GRAD SCHOOL - WEEK 22

APPROACH:

My wife often teases me about my tendency to take something I’ve read or heard from a perceived expert as gospel truth. I will unquestioningly fold this information into my worldview and adjust my behavior accordingly (e.g., I once read that brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand improves brain function, so I now brush right-handed). Maria challenged this tendency when I came to her once again plagued by self-doubt regarding the shape of my exploratory project. She encouraged me to center skill-building in conjunction with my information gathering, so that I might become the expert of my narrow field of focus.

After that enlightening conversation, I decided to stop gazing at my navel and, in the words of Lewis Robinson:

Meet the Robinsons  (Stephen Anderson, 2007)

Meet the Robinsons (Stephen Anderson, 2007)

CHOICES:

Following the precedent set by our first assignment this semester, I recorded the voiceover for Unfettered in order to lay the boards on top to determine length. When I sat down to build the animatic, I was surprised to find that I did not have nearly enough images to fill the length of the dialogue. I need to devise more animation, but I am uncertain about what I should add.

Fortunately, I had more luck with my reading this week. Now that I am resolved to pursue TRPGs as my research thread, I have approached our assigned readings with this in mind. Chapter 3 of Positive Computing centered methods of measuring well-being. Of particular note was the authors’ assertion that there is a dearth of socio-emotional training occurring in contemporary American education. This grabbed my attention because TRPGs are inherently a socio-emotional exercise. Similarly, Calvo and Peters state that teaching with well-being would entail “[efforts] to improve relationships and to develop emotional awareness and regulation, self-control, and healthy values” (Calvo and Peters, 49). One could describe TRPGs with the same language.

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I also began reading sociologist Gary Alan Fine’s seminal study of the medium, Shared Fantasy: Role-Playing Games as Social Worlds. Fine posits, “Each gaming group interprets, defines, and transforms cultural elements in its sphere of knowledge into the cultural framework of an imagined society” (Fine, 2). Both readings point to possible connections between adolescent populations, identity exploration, and TRPGs.

REFLECTION:

Collecting information from experts has been painless; creating my own visual vocabulary has been less so. There is little time for self-doubt, though, so I will forge ahead, fill in the holes in my animation, and more seriously consider Maria’s prescient advice that I may want to decrease the frame rate in my final product.

THE WEEK AHEAD:

I have the clearest vision of what Sequence 2 will look like, so I will stick to my revised production calendar and complete the roughs for it. I plan to use Toon Boom to digitally recreate my boards; afterwards, I will complete an as-of-yet undetermined number of in-betweens. Beyond that, I intend to at least begin the rough animation for Sequence 4 because I have the greatest amount of reference footage. To progress! To moving forward! (02.17.2019)


GRAD SCHOOL - WEEK 21

APPROACH:

I woke up on Tuesday morning with the realization that I had no desire to make a game for our upcoming five-week project. Once again, I was falling into the trap of appeasing some perceived notion of what I should be doing with my graduate program. I was trying to be a people-pleaser, but there wasn’t anyone to please. No one demands that I study liminal spaces, or affect theory, or game design. The agency is mine alone.

With that in mind, I once again reaffirmed that I do, in fact, want to create animations. I set off to school determined to revise my five-week proposal to reflect my actual interest: collaborative identity exploration through the medium of tabletop roleplaying games (TRPGs).

CHOICES:

Before I threw my old project proposal out the window, I wanted to make sure I had something to say in an animation about TRPGs. I wrote a one-page script and spoke to Breanne about its viability as a five-week project. She passed on invaluable advice about the first pass of the script. Breanne pointed out that I was telling my audience what the animation should be showing. It’s funny: I took three separate creative writing courses in undergrad and continue to write vignettes about the various Pathfinder campaigns in which I’ve played, yet when it comes to animation, I consistently forget to show, not tell.

