Friday, December 5, 2014

Greenscreens: Swipe Left or Right

It’s fascinating just how effective greenscreens can be when used in filmmaking. It seems that nowadays almost every movie uses a greenscreen at some point. And the unique thing about watching these movies is that we aren’t necessarily taken out of the moment, nor are we completely convinced that what we see is real. It’s a strange mix of wonder and confusion, with a hint of skepticism.
And luckily I was able to stumble upon a wonderful article by Buzzfeed, called “27 Before and Afters That Show the Power of Special Effects.” Put together by Tanner Ringerud, it’s basically a list of 27 films that have heavily used greenscreen in their production process: from The Avengers to King Arthur. But the thing that I recommend most about reading this article, is playing around with the sliding option they have on the before and after pictures. Sliding left or right will reveal exactly what was greenscreened in and what type of effects were put over the final product.
You can see where lighting is set up, and with a bit of staring you can kind of piece together why exactly they chose to go with the choices they made. Likewise, you can see what kind of characters were put into the movie in post. Such as Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s a saying that goes around that claims you can learn a lot just by watching how something is done. Be it from behind-the-scenes to production stills, there’s always something we can learn even if it’s just from swiping back and forth on a picture.
I definitely recommend this article to anyone who’s interested in seeing how important a skill with greenscreens is, from lighting, to blocking, and far beyond. Greenscreens can create galaxies, giant creatures, blood-thirsty zombies, and much more. They are the unrecognized characters in the film-production process. Ones that shouldn’t be overlooked. Because they build worlds. And that’s what filmmaking is all about.

WURST - Stop Motion

Found this amazingly creative video on Vimeo called "Wurst." It's a clever title because it's a german film and wurst serves two meanings.

It actually took me a while to realize this video was stop motion, and the cinematography was so animated, I figured it had to be green screened. It's quite a cool story as well.

The website has a "how it was made" page which is such a cool behind the scenes aspect.

Openly Gay Characters in Children's Cartoons

This week Cartoon Network featured a same sex couple in an episode of "Clarence".

The show follows Clarence and the various other people in his life. It's a slice of life comedy that boasts a well-rounded cast of characters.

"Clarence" featured openly gay characters in an earlier episode, but they were background characters.
Apparently it was originally going to be a mouth kiss, but the network said no

Where "Clarence" really shines, is in its diverse characters. Clarence himself is from a non-nuclear family, consisting of his mom and live-in her boyfriend, Chad.
 This week's episode "Jeff Wins" centers around one of the main characters, Jeff, and the annual cooking contest he has trouble with each year. In it, we get to meet Jeff's moms!
It's so important that we get openly gay characters in children's media. Jeff having two moms was by no means the focal point of the episode. It's little things like that that make the biggest differences. There are all sorts of families, and there's nothing wrong with that. At all.
If you're interested in seeing the episode for yourself, you can check it out here

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

For the final blog I chose to look at Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 because I just watched it on Netflix and found myself marveling at the animation.  I think what impressed me most was the different textures that the animators created - from the wild tufts of hair on the main characters head down to the patterns in the antagonist's lab vest. 

I also enjoy how the animators use subtle things to convey the characters changes in emotion - the pupils getting bigger to show excitement, or the eyebrows furrowing to show disappointment and sadness.  Overall, I thought this was an impressive, and hilarious, movie that everyone should take some time to watch!

Over the Garden Wall

Over Thanksgiving break I got a chance to binge-watch a couple of shows. One of those shows happened to be an animated short series on Cartoon Network called Over the Garden Wall. It tells the tale of two brothers, Wirt (voiced by Elijah Wood) and Greg who become lost in "The Unknown", a dark forest that is filled with all sorts of mysteries. They must find their way home, but they are completely lost. Through their journey back home, they befriend a frog that sings show tunes and a blue bird with an attitude. The four of them make an unlikely and often argumentative group, but they have to stick together to make it out of the forest.

The show has a overall dark tone to it, which is atypical for a kids show, but it still is filled with laughs, smart dialogue, and intrigue. This short was the first miniseries that Cartoon Network has developed and as far as I would say, it was a great success. Patrick McHale, the creator of the show, put together a show that appeals to a wide variety of people. Once I started watching it, I couldn't stop. In fact I loved it so much that I made my friends watch it as well. The show is has only 10 minute episodes so it is definitely binge-worthy. Over the Garden Wall is definitely a show that I would recommend 

Airbnb in One Shot

Behind the scenes videos are always really interesting to watch when you see something as cool as this Airbnb commercial. The whole commercial is done in one shot, which is pretty amazing considering how intricate and precise the movements are. The behind the scenes video shows the process of creating these models that move and change smoothly and seamlessly. The models are highly detailed and coordinated. A rough digital version of the animation was created to get the movements right and then the physical models were created and aligned to perfectly match it. It’s also cool to see people physically rotating and moving set pieces. The model itself is a miniaturized world that is very pleasing to travel through.


One of the classic (if not THE classic) animated films is getting the live treatment in 2015.  Cinderella, the tale of the mistreated step-child, turned princess will be getting a Disney reboot. Take a look at the trailer below. 

