Thursday, December 27, 2007

Mid-Break Report

"How about a shave this Christmas?"

This is the Christmas card I gave my Mom, the quote was written on the back. :) My favorite one to make...I did see Sweeney Todd as well, and overall, it was a very good movie. They were quite right when it was suggested that blood be credited as a supporting actor--but the songs were very clever and the sets were marvelous. :) Anyways, I had a great Christmas and received many wonderful presents from the family...also it's snowing around here! Well before I head off to continue thumb-nailing certain scenes for my film, I just want to say a quick thanks to the people who commented on my previous post! It's great hearing from everyone. :)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I Survived my First Semester!

So I'm back in Oregon, enjoying the many greatly missed comforts of home. =) I've been busy Christmas shopping(I'm officially done!), making cards, and working at Target again. Anyways, as promised here are my final thoughts about my first semester at CalArts!

Video Animation & Computer Production: We primarily learned Final Cut Pro., next semester we'll be learning how to use After Effects and touch on Photoshop. I did learn a lot about Final Cut and basic film making(the teacher would bring in several examples of strong film making and have us analyze them)-- the teacher also gave me some great feedback on my film/animatic.

Basic Perspective: Dan Hansen has a really cool method to teaching perspective. The class was definately geared for animation and I learned some nifty shortcuts that will hopefully help me when I develop the backgrounds for my film.

Beginning Story Development: Loved this class! The teacher gave us lots of great assignments and I'm getting better at pitching story ideas. I always received great feedback on my boards and now my film is a lot stronger thanks to my classmates and teacher. Nobody teaches storyboarding better then the Dragen! haha.

Color and Design: There were two assignments I really enjoyed the most: The Flipbook animation we did and then our final project: the sculpture. I liked the film clips he showed along with several past first year films to give us an idea of what's expected at the end of the year. I sat down with the teacher on Friday and showed him my animatic and his response was exactly what I was aiming for. I was hesitant to show him at first, but by the end I was thrilled I did.

Beginning Computer Animation: We animated a snowman and then went onto animating a lamp rig(like the Pixar lamp) that the teacher built for us to use. His class has been interesting, everybody does have a better understanding of Maya and I'm now somewhat more comfortable not using my animation shortcuts I learned previously, but I still wish we animated MORE in this class. 11 weeks and only 1 official animation(that snowman), the lamp he gave us the last day of class to play with. Next term we'll be trying out different rigs and he promises the class will really start moving now that the basics of Maya have been covered.

Contemporary Literature: It's a critical studies class. Wrote 4 papers, read 7 books, kept a journal, lots of in-class discussions. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to get your critical studies classes out of the way BEFORE coming to CalArts, I couldn't imagine handling these kind of classes in the future. It was an interesting class, but more of a nuisance since I had to take time away from animating in order to work on homework for this class.

Life Drawing: I know I haven't posted any drawings from this class, but I hope to fix that next year. I couldn't find the time to photograph my drawings, but I really feel I've improved over the course of the semester. In the beginning I was unsure about the techniques the teacher wanted us to use, but in the last 2 weeks of the semester I was able to really grab hold of what he was trying to get us to see and now I'm a little more confident with my figure drawings---plus my caricatures have improved as well.

Traditional Animation: LOVE this class! Again, Story Development and this class are tied as far as which classes are my favorite, though story does loose by an eraser shaving because I still enjoy animating over developing story. The teacher always gave us inspiring lectures and showed us some great examples of the techniques he was teaching us. At the end of the semester he explained his approach to the class by basically saying, "I'm never going to treat any of you as students. I don't feel like I should be the teacher and you the student. I'll treat all of you with respect and on the same level that I am as coworkers and friends. I'm always eager to see what you guys produce and can't wait to be inspired by what I see in your animations." It explains his way of teaching and he really pushes us to develop our original styles by teaching us the "deeper" side of animation, getting inside the character and then he plans on teaching us the technical side of animation(though he did talk about a couple principles). I really enjoy this class and can't wait to put his lessons into action next semester. Plus, he enjoyed my animatic, he pointed out some staging issues, but overall he was entertained by it.

Story for Animators: I learned a lot about Story, a different approach then the Story Development class, but still it was interesting. Some of the writing exercises were useful and after reading "Story" by McKee I can't watch a movie without that book running through my head.

