365

365_Titles_MASTER
The picture (above) is the logo for a new video project, called “365”, that I am developing and hope to launch sometime in the 2011/2012 winter: spring at the latest. I haven’t, and can’t, make a schedule, yet, because this is only in the planning stages. I’ve had the idea for a couple of years and I feel like now is a good time to move on it and so here it starts. Now that I’ve said something in public, I’d better provide the goods or I’ll lose face and I’d don’t particularly want to do that.

I don’t want to say too much about it, right now, other than to say that it is a kind of project that I’ve wanted to do for quite a long time. Once the planning is done, I’ll be testing and buying equipment for this followed by more testing, actual shooting and a host of other details that will demand my attention. Closer to the launch date, I’ll talk more about this.

In the meantime, I have a Babar storyboard to finish which means I’ll be busy this week.

-Steve

HIM
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Casting

For the previously announced next short film, I needed someone to be on camera and I was lucky enough to get my first choice to agree. Sharon Mak, who is my go-to girl, will once again help me out and play a part in my next short.

Now that casting is over, I just need that tripod and a bit of planning time (not to mention some free time) and I’m ready to shoot. Hopefully, shooting will go as easily as everything else has, up to now.

-Steve.
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New Short Film in the Works

After mulling over a new short film idea, I have decided that I’m going to press the button so I can give the go-ahead to green light the idea into my official next short film project. In the past week, I have researched, ordered and received a piece of equipment that will help make this film into a reality and I plan to go shopping, tomorrow, for the one thing I need that I don’t have: a tripod.

I’ve already done a handful of location test shooting that look good by me. In addition, since this film will involve quite a bit of visual effects work, on my part, I shot some tests for that and created a rough effect in order to see where the problems will be and to find as ideal solutions as possible.

Due to the amount of visual effects, and the rather time consuming nature of them, I’ll likely start shooting in July, if possible. I don’t expect primary shooting to take no more than a day: two at the most. Once the rough edit is done, I can start dealing with the visual effect. That, I expect to take several days or weeks, depending on how smoothly I can make them work.

All said, I would like the film finished and locked for the mid-Autumn season in time for local festivals. Less local festivals: I’ll worry about later.

I won’t say anything more about it, for now: at least not what the title or story is. May as well save that for when it is finished.

I’m excited about this new film and I pretty much knew the idea would turn into a film as soon as I had it (oh, a month or two ago), but I like to let things ferment before jumping in whole hog.

So now, I guess I’m in part hog.

-Steve

HIM
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Spring Cleaning: Part Three

A few things to look at:

First up is a two shot of a couple God of Dance characters posing from the original one-sheet poster I drew.

The poster was originally not done by me (I’d only provided a bunch of rough character designs), but the original poster that was made was deemed to be not up to par and so I was asked if I could make one up as quickly as I could. I think I could have taken a week, but I don’t like to let things drag on so I did it in about a day and a half (I think it was much more urgent than I was told, anyway. I was doing it for free so you can’t really push a guy who is working for nothing and I think that’s why I was told I could take a week). About the only reason it took more than a day was because I was using a mouse to color the characters. I didn’t have a Cintiq, back then, and I didn’t like using a tablet for coloring.

Giving the fact that I was under time constraints, I decided it was best to see what materials I had on hand and use whatever I could that was already finished art and only create new art as I needed it. I looked at the character rotations I had already done to see if any of those poses could be used as is. Yup, a few of then could. One, Rasta, needed to be colored, but the rest I could drag and drop into place. That left the need to draw a new Ramen pose as well as a couple other characters. I also needed to design one more character to fill out the scene: I call her Cherry and she can be seen in the illustration, below.

Cherry-and-Ringo

This next illustration was a test I threw together to see what a scene drawn and roughly painted at post-it note size would look like in full color. After having animated Listen to Me... MoMo... on post-it notes, I wondered if I might try something more detailed and see how it works out. My conclusion is that, based on this rough sketch, it could look just fine for small screens like YouTube or mobile devices and that it is better to pay people to hand animate than do it myself. I knew there was a reason I draw storyboards and never wanted to be an animator.

GoD_test_col

Finally... For a period of about 5 or 6 years, I used to teach English on Saturdays to children as a means to get out of the house, once and a while. I had a class cancelled, one afternoon, and since I had my computer with me, I thought I’d do something to keep myself occupied. It was summer and hot and going out didn’t seem like a good idea.

Shortly before, I had been given a bunch of Layout and Animation drawings from the latest BLACK JACK Anime series from Japan by an acquaintance in Shanghai who owns an animation studio that does a lot of work for Various Japanese studios, such as Production I.G. and Tezuka Studios. He knows I like to look at production art and so he scanned me these layouts to look at.

So, I picked one to see of I could paint a background in Photoshop. Overall, I think it looks pretty good. Granted, it isn’t the hardest background to paint, but then I’m no painter. The students thought it was cool, so I guess it worked for the audience it would be going out it as an actual TV series.

BJ1lo
This initial Layout would have been done in Japan.
BJ1key
This is a Key Animation drawing. I’m not sure if this was done in Japan or if the studio in Shanghai handled it. The Japanese writing under the potted plant suggests it was drawn in Japan. Note how off model the characters are in the Layout and how the Key Animator is responsible for correcting model. If he can’t do it, there is another final step of quality control.
BJ1
Hmm... The original Photoshop file’s colors are deeper and richer than this, but what are ya gonna do?