The film looks to be a classic, but modern take on the fairytale. Using animation and motion graphics sparsely to allow the story and setting to seem real. This is pretty different than the last largely received adaption of Cinderella. 

This version starring Brandy and Whitney Houston is one of my personal favorite fairytale movies. Compared to the new release though the film is over animated and a campier version of the tale.  I am glad that Disney went in a different direction this this film. 

I'm also very interested to see how it compares to the original!

Until next time,


Thursday, December 4, 2014


There is nothing more nostalgic than Fantasia. My mom recalls working at her local movie theater as a teenager in the 70's when it returned to theaters. She says that snack sales were through the roof during that time, due to the psychedelic nature of the film. This was a genius marketing strategy.

The first scene from Fantasia that I'd like to address is one of my favorite sequences of all time. It is so beautifully done. The music goes perfectly with the animation. The second is more silly if anything; how they came up with the idea of hippos, ostriches, elephants, and alligators dancing is beyond me. The third is perhaps the most famous of all of the scenes from Fantasia. The easily recognizable Mickey Mouse steals the show.

I see Fantasia as one of the best animated films of all time.

Planet of the Apes

I've recently watched the movie, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and wow. The graphics in this movie are amazing. Not only do those monkeys look pretty realistic but looking it at a CGI point of view, I am  baffled on how they can get the motions so well done.

Definitely a movie worth checking out!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Jurassic Park: The Making Of

With the recently released trailer for the newest addition to the Jurassic park saga, Jurassic World, I was inspired to revisit the origins of this series with the original movie and how it was made. Produced by Amblin Entertainment, Kathleen Kennedy, and Gerald Molen, Jurassic Park is what I consider to be one of Steven Spielberg’s best directed films. It’s weird to think that a film that I was absolutely obsessed with (and mildly terrified of) came out over twenty years ago. And taking the time to re-experience it, I have to say that it is a film that has certainly withstood the test of time. Especially considering the quality of their special effects, their rigs, and their innovative approach to putting dinosaurs onto the big screen.

At this point, if you’ve ever been interested in how they brought these ancient creatures to life, you might have heard everything from animatronics to green screens. And the fascinating thing about Jurassic Park is it utilized a combination of everything from giant malfunctioning T-Rex robots, to animated raptors, to green-screened sections of the actors staring up at nothing (while pretending they're experiencing what is the possibly one of the most extraordinary things a human can hope to witness).

Taking the time to at least browse through how they handled different situations (which I personally suggest watching the T-Rex animatronic), is a great way to inspire new and creative ways to approach projects of our own. If anything, it's definitely something that's worth watching just for the pure joy of knowing how they made such an iconic film.

Robot Chicken

I'm not a huge fan of Robot Chicken's humor. At times it can be really funny, but it can also be pretty corny, distasteful, or just plain bad. But one thing I've always loved and appreciated about Robot Chicken is the stop motion animation, which is really well done and really creative using the show's vast array of action figures, dolls, and toys. I'm sure most of us have seen Robot Chicken, but here's a couple of funny examples from the show:

I saw it fitting I did something from adult swim seeing as I posted about Too Many Cooks last week. Thinking about it a little more, I realized that adult swim really supports a lot of creative types of animation. Robot Chicken, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and Harvey Birdman for example all used some unorthodox animation styles, all to the show's benefit and humor. 

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Hey there!

In honor of turkey day I wanted to showcase a classic! Every year since 1973 A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has been airing on CBS.  While the animation is certainly a tad stale, the heartwarming tale is as good as ever, brimming with nostalgia. In case you missed watching it with your family this year take a look at it below.

The animation is certainly tired, and the story hasn't changed a bit, but it is still doing strong in the ratings.  This year the special tied for the #1 spot ratings wise.  This is a good sign, due to the fact that Charlie Brown will be making another appearance next year, although this time on the big screen. Peanuts is set to hit the screen in 2015 and features a revamped animation style that's more closely associated with the 21st century.

I'm not the biggest Charlie Brown fan, but I am excited to see such a staple of American culture stand the test of time. The success of this upcoming movie will definitely show if  Charlie and the gang can stick around even longer.

Until next time,


Thursday, November 27, 2014


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!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I, Robot

What I really loved about I, Robot was the realistic animation.  Because the robots were made in the image of a human, many of their components look like muscles and human-features.  It's amazing how the animators took the basic structure of the human anatomy and made it robotic, but still organic in a way.  I love watching how the robots move and how they interact with humans throughout the movie.  The real-life aspect of the animation keeps the viewer interested.

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.


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


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.?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bob's Burgers

This week I chose to look at Bob's Burgers - a comedy on Fox.  The episodes are only 30 minutes, but the creators find ways to pack in comedic situations and hilarious banter from all of the characters.  The animation is more of a cartoonish style, reminding me of early South Park episodes.  I like how drawn the characters appear because it keeps the show light and funny.

I also think that the casting director did a good job getting voice actors for each character.  Two of the female roles (Linda and Tina) are actually voiced by men.  However, the voices match the character so much that viewers can't even tell that the characters are voiced by men.  I think each characters voice plays a key role in the success of an animation, and Bob's Burgers has an all-star cast.

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.