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

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!

A moment in the sun Journals Photography Stuff I made

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!

A moment in the sun Journals Stuff I made

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!

A moment in the sun Journals Stuff I made

Funny signs and Making Time – the quollism version

18 to 24 December 2016 has zipped by. Things are very definitely getting summery here. We had a stupidly hot 42.4C day on Wednesday, there’s bushfires all over the place, and I’ve finished up at the day-job for the year as of yesterday afternoon. It’s been another fairly light week for AMITS activity.

I made that “do not bury” sign I was talking about last week and slapped it all over the bus stop. I’m liking it. As long as I can convey that the signs are specifically for Gronky, it has the making of a good ambient gag and it has merch potential too.

The new bus stop, complete with instructions for Gronky not to bury it.

Aside from tweaking the action in the bus stop scene, figuring out how to fix broken file references and a false start on building a pitchamatic, that’s about all I got up to this week. Lately I’ve been summer-tired and super distractable – learning the open-source stenography system Plover has been nifty but time-consuming, and the day job had an end of year ramp-up before booting me out of the office over Christmas for the first time ever. I’m hoping with the coming week away from the day job I can get some more planning work done and recover some momentum.

Jason van Gumster’s excellent Open Source Creative Podcast spent its latest episode talking about making time for personal projects and it’s well worth a listen. Much of what Jason talks about I’ve done myself over the last couple of years.

Making time to make a movie

The time to make A Moment In The Sun is very much consciously set aside. I don’t watch a lot of TV and when I do it’s half-hour episodes of light and fluffy stuff instead of something heavy and long like Westworld. I go months between gaming, then I binge on something hard for a week or two. (The most recent one was Grand Theft Auto V back in September.) Gaming or watching TV and the odd movie pass the time just fine, but actually making stuff is a more fulfilling use of my time and energy.

As a night owl I tend to work late into the night instead of waking up early. I also need more than five hours of sleep a night (unlike Jason) so if I work a few late nights, I make a point of catching up on sleep over the weekend. This is easier to get away with in summer because the days are so hot that I can do laundry later in the afternoon and it’ll be dry by dusk.

My working hours depend on the stage of production I’m at. If I’m writing and playing with ideas, the work is more nebulous so I’m less strict with myself. As soon as the tasks get more concrete and tangible, there’s spreadsheets and lists of things to do and that makes the path ahead much clearer.

On weeknights I try to start work on AMITS by nine o’clock and finish up by midnight. (If I’m really inspired and enthused, I may even get straight to work once I get home.) On Sundays, I like to have started by midday and I’ll keep going until late evening with a long meal break somewhere in the middle. I’m fairly militant with my family and friends about Sundays being my movie day, which means any shopping and laundry and other life maintenance gets squeezed into Friday night or Saturday.

Every day I log time spent and activities performed so that I have a record of what I did and when and how much of it I did. Among other things, it makes writing these little weekly updates much easier because there’s less to remember. 🙂

Enthusiasm is also a massive factor in getting work done, but that will get a blog post of its own. Bye for now!