Monday, December 13, 2010

First animated shot...

A little ahead of schedule, I was waiting until I had all the sets and characters modeled until I started animating, but this shot in particular was going to be one of the more challenging technically, so once I had everything ready I took a day or so to get the animation right.

This shot calls for one character to take a cloak off and drape in over the shoulders of the other, a tricky proposition in 3D because you start getting into cloth simulations and other really slow workflow methods. I typically never use cloth simulatons just because they take so long to tweak and calculate, you're better off using a low poly model and animating by hand, with a little bit of 'flex' modifier on the top of everything to give it a convincing wiggle.

A desaturated anaglyph preview of the final shot...
The lighting in this scene is really blue, so it doesn't
look as good in anaglyph unless I desaturate it...

Now, I'm not going to show the shot until everything is finished ;) so you'll just have to trust me for now that this worked, and I'm exceedingly happy how easy this actually was, once I figured it out.

So... simple thing, one actor takes off a cloak, hands it to his partner, and they wear it. If this was live action, it wouldn't be a problem. 3D animation means we have to take into account all the physics involved, and depending on how long you want to wait for your computer to calculate will determine how you do this. As I said, I've always had bad luck with cloth simulations, it's possible they've improved them but that's what I get for being stuck with an older version of the software (I can rant about avoiding "upgrades" later...)

Once I figured out that the cloak has to basically follow the contours of the character's bodies, I made a third skeleton rig for the cloak, and copied the motion of the first actor onto it so that it appears to follow his motion. Then in the transition, "simply" move the rig over to the other actor. The rigs are all hidden in the final render, and I've also hidden all the 'biped' bones that I didn't need for the cloak. The cloak itself is very low poly, so once the animation was tweaked to get rid of any intersections, I applied a mesh refinement and the flex modifier onto the edges to give it a 'cloth' like secondary motion.

Most of the other shots won't be as complicated... at least until I get to the fight scenes ;)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cool animated shorts vol 7...

I found this little gem on youtube tonight:

My first knee jerk, blurt-out reaction within the first 10 seconds was something along the lines of 'Lol I can see your polygons' Then the rest of the film unfolds in a stylistic perfection of low-fi, low-poly that works perfectly for this short. It's rare these days to find a film that doesn't follow the "pixar/dreamworks/disney/animation school" herd of photorealistic cartoony characters and modeling, and it's refreshing to see someone with such a well developed and consistent artistic style. I'm going to be pinching bits of this style in the future, for sure ;)

Animation, and digital animation in particular, enables a wider variety of artistic expression than is currently offered by the big hollywood studio system, both in terms of art direction and style as well as the subject, content, and execution of the art itself... so why not break the mould and strike out with your own visual and narrative style, that's the only way to stand out of the crowd now, and increasingly in the future as (hopefully and inevitably) more and more people will be doing this kind of thing.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sketch Method coolness

The multipass 'sketch method' I've been using lately is particularly good for adding detail and blurring the sharp edges you get in 3D modeling when two objects meet. For example, a city at night (from far far above) ... click through to the better res version...

Now that I know how to do a proper city from the air, I might have to go back and re-do certain shots from Archon that I was never 100% happy with...

It works great for grass and plants too:

The standard render out of 3D max with one pass
You'd spend a lot of time getting this to look any
better just by adding detail and geometry...

5 passes, with noise modifier synced to the frame rate.
Yup, I'm happy with this :)

And a view in 3D, with my 'stand in' human proxy model for scale.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Skyline semi-spoilers review

(warning... spoilers directly below this disclaimer...)
You are cordially invited to join us for dinner.
We would consider you the guest of honor...
..In fact you can think of yourself as the main course

Ok, so it's grocery shopping day on planet Xorblax, but by the time you get to earth you realize you've forgotten your shopping list. No problem, 'cuz human brains were the only thing on the menu anyways, and it's not like the humans were using them anyways. Bring along a few friendly critters to smash shit up and chase the protagonists until everyone dies at the end.

Oops. Did I mention that everyone dies at the end... well, almost everyone. Kinda makes the first 15 minutes of the film pointless building up the 'character development' for everyone who ends up as intergalactic sandwich meat... Blue is the color of 2010, the shinier the better, and this film packs more blue in than Avatar and the Smurfs combined.

I'm glad to see that somebody finally found the 'color' swatch in the Trapcode Shine plugin. I couldn't take a whole film of orange...

I was entertained, though I didn't go in expecting much of this film. They got everything off the checklist:

  1. Aliens
  2. Scary CG critters that suck human brains out
  3. Army guys fighting aliens
  4. Explosions
  5. umm... other cool stuff too.. I guess...
It must be getting harder for previs guys to come up with original designs for alien critters and monsters. Notice how aliens these days are getting more and more legs, and eyes, and mouths, all in wierd places... like eyes on the feet... and feet that are mouths... and tentacles. gotta have lots of those. What are we going to do when all the movie monster critter ideas have been though up? Oh yeah... make good movies again I suppose..

