Paper-to-Post Pipeline

I've devised my methods- save the main coloring processes, which I still need to nail down for the narrative portion of the film. I think I'll keep that pretty traditional (three-tone) for the first pass and augment with an additional beauty pass. Until I get there, though, I've devised the scanning/compositing methods and chosen the final output res.

The scanner I picked up is a Mustek Scan Express Pro A3 1200, which fits 16f (12.65X17") sheets comfortably. The drivers are a bit dated, but it's inexpensive and TWAIN compatible with photoshop -- and that's all that matters.

Scans will be 16-bit color @ 200 DPI. Why not grayscale? Personal preference. I'd rather avoid a grayscale->RGB conversion step in my photoshop phase. Even tho macro automation makes it fast, I don't want to deal with software conversion of colorspace or bit depth between the scan and the composite.

Been working with After Effects for 2D stuff until now. This time, I'm bumping up to Combustion 4 for almost all output. Output will be Digital Cinema 4k 1.85:1, or 3996 × 2160. About twice current HD. This is pretty close to actual film, the difference being that the crop to 1.85:1 will occur during the actual composite. (For those not interested in techie stuff, skip: Combustion 4 doesn't actually include a comprehensive image sequence editor. There is an edit node, but having 60-150 images in line as a footage layer proves pretty unstable and actually makes for a huge hit to performance. There's also a fine .TIF sequence import, but since it only allows for single frame numbers, it's far too labor intensive to reorder any drawings as the animation may require. So I'll be importing the individual drawings into AE or similar motion graphics suite, and exporting these layers as uncompressed .movs with premultiplied Alpha to import into C4 as footage. It'll work, even on my 6-year old G5 rig. It's actually not too taxing on the machine until you try to render a preview to RAM- which is when 1/4 res proxies come in handy.) The goal here is to create something that can withstand the next rollout of HD media, which will be larger than 1920X1080 (1080p.)

Finally, instead of just a trailer- I've decided to execute a whole sequence of the film to use for fundraising. I think the film timeline is too large and varied to open up with a musical trailer mishmash, so I'll hit the story. After that, I'll see if a teaser or two is in order for publicity and go from there.


Insert Money into Mouth.

Day job acquired. This has been a major step forward in my film's production, as I must now pay rent on both living space and a studio. More soon.


At last..

Some animation. Had to test the scanner, so I used M23_Shot286. Scanner works, Mutwale lives. 523 shots to go.

Need to double-check the timing- I don't have the drawings themselves, so I don't have the original charts. The pencil test seems correct, the alpha composite seems a tad slow.

More as it happens.


Industry Rant: Piracy, DRM, and The Corporation as a Victim

I'm a Pirate. I'm not sorry that I'm a pirate, it's necessary to survive the age of bloatware and rebuys. I also purchase a lot -most, I'd say- of the applications that I use professionally, so if that opening admission makes me a target, shame on you, Big Software. I'm a supporter.

Let's define our terms.

Highware: Large companies and corporations need software to function. This software is priced pretty exorbitantly because companies will pay it or, even better for the developer/publisher, buy bulk licenses. If you're a teacher you know this to be true because, almost always, the academic discount shaves off a *significant* percentage. Companies that make this software- I'm not mentioning names because it doesn't matter- generally don't care if the software is stolen or not. If you steal it and use it properly, you'll eventually get to the point where you're a professional and you're making money using that software. It will pay for itself, and you'll buy it. Everyone wins. If you suck at using the software, you haven't lost any money and you aren't eating into the industry that uses it. Personally, stealing software is only harmful if you use it for personal or monetary gain without (eventually) giving back to the team of creators- tho as we've mentioned, they usually aren't hurting for cash. (I'd been calling this Bloatware, turns out that's slang for software that uses up more system resources than considered necessary or efficient. So for now I'll call expensive software suites HighWare.)

