demigod David Revoy made a video which explains how to use it.

Like I said a few weeks ago, I push the ideas and expressions in layout hard, sometimes harder than the 3D can cope with. I don’t have a rig yet to capture the utter anarchy of Pointy’s “pose” in this layout drawing, but I have a few ideas. 🙂

A confused ball of Pointy rolling at high speed.

I also started sketching out an introductory scene where we see what Pointy and Gronky are doing before they meet up. I don’t know if I’ll actually use it in the finished film, but it’s a fun little bit and worth recording in some form before I forget I even dreamt it up.

The deadline goes ker-POOF!

I mentioned a couple of blogs ago that the day job was promising to be much more intense this year. It’s turned out worse than I anticipated at least in the short term.

For the sake of controlling my own stress levels, I’m not going to hold myself to the October 2017 target date I mentioned at Blender Conference 2016. The scope and difficulty of “Robot” should mean it’s ready late this year, but if I badly need downtime, the movie will just have to wait for me to collect my wits again and get back to work.

The severity of the situation is a little new so I don’t have any further insights as to how it’ll play out. I’ll keep you posted on how I’m doing, and I’ll keep beavering away on my little cartoon whenever I can.

Thanks for reading!

Laying out and burning up

It’s been 8 to 14 January 2017. (How many times have you got the year wrong so far? My grandmother gets the actual century wrong, bless her.)

I had to squeeze my layout work around a family event on Sunday, but I did get another scene finished. I spent the rest of the week on miscellaneous things like catching up on unwatched animated movies and getting my sleep schedule back to something sensible. (Sleeping right during the week means having less sleep to catch up on during the weekend – and hence more production time!)

I finally started reading “Elemental Magic”, the standard texts on effects animation by industry veteran Joseph Gilland. The first Elemental Magic book is more “philosophy and approach” while the second is more practical instruction. Despite speaking from the perspective of hand-drawn animation, the author more than touches on CG. Simulations (like hand drawn) should fit a particular look and feel, even when it’s a particle system and mesher responsible for putting something on screen instead of an animator’s pencil. It’s great to get a sense of how an animation veteran observes and approaches their work and “Elemental Magic” is chock full of insight.

Pointy leaves a trail of dust in his wake in AMITS: Sombrero (temp materials)

I’m reading up on effects animation because there’s smoke and fire in AMITS: Robot. I’m not sure whether to go hand-drawn, wrestle with simulation or even adapt the metaball particle based smoke from AMITS: Sombrero – but whatever strikes the right balance between ease, speed, quality and art direction is what will get the movie made. Also it’ll make my layout more meaningful if I can draw smoke and fire more convincingly. 🙂

See you next week!