Three Biggest Things I Learned by Turning 30

This past weekend was my 30th birthday, something that seems like it would never happen when you are a child. It’s amazing how fast time goes by once you are done with school. So now seems like as good as time as ever to write a brief retrospective on some of the biggest things I feel I have learned over the course of my life so far.

Start Something
This one may sound easy but is often the hardest for people. I recall being in figure drawing classes in college and some students would be afraