A moment in the sun Blender Modular synthesisers

November 2018 recap

That was November! California was on fire and Queensland is now also on fire. Also there was a giant cow called Knickers and Blender 2.80 finally went into beta.

In summary…

  • I’ve been recovering from having my gall bladder removed
  • I released some sleep-aiding whooshy noises on Bandcamp
  • AMITS: Hello! got a first pass of storyboards on index cards
  • The robot has not kicked the soccer ball yet.
  • I helped out with a compilation error in Blender
  • I’m learning Japanese!

Please read on for specifics…


I had my gall bladder out at the end of October and I’ve been in recovery mode since. Fronting up to work in tracksuit pants is fun.

The gall bladder recovery meant roughly a week of not being able to sit up without extreme discomfort – I was either lying in bed or standing up. I watched a lot of movies, including the restoration of Abel Gance’s epic 5 1/2 hour silent film “Napoleon”. Honestly I don’t remember a lot about those two weeks aside from that they were slow and full of nourishing home-made stew. I blame the anaesthetic.

My top tips for people about to have a laparoscopic cholecystectomy (keyhole gallbladder removal):

  • Stock up on oversized t-shirts and soft pants with drawstrings.
  • Work on your upper body strength and leg strength, especially squats. It will hurt like hell to bend over for a week or two.
  • Take a book to hospital which is capable of distracting you. I took “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and it was a perfect companion for walking off the CO2 bubbles.
  • Don’t plan on sitting up at a table or desk for a while after surgery. For me it was about a week and a half before sitting at a desk for longer than a few minutes was comfortable. Even four weeks later I’m taking extra doses of painkillers to manage the discomfort.
  • It hurts to laugh for a week or so. Aim for viewing material which is fascinating enough to pass the time without being laugh-out-loud funny.

Noises to sleep to

I live near a main road so having a neutral sound playing helps me sleep. I’ve been using a white noise app for years but lately my Bluetooth has been cutting out. Even worse, when it cuts out it cheerfully announces that it’s in pairing mode. Bah.

Fortunately the speakers can take audio over cables too, but my phone’s headphone jack doesn’t really grip anymore. Double bah!

Not to be defeated, I’ve patched up my modular synth to function as a white noise machine. There’s a video on the way going through the patch for the curious. I’ll update the blog post with a link once I’ve cut it together and uploaded it.

If you find yourself needing whooshy noises yourself, you can grab a 36-minute recording of these whooshy noises for a whole fifty cents over at Bandcamp. I’d offer it free but frankly I need to pay for this modular synth somehow.

A moment in the sun

In short: it’s on again!

Back on 8 November I finished up the first pass of rough storyboards for AMITS: Hello!

There are over seventy index cards – I used actual physical index cards because I could hold them in my hand as I was drawing them without needing to sit down. Sitting down hurt a lot at the time because I was full of holes.

Gronky lays down the law
Pointy has a moan with his new cuter look

Working smarter, not harder

Today I scanned in the index cards three at a time with a different chunk of the storyboard running at the top, middle and bottom. The Blender video sequence editor lets me crop video elements, so the idea was to run the sequence of scanned images three times with a different crop for each repetition.

Start at the top, middle in the middle, end at the bottom..

You can watch the entire sequence of scans below. The index cards are even thick enough to maintain their registration – at least, it’s close enough for rough storyboarding purposes.

If you can follow this after it loads, you’re an alien.

Batching the images up this way makes digitisation super quick – after half an hour of scanning and getting the right crop values, I have individual images of my index cards. Now I can import the images back into the video sequence editor and time them out to my audio scratch to see what I’ve got. Yay!

But has the robot kicked the ball yet?

Not really. I loaded the file up one night with no intention but to mess around and got a nice twisting faceplant happening in blocking. (Note: the first part of this isn’t timed out properly yet.)

This is how I feel about this exercise now.

Time away from animating has helped me realise something hugely important about where I’m going wrong: I’ve been taking reference pretty much as gospel instead of using it as a leaping-off point for my own ideas. It’s been screwing my creative process up a lot and it’s a thinking pattern I really must fix…

Other stuff

I helped troubleshoot a Blender compilation bug. It’s not much but I’m pleased to have found a temporary workaround nonetheless. 🙂

Between following sumo and getting back into Japanese animation, I find myself with a mighty strong urge to learn Japanese again. I’m trying out the site WaniKani to boost my vocabulary. So far WK is both challenging, aggravating and rewarding enough that I’m hooked.

That’s all for this month!

A moment in the sun Journals Stuff I made

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 moment in the sun Journals Stuff I made

When fun turns to humdrum, add a robot

Roughly by the middle of 27 November to 3 December 2016, the project had reached a crisis point. After a month of rewriting, tinkering and procrastination on “Sombrero” since Blender Conference 2016, progress had ground to a halt. I’d completely lost confidence that I could deliver “Sombrero” next year – injuries, stress from the office job and family-related stuff are already pain points in my life, and I didn’t want Pointy and Gronky standing in the same queue bringing me down.