A final note: I’ve never actually seen the Anime version of Black Jack, but I’m a big fan of the comic series and highly recommend it.

-Steve.
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MoMo Animatic (Spring Cleaning Part Two)

What did I find on my hard drive, today: The animatic I made for Listen To Me... MoMo...



After I read the book ‘Nee... Marimo’, from which Listen To Me... MoMo... was adapted, I quickly drew up a storyboard of how I saw a filmed version playing out. Serendipity is something I never ignore and so when a friend mentioned that a studio he was working for were filming their animatics (Filmed storyboard panels cut like a real film) buy using iMovie, I thought I’d give it a try. So what did I have on hand to shoot as an animatic? Well, I could have used one of the numerous storyboards I’ve drawn over the years, but then it occurred to me that I should scan and edit a MoMo animatic since I had the storyboard ready and it would be more fun and productive.

14-1

As is the case with pretty much any Apple product (hardware or software) I have used, I didn’t read a word about how to use iMovie and in a few hours, I’d had a completely edited animatic without sound and without problems. About the only thing that I wasn’t pleased with was controlling the pan slow in and out speeds (I didn’t want any), but otherwise, it was easy to use and I got the results I needed for creating a functioning animatic.

14-2

Originally, I was going to compose the music myself, but I wanted to fine tune the cuts to some temp music for the fun of it. The first tracks I thought of were the two that ended up in the final film. Both are from the soundtrack to the film StarRunner, scored by the great Henry Lai. I met Henry several years ago to talk about music and he was nice enough to give me a copy of the StarRunner soundtrack. I listened to it for the next couple of weeks non-stop as I walked around town: it is a great score. So, I took the two tracks that I thought would serve as good temp music and they just worked perfectly: they had the right feel I wanted and even the lengths were spot on (Remember what I said about serendipity). I only needed to make minor timing adjustments to some of the shots and eliminate one scene (A shot of an empty dog house) because there simply wasn’t enough music time for it to fit in. I don’t think it is missed, though.

8

Then, I thought I may as well add some temp dial. I just used the built in mic on my iMac for that and it is quite obvious that I did. You sure can hear my air-conditioner hissing away in the background. Still, it is just temp dial and so it need not be perfect. So, yeah, I recorded both parts, myself, and I used Logic, I think, to change the pitch in order to make myself sound more like a girl and a dog. Sadly, I think I do pretty decent girl. My dog voice... it merely does the job. I recorded the temp dial to picture in two passes: one for the girl dial and one for the dog, but both are first takes and I didn’t make any adjustments after recording for timing. A couple of rehearsal takes and then recording was all I did. I’m a big proponent of recording voice acting to picture and music whenever possible over recording before picture, cold: I think you get a much better performance that way.

So once I had the whole animatic finished and watched it several times, I fell in love with the temp music and the last thing I wanted to do was try to score new music myself: I knew I just wasn’t going to get close to the perfect feel the temp music had. So, I gave Henry a ring and asked him if I could use his music as is and he, being the stand up guy he is, said I could.

Frankly, between the excellent original story and illustrations and Henry’s fine music, my job as director was to simply not screw it all up with poor direction. I hope I didn’t.

-Steve.



HIM
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Spring Cleaning

It seems that my hard drives are getting full and room must be made. It’s shocking, to me, just how many redundant files one can accumulate over time. I figure I should be able to reclaim at least 1/3 of free hard drive space by deleting all the duplicate files, safty copies of old versions of files and whatever other useless tidbits I stored thinking I may have need of.

Of course, one of the things I do enjoy about the procedure of spring cleaning of any kind (and house packing, for that matter) is going through everything and discovering assorted bric-a-brac that I’d forgotten about.

Today’s forgotten item: This cel set up I put together from the God of Dance promo. When I originally slapped these characters on this background, there was no promo to speak of and I don’t think there was even talk of one. I’d just finished an afternoon of drawing and color designing 7 characters for the God of Dance pitch bible and I just wanted to see what they would look like on a painted background.

I had on file some very nice watercolor animation background style paintings that were painted by a very skilled former animation background painter from China. He’s since given up on the animation business and is now merely a very skilled painter. I believe he’s also teaching at a university. I forget why I was given these painting files, but I always liked the feel of them and so I picked one painted and a couple of the characters that I thought would look good on it and voila.
GoD-setup
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New HIM

I was too busy, this week, to prepare anything new to post so I’ll see about posting something on Tuesday.

In the meantime...

HIM
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-Steve
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MoMo!

A new film has been added to the FILMS section!

Several years ago, my wife told me about this children’s book that was making everyone at her work cry, and put down, before they could even finish it. For quite a while, I wanted to make a short animated film, but I couldn’t settle on an idea I really liked. Once I read this infamous book, I immediately knew I wanted to adapt it to animation. The story is possibly the most simple yet profound I have ever read. My enthusiasm for making this film was quite intense.

At least a year or more went by before I actually sat down to make the film. The storyboard was done and I’d made an animatic with temp voices and music (which ended up being used as the final music), but I couldn’t figure out how to achieve the rough bumpy line quality of the book illustrations and so the film sat on a shelf. Then, I was struck out of the blue on how I could achieve the line style I wanted and the film proceeded to get made rather quickly.

The results can be seen HERE or click on the picture (below).
Momo_Card-web
-Steve
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