Ramblings by a Rambler

The First in an Annual Tradition

Christmas is in one week and I still haven’t finished my shopping. Why didn’t I take care of all this in March?

Looking ahead to 2012 and the Sunday that is roughly a before next year’s Christmas (Dec 16th), I predict that I will be able to cut and paste this post for use, next year.

Now, if you’ll pardon me: it is the weekend and...

I HAVE PANIC SHOPPING TO DO!!!!!!!!

In the meantime...

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The new page (pg 42) has been posted over at HIMcomic. Click on the romantic preview of this week’s action to get more comics! Aww!!
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Back in the Saddle Again... Almost.

Well, I’m back from Beijing and I’m done playing tour guide so everything can go back to normal after this weekend (I need to get my X’mas shopping done!!).

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Night time at the Emperor’s Summer Palace. It’s good to be king, I tell ya.

The Great Wall is still great, the Forbidden City could be more forbidden and Tienamen Square isn’t any more square than it was the last time I was in it, but it was all good including every meal ranging from very good to outstanding which, I found out later, included eating at the #1 ranked Beijing Duck joint in the city. It was a fine duck indeed.

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Sauce for the goose, or in this case... the duck.

My only complaint is that new video wall that splits Tienamen Square in two. I suppose it was put up during the Olympics in order for people to gather and watch the games in the square, but it blocks what used to be a very impressive and amazing sight: the square and the surrounding buildings. Now, it has lost what made it special and just has in its place a tacky looking and too bright anachronism that the square could well do without. I’m very glad I got to experience the square without it the last time I was in Beijing. That said, if you are thinking of going to Beijing, despite the video wall, it is well worth anyone’s time and expense. Just make sure you sneer when you walk by the not so great video wall.

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You didn’t think I was going to post a picture of that awful video wall did you? Mr. Hu... Tear down that wall!! The video wall, that is. The one in the picture is pretty cool. I suggest you keep it.

-Steve.

In the meantime...

HIM
The new page (pg 41) has been posted over at HIMcomic. Click on the cover worthy preview of this week’s action to get more comics! YUM!!
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The Best Teacher in the Whole World

Who is that? Well, I have to drop all false modesty for a moment and declare the winner to be ME!

From the art files was dug out a drawing I had done for a student while I was teaching English to children, part-time for kicks. When is was discovered that I could draw in one particular class, one of the students, a boy named Karl, started asking me to draw him a Marvel Hero, every week, because he’d started watching the Marvel movies and he liked them a lot. I’d give the students some work to do after teaching the lesson for the week and while they were busy, I’d draw a character for Karl. Well, Eventually, the other students wanted a drawing and I’m an old softy so I did them.

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I did a drawing of some cats for Abby and that led to a request from Victoria for a drawing with 21 cats. An interesting request to be sure. Enjoying a challenge, I got cracking. The end result is the drawing (above) of 21 cats worshiping a McDonalds hashbrown (And why not? They are delish!). I forget why hashbrowns were such an important topic for that class, but they were. I think one of the kids may have brought McDonalds to class, one day, and I scolded them for it by saying, “You brought food to eat in class? You bought breakfast from McDonalds to eat in class and you didn’t buy me a hashbrown? Shame on you! Next week, if you stop there, buy me a hashbrown”, and I gave her some money. I believe she showed up the following week with food and an extra hashbrown to earn the brownie points. Anyway, that’s why there is a giant hashbrown in the picture.

Now, why was I the best teacher in the whole world?

1) Even I think, in hindsight, that I did a nice drawing for the student. Nicer than I would have thought I’d have done.

2) I let them eat in class. My only rule was, “If you are going to eat in class, don’t hide it under the table: food belongs on the table.” I;d then take whatever food they were eating, put it atop the table and let them eat while I continued with the lesson.

My wisdom is endless.

-Steve

HIM
The new page (pg 37) has been posted over at HIMcomic. Click on the joyous preview of this week’s action to get more comics! WAAAA!
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One Man's Gander is Another's Goose

Another storyboard artist story:

I learned very early in my career that whom one works with and how that person’s personal taste jives with yours is pretty essential to a harmonious and productive relationship on any given creative project. Butting heads can work, but only if there is serious mutual respect for each other’s abilities. In most cases, being in the same chapter of the stylistic book is usually enough for everything to be smooth. That said...

A long long time ago, when I was just starting out as a Storyboard Artist (less than a year into it and maybe having done only 10 or 11 partial storyboards) I was out of work and looking. I’d just finished working on The TICK season 3 and feeling pretty good about my abilities. The TICK people seemed to like what I was doing and I had gained some confidence from that experience: I realized that I knew what I was doing so long as I was working for people who liked the kind of storyboarding esthetic I leaned towards (I can do many different styles, but my personal taste still comes into play regardless of series style). By contrast, when I worked with someone whose sensibilities ran counter to mine, the storyboard experience was a disaster.

One quick example: After handing in a rough storyboard for approval, the Director said of it, “You are like the Orson Welles of animation”. He then proceeded to shred the storyboard into what no longer could be called my work and was 99% all his. I guess he didn’t think much of Orson Welles’ work. It’s a good thing Welles didn’t work in animation.

I won’t mention any names for the rest of this story as it doesn’t really matter towards the moral of the story.

I knew of someone in Toronto who had a storyboard contract with a big L.A. studio to provide said studio with storyboards that would be produced in Toronto. It was an action show with realistic (animation realistic) characters and I really wanted to do more of that kind of show after having done The TICK. I arranged to meet with the subcontractor to show him my work. I brought along my best TICK storyboard which was the first act of The Tick VS. Prehistory. After looking over the board I was politely told that I wasn’t right for the series. I was pretty bummed about that. After all, The TICK people seemed to really like my work. Needless to say that my fragile newbie storyboard artist’s ego took a big hit that afternoon. Luckily for me, I managed to pick something else up, that day, so I wasn’t out of work, I just wasn’t working on the series I wanted to take part in and it was because I wasn’t good enough. Wah.