Skyline... 824 stars out of 1111

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sets - Exteriors

Exterior shots are always the most time consuming to setup, there's lots of little details to add, plus you want to avoid elements obviously repeating too much, while at the same time using objects over again to same modeling time...

It's especially tricky when your shot required a close-up set as well as far away details. Each of these environments took me about 5 days to build. Now that I've established the materials, stylistic look and build methods, it should be easier to create the other outside shot environments that I'm going to need:

This top scene is going to be a long render... the frame time is clocking in at about 5 mins per frame... and the shot here is going to be a good 30 seconds long... I'm tempted to animate this shot first and get it rendering while I build my other sets...

A lot of my time was spent optimizing the poly count on the market booths here. I've got high-poly versions of all the booths for closer shots, but once I started to fill them out like I wanted to, it was computer crash time, so I had to go in and cheat a bunch of the detail that I had put into the high poly models, I eventually got the models down to about 1/4 the poly count of the originals... the computer is still sluggish with everything on the screen at the same time.

This shot is going to be a "cheat".. in that I'm going to over-render and do a camera pan in comp... This makes life a little easier, since I can then render in stages, from back to front, and then comp in layers of actors who I have to animate into this scene as well.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cooking up some 3D pixels

Now that I've got (most) of the voices recorded and timed with the storyboard, and the characters are modeled, I'm going on a set building blitz for the next month or so to create all the locations in the film.

A quick mock-up of an underwater 'fishing' scene. No film would be complete without my favourite fish, Ambloplites rupestris, nature's rockin'ist fish, the Rock Bass:

Rock over London, Rock on Chicago, Wheaties the breakfast of champions.

Now I picked an easy set to start off with, the kitchen scene. There's two variations on this, daytime and nighttime. The nightime scene will be lit with a single lantern on the table, the daytime scene is shown below: I still have to model the views out the windows and the front door, but as these will be based on exterior shots, I will model the exterior next, leaving a proxy of the house interior in place, so I can match a background plate to the foreground when I comp the scene together.

I could start animating this, these are simple dialog shots, but I'm going to wait until I have all the sets done before I start any animation.

Of course, these are in 3D... you might want to grab yourself a pair of 3D glasses, I'll be posting a lot of stuff in red-cyan 3D from now on ;)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Low poly extras

I've been busy recording the voice actors for my next film, as well as creating the 3D models I'll need to animate the film. I have all the main characters modeled, but now I need to crank out a bunch of character extras to populate the background shots where they need to be. One of the most time consuming part of modeling characters is to create 'clone' extras and have them not look like clones. This is where scripting and a little trickery with vertex colors comes in handy:

The "extras" are just low poly models rigged with a standard physique/biped rig. The clones are "mesher" objects which duplicate the model, with an added time offset plus or minus time. The idea here is to animate a long sequence (2-3 mins) for the master, then offset the clones by randomly spaced increments to break up any repetitive motions.

To differentiate the clones from one another, I've come up with the material rig above. One material is applied to all the clones, but it uses the Vertex Paint channels to derive the rendered color. By stacking 3 separate vertex color modifiers using "additive" mode: full red, full green and full blue, I can mix any RGB color I want for the clothing of the characters. A separate control for hair color is put on a separate vertex color channel, this blends from black to white, and I use a color curve to get a range of 'hair' colors based on lightness:

In the modifier stack of each clone, I've setup a Morpher modifier which is actually turned off. The morpher is handy because it puts a lot of little sliders in a handy spot, and putting it at the top of the stack ensures that it'll be the first thing that comes up when you select the object; handy for making quick changes. I used the Wire Parameter dialog to link the morph channels directly to the layer visibility of the vertex colors for red, green, blue, and hair color. This lets me quickly change the appearance of each clone.

Now, the model above looks a little distorted, due to the noise modifier I've added to create the 'sketch' effect. In the case of these extras, they are in the background, so a bit of exaggeration on the 'sketch effect' is necessary to blend them into the background. It is common in anime, and animation to have static, motionless background characters in crowd shots, simply because of the amount of time it would take to animate them. (The only film I can think of where they spent a lot of time animating large crowds of people would be Akira...) I've always tried to avoid this, and the 3D animation tool of the computer allows for more lively motion from the background actors. Subtle motion is necessary so as not to distract from the main action. And anything that makes my life easier in this regard is good too.

