Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Grey Dreams

I'm still getting those chest pains. I think I may have had a mild heart attack yesterday. It wasn't pleasant. I can't help feeling the reassurance that I'm too young or not fat enough or don't smoke or drink heavily won't actually prevent cardiac arrest. Diagnosis by statistics alone doesn't seem quite right to me. If I die in the next day or two, I want my headstone to read, "I told you I was having a heart attack".

I wonder if it's stress-related?

I was playing SimCity Creator on the DS on the bus this morning. My city was hit with an earthquake. 79 buildings destroyed. Just as I managed to rebuild the last one, another hit and I lost 72 more. That was a waste of a bus trip. But it seemed quite fitting for some reason.

I wonder just who is making the most money out of this whole bank crash malarky? You want a sound investment? Go to the bookies and put a large sum of money on this crash turning out to be completely orchestrated. It's a long-term investment of course but one I think will pay off nicely.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Where's my castle?

They say a man's home is his castle.

I once took that to mean it was a place you could find sanctuary. A place to rest. A place that is your own and where you are royalty.

What it actually means is that it's the place you're going to have to put up with politics, people banging down your drawbridge, chucking rocks at your towers, a constant stream of traders, rubbish court musicians and the never-ending babble of the court jester.

Being King is not all it's cracked up to be.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Every boy needs a pet

A little Andy for the weekend.

I seem to have lost the knack of sleeping again. There's a trick to it - the whole falling asleep thing and then the staying asleep. It's not an easy trick and I've forgotten it.

That's not good.

I wish Dr.Phil lived with me. Not to sort the sleep thing out. Just in general. He seems like a nice guy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

He's the Box Assassin!

I know I've mentioned this before on the blog but I'm a huge fan of Jeaux Janovsky's work. I think the first thing that hooked me was simply the name of his previous blog - all my heroes have day jobs. I loved that sentiment.

There's something in his work that I can't quite put my finger on. It's different to so much other stuff out there that would fall under the same heading - quirky. I like it.

Well, Jeaux was kind enough to sort me out with a copy of his original Box Assassin Hitman mini-comic and his stunning debut in Giant Robot magazine. Me plugging something is going to be a bloody rare sight on this blog but, well, this is just too good not to mention.

I think I got a copy of Giant Robot quite some time ago, probably in Boston or New York. I can't quite remember it. The thing about Giant Robot is that, for me, it's a reminder of just how culturally limited things are here. One thing I love about the US is the cultural mix. There are differing cultures everywhere, and here where I am too. But they aren't mixed. And that's quite a big difference.

Giant Robot is a wonderful magazine that highlights Asian pop culture. Or Asian-American I guess, to be more specific. For me, my exposure to that amounts to admiring pretty girls and buying a Japanese copy of Street Fighter 3 for the Dreamcast in a store in Boston. So flicking through this magazine is lovely. It's like another world to my grey nothingness over here. And the standard of illustration work in here is high. Really high.

So it's a testament to Jeaux's work that it sits in this issue like it has always been here and was always meant to be here. It's a great little strip about a box, who is a hitman assassin, and it's vibrant and energetic. It could exist as just images alone, and isn't that the sign of a great cartoon?

I'm a fan. And, if you can, you should check it out too in Giant Robot #55. At the very least, take a stroll over to Jeaux's blog and check out the Hitman image by scrolling down the page a bit.

Thanks, Jeaux. You deserve the success that will come your way and I wish you all the best with the Hitman. He's my new best buddy!

Man, I hope Jeaux doesn't sue the ass off me for using his character in my doodle. I have no money! You can't get blood from a stone, and all that...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

All switch!

That is, of course, unless the studio pays to upgrade everything all at once. Which would be the most logical solution, though not the most cost-effective.

Adobe seem to upgrade their products all the time and there have been about 400 Flash upgrades since they took over that. Our production has been expanding as it turned out to be bigger than the producers thought. That means more animators, more compositors and more programmes. And it seems each time a new station gets put in place, Adobe has upgraded their software.

Not with anything we'll actually use.

But upgraded regardless. Meaning, unless upgrades are bought for the entire studio, people end up uncompatible. Or incompatible. Or, worse, both. Saving to an earlier version seems to be something Adobe have now removed too.

It's not just Flash. There are a couple of guys on Premiere and they ended up having to upgrade and the only difference that mattered to them is that the newer versions hog RAM for no apparent reason. They aren't doing anything differently and yet the programmes do not run as well as they once did due to the memory requirements. A pointless and counter-productive upgrade for the studio.

At least my old, old Flash lets me save to old, old, old Flash. That's a bonus, right?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The need for... something

Thanks for all the kind bloggiversary words, all! They mean a great deal.

I'm finding life generally overwhelming at the moment. Work is nuts. It turned out to be a far bigger production than the studio expected. The upside to that is that it is a better quality show than the one I initially signed up for. The downside is that we are all fraying at the edges, there is too much to keep track of and we're always several steps behind the chaos of production.

But, on top of that, I always have so much more going on. I think it's part of some creative personality. I commit to far too much and I have this constant drive to create and produce... stuff. Right now, on top of the daily job, I'm actually getting some money to develop something I have no time at all to develop. I have another project that I see as being the key to my future that I have no time at all to develop. And then I just keep on doing these extra things on the side. The need for... well, something. What is it? I'm not quite sure. Is it just a need to create?

I haven't had a holiday since I can't remember when. Long before I ever started this blog. Weirdly, my bosses wouldn't have had a huge problem with me taking a holiday but I could see the impact it would have on production myself and kept putting it off until production settled down. What the hell is with that?! It's not like I own the bloody company. Is that some sort of insanity?

And home life is no sanctuary.

So it's a bit like those claw machines right now. So many things to grab and yet those stupid claws are utterly useless. I'm getting old. I'm seriously thinking of letting go of the claw machine and playing a bit of Street Fighter instead. Allowing myself to take it easy for a while, or as easy as life will let me. Which isn't actually all that easy.

I have commited to far too much.

And yet, I know if I were off playing Street Fighter, I'd find myself drawn back to that poxy claw machine. It's got to be some sort of personality disorder.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Medicated Cartoon Life is 1 Year Old!

