Thursday, November 27, 2014

HAPPY TURKEY DAY

Hopefully wherever you find yourself on this day of thanks and giving you are with people you love or at the very least tolerate and are enjoying some time away from school. Yet, its hard to forget that its already thursday and there is in fact school next week so while my body and soul just want to sink into the couch and watch TV, my brain has kept some semblance of order and subconsciously led me to a very cool video showing the creative power that comes with an understanding of AfterEffects.

There really is nothing like watching a guy who used to work for the KGB and invaded Ukraine this year dancing like he just don't care. Which to be honest he probably doesn't because, like I mentioned, he decided to invade Ukraine and annex Crimea like this was 1914 not 2014. But I digress, what I found most interesting about this technique is that just by turning the parts of Putin's body into independent objects, this amount of life-like animation was possible. After almost a semester of this class i'm pretty confident we are capable of this which I this is very cool. 

Once again, hope everyone's enjoying their Turkey Day!
Peace

Friday, November 21, 2014

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I recently noticed on Netflix that the ABC show Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was available on Instant Watch so I figured I'd give it a go and jumped in. Aside from some funny Joss Whedon dialogue and cool comic book story lines, what really impressed me with this show were the visual effects. Having been a lover of Science Fiction movies and TV shows my whole life, I've gotten used to campy special effects and have learned to ignore how low-budget it looks (here's looking at you every movie SyFy channel has ever produced). In the case of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. the visual aesthetics really do justice to the super-powers and weird alien technologies they are demonstrating. After looking more in depth about the show when I decided to write this blog post about it, I was pleased to learn that the show was nominated for an Oustanding Visual Effects Emmy. Similarly, I was pretty pumped to find a Youtube show that dedicates an episodes focus to different behind the scenes aspects of the show and luckily they rightfully reserved an episode for the Visual Effects department and here that video is.

PEACE OUT
           &
HAVE A HAPPY
THANKSGIVING

The Castle that Moves

   
    In most recent news, Japanese film-maker and animation master, Hayao Miyazaki just received an honorary Oscar for his work. This comes close to the anniversary of one of his most well-known features, Howl's Moving Castle (a Studio Ghibli film). It's a fantastical story about a girl named Sophie who meets a wizard named Howl, and the adventures they have in dealing with a land ridden with an impending war and a corrupt hierarchy of power that plots to go against them.
    Miyazaki always has a very distinct look to his films, from the incredibly detailed backgrounds to the fluid lines of his animation. In fact, Miyazaki was probably one of the last big name animators that has stuck to animating his features (for the majority) by hand. It's safe to say that there is quite a difference between 2D and 3D animation, but what Miyazaki does when incorporating both together is something that is not often seen when attempted.
    Looking at little pieces of this film, on of the most notorious is Howl's moving castle. From the very first moment we see and hear it clunk across the screen, shrouded in an eery mist, it's becomes iconic to visual look of this movie.
    You can see that is combines a unique mixture of animation that looks to make a two dimensional object 3D while maintaining it's traditional looking roots. It's truly a masterpiece of its kind and something that once again, only goes to see the hard work that was put into setting up the atmosphere of this film.

   It's worth it to take a look at the process that went into the creation of this movie. Because while it may not be you cup of tea, you can't argue that there isn't a certain type of skill and finesse that went into making it. Whether you decide to see if for yourself, in either the Japanese sub or English dub, it's worth checking out. 

Visuals, Cognition, and Schrodinger's Cat


I was thinking about Schrodinger’s Cat and how I don’t really understand Schrodinger’s Cat. It’s something that I am aware of and vaguely conscious of, but I do not understand. This is not necessarily unsurprising or uncommon, being not a quantum physicist and all. I decided to do a little bit of research and stumbled upon a TED Ed video that explains Schrodinger’s Cat through animation. It is a very short video and probably does not even scratch the surface of what’s going on with this cat thing, but it did help me understand more than I did previously. It did more for me in a 4-minute animation than an hour of reading did. Not to say there’s no value in reading about quantum mechanics, but the power of a visual is pretty substantial in understanding things that are completely out of your wheelhouse. The narrated video says a lot of the same words that I was reading and not grasping. The combination of words plus visuals was what made things make some sense. Visuals are able to convey things that words are just not capable of on their own. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and I guess that’s true when it comes to quantum cats.


