FE382A Course Schedule 2012

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

Evolving Class Schedule for 2012:

  • September 14
    Discussion of course format.  Informal discussion of BFA4 Final Projects –including those well underway and those still being considered.  Arrange for first three students to present work in the following weeks class meeting.


  • September 21
    Presentations from Joe, Chris, and Elijah.  I mentioned Happy Product during Joe’s presentation as we were discussing the physical artifacts inherent in older forms of stop motion animated films compared to the polish of some contemporary stop motion.   In Mark Osbourne’s film More, it is possible to see the artist’s finger prints on the clay which enhances the sense of tactility and presence in that beautifully hand crafted movie. During Chris’s presentation I asked him if the style of layering and motion he was thinking of using was at all related to the work of Larry Jordan or Harry Smith.  Since most of you could not recall for sure if you had seen any of their work I thought I should provide you a few links regarding these pioneering artists:

    We had a chance to experience the use of an HMD to view some tests of virtual reality spaces that Elijah created last year in preparation for his project.  Since most of you have had little experience with that medium I am providing some relevant links.  Two of the many interesting artists who did pioneering work in VR are Jaron Lanier and Brenda Laurel.  In December we will be replacing our old  eMagin Z-800 HMD with the new wide angle Oculus Rift.  BTW, In looking at the 3D photos I took in class I noticed that several of you appear not to have the viewer moved in close enough to your eyes to get the proper field of view and sense of immersion in the image.  We will need to double check that during any subsequent HMD presentations.

  • September 28
    Presentations were scheduled from Meghan, Lizzy, and Vincent.  Lizzy and Vincent were out sick.  Meghan presented ideas and drawings for her project which derives from her deep experience as a sailor.    She presented a set of drawings describing various facets of the project that will take the primary form of a complex installation incorporating physical objects, photographs, and film.  Since Lizzy and Vincent were not able to be there to present, Sieun volunteered to show her rough storyboards and discuss her film plans. Her film centers on the archetype of mother/daughter and the role of daily work.  The film will use the metaphor of pupa to imago and be realized through a series of elegantly simple line drawing animation.  We briefly discussed the old technique of weaving line drawings through intentional line-boil in trace-back as a way of creating breathing holds.  I had mentioned the early films of Christine Panushka, such as The Sum of Them, as an example, but  could not locate a copy online.  I did locate some extreme exaggerated examples of this line breathing technique in selections from Kathy Rose’s early animation.

  • October 5
    Presentations were scheduled from David, Lizzy, and Vincent. Vincent missed class and will present on October 19.  Lizzy presented ideas and concept slides describing her project.  The overall theme of her piece centers on the notion that everything that exists is interconnected, “We are in the universe and the universe is in us”.    An unusual part of her film making process will be the incorporation of the recently developed technique of  3D printing in the creation of replacement-animation objects.  One of Lizzy’s slides reminded me a bit of a CG video which no one recalled having seen.  I had difficulty finding the original online, but a query to CG pioneer Loren Carpenter turned it up: Sixes Last.  David presented his most recent film,  Robota,  followed by ideas for his project, The Claytheist, which at one point will incorporate live performance as he plays the artist who is under the control of his filmed puppet creations.   During the discussion of the pivotal issue of self referential puppet/master reversal I mentioned Chris Landreth’s short film, The End,  which plays with those issues.  I’ve linked to a Vimeo copy here as most of the class could not recall seeing it.  David also presented his recently completed promo film which is designed to obtain project funding via Kickstarter.

