FE382A: Experimental Animation Undergraduate Critique

“Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear”  –Esther Mera

Evolving Course Schedule for 2013:

  • September 13
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    Discussion of course format and changes based on previous course experience.  Informal discussion of BFA4 Final Projects –including those well underway and those still being considered. Select the first four student volunteers who will present their work in the  class meeting scheduled for the third week.
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  • September 20
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    Shayne Hood met with students who had requested individual meetings while I was away in Buenos Aires making a presentation at the CILECT 2013 Conference.
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  • September 27
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    Project Presentations by Thalia, Rachel, Taylor, and Hae-Joon.
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    Thalia presented her substantial work on the development of her film project Gloria which is based on a complex character drawn from her fathers world in the seventies punk rock scene in San Francisco. Thalia ran us through a timeline she has created to help her organize her ideas for the film.  In the timeline she has incorporated shot references from films such as Carrie,  drawings she has made, family photographs, images of Gloria performing and of the various locations that were a key part of the scene during the era the film covers. The basic arc of the film is that Gloria wants reciprocation, she wants to be recognized, she is performing constantly in many venues, and performing to please her boyfriend, but in the process she is putting all her energy into venues and genres that are not going to give back to her. She is doing an insincere act for the sake of attention when she really should be putting her heart into what she is doing –which she eventually ends up doing in a way she had never expected and in the process becomes very successful. Thalia also presented us with concept designs of the locales and characters created for the film. In response to a question she described the color scheme she will be using and the source for those color relationships. She also played a quick image study edited to Gloria’s recording of a song to her dog Fluffy. She is taking a a radio class Art of the Invisible which is helping her to formulate ideas for the sound design of the film. She is trying to capture soundscapes that give a sense of the Berkeley scene and then make music from what the scenes sound like (or make music from everyday actions) which will in turn inform how Gloria’s direct interaction with how the scene is portrayed. She is planning on shooting actors in a month or two for some dialogue scenes that will serve as photo reference for overdrawing.  The specifics will be clarified in the treatment she is working on.
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    Rachel presented ideas about the process of motion capture in the creation of performances such as the one she collaborated on last year, Mo Cap Mo Problems. She is interested in discovering what the essential aspects of that form of live performance practice encompass and if it is worthwhile to pursue another project along those lines –or to instead concentrate on working in a more conventional form of practice by creating a film that takes on an extended life as an artwork. Class members raised the question of the need to identify her deepest motivations in order to arrive at a clear priority in terms of doing what she really wants to do.  My A/V notes from her presentation were lost due file transfer failure so this is all that I clearly recall as of this writing.
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    Taylor discussed his ideas for an interactive game prototype prototype TruLove vs. the Curse of the Voodoo Queen.  It is a 2D platformer (in the style of Kirby, for instance), with a focus on two-player cooperative game play. In 2P mode, one player will control Trudy, a ninja girl who can throw shuriken, slash with her sword, run, jump, and climb. The other player will control Trudy’s girlfriend, a demon named Love. Love’s body has been stolen by the Voodoo Queen to be part of her zombie army, so Love spends most of the game as a disembodied spirit. In this form, Love can possess the various zombies in the Queen’s army, and use their unique powers to solve environmental puzzles. The style will either be 2D hand-drawn animation, or pixel art, meant to evoke the aesthetic of 8-16 bit games. My A/V notes of Taylor’s presentation were also lost and I have relied on a personal communication for this account.
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  • October 4
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    Scheduled presentations from Ana, Jesse, Julian, and Rigel were postponed until the following week due to an extremely high wind event that caused a steel shed at my home to fly from the side of the house to the backyard where it landed on its roof. I needed to secure the unstable shed with heavy objects and keep watch over it in case of further trouble during the unusually intense wind storm.
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  • October 11
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    Rescheduled presentations from Julian, Rigel, Ana, and Jesse.