Well, off to create about 6-8 more 'master' extras and populate the background of my film...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blender project "Sintel" released

The rather extensive team over at the Blender Open Movie Project have finally wrapped on their latest production, Sintel:

Not a bad effort, and a definite improvement in story, animation, and rendering, over previous efforts from this project: Elephant's Dream and Big Buck Bunny (of which I thought Elephant's Dream was the better of the two)

The sound in Sintel is spot on, they got some great voice talent. One thing that's been made apparent to me is the importance of good voice talent. Of the single aspect of production that a solo producer needs some outside help on is the voice talent. (It also helps if you record it before you animate... and before the script is completely finished ;) Despite what others might tell you: you CAN write the script, storyboard, concept art, model, animate, render, fx, music and sound fx and edit an entire film by yourself. I did it. M Dot. Strange did it. Jeff Lew did it. Dan and Matt O'Donnel did it. But trust me on the voice acting bit: I've found a great crew of actors who have contributed to the new sound mix for Archon, and recording for my next film A Call to Minds.

The story in Sintel is a bit predictable; I called the 'twist ending' halfway through the short, and I was sadly correct. I hate when that happens, and it happens a lot with the CG animated shorts I see. Luckily, they stayed away from the cliche "it was all a kid's dream" ending. Other than this one nitpicky criticism, Sintel is a great animation, and proves that Blender , Open Source software solutions, and independent filmmakers are now ready to stick it to the big studio devil worshiping media clog-comerates.

The next Blender project should be a full length feature film, produced in under two years of production from script to premiere, to show that the system is capable and ready to the challenge. All it will take is a director (or more of a dictator) to reign in the unruly mob of artists who worked on Sintel and crack the whip to get a feature length film.

The demand is there, and the audience is waiting:

If I can do it, working alone and having to do everything myself, then surely a team of talented artists can manage it. (How many people worked on Sintel... I lost count after 10... so the movie should be 80 minutes long as it is :P ...)

As Lloyd Kaufman would advise: make your own damn movie

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Upcoming events

Archon Defender will be screening at the 2010 Moving Image Film Fest (MIFFest 2010) on Sat Oct 16 at the Toronto Underground Cinema 186 Spadina Ave., (screening time and details to follow...)

I'll be there for a Q&A session after the screening. Come out an see the all new digitally remastered professional voice actors director's cut special edition of my award winning solo produced feature length animated film.

I'll be showing some of the storyboard art of Archon Defender this Sat Nov 25 at the Face Bomb art show, being held at the 'Laugh It Off' comedy club, 1414 King St E (King & Townline), Oshawa, ON 7 pm - 11 pm.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"Too many movies being made" says top TIFF stiff...

For some reason I've been getting a Toronto Star newspaper thrown onto my front yard for the last 3 mornings. I remember this happening about the same time last year, and when I called them up to complain that I wasn't about to start paying for their newspaper, they mentioned it was a promotion due to the Toronto International Film Festical (TIFF).

Flipping through the Star today, I come across this article, where top TIFF chief Piers Handling says that too many Canadian feature films are being made. (You could extend this sentiment easily beyond Canada, and say that too many films are being made worldwide...)

He’s particularly concerned about the rising number of Canadian feature films, which he doesn’t think our domestic industry or audience can properly support.

One thing you can certainly count on is for lack of support from the TIFF Film Festicle for independent artists. The TIFF festicle has come under increasing criticism by production blogs, and from people I've met and talked with at other festivals, of becoming an elitist red carpet affair, catering to the big studios and pandering to the celebrities. Kind of a Sundance North. Archon Defender got rejected from the fest this year, and I even sent them the copy with the new voiceovers.

They still took my entrance fee for TIFF though. This is where Mr. Handling becomes a bit of a hypocrite. He should relish the thought of more filmmakers making more films, and being idealistic, fatalistic, or outright foolish enough to submit their films to TIFF. That $50 entry fee can add up pretty quick. Granted, when I talked with the good folks down at the Dragon Con Film Fest, they said that they're not exactly getting rich off the entry fees. But I suspect that Mr. Handling has been handling more than one Starbucks Latte care of my entry fee 'donation'.

“We shouldn’t be making 250 feature films in this country. I don’t think it can sustain. Where are those films going? I mean, are they just home movie productions done on credit cards? For what audience?"

To paraphrase Lloyd Kaufman in his bestselling book "Make Your Own Damn Movie"; The filmmaking buisness is a terrible way to make money, you're better off working as a janitor or in a garbage dump, and your motivation to make a film had better be for the drive and desire to see your cinematic vision come alive on the screen for yourself foremost and to entertain your audience. Lloyd, and Troma entertainment, embody the true sense of independent filmmaking and artistic expression. Which is why Lloyd and Troma are persona non grata in the film "industry" The title of Lloyd's book sums up the message concisely: Make your own damn movie, whatever it takes, and no matter how terrible it turns out.