  • October 12
    No Class
  • October 19
    Presentations from Chris, Vincent, and Elijah.  David let us know he would be unable to attend class this week as he was attending LACMA’s Animating the Subconscious event and then driving to San Francisco to promote the Kickstarter project  for his film The Claytheist.  Joe came by to speak with us at the beginning of class and ask if he could be released to return to his ongoing project shoot in the Butler.  Sieun was MIA.  Chris screened a series of down-shooter tests of simulated gold leaf using a cutout animation sword.  He went through various surface material and lighting treatment tests.  Helder Sun and others have given him some basic advice, but he was still searching for the appropriate process.  We spoke of animating light to generate glinting highlights and other techniques to simulate the look of gold leaf as seen when viewing an illuminated manuscript.  He will continue testing.  Vincent described the nascent story for his project.  He has the basic story set up which takes place in a Hello Kitty or Miffy style world.  The story will be told primarily in pantomime.  It starts of with the death of the father of a family of rabbit people.   It is revealed that the father had been tracking a cursed artifact which eventual tracked him.  Shades of H.P. Lovecraft and the terrifying act of staring into the abyss.  Lizzy suggest he consider aspects of  Hitchcock’s work in the film Rope.  Meghan came up with the classic Nietzsche quote “When you stare into the abyss the abyss stares back at you”.   Vincent is interested in the difficult challenge of  finding a balance in the other-worldliness established via contrasts between cuteness and horror.  He will continue his research this weekend.  Elijah demonstrated a program he had just written that causes the three dimensional gestural act of drawing a line in space to inscribe that space in a manner that causes the line to continuously flow along the path of its creation after the initial act of of the drawing gesture is completed.   This technique can be compared to being able to play a musical phrase into a recording device that plays back the recorded sequence in a continuously looping sonic figure. Another musical phrase can be played over the initial phrase in order to create an accumulating structure.  This is a musical technique pioneered by Les Paul and adopted by a wide range of musicians.  It became a key technique for minimalist composers such as Terry Riley and Steve Reich.  Elijah’s visual tool has the potential to empower a performer to draw out a repeating line and then draw an accumulating sequence of lines each in response to that previously drawn.  This ability to create an accretion of looping lines will allow for the improvisation of visual compositions constructed out of  spatial and temporal offsets.

  • October 26
    A vote was taken last week to postpone class on the 26th so that people may attend the Platform animation festival events at the REDCAT.

  • November 2
    Meghan stopped by to announce that she was deep into animating and requested to be released to return to animating since she was on a roll.  We approved her request and are looking forward to seeing her work next week.  Chris spoke of issues he was having with a creative block concerning his script and has hopes to have a draft next week.  The group discussed ways that Chris might work to overcome that block.   David spoke about being slightly behind where he expected to be do to the unexpected time demands of promoting the film via the Kickstarter project.  However he is confident what he has accomplished so far will pay off.  He also discussed issues with assuring his armatures are robust enough to survive the shooting process.  Vincent announced that he had cracked his story last night.  He discussed the changes to his story that have caused it to come together for him. He went into great detail on the envisioned scenarios.  Sieun mentioned she is happy with several scenes she has animated and will bring these and her latest scenes to class next week.  Liz spoke about work on her animatic and Ivy’s work with the 3D printing animation of growth cycles.  She is afraid she will have to abandon the planned cloud cycles due to time constraints.  Elijah presented some just-in-time programing developments that allow a drawn stroke in 3D space to loop continuously.  This is a major breakthrough for his project and he will be able to demo it in F105 next week.  We wrapped up the class shooting promo material for David’s Kickstarter fund raising efforts which included a visit to Joe’s ongoing shoot in the Butler building.  At one point in the afternoon we had been talking about stop motion artifacts and I mentioned seeing the artists thumbprints on models in an Imax screening of Mark Osbourne’s short film, More, and how that inspired me to recommend to Chih-Ming Chang that he consider emulating that artifact for his CG based thesis film In Search of the Puppeteer.

