Late Night Work Club tells Ghost Stories

Late Night Work Club is a collective of artists and animators who are collaborating to create some really exciting indie animation.

Here’s the trailer for their first anthology: Ghost Stories.

Scott Benson is the fearless leader of the Late Night Work Club and in true LNWC style, he responded to our questions at 4am.

Animation Ideas: Tells us what the LNWC project is all about? To me it sounds like LNWC is to animation what Flight was to comics. Any parallels there?

Scott Benson: It’s about getting talented independent animators together and making great stuff.

There are some parallels to comic anthologies. I remember last spring I was flipping through an issue of NoBrow and thinking “the stuff in here is basically the comic version of the kind of animation I like and that people I know make”.

There’s this whole world of animation happening online that’s really idiosyncratic and smart and personal and honest and just plain weird. I guess this project is about saying “Hey! This scene exists! Online! Right now! Get into it! It’s not just people far away and more experienced than you! It’s you! It’s your scene too!”

AI: What are the influences on LNWC?

SB: Everyone involved has their own points of reference, but I tend to go back to discovering punk rock and DIY culture when I was a teen in the 90s. That kind of saved me at that age, and instilled this idea of making your own thing, making your own scene, just doing something because it means something to you, and doing it right.

Tons of people already do that in animation. We do that, so we thought it would cool to do something together.

I remember back then I would get these free CDs from tiny indie labels, obviously packaged in someone’s living room by a bunch of friends. Hand-made inserts, some pictures the one person who could draw did, burned discs with paper labels. They would have all of these bands on the back and you’d go through each of them, get introduced to some new bands and seek them out. LNWC is kind of like that.

AI: So is it a film festival? A mixed tape? How would you describe it?

SB: Less a mini film fest, more a compilation of artists you should check out, follow and support.

The hope is that other people copy this and do it themselves. Don’t wait for an outside reason to do it. Just do it, take it seriously and do it right.

AI: Where did Ghost Stories come from? Is there a progression of themes you’d like to tackle?

SB: Ghost Stories was the first idea for a theme and everyone just smiled really big and nodded their heads. Who doesn’t have one to tell? There is a .txt file with other theme ideas, so hopefully we’ll tackle those in the future.

AI: Presumably this is the first of more anthologies. What’s your schedule looking like?

SB: Assuming everything goes well, there will most certainly be more LNWC projects in the future. We’ll see how it goes, but we’re not really going anywhere. What else are we going to do?

AI: How did you reach out to the animators involved? Did you know them all in real life, or are some just folks you connected with on the internet? Aside from being ass-kickingly good, is there any way to volunteer or contribute to LNWC?

SB: Everyone was a friend or a friend of a friend or someone we just kinda knew online. Mostly internet friends, I think. We’re scattered across the world.

A few people we just cold-called and said “I love your work. You into this?”. We ended up with something like an 80% yes rate, so it got big quickly.

AI: Any advice for animators who want to do something similar?

SB: If anyone really wants to be a part of something like this, I would say that they should get something going on their own or with some friends. LNWC may be somewhat exclusive, but this community isn’t. So just get going! If you’re making your own stuff, you already are a part of it, so you know… act accordingly.

AI: Could you have done this project ten years ago without the internet? How has social media helped or hindered your progress?

SB: Nope! Social media has made this possible. Without twitter, Vimeo, Google Hangouts and whatnot there would be no project. There wouldn’t be regular conference chats between Charles Huettner, Eimhin McNamara, Eamonn O’Neill and I. We’ve never met, but some combo of us talk every few weeks, and every day on twitter. I sent them cookies at Christmas. Those conversations are what birthed LNWC. Thanks, internet!

Want to learn more? You can see the full roster of LNWC artists on the LNWC website.

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New Years Eve

Happy new year


New Years Eve

Hello folks.

Animation Ideas is back after a short break and I have more ideas, insights and inspiration than ever for you.

Normally I try to blend into the background and let other animators and their art take center stage, but in this case, I probably should give you an update.

A lot has happened since the last blog post.

I had a baby!

Wow – if there is anything that will force you to realign your priorities – a baby will do it.

He’s a beautiful healthy boy who not only makes me laugh every day, but he sleeps very well at night. Believe me – I know how lucky I am.