Archon Defender has 287,000 views on Youtube as of right now as I type this. I've won 4 awards for it, plus my latest film Tales from the Afternow which screened at Dragon Con... and won for best animated Sci Fi at Dragon Con. Guess what, I'm still not rich and famous from it, but that wasn't the point of making either films... And I'm in pre-production for the follow-up to Archon... Why? Because I want to make the films, for myself first of all, and for all of you to watch and be inspired. And hopefully some of you will also be inspired to make your own films (so I'll finally have some cool shit to watch besides the crap that the turkey farm churns out)

So to Mr Piers Handling, in response to your questions:
  1. The films are going to the internet.
  2. Yes. Home productions. Everyone can make a film. And you don't need to use your credit card either.
  3. For what audience? Everyone except you.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dragon Con 2010

I'm fresh back from Dragon*Con 2010, where my short "Tales From the Afternow" was screening in the Dragon Con Independent Film Festival. 4 crazy days of geek fest in the warm and sunny Atlanta GA.

I've been a long time fan of Troma films, I even have an old VHS copy of the Toxic Avenger still kicking around somewhere... Lloyd Kaufman and Troma have always embodied the true independent spirit of filmmaking. Troma films are horrible. Horribly entertaining, horribly fun to watch, and horribly inspiring. If they can make films, anyone can, which is the whole point. If you let yourself be limited by lack of experience, skill, or resources stop you from just going ahead and creating your film, then you're never going to get it done, and the only way to improve your skills at it is to just jump in feet first and make films. Lloyd, and Troma, are kind of the persona non grata of the film world, because they expose the 'biz' for what it is; they show that filmmaking is not some dark occult ritual requiring esoteric knowledge and deep pockets, that it's accessible to everyone, more so now than ever, now with the tools and technologies available.

Here's Lloyd's panel talk from Dragon Con 2010, where he talks about the history of Troma films, upcoming projects, independent filmmaking, and the importance of net neutrality:

Oops.. oh yes ;) I suppose I should mention that "Tales from the Afternow" won the award for "First Place - Animated Science Fiction"

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Came up with this cool zombie skin texture:

:( too bad I'm not making a zombie movie.... hmm one of these days, maybe ;P

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Character Design

Working on some new character models for the next film:

I'm big on recycling models from past projects, so some of these characters may look familiar to my 'regulars' by now. I'm rebuilding some parts of the models from scratch, keeping some of the methods I've used in the past, but refining the head, ears, noses, in addition to the hands which are now fully articulated with skeletal bones instead of the morph target 'cheat' that I've used in the past, which will mean a lot more versatility in the animation of hand poses.

Each character is getting the most recent version of my face animation rig as well, I've added and improved on the original controls that I created (dating back to the end of rocketmen 4, actually) So no everyone has controls for blinking, fear, anger, individual eyebrow controls, smiling, frowning, smirk, yelling, and 'smiley eyes', as well as the common mouth shapes for lip synching. I'm keeping with the simple look of the face animation: simpler is better... due to the 'uncanny valley' (home of such horrors as zombies, the frankenstein monster, and call center ops managers)

I want to get this next film done a lot faster than I did Archon Defender. The script is finished and polished off, the storyboards are done, now I'm building all the characters, environments, and props that I'll need. While I'm doing that, I'm going to record all the dialog with my voice actors in the next month or two, then it's a "simple" matter of getting down to the animation ;)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Do you just want to be a cog in the machine?

Some of you reading this may have gone to school to study animation or some other aspect of filmmaking. Some of you might even be working in the field. Chances are you've heard a lot about 'workflow' and 'quotas' and 'production' and various other bits of hr-speak meant to keep you under the thumb and in your place. You might not even mind it; gotta pay the bills... and trust me, it's not much more cheerful at a call center job.

So this isn't going to be some commie rant about the evils of employment and the rise of the proletariat or any such garbage.

But at some point you went into the creative field because you had a creative vision, you may still hold onto that vision, even though the day to day grind does it's best (intentional or not) to drive that from you. So do you want to be a cog in the machine? Sure, if it pays the bills, why not... but here's the positive message: You can still bring your own creative vision to reality using modern computing technology (example: off lease computers) and freely available tools (example: blender) in your free time. Got a movie stuck in your head forever? A music video, a book, a painting? Get it out for the world to see.

I made Archon Defender in my spare time, in 3 years, while working full time at a shitty call center (garbage dumps only *smell* worse.. they are actually better places to work.. and I've also worked at a garbage dump) In the year since I first released it, I've received multiple awards on the film festival circuit, plus attracted the attention of a talented group of professional actors who helped me polish out the soundtrack (you're going to have to put up with the 'short arms' though, I'm not planning to re-render the whole film...) In that time as well, I've created another short "Tales From The Afternow" , a 3D short, and traveled to various film festivals to screen my film. Not to mention that in the previous year since releasing Archon, I've refined my visual style, and developed a 3D stereoscopic workflow...

