Thursday, April 28, 2005

Tablet PC dreams - and my new reality

Okay, so this tablet PC idea has been really burning a hole in my fantasies, well it's about to be a reality. I did a little research and thought I would try the more current version of the Toshiba that the blogger I mentioned in my previous post suggested. I ordered the Toshiba Portege M205-S810 which usually runs about $2000 dollars, which I wasn't willing to pay for a machine that won't be my primary computer, but rather my 2d animation system. So I Googled around and went to some of those comparison shop sites, I ended up at Smarter which had a lot more choices available than some of the other comparison sites. Within the results I saw price ranges from $1399 to $2199, all of the lower price ranges were for refurbished systems, except for one from Big on Digital, so that's the one I ordered. The specs on this machine are not too bad in their own right, it's a Pentium 1.50 GHz, 512MBSDRAM (can go up to 2), 2 2.0 USB's, 60 GB hard drive with a DVD/CD RW. The display is 12.1 (1400 x 1050) and swivels around so you can draw right on the screen, that's the part I am excited about. I'm looking forward to putting Alias Sketchbook Pro (I've never used this program before) on the machine to see how it all works together. The Portege is also wireless, which is great because a couple of weeks ago I set up my machines onto a wireless network. This is going to be a lot of fun, I can't wait to find out what I will be able to do. I will of course share my new experiences as soon as I have some, it's probably going to take a while to get here...

Saturday, April 23, 2005


The Hummer Evolution television commercial spot is a 3D Kaleidoscopic animation sequence produced by Stockholm based Filmtecknarna, founded in 1981. The award winning company is involved in various aspects of the graphics market, cgi, stop motion, claymation and cel animation. For this project they used SoftImage and EI (Electric Image) Modeler.
If you haven't had an opprotunity to see the commercial you can download it here 6.7mb (click the images on the right).
I couldn't afford to actually purchase the advertised Hummer, but I can afford to watch this awesome commercial over and over again.

I was thinking about how this works, and now I'm itchin' to animate an object, cut it, mirror it, and align the mirrors into different centered positions. It can't be that simple can it? If you move through the movie sequence frame by frame you see that they don't do it the same every time, in some of them the timing of subsequent mirrored objects is delayed - so the objects look like they are coming together one by one. At the beginning, they have multiples of the Hummer fanning out of the single yellow Hummer and at the end, they have multiples of the black Hummer fanning into the Hummer bed until only one Hummer remains. I still haven't figured out how they did the sequence with the enlarged grill (yellow Hummer), unless some of the Hummers are transparent?

Friday, April 22, 2005


Have you guys taken a look at LOR (Lots of Robots) by Andy Murdock? The lighting, ambiance, audio and particles keep you entranced. What do you think he's doing with the lighting, and what renderer do you think he's using? He has some other cool stuff at his site too, check out the right nav bar on his Gallery link.

The instructor I had when I took my first 3DS Fundamentals Class told me about LOR, and I bought the DVD when it came out. This guy is a triple threat, he cam animate, create audio and work in traditional media. Two out of three isn't bad, and I do have a Casio (which I can play) and I have some midi software/cable plugin, but I really need to do some educating to be able to produce some nice musical tracks via my computer. I still haven't figured out the midi to music transfer, so for right now I would only be able to use music I mixed in Acid pro or live recording of my keyboard using a microphone. Is anyone knowledgeable in midi play?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Biosness Mess

Last night I couldn't work on my current animation project, or anything else for that matter. I replaced my corrupt DVD writable with a new one, so that I could back up my data and after the install, I couldn't get past the Bios screen. Fortunately, today, the problem is solved. I had to reset my Bios back to the default configuration. Whew, I did not like imagining having to call Discreet (oh oops, the new name is, Autodesk Media and Entertainment) for my re-install authorization keys, and I can't even comprehend dealing with the zillions of plug-ins I have. I would say "so it's back to the drawing board" but to be perfectly accurate, I'll say "back to the viewports".......

Monday, April 18, 2005


So I've been working on this project that requires frequent approvals. I ran into a problem. The rendered files are large, so I exported them at a lower setting via Quicktime pro, but this comprimised the quality so drastically that it produced artifacts in the animated material that were not actually in the original version. This of course is bad news when you are trying to show your work. This might not have been such a major issue if the scene were animated objects, but since the object has animated material with text and very fine detail it became problematic. We decided that I would send my current progress on cd or dvd through good old fashion snail mail. Before I mailed them out I decided to preview them and noticed that when ran off of the disks the .mov's were sticky and jumping frames. So I hit the cg boards. Members suggested that I drag the footage from the cd to my hard drive and run it from there instead of from the cd. This worked. Somewhere in the recess of my mind I knew this from a previous experience but it just hadn't registered. But I'm not upset about it because there was an instant solution. Gotta love those boards!
Board members also suggested some compression programs. One was Sorenson Squeeze 4.1 which is about $449.00. I held out, and luckily another post mentioned DigitalAnarchy's Microcosm codec that is supposed to save lossless Quicktimes. I took a look at the product webpage and it sells at $99.00. I thought to myself "I was at DigitalAnarchy a week or two ago when I bought Text Anarchy" for After Effects (I was trying to resolve a scrolling text problem). The thing is with animation, you don't always know what you need until you need it! I'll probablly get it, give it a shot and let you know how well it compresses. If it does well enough perhaps I can by pass the snail mail in the future and send smaller files for approval via the web, which would be a lot more convenient. : )

Update: (4/19/05) Today I installed Microcosm into my Quicktime Pro program and exported a test file at 24 Frames per second. The footage was compressed from 2.92 Mb (the original size) to 1.48 Mb (the new microcosm size). I opened up the two files and placed them side by side, the quality of each is equal!