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  • November 9
    Chris presented the structure of his film Illuminations in terms of short scripted sequences interspersed with unstructured sequences.  He wants to work with having some unstructured sequences because of his tendency to plan things out so much that he gets tired of them before they can be completed.  He is enthusiastic about the project and hopes to get started on drawing in the coming week. In the scenes be presented there is not a lot of dialogue, but a couple of monologues.  Chris suggested that the class read the script so everyone could get a feel for it and the peripheral role it will play in the completed film.  After the reading the group discussed ways Chris might consider changes that would make the film play with a rhythm well suited to the lengthJoe discussed his progress.  The extremely difficult slow motion shot of the dog jumping is complete as a clean pass and ready for compositing.  He feels that Kelsey did a wonderful job with the performance.  He shared the work from his cell phone and the class was unanimously impressed with the quality of the work.  Monday is his last day on he stage for this cycle.  He has a few shots that can be done on Stage K that should be relatively simple to do.  He has a couple of weeks in early December and then all of Christmas Break to continue shooting.  He has been talking with someone about renting their garage so that he can continue shooting next semester, but is not yet sure is that is going to happen.  Lizzy cautioned him to be careful about sufficient power to avoid light flickers from frame to frame.  Elijah mentioned using a battery back up (UPS) power supply can average out voltage variations.  Lizzy mentioned that they have one of those in the Butler builder, but that type of unit might be a bit expensive for an individual to acquire.  The discussion moved on to knowledge of a few other students who have garages that they have encouraged people to shoot in for their stop motion work.  Peer networking at its best!

    Lizzy’s project is moving along as scheduled and she is feeling confident about the situation at this point.  She will have details to present at a later time.

    Vincent has his script and is creating an action list for choreographing all the movements he wants to do in terms of timing and location.  He has been doing a lot of drawing of props and furniture in order to establish the look that he wants.  He showed sketches done to figure out what to do with the chandelier, what kinds of tables he wants to have in the room, what foods will be in the fridge, what are the things he is going to find out in space, etc.  We discussed his sketches of the creatures such as the flounder fish (David commented that they remind him of early Tamagotchi), abstract line and shape creatures that he wants to move around more mechanically.  He hasn’t settled on exactly what he wants to do with the design just yet, but is happy with the number of options he has to draw from right now.  Mostly what he has been concerned with is the layout of the house, which he has been doing in Photoshop.  Vincent wants the house to be big enough so that you feel the large scale but small enough that the character can get around in it quickly without the need to use a lot of cuts.  Chris felt that the household goods read very well, but the monsters “not so much”.  Vincent said that he felt the character would come out  more in the movement and Chris seconded that idea.  Chris was concerned that the designs might become a bit clearer in motion, but at this size they seemed a bit vague.  Vincent replied that this was what he was going for so in that sense they seem be doing what they are supposed to do.  Reiterating that identity should become established when the creatures move.

    David presented his production schedule for The Claytheist.  He will be in crunch mode for the rest of this semester as he had been planning to continue working on the piece during his Kickstarter campaign, but found that he had too devote much more to the campaign than he had imagined.   His goal is to get a lot done during Winter Break in order to have everything ready to start animating next semester.  He has made a few changes to the script and will do what Chris has done and send revised copies out to the class.  He has reached a point where he has received so much feedback on the script that he has to be careful because it had kind of gotten to the point where its a bit like that snake eating its own tail (Ouroboros).  He has had enough feedback that he knows exactly what he wants to do now, however he needs to hear if anyone sees any glaring things that he may have missed.   He went through a strong development process in Dominic’s class in second year.  Next week he plans to have his storyboard done.  He wants to have a budget written up and begin fabrication on his two puppets so that he has the armatures for them, Ben Markus is helping him get that all set up before he begins building on that.  Next week he wants to bring in all the images he has for set design, scale, etc.  His goal for the week after Thanksgiving is to have the frame for the exterior set built., and the week after that have the puppets finished except for the fine detail.  He wants to have an animatic done that week also.  It is a lot to accomplish in the allotted time, but he wants to push himself to get it done.  It is his “ambitious” schedule not his “realistic” one.    His biggest goal is to have the exterior set and the puppets completely done by the end of the semester.