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    Julian presented plans for his project which will take the form of a rap video featuring a bun, a banana, a sausage, and a banana peel. As in classic tales such as Toy Story the characters only come alive when no one is around to witness their subversive acts. He is half way through building the four stop motion puppets. Julian showed his character design and played a recording of the beats he has created for the film. The sausage plays the role of the producer, the bun and the banana play the rappers, and the peel dances. Questions about the characters interactions revealed that the banana brags about his work doing Shredded Wheat covers and peanut butter and jelly play a role in creating jealous reactions from Banana. There are four locations in the film; hanging by the grill, in the fridge, in the pantry, and on the counter. Julian will also use rap video tropes of stars performing in an infinite white space, lots of lens flairs, Christmas lights, and other cliched effects. He plans to record the vocals soon. He will keep an open mic during the sessions in order to create behind-the-scenes animation for the end credit sequence. The film is planned to be about two and a half minutes long.
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    Rigel presented a storyboard sequence for his stop motion film (perhaps inspired by the Charles Bukowski quote on the Margarida Garcia Lacerda poster used on his computer desktop background: “Find What you Love and Let it Kill You”). The film centers on a soldier who while on patrol comes across a skateboard, puts down his weapons, and takes off on an elaborate and exciting ride through a war torn city. The character completes a series of classic skateboard maneuvers eventually encountering a long stairway railing and entering into an amazing tail slide down the railing that ends with a hard smash to the ground. As the character lies unconscious sprawled upon the ground it becomes evident that she is a female skater. She awakens to find herself in a beautiful and surreal field of bird of paradise flowers, and then the film abruptly ends. The cinematography will make use of dramatic lighting effects and dynamic camera placement. Most of the film will be shot in fisheye to allow for fewer sets and less detailing of those sets. in addition to the storyboard sequence. Rigel showed a photo of the main character puppet which he is in the process of constructing, and discussed his choice of music for the opening shots. Much supportive discussion ensued regarding ways that Rigel might consider modifying aspects of the film in order to better portray the story he is telling.
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    Ana is planning a two minute film based upon an idealized version of events from her family’s life. She presented a photo of a cute puppy that her mother bought at a random Mexican market and then gave Ana’s sister before she went off to college so that she would not be lonely. Her mother was told that it was a labrador, but her father was suspicious that it was too small to be a lab. Her sister went off to college with the puppy, but never brought it back on breaks from school as she always flew home. When she drove home for the summer she arrived with what everyone agreed could not be the same dog. Ana showed a photo of the grown dog which her family considered to have become very ugly which made everyone sad. Her sister ended up moving to South Africa and leaving the dog behind. Her father had become very proud of the dog and would take it on walks every day, but the dog acted very stupid and he was never able to train it. The dog would pee everywhere and bite everything, and poop on the neighbors lawns. The neighbors would complain, but her dad would tell them that his dog would never do anything like that (but of course it had). The housekeeper had a young nephew and said that if no one in the household liked the dog she could take it home with her. Ana’s mom did this, but did not tell her sister, and when she came back from South Africa she was sad and wanted to see her dog. She asked her mom if the housekeeper could bring the dog back and her mom asked, but the dog was never brought back. She brings pictures but never the dog. Perhaps she is embarrassed the dog may have gotten even uglier. The film is based on a comic book that Ana made for her sister that celebrates the dog’s last birthday party before they gave her away (which didn’t happen in real life, but Ana wanted to make it happen to make her sister happy). Ana presented a series of character sketches showing the dog with fly wings as she had been given the last name Mosca because flies are really annoying and the dog was really annoying. The wide ranging discussion included a recognition that there are aspects to this story that make it appear as an inversion of “The Ugly Duckling” story.