And I'm just sitting here on my computer pushing pixels around.. nothing spectacular, you can do it too. And the more people that get involved, make your own film (or whatever art you are good at) the more it'll push me to be better at my art (gotta keep ahead ;) So IF you are sitting in some production studio right now reading this, waiting to make your epic film, why wait? You don't have to be a single cog in the machine.. .you can be every cog in the machine (except maybe for voice actors.. you'll need some good voice actors...)

Friday, July 16, 2010

MIFF 2010 Award - Best Animation

Archon Defender has been awarded the ...award... for best animation at the Mississauga Independent Film Festival 2010:

As you can see, it's certainly the biggest award in the film industry. Maybe not the most famous, Maybe not the most prestigous, but certainly the biggest. I expect that they will have a lot more of these to hand out in the coming years as film studios move to all digital projection, and the analog film projector goes the way of other 'obsolete' technology. Kinda a shame in a way, the projectors I saw when I was up poking around in the Revue Cinema for my screening a while back were from the 1940's How much of our tech made these days will still be working 70 years from now? Let alone 5 years. There's something to be said for 'they don't build em like that anymore. Of course, digital technology is what made it possible for me to get this award.

I was going to gripe about how disposable our digital technology is.. but that's also a good thing in a way, used computers are what I've always used to make my films. And it's getting about time to go visit the off lease store and pick up a couple dual cores or maybe a quad core to render the next film on...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently updated "the rules"* for animated features:

In the Animated Feature Film category, the rule governing running time for a motion picture to qualify was changed from at least 70 minutes to greater than 40 minutes, which is consistent with the running time requirements for feature films in all other categories. The running time for a motion picture to qualify as an animated, live action or documentary short film has been and continues to be a maximum of 40 minutes. The previous 70-minute threshold for an animated feature had left a gap for films that ran between 40 and 70 minutes, effectively preventing them from being able to qualify as either features or shorts.

Also in the Animated Feature Film category, a sentence regarding motion capture was added to clarify the definition of an animated film. The language now reads: “An animated feature film is defined as a motion picture with a running time of greater than 40 minutes, in which movement and characters’ performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique. Motion capture by itself is not an animation technique. In addition, a significant number of the major characters must be animated, and animation must figure in no less than 75 percent of the picture’s running time.”

Now I agree with them on the 40 minutes or longer for 'feature' films, seeing as how Archon Defender is 65 minutes, so under the old rules it wouldn't 'technically' qualify as a 'feature'. (heh.. they must be getting ready to give me an award of some kind ;)

In terms of motion capture, that's just another tool to use in animation. Think of it as being able to 'paint' movement. You can't disqualify a painting by one of the masters such as Dali or Van Gogh because they used a particular brush to paint their work. Nor should you disqualify an animated film simply because a certain type of tool was used to make that animation. Motion capture is a great tool for an independent / solo animator to use, and there are lots of free motion capture source files available online as well. A good 3D animation program will also allow you to save your animations out as motion capture files to use again in other scenes, and have a way of blending those motions together and modifying them.

Plus if any of my own experience is anything to go by, the amount of effort that goes into 'cleaning up' mocap data so that feet don't slide and that body parts don't ghost through each other, it pretty much ends up being all hand animated in the end anyways.

* This is the internet, you can ignore the Academy's "rules"

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Upcoming Screenings

Upcoming Screenings

Archon Defender will be screening at the following venues:

Mississauga Independent Film Festival 2010
Closing Night Feature
7:00 pm Sun Jul 11th
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Fest Anca 2010
Zilina city, Slovakia
July 30 - August 1 2010

It always looks best up on the big screen in full HD :)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A serious list for aspiring artists.

I found this here, and I'm sure this has been making the blog rounds, but here you go again :) Not quite sure I agree with the whole waking up at 8 am thing, but the rest of it is spot on:

Dear Aspiring Artist:

Here is my advice. Think of it as a five-year plan:

Take whatever courses you find the most interesting.

Study closely the work of the Old Masters.

Stop making art that originates only from your own imagination.

Stay with one technique until you perfect it.

On any given day, always be in the middle of reading a book. When you finish one, start the next. Fiction, nonfiction, biographies, autobiographies, history, science, psychology, or how to build a kite. Anything but go easy on the comic books.

Buy and read the first 6 pages of newspaper every day and also the editorial commentaries. Skip the entertainment section. Su Doku is fine. Do the crossword puzzle.

Fill up a sketchbook every month with pen or pencil drawings of the world around you, not from your imagination.

Buy a book on figure drawing. It’s the only art book you will ever need.