Iphone 6 Cinematography



I thought this video was fascinating because it was all shot with the new iphone 6 Plus. Of course the guy used different video filters and applications, but that fact that we have phone cameras that can produce such amazing quality is so so cool.

I don't think it will be long before we start to see actual films being made with camera phones and other recording devices. When I was younger I had a really bad, old video camera that I barely knew how to use, and now I think the landscape has changed drastically to the point where kids can start using mobile devices and ipads to create videos.

I wish I had the knowledge and accessibility to things like this when I was a kid because it could've greatly propelled my creativity. I think the slo-mo and time lapse features are so cool on the new phones, and with each new generation the features are just going to get cooler.

Too Many Cooks

Too Many Cooks is one of the funniest things I've seen all year, and should probably be nominated for an Oscar.  I don't want to give too much exposition, because I believe this 11 minute short serves best going in blind, but I promise you won't be disappointed if you haven't seen it yet. It's already gone viral, so there's good chance you have, but it only came out about a month ago so it's still pretty fresh. I give you, Too Many Cooks.


Adult Swim aired this video at 4 in the morning on October 28th with absolutely no warning whatsoever. Imagine waking up randomly at 4 in the morning to Too Many Cooks. I'd be absolutely scared out of my mind. I appreciate they did that though, because I feel like that adds to the atmosphere of the insanity that occurs especially in the last couple minutes.

Regardless, I think this video is absolutely genius, and much of that has to do with the hilarious animation, again mostly happening at the back end of the video. The explosions, sci-fi graphics, transformations, and role switching of the characters and their title cards are all hysterical uses of animation in a video that otherwise doesn't use a lot of CGI. Whats most important to note for me is that none of the animation looks particularly realistic or even professional, but at the end of the day that quality definitely adds to the humor of the video. This shows that animation can be useful to a project even when on a low budget. I think the low-budget look was on purpose here, but the point stands all the same.

Also, after you've watched this video, go back to the beginning and try to catch all the times the killer with the machete appears in the background. I didn't notice him at ALL the first time around, but he's definitely there and often in plain sight. This creeped the hell out of me the second time around, but it was also, again, hysterical.

Exploring the Works of David ORielly

David ORielly is an Irish animator and artist, who's works is the best kind of weird.
Some of his more well known works are the episode "A glitch is a glitch" of the Cartoon Network show Adventure Time, which he wrote and directed.

 His shot film "The External World", which blends treads of seemingly un-related oddities together beautifully.
He did some short animations for Adult Swim, and even sat in as a writer on this season of "South Park".
Part of what makes me gravitate towards ORielly's stuff, is how raw it is. Weird crap happens, and un-apologetically so. Watch "The External World" and you'll see what I mean.
I'm also a fan of his low-poly style. It gives everything a neat look and pairs well with the glitchy looking effects he likes to use.

Seriously, give this guy's stuff a look. If you can handle the weird, you'll be delighted. And if you can't, then you're gonna get your mind blown.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Neopets

Another blast from the past this week. I decided to take the initiative and explore the present day Neopets. I used to be pretty much obsessed with the website, and every day would try to uncover new secrets of the world. From paintbrushes to faeries to the snowager, I knew Neopia like the back of my hand. When I visited the map of Neopia today, I was pleasantly surprised that the picture of the world itself had barely been changed. However, when clicking on specific locations, I found that things are much more complex and crowded. Here is a comparison of Neopia Central in 2001 versus now:


There is also much more animation on what used to be static pages. The artwork and concepts are still there, but I feel like I've grown up too fast.

The Star Wars Crawl....

Hi there!

Flashback to 1977, before After Effects, before Maya, before working on a computer! It was certainly a different life back then. Movie sequences lacked the glitz and prowess that years of advanced technology and technique could give.