After about twelve months of development, I’ve shelved “Sombrero”.

2016-12-03-baai-hatI rethought things with the new central notion that this project is meant to be a fun and fulfilling use of my spare time. and I want a movie to show for it next year. So on Wednesday I downscoped the project to tell a shorter, funner and funnier story.

There’s a lot of fun to work with already. Gronky and his playful antics are already fun. The consequences of Pointy’s characteristic lack of forethought should also be fun. But that bloody hat just wasn’t bringing the fun.

So now there’s a robot. It’s a very helpful robot – at least, it’s trying to be helpful…

The new story is much shorter. I’m retaining the characters as is and snatching up fun ideas from previous rewrites and generally avoiding the foul Gordian Knot of character motivation and story logic that comes with sustaining a longer film, so AMITS is back to being short and sweet and weird and funny, like it should be.

So it’s a fond but possibly overdue goodbye to “A moment in the Sun: Sombrero”, and a warm hello to “A moment in the Sun: Robot”. 🙂

A moment in the sun Journals Stuff I made

A week off to regroup

It’s been 6 to 12 November 2016. Welcome to the new home of my production blog.

My Blender Conference lightning talk and presentation are online

First, my expanded Blender Conference 2016 lighting talk presentation is now available. Sorry for being a week late! 🙂 If you want to watch the actual presentation, it starts at 10:38 in this video:


A little downtime..

Pointy meets Gronky
Pointy meets Gronky in thumbnail sheet number 3.

Last Saturday I was super optimistic. I’d taken the coming week away from the day job to beat the jet lag and work on the movie. After everything that happened in Amsterdam, I was all set to smash out a shiny new flat animatic by the end of the week. Naturally, I got as far as compiling thumbnail sheets before my enthusiasm got wrestled into submission by jet lag, post-conference blues, the symptoms of cold-turkey caffeine withdrawal and the feeling of despondent tedium that comes with rewriting a short for the millionth time.

Oh well.

With my confidence and creative drive temporarily out of commission, I opted for downtime instead and took a week off to relax, watch movies, ignore social media entirely for a day or two and generally clear my head.

..for a big result!

At around 3:00am on Thursday morning, I watched the work-in-progress reel again to try to understand what other people had been telling me. Most of what everyone else had noted and critiqued was suddenly lit up in blazing neon. Some of the fixes were already in the Amsterdam rewrite. But problems remained.

As a professional curmudgeon, Pointy knows everything in advance.

I recalled that Jason Schleifer from Nimble Collective suggested doing a motivation pass – re-examine the story, specifically digging into what the characters want and how they try to get it because of what they’re like. He wasn’t wrong – Pointy shifts character violently in the first thirty seconds of the film… and what’s the deal with Gronky anyway?

Jason’s advice took me back to thinking about what kind of movie I wanted to make, what kind of tone I want to hit and who Gronky and Pointy need to be to achieve that. I won’t say the answers came to me in a flash, because I’ve worked for months to get that moment of clarity, but if I make Gronky a harmless clown who comes under attack from Pointy’s insecure seriousness, it’ll hang together as a story with the breezy and fun feel that I’m aiming for.

Thanks for reading and see you next week!


Greetings from sunny 29 November to 5 December 2015. We hope you enjoy your stay. Have some pictures!

Last Sunday, Gronky’s glitchy curve-based mouth finally got replaced with a mesh-based mouth. The rig is much more intuitive and predictable than before and just as expressive. And I reckon it looks much better – more like a big plasticine pad. 🙂

The mouth was the last job to do before I could start layout. I screeched into a microphone for a bit after the mouth was done to get some scratch, then struck out and began doing layouts of rough shots to pin down framing and staging. I also made sure I did thumbnails of shots the night before so when I sat down to work, I wasn’t going in cold.

Over the course of the week I kept adding more shots (one shot a day was my absolute minimum target) and before I knew it, I had nine shots and thirty seconds of edited footage. I hit the weekend slightly ahead of schedule, right at the point where the action-comedy stuff kicks in. I’m a little bit afraid of how that stuff will turn out because I haven’t done much of it before, but the only thing for it is to give it a shot and stay upbeat in the face of repeated failure. 🙂

This is such a small project that I’m not even using a spreadsheet to track shots or dialogue in layout this time around. It’s nice to just draw and make the thing I drew then see whether it works in the edit, rather than losing my will to live amongst spreadsheets and correctly-named files and so on. I’ve worked at streamlining my writing and pre-visualisation process over the last 18 months and it’s feeling nicely lean now.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading and please hit me up with any questions or remarks in the comments or on Twitter. 🙂