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  • November 16
    Joe showed his latest animation in low rez uncorrected form. Kelsey Stillmaker came in to help Joe animate very difficult shots such as the flying scenes. One of the flying rig techniques he learned from Kelsy was to attach the rig to a C-stand and then animate the C-stand instead of the rig. Joe built eight set pieces for the winding hallway scene. Calvin will he helping shoot those scenes with the motion control rig. Joe feels one of the the biggest thing he learned from this first shoot was to do a more precise job of charting the timing. They had done an animatic to music and read the script over that, but did not do the reading in the cadence necessary to reflect that actual timing. Now that he understands that issue he hopes to be abel to plan in a way that will avoid the problems he encountered on this first shoot.Sieun showed several animated scenes. She shot some the drawings using Dragon Frame and scanned in others. There was strong positive reaction to the cuteness factor of the baby relating to the mother. It is cute without being cloying. The amount of high quality animation impressed the group. It shows that her production schedule is not unrealistic. Attention to physical details such as the way the mother correctly picks up the baby by holding it by the bottom lends a level of actuality to the characters. She is planning on not using sound effects, but only music to reenforce the emotional tone of the animation.Vincent showed a small chunk of his animation test render.  Jokes were made about the chunky stuttering playback and Elijah determined that the files were encoded at nearly a GB per second! There being insufficient time to re-render and export, Vincent decided to show the work the week following the Thanksgiving holiday.

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  • November 30
    David is ready to begin the process of voice casting. The team wants to maintain the illusion of an actual laboratory so they are going to be launching a website in a week or two and Vincent is creating a simulation of an 8 bit video game which is a play off of Space Invaders called Face Invaders. He is also creating a fake “making of” video that makes the animation process look ridiculously easy. For instance a mention of a new version of DragonFrame where you pose your puppet in one pose, push the button, then in the next pose, push the button, and Dragon fills in all the frames in between.Vincent showed his progress on creating the fake (yet absurdly playable) video game, Face Invaders.

    Meghan showed movies she shot of beaches and other ocean related shots. She has also been going through years of baby footage that her family has.   She showed some great shots that her mom, who is a great camera person took.  Shots of the sailboat, Rainbow, that she had grown up on, Shots of her Dad playing guitar on the boat.  Shots of getting her hair washed in the sink. She is thinking about the process of her childhood play within the boat and the unique ways space was used. Meghan also showed animation of the complex ink drawings of cycling nautilus forms that she had been working on all summer, Most of that summer’s worth of animation drawing work was destroyed due to water damage.  However, the filmed animation she was able to show came from drawings that were in the bottom of the box thus not ruined by the water. She had been working in non-waterproof ink so almost all of that work is lost. She never even got to see test shots of the motion. She may go back and animate those complex scenes again, however it is very intensive work. She showed a photo of the nine water and marine object filled bowl sculptures that she has created –and plans to place on the boat for an upcoming shoot.

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  • December 7
    Meghan showed recent 7D shots from the marina that she plans to work with in various ways. She will reanimate some of the footage and use other animation that is not tangible. She is interested in closeup compositions that abstract the objects in frame while having them remain recognizable. She plans to animate over the winter break. She is hoping a month of animating will help her replace some of the summer’s animation that had been destroyed through water damage.David has made mock up sets to the exact dimensions of what the full sized sets will actually be. He is working with his crew to block out the moves they intend to use, and to be sure there is appropriate space to get the shot angles they are planning. One of the sets is the interior of the bar which will include a piano, a jacuzzi, dart boards, etc. He has found a puppet person who is making a costume for his Timecrow puppet. They are in the shooting space now and making tests with the clay character as he has not done much clay animation since his early work as an animator and wants to be sure everything will work correctly. They plan to shoot all the puppets in their sets in order to create a photo animatic to aid in understanding all the camera angles. They will be experimenting with lenses to find the best compositions. They are working toward having sets and puppets completed before the start of second semester.

    Vincent showed the work he has completed on the 8 bit game simulation, Face Invaders, to be used to promote The Claytheist project. He is coding it in the Processing language. Turbo mode is an option he is also developing. He is enjoying the process so much that his mentor has suggested he might want to consider shifting his project to a series of vignettes –if for no other reason than to overcome the creative block he has been experiencing. Meghan commented on how hard it can be to overcome your inner editor and simply proceed. This was acknowledged by everyone as a serious issue to be grappled with.

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