Yep, my blog is one year old today. Kind of sad that I had to do my own birthday pic... not to worry, I got a cake from Astro Andy! Looks like the candle is burning my producer's crotch.
And he likes it.

It's been a long year. And a very short one. I don't think I thought I would blog as much when I began this thing. I didn't really know what I was doing with it actually. Initially, it was going to be just my own little private space where I could get stuff off my chest - stuff I couldn't say day to day. Mainly, that was because of my depression. It's something that it's generally not a good idea to mention, especially when the shows I've been working on have been so happy and are aimed at young children.

But then, sometimes people don't take into account that we're all adults, with our own crap to deal with. Even if we're making stuff for children. Who knows what kind of seedy stuff those Wiggles guys are into. Does it affect their wiggling? Not in the slightest. But some people might not like hearing about their debauchery.

So I chose to get stuff out here. Oddly, after the first few posts, which went along the lines of 'I have depression', I felt better. Had I quit the blog at that stage, it would have done its job. But stuff was happening in work and life and I just sort of kept going.

A lot happened over the year. I got my first comment (thanks Andy!). The iPhone was launched. I pissed some people off. I learned Flash and got a mention over at Cold Hard Flash as a result (thanks guys!). I got spammed. Workmen ruined my stuff (pack of wankers). Astro Andy got stranded. I got loads and loads and loads of rejection letters. That sucked. My dog (and best friend) died. That sucked more. I ranted about life, and society. And, almost every day, I wished I was somewhere else.

And I got a domain name - http://www.mymedicatedcartoonlife.com

The look of my crappy drawings changed a bit over the course of the year, not really for any intentional reasons. It just sort of evolved. I didn't actually set out to illustrate the posts initially but I did it for the first early ones and then, well, it's sort of hard to stop. It becomes habit. But I'm really glad I did - I actually enjoy doing the drawings for this blog, as crap as they are. They're quite honestly the first time I have drawn for pleasure in years.

Though, had I known I was going to keep drawing on the site, I would love to have actually used some sort of design. Put a bit of effort in or something. But I didn't and it just became what it is. Oh well.

I've had a lot of great visitors over the course of the year - Andy J. Latham (now of Traveller's Tales), the always polite Mr.Trombley, Toole, Mitch, Ron (of Collideascope Studio), Murray Bain (of Copernius Studio), the wonderfully talented Jeaux Janovsky, the (also talented) Bobby Pontillas, actually a whole bunch of talented people, like, em, Elliot Cowan (I suspect he's slightly twisted) and so many more I could just keep on dropping names. But then this post would get waaaaay longer than it should be. Suffice it to say, if you've dropped by, I really appreciate the company and I'm honoured to be visited by such an interesting and talented mix.

So one year on, here I am... still blogging. I hope those of you who have passed through have found something interesting. Who are all you guys? What brings you here?

Hopefully I'll still be here doing whatever it is I do in another year's time. If these chest pains don't kill me first. Or I decide to leave society and shack up on an island somewhere (in a shack, of course). But for now - happy blogday to me!

Monday, September 22, 2008

That Forum Intro animation

Sorry, not back to regular service just yet but I was sent the link to the Cartoon Forum Intro Animation, which I really liked, and thought I'd share it. You can find a download link to it on this page.

Hope you like it! It's a Bittie Award Winner!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Bitter Animator Cartoon Forum '08 Awards

Yes, folks, it's what I'm affectionately calling the Bitties! My Cartoon Forum '08 Awards show. No red carpet, no nominations, just all winners. Oh, and a little retrospective at the end.

So let's get straight on to the winners.


Cheatiest Trailer
Winner: The Three Robbers
Well, it was all from the movie, wasn't it? But you were here to pitch the television show.

Most Disgraceful Pitch Line
Winner: The Baba House
They describe it as "Big Brother for toddlers".

Cutest Project
Winner: Rah Rah!
Yeah, it's cute. That's a good thing.

Most Entertaining Personality
Winner: Jonathan Peel
Jonathan Peel, of Millimages, claims he's going to be a pensioner next year, but this man is a complete hellraiser. He's a veteran (or victim) of the rock and roll years.

Most Bitched-About Distributor of the Year
Winner: Entertainment Rights
What has everyone got against these guys?! Wow, talk about venom.

Most Inappropriate Project
Winner: Paper Clips and Nail Polish
The buyers here are from children's channels. You wasted a lot of money going to the Forum. There's one (or even two) like this every year.

Stuff I Drank Too Much Of
Winner: Beer
I almost died. And Oktoberfest hadn't even begun.

Accessory Of The Year
Winner: Crutches
What was with the amount of crutches and leg injuries at the Forum this year? Had to be a fashion thing.

Sexiest Female
Winner: Jules Grant, C21 Media
Yeah... she's pretty.

Sexiest Male
Winner: Richard Rowe, Cartoon Network
Is he wearing make-up? I think he is. The ladies love Richard.

Most Expensive-Looking Project
Winner: Plankton Invasion
Well, in the trailer anyway. Everyone is drawn to a trailer that looked expensive, regardless of whether it's any good or not.

Project I've Seen A Million Times Before
Winner: Little Astronaut
So many to choose from this year. So many copies and bland knock-offs. But this Little Astronaut thing looked so familiar that it came out a winner. Astro Andy would have kicked its ass.

Project That Looked Like A Children's Show But Should Have Been For Adults
Winner: Just A Thought
Real children's dialogue animated in a crude children's drawing style. Was a close contender for the previous category. But what they were talking about was love and sex. That's not a kid's show. Kids would have no interest whatsoever in it. And some parents wouldn't want them to. What were you thinking?

Laziest Trailer
Winner: Adventures of Someone and Somebody Else
I've totally forgotten the name. Seriously guys, put a bit of effort in.

Best Animation
Winner: The Cartoon Forum Intro Animation
I should have mentioned this before. Before the trailers, there was a little intro animation apparently done in Ludwigsburg by the local students. A CG 3D thing. It was really good.

Trailer of the Year
Winner: Stories About Francis
Clear winner. The moment he dropped his pants had me in stitches. Genius. Dropping pants=hilarious. It's simple.