My section starts after the opening at 00:30 and ends at 07:32. The sound is off in the video and I can’t take credit for any timing or animation issues, but I can take credit for the highs and lows of the storyboard. I don’t detect any changes from what I did.

About a week later, I got a call from a studio in L.A. saying something like, “Hi, I’m Ms. L.A. Animation from Big L.A. Studio. Producer from Sunbow said you are good and reliable. I was wondering if you were free to work on Action Show for us?” It was the same series I was trying to work on for the subcontractor in Toronto. Only now it was the original studio offering me the job. No meetings, no samples, no fuss and no muss. Of course I agreed to work on the series. I was only supposed to do one episode to help them out of a jam, but the L.A. people were very happy with my work and they asked me to help them with one more before the season finished.

Needless to say, I was extremely happy about this turn of events and fortune and I learned another important lesson: although one must always listen and process the feedback one gets, there are times when it isn’t “you”, it’s “them” and that’s fine because that’s just the way subjective art is. Some people will think you are amazing and some will think you stink. It’s up to oneself to decide if the feedback you get is valid. Opinion factors in heavily when it comes to art and one man’s Orson Welles is another’s “Orson Welles”. I wasn’t good enough for the subcontractor studio, but just wonderful for the studio hiring the subcontractor to do the very job I was rejected for. Go know.

The upside to my ego being crushed for a week was that the L.A. studio payed more than the Toronto studio was going to. So... I learned something important, got to work on the series after all, and I got paid better than I would have had I got the job from the subcontractor in the first place. Not a bad deal at all. Just goes to show that nothing is good or bad: it’s were the good or bad leads you.

My wisdom is endless.

-Steve

HIM
The new page (pg 35) has been posted over at HIMcomic. Click on the cover insisting preview of this week’s action to get more comics! AA-AA-AA!
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No, I Wasn't Kidding and I'm Still Not

Since my wisdom has been said to be “endless” (By me), I thought I would play Storyboard Guru for a day by telling a true tale of animation history: mine.

I was at a function, a long while back, seated with a group of animation colleagues. At some point in the evening, a couple of them were telling me how they were either just starting to storyboard or were thinking about it and they asked me what I thought was a good TV series for them to study from to help learn storyboard. Without hesitation and with a deadpan delivery I said, “Pokemon”.

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They both smiled and started to laugh all while waiting for me to join them in the joke, me being the funster I usually am, and then tell them something more serious. I held my ground until their smiles and laughter morphed to utter bewilderment. Once they had been reduced to blank stares with crickets chirping in the background, I elaborated, “I’m not kidding.” I like to laugh as much as the next guy, but when it comes to work, I’m usually pretty serious about it. In my opinion, at that time, there wasn’t a TV series airing in Canada that could hold a candle to Pokemon, at least as far as storyboarding was concerned.

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I explained to my audience that Pokemon storyboards consistently told the stories well in an entertaining manner with constantly interesting and inventive shots that, at the same time, were not overly difficult to pull off for the animators and thus didn’t cost the studio a lot of money (Money is a fact of life in TV animation). In other words, they were expertly storyboarded to get the most bang for the limited budget’s buck. As a result, Pokemon maintained a consistent quality standard and looked more expensive that it really was. It did a lot of fun tricks to save money and yet be interesting. When it did action, it was exciting. When it did drama, it was dramatic. When it did comedy, it was funny. What more could anyone want? At the time, Pokemon had just made the cover of Time Magazine, or was just about to, and it wasn’t because no one liked it: it was a massive hit and it was popular because it was a solid show that told good stories well and you can’t tell a good story well, in animation, without a good storyboard. Even a weak episode of Pokemon was solidly storyboarded and worth study. The best episodes were inspiring.

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None of the above pictures are an example of anything particular. Just adding some colour to my nonsense. Although, this shot of Pikachu is simple and effective. Having the overlay of out of focus (or maybe it’s in focus. Hard to tell in this pic) grass adds a lot of zip to the shot and is simple enough to do.

I am reminded of this because I just saw a new episode on TV, yesterday, and the standard after almost 20 years of the series is still very high. I still recommend it as a study show for anyone who wants to learn TV storyboarding for animation. Even if the show one is working on is a Flash or 3D animation series, there is still a lot one can learn and use in any animation medium.

My wisdom is endless.

-Steve
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How to Build a Stronger Scaffold

At long last, I have completed the special effects for my new short film. The final shot was a long and tedious affair, but, on the bright side, I sure managed to listen to a lot of music and watch a lot of YouTube while doing it. I’m, now, all caught up on current events and kitten videos. Oh, and the shot looks great.

Next up: final edit and sound. I don’t plan to get fancy with sound so I don’t expect it to take too long. I hope.

The other day, a pretty strong typhoon blew through town. About a month ago, a mother cat and her 5 kittens moved atop of the management office of the building I live in (I can see them from my office window doing their kitten things). I was a bit worried about them because, aside from one tree, that roof has little shelter from a typhoon’s pounding wall of rain and strong winds. I needn’t have fretted because after the typhoon blew away, the whole family of kittens were just fine and dandy.

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On the other hand, an entire bamboo scaffold, covering a large building, collapsed into the street because of the typhoon.

The moral of the story: If you want a scaffold that can stand up to a typhoon, build it out of kittens.

My wisdom is endless.

-Steve

HIM
The new page (pg 31) has been posted over at HIMcomic. Click on the powerful preview of this week’s action to get more comics! HIM!
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