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
“Masterpiece” is the final short film produced by my team of classmates for the first course of ANI440 Collaborative Short Animated Film. ANI440 is one of the courses for the first cohort of the Master of Arts in Animation program in DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media. Our professor Meghann Artes grouped the class into teams based on our animation and creative interests. My team mates were Christal Charlery, Deborah Mathis and Petra Sobers and this is our final production.
My roles included drawing some of the first storyboards and creating the first draft of the animatic with those storyboard drawings, animating a couple of scenes (scrolling wall near the beginning and the reveal at the end), creating some of the character’s scene props (chisel, hammer, table, cardboard boxes, box of nails, picture frames, ruler) some of the foley (tools dropped on table, horse sculture tossed onto the floor, the box dropping on the floor, the sound of the wood touching against clothing, the sound of his hand stuck to the wood and popping off the wood) and some voice over in (the form of various vocal expressions including my French impersonation, “Bee-yue-tiful!”).
There was plenty for the four of us to pack into ten weeks and it was hectic. Our 3D software crashing on a regularly random basis didn’t serve to help us keep pace as we wanted to but we juggled the pieces amongst ourselves and brought it home. We got an A (and it gave a nice little boost to the GPA) and we’re down to the last two courses over the next two quarters in the Master of Arts cohort.
So what do think of our short film? Leave a few comments. I’d like to tell you more about it.Read More
I had heard the phrase storyboard before but I really didn’t know what one was before taking ANI425 Visual Storytelling from professor Devin Bell last winter quarter. Storyboards are the foundational story building tool before beginning a new film. Sometimes they are used to help pitch an idea and other times they are used to flesh out a film after it has been green lighted. In this course we made our storyboards into animatics, short films made storyboard style to give the gist of a film.
For my final in this class I expanded upon previous iterations of the project that I named “Famborted” (Family Aborted). It required a few more drawings to improve story clarity and continuity. The video shows how it all turned out.
The final was a good opportunity to include movement as well. After Effects has a 3D Layers feature that allows for key framed movement of images on multiple layers to help create the illusion of those images seemingly interacting with one another on one layer. In this animatic I use that technique in the sequence where my character slides next to each picture portrait. Those are a series of PNG files on 3D layers. PNG files are used because they have background transparency built in. This makes it easy to mimic 2D objects sliding in front of or behind each other in the way that 3D objects would do.
This is one of those classes I’m putting into immediate use in all my remaining courses as well as my personal projects. Who knows, I might even give it serious consideration as a career specialty. Give me a shout and tell me what you think of my burgeoning storyboarding skills.
For my first final project of the winter 2012 quarter we had the option of doing something new or enhancing a previous project. I wanted to jazz up my dinosaur so I revised that assignment and retooled it as a loose homage to Windsor McCay (Gertie the Dinosaur) and the John and Faith Hubley UPA (my attempt at minimal animation) style.
The white outline with a gray fill pretty much set the stylization I was going for. Modifications included reshaping the head and adding in-betweens for bent leg motion at the beginning. I also added a few dozen extra Photoshop layer neck motion tweens at the end which were imported into After Effects and sequenced for the animation.
The background was stylized with scanned textile pieces. The mountains were a textile scrap with color adjustments to give it a reddish hue in Photoshop. I shaped the rectangular scrap into mountainous contour by creating a mask with the pen tool in After Effects. The ground was a different layer of scanned fabric. I scaled it down to fit under the mountain range. The lake was four alternating scans of a piece of sheer turquoise fabric that I twisted and reshaped on the scanner table. I masked it into the composition with the pen tool and added a wavy effect filter to each layer for stylized wave motion. Here’s how it turned out.
My professor didn’t want us to use Flash for the final and gave the challenge to use other tools so I had to revert to Photoshop. I love Photoshop for textures and images but it is horrible for animation. It took forever to make edits to layer by layer without the benefit of onion skinning which saves massive amounts of time when tweaking. Nevertheless I chugged through it.
Now that I’ve experimented with textiles as environmental accents I really like the feel it gives. I’m definitely going to use them more often in the future. One final down and one to go before spring break.Read More
Well he’s one one many that have me developing a taste for abstract animation this quarter. One of the cool classes I’m taking this Winter of 2012 is ANI422 Animation Styles and Techniques. I guess since my eye has begun to get attuned to abstract painting over the last few months, appreciating the abstract in digital media should be perfectly natural I guess.