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    Jesse presented a project overview, character designs, and animation tests for his film project. He will be mixing a variety of animation techniques including paint on glass, hand painted cutouts, and tank work. The film is inspired by a story from “The Temple of Man” about a French explorer who went to Africa and discovered a tribe who kept a stick with the entire history of the tribe inscribed on it at the center of their village. The explorer took this important artifact with him back to France. He returned to the tribe several years later and the people had died as they had apparently lost their will to live. Jesse’s story takes place on a volcanic island with a tribe of people on it who worship a rock. The volcano is about to explode. A visitor from an advanced society in a city has wings that enable him for fly down and attempts to save everybody on the island. His plans to do this are thwarted as the islanders refuse to leave. He decides that their obsession with worshiping the rock is preventing them from being saved so he takes the rock. The islanders start chasing him and he starts running then flying. He flies out over the water and they swim after him. The rock is too heavy and he can’t carry it anymore so he drops it into the sea. All the people swim after it and drown. Jesse presented one of the hand painted characters and screened a set of basic rotation tests. The hand painted pieces will be able to articulate. In addition to the human characters there will be animation of birds and sea creatures to create a strong visual sense of the island world. There will be a dance sequence in the beginning of the film to establish some sense of the islander’s culture. Jesse will be working with live dancers for video reference and will be retracing their movements with his puppets. He will be incorporating a unique technique that involves shooting a series of still images of the dancer moving in slow motion which will then be used as single frame positional reference for his cutout and painted animation. The sound design will include a lot of ocean ambiance, he is working with musicians performing with a hang drum, violin, and other instruments. There will be no dialogue or narration with the possible exception of a quote at the beginning. The estimated running time is six to eight minutes. The project is already story boarded, but he is in the process of moving into a new apartment and has not unpacked all the boxes yet. He has been working on the story for about a year and it is essentially cemented at this point.
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  • October 18
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    Presentations by Jess, and Hae-Joon.
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    Jess passed around some of the books that have influenced the ideas and look for his film; The Wonderful Future that Never Was, Exit to Tomorrow, Designing Disney, and The Works:Anatomy of a City. He will be developing a city for his film as one of the main characters of his film and books like The Works provide details of the way city infrastructures are designed, how traffic lights actually function, how train stations work, etc. The film takes place in a parallel present instead of the future, but it will look slightly more a futuristic because that world has a little less red tape, a little less bureaucracy. Proposed technologies that seem exciting to us –but which we think are never going to happen because they won’t pass through our systems– would be implemented in this parallel world. This city has advanced technologies like pneumatic tube hyperloop transportation systems.  He has one primary character in the film, a guy named Eastman, who is living in his head –not in a Walter Mitty way, but in the way that he is not living fully in the present, but instead constantly thinking about mistakes he has made in the past and plans for the future in way that negates his awareness of the now.  A character that cannot be present.The film opens in a diner where the main character is being lectured by his friend (who is off camera for most of it) about needing to reduce their stress and being in the now. The punchline is that it is a robot that is giving him all this metaphysical jargon filled advice, but the robot is modeled after Big Dog. Jess is proposing that maybe we should circumvent uncanny valley altogether and go for highly functional robots that do exactly what they are supposed to do, avoid a humanoid form and that is what’s around us, so it’s the ugliest robot you could possibly propose. It has a screen mounted on it with a simple interface. The guy has enough of this talk from the robot and there is a prompt on the robots screen that says, “Would you like to continue this conversation?” He has hit a high point and just taps “No” and leaves the diner. He goes out into an alleyway that is a dark blank canvas surrounding him with not a lot of detail to it, very bleak. When he opens the door you hear a loud industrial hum. This implies that perhaps this is pushing for some sort of dystopia, however the city itself is not necessarily a dystopia, but just a city the way any city would be. Depending on someones mindset (compare for instance someplace like downtown LA which is hell for some people and heaven for other people), it just depends on what your mindset is. Jess is not going to manipulate the film to say that this is a bad place and the future is going to be worse.
