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"