After revising the script, I put a number of books relating to the social constructs imbedded in TRPGs on hold at the library. Later, Tesha, Noor, and I traded our revised proposals back and forth. Again, until I read Tesha’s animation proposal, I hadn’t even thought about including independent animations in my contextual background materials; I had just presumed scholarly texts alone could provide sufficient backing. (Sometimes, I feel like I have to relearn how to be a student all over again.) I tracked down video reference for the distinct animation present in each of my sequences. Afterwards, I scribbled some thumbnails likely indecipherable to anyone save me. The scene in my script that I am most anxious to animate involves one character punching another, so I skipped ahead and completed the boards for it in order to get it out of the way.

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REFLECTION:

As a fledgling animator, I haven’t yet developed a tried-and-true workflow. That much was made apparent when Maria pointed out the glaring gaps in my proposed production calendar. I witnessed a production firsthand at The Simpsons; I’m a bit embarrassed it didn’t cross my mind to make room in my calendar for storyboards, animatics, and editing. Upon reflection, I created an asset list akin to the list my team and I used to create Ter(li)minal in the fall.

Maria and I also discussed in our meeting the limitations of a five-week production cycle. I know I can effectively ink and color an image. If I truly want to push myself, though, I need to center movement in this project.

THE WEEK AHEAD:

The upcoming week is vital to the success of this project. Looking back at 1994, I understand that my initial hemming and hawing about lighting techniques and software compressed my overall timeline. In order to have as much time as possible to foreground the movement present in each sequence, I will complete the storyboards, animatic, and animatic this week. While I am pleased with the recorded dialogue in my previous project, I intend to give this animation even more polish. As such, I emailed Professor Oliszewski for advice about voice acting. We worked together last semester on Sad Sack, and I recall marveling at his self-assured techniques for recording dialogue.

I am nervous, hopeful, and excited for this animation. Tentatively, I’ve decided to call it Unfettered. I can’t help but feel that is an apt title, seeing as I have heretofore strained against these self-imposed expectations and limits. (02.10.2019)


GRAD SCHOOL - WEEK 20

WHAT WORKED:

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Polar vortexes, car troubles, unexpected work shifts, and sudden snowfalls really hampered the flow of class this week. Even still, I had productive conversations with Scott and Kyoung on Monday, as well as with Maria on Tuesday. I have this log of a thesis thread, and I’m just now beginning to whittle it down into something workable and worthwhile. Last semester, I started with a so-called “academic” topic and tried to hack it into something in which I could find personal enjoyment. This semester, I’m doing the opposite; because I already find the concept of pen-and-paper RPGs so meaningful, I think I will achieve greater success.

In other news, Stephen spent a good half hour before Computer Animation II on Tuesday helping me fix my truly ghastly character model. He also bumped back the due date and is offering a help session this brisk Sunday morning—I’m sitting in ACCAD waiting for 9:00AM to roll around as we speak.

1994_03_01final.jpg

Finally, while I have a fair bit of trepidation about my 1994 animation (Are there enough moving images for it to qualify as animation? Why does my voice sound like that? Why did two of my three drawing tablets decide to give out on me the same week we got snowed in in German Village?), I am pleased with the quality of the illustrations I have completed for the assignment.

WHAT DIDN’T:

German Village has lovely, quaint cobblestone streets. German Village also has street parking. These two charming quirks mean that salt trucks can’t salt, and plow trucks can’t plow. It was difficult and stressful making it to campus, so I spent more time working from home. Home is also where my needy dog and cat live. It was a touch challenging trying to be productive when the cat kept leaping onto the keyboard, and the dog kept whining for attention. All in all, this has not been my most productive week on record.