Still though, some movie sequences were able to stand the test of time, and a few were even able to become a part of history and popular culture. One of these is the Star Wars Crawl. Take a look at it below.



Even if you have never seen a Star Wars film, you are familiar with the crawl. It is apart of popular culture and has been emulated beyond belief.


This really shows us that sometimes simplicity is key. It makes me question, who needs crazy graphics and animations, when you can solidify a sport in animation history with such a simple design.?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Over the Garden Wall: A Dark Sort of Animation

   
    You know those series that you kind of snap out of watching in a fumbling, blurry mess, not knowing where you are or what time it is? It's kind of like getting drunk, but then having the hangover happen almost immediately. You love it but you hate it, you question your life over it but you'll do it again. And for me, this (the binge-watching daze not the drunk one) happened late one night when I was looking around for something to distract me from doing actual work.
     And luckily I happened to stumble across this little series, Over the Garden Wall, by Cartoon Network. The little eight year old within me perked up at seeing something that resembled the cartoons I had grown up loving fondly. And so I thought, why not, and plunged into the abyss. And so I found myself awake at 4am, desperately wanting to tell someone to experience roller coaster of emotions I had just been thrown on.
     This was everything that I love about cartoons because it's not something that can be explained completely in one sentence. Like I said, it also felt like a throwback to my childhood: a strangely dark and oddly twisted sort of storytelling.
      Written by Patrick McHale, it started off as an award-winning short called Tome of the Unknown that was picked up and produced as a full-length, ten-episode mini-series. Gathering some well known talent such as Elijah Wood and Christopher Lloyd, they've put life into these characters that is realistic in style and performance. Every single actor put life into their characters and they certainly wouldn't have been nearly as interesting had they not had the right voices.
    Over the Garden Wall follows two brothers (Greg and Wirt) who finds themselves lost in the woods, trying to find a way home. Their journey takes them across many lands and into many people, all of whom they effect in different ways. But while their journey seems whimsical on the surface, there's a darker tale that follows them like an ominous shadow. It's as if Alice in Wonderland and Courage the Cowardly Dog had a lovechild that was into musicals. It's a crazy sort of storytelling that you can't keep your eyes off of.
    And the aesthetic is something that made this a truly outstanding thing to see. It's a dark sort of animation in both context and illustration, one that only helps to express the tone of the series better than anything. It's as if we too are lost in these imposing woods, surrounded by an ominous feeling of being watched.
    Seeing the credits roll after the final episode, I was left feeling unsatisfied. Not in a bad way, but in a way that makes you question the universe. Because it was a story about two brothers more than it was a story about two brothers being lost in the woods. There's a sense of astute realness to their conversations and their actions (without the rigid confines of a writer trying to be too serious and prolific). And while it may have been non-sensical at times, there was still something about it that made sense in a linear fashion. Looking back, you can almost piece together what would happen next, given the many hints and clues that allude to what exactly is in "The Unknown."
     It's definitely a series to check out: if not for the aesthetic, for the story (and vice versa). It'll suck you in and it won't let you go until you've long since passed the urge to turn away. It'll leave you with more questions than answers, but you'll be okay with it. Because in the end it's just about two brothers. Two brothers who went over the garden wall.

The [Computer] Science of the Transition

Everyone appreciates a good transition. Even the simplest of transitions, be it a fade or a slide, can add a lot a composition. As simple as a fade is, it takes a fair amount of background action to get it to do what is intended.




Any transition from image to image requires a few basic things. Each pixel of Image 1 has to be iterated through and replaced by each pixel of Image 2. This is accomplished using a bunch of nested for loops. The cool stuff, like fades, twirls, and slides, happen within these for loops. While the transition is happening, the place of the pixel is being messed with and math’d with. 
           
      
            for(int sx = 0; sx < width; sx++){
                       for(int sy = 0; sy < height; sy++){
                             double dx = sx - x0;
                             double dy = sy - y0;
                             double r = Math.sqrt(dx*dx + dy*dy);
                             double angle = Math.PI / 256 * r;
                             int tx = (int) (+dx * Math.cos(angle) - dy * Math.sin(angle) + x0);
                             int ty = (int) (+dx * Math.sin(angle) + dy * Math.cos(angle) + y0);
...