Forum Reporting of the Year
Winner: Bitter Animator
Yep, AWN's Ron Diamond can go and shite. Kidscreen's Jocelyn Christie lost out due to her second day outfit. Not a good choice. And Jules, well, she had won a previous category and I like to spread the love. So I think I win. If you're reading this and you're connected in any way with the animation business, tell everyone you know that I totally won this category. I'm an impartial judge too. Yeah, I kicked ass.

So there you have it. I end this year's Cartoon Forum with a victory. Go me. The quality of projects this year was not high. Everyone was saying it. Actually, everything was just a little bit disappointing. The turnout wasn't great. The location was nice but the Forum area itself was sort of stuck on a big road. I drank too much and I'm glad to be home now.

I had a little something with me but didn't do great getting it around. The broadcasters tend to have this wall up - they are very obviously being inaccessible - and I'm pretty shy in general so introducing myself to them became like asking a supermodel for a date. I'd just crumble. Quite pathetic really. Not to worry. I did actually make a couple of useful contacts so who knows where they'll lead.

I hope someone, anyone, got something out of my Forum reports. I expected to do more bitching about people but there wasn't enough going on to really dig up any dirt.

Next week, it's back to our regular scheduled programming!

Oh, and if you know anyone I mentioned or who works on one of the projects, feel free to let them know they won a Bittie. It is prestigious after all.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cartoon Forum Report #5

This one is a little late but I got here eventually. Day 3 of projects. Oh, the Cartoon D'Or wasn't as bad as I expected with very little pointless filler. That must be a conscious change because they also moved it from the last night to the second night this time. Attendance must have been dropping as people saw it for the hell it was.
That said, I still tuned out completely out of habit.

So, on to the projects.

The morning opened with the trailer for The Three Robbers. This looked lovely to me. Traditional 2D that looked like 3 Men and a Baby with thieves. They were pitching it as a television show but all of the footage came from a feature version that they had made first. I have never seen the feature but some people there who had said it was excellent.

There was some thing called The Troubadours that was a whole bunch of real live kids dancing around and the odd shot of a 3D character. Is that a cartoon? Well, I'd say no. I didn't go to the presentation. The next one wasn't all that different either - Badly Drawn Roy. Based on a short film that is actually pretty funny, it's about a cartoon boy living in the real world. So it's mostly live action. It was Irish and all seemed very, well, local. Oirish. I imagine it will play brilliantly in their home territory but I'd be iffy about the rest of the world. And, though he may be 'badly drawn', using what seemed like first year animation student studies to illustrate him didn't impress me. BBC loved it though so what do I know.

There was a trailer for a thing called Claude from Folimage that was fantastic. It was this four-eyed monster thing just waiting for toast to pop. And then it did. A very understated trailer but one that I loved and I regretted missing the presentation. But I did miss it.

Then there was that Monkey Fist. The 3D looks pretty good actually and the style is like a fleshed out Gorillaz copy. But it's several years too late. It will take at least two years to make it to air and by then, well, I'm sure we're all praying this kung fu bandwagon is dead.

But the project that totally and utterly won the Cartoon Forum for me was one called Stories About Francis by a German company called Ogglies. The trailer was genius. This is what it looks like -

It began as the most insipid derivative cack. This curly haired boy called Francis gets bullied by bullies (who else?). They call him a girl over and over. Then his friend turns up and she joins in. What a bitch! So here they are all calling him a girl. Then the moment of genius - Francis screams "I am not a girl!" and drops his pants. I spat my coffee all over the table. Those wacky Germans. I loved it. Totally won the Forum for me.

There was nothing worth mentioning in the afternoon projects. I feel sorry for those who got allocated that slot because a lot of people had already left. It's the same every year.

And that was the Cartoon Forum Ludwigsburg. 60-something projects in three days. Many more if you count all the ones sitting on the laptops of the wandering producers.

Next year, the Forum is off to Norway. That should be nice.

In the next day or so, I'll give you my Bitter Animator Cartoon Forum '08 Awards. Sure, it's just the first year of these awards but I think they'll be highly prestigious at some point.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cartoon Forum Report #4

It was a rough morning. They don't serve the beer in glasses like that. I don't even know why I drew it that way. What the hell was I thinking?

I'm lucky to have survived the day. I was seriously ill this morning. But the result of the late night and the stupid amount of weisbier (that stuff just creeps up on you) meant I missed all the morning's trailers. Word on the cartoon street was that Squidge and the Hardnuts from Cosgrove Hall looked pretty good. The rest didn't seem to impress anyone.

I was sorry to have missed the Binmen trailer. The Forum book says it “encourages children between the ages of six and nine to think about rubbish in a fun and exciting way”. Now doesn't that just sound like genius?

But I did get to see the afternoon projects, having recovered somewhat though still rather fragile. Abercadabra from Calon is about a bunch of kids living in Wales who perform magic tricks as part of their daily lives. Not supernatural rubbish (fun and exciting?). The Paul Daniels kind. The trailer looked a bit, well, plain. It was animated in Flash but the designs were clearly meant to be animated traditionally and that let it down a bit. Ordinarily, I would have dismissed a project on that.

But you see Robin Lyons, from Calon, does such an entertaining pitch every time that I couldn't miss it. And he didn't disappoint. He wowed us all with magic tricks and comedy for half an hour, and Robin is a very funny man. But... he told us nothing about the show that we didn't see in the trailer. He had nothing more to show. But people loved the pitch and went away thinking they loved the show because Robin is just that entertaining.

Paul Daniels indeed.

Aside from that, there was one that looked a bit interested called Myo & Ga from Imira Entertainment. Very cool CG 3D thing that had very simple but striking designs and it just came together to look exciting. I think they may need a bit of help actually turning it into a show though. At the moment, it's a cool visual piece and I didn't feel convinced they could sustain much longer than what they showed. Could turn out to be great though. The trailer looked a lot better than the image below would suggest.

And the rest... was utter drivel. Oh, no, that's not true. There was one called Rintje that was quite bizarre. Rintje is a dog, walks like a dog on four legs and sleeps in a basket. His mother is also a dog but wears a dress and acts like a person. Weird. But something attracted me to it. I didn't go to the presentation though so can't really tell you more than that.