The quarter began with us learning about some of the European pioneers of animation. They came along in the 19th century during the advent of film technology when people were first being mesmerized by moving images of people on a screen. Cohl is credited as being the first to amaze with illustrations that came to life on this new medium. His film Fantasmogorie is the standard reference in animation circles when it comes to how it was done more than a century ago.
His morphing figures make me go “ooh and ahh” now, even with his rudimentary motions, decades before the fundamentals of animation were established. During the quarter our projects are to be inspired by the variety of short films that we reveiw in class each week and our professor Lisa Barcy typically likes us make our shorts 10-30 seconds long. The abstract inspired my so here is my homage to the original master.
What do you think of my first effort? I plan to do more abstract (oftern referred to as “experimental” in modern animation parlance) inspired animation over time, as I continue to learn and research the topic so stay tuned to the blog for more.Read More
Here’s how a storyboard in progress might look when you see it in preliminary, critique phase. I have the basic elements in place and we had in class critiques about a week ago. My professor was impressed with my first swipe at it and my classmates like what they see so far. All gave suggestions on edits to a few boards and ideas on what to add to finish it out. It’s due this coming Monday so you’ll see credits etc by then. If you get to take a look-see in the next couple of days before I complete my revisions though leave a comment and tell me what you think of it so far.
Revision B of my second animatic. I went superhero since that’s a genre I’m interested in.
The song is “Streetwave” from the Brothers Johnson’s 1978 album Blam!
Music clip used for educational purposes only. This song does not belong to me, Martin Lindsey, and I am making no attempt to profit from the work of the original musical artists.
Here are my two papers on each of those films in flip book form.
Since I got so much practice using Flash in my Animation Mechanics course I decided to use it for my graduate seminar final as well. Lisa makes sure that we are ultimately producing some work even in her lecture classes and this one was no different. Check out my final project below as I get into my head and look towards the future.
Some of our professors talked to us as well. Had a roaring time from Devin Bell who told us about his start in school. He showed his old student project Crank Balls that landed him into a career at JibJab. Meghann Artes shared some of her work with us including student film from her days at U.C.L.A. She’s worked at a bunch of places including Sesame Street. Jo Derry not only shared her unconventional, don’t-plan-it-all-out-before-you-start approach to animating her work, she answered the all important “How much do animators charge for a project?” question (thank you Jo, I’m revising my pricing structure as I type).
We did lots of reading and wrote a paper a week. One of the more interesting pieces of reading was Colourful Claims: towards a theory of animated documentary. It’s a philosophical take on animation as documentary tool, whether animation can be considered legit documentary since the characters portraying the action aren’t actual living beings.
We had a variety of animation related events that we could write about as well. One that was particularly interesting to me was the CartoonInk!: Emerging Comics In Context exhibit at one the the Art Institute of Chicago’s galleries in the Loop. It was an exhibit of alternative comics with a variety of subject matter, artistic styles and methods of print publishing. I have never seen such a wide variety of book styles.
One paper was an out our comfort zone paper focusing on an artistic style that we didn’t work with. I chose a recent mosaic Reaching Back; Moving Forward, Lest We Forget the Song of 47th St. Its a bricolage mural dedicated to the African American history of the neighborhood. Here are a few pics of the piece. Listen to the lead artist, Carolyn Elaine, tell you more about it.
This was a great seminar and I have a lot of conceptual take-aways that I use for future projects. The Winter Quarter lies ahead. I’m ready to rock and roll with the next of the two new classes in the cohort. Read More
I posted on being part of the first cohort of this first course back in October in the middle of the fall quarter. I learned lots more since then and wanted to share it here. We continued using The Animator’s Survival Kit(this is the link to the more recent Expanded Edition) and Timing for Animation as our main texts There were three projects since that last post and I’ll give you some background on each.
This short was a study in vibration. We used a leaf at the end of a long stem blowing in the wind as the example to animate in class. It involved alternating a series of frames and repeating some of them to mimic a back and forth motion. I extended the principle to show the roaring dragon’s head moving back and forth. I felt like I was really beginning to get comfortable with Flash by the time we got to this project at week seven of the term.
My animation skills definitely went up a notch this fall. Can’t wait to continue on the development of my during the winter quarter in January.Read More
Just before the beginning of the Fall 2011 quarter the School of Cinema and Interactive Media in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media acquired the graphic design department from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. This development has provided a slew of new courses for us. I’ve always wanted to take Adobe Illustrator and learn more about vector graphics to accompany pixel based Photoshop. It’s a freshman level course but it’s one I can imagine using in a variety of ways in my future animation projects.