Not long after starting a family, I did an interview with Paul Cageggi from the Process Diary Podcast. We spoke a lot about having a young family and how to stay creative and productive admist the chaos of a household dominated by diapers and sleepless nights.

I also spent a semester teaching animation at The University of Technology in Sydney, which was incredibly rewarding.

If you get a chance to teach, you should totally do it.

Start with a guest lecture, and go from there. If for no other reason that it helps you better consolidate your understanding of animation. It’s a great feeling to give something back to the next generation of animators.

Plus, Animation Ideas is proud to welcome a new sponsor: KennyRoy.com

Kenny was one of my teachers when I was studying at Animation Mentor, and is one of the best animation teachers around. I used his textbook to teach my students: How to Cheat in Maya 2013 and I can highly recommend Kenny Roy’s animation training website.

Coming up on Animation Ideas, I’d like to keep the balance going between showcasing animators I admire, as well as sharing insights and observations from my own process.

Looking forward to a creative and productive 2013.

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Evan Seitz teaches us the ABCs of Cinema

Evan Seitz has just released his homage to classic movies with his stunning short animation ABCinema.

In less than 60 seconds, Seitz squeezes in 26 different classic films from A to Z.

Composing every still frame perfectly to capture the spirit of each movie would have been difficult enough, but it’s the smooth animated flow that really makes this a incredible piece of work.

I think I identified about 22 movies.

How many can you spot?

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Kenny Roy starts work on The Little Painter

How do you get your short animated film off to a flying start?

Well, if you’re Kenny Roy, you kick off with a 24 hour animation marathon broadcast live on the internet.

Kenny Roy is not only an animator, but also a teacher at Animation Mentor and the director of Arconyx Animation Studios based in Los Angeles.

I caught up with Kenny shortly after he completed his 24-hour non-stop animation session.

Animation Ideas: So tell us a little bit about your short film?

Kenny Roy: It’s my first personal short in over six years, so it’s about time! We did some shorts for clients as a company but nothing with the amount of development going into The Little Painter.

I’m very proud of my film, even in it’s early stages. The story is charming, I worked very hard on the writing, I’m taking my time developing the characters, it feels like everything is going very smoothly.

In a lot of ways, running a studio for these past 5 years has made me crave a project like The Little Painter even more and I’m excited to be underway!

AI: You mentioned the idea came to you in a dream. Did it come as a fully-formed idea, or just the kernel of the story?

KR: It was literally like being in a theater and watching it on screen. The entire story, beginning to end, was there. I am ALWAYS in my own skin in my dreams, looking out of my eyes. I’m never third person or a disembodied observer, so it was kind of intense.

When I woke up I couldn’t believe it and I wrote it down as fast as I could. Good thing too, like all dreams it faded fast but I had my notes to jog my memory.

AI: What was it like animating for 24 hours straight?

KR: Another intense experience! I’ve pulled all-nighters before, but there’s something different about doing a shot start-to-finish in that time frame. I think it was much harder because I wanted to do a great job firstly because it’s a shot in my film and secondly there were on average 406 people watching the whole 24 hours! I wanted to make people see how passionate I am about my film.

The worst stint was 3-6am. You get very slap-happy, and you get cold. That’s when I put on my hat and gloves.

AI: What was the strangest thing that happened during the live animation marathon?

KR: When I saw that the total had shot up to $7,000 on my kickstarter page, I spit my chicken soup all over my wacom! Everyone on the Livestream saw. Sonya had to bring me some windex, lol.

AI: How did you feel about raising half your short film budget in a single day?

KR: That exceeded my expectations by more than ten-fold. I told my wife that she should maybe turn on the home laptop and the home desktop and idle on the KennyRoy.com homepage, so that there will always be at least “2 viewers” showing on the livestream panel.

I’m dead serious.

I thought in the middle of the night, I would be totally alone and be performing for nobody. I also thought $500-$1000 MAX. To see that we made half in one day, in some ways I feel that people must have made a mistake. Like, there’s no way you all believe in me THAT much. It’s incredibly humbling, and very inspiring at the same time.

AI: How did you arrive at the $29,500 figure, and if you raise more than that – did you have plans on where to channel any extra funds?