Today there was a tour of the Mercedez Benz museum. I'm not much of a car man, but I thought it was excellent. The building is amazing – like something out of a James Bond movie. And it had loads of classic cars. I never realised just how large those early cars were. This was nice -

Aside from that it was business as usual at the forum. Producers with laptops. Lots of people expressing interest in shows they will never buy. Cartoon Network and Nick buyers stuck together becoming a single entity. Who knows where they go at night? Can't say I blame them - producers probably latch on and don't let go. The Cartoon D'Or ceremony is tonight, where they take 30 minutes of short films and stretch it out to a three hour borefest.

Cartoon Forum Report #3

I'm so hungover, I pray for death.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cartoon Forum Report #2

Having a look first thing in the morning, it seemed that wrestling with Windows while setting up for presentations was the first order of business. Everyone was in quite a fluster with their Media Players and their Powerpoints.

Later in the day, it was more about people avoiding AWN's Ron Diamond, who is a staple at the forum. Ron's a nice guy and all but, well, he's not as pretty as Kidscreen Magazine's Jocelyn Christie, who now sports a short do that rather suits her. And Ron does have a tendency to just stick to you.

Bloody hell, the opening speeches dragged. They brought in the Burgermeister (very cool name) but he lost me when he started waffling on about Web 2.0. Just show the goddam trailers. Lunch was worse. Three hours for lunch?! Mostly just so they could waffle on and on and then on some more. That's nothing new in the Cartoon Forum but it's not something you can ever get used to.

So, on to today's projects. Well, I'm not at some of them (I'm here typing this) but I was at a few and saw trailers for all of them so here's what stood out -
Bamse and the Time Travel Machine - Ugh. No. You need know no more.
Paper Bag Lady - I liked the look of this. It's quirky. The trailer gave me no idea what it was about and, as I didn't go to the presentation, I still don't know but what the hell - I liked it.

Plankton Invasion - Everyone went to this. Like, everyone. Because it looked expensive. Every year there are a couple of projects that, regardless of content, look expensive. This was one of them. A CG thing that basically puts the blame for global warming, ecological disasters and all of the world's ills at the feet of... plankton. Yep, those bastards the plankton have ruined the planet for the rest of us. They claim to have quite a web presence already. The producers I mean, not the plankton themselves.

Adventures of Akiba and some other guy (can't quite remember the name) - Okay, what were you thinking? Have you been to the forum before? Or heard of it? The idea is that you show a trailer - not a storyboard. If you can't crank out 45 seconds for the forum, who is going to believe you can produce a 52 x 13' show?!

Operation Lynx - Oh dear lord, shoot me now. Horrific. Save the Endangered Specie. Yes, specie. You heard me. An awful 3D thing.

Captain Romance - Looks lovely in stills. Like a storybook in colouring pencils. Doesn't quite work as well in motion. Still, not bad.

Rah Rah - This is from the Frankenstein's Cat guys (I think) and this one is a really sweet preschool thing about a lion done in 3D. The voice of the lion is painful but, aside from that, I like this. It might be a little Pocoyo and follows a similar narrator/character thing but, what the hell, who said there was originality in animation? This is different - it's a lion. Yeah, I quite like this one.

There were a bunch more that I can't remember or were rubbish. The obligitory adult ones too that think they are shocking but aren't from people who don't realise all the buyers at the forum are from children's channels.

This evening, there is a trip to some monastery, which I may or may not go to, and then some big party thing where they'll make me drink lots of beer and miss tomorrow morning's presentations as a result. Why is it so many animation people are such beer drinkers? I don't know but the forecast is for hangovers and lots of them.

And that is the first day of projects at the forum. Hopefully, I'll have another update tomorrow at some point but can't quite say when.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cartoon Forum Report #1

Being here with no wacom, airport and airplane doodles are the best I can do, I'm afraid.

What a crappy journey. Up way too early in the morning and this place took the whole day to get to. Seems nice enough now but I'm knackered and I'm about ready to come home.

I'm not great with airplanes.

Luckily, it didn't crash. This time.

Nothing really kicks off today except for a welcome dinner thing which I likely won't survive as I'm far too tired. I may bail and just go to bed so I'm fresh for the morning. Or as fresh as I am capable of being, which isn't all that fresh.

Having a flick through the Forum book of projects, there are a few interesting ones, a few that look like nice short films but will never make a show and a few that leave me wondering what the hell they were possibly thinking. Plenty of projects that look like loads of other projects.

Monkey Fist? Do we really need another kung fu animal, Dandy Productions? Do we really?

Quite a lot of 3D but nowhere near as many Flash-looking projects as I would have predicted. And not all that many monkeys.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Off to the Forum tomorrow

I'm not 100% sure I'll have easy internet access but, if I do, I'll fill you all in on what's going on at the Cartoon Forum. Live reporting! I should have access. I mean hotels these days should have it, right? If I don't, well, it could be pretty dead here over the next few days but I'll tell you all about it when I get back.

What I expect to see are a whole bunch of projects in their very early stages. Some will get off the ground and make it to television in a few years. Others will never be heard of again. At previous forums I saw Code Lyoko (would have put money on that not making it to television based on the presentation), Yoko! Jakamoto! Toto! (looked good but needed a name change), Aardman's Chop Socky Chooks (cynical cash-in that was guaranteed to make it to air simply because it has Aardman behind it), Charlie & Lola, Skunk-Fu and a whole lot more that I can't remember now.

Each year, seemingly through total coincidence, there are common ideas. For example, one year the Forum was inundated with projects about child vampires. One year it was martial arts animals. This year, my guess goes to monkeys of some sort. Possibly space monkeys.

You wouldn't believe some of the cack people turn up with.

I had a dream about a plane crash last night. I hope it doesn't come true.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Look what Andy found this time!

It is pretty, Andy.

Apple launched their new iPods during the week. No real changes. The Nano looks better definitely. The Touch seems to have gained a little bulk and not a huge amount else.

But one thing has completely taken me by surprise - the Genius system. It's a playlist creator for iTunes and iPods that claims to generate playlists based on a track you pick. You choose a track and Genius will create a playlist of songs that go well with that track.