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    Eastman walks on in the city still not fully in the present moment. His journey is provides us with a a fragmented sense of the environment he is moving through as it all the shots are held very tight. At one point he is forced into contact by encountering a child on in a subway car that is choking on a candy. He cannot locate the parents so intervenes directly to save the kid. The process is a violent action and the images flicker rapidly as way of portraying the intensity of the event. There is an intense physical contact involved in the saving of this life. As things calm down the kid’s father –who had been distracted by a cell phone call and was plugging his ear in order to block out the noise of the train– realizes what has happened and acknowledges what just happened and what starts out to be a simple handshake becomes a deep hug. This becomes a cathartic moment for Eastman due to the primal process he has just gone through.  The vivid reality of one human having contact with another in such an intense way has broken him out of his preoccupation with what had been to him the important issues of the projects he has been working on. As he continues his walk the next section of the film begins to open up to reveal the larger world surrounding him. The sun begins to rise and the city is awakening and setting up for the day. Eastman returns to his rooftop and a revealing moment that loops back to events in the diner occurs.
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    After talking us through the story Jess presented some of the 7000 images he has collected as reference. He showed us color palettes, geometric design elements, none letter text characters, and more. The name of the film is Floating Shift, which is derived from the process of changing case on old manual typewriters. Jess’s presentation occasioned lengthy critique and encouragement, however I out of the time and space to report on that here.
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    Hae-Joon presented the computer graphic work he has been doing to represent the space of the museums that are the primary subject of his project. He created 3D planes in After Effects to construct the models. The images he showed were in an intense set of colors he is using to differentiate the individual components of the structures. His next experiments will involve developing the look of the lines. He intends to animate a camera coming up the steps and into the museum using this work as a rotoscope source in Flash. In order to remind us of the look he is going for Hae-Joon also showed us the morphing animation designs he had shared with us in a previous presentation. During the discussion he reminded us of that the genesis of the project comes form work he did for a class that involved visiting various museums. His thesis is an extension of the work done for that class.
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    The film begins with a pedestrian understanding of the museum spaces and should lead the viewer to reflect upon the nature of each of the museums and the way they function within the culture. The seven looping films of his original idea has been modified based on inspiration from the apparent continuous take the shapes the Russian Ark. One aspect of the project that interests him is that this is not the type of film that he would never make in terms of structure and visual style. An aspect of the project that some members of the class found of particular interest was the way in which the project reflects a very personal experience and escapes the strictures that a narrative approach would entail. Another comment addressed an appreciation of the way the film does not focus on the content exhibited in the museums but on the aspect of the museum as edifice. The discussion also turned to the question of this being the BFA4 final project that Hae-Joon will present at his graduation review while he also has another project in the works. The strategic approach of ensuring compliance with the requirement to present a finished film at the graduation review or not graduate illuminates the trade offs everyone is facing. The decision not to risk everything by taking a chance on a project that by its very nature might be too ambitious to complete on schedule generated a great deal of reflection.
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  • October 25
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    Presentations were made by Theo, Julian, Andrew, and Isabela.
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    Theo presented video of the intro to his game.  He has been working on creating lighting tests as light one of the key components if of the game. He also created several solutions to allow the player to identify and pick up objects and then bring them from scene to scene.  He also presented work on some of the new environments he has designed and constructed.  Theo referred to the innovative aspects of the opening of Ian Dallas’s game The Unfinished Swan wherein the player throws black paint into a blank white void in order to discover the structure of the environment.  Theo is experimenting with having the player discover the environment of his game by throwing glowing balls of light that land on the ground plane.  The glowing balls persist in the environment and serve as a form of trail blazing similar to leaving a Hansel and Gretel bread crumb trail for finding ones way back.  We also had a look at the diagram portraying the inter-connectivity of the various realms in the game and the objects that can be acquired and traded to allow access to new realms.  One of the things he has been thinking about is Piranesi’s fantasy prison architecture. The world being explored is decaying and in the progress of coming to an end.  Your actions in the world can either retard or accelerate the inevitable decay.  Acquiring enough artifacts memories, and objects will allow you to give birth to another world based on the ashes of this world.  Now that the game is structured the laborious practical work of coding everything necessary to realize the full game remains. Questions and comments revolved around the beauty of the design and the poetic resonance of the players situation, the clear layout of the game play, and its relationship to cinema.  Julian volunteered to test the gameplay and was able to destroy the world in short order –much to everyone’s delight.
