Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

Cosmos is definitely one of my favorite shows right now. It's not only educational, but also entertaining and just plain cool. The effects that are used in this show are captivating and extremely impressive.


Neil deGrasse Tyson floats through space as he explains many of our universe's phenomena. In the first episode, there's a really cool representation of how old our universe is in which major events in the past few billion years are squeezed into one calendar year. Neil walks around on the big calendar in the middle of space and shows how insignificant humankind really is in comparison to how long our universe has existed (this can be seen briefly at 2:41 in the trailer).

I also love the opening intro with the word COSMOS spread across a black hole/eyeball. The amount of time and work that went into creating this show certainly paid off.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Art of the Green Screen


It had been another one of those days when I had nothing to do and I had visited every social media site that I bothered to subscribe to. Bored out of my mind, I decided that it might be somewhat interesting to browse the “recommended” section of youtube. And while I scrolled by videos of cute animals doing stupid things and shoddily put together videos meant to go viral, my eye caught something that looked different from the rest.


To be honest, I don’t remember what was the first video of theirs that started the addiction but I can say that they are one of the few youtubers that I still subscribe to. Their moniker is PistolShrimps and they’re a Norwegian duo whose most infamous works include them green screening themselves into popular movies. Mixed with their borderline offensive humor and somewhat dark spin on things, they've created videos that you really can't help but watch from beginning to end. They also have a cool range of special effect videos, but for the purpose of this blog I want to focus on their green screen work. This is because their feats at inserting themselves as if they were actually actors cast in the movie, is surprisingly well-done. In my book, they were (and still are) doing something right.


And for me, this was essentially all about the set-up of the lighting and (potential) color-grading of their shots. I think this is something that people who use a green screen often overlook and forget about when putting together a movie. But PistolShrimps seems to have gotten it down to an art. They’re able to center their light source almost identical to those actually set up in the film. And they keep in mind that not every shot is the same “color temperature.” Sometimes a shot will be blue and gritty, other times warm and sunny: but they take that all into consideration. Pair this with how expertly they’re able to subtly insert shadows and overlay their footage behind (on top, below, in front of) key objects in the shot, all works to really suspend a viewer’s disbelief that they are not in the film.

It’s a work of art itself, but it’s one that they’ve managed to get down to a dot. And with their witty editing techniques, they’re able to twist a story into something vastly different than it originally was. They not only insert themselves into a movie, they bring a whole new plot and point of view.


Pokemon: Now and Then

This week, I’m going to be talking about a television series that has been one of the trademarks of my childhood. I’m sure a lot of people, especially here at college know which show I am talking about here. I could remember when I was 7 years old, that I saw my first Pokemon episode. My eyes were completely glued to the television screen and I was so entranced with the music, Pokemon and adventures that our main protagonist, Ash Ketchum would take part in.

This show is still on the air after almost 20 years, but the format of it is completely different. I’m attaching below two different clips of the show. One was when it was newly aired to the public, and the other, a more recent clip. The differences are quite substantial; the animation, music, the kind of dialogue that was used, to name a few. One key difference that I was able to pick up on immediately was that the animation for certain battles. Back then, the animations were rather simple and now everything is so meticulous. Obviously, I would prefer the first season’s style of production over right now, but it’s a great example of how animation has evolved in a rather short period of time.


I must warn you; Nostalgia Shivers will occur. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1fuEA9_Qt0 (Video 1)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knqP9XSPoNw (Video 2)

The Paperman



Many of you probably saw this animation already. It premiered in front of "Wreck-it-Ralph" in theaters. It also won an oscar for best animated short. 

The Paperman does an amazing job of telling a story animating objects. That's actually all it uses to tell the story as this film has no dialogue. The way this film displays inanimate objects in an animate way is beyond impressive.

It makes sense that this short won an academy award because the attention to detail seems amazing. One thing that greatly stands out to me in this short is the lighting. As this animation is in black and white, lighting becomes more important to differentiate objects in the 2D field.

I felt that this was a prime example of how inanimate objects can be a huge deal in a film, and how animation alone can create a heartwarming story.



Flash Back Friday...Oprah Style!

Hi there,

As I learn more about animation, the process of animation and the incredible tools available to assist this process, my mind is continually blown. There is so much involved in creating a successful animation, title sequence or graphic. Luckily there are some amazing computer tools out there that simply the process.