Saturday, April 16, 2005


You've got to go check out Guernica! a short movie by Marcelo R. Ortiz. It's a marvelous composition that merges Picasso, Escher, Dali and Van Gogh into a surprising sequence of events.

Tablet PC

I've had the Wacom Intuos tablet for a few years, and I haven't even used it that much, but now that I am getting into more situations using Max where I want to make my own materials, I've been fantasizing about the tablet PC's which enable you to actually draw directly on the monitor screen. The Wacom Intuos has the orientation of space about it, that initially can be odd, but even after you get used to it, every now and then you find your pen accidentally in the wrong place if you look away from the tablet for too long. I like the idea of the swivel monitor making it easy to use as a standard machine, but also easily manipulated to draw comfortably on your lap. I imagine that Wacom's new Cintiq is best designed for animators, but the price is so high. There have been a few tablet PC's mentioned as compatible for animators online and I have noticed the prices seem to be dropping, but not enough for me to get away with it yet. There is an interesting blog from November 2004 discussing an artists use of a tablet pc here. also has a lengthy discussion on the topic at their message board. I have Plastic Animation Paper installed onto my laptop system, which I've played around with using my current Wacom. I have the light version, so it's pretty watered down. I think I could do the same with low opacity Photoshop layers, although I have been reading about specific drawing programs for tablet PC's, such as the one mentioned on the blog listed above. Has anyone used Flipbook or Alias Sketchbook? I will keep researching this topic until I find the right system, (possibly software) and market drop! Fellow animators, feel free to comment on this topic...

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Prince Achmed

Today I watched "The Adventures of Prince Achmed" by Lotte Reiniger.

Work began on this film in 1923 and made it's debut in Germany in 1926. Although many would claim Disney as the creator of the first full length feature animation, that is only if you restrict this definition to cell cartoons that it would be accurate. Even though Prince Achmed was created with paper cut outs, it is very frequently hailed the first full length animation film (60mins). And with good reason. There is also some controversy as to her movie being the first full length animation, or if it is only the first surviving full length animation, this argument would still predate Disney. I could dissect the beginnings of animation, but in lieu of that I will just state that there were people and techniques that came before (even Lotte herself was inspired by Georges Melies), but no one can deny the masterpiece, the length, the effort and frame by frame work produced by Lotte and company. The achievements are astounding, even in today's world, perhaps more so since we have the advantage of technologies that Lotte did not.

When the DVD began to spin and I saw the tiny intricately detailed paper cutouts, capable of extraordinary movements and stunning beauty, it reminded me of some of today's elaborate paper relief art . Her characters are so adorned that they appear to be dressed in lace, this feature transcends to buildings, birds and every object within the scene. There is a fluid style that blends the story together so seamlessly that it is rather like perfection, such perfection that you don't even notice, or stop to think of it. This is the case not just in this piece of work, but in all of Lotte's works. That is what an artist wants, for the viewer to be completely taken into the artists world, to believe the composition.

This movie is based on the Middle Eastern classic Arabian Nights . The Arabian tapestry is felt in genuine form in Lotte's interpretation. In fact Lotte is very talented when it comes to conjuring up a particular time and place in her other works as well. Lotte is a master of creating a dreamy, hypnotic, universe, out of jointed silhouettes. The moving objects morph perfectly into complex shapes, a magnificent bird into a spellbound woman, a magical palace out of fallen stars. The movie is entrancing, beautiful, and ethereal, not just for the time it was made, but even when you watch it now. There is a mood of fairy tales, other worldly, creativity and a genuine success at telling a story, with paper for crying out loud! After watching this animation, the visions will linger behind your sight like a soft daydream glow of a memory.

For you animators out there, this film was shot frame by frame, and consisted of 300,000 camera shots. All of this with every paper cut out, moved by hand, scene by scene, with backgrounds added underneath glass layers for a 3d effect. Makes you think of Photoshop and Combustion layers with a whole new appreciation. We've got it easy in comparison, although I have experimented with frame by frame work . But only a little.

Lotte was a pioneer, this was her vision, and she made movies, commercials and production pieces through out her life. She even worked with one of my favorite directors, Fritz Lang, doing special effects work for a dream sequence in Part One of Die Niebelungen . Lotte lived from 1899 to 1981. You can see a list of her works at the bottom of this page.

The DVD version distributed by Milestone Collection, includes some intriguing extras, such as a look back at her career, the technique she used to create her work, as well as her personal life. This documentary segment is worth the cost of the DVD by itself. This version was restored and given colored background tints, in 1998 by the Deutches Filmuseum Frankfurt. They did not have the luxury of a negative, but rather, worked from a frail nitrate print. I've read online mentions that it is rumored the original film was not in color, and there is truth to this rumor, even after Lotte had done color work with her silhouettes, she still preferred black and white, and always had.

If you are a current day animator the results of Lotte's work considering her limited technology, will blow your mind. If you are not an animator, this movie, will blow your mind. Lotte is an integral part of cinematic history.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Welcome to the fourth dimension

This board was created as a place to work through animation projects, post progress updates, network with others and discuss animation in general. The software I use is 3D Studio Max (current vers. 6), Combustion, Vegas and Photoshop. I don't know what will come of this blog, but I am very interested in finding out.

"I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it." - Pablo Picasso