KR: The budget for the film is what it would cost Arconyx to make this film, down to the penny, if a client brought The Little Painter in off the street. I write bids and make budgets all the time so it was quick and easy to determine what it would cost to make this.

I have BIG plans for extra funds, should there be any.

A live orchestral score, the ability to hire more and more experienced animators, a more robust production website with more behind the scenes content, increase the number of crowds in the short, render farm rental, shorter production schedule, creation of a feature treatment based on the short, and the ability to approach well-known actors for the voices.

There’s even more but suffice it to say, there are many places I would look to spend extra funding. So don’t stop pledging!

AI: I noticed at the start of the marathon you dedicated it to people very special in your life. How important has family been in getting this film progressed to where it is today?

KR: Well honestly my wife is the most special person I’ve ever met. I have an amazing family, who’ve always been so smart and supportive my whole life. And some great friends and coworkers that have pushed me along the way. But Tamaryn is by far my constant inspiration.

She is always in constant defense of me and my abilities, even (and especially) from even myself. You could safely say that without her I’d probably be in a desk at big studio somewhere, thinking wistfully about the day when I make a short film that never comes.

AI: What stage is the film at? What’s next? Do you have a release date planned?

KR: The film is in pre-production, I’m still finalling all the models of the main characters, and Pierre is finished. I’ve boarded most of the film roughly and they need to be refined. Pierre’s rig was a test bed for some new ideas and I’m pretty happy how he performed during the Marathon.

Next is refine the boards, cut the animatic, and layout the scenes. I’m aiming to have it in next year’s Siggraph Animation Festival so I think the deadline is in early April, so March 2013 is the goal.

AI: Anyone else you wanted to thank or give a shout out too?

KR: Sonya Ballas, my coordinator, rocked during the marathon. I told her to go home, and she disappeared, but came back with a bag of clothes and a pillow. I think she really showed her passion.

I also of course want to start the very long process of thanking and expressing my gratitude to the fans and supporters who watched the Marathon and pledged money to the project. This is going to take a while, to express my love for you guys, but I gotta start somewhere, so thank you!

At the time of writing, The Little Painter Kickstarter campaign has raised just over $23,000 of the $29,500 budget. You have until April 11th, 2012 to donate.

Visit The Little Painter kickstarter site for the most current information about the project.

Once it’s funded, Kenny will announce the official production website at KennyRoy.com and you can follow Pierre’s tracks all the way into his true love’s arms!

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The Process Diary

Phil Willis talks to The Process Diary

The Process Diary

The other day I sat down and did an interview with Paul Caggegi for his podcast The Process Diary.

I first met Paul Caggegi at a Sydney drinks back when we were both trying to crack into the animation industry.

Paul is a freelance video editor, illustrator, graphic novelist, educator, blogger and podcaster.

We spoke about lots of things, including why I chose Animation Mentor, how I transitioned from software engineering into animation, what it was like working on Happy Feet 2 and how to stay creative and productive when you have a newborn baby in the house.

Hot tip: Work in short bursts when the baby is asleep.

Just talking about some of those topics made me want to write and share more about topics of animation education, creativity and balancing life, art and work. So stay tuned for future blog posts on each of those topics.

In the meantime, check out the the full 35-minute interview: Process Diary interview with Phil Willis.

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Stephen P Neary serves up Dr Breakfast

“One day at breakfast, a man’s soul bursts out of his eyeball…”

What follows after that is the surreal and touching Dr Breakfast, and must be seen to be believed.

Written and animated by Stephen P Neary, this bizarre tale made its debut at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

Neary made good use of his long commute to his day job by animating on the train to work and back. Check out the behind-the-scenes footage from Dr Breakfast.

To see more of his work, check out the Stephen P Neary blog.

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Cube Creative gets away with Murder

Cube Creative have just released a teaser to their short film Le Meurtre (The Murder).

Using a limited color palette, French artists Tom Haugomat and Bruno Mangyoku have created a stylish, screen-printed look to this animated folk tale.

Once funding has been secured, they’re looking forward to completing the project.

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Tintin Movie Poster

Five Myths of Motion Capture

Tintin Movie Poster

By now you would have seen the Academy Award nominations for best animated feature for 2011.