Our lecturer for this course was Chris Kalis. Although one of his specialties is graphic design this wasn’t a graphic design course, just a basic “how to class”. We learned some important basics such as masking, creating our own character fonts and learning how to create abstract shapes with the line and circle tools. We got a lot of good work in with the color tools too.
Chris didn’t let us off the hook just because it was a beginner class though. We applied design and composition principles to our projects with the layouts he assigned using a variety of techniques. On our first major project he took our head shots, we turned them into silhouettes and then got creative blending it with our initials in a variety of ways. Here’s one of mine.
This is the reason I took the class. To learn how to draw in Illustrator. For this exercise we found a picture of an interesting object and traced it. After Placing (sometimes preferable to Importing an image) the picture on the art board you lower the opacity to make it more opaque but not completely transparent. Then the line tool is used to draw the contours of the object. In the end the closed spaces can be filled with color. The file below was my boat project which included a labeled diagram.
This is my final project, my re-imagining of a Donald Byrd album cover. It is a process book layout of one of his jazz album covers. The objective for the final was to pick an album cover, create a few stylized versions of it, including the logo, and then picking a color pallet to use as inspiration for something unique in the end. This exercise gave us more practice on learning about fonts and duplicating them as closely as possible. The PDF flip book will let you leaf through the pages of my final.
I learned more than expected from this class, especially creating custom fonts that I can use in any animated situation. Christ is a great instructor. This is Chris’s personal site. If you’re a student of animation or graphic design I definitely recommend that you take a course from him. And if you need a vector based alternative to the pixel based PhotoShop you should definitely fire up Illustrator and start playing around with it.
ANI421 is the first of the new cohort of courses for the Master of Arts in Animation program that was recently split of from the Master of Science in Cinema program. Animation was previously just a concentration of DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media‘s cinema curriculum but we now have our own standalone degree program as of this fall 2011 quarter!!!
Our professor for this class is Scott Roberts who heads up the animation program within the School of Cinema and Interactive Media. He’s a renowned digital artist in his own right so we’re getting the benefit of a wealth of experience.
Scott has us focusing on the fundamentals of effective animated motion. We’re digging into the details of many of the 12 Principles of Animation as outlined in The Animator’s Survival Kit. Our other reference is Timing for Animation which is helping us learn how to move different parts of the body at different speeds.
At this point at least we’re focused on using stick figures in Flash to be sure we nail down the principles. Some of my classmates are really accomplished artists so they are beyond stick people. Drawing on a monitor is definitely different than drawing on paper but I plan on getting beyond the stick people too before the end of the term as I get more comfortable with sketching poses in the software. In the meantime I’ll share some of what I’ve made so far.
After four weeks I’m really getting a lot out of this class. I’ll be able to apply this to any of my future 2D and 3D work. Can’t wait to see what’s next. Read More
For the fall quarter of 2011 I will take my third class with one of my favorite professors, Lisa Barcy. Much of it will be an overview of the animation industry and careers. It’s going to cover a lot of aesthetics and cover some international styles. Our first night of class we looked at a Japanese short film and a slightly longer Czech film so she has us hitting the ground right from the start just the way I like it. Lisa is our main stop motion professor. If you’ve never seen her work before this one is my favorite. Check it out.
During our “getting to know you” introductions I learned that we have a couple of working animators in the class as well as a few people with an interest in comics, something that has been recently rekindled in me. Plenty of opportunity for collaboration and to learn how to make the transition from classroom to the animation workforce by people who have done it and are doing it.
Lisa is also making us spread our wings and see more of the local arts community outside our campus walls to events at venues like the Gene Siskel Film Center, Columbia College and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. We’re also going to have professional animators including some of our own DePaul College of Computing and Digital Media professors as guest speakers in class and off campus. I’ll give a plug to my advisor Alexander Stewart who is curating his second Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation (this year’s URL coming soon).
We’ll also have lots of good reading and reaction papers to the reading and to films that we screen in class. Each of us will give informal presentations of subjects that we’d like to explore further and final animated projects because although this isn’t a production class it is ultimately it’s about producing some work. I’m thinking about doing something with a superhero character especially since I’ve been inspired by all the comic artists I’ve met this summer. I’ll keep you posted on that when we get closer to actually planning projects.