THE WEEK AHEAD:

I have two looming deadlines on Tuesday. What happens after Tuesday? I don’t know. I haven’t thought that far ahead. All I can think about for the time being is cranking out some drawings of the Starship Enterprise for 1994 and adding more edge loops to my inadvertently gaunt 3D model. Stay tuned! (02.03.2019)


GRAD SCHOOL - WEEK 19

WHAT WORKED:

The biggest success of the week was setting up one of the ACCAD Cintiq monitors next to Breanne’s station, so I could begin work on the background design for Martha’s Vineyard without having to shout across the room at her. I began a pencil rough for an exterior establishing shot yesterday, and it was gratifying to work together so closely. After struggling with my 3D character model for Computer Animation II most of the afternoon, there was something particularly therapeutic about the straightforward process of putting down lines. Breanne provided invaluable insight about loosening up the line quality and driving the movement of the illustration towards the focus of the scene.

Additionally while I was a little frustrated with myself last week for fussing around too long on an individual frame of my 1994 vignette for Design Studio, I realized that I was on the right track when I submitted the rough animatic on Thursday. The actual animation for the piece will be fairly limited, so I think it is worthwhile to present clean, polished layouts.

WHAT DIDN’T:

Truth be told, though, this week was somewhat disheartening overall. Now that the initial excitement of reworking my thesis has worn off, I have found myself facing the same existential crisis from last semester. I completed a rough draft of a thesis concept map yesterday for Design Foundations (DESIGN 6300), but I currently do not feel any closer to:

  1. Translating my enthusiasm for pen-and-paper RPGs into a fruitful design research question

  2. Determining methods for pursuing answers to said question, and

  3. Developing a narrative-based project that supports said answers.

I am also disappointed with my dismal output in Computer Animation II. I spent both Friday and Saturday afternoons determined to complete my model for a simple, bipedal cartoon character, but the head resembles a horrifying creature from the deepest bowels of hell, and the body is a potato. The assignment is due Thursday; the outlook appears grim indeed.

THE WEEK AHEAD:

I am looking forward to a meeting with Kyoung and Scott tomorrow afternoon regarding my new research focus. We share a common love for tabletop games, and I know that they have explored the nuances of collaborative design in their own work. I hope to glean insight from them regarding my own foray into the intersection of design and play.

Furthermore, my peers are a lively bunch who never fail to ask thought-provoking questions, so I look forward to their feedback about my concept map.

Finally, I hope to hack and slash away at this 3D model, so I can breathe a sigh of relief and return to my various digital illustrations. Onwards! (01.27.2019)


GRAD SCHOOL - WEEK 18

I missed the first week of classes because I was finishing my internship in LA.  As a result, I was nervous I would limp out of the starting gates and begin my semester riddled with stress. Thank Hylia, my professors were instead incredibly accommodating.  I ended the week confident that I caught up with my peers.

In addition to catching up on schoolwork, I also needed to return to my gym routine.  Our gym has a television monitor on every exercise bike, elliptical machine, and treadmill, so I use our workouts as a way to squeeze in additional artistic learning, too.  While jogging, I watched tutorials on utilizing perspective grids in Photoshop and creating lighting effects in Premiere. Perspective and lighting are the two defining elements of our memory moment project in Design Studio (DESIGN 6400).  They also happen to be two elements I struggle to articulate in my work.

1994 is the tentative title of the 17-second short I am making based on a memory I have of watching television while sitting in my father’s lap.  It will utilize strong perspective, variations in lighting, and a flat line quality. Because it is a first-person vignette, three-point perspective will be key to make the world seem large in the eyes of a child.  The memory is a fuzzy one, so I plan to replicate this through a series of somewhat “moving stills;” changes in lighting will be vital to provide enough movement to this time-based project. Finally, the memory embodies an anti-narrative.  It’s a snapshot, a flash, a moment almost entirely devoid of context. Using the consistent line quality found in ligne claire will flatten out the images to push this anti-narrative quality.

Still from  1994

Outside of 1994, I have also had pleasantly surprising successes in Computer Animation II (ACCAD 5003). Initially, I was unsure if I would even take the course because of how much I struggled with computer animation last semester. However, upon the advice of my department chair and some animators at The Simpsons, I decided to try my hand at Maya once more. The first day back was overwhelming, to be sure—Maya does not seem to be the type of software that one can casually pick up again after a hiatus. I came in early on Thursday, though, and I hacked away at our head modeling exercise until I felt I had reached something of a detente with the fickle program. Professor Conroy asked us to sketch character references for next week, and I am cautiously optimistic that I will be able to bring Evan Evans to a third dimension.