Congratulations to all the Oscar nominees: Une vie de chat (A Cat in Paris), Chico and Rita, Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots and Rango.

It’s impossible to say whether a film like The Adventures of Tintin was excluded from the list because it included motion capture as a technique.

But in a recent interview with Joe Letteri, senior visual effects supervisor for Weta Digital, he indicated that he had his own theory on why Tintin was snubbed.

I think that was a really big oversight… Not to recognise those achievements. The visual effects branch didn’t recognise it, because they thought it was animation, and the animation branch didn’t recognise it because it was using performance capture and visual effects techniques. – Joe Letteri

Whether you agree with the decision or not, it’s probably as good a time as any to dispell some myths about films that use motion capture.

Full disclosure: I worked on Happy Feet 2. In this article, my views are my own, naturally, and do not represent the production team or the studio.

Myth 1: Motion capture artists aren’t animators

Note: that is distinct from saying that motion capture is animation. Obviously the techniques are quite different.

But as far as the people hired to edit motion captured from a live performance, in all cases I’ve seen: studios hire animators.

The animators are hired based on their keyframe animation skills and on their showreels.

Why?

Because studios know that motion editing requires the same set of skills that make good keyframe animators: timing, spacing, strong poses, weight, exaggeration, appeal etc.

Myth 2: Movies that use motion capture look terrible

To be honest, there are some horrible looking films out there that use motion capture. You could probably think of three right now off the top of your head.

You want me to name them?

Ha! Nice try.

But you know what – some keyframe animated films don’t look that hot either, quite frankly.

I’m sure for every beautiful film that uses motion capture, like Avatar or Tintin, you could provide a counter-example, but the technique of motion capture by itself is not to blame for crummy films.

Myth 3: Using motion capture makes it a “motion capture movie”

Speaking from experience, there is no way you could possibly take just take the data from the motion capture floor, clean it up a bit and send it off to be rendered.

For starters, there are often many characters and objects that are not suitable for capture by a person in a suit: four-legged animals, birds, vehicles, sets and props.

Seriously. No-one is going to squeeze into a motion capture suit and flap around like a bird, when you could just as easily keyframe animate it.

No-one stuck reflective balls on a trained dog in order to capture the motion for Snowy in Tintin.

Calling a film a “motion capture movie” is about as accurate as calling something a “special effects movie”.

Myth 4: Motion capture movies have no animation in them

On Happy Feet 2 I had a chance to work with George Miller as my director and Rob Coleman as my animation director. When these directors were in a darkened room looking to improve the shot, they honestly didn’t care whether a scene was captured from a dance, a drama performance or animated by hand.

They just wanted the result they were after.

A lot of the time spent as motion editors was perfecting the already brilliant performances, including adding extra motion, adding spins and new gestures, selling the weight of the characters and adding overlap to the body and limbs.

All of these involved adding motion and frames where there were none previously.

In other words, even the motion editors were animating by hand in many cases. Frame by frame.

Myth 5: Films that use motion capture are ineligible for the Academy Award for Animated Feature

If you want your animated feature film to be eligible for Oscar nominations, the rules read as follows:

An animated feature film is defined as a motion picture with a running time of more than 40 minutes, in which movement and characters’ performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique. Motion capture by itself is not an animation technique. In addition, a significant number of the major characters must be animated, and animation must figure in no less than 75 percent of the picture’s running time. – Academy Awards Rules for Best Animated Feature Film (my emphasis added)

I agree.

Motion capture by itself is not an animation technique.

The argument for films like Tintin and Happy Feet 2 is that while they use motion capture as one of their techniques, there is plenty of animation in the film to allow it to qualify.

Happy Feet 2 ran at about 1100 shots, and only around 750 out of those shots contained motion capture. And of those 750 shots, almost all of them would have had some elements animated frame-by-frame: keyframed characters, lip synch, facial expression, moving sets and props.

Honestly, it would be more difficult to find a shot in the film that didn’t contain any keyframed animation.

Whether we like it or not, motion capture is here to stay.

When used intelligently, there’s no reason it shouldn’t compliment frame-by-frame animation as another technique for producing television, videogames and films.

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