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    Julian presented work he had done to complete a project from the previous school year, Flirting and Coquetry.  There are few more things left to do with it and he invited comments and critique.  The film presents the viewer with machine read texts on flirtation taken from Wikipedia and animated tableau created to heighten and distort the absurd essence of the text.  He had considered possibly structuring the film so that the inter-titles were eliminated in the second half as a way of altering the pacing. One of many comments in response to Julian’s questions about pacing was that the pacing also depends upon what he is trying to say.  Are there certain acts that should be emphasized over other ones or is Wikipedia on the whole misleading?  Further into the conversation someone commented that having not seen it before, they had to wonder if the flirting would go anywhere as it does seem like missed connections occur all the way through. Ultimately flirting is transitory –an act on the way to something– or at least an attempt to lead somewhere. Here there is clearly an intentional lack of a resolution of that tension.  Julian went on to present an update on his thesis project which takes the form of a rap video featuring food characters.  He is in the middle of fabricating and will have nothing to show for that, but will in three weeks. Last weekend he wrote the verse for the banana.  He made a recording as part of his process in developing the lyrics and this weekend he will be having it recorded by someone else –who will put their own spin on it. He showed an animatic/slideshow to accompany the recording because some of what he is doing needs visuals to drive the concepts home. His working process involves an interplay between image and text thus slideshows are a very useful too.
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    Andrew is making a stop motion film for his thesis. The main character is a life size rabbit.  Andy showed a mock up made to test size, bulk, hair, etc. from a partial pelt of an Alaskan snow hair.  He learned from the test that the flexibility of the puppet went down significantly when the foam was wrapped with string due to too much compression. He just received some fresh frozen rabbits and will be skinning, pickling, tanning them etc. over the next couple of weeks.  Once the pelts are prepared they will be wrapped on a wire armature in a more effective way than in the test. So far he has no idea about the full structure of the thesis and is hoping that it will evolve in the process of doing animation tests with the rabbit. Inspiration for the film might be taken from a particular quote from Watership Down. “All the world will be your enemy, and when they catch you they will kill you, but first they have to catch you.” Andy likes that quote because it’s not just about rabbits, but is much about just existing as a sentient being in the universe. Basically the universe is your enemy and will constantly try and kill you any opportunity it gets, and the point is just keep moving and delay death for as long as possible.  He also wants to include some hand drawn animation as well and has done some hand drawn tests of realistic rabbit movements. Otherwise Andy still has no idea with the film is about.  In discussion it was suggested that he might want to consider shooting outside. He replied that he had actually been planning to do that using side mounted rigs. The class suggested a number of possible solutions to the technical demands of animating without the traditional type of foot tie downs and board holes.  One suggestion was to use small stakes inserted into the ground, another was to use a CineSlider rig and pre-plotted foot fall positions. In addressing Andy’s concerns about finding his story some members of the class suggested that perhaps the best strategy would be to not worry about story, but to consider creating a non-narrative set of scenes that would allow for the discovery of an experimental form free from the expectations of a  conventional story arc. Something more poetic than prosaic.