And, bizarrely, it works. Really well.

It failed a few times to create a pleasing playlist but most times I tried it, it threw back a playlist of stuff that fit perfectly. So perfectly and yet not always obviously so. It left me wondering how the hell they are doing that. It's a really great feature. As long as you're doing it from iTunes with a serious amount of music to choose from (I'm on around 150GB I think at this stage).

The flaw is what happens when it is moved to the Touch, iPhone or Nano - there simply isn't enough room on these devices to hold enough for Genius to fill playlists. So the tracks start to get a little more random. They don't fit as well. It is only as good as the music it has to choose from.

And that's why it seems odd that capacity no longer seems to be a priority for Apple. The 160GB Classic was dropped. There's a 120GB Classic but it is clearly being phased out as it didn't get half of the new features of the tiny Nano. It's on it's way out. And the Touch got no boost in capacity. A shame really because they could have been making such a big deal of this Genius playlist feature otherwise. I'm really impressed with it.

Hope everyone has a good weekend!

Friday, September 12, 2008

He exists to prove me right

I'm beginning to wonder if my producer reads my blog and then adapts himself to prove my points. The very day I write about undervaluing talent, he comes in with a show pitch from, well, some guy. I don't know if he's really a gentleman of the road or not but what I saw doesn't exactly instill confidence.

It was effectively a collection of walk cycles.

They were nice walk cycles but rarely do walk cycles make a whole show. It may well happen. But it's rare.

There's a strange reasoning at work that I don't quite understand. Or perhaps it's a total absence of reason. My own personal projects aside, I've seen a couple of guys in the studio make well thought out pitches with some good ideas and stories, albeit stories that would need considerable development, and I've seen the producer find reason after reason why he can't fund the show. No, that's not right. It's that it would be difficult to fund the show. I've been around long enough to know that it's difficult to fund any show so some of his reasoning I can understand.

But then something comes in that is totally underdeveloped and really, with all due respect (ie. next to none), is pants, and suddenly the producer is gripped by what is not enthusiasm, but fear.

Fear that he could say no to something that may go on to be a hit.

And maybe I've just hit on the difference - he already has the guy in the studio. Perhaps he feels that person won't go anywhere else. He owns us. But that's not true. I know a person employed in this studio developed a show concept with a rival studio on the side and it went on to get made, has launched and, who knows, could turn out to be rather successful.

So... why does it bother me?

Well, purely for selfish reasons. I have some things I want to develop, see a structure here for providing the means to do that and yet encounter nothing but walls. So I feel I have to be underhanded and bring pitch documents with me in case I can steal some contacts along the way and that doesn't actually feel right. It actually preys on my conscience. Like I feel a sense of duty to this man who is bringing in walk cycles from vagrants.

And I do feel a sense of duty.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I think this is what pisses me off...

You see, I'm torn.

I don't buy into the Daily Mail's scaremongering. They are alarmist, love to prey on fears and are generally filth.

But that doesn't mean that we should all sit back and buy the idea that everything is fine either. That's the trick, isn't it? Bombard you with hyped up fears and you can't possibly make out what you should possibly be acting on. Makes it far easier to dismiss something.

It's disinformation on all sides. The Age of Distraction.

Whether it's from politicians, banks, military, whoever... when you are told that things are perfectly fine, perfectly safe, they usually aren't. Or maybe even always aren't. That applies to science too. We may all have had a good laugh over the doom predictions and it's certainly been a good conversation topic but whether the planet gets devoured by a quasar (unlikely) or not, to say something, anything, is perfectly safe is bollocks.

Plain, unadulterated bollocks.

As I said in the comments of the last posts, it ignores scientific history. It ignores people who died from radiation sickness, scientists who electrocuted themselves, poisoned themselves, did who knows what else to themselves, it ignores the mothers who took thalidomide for morning sickness, ignores the tens of thousands rendered permantantly brain damaged from lobotomies based on a theory that turned out to be complete arse (yet won a Nobel prize) and it ignores so many scientific fuck-ups since the dawn of time.

And ignoring the results of previous experiments is hardly scientific.

Scientific history is full of fuck-ups. To deny that would be to deny science.

Everything is not perfectly safe.

The only question is how large the consequences will actually be when the current generation of scientists inevitably turn out to be wrong.

But the Age of Distraction we live in worked wonders. People had a good old laugh about it. Some people got genuinely scared or at least appeared to on this net we call 'inter'. Some people condemned the scientists. Some people condemned those people. Most dismissed the sources, having long since proven to be alarmist. And, ultimately, we just went on with our lives. Exactly as we were expected to do.

So what if it had been dangerous? What if it is dangerous now?

Next week, people will have forgotten about this and moved on. They have bills to pay, the next big fear to jump to, the next scandal to talk about. After all, you can be sure that some people took advantage of the distraction to move the Iran invasion plans closer. It is the anniversary of the modern green-light all war justification, after all. Perhaps that will be next week's topic, before they move on to the next.

Everything is not perfectly safe.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Talent? What's talent?

I'm almost reluctant to post today as I'm enjoying the science discussion from the post below. But I'm going to post anyway as this topic a constant source of frustration to me and is become more and more apparent all the time - some producers have no concept of the value of talent.

If you need something done, you just hire someone. Who? It doesn't matter because you're going to be telling them what to do anyway. Only, what he's telling them to do is as broad as, write a story and make it good. Or, show me designs I'll like. Or, take this unworkable show concept and turn it into a hit.

The actual talent within the studio is often totally unappreciated because the view is, you can hire anyone to do any job. In fact, it seems that anyone outside the studio is of more value. Why is that? I don't know. Is it a grass is always greener thing? Whatever the reason, ignore the staff you have, if you need to make a show, just hire someone. A writer, or someone. Doesn't really matter.

That's how easy it is to get a creative product.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Some things are a bad idea

Is it because the world is full of pricks trying to destroy it?

Now I have scenes to finish and have to get ready for this thing next week so I'm not going to off the guy. And I'm not suggesting you do either (just in case I get hauled up for incitement to violence or something). But here is a guy doing something when "a handful of scientists believe that the experiment could create a shower of unstable black holes that could ‘eat’ the planet from within".