Overall, I had a fantastic first semester at CalArts! From the highly informative guest lectures to spending entire weekends in my cube, I love it. Some advice I'll give to anyone interested in CalArts though: I remember reading several journals by character animation students and they all touched on this one theme that I can't agree more with: CalArts has some wonderful teachers, however to get the best education at this school, you must be a pest. Go to these teachers for help/advice and show how interested you are in becoming not just a strong animator, but a film maker. I've gained a lot of valuable information just from staying after class and talking with the teacher. If you don't take advantage of the teachers here then you're losing out on some great opportunities--and the teacher might get the impression that you're not very passionate about being an animator/film maker. At the same time I've found out how helpful it is to go to fellow classmates and hear their feedback. It's very true how inspiring CalArts is. Everybody is exceedingly talented here, and I constantly want to push my work even further after seeing someone's piece--it'll be very exciting to see how the films turn out this year. Lots of great films being made right now. =) Anyways, that's all I have to say at this point. I head back to CalArts on Jan. 9th and until then plan to continue to enjoy the company of my family and friends--it's great being home. =) Well, Happy Holidays and have a very safe and Merry Christmas! Also, since I probably won't post until I get back on campus--Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

End of the Semester! Party Time!

Last week of school consisted of a lot of big final projects and promises of what's to come in the new year. I'll be writing a summary of classes and such in a couple of days, but for now today was the big holiday bash character animation party so I'll write about that.

It was amazing! First off, the freshmen organized a Secret Santa for the entire department and for the past few days various presents have been sent around, my seceret santa was all about the pirate booty. haha. Also got some treats from friends and I did my secret santa best. =) Lots of fun to be had. Anyways, at 6:30 pm the character animation party took place and the insanity begun---we had food, giant driedels, animation paper giveaways, various raffles, Freshmen screening of our kid animations(SO COOL! I can't wait to see how intense the Open Show will be. The energy level in the Palace was unbelievable!), and NO animation party is complete without a hand-made Bee Movie pinata! Don't believe me?

Gathering for the thrashing that's about to be released upon Mr. Bee.

By round five a fellow freshman succeded in knocking the Bee's head clean-off, Here's said freshmen enjoying the spoils:

After the pinata everyone packed themselves into the Palace and with my traditional animation teacher leading the charge, we played all of the freshmen animations. All of the upperclassmen were great, we practically yelled ourselves hoarse as we watched little kids do things only animators could think of. Afterwards the teacher had all of the freshmen stay and he gave us little presents before wishing us a happy break. Around 10:30 everyone gathered into the Palace again and we played a rousing game with the giant Dreidel in which the freshmen team won! Our team got the little wrapped presents that varied from My Little Ponies, Bratz coloring books, and in my case: A plastic gold bling necklace. haha! Shortly afterwards the raffle took place, various items were given away, but highlights included: Stacks of animation paper(PUNCHED PAPER!) and several copies of the Pixar Short Collection set that was recently released. Tons of fun, saw a lot of faces I didn't know before and had a great time ending my first semester at CalArts! Woo hoo I survived! Time will only tell how next semester will go. Anyways, here are a couple more pictures from the party and also my own kid animation:

Because they go by so fast---The title cards I used:

Well I have to pack, back-up all of my files, clean a LOT, and other such things before I leave tomorrow afternoon! It's been a memorable semester at CalArts and can't wait to dive head-first into my film on Jan. 10th!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pilot Sculpture

The big final project in my design class is to create a sculpture of a character, whether for your film or otherwise. I immediately jumped on creating my cat character Pilot and after several days of work he's finished! As of 1 are some pictures of some of the steps he went through:

Began from a thumb nailed drawing of Pilot. In the end I had to make some adjusts when I translated this pose to 3D, but his inner-character it still definately there.

Started out as mostly tin-foil/wire and the beginnings of Sculpey being applied:

Bananna is for scale, he's pretty large.

And here he is RIGHT after baking him, no longer have to battle gravity, his upper body was constantly folding over.

Heeeere's PILOT!

Pilot painted! I had a ton of fun on his mouth/overall head and then his hands were pretty fun. The teacher wanted a base for the character and to incorporate it somehow(not just a wooden base that the character was screwed into), so I decided to have Pilot standing on a Plane Manual book(in case you're wondering, it's a folded box that's been duct-taped for the paper texture, and then painted over). I'm pretty happy with it now that it's painted and his attitude once he goes over the edge is certainly there. Well, finals are going well, I'll update once they end--until then time to sleep, lots of work to do in the next three days!