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    Isabela had emailed a set of documents to the class overnight to provide a bit of background on some of the conceptual explorations that might give some insight to the thought process she is going through regarding her thesis project. One of these was Matthew Arnold’s  1852 poem The Buried Life. Another was a stream of consciousness text she characterized as a rant.  She is using the flow of ideas in the rant as a guide for developing her work.  Since many of the class members did not have sufficient lead time to read the documents they asked Isabela to read them aloud. She read the poem and then discussed aspects of the poem in the context of the concepts she is working with. One key aspect of the ideas she is grappling with concerns the role of the individual balanced with the role of the collective –and a sense of the dissatisfaction that can arise based on projected ideals. The project will consist of several elements. One is a series of small books, one is a standalone film, and another entails projecting moving images upon a number of balloons that fill volumes of a stage space. One aspect she is trying to figure out is how each piece might integrate yet remain independent. She explained that the script is still in a very early stage and in need of more development. Her first choice of a performance space is the Lund, however that could be  difficult to arrange. The group suggested other spaces she could consider, such as the B&W Studio, the Ensemble theaters, and even the Mod. The discussion turned to the relative merits of doing something so unique that there is little to compare it with relative to doing something for which there are precedents and thus schemas and standards to work with or against. A question was asked about whether she was structuring elements of her project like a scripted space where it’s a matter of embedding information within a certain path and then the role of the spectator is to gather what is scattered around that space.
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  • November 1
    Class cancelled for the Halloween Party which was then cancelled for the Norovirus
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  • November 8
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    Presentations by Thalia, Theo, and Taylor.
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    Thalia presented a more complete synopsis of her project, Gloria.  She is working to condense the narrative based on thematic elements.  The focus is on Gloria’s duality and how she expresses that duality through performance art. The developing music scene and changing social atmosphere reflect Gloria’s perceptions as she is shifting.  These are the rules that Thalia is following as she crafts the rest of the story.   The dog ( Fluffy) exists as something that gauges Gloria’s self harm or self help in dealing with her internal perception of reality.  Thalia presented a story reel and talked us through what was happening in each drawing.   The drawings and commentary elaborated the story and shot structure in relatively full detail [which I am not including here at this time in the interest of being more concise, however I may decide to include the details of her elaboration and the ensuing class discussion later].  The project has been developing in Thalia’s head for over a year and has become much larger than can be contained in a film. She could write an encyclopedic book with the depth she has created.  For this reason she is in the process of condensing the essential aspects of the story into a structure that will work within the time constraints of a animated short film.
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  • Theo demonstrated the ability to select and grab objects in his world.  There are three states for the active objects in the world.  He presented a color coded chart showing the latest development of the game structure in terms of object attributes, hierarchies, and relation to backstory.  The player will be able to acquire, use, and trade artifacts whose cultural functionality has been lost to history.  The player is tasked with gathering these five key artifacts via chaining essential objects.  The game is filled with familiar processes and meta references.  As the player wanders the world gathering objects they are in the act of writing the myth of that world.  In response to a question as to what platforms he envisions publishing the game Theo discussed Valve’s Steam is an obvious first choice.  He is writing the game in Unity which will make it reasonable to port to a full range of consoles –or to be simply loaded into a web browser.  He considers the game a personal endeavor and portfolio piece above being a commercial release.
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  • Taylor spoke about a dilemma he ran into in planning his project.  He has come to grips with the realization that his lack of skill and dislike for animating hand drawn animation in the style he has been planning was a serious issue.  He had originally planned to hand animate the characters in his game as a way of challenging himself to to push against his limitations, but has realized that the game calls for a type of animation that is inappropriate for him to achieve in the available time frame and that the type of animation in which he is skilled and loves doing is not appropriate for this project.  He has decided to take a more productive path and concentrate on the character design, level design, and game play design, while outsourcing the rough animation to a professional animator he happens to be related too.  She will do the rough animation under his direction while he works on the programing elements and other design heavy parts of the process.  He will ink and color the animation drawings and put them into the game.  His next step will be to get into Unity and start building a version of the game that is simply populated by color rectangles so that he can develop the game.  He will and then replace the rectangular place holders with the animation as it gets completed.