Eat the planet.

From within.

For what? Seemingly to satisfy his curiosity. Now, the things is, this is just a Daily Mail piece. They love their scaremongering and will jump at the chance to hype up any remote chances that we might be killed, mugged, damaged by videogames or preyed on by internet stalkers (I know you're here, reading... waiting). And those handful of scientists could well be wrong. It's likely total alarmist rubbish, as the scientists conducting the experiments assure. Like the Millennium Bug. But for it to be worth even the tiniest miniscule risk of creating a shower of black holes that could eat the planet from within, the payoff would want to be pretty damn fantastic. And a few smug satisfied grins doesn't seem to me to be that fantastic payoff.

But Dr.Evans, the guy in question, isn't worried. No, "he is so relaxed about the project, he even wears shorts to work."
Shorts aside, I have to say I don't trust scientists to make any sort of rational decisions. They are prone to getting excited and next thing you know they are performing lobotomies in hotel rooms or something. They just go ahead and so stuff. And (this is scientific law) - stuff has consequences. Those scientists who declare something impossible usually always turn out to be wrong, as do the scientists who declare something perfectly safe and go about doing things like selling radioactive material in tubs.

Having spent a brief stint in University, in the science end, it makes perfect sense - scientists aren't smart. Oh sure, they know a lot of things. About science. But plain ol' basic human common sense just isn't their thing. And it seems the more they know about science, the less smart they become. Now that's just going from observation in one University so it's a big sweeping generalisation but it's one I'm happy to stick with until I meet a smart scientist who can make it all the way through a conversation without coming across insane.

So, yeah, this is likely nothing but I still think he's a dick. I hope he gets eaten by a bear. And if he causes the destruction of the planet, I'll be really pissed off.
At what point does the risk become large enough to justify an assassination, I wonder?

Monday, September 8, 2008

There must be some kind of way out of here

I would pay good money for a holiday like this. I am so tired...

Monday again. Next week is Cartoon Forum week. When I have to go somewhere or do something, I go through some very predictable stages every time and, right now, I'm at the stage where I'd really rather not go anywhere and would far rather be at home. I spent so many years digging this rut I'm in that it seems a shame to leave it, even temporarily. And going somewhere, especially where airports are involved, seems so much like hard work.

It's going to be a busy week at work preparing for this trip, which is always difficult when it's something you don't care a damn about.

This week, there is a piece of news I'm waiting for on a project that could make or break it. That, I care about. I also care about getting a little pitch document ready which I'm going to keep with me at the Forum in case I get talking to anyone interesting, broadcasters or whoever.

I had a dream last night that I had made a My Medicated Cartoon Life graphic novel based on me getting a show off the ground. It was funny but had waaaay too many pages. It would have taken me something like 5 years to actually make in reality. Oh and the fact that I could sum up my life in a small leaflet would probably mean it would be full of padding. Padding isn't good.

Oh, I was informed in the comments that my blog is being reposted on another blog (and, sure enough, it is), so if you're not reading this at www.mymedicatedcartoonlife.com or mymedicatedlife.blogspot.com/ then why not pop over to one of those and read it at the source?

Hope everyone has a good week. Or at least survives the week. Oh, and a huge congrats to Jeaux Janovsky who is having his Box Assassin Hitman published in Giant Robot magazine. There is something about Jeaux's work I adore and this is great news so pop over to his blog and send him a congratulations.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Weekend Andy

Poor little Andy...

I missed my double helping of Ally McBeal last night. Instead, I was watching Casino Royale. I had heard it was great but the violent flashbacks I kept getting from the previous piece of crap, Die Another Day, had prevented me from watching it.

Well, Casino Royale was certainly much better. But it was a rambling movie with no actual bad guy and a lot of wasted potential - we had a whole table of players and never got to know any of them. So, yes, it was better than Die Another Day but better than two episodes of Ally McBeal? I'm not convinced.

And now I have a two episode void in my life.

I got bitten by some insect a couple of nights ago and my leg is really itchy. At least, I think it was an insect. It could have been some sort of small marsupial.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Working within your means

I started this Flash rambling talking about killing scenes. And, as far as what is going on right now is concerned, I'm blaming the Flash system. In reality, that means budget, though Flash facilitates the drop in budget and the higher expectations of quantity so it's all rolled into one and Flash itself becomes a nice easy target.

I'm seeing some animation gurus, people I hugely respect, take on Flash mostly because they have to. Now, it would be hard for me to criticise any of those people, and probably disrespectful too - they've earned their positions. And me, well, I've earned jack shit.

But I'm worried.

You see, I've seen a lot of flack get thrown on to flat, model-sheet-rigid cartoons (can you throw flack?), and I've seen a lot of people bemoan the loss of so many aspects of animation and cartooning (and I'm one of them). And the antic/settle abuse or similar systems bug me in creating a sameness and mind-numbing pointless bounce to everything so I'm giving them flack too.


I believe that if you take designs, aspirations and techniques that come from systems that nurtured talent, had the budgets to allow for experimentation and perfecting, had the schedules to allow for finding that one unique expression for the scene - take all that and try to sandwich it into a cheap-as-shit, got-to-be-finished-last-Friday Flash system, it just won't work. The cracks will appear. It will look far more like cheap Flash animation than a really flat very controlled rigid show that was designed from the ground up to work within all the limitations of those Flash systems. Even that example I gave yesterday from my own images wouldn't really work all that well because the drawings (while certainly being rubbish enough) aren't flat enough. They'd need to be crushed down to far more Cartoon Network-like designs.

It's like when Disney make a television show based on one of their expensive movies. The designs just weren't meant to work on a tv budget and the animation comes across as piss poor. The cracks appear. Whereas a show like 2 Stupid Dogs, completely flat and all basic curves and angles, looks far better even though it takes a hell of a lot less to make. It worked within its means.

That's why I think El Tigre (as an example) works. There's an example here.

It has vibrant designs with sometimes ambitious colouring that is easy in Flash and wouldn't have been easy back in the old cel days. It relies on strong action posing that requires very little between them to work - just a bit of the antic/settle abuse system. It has a bank of well-designed yet easy-to-use expressions, with some nazi control over the animators.