Until you can draw an accurate portrait of someone, you don’t know how to draw.

Stay away from the airbrush. You’ll never master it, hardly anyone ever has.

Visit every museum in your city. Often, until you have seen everything in it. Every kind of museum. Not only the art museums but, of course, those as well.

Forget about contemporary art by living artists, at least for the next few years.

Stay away from most art galleries. Go to art auctions. That’s where the real action is.

Learn to play chess.

Take a business course.

Talk to you mother or father at least once a week.

Stop going to the movies until you have rented and seen every film on this list.

Do not watch television unless it’s the news or documentaries.

Do not use an Ipod.

No video games, either.

Learn a foreign language.

Learn to cook.

Spend 8 hours in a hospital emergency room.

Save up money so you can travel to a foreign country within the next five years.

Do not litter.

Avoid politically correct people.

Vote in every election or never dare to utter a political opinion. You are not entitled to one.

Buy a digital camera and take photos every day.
If you see nothing interesting to photograph, you will never be a good artist. Keep only one photo of every ten you take. Delete the rest. It will force you to learn how to edit the garbage from your life, to make choices, to recognize what has real value and what is superficial.

Visit an old age home.

Listen to classical music and jazz. If you are unable to appreciate it at least as much as contemporary music, you lack the sensitivity to develop into an artist of any real depth.

Go to the ballet. Classical or Modern, it doesn’t matter. It will teach you to appreciate physical grace and the relationship between sound and movement.

Wake up every morning no later than 8 AM, regardless of what time you went to sleep.

Learn to play a musical instrument.

Learn to swim.

Keep your word.

Never explain your art. People who ask you to do so are idiots.

Never explain yourself. Better yet, never do anything that will, later, require you to explain yourself or to say you’re sorry.

Always use spell check.

Stop aspiring and start doing.

This will keep you very busy but it can’t be helped.
In my opinion, this is how you might, possibly, have a shot at becoming a good artist.

Hope this helps,

Les Barany

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Casting Call

Casting Call for Voice Actors

I'm starting pre-production of my next film, a follow-up to Archon Defender. The script is "done" and the storyboards are done, now it's time to cut a rough action animatic from the storyboards.

I'm going to do things a little differently this time, including recording all the voice parts before I start animation production. So while I work on building the characters and the sets, I'm going to need some voice actors who want to lend a hand once again.

There's a few major characters, and some one or two liners, as ususal I'm not too picky about voice acting ability: but this time I won't be trying to match the voiceovers to computer voices. ( and learn :P ) This is your chance to prove the youtube complaineys and nay sayers wrong...

23 Characters to voice this time (instead of 42 for Archon Defender...) Msg me here or email me if you want some famous. ;)

Monday, May 10, 2010

New Film Project: Concept art

"New Film Project" being the working title for my next feature, a followup to Archon Defender. Not exactly a sequel, not a prequel. But based in the same world, with the same background mythology and archetypes. Plus, until I actually decide what title I'm going to use for it, "New Film Project" is all you get ;) There are hints to the nature of my next film in Archon Defender, and in my short Legend of the Moon...

A lot of the action in the film happens in Bridgeland. Kind of your typical small rural town, Bridgeland is going to resemble rural Japan:

A lot of Japan looks like this, narrow closed in streets, lots of little streams and rivers, bridges. Lots of places for badguys to hide, and lots of opportunity for creative destruction of animated property ;)

The script is now done, at least the first complete draft. It clocks in at about 50 pages, which in movie script land translates into 50 minutes, but I have a lot of "storyboarded action seqeuce" parts in the script. Basically, parts where it's easier for me to block out the action on recipie cards movie making cards, then mix and match the action until I'm happy with the flow. That's how I did all the action shots in Archon Defender, and that can add a bit of extra time onto the length of the film.

Once the script is revised to my liking (I'm going to wrestle with it a bit more this week) It's on to storyboarding, and then the timing animatic. This means that I'll be posting a casting call for voice actors a lot sooner than in the production of Archon Defender. No computer voices this time, plus I'll be able to animate to the voice actors instead of trying to match them to the computer voices. I've also put my characters in the torture chamber: they are currently stretching on 'the rack'; to put an end to the complaineys who said that the character's arms were too short in Archon Defender >:P

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Legend of the Moon in 3D on the big screen ;)

My short Legend of the Moon will be playing at the 7th Annual LA 3-D Movie Festival, May 15th, 2010, 1:00 pm at the Downtown Independent Theater in Los Angeles. An excellent opportunity for those of you in the area to see it in the best 3D projection setting, full digital 3D in the theater, and no wonky red / blue glasses.