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  • November 15
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    Presentations by Hae-Joon, Rachel, Rigel, Julian, and Ana
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    Hae-Joon presented  the animation he is using as a roto-reference for his POV walk into the continuous hallway representation of the museums he is referring to in his piece.  He opens with entering his stylization of the Getty and progresses through LACMA,  The Hammer, etc.  He is using After Effects to create the 3D walk through which is composed of intensely colored planes which assist in differentiating which planes will take which image when they are rotoscoped in Flash.  The bouncing walk becomes a glide as the POV move progresses through the space.  The film will move from day to night as the viewer is moved forward toward the vanishing point.  As a point of reference he also showed the rhino to gorilla morph he had presented earlier as an example of the visual look he is going for with the display cases that will be lining the walls in certain gallery spaces.  The morphing animal forms will be a continuous loop.  His plan was to use a long continuous shot. He wanted the film to end with an emergence into his stylization of the open air tea garden of the Museum of Jurassic Technology.  During the discussion questions were raised about ways in which the shape shifting flow through the montage of museums can be imbued with deeper layers of meaning.
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    Rachel presented storyboard drawings indicating a set of scenarios she is interested in attempting to realize (depending on what is possible with the technology of the real-time motion capture system). The work is based on the techniques explored in the highly successful performance piece, Mo Cap Mo Problems, that she and Julian staged in the B&W last year.  As with that show there will be two screens displaying a synthetic space. Rachel will be  standing in front of the screens wearing the PhaseSpace LED mocap suit. She will be walking around, talking to the audience while controlling a CG character inhabiting the projected spaces.  One scenario she is interested in pursuing is having the character she is inhabiting only revealed on screen when the virtual camera turns a corner to show the character standing in front of a mirror.  The character will be fixed in a set spot in the environment while Rachel’s movements animate the figure in place.  You will see Rachel continue to move around the physical space while you also experience her as the CG character. While she is walking around the room the character remains fixed in front of the mirror.  She is interested in having the virtual camera able to rotate and cut to various viewpoints.  Pre-animated or real time puppeteered facial expressions may play a role in reflecting the characters internal state.  Other scenarios incorporate outside scenes with long aerial shots where the virtual camera swoops in to a close-up;  scenes where the character appears to be lying down from a top view while she remains upright in the mocap suit; scenes where her movements control a machine; scenes where her character is invisible and only revealed by interactions with objects in the environment such as plants where her motion is revealed as the negative space displacing the positive space of the objects; and many more scenarios than there it time and space to list here.  One aspect she wants to incorporate in the performance are situations that create the anxiety of anticipation.  Setting up audience expectation and then withholding and delivering on those expectations.  The discussion ranged from suggestions for exploring other mocap technologies to the conceptual underpinnings involved in deconstructing that ways in which these tools are typically employed to represent specific realities.
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    Rigel presented his head sculpts, references, sketches, etc. of his sniper character.  He also showed us concept art for the environment, and the set pieces he has already built.  Many more will need to be constructed.  His process is to create design iterations in several media forms, such as sketches, cardboard, clay, and wood.  He showed his story reel and talked us through various aspects of the film, particularly the opening scene. He is very interested in using lighting and shot composition to convey the story visually.  In response to questions about how he will realize the crepuscular rays shown in his sketches he described how we will take the standard approach of working with lights set up behind holes in set elements and then fog the set with  Mole-Richardson or other smoke devices such as Fog in a Can or dry ice to create an aerosol that will catch the light.   He has Stage J reserved for shooting next week so will have some animation tests to show in three weeks.
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    Julian shared one his stop motion characters, Buttercup, and plans to cast more puppets with Stephen Chiodo next week.  He will create another version of Buttercup that allows her bun self to open up (a feature that is too difficult to animate with in a puppet until it is needed). He will also be casting molds of the banana and sausage next week which means he should have all his puppets finished by them. He finished the final recording of the music with Jake last week and is very pleased with the results.