Lisa is starting us off with the first couple of chapters of “A Short Guide to Writing About Films” as a compliment to writing our papers more effectively and we’ll be using “Animation in Process” to learn about a variety of aesthetic approaches to the animation craft.
It’s going to be another great term and I’m going to soak it all up in sponge-like fashion. Of course I’ll share some of my papers and projects with you guys over the next ten weeks so leave comments and tell me what you think as we go along. 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
This is my final project for my 3D Texturing and Lighting course taken Winter Quarter of 2011. I downloaded the geometry of this scene and imported it into Maya. I created textures found from online images and applied them to shaders. The shaders were assigned to each object in the scene and digital lighting was added for realism.
I really enjoyed this assignment. I picked this model in particular as it reminded me of the dream studio I have pictured in my head. It looks like the old loft/factory buildings that many traditional artists use for studio space. I wouldn’t necessarily need a brand new or even a used modern building. I like old places and one properly refurbished would do just the trick for me.Read More
This was the Winter 2011 quarter midterm project for my 3D Texturing and Lighting class. We imported the 3D geometry into Maya, created textures from imagery found online and assigned them to shaders. The shaders were applied to each object in the scene and digital lighting was added for realism.
This course was my first opportunity to learn scene composition. It was difficulty to pick up on at first but I think this one turned out pretty well.Read More
This is the standard walk cycle assignment for my 3D Character Animation course. We learned the mechanics of showing weight in the character while making it walk across the screen (as opposed to walking in place which is learned in the first animation course). We downloaded the Generi character, probably the most used animation learning rig, for the assignment.
The objective was to incorporate overlapping action and secondary motion of other body parts to give the digital model actual character.
I created it using Maya 2011 and imported the rendered images into After Effects to create the QuickTime clip.Read More
If walls could talk maybe they’d make cool sound effects like mine. This was a sound design project produced in my Sound Design class at DePaul University during the Spring 2010 quarter.
We were given a Quick Time movie of an animated wall forming itself with the assignment to apply a creative sound environment to compliment the movement.
The software used is Pro Tools 8. Had major fun with this. It was a blast combining mechanical, animal and environmental sounds together to create various unique tracks. I could definitely get into sound design full tilt with my animation career.Read More
O.K. it was decades ago (just look at this old footage) and it has probably been replotted a million different ways in that time. This short film was produced in my Editing I class at DePaul University during the Spring 2010 quarter.
We were given film footage from what seems to have been a student production from the 1970’s of a bank robbery and cut it into clips to be recomposed as our own unique story. The ultimate objective of this basic editing class is to learn how to tell a story, not just how to put clips together, so it was a little difficult to grasp at first as I’m not a natural story teller. I have learned to be one in every class since then though 🙂
The software used is Apple’s Final Cut Pro 7 and the music tracks are a couple of my 70’s rock favorites from Paul McCartney and the Steve Miller Band. I think this was pretty decent for my first attempt. What do you think?
This is the final modification of my final project from my ANI 201 class, Animation I, at DePaul University in Chicago. It uses images processed in Photoshop and imported into After Effects for compositing. The movie was produced during the fall quarter of the 2009 – 2010 school year.
The concept is to show my career transition in the works. My old life as an engineer in a small engine factory is covered by foliage, ridding me of the old profession that brought me no creative fulfillment. Then the foliage retreats to reveal the inspiration to return to school and unleash my creative juices in digital animation, my new career in progress.
This is the second revision in which I add audio tracks in key spots to give more life to the film. I also added MAYA renderings and hand sketches from my 3D modeling class to the end.
I didn’t use the
Isley Brother’s Ohio Players classic by the same name but I could have and it would have fit perfectly. This was a short film produced in my Editing I class at DePaul University during the Spring 2010 quarter.
The assignment was to find or create our own video footage and stills and use it with music to tell a story. My sources were YouTube and the iTunes Store.
This is one of my favorites as I got to indulge my love of music and give a truncated version of the history of Western music. Who knows. Maybe I’ll do a longer one some day.
This was my last regular project prior to the final project for Acting For Animators during the Spring quarter of 2011 at DePaul University.
Our assignment was to take Lewis Carroll’s nonsensical poem Jaberwocky from Alice In Wonderland and make a short film interpretation of it. More specifically we were to find a YouTube version online that seemed interesting and use that audio as the foundation for our video.
I had fun making this a more figurative than literal interpretation. We were fortunate to be taught by the author of the book “Acting For Animators”, Ed Hooks.