It knows the limits of the system and works well within them.
Some use the antic/settle abuse and don't look as well. Skunk Fu (click this to see a sample in what appears to be Klingon) doesn't hide the symbol changes as well and the more you see the symbol changes, the scrappier and cheaper the animation looks.

Hiding those symbol changes really is the one true goal of Flash animation.

Oh and just in case someone is going to pull me up on that, I know it's not Klingon.

The show I'm on at the moment is kind of on the edge. It doesn't even have a fraction of the budget of a US show - not even close. It's trying to reach towards those and some scenes are just being killed. There's not quite enough control actually - if anything, I reckon a show like this needs tighter model sheets, less freedom for the animators. Because that's the only way the show could meet its deadlines without risk of a bunch of scenes coming about absolutely awful.

And then the scenes that work, well, they use that system - the antic/settle abuse system. And those scenes bore me.

Bored, bored, bored.

They work though.

But they're boring.

So I'm left wondering if there is any room for decent animation at all with cheap-ass Flash production? Animation that is aiming to get across character or emotion (like those poncy method actors) rather than just trying to hide the production methods. Reach beyond your means and have it look half-assed or severly comprimised. Or work well within them and have it look samey, repetitive, just a system rather than actually bringing something to life, which is what animation was supposed to be.

Is it no-win?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Animate in Flash in 5 easy steps!

It was an emotional night last night. My double Ally fix included the episodes where Billy died. Very sad. I don't think I've quite recovered from the death of my dog. Anyway, on to Flash -

There are many ways to animate in Flash. Usually, you just shift a symbol and tween it if you can get away with it, barely matching switches in symbols. But telling you that wouldn't do you any good because the results are crap.

No, I'm going to tell you how to do great animation in Flash.

You see, you have one goal when animating in Flash for broadcast. To tell the story? No, that's what the writer is for. To convey emotion? What are you, some kind of poncy method actor?! No, the one true goal of broadcast Flash animation is to hide the symbol changes. That's it. That's what differentiates quality Flash from the cack in the minds of a whole bunch of people.

And I've seen the system to achieve this from many respected Flash animators - people who've worked on big shows. Shows you know, not the kind of crap I work on. This is the top way to animate in Flash.

I call it the 'antic/settle' abuse system. Here's how it goes -

a) Antic. Take Pose 1. Stretch or squash slightly for anticipation (just move away from Pose 2 like it has the plague).

b) Sweep. Create sweep image that is somewhere roughly between Pose 1 and Pose 2. It doesn't matter if pieces are all over the place, you're only going to show this for one frame and nobody will ever see it.

c) Overshoot. Squash or stretch Pose 2 to overshoot the animation (just move your animation away from Pose 1 this time).

d) Hit Pose 2. Bounce up into Pose 2 proper. This is the settle.

e) Wobble. Move random piece. Hair perhaps. Doesn't really matter - just move something and let's say it's secondary action.

Use this system no matter what the mood is, action is, expression is.

I'll show you an example. Let's say I'm watching Ally McBeal and Billy is talking about how much he loves Ally. Then he dies! Holy crap, that was a shock! So I pull my two expressions from the library.
I've got everything I need right here. And I just work through the steps. I've skipped step d in the images because it ends up the same as the end anyway.
Two poses pulled from library (easy). Symbol switch hidden. And the arbitrary wobble makes it look expensive - secondary action doesn't come cheap. If you really want to get fancy, you can ease in your tweening for your antic and ease it out for your settle.

Use it for everything. Character jumps? Antic/settle abuse. Character shugs? Antic/settle abuse. Character raises eyebrow slightly? Antic/settle abuse.

And that is how to animate in Flash. Man, I should charge for such animation secrets. Or write a book. Because that's not just how to animate in Flash in our studio. No, I've seen this technique used in Flash animation from all over the world.

Thing is, some people look at this bounce, bounce, bounce animation and actually think it's bloody fantastic. Like that is what animation is supposed to look like.

But... it's not really animation, is it? It's just following a system to achieve one goal - hide one of the main issues with a Flash-for-broadcast (ie. cheap) system.

I'm seeing people being trained in this system. Like it's the only way to animate and if your scene bounce, bounce, bounces, then that's a good scene.

Is it the animator's fault? They are at the mercy of this Flash system. If they were to actually animate the scenes well and treat each scene as its own piece, they'd never hit their targets and remove the point of doing it all in Flash in the first place. And, while I may be mocking this method, I assure you it works. You'll have your scenes approved in no time. But that constant bouncing probably does untold brain damage to the viewers.

I love Flash as a personal tool. One animator, or two, with an idea, illustrating and realising that idea on their own. That's great. That's artistic expression. But when it was brought into the studios, it started killing scenes, pushing up numbers, pushing down costs - devaluing the craft.

Devaluing the craft.

If it even is a craft any more.

My studio got rid of its drawing desks. There is one animation desk in the whole building now. Everyone is on computers. The line tester is disconnected.

It's not good. It's just not good.

Poor old Billy.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Killing scenes is tougher on the younger guys

There are many ways to kill a scene. So many ways.

There always have been. Even in the frame-by-frame drawn 2D days, it was a fight to keep the life from the storyboard panel to the layout drawing, to key poses, to clean-up. By the time the finished image made it to screen, if each artist along the chain wasn't exceptionally talented and on top form that day, the result could often be so watered down it had no life left in it.

That's one recurring theme over at John K's blog, seen recently in this post. Those storyboard panels look like the drawings of just one particular storyboard artist. They are full of personal idiosyncrasies that I would imagine would have a very hard time translating to the final image. And Mr.K is more encouraging than most about individual 'handwriting' making it to the screen. On most productions, that wouldn't be tolerated at all. You'd have to drag those rough sketches kicking and screaming to model.

Cartoonbrew had a post last week on some storyboard to CG comparison images from Bolt. Whether 3D has anything to do with it or not, it's hard to deny the decay from that initial image.

So it can happen anywhere and always could.

But, right now, I'm seeing this happen every day in such a scale and with such a drop in life that it's frightening. I'm seeing great board panels, great sketches by the animators themselves, in my own scenes (okay, not so great sketches by me) and others, turn to completely dead, lifeless pieces of, well, nothing.