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    Ana has been working to complete the design of her character.  While in the design process she was pleased to discover that she is becoming more invested in the project than she had expected and has become inspired to expand the film into a larger project than originally envisioned.  She is still exploring the final look of the film but has decided that all the characters will be drawn in B&W with a very loose line.  Everything will be done by hand using Ink and water colors that she will composite digitally.  The design of the girl is complete and the dog remains to be developed as she is not satisfied with the designs she has come up with so far.  Ana is planning on completing the design of the dog over the weekend so that she can begin doing animation tests.  She is working on animation tests of the girl to figure out how she moves.  For the most part the girl  will be very stiff because she is angry all the time and acts like a super spoiled princess. The dog will be in contrast as he will move around a lot and be excited about going everywhere.  A discussion ensued that was filled with a range of questions and suggestions for ways of handling the complex character of the dog in terms of being both gross and cute.  Ana wrapped up her presentation by reading a story she has written to serve as a guide for the narrative flow of the film and to work out details of the relationships of the characters.
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  • November 22
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    Presentations by Theo, and Rachel
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    Theo shared the CG models he has made for the first twelve items that will be in the game.  He has worked to stylize the objects in order to reduce the polygon count so as not to overload the host CPU.  He was very pleased to announce that the inventory system that he has been discussig during each presentation is now fully functional.   In addition to showing the way the inventory process works in terms of the player being able to select and bag important objects, Theo demonstrated the look of the shallow depth of field and high quality shadow maps he will be using for the real-time renders.  One of the questions raised was his rationale for the player not seeing their own shadow.  A comment was made about how the early dark rides at Disneyland –such as Snow White– never showed the character that served as the theme of the ride.  The supposition was that each rider was the character –something that was lost on many people as they complained about the missing the character which they had expected to see.  When those dark rides were updated in the eighties representations of the characters for which the rides were themed were added –which significantly reduced guest complaints.  Theo appreciated the issues raised by the missing player shadow in the POV of his game, but for this game he wanted to eliminate the use of an avatar representing the physical player, thus no visible shadow.  In the discussion about the game inventory Theo mentioned that he had written 100 lines of code to create the inventory.  This was because none of the Unity tutorials he found were adequate for what he envisioned for his game.  At another point in the discussion Theo said that he has thought and written deeply about the philosophical aspects of many games and that he enjoys balancing media theory with practical implementation and observing the ways that one aspect drives another.
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    Rachel spoke about her previous presentation and her thoughts about the paths she might take to create a fully detailed proposal in order to obtain funding.  She is planning on speaking with the people at PhaseSpace about the practicalities of her project ideas.  She also realizes that she needs the technical help or advice of an experienced MotionBuilder or Unity expert to develop scripts or other methods to achieve her goals with the PhaseSpace mocap system.  The discussion moved to descriptions of alternative real-time mocap systems such as markerless camera based systems, inertial marker based systems, etc.  The consensus was that the power of the PhaseSpace active LED marker system was ideal for her real-time performance project.  In developing last years Mo Cap Mo Problems performance Julian had worked with our expert advisor John Brennan to set up layers that could be switched in order to alter parameters in the world. Rachel is concerned that this technique may not be the optimum way to make the quick shifts she wants to incorporate in this new piece.  It was mentioned that in addition to our longtime contacts such as John Brennan and Kan Anant, there are people teaching at CalArts such as Lee Gramling and Dariush Derakhshani that have professional experience working with mocap.  Rachel will be reaching out to them for whatever advice they may be able to offer.
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  • November 29
    THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY
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  • December 6
    Brief progress reports from Rachel, Ana, Jess, Thalia, Isabela, Taylor,   Hae-Joon,  Rigel, Andrew, and Theo, followed by presentations by Hae-Joon,  Julian, Rigel,  and Isabela
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  • December 13
    Friday the 13th Pre-Winter Break Holiday
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