My journey through graduate school and my stay in Chicago has come to its end. New set of letters. Master of Arts in Animation. My program and the city’s cultural scene and natural environment has been artistically and technically enriching in more ways than I can say. I also really honed in on the value of networking and relationship building. Getting to know people in the wider realm of the arts is so important in order to complete anything of substance and consequence.
I think I really mastered that on this project. I worked with two other artists who I’ve gotten to know over the last 2-3 years and their performances really put extra unique native Chicago energy into it. Visual artist Candace Hunter performed the voice over. We recorded it one day at Faie African Art Gallery in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood on the south side of town. And Samuel Savoirfaire Williams, Jazz Violinist, gave me permission to use one of his band’s songs, Counter Poise from their Ran Out of Time CD.
Hardware and software wise, I used a variety of tools. I recorded Candace’s voice over on a H4n recorder. The animated parts of the film are hand drawn in Flash, the voice over and music clip were edited in Audition and all visual and audio files were edited together in After Effects to produce the film.
It all began last year during the fall quarter and this is culmination of our efforts.
On campus, I and my classmates spent the fall quarter in pre-production, giving pitches to each other about three ideas we had in mind for a final animated short. We voted for our favorites of everyone’s three pitches and most of us went with the preference of the room. Then we proceeded with weeks of developing a coherent story then storyboarding it with a series of weekly class critiques and revisions.
Since mine was an adaptation of a part of a poem my challenge was to create what my professor called a “visual language” just for this piece. She didn’t want me to simply animate the words but to illustrate some of the deeper meaning. Well one of my pitch ideas was an abstract animation so I was able to fit some of that style in after all. Developing a visual language for someone else’s writing is no easy task though. In fact it was actually the toughest and longest part of the project. My storyboards changed significantly and I was still modifying them into this quarter before I was able to get started on animating it but the extra time and effort was worth it.
From that point critiques of my storyboard panels were easy to adapt into my evolving sequence of images. Once I got into the activity of creating animated key frames, weekly animation critiques accelerated my process even more. This project gave me the opportunity to experiment with elemental animation in the form of water, clouds and smoke and that part of the creative process was most enjoyable for me.
Thanks to my final project professor Jo Dery for guiding us through the process of pre-production last quarter and full on animation in Animated Short Film Parts I and II over the last two quarters.Read More
Yes, I spelled it with a “g” as in Stellar Fungk, an old 1978 funk jam by a group called Slave. As we learned more about the early animation pioneers as well as a few from more modern times I wanted to continue investingating my experimental chops. This time I went completely abstract with no literal imagery. Just wanted to have the imagery moving rhythmically with the music with some tones sliding in between the movements.
Viking Eggeling, Walter Ruttmann, Oskar Fischinger and others as inspiration for this one. I made this one 30 seconds in length. Take a look.
Can’t you tell I had a lot of fun with this one? If I had more time I would definitely have stretched it out. I had a blast with this one and looking forward to more fun with 2D. Stay tuned and see what I come up with next.Read More
The interview you’re about to watch was one of the potential subjects of my final project during the Spring 2011 quarter at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media (The CDM Baby!). The task assigned by my DC489 “The Big Picture” course professor Dan Pal was to interview someone in the entertainment business. Russ Cox, owner of Smiling Otis Studio was one of two artists I contacted who agreed to a live interview.
I contacted him through LinkedIn. That won’t surprise those of you who know I am huge believer in the power of social media for networking. I don’t exactly recall how I came across Russ’s profile, probably a LinkedIn group, but two things caught my attention. First was his profile picture with one of his characters popping out of the top his hat but also his hilarious bio (read the funny Summary section). His summary is so well written that I rewrote mine in narrative form as he had done. I realized it’s O.K. to use humor in your profile even on a forum as professional as LinkedIn so my Summary isn’t stiff like the original version.
At any rate that was the impetus to formally connect our profiles then I messaged a request for an interview. He was happy to help an emerging fellow artist and we worked out the details. Take a look at the interview and I’ll continue with the backstory on the other side.
The method I arranged for was a recorded Skype interview via the VOD Burner system. VOD Burner is a downloadable program that connects to your Skype video call and records it. You can then save and edit the video conference in a variety of formats. I’m a Skype pro but this was my first time using the recording program and I had a couple of issues that I needed to work around.
Although Russ and I were able to see each other and converse through our computer cameras VOD didn’t record my half of the video portion. It processed my audio just fine but you’ll notice in the two panel layout that the left side is green opposite Russ’s video on the right. My face should be where the green is. Somehow it didn’t work out. Don’t know if I didn’t have the settings correct or if the program flaked out but it called on my sense of creativity to make it work.