P.S. Robin and Eli, thank you so much for the final-week goodies! They are a real treat while working on my final projects! Very delicious. And of course the other little gift for my cube, the package really made my day. =)

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Pixar Story Screening

Just got back from the screening of "The Pixar Story" and it was amazing, the director, Leslie Iwerks, came for the screening and had a Q&A afterwards. As for the documentary itself, it lived up to all of the reviews. Really showcased the people of Pixar instead of the films(the director wanted to avoid giving information you could see in a movie bonus feature). The director, Leslie Iwerks(go google her last name, her family has had a large impact within the animation industry), wanted to show how business, art, technology has combined to create this company which is in a league of its own. Lots of great interviews, rare footage of both the people(the various home-videos were perfect...I won't go into detail as far as whose home-videos, but every minute was thoroughly entertaining) and films, and a film the entire audience loved(everybody cheered when the film started at CalArts during John Lassester/Brad Birds' days here as students). I definately want to see this documentary again and am really hoping it'll see a DVD release(The director described what kind of footage she had to cut and if there's a DVD release, she plans on putting that extra footage in the bonus features.). Anyways, if you see this playing in an area near you---go see it! It really emphasizes a key point that was said in the documentary, "That art challenges technology and technology inspires art."

Okay, back to work. I have a lot to accomplish this weekend because the semester ends next week and I get to go back home! =)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Pixar Story

Look what is being screened this Friday at CalArts!!!

The Pixar Story

Quite excited! I've heard some fantastic things about this documentary.

Edit: Also I just learned that today is Walt Disney's 106th birthday. Happy Birthday Walt. Here is an appropriate quote for what I'm trying to achieve with Pilot and Ollie right now:

"Until a character becomes a personality it cannot be believed. Without personality, the character may do funny or interesting things, but unless people are able to identify themselves with the character, its actions will seem unreal. And without personality, a story cannot ring true to the audience."

and then,
"The medium of animated film is perhaps the most flexible, versatile, and stimulating of all teaching faculties."

"I hope we'll never lose sight of one thing that it was all started by a mouse."

Monday, December 3, 2007

Film Talk

Thought I should begin shifting my focus from general CalArts' events to my film, since next month I can promise that my film will be the only thing I write about(it's crazy to think that in literally FIVE weeks I'll be animating scenes for the actual film!). So onto the film talk:

Today was a momentous occasion for my film. Presented it twice and now the next 7 days(when this animatic is due, and I present my storyboards again) will be quite interesting. My film is still getting a good response, it's fitting the time requirement, and everyone picks up on the character driven moments---however, there's still a lot to fix in terms of clarity, reaction shots, the characters' relationship to each other, etc. After presenting this film a handful of times now, tonight was exactly what I wanted: the teacher and my classmates literally ripped my boards apart and pointed out all of its flaws. However, even though this might sound like the worst experience ever, they critiqued my boards in the sense of making it so much better. Basically, I have some serious issues of establishing which character the audience should really attach themselves to emotionally(as my teacher essentially put it, "While I certainly don't hate either character, I'm not finding a reason to 'like' or identify with either of them.") and my cat character, Pilot, is getting too angry/aggressive too quickly and his actions are not reasonable for what his owner is doing, at the end of my film, Pilot's karma is not set-up correctly, right now(though I didn't intend to have this message at all), it's coming across as animal cruelty--(he's supposed to have a "get what you deserve" kind of moment, but because of certain elements missing from the final shot and the way Pilot is set-up in the scene, it's giving that unintended impression). However, while they pointed out these major issues they also suggested a couple really great ways to fix all of these problems. So back to the re-boarding phase!
This is the great thing about CalArts, no one is afraid to give an honest opinion---they all give feedback in a way to make your work so much better(I've literally grabbed a friend and asked them if I can pitch my film to them and I've received some great feedback this way. I've also been the one who's giving feedback as a friend pitches a film idea to me--so it's a great environment to be in, very inspiring!) Despite the "brutal" pitch, I'm completely jazzed to come back next week with my new and improved boards; though I do plan on keeping one thing in mind--it is my own film. I've heard this before and I've learned a new definition of it tonight but, even though it's great to receive very thorough feedback from someone(or a group) it's vital to remember that this is my own film, no one else is making this so I am picking and choosing what feedback I'll "keep" and which I'll pass-up because I am stuck with this film for the next several months so I want to make sure I still stay true to my initial goals and not compromise an aspect of my film just because I want to please the masses. In the end I certainly want to have a film that people can enjoy, however, I ultimately want to enjoy the film myself so hopefully, by keeping this advice in my head I'll be able to lean back in May and watch my film without cringing. Until then, time to finish off the pesky critical studies writing homework and get back to animating my kid scene and improving my boards once more!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Merry Christmas Via CalArts

The holidays are in full swing in the Character Animation department. I'll try and get some better pictures later, but for now here's the tree. Hanging just above this area are paper-chain links leading all over the place, all courtesy of the 2007 Freshmen animation students. ;) Anyways, the next week and a half is going to be intense so for now, sleep.