Everyone else, go check out the 3D anaglyph version on Vimeo, or the 2D version if you don't happen to have a pair of 3D glasses lying around.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Script writing time


A tributary stream joins with a larger, main stream in
the center of Bridgeland. Although shallow, the water
level is confined by a concrete and stonework channel,
easily the height of two men.

Out from the shadows underneath a series of bridges
covering the streams, staggers the Timekeeper.

The Timekeeper shuffles forward in a confused state,
with one hand he grasps furtively to the wall, the
other hand clenches the side of his abdomen, which is
dark and stained with blood.

Shuffling into the light, he takes his hand from
inside his tattered cloak, and holds it up to the light.

Emaciated and gaunt, his hand is more like a claw.
He shivers and stares for a moment as blood drips wet
from his hand, his arm and robes stained with darker
dried blood and dirt.

The river beneath him runs with blood, and he
tentatively takes a few more steps forward.


Story vs Demo Reel

In my recent post you were treated subjected to the yawn inducing pixels of demo reel film "Meet Meline". Here it is again, if you missed it:

In stark contrast I offer the work of DarkMProductions:
Sign Episode One: Beginnings

You might notice a few slight differences between the two films. "Meet Meline" has slick production values, highly detailed backgrounds, fuzzy out of focus stuff, fuzzy squirrel things that the girl chases the whole film. Both films took about the same time to produce, about 2 years, and a small production team.

The style of "Sign Episode One Beginnings" is quite obviously amateur, made in Bryce and Anime Studio . I've used both, I started out using Bryce 3, and the first 5 minutes of Rocketmen vs Robots ep 1 is done in it. Anime Studio (back when it was called Moho) was what I originally started Archon Defender with. Not easy to get good looking results out of either program, plus I suck at animating in 2D. That's why I switched to 3D and forced myself to learn character modeling and rigging.

That aside, "Sign Episode One Beginnings" is by far the superior film. The cinematic shots are fantastic, the pacing of the story is spot on, and the characters are believable, and the film engaged me for the whole. I even took the effort to click onto part 2 (stupid youtube 10 minute limit... they really have to update that) "Meet Meline" is a yawn inducing, predictable, boring, shiny demo reel, so typical of 3D animation. It's amazing to me that when you have the tools at your disposal to create anything you want with animation, and 3D animation, why so often it falls short. It's all about story. If you don't have a story, if you don't engage your audience and allow them to identify with the characters, if your film has no depth: Then you aren't making a film, you're just testing out the software.

Luckily, a few filmmakers out there get it.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May is Script Writing month

Happy script writing month :)

May is script writing month. In order to be an animator again, and in order to be a filmmaker again, I have to first become a writer again. Which sucks, because my handwriting is terrible. Luckily Wordpad enables me to be a typer instead of a writer. Time to take all my disjointed and jumbled grab box of film ideas and somehow shoehorn them into something coherent. Now, I'm off to go press keys a whole bunch of times until I have a reasonable script for my next film.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Another new demo reel short making the rounds...

"Meet Meline" is a demo reel short film by the french filmmaking duo Sebastien Laban and Virginie Goyons which has been making the rounds recently on the CG forums.

Technically well done, (though the shaky camera was a bit overdone in my opinion) and this took the filmmakers 2 years to make. 2 years for 6:24 of a cg girl running around. Mind you, I'm willing to cut them some slack for holding down full time jobs working on video game cinematics and getting hitched during that period. And the rendering, the electricity bill for this must have been a bit of a kicker...


Plot Synopsis:
  1. Girl draws a squirrel or something resembling a squirrel
  2. It comes to life (luckily she didn't draw a velociraptor, or an alien face hugger)
  3. She chases it for most of the film
  4. Surprise ending typical of 'animated shorts'
The only real gripe I'm going to make is that it's not in 3D-glasses 3D

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Legend of the Moon

This is a short film I did recently to rough out some ideas for my next feature, and to work out a workflow for stereoscopic 3D rendering and compositing:

Grab your red-blue 3D glasses for the HD vimeo version:

or the 2D version on youtube:

or the 3D anaglyph version on youtube... or the 3d version using youtube's 3D player...

Anaglyph isn't the best way to see 3D, but it's the cheapest and easiest way at the moment. Until everyone shells out 5 grand or so for a 3D monitor or TV, 75 cent red/blue glasses are the way to go. This looks great on my old Amiga monitor with 3D LCD shutter glasses, but that doesn't help you all out much. Trust me though, it looks great :P (Anyone with "field sequential" or "lcd shutterglasses" and you want a version of this in that format, let me know... everyone else who doesn't know what I'm talking about: don't worry :P )

With updated (and better) music than the original version some of you may have already seen, this is sort of a teaser trailer but not really kinda... sort of. The next film will be a follow-up to Archon Defender, although not of the usual prequel / sequel type of film, more like an expanded look at the world and mythology I established in Archon Defender.