And Flash, or the Flash system, is to blame.

Now you can argue that Flash can be made to do wonderful things and it's something I won't deny. I've seen some really great and surprising Flash shorts. And I love that it can give the means to express artistically when, before, making cartoons was expensive and required a huge team. But, when it comes to broadcast television, Flash is not being used as a tool because it can lead to artistic shorts, or because it can improve the quality of animation (it can't) or for any artistic reason. It's being used because it is quick, plain and simple. It makes animation production much quicker, requires far fewer people, works in finished colours, can utilise banks of animation from previous scenes and so on. It's cheap.

I've said it before but I'll say it again - Flash is a tool for producers.

So what's happening here in the studio? Well, all the characters were built in Flash during preproduction from design drawings done by a rather talented character designer. They were constructed in their main angles - front, side, three-quarter and back. They were given libraries of eye shapes, mouth shapes, arm shapes and so on. This is all to speed up production, and it works. Making a character move is incredibly quick. And we're expected to do it quickly, of course - otherwise, there would be no point in using Flash, would there?

But this system is killing the scenes. When an animator wants to get across an expression or a pose, here is what is happening -

a) Animator sketches quick doodle of pose or expression (many animators skip this step).

b) Animator browses library for similar poses, usually can't find one and pull default pieces.

c) Animator shifts these around, replacing some symbols, moving an eyebrow here and there, like a photofit image until -

d) They end up with a really poor variation on a dead default pose that was probably meant for little more than size reference at one point.

Rarely does 'd' resemble 'a' and those that skipped 'a' end up with even more crap results. Dead.

And if by some miracle they find a similar pose in step b, it had been made with this a-d process so is already dead.

And then they go to animate them. This isn't about getting good movement. No, this is Flash animation - this is about finishing the scene. But it usually doesn't matter at this stage because the scene has already been killed. This photofit method of animation is based on tweaking, not creating or bringing to life. Thing is, I find myself part of the problem and not the solution and it's the same for so many animators, even directors - if you don't get with it and just get on with it, the shows wouldn't be made. The budgets are just too low and, if they went higher, the financing wouldn't happen.

It's a shame really.

But even if the poses and expressions were good, you'd likely find one of the default Flash animating methods applied to them. Actually, that's one for another post - how to animate in Flash: the only method you'll ever need.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Child-like minimalism

This 'Adventure Time' thing has been taken up as a series by the Cartoon Network. I have to admit, the short had passed me by completely until I saw Cartoonbrew posted the new about the series a few days ago. I watched it, didn't really like it and left it at that.

But then, yesterday, I saw Pete Emslie posted about it here. It offended Pete a little more than it offended me but I was really glad to see the post as most of what was in the Cartoonbrew comments was gushing and Mr.E's post added some balance.

The main things Mr.E first points out are the main reasons I didn't like the short - it's written to be random and that just doesn't do it for me. It's not that I don't love surreal - check out a couple of the blog links to the right to see some of my favourite surreal and hilarious posters. But this Adventure Time thing wasn't really surreal. More just... random. To me, that seems like lazy writing. But, hey, some people loved it so who cares what I think, right?

But Mr.E, an artist of such ridiculous talent, knowledge and experience, took issue with another major aspect of the short - what he called "child-like minimalism", when referring to the design. As soon as I read that I knew what he meant. To me, this thing is expressionless. As Mr.E points out, watch it without the sound and you'd have no idea what the characters are feeling. So that, plain and simple, is not acting. It's not life. And, if it's not life, it doesn't warrant the term "animation".

Sounds harsh? Yeah, it sounds harsh as I write it but it's just part of a thought process here.

But something really didn't sit right about what Mr.E said about it in his post. A part of me wanted to jump to its defense. Why?

Well, you see, the thing is, I love preschool animation. I love shows for the younger children. And I love child-like minimalism. I do. I think it gives a show charm, sweetness, innocence. I love it. And, as a sweeping child-like minimalism generalisation goes, I feel the need to defend it. Pocoyo has really simple designs and that is fantastic. So does Pingu. Peppa Pig - who couldn't love Peppa Pig?! That's totally child-like and mimimalist. And there are many more examples that I can't think of right now (it's early).

I would vehemently defend child-like minimalism.

It's not as easy as you might think too. A show I worked on several years ago had very simple characters and was designed to be child-like. The difficulty was that animators kept over-thinking the emotions, putting in too much of an adult thought process. Children's emotions are very simple, very extreme. And there is no thought required to switch from one to the other - children just react. It's not what adults do and it seems harder for animators to achieve without constantly being reminded that the characters must act like young children. Pingu does this wonderfully.

But these preschool examples have expression. If you turn the sound off, you know what the characters are feeling. Some of them don't even have dialogue. It's all in the acting.

All in the acting.

A cartoon needs expression. And I think that's what's missing here. And while I don't think 'Adventure Time' is totally without merit (I do think the design of the dog is quite funny and something about the colours appeals to me) I think Mr.E is right. When you turn the sound off, you can't tell what the characters are feeling. And that's a problem.

I do think it would have been possible with these designs. I think they could have worked really well actually. There's a huge amount of potential in the body shapes and even the very simple faces could have been used to get across exactly what the characters are feeling. But it doesn't seem to have happened.

But, yes, I would defend child-like minimalism. I love it.

Actually, I had started to write a different post and then got sidetracked on to this one but the other post was about something I'm seeing where I am right now, something I'm doing myself too - killing scenes. And it relates to this. I'll continue that thought tomorrow.

If I remember.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Well I got checked out

Actually, he thinks it's more a musculo-skeletal problem, or is that muscular-skeletal? I don't know. One or the other. From the positioning of the pain and the fact that it's not associated with strenuous activity or something, he reckons it's likely to do with the muscle wall around the rib cage.

Being out of breath, well, I'm getting old.

Having checked my blood pressure, listened to my heart and lungs and taken into account lack of other factors like smoking, he reckons I'm not about to drop dead and unless things got worse he won't bother sending me for a hundred million tests, which is nice.

My cholesterol is a little high though, but I knew that. I must go into that whole cholesterol/diet myth at some point.