These tools didn't always exist. As with most things technology wise I am always amazed with how quality things were produced in the past without the help of these advanced technological tools. Take a look at one of the earliest intros of The Oprah Winfrey show. These were well produced, full of life, music and graphics.

I can not fathom the amount of time and energy spent in producing these pieces. Bravo and special shout-outs to all the early editors, animators and graphic designers out there!

Until next time,

Alex Cammy



Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

One of the best opening sequence for a movie that I have seen is the opening for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. This movie was based on the graphic novel by Bryan Lee O'Malley and the film adaptation was produced and directed by Edgar Wright. Since the film was based off of a graphic novel, the movie has a comic-like style to it. This is shown especially well with the inclusion of motion graphics and animation throughout the film. The movie is a hybrid of a movie, a graphic novel, and a video game. Scott Pilgrim is a zany story so the unrealistic animations do not distract from the feel of the film. Here is the opening title sequence:


This title sequence sets the mood for the entire movie. Each time an actor/actress's name comes up, the animations gives clues to the character and foreshadow the events to come. It is fast-paced, colorful, and it showcases the music (which is one of the major parts of the movie). It's fun and it is also great animation.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

For this week’s post I chose to look at a music video by Oren Lavie.  The song is called “Her Morning Elegance” and the entire video is a stop motion piece.  The video features a woman in bed who then (through stop motion) goes through an animated, dream-sequence adventure while still in bed. 

I love this video because I can watch it without audio and still follow the story being told.  No props are used besides pillows, sheets, and even laundry – all things that can be found in a person’s bedroom (where the video takes place).  I love the simplicity of the video because it can be recreated on a budget.  The video shows how easy some of these animations can be – all you need is a camera and some common household items.

Freddiew/RocketJump

Im sure he's been posted on this blog a million times, but one of the most impressive and most popular displays of animation excellence on YouTube has to be Freddie Wong. His newer YouTube channel is called Rocket Jump, but all of his older stuff is still on the "freddiew" channel. If you're a fan of video games or action movies, his videos are sure to entertain you, and the effects he uses in his videos always look great. His videos get millions of views each, so he's no secret, but here's some of my favorites:





These are all really well done and show some creative and funny uses of After Effects. The Epic VFX Time video in particular was great to watch again after a couple classes, knowing now how I might approach creating those effects. The rain of guns looked exactly like the particle effect we were playing with Tuesday. I could be wrong, but I'd guess you could turn those particles into almost anything. That idea alone gets me excited to keep playing around with AE.


ASCII Art - A Quick How-to and Know-how

For those wondering, what ASCII art is, let me show you.

A lovely Barn Owl by me

See how it's made up of numbers and letters and such? Those are ASCII characters. With ASCII art, a general rule of thumb is that if you want to see the picture better, get further away from it. More complex pictures will be bigger, using more characters.

There are different ways to go about creating said art. You can sit for many hours and type out a masterpiece, or you can be lazy and make a program that does it for you!

Being a huge nerd can take you from this
To this!

So making the pictures is one thing, but what if we wanted to do more with them? What if we wanted them to move? Well, we can do that! It's just going to require some work. 

First, we need to know what we want to animate. For this, I'm going to use another thing from Steven Universe


So we have our short clip picked out. Next, we need to turn that clip into a series of stills to turn into ASCII masterpieces. Each one is going to be a frame of our finished product. I ended up breaking this clip into 18 frames. I then took each of the new ASCII pictures and compiled them into a gif.



The timing needs a little work, but there we have it! Animated ASCII! I would love to make some kind of plugin that converts frames to ASCII to be able to do this in an even lazier fashion, but that's a dream for the future.



Monday, September 8, 2014

Cartoons in the Real World

I’ve been trying to determine my feelings toward the trailer for the new Spongebob Squarepants movie. This movie will follow our favorite under the sea characters onto dry land, combining live-action with 3D animation. I think there’s something about bringing cartoon characters into a live-action setting that makes some part of my brain a little uncomfortable. I think this is especially true when a 2D cartoon becomes 3D—it takes a second to get used to, and even after that second it takes a minute. Despite this, whenever animation interacts with live action, I am impressed, and the Spongebob trailer is no exception.