Transitions like these don't take a lot of code to make, but can make a big impact. An image transition in Java can be written in just a few lines. As long as the pixels end up in the proper position at the end, you’ve got yourself a transition.

Pre-rendered Backgrounds (And why they're your computer's friends!)

Video games are fun. They also contain a lot of polygons. We like polygons, they look nice! But computers (this includes game systems) don't like polygons. They take time and energy to render, and in a game, things are rendering all the time!
 Why does a game from 2002 look so much better than one from 1996? Well, a big part of that is what the computers at the time were able to do. Games today have crazy high polycounts (that's how many polygons) compared to games from even just 5 years ago.

So, where do the polygons begin? Is it with the Vectrex? That thing did have some rockin' vector graphics.
The Vectrex's rockin' vector graphics in action

Others contest that is was 1992's survival horror game, "Alone in The Dark" for DOS and later the 3DO.
Alone in the dark was ambitious. It had fully animated 3D models for characters, enemies, items, all sorts of things.
So, part of what made Alone in The Dark possible, was the use of pre-rendered backgrounds. This means that the background does not move with the game, but rather is a still image or series of images. This allowed for vibrant, 3D looking backgrounds.

Pre-rendered backgrounds were most common in DOS/PC, Playstation and various Saturn games of the 90s and early 2000s.

Pre-rendered backgrounds are still used today, often in indie games. Scott Cawthon (Who I've mentioned before) uses them in all of his games.

Today, the use of a pre-rendered background may be a stylistic choice as opposed to a limitations one. It's a clever way to get more polygon bang for your buck that today is seen as iconic of those games of old. To close, here's some awesome examples of pre-rendered backgrounds old and new.

Super Mario RPG 1996

Five Nights at Freddy's 2 2014

Darkseed 2 1995





Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit Video Game

Wallace and Gromit has come such a long way over the years. I remember watching A Grand Day Out as a very young child, in which the duo travels to the moon to sample cheese. Wallace's silliness mixed with Gromit's silence sarcasm makes for the perfect comedic pair. The short films and TV series that included the two characters were created primarily with stop motion. However, things have changed since the 90's when they first came to life.


The Curse of the Were Rabbit came out in 2005, and is the only full length feature of Wallace and Gromit. Shortly after, a video game for both Playstation 2 and Xbox was released, following the plot of the film. My little sister and I were very excited to control the characters rather than just watch them go on adventures. It was also interesting to see them transformed from clay-like figures to 3D animated figures. Above is a clip of the gameplay, complete with Wallace and Gromit themselves, trying to save the neighborhood from an infestation of rabbits.

The Nightmare Before Christmas


This weekend I finally watched "The Nightmare Before Christmas". I know, I'm late to the game, but now I can see what all the hype is about. What a intricate and fantastic display of animation. As most of you know, this movie was released in 1993 and it was directed by Henry Selick and produced/co-written by Tim Burton. It tells the tale of Jack Skellington, a resident of Halloweentown, a town that is perpetually Halloween, who wants to experience more of the world. After wandering around, he finds himself in Christmastown, which, as you would expect, is a town that is always Christmas. Excited by the change in scenery, he works to get the Christmas spirit into Halloweentown. This film was entirely stop-motion animation. A crew of over 120 workers worked with 227 puppets representing the characters seen in the movie. They worked on 20 sound stages (sometimes used simultaneously during filming). The movie amounted to 109,440 frames, which is truly incredible for a stop-motion film. Each main character had multiple heads in order to express a broad range of emotion. Jack Skellington had about 400 heads! I am so glad that I watched this movie and if you haven't seen it yet, I would highly recommend it!