Rebuys: My family has purchased the movie Jaws on VHS, Laserdisc (yeah, laugh it up,) and DVD. I pay for netflix, so in the event that I need to stream it to something, I can do that too. Now I'm supposed to buy it on BluRay? No wonder people freaking steal movies. Corporations, meet me at camera three. Hello there. You know those things on the backs of products called barcodes? They are used to keep track of inventory. How about you let me use the barcodes on the back of my old products for a discount on new formats?* Or if I've purchased the Alien Legacy QUAD SET collection on Amazon, you let me scan the barcode and send in for 50% off the BluRay? Or a free soundtrack disc? Or freaking... Poster. Something to commemorate how much freaking money I have already thrown your way. I think you see where I'm headed with this. Help the consumer, don't hurt them. And if one thing is absolutely destroying consumer confidence, it is this:

DRM: Digital Rights Management. This is a form of copy protection that either kills or limits the consumer's ability to duplicate, copy, back-up, transfer, or alter digital media that they themselves have purchased. This is one of the largest fallacies of the information age and it has less to do with copyright law and more to do with the corporation being a huge headless beast. There are a few great (grave?) examples of DRM that I'm going to mention and tear apart.

1)iTunes store files:

Ever buy a song, show, or movie using the iTunes store? Ever try to play that song, show, or movie on someone else's computer? Yeah. No dice, unless you authorize that hardware address. You can't share anymore. Remember- the difference here is the delivery. Technically, when you buy a CD, you're buying a non-exclusive license to play that music privately for yourself. You don't own the song. You own a disc of it. The benefit of the hard copy is what I like to call (yes, I make up my own terms to organize toughts) the Kindergarten Principle. --Sharing is caring. Like an album? Share it! Burn it and pass it along. This is technically illegal, including back in the days of the first CDR drives or dub-ready stereo machines, on and on. What the DRM-using corporation doesn't realize is that this is the greatest benefit they could have to their market. Firstly, it puts sharing tracks and mixes in the hands of users. This uses not one but two of the the very definitions of advertising in the new Century of the Self- involve the consumer and make the consumer define or inform him or herself with the product itself. It's all about making them feel like they are building something alongside the artists and craftsmen. Mixdubs and mashups, internet radio, build your own smart playlists, again... on and on. Come up with new ways to involve and inform the consumer. And since it's music, hell- people have been defining themselves with musical choices since operas- but I'd argue that the walkman really turned the music world upside down. Suddenly life had a soundtrack, and that involved people in a whole new way. Btw, RIP Sony Walkman. ... Where the hell was I? RIGHT. DRM is crap and those that use it for music files are actually limiting their own market saturation, their own growth. If you cut out some of this DRM nonsense, let the files spread a little, you'll find that suddenly people are finding new bands with ease. Word spreads faster. Things catch on faster. More artists grow new fans. Everyone wins. With DRM, everyone is losing. When's the last time you bought something on vinyl? Artists and publishers that provide vinyl now often include a digital download of the album with the purchase. BRAVO! This is the path. Inclusion, not limitation.

2)Steam game apps:

If you don't play video games you are ridiculously stupid. Sorry, that... That came out wrong. If you don't partake in any form of video games, or worse, you are down on them for being childish or time-wasting, you are a sad, sad relic of a dead era. Sorry... I just don't understand people that are down on games. Interactive New Media is a fantastic new wave of entertainment that is growing and expanding at a dangerously speedy rate. Even more than music it exemplifies the nature of the new century in allowing the user to take part in the generative, or, dare I say, creative process. Little Big Planet and Sleep Is Death are great examples of how interactivity and creativity can join together to form something challenging and unique... Even communal. But we're not talking about games. Let's get back to DRM.

So you aren't one of those dead-era persons. You're a gamersperson. A gamesman. You pick up this PC game via a download store called Steam, Valve Software's online gaming store. It's a rainy day, a storm knocks out your internet, or your wireless is acting up because your roommate is torrenting porn. Whatever. You're having trouble connecting to the net. You boot up Steam to play your new game and LO! You can't play it because you can't connect to a Steam server. What's this then? It's a single-player-only game, how could- Oh, THAT's what that is. See what happened? Steam has instituted a DRM policy that *requires* an internet connection to "verify" your "licensing." Every. Single. Time. You play. I'm sorry but this is ludicrous. How can you not just build an offline key specific to an account and a hardware address? Store this key in the user's online account and build a new replacement key if they want to transfer to a new system?* I realize that sites like GOG offer DRM-free game downloads... Wait, they just closed down. /sigh.