Of course, Spongebob isn’t the first 2D character to become 3D in the real world and definitely not the first to bring cartoon characters to live action. We can’t forget about classics like the live action Scooby Doo franchise or Who Framed Roger Rabbit. What I find interesting is that Who Framed Roger Rabbit doesn’t feel as unnatural and brain-itching as Spongebob or Scooby Doo does, despite its decidedly darker themes. I feel like the juxtaposition of 2D in a 3D world doesn’t feel as wrong because of how obviously the 2D doesn’t fit. Because it makes no attempt to fit in, it doesn’t feel as unnatural as it is. In 3D animation, the characters are designed to masquerade as something that could be apart of the real world by attempting to match the structures of a real life 3D world. Even though the quality of the animation is, I think, really impressive in the Spongebob movie, the characters are still the characters they’ve always been--they’re still brightly colored, they’re still exaggerated. Their cartoon-y characteristics are still very present, but structured and designed to move about in a world that isn’t natural to them.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Standard Operating Procedure: How Pictures Tell A Story (Or Don't)


     You know that feeling after the lights have come back on and you’re in that awkward blinking back to reality phase after a movie, not really sure where you are? Your head feels heavy and, no matter how long you stare at the blackness that cut in afterwards, no one is going to come and tell you “just kidding, here’s the ending you want.” It doesn’t happen often and it’s not an altogether pleasant feeling. Because sitting in that seat, you feel like you just witnessed something you weren’t supposed to. Something that was supposed to stay behind closed doors. Something that sticks in your mind, like tar. Something that latches its claws and refuses to move, an ugly creature that keeps you up at night. Something that you won’t soon forget. 
      For me, this feeling came after watching Errol Morris’s Standard Operating Procedure. Even now, as I write this, I’m still trying to wrap my around what I had seen. To be honest, it didn’t surprise me as much as it confirmed things I knew existed. Humanity is certainly a strange animal. For the sake of this article, I will only provide a paraphrased summary of the events that unfolded. Because in this moment, I don’t wish to talk about the movie as much as I want to talk about how it was made. I will say this though: it is something that needs to be watched with an open mind. That’s what Errol Morris does. He provides perspective. So that’s all we can go with. Perspective.
     The film follows the events leading up to the “Abu Graib” scandal of 2003. In short, the United States had a series of prison out in Iraq that were used to torture its prisoners (for information). See, this concept isn’t new. And it certainly isn’t something that this country can acquit itself of. But this movie focuses itself on the details of this scandal. Because while these prisoners were interrogated, a series of photographs were taken: of those running the prison smiling and looking as if they enjoy themselves. Yet, Errol Morris provides a different take on the situation (that led to the arrest of a handful of military personnel). He provides perspective behind each image. He allows those to explain themselves. And you’re left wondering who you should believe.
      It’s an incredible well-done documentary: with an overall feel of grit that meshes well with its equally dark topic. From the lighting, to the camera work, it sets up this very intense atmosphere. You almost feel like you’re the one now interrogating these people but you’re not finding any answers that make you comfortable. 
      Specifically, in terms of making this, Errol Morris utilizes a fascinating mix of motion graphics and animation. In scenes where the actual pictures are discussed and brought up, he gives them life. He creates these spindling maps that link together, swirl into righteous identity, and float about demanding attention. They make words that otherwise would seem boring and unremarkable, come to life in a frightening way. It’s certainly no Ken Burns.
      He creates a digital atmosphere that transports us into the bodies of those who investigated these events. We feel as if these moving pictures, as they record time differences and link of clues, are doing this in real time. It's a strange sort of re-enactment that begs to be seen beyond the realistic ways we'd go about it. By using motion graphics to put up a photo or to visualize an abstract thought, Morris is able to create a scenario of discovery that follows the lead of the film.
     Almost like watching a hacker makes his way through thousands of digital files during an action movie, we see exactly what these interviewees mean as they start to connect the dots. And it plays well with the entirety of the film because the point is that pictures are just two-dimensional. That every story has more than one side. And if we're not careful they can tell a story vastly different than intended. One that's dark and cruel is a sickening way.
     I guess pictures do tell a story. And I guess they really don't.


Final Cut King

This YouTube channel is one of my favorites. I feel as though maybe some day I would be able to recreate some of the things he's done (although I wouldn't be using final cut). He's pretty young, and it seems like he keeps trying to find new ways to make his imagination come to life.