I initially imported the VOD Burner files into Adobe Premier Pro, my favorite film editing package. For some reason Premier Pro and VOD were not agreeing with each other (I won’t bore you with the time wasted on figuring out how to process the VOD interview footage into a useful format). For some reason Premier Pro garbled the QuickTime files. Never had that problem before, nothing but a headache this time. Adobe After Effects wound up being the tool for the job.
Since my smiling face was nowhere to be seen I inserted a series of images into the left panel and used the green as border for each of them. In the middle segment you’ll see a transition to a single screen. I simply moved the dual panel to the left centering Russ’s face on the screen and inserted black layer over the green panel. Then it switches back to the dual screen layout for the last part of the interview. This forced technical adjustment helped me to give the interview some additional visual interest. Plus, I now know how to do multiple video layouts within a film intentional for future projects.
The other adjustment that took some time figuring out was how to adjust the VOD default frame rate (30 frames per second OR fps) to the standard 24 fps that I’m used to. Didn’t know how to change it on the VOD side and neither Premier Pro nor After Effects could adjust it after I imported the files. These differing settings resulted in the audio and video being out of sync.
I finally figured out that I had to use two copies of each segment as individual tracks, one track for audio only (by turning off the video) and the other track for video only (by turning off the audio). This allowed my to slide the audio track ahead of the video by a few frames in order for words and mouth to match up again. Five frame seemed to do the trick. With all manner of audio visual trickery I finally got it to where it needed to be. Such is the life of animators and film makers. Obstacles sonstantly present learning opportunities to get the job done.
I hoped you enjoyed the interview and learned a lot from Russ as I did. And if you’re an Adobe software user be sure to save this post for reference in case of future problems of your own. Leave comments, tell me what you learned or tell me what you thought of my aesthetic choices and workarounds.Read More
Our final project assignment for my DC489 “The Big Picture” class was to interview a person in the field of entertainment. I organized my project by prospecting my LinkedIn connections list for potential interview candidates. I specifically researched some of the artists that I have reached out to via social media and found a couple of candidates with interesting profiles whose careers I wanted to know more about. Senior Art director Keisha Jordan of Common Ground Marketing was one of those who responded.
A couple of things stood out about Keisha. First, her artsy profile picture caught my attention. Instead of a head shot she uses a hand sketch of her face as her profile picture on LinkedIn. That instantly made her stand out from pretty much everyone else on my list (See why you should never leave your profile picture space blank?). It was proof enough to me that she was a serious artist so she was an immediate candidate. The other factor was that we could talk shop about the digital tools we use for our different artistic pursuits. Here’s the interview. Take a look and I’ll continue on the other side.
I mention the effectiveness of a good profile picture for a particular reason. In the case of scheduling Keisha for filming we agreed to meet at the Harold Washington Library. If you’ll take a close look at her sketch, it looks just like the lady in video. I knew exactly who she was as she stepped off the escalator and we headed to our meeting room. If you have any artistic leanings I recommend you use her idea as inspiration if you want to try something a little different for your profile.
As far as project logistics flowed, we rearranged chairs in the meeting room to stage her against one of the walls. I asked more questions than included in the final cut because I had a fifteen minute time limit for the class presentation so you’re hearing about 1/3 to 1/2 of them here. I used my SONY Handycam for filming and had Keisha reposition her chair so I could include a couple of different perspective views of her in the final cut of the film.
For post production I imported three clips of film into Adobe Premier Pro. I typically use After Effects just because I’m used to it but it’s not really a complete film editing program. It’s specifically designed for effects and animation and happens to have some good basic film making features. Premier Pro though is Adobe’s full fledged editing package (all the cutting, audio, color correction and other features of Final Cut Pro for you Mac people) so I made the choice to jump in and use it full tilt for the first time.
After filming, Keisha provide me a few PDF’s of some of her digital ad work and some personal paintings which I faded into the film at different points to demonstrate her skills. The white walls of the meeting room made for a lot of glare in the film so I was able to use color correction to ramp it down. In my first rough cut of the film I created a QuickTime and imported it into After Effects to create opening and closing credits on either end of it (again, because I was used to doing that in After Effects). Fortunately I got bumped to another class day on the presentation rotation and my copy of Adobe Premier Pro CS4, Classroom In a Book arrived in the mail so I learned how to use the title feature within the package to create the credits. So this is my first fully contained Premier Pro production.
I enjoyed this project because I was able to expand my technical skill which as always the objective but also I had the opportunity to network with another professional in the field which was our professor Dan Pal‘s objective. So what do you think of one of Chicago’s art directors on the rise?Read More