Recipe For Gruel


Here's the whole video: https://vimeo.com/80218060

Saw this video on Vimeo as the short of the week. I thought the cinematography in this film was especially clean, and worked well with the simplicity of the message.

The other thing I noticed was how simplistic the setting really was. Things in the background were half drawn and not fully created. This could be considered lazy, but I think it works so well with the simplistic message and creates this dystopian society where our eyes aren't drawn to useless object. I felt it was very successfully animated and told a story very successfully. It also felt very much like a Tim Burton film because of the coloring and figure drawing.

Great Short film!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Guinness And Rugby


Guinness has recently come out with 4 powerful ads promoting the sport of rugby.  The one that I chose is about a small Irish rugby team competing against the New Zealand All Blacks - the best team in the world to this day.  The small Irish men battled with the Kiwis and eventually ended up defeating them in a true David and Goliath story (which is the title of the ad).  The reason I chose this ad was because of the 3D effects that they use to make still photos appear to come alive and animate the players pictured.  Throughout the video you can see images of players running, passing, and tackling in what appears to be high-resolution, slow-mo video.  This was achieved through rotoscoping and photoshopping still images to create movable characters that could be animated in after effects.  I love the emotion behind the ad and the powerful feeling the animated images create in the viewer.

I am going to post this Guinnes ad about Shane Williams too because I like it and I think it's well done. It doesn't have much to do with animation, but I think it's a beautifully done piece.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Bee and Puppycat: Change Is Okay

 

It started out like any other road trip of ours: with half a tank of gas and a GPS that was secretly trying to kill us. But that had never stopped us before and so we plunged across the border into the land of maple leaves and a mile-kilometer rate we couldn’t read on our speedometer. In all actuality, I was surprised that we even managed to make it to our destination but given our track record maybe I’m not. We’ve always had a way of getting lost for an hour only to take another wrong turn and end up where we need to be (plus or minus a few bouts of frantic “Turn left, turnleftturnleft, why didn’t you turn left!?” - “You didn’t tell me!”).

But on that particular June morning, we we on our way to Toronto for the “Toronto Animation Arts Festival International.” For anyone who’s even remotely interested in the industry, I could not recommend this convention more than anything. Because it helped introduce us to a lot of indie and professional filmmakers, but to a community that is very passionate about animation in general.

And the reason for this trip had been to sit in on a talk with special guest Natasha Allegri, creator of Cartoon Hangover’s short Bee and Puppycat. It’s a wonderfully whimsical story of triumph both in fictional and nonfictional settings. There’s a girl, an intergalactic puppycat, and a strangely relatable need to get through life doing odd jobs here and there. And taking a look between its original pilot episode and it’s newer version only attests to how much we can change as content-creators.

Both visually and content-wise, this show has a unique flow to it that we don't often see in many mainstream media. And to be curated on an internet-based channel such as Cartoon Hangover's, only attest to a brand of content creation that favors the individual. It's easy to put yourself out there, as both an animator and basic filmmaker yourself.

But a funny thing about this festival is not only did we get to see how down-to earth someone as well-known as Natasha could be but we also heard advice from a lot of indie animators who were just trying to get themselves out there. The best piece of advice, and one that has stuck with me even since we left, came from a man named Mike Geiger. Now Mike understood he wasn’t a household name and he freely admitted that his style of animation wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But that didn’t stop him.

He still kept creating. And that’s important to keep in mind in both this field of motion graphics but also in a general field of creative-study. Not everyone is going to love what we do. Not everyone is going to accept change. But there is a comforting things to be said out there. That no matter what, there is one person who will absolutely love your work. No matter what. That’s the funny thing about internet-based media.

Looking at a channel such as Cartoon Hangover’s, it’s can only be said that your work is good to someone. Maybe not immediately, maybe not to a whole lot of someones, but it is to someone. And for Mike Geiger, is advice was to just create. Because it’s a wonderful moment to look back and see where you came from.

To see the originalities of something such as Bee and Puppycat, and to see just how far it has come. Definitely go check it out, it's worth at least the experience.