In this one, Final Cut King does a great job of making this small cat look just as pikachu would in real life. The audio may be a little off, but it shows that even a young person like him  can edit if they set their mind to it.

I think that everyone should check out the rest of his channel! Maybe I'll be the "after effects queen" by the end of this class?

Ooh Adventure Time



Today I'm going to talk to you about one of my very favorite television shows, "Adventure Time". For those of you who don't know, "Adventure Time" is a cartoon that airs on Cartoon Network and it was created by Pendelton Ward. It tells the tale of a boy and his magic dog living in a post apocalyptic world of Ooh along with mysterious and magical creatures. Although this show is geared for kids, it has a strong following for people outside of its target audience, including teenagers and adults (and me). The show's appeal is that it is simple, fun, and light-hearted, but below the surface there is a whole depth of meaning to the show. It is brightly colored giving the show a seemingly positive and worry-free world, but there is also very dark themes throughout the show. It also includes witty humor that definitely goes right over the heads of kids who watch the show.

What impresses me about "Adventure Time" is the execution of the episodes and the creativity behind each and every character and scene. Each quirk is unique to this show. One of the main characters, Jake, is a magical dog that can grow and stretch and transform into just about anything. There is also a floating cloud-like character, Lumpy Space Princess, who has more sass than anyone I have ever seen. The character detail is not overly complex, but the colors used in the show are truly breathtaking. The episodes are a labor of love and the process takes about 9 months to create just one episode (including storyboarding, writing, animating, coloring, voice-overs, etc.). It feels like so much more than a kids show to me and I definitely would recommend it to just about anyone.


A Social Game of Thrones

A friend of mine showed me this video a while ago, and I thought it was the coolest idea ever.




This video will make a lot more sense, and seem way cooler if you are a "Game of Thrones" fan as it is a parody of their amazing show intro(See Below). This video was made by the company Hootsuite which combines all of your social media apps into one single application. Hootsuite smartly uses pop culture to draw comparisons from a central item in the show known as The Throne.

I've always found that the Game of Thrones intro is one of the most impressive out there, and I always wonder how they managed to make it, but this is certainly not easier to do. This parody, while very similar to Game of Thrones was definitely no walk in the park to make. All of the keyframes and masks that had to be added to this is sheer insanity. What really draws my attention is the moving shadows and use of 3d space. These towers aren't rising but rather growing towards the camera. The use of the XYZ plain, and the moving camera angles really makes this an amazing animation!


Intro

Hello! My name is James Sussan. I'm a senior TVR major. Looking forward to working with you all this semester.

I've always been fascinated by animation. It's a ludicrous amount of work to produce, with a high level of skill involved, but the result could be something absolutely glorious every time. Not only that, but the possibilities and creative boundaries of an animated project are nearly limitless. As evidenced time and time again by film studios such as Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks, a fully realized animated film can leave an impression that lasts a lifetime, whether a feature-length project or a quirky short.

In our first couple classes, we've started learning the basics of animating in After Effects. Essentially, I now know how to create a shape, and make it do certain pre-programmed actions using code. The idea that a person can start with something as simple as a few shapes and a few codes, and end up with something as heart-warming as "Toy Story", or "Up", is something that truly excites me for this class. Not that I am expecting to create a full, professional, animated film anytime soon. However I'm sure my experiences in this class will be a lot of fun and will help me appreciate the art of Motion Graphics and Animation to the fullest.

An animated movie I saw recently that really surprised me was "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs". I never saw this movie when it came out, because I honestly assumed it would be stupid and unfunny. The children's book it was based on never seemed like the type of thing to be translated into a successful film. A friend showed it to me a couple months ago though, and now its up there with some of the best animated movies I've ever seen. It's creative, hilarious, and yes, at times heartwarming. It's nothing at all like the children's book it's based on, which is a great thing because this allowed the movie to create original characters that helped push the raining food concept into a cohesive story.

Luckily for me, there's a few behind the scenes videos for "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" on YouTube. One of my favorite scenes from the movie is the Jell-O Palace Flint creates for Sam. I think this is pretty much everyone's dream:


I always liked watching these types of videos, where the animation gets broken down step by step. I'm sure they'll mean a lot more to me however by the time the semester is over.