I think I understand the source of the problem. The corporation doesn't know how to be a victim. They can't stop suing their own consumers. It's ludicrous out there! The RIAA, the MPAA, Cable companies are SUING THEIR OWN CUSTOMERS FOR COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT. They don't know what to do so their flailing around like characters out of Peter Bagge's HATE and hoping that fear will stop all this unabashed piracy! Two things. First, most pirates are Chinese, European, Scandinavian, and Eastern-European users that won't have access to what you're selling for another 8 months or more, if at all. It's a global economy, morons. Get with it. If it's good, everyone wants it, and they want it now, not 8 months or a year after America. Second, pirates that are 'stealing' your music and shows and movies and games are going to watch them and play them. They will recommend the good ones, building cred, word-of-mouth, support, and consumer base. These will sell more than usual. Equally, they will *not* recommend the bad ones, and no one will buy your crap any more. Suddenly the market is gaining intelligence and sources, thus not paying for crap when it comes out only to find out it's crap. Suddenly the product matters again. Suddenly the corporation is responsible. Scary stuff for this headless mass, so used to pushing people around and defining its own trends without a care for the individual consumer! Information isn't changing these waters, it is the water itself; the consumer is evolving past the old line of corporate sales and into a new realm of user-defined consumption. Let's all make it a responsible realm. Support your artists. Buy things from those that need the attention, and, hell, steal it too. And blog/tweet/status update about how awesome they are. Culture will grow with or without capitalism. I am an artist, and I support piracy.

*I think this is a bang-up idea.


Grant #1

I'm doing a serious amount of job hunting and resumé polishing, but in the middle of all that Mutwale has achieved a major milestone- it's been given its first grant from the Metropolitan Arts Council. This means I need to continue the tight paper trail and change a few legal terms on my pages. It also means I should get back to work on the film itself, which I plan to do as soon as I get on my feet. Earning is getting in the way of this project at every turn, but it's necessary to survive. If only I could just raise this budget properly and put this paycheck nonsense aside... This would all be so much faster. Cest la vie.



It's about time I showed up. Here's the studio I built.

I am very pleased with it. Now I am going to make a film. I still need a flatbed scanner. Any ideas for inexpensive [legacy] scanners with a max document size of 13.5X17in? I'm usng 16f paper for background sketches.. so technically I don't need a scanner that big. But I like keeping background interaction as loose or as locked as it needs to be.


Another Day at the Office

1 hour 37 minutes 29 seconds 13 frames later... After making over 2300 cuts across 100+ scenes, I have been wrapped from upstart local feature More Than Diamonds. I signed my contract and began work on December 3rd, 2009 and completed delivery tonight. Pending some act of god or unforeseen disaster, the uncompressed feature is on its way to color correctors in Burbank, CA on a couple of terabyte drives.

I will be abstaining from freelance work for as long as I can to continue work on Mutwale. Several visitors to the studio seem very impressed with the setup and the few shots I have going. Now all I need is a large-format scanner on the cheap and some more life drawing. Always with the life drawing.


Yes, it's been a while.

And I still haven't got time to post. The feature edit that I've been working on on and off since December is about to wrap up and head off to color correction. Meanwhile I *do* have several pencil tests done for Mutwale, and shots of my studio, which is finally built. I promise I'll put them up as soon as I get some more of these errands and side projects out of the way.

Freelancing + Personal Work = Delicate Balance

Also if anyone has a lead on a good, inexpensive large-format scanner let me know. Legacy scanners are fine.


Industry Rant: The Meta-Score Fallacy

I use metacritic a good amount. It seems like a fantastic idea to form a huge amalgam-review from all the individual voices out there. But there's been something bothering me for a long while.

Check this:

On the left is films. Wide releases are at the top, limited (indie, foreign) releases are at the bottom. See all that yellow? See all that red? Now. Music is on the right. Music appears to be limited to only wide releases. By which I mean there are no 'limited' releases.

Look at all that fucking green. What is that? There are... SEVEN MIXED REVIEWS and NO BAD ONES. You actually mean to tell me that ALL featured music is that good? Do musicians get a grading curve? Is a prerequisite of music critique being addicted to Xanax? If all music was this good- all MAINSTREAM music, mind you- nobody would be able to figure out what to purchase at the store and everyone would listen to every genre. Every genre would also not have any varying degrees of quality production- everything would be green. Like it appears here. But it's not. So.

Hypothesis 1: All the music is actually this good, and films, especially wide-release ones, are just so incredibly bad that they deserve harsh perspective.

Refutation of Hypothesis 1: I've heard lots of this music. Most of it is not what many would call "good." When "souldj4 boiiiI!1i1" is your only red score in 6 months, your critics are broken, your scoring is questionable, or both.