Finally, I think I have made a breakthrough in my thesis progression.  Last semester, my attempts to incorporate design into my overarching in animation and social anthropology were lackluster and ill-defined.  Now, I may have reached an inroads by tying my love for tabletop role-playing games into my research as well. In future weeks, I will further attempt to establish an intersection between design, animation, education, and TTRPGs into a rock-solid research question. (01.20.2019)


GRAD SCHOOL - WINTER BREAK INTERNSHIP

A year ago, I met Professor Maria Palazzi to discuss the Digital Animation and Interactive Media (DAIM) graduate program at The Ohio State University.  When I expressed my interest in pursuing animation professionally, she offered to pass on the email of one of her former students who now works in the industry as a Production Coordinator for The Simpsons.  I reached out to the contact to enquire about summer internships.  Unfortunately, the production had finished hiring summer interns, but the coordinator provided invaluable advice about my resume and encouraged me to apply again in the winter.

I had better luck the second time around—I flew out on December 3 for a six-week stint in Los Angeles as an intern on The Simpsons.  I have never met a more affable, down-to-earth group of people than the production team at Fox TV Animation.  I was invited to sit in on meetings at every stage of production and to have one-on-ones with directors, producers, and heads from every department.  I had the opportunity to pull reference materials for the animators working on The Simpsons: Tapped Out, as well as the chance to sift through scripts found in various directors’ garages and attics in order to catalogue them in the script archive.  Not only did I learn to navigate FileMaker, the industry-standard database for production materials, but I also got to play around with The Simpsons’ proprietary versions of Storyboard Pro and Toon Boom Harmony.

The office manager suggested that I take advantage of slower moments as a chance to create artwork for both the office and my own personal use.  So while I was discouraged from taking photos around the studio in case I inadvertently captured sensitive materials, I do at least have the illustrations I created on a Fox TV Animation Wacom Cintiq! (01.14.2019)


GRAD SCHOOL - WEEK 16

A person and their dog return home to find that the building elevator is malfunctioning in a particularly peculiar manner in this 2D collaborative animation for Hand-Drawn Animation Techniques.

When devising the credits sequence, our group didn’t bother trying to pin down our individual roles—because we each tackled a bit of everything. For my part, I nailed down the initial art direction, drew half of the storyboards, created the color key, and completed numerous animation sequences. Of the sequences I completed, I am most proud of the Great Wave scene, as well as the scene in which the person finally becomes fed-up and goes bananas.

Programs: Toon Boom Harmony, Photoshop, Premiere, After Effects


GRAD SCHOOL - WEEK 15

Three flamingos seem mightily suspicious in this 3D animation made for the final project in Computer Animation I.

At the outset of this semester, I thought it prudent to maximize architectural precision and minimize polygonal faces. As I understood it, I needed to strive for “clean” geometry. The first iteration was, arguably, very clean—but it also lacked personality. I rebuilt the scene from the ground up, and I prioritized lopsided architecture, personal touches (e.g., a soccer ball stuck on the roof, poorly hammered nails), and a vibrant aesthetic.

Similarly, I could not pin down the behavior of the flamingos. I thought they should conspicuously attempt to remain inconspicuous, but I was unsure why that should be the case. I also thought they should remain somewhat rooted to the ground. In this final version, though, I questioned that inclination and set about moving the final flamingo. At first, it plunged over the side, but that was somewhat macabre. Then, I tweaked the bird to drift off into space. I laughed at this floaty takeoff, so I reimagined these plastic yard art flamingos to in truth be disguised aliens serving as the vanguard for an invading extraterrestrial force. The whistling and bass-heavy music serve as indications that not all is as it appears with these innocent-seeming tchotchkes…

Programs: Maya, Premiere, Photoshop

Music: Kevin MacLeod


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GRAD SCHOOL - WEEK 14

In Unknown Heights, a person unexpectedly leaves behind the quotidian to go on a reality-bending trip. I sought to illustrate the mundane giving way to the fantastical in this color key.