These videos already make the amount of work put into animation look really scary. Despite that, I can't say I'm not eager to try my hand at it. Hopefully I can make something one day anywhere close to as cool as these movies. 

Powerpuff Girls Reboot

Hi there!

Back in 1998 Cartoon Network debuted an interesting new show. The premise involved three, evil fighting, chemically created young girls. In every episode Blossom, Buttercup and Bubbles would defend their town and deal with their own issues of growing up. The show lasted until 2005 and even transitioned in to a highly acclaimed feature movie.

The Powerpuff Girls were loved by many audiences and took risks that many other "children's" programming wouldn't dare to. Fighting gender stereotypes were at the backbone of every episode as the girls would constantly prove their worth and prevail against stronger, more traditionally masculine characters. The villains of the program fought gender stereotypes as well.  One of the recurring villains, HIM was essentially a cross-dressing devil who expressed himself in female clothes. The Rowdyruff Boys acted as a parallel, masculine version of The Powerpuff Girls who constantly ridiculed and belittled the heros, but always ending up powerless in comparison.

The artwork and animation of the show used pastel colors and flashy, short animation. At times the animation seemed almost choppy, but it always seemed to fit within the action packed, comic-like world The Powerpuff Girls lived in. The girls themselves looked young, and fresh. They sported their signature large, baby eyes that could change in a seconds notice if it was time to seek justice. Cartoon Network recently announced a reboot scheduled for the show. They plan to bring The Powerpuff Girls back to television in 2016. Along with this announcement the network also shared a shot of the new animation style for the girls. It features harder lines that add a realm of darkness to the girls persona. I personally am not a fan of this new style and feel like this art style fits in more with the world of the Cartoon Network show Samurai Jack, rather than the bubbly land of The Powerpuff Girls.

Below are the original artwork and new artwork. What do you think? Should they have just kept the original art style or is it a much needed upgrade?

Until next time,

Alex Cammy





Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Septemberween spotlight: Five Nights at Freddy's

With Fall upon us, it is time to prepare for the best time of the year, Halloween. Lobotomizing pumpkins, crunching leaves, and all things spooky have their time in the sun. So, what should we look at to get in that Septemberween spirit? Scary video games of course!

                                               Meet Scott Cawthon's Five Night's at Freddy's

Taking place at a Chuck-E-Cheese Freddy Fazbear's Pizza, you play as the night watchman tasked with looking over the place from 12 to 6 am. But be warned! The animatronics don't take too kindly to you, and if they get you, well, you die.
Looks pretty good right? But what if I were to tell you that everything in the game was 2D?
Five Night's at Freddy's was made in an engine called Multimedia Fusion, which is a 2D game engine. The game itself is actually a 2D point and click, styled to look 3D. The graphical style is reminiscent of the point and click computer games of the 1990's


Darkseed II, 1995


I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream, 1995

Every possible action and outcome in Five Nights at Freddy's is pre-rendered. The fully animated parts (which tend to be the parts right before you die) are gifs, and not a character moving in real time. The textures and shading of the characters and environments make them look remarkably 3D.
If you see this in-game, you're good as dead.

Most of the character movement happens off screen, adding to the terror and subtlety of the game. Nothing moves so long as you watch it, but you can only watch one camera at once, and it eats up your limited power. 
Each of the animatronics has its own AI, resulting in each one having different tactics. For only 5 bucks on steam, even to just look through the game's files at the superb art, Five Night's at Freddy's is worth a look. If you don't feel up to the spooktacular challenge and would rather watch other people play it and freak out, there's plenty of that too


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Barbies come to life

If any of you grew up in the late 90's or early 2000's (which is all of you), you have definitely come across these demonic looking action figures that are known as, "Barbies." The show, The Most Popular Girl In School has Barbies for characters, and is produced in a similar fashion as other shows such as Wallaca and Gromit, in the respect, that animation is made through the similar kind of movement and the background is also done similarly. All of the characters are made of Barbies, and although they all look fairlysimilar, their personalities are extremely dynamic for an action figure. If you need a good laugh, and if you are frustrated with Netflix freezing, and if you liked Clueless and/or Mean Girls, this is something you should definitely watch. 

Episode 1: The Pilot Episode


Until next week, 
Sam