Hypothesis 2: There are more film releases than movies, so there are bound to be, statistically, more bad movies.

Refutation of Hypothesis 2: I have no desire to look into the release statistics of records versus films, but I think it's safe to say there are probably plenty of releases of both and each carries a certain percentage of crap. Whether these percentages vary is not the issue- the issue is that not a single album up there has been universally panned as being the crap that it probably is. Why? Why are these albums not called crap? Also, film actually has 2 sections- one for mainstream, which features much of the crap, and one for limited, which, while featuring more good stuff and more stars and highlights, is still riddled with average and bad reviews. Music doesn't even *have* a section for limited, it seems that popular culture is all that need be reviewed. I mean, it's all just so damn good, right?

Hypothesis 3: It's a matter of taste or genre.

Refutation of Hypothesis 3: Nobody reviews films according to genre. Some music publications seem to align to genre, but we aren't talking about singular sources, metascores aggregate multitudes. It is possible that genre helps music scores because people that focus on genre are more likely to relate to that genre and harbor an inclination to be kind, while people outside of the genre will score in a more objective manner. But this would make me think that the scores would even out, and more mixed reviews would result. And if it's a matter of taste... Really? I can't see how. The MPAA and the RIAA have very similar systems of cash cow talent and mainstream milking. Similar marketing ploys. Hell I think Hollywood's adoption of the ARG (Alternate Reality Game) as a type of marketing is downright brilliant. Music doesn't do that. I'd argue that the music industry is just as much a harbinger of schlock and crap as the film industry. So why the scores? People's taste? Critics enjoy all this crap? ALL of it? I just don't see it. Is it possible that the reviews chosen per album do not accurately reflect enough of a varied sample-set of critics? Are music critics being manipulated or brainwashed?

Hypothesis 4: Musicians have it easy.

Refutation of Hypothesis 4: Hey- it's just as difficult to break into the recording industry as it is the other entertainment fields. But industry aside, I'll have to go with this one. It seems like there's just no such thing as a music critic that actually knows anything about music. There. I said it. Video game journalists seem to have a better track record than these schmoes! And video game "journalists," are mostly no-talent wankers.

Go find one of your favorite albums of the last decade, look at its metascore, then read some reviews. If you can make it through more than 3 without wanting to slap the author come tell me which albums they are. And no, one of them can't be Brian Wilson's SMILE, that doesn't count. Everyone loved that album for 7 days and proceeded to forget it ever existed.

In any case, yeah. I've been gone a while. More [on the film] soon. Needed to rant off on that tomfoolery for a bit. Metacritic should adjust their music scoring curve so that 50's and 60's amount to 20's and 30's. Or something.

I wanted to include games and books-- Games were often mixed like film, while book reviews were majorly green with singular mixed reviews and an odd "bad." But metacrit did away with book reviews years ago.


Finishing Edit

Working on this finishing edit has been quite a learning experience. Technically it's my first feature (the first feature I worked on did not get entirely in-the-can,) so it's been a refreshing step up from shorts. You can really dig deep into character when you've got two hours (90 or so minutes in this case) and pacing and flow is definitely something I've been pushing.

It's Grant Skellenger's first feature and he's still learning boatloads of new things day by day. I've picked up some new lessons with him, having never attempted one of my own. But 4 years of hands-on school and plenty of industry experience means I had a few tips for him as well (Coverage! Coverage! Coverage!!!) so it's been a healthy back and forth. Both about getting this film to be its best and how to improve future outings.

Right now, in between yelling at Bill Plympton and Pat Smith on their joint blog for being down on story, or animators that place too much emphasis on story (wtf, inorite- as if 2D animation didn't have enough idiots in the sandbox. God forbid some intelligence, or some emotion or maturity swoop in and create something... *GASP* IMPORTANT...) I'm cutting a trailer for this beast. The teaser that Grant has already:

LOL- Sooo over-the-top. I've seen the film and this is pretty much a different tone than the whole thing. hahah jeez. Gotta love that music. Hardcore monk Latin chants have become the standard trailer music. Ubiquitous and... unnecessary. In any case my job now is to cut a full length theatrical trailer and that's whattam 'bout to do.

I look forward to getting this done and starting up my film like a marine looks forward to hugging his child and puttin' some loving on his wife when he comes home from battle. And yes, this feature edit has been a battle.