GRAD SCHOOL - WEEK 11

A self-absorbed sad sack spills out his woes to an indifferent convenience store employee in this cutout animation made for Hand-Drawn Animation at The Ohio State University (ACCAD5001). I want to give a sppecial thanks to Professor Alex Oliszewski for his voice acting chops, too.

In addition to writing the script and completing half of the storyboards, my roles entailed capturing the cutout animation, compositing the footage, mixing the sound, and cutting the final film.

Programs: Dragon Frame, Photoshop, Illustrator, Audition, After Effects, Premiere

Music: Sounds for the Supermarket 1 (1975)


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GRAD SCHOOL - WEEK 9

My team and I are developing a cutout animation in my hand-drawn animation class. Sad Sack is the story of a self-absorbed, heartbroken sad sack who spills out their woes to an indifferent cashier at a gas station. I wrote the script, drew a number of the storyboards, and recorded the scratch dialogue.


GRAD SCHOOL - WEEK 8

Here is the latest iteration of the exterior scene I am developing for Computer Animation. Previous versions of 42 Macaroni Blvd were a little stiff and formal, so I attempted to push the cartoonish aesthetic with unrealistic angles and a toon shader. I plan to add gutters, shingles, and a yard in future updates. If I get really ambitious, maybe I’ll add some kids’ bicycles haphazardly parked in the grass. I’ve also included the original illustration on which I am basing this project.


GRAD SCHOOL - WEEK 7

Our assignment in Computer Animation (ACCAD5002) was to model and rig a character that will later be placed in an exterior scene. The exterior I am developing is 42 Macaroni Blvd, the house where Evan and his family live. They’re a busy, boisterous, and playful bunch. Plastic yard art fits their father’s offbeat sensibilities. As such, I created a plastic flamingo (affectionately named Richard).


GRAD SCHOOL - WEEK 6

Evan Evans is the type of person who meticulously folds the sleeves of his shirt before putting it on. He knows he’s the smartest person in the room, and he’s not humble about it. His confident stride, upturned chin, and indomitable smirk reflect this.

I completed this walk cycle for my hand-drawn animation class.


GRAD SCHOOL - WEEK 5

In Ter(li)minal, my team sought to explore the bounds of constructed timelessness and placelessness found within an airport lounge. We built this experience in VR, so that the participant may become an observer of the amorphous passage of time in a liminal space. My role entailed establishing the initial concept, narrative flow, and sound design. This prototype was completed for the Foundational Design Studio (DESIGN6400) at The Ohio State University.


GRAD SCHOOL - WEEK 4

Here’s my take on the classic bouncing ball test for my hand-drawn animation class.

The primary breakthrough I encountered was with the sound design.  Initially, I had considered Cabbage Catastrophe complete after I had finished the animation. However, the sound effects elevate the believability of each bounce and sword slash. Plus, the three piano notes at the end introduce a sudden, over-the-top sentimentality.


GRAD SCHOOL - WEEK 3

My team in Design Studio began work on our first project in earnest. I established the concept (see below), as well as the rhythm chart (see above).

"The experience of waiting for a plane in an airport lounge is one of constructed timelessness and placelessness. It is a true liminal space, where the boundaries between the social, personal, and touristic spheres diminish—and at times merge. We seek to recreate this experience in VR. The user will become an observer of the surreal nature of time as it compresses and expands around them as they sit at a departure gate. The ‘landscape’ will alter according to the time of day and the amount of foot traffic. The user can participate in this ritual with quotidian interactions with their environment that will influence the amorphous passage of time."


GRAD SCHOOL - WEEK 2

A tollbooth boom barrier transforms into a hungry snake in this flip book animation made for an Autumn 2018 class about animation techniques. (music by www.bensound.com)