Turns out that stereo 3D is not much harder to do than 2D, especially when 3D max is already in 3D (thus the name) and it's "simply" a matter of adding a second camera and rendering out the footage for the other eye. Of course this means twice the amount of rendering for each shot, twice the amount of disk space needed. Plus a way to preview and compose in 3D (this is where the red/blue glasses come in handy)

Once again Hollywood has jumped on the 3D bandwagon, this time in response to online piracy. Avatar was obviously cool in 3D, but they are also releasing a bunch of crap movies hurriedly converted from 2D to 3D. Cardboard-cutout-o-vision, much? The real thing that will sell 3D to the masses is video games. The movie industry also wants to make it seem that 3D is something that only the big boys have the money or ability to pull off. Well, I'm here to show that not only can you make a film yourself, you can also do it in 3D, and you already have all the tools you need to do this sitting right in front of you as you read this.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Birdemic: Shock and Terror

Birdemic is the cinematic masterpiece of director James Nguyen who self-produced and directed his cinematic vision over a 3 year period, all while paying the bills working at a software sales day job. Billed as a 'romantic thriller', Birdemic delivers on both of these, and more.

"A platoon of eagles and vultures attack the residents of a small town. Many people died. It's not known what caused the flying menace to attack. Two people managed to fight back, but will they survive Birdemic?"

Now, Birdemic is a film so horribly bad that it's actually good. The sound editing has been cut together from the original takes without consideration of matching levels or masking out abrubt changes in background noise or momentary drops in silence, the acting is terrible. The special effects - which look like animated gif's of eagles superimposed on the footage - is the icing on the cake.

Now when I say that Birdemic is horribly bad; this is a good thing. I can't recall a movie lately where I've laughed through the whole thing. And it's a sad indictment of the turkey farm that the romantic scenes, awkward as they are in Birdemic, are more believable than certain other cinematic offerings lately.

is a great example of holding true to your creative vision and making your film regardless of any obstacles or resistance. I've certainly experienced my share of the complaineys who didn't like Archon Defender. Isn't it odd that once a film becomes 'bad enough' that it's actually good.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Recent awards

Archon Defender has been well received at several film festivals. I was recently in Vancouver to receive the 'Rising Star' Award at the Canadian International Film Festival. The film has to date received 3 awards:

As the filmmaker, I know my film is awesome, however this is a point of view that is somewhat biased. It's great when people agree with me ;D Of course, the film has had it's share of complaineys and haters:

Voice acting precedure: read this, and I'll record you.
If you think I need something more than robotic monotone: don't.

(Notice the the folks over at xtranormal have taken a page out of my filmmaking book... Simple characters, computer voices, simple facial animation rig that doesn't cross the uncanny valley...)

If you want to see the film in your area, a great new resource OpenIndie has opened recently online, go there to add your name to the list of people to request a screening in your area, the more people that sign up, the greater the chance that we can get a theatrical screening in your area. And the film looks amazing up on the big screen in all it's HD glory.

My next project, 'Tales from the Afternow' is done, and in post production, look for it to be released on later this year:

Oddly enough, I'm not doing the sound or music for a change, but from what I've seen of it so far with the soundtrack added, it's going to be win ;D

In the meanwhile, head on over to to watch (and vote for) the music video I did for Moby's "Wait for me" contest.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hey sneaky sneakys...

Did you happen to catch the 'rah rah' rally the troops 'round the American flag scene in Avatar?.

Happens twice, at the beginning when Col Quaritch is giving his 'tour guide' speech to the new recruits, and towards the end when he's rallying everyone to go get eaten by flying critters.

It's subtle, and a sneaky way for James Cameron to insert the iconic image of the General rallying the troops in front into his film. (There's even 13 stripes created by the venetian blinds on the window...I counted)

If you're going to be a good filmmaker, you have to have a sharp eye for things like this. As filmmakers, we love hiding little things like this in our projects ;)

The Stars and Stripes forever...
You want to rally the troops,
get Elvira on board.

(She'll make you "stand to attention" *ahem* ;)

Now, I'm all for flag waving... Hey James Cameron, you're from Canada, here's how you wave the flag:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tales From the Afternow - sneak preview

Here's a few sneak preview stills from my short 'Tales from the Afternow' Written by Sean Kennedy, and music by Patient Zero. The folks at RantMedia are in the process of finishing up the sound fx and music, and when that happens it's going to be awesomesauce over9000 rocketballs hella cool.

Based on Patient Zero's past releases:

The soundtrack is gonna hella rock it all the way to Russia like Saddam Hussein.

In the meantime, head over to to catch my latest music video for Moby's "Wait for me" contest. Don't forget to vote for my video. Or make a video of your own, the contest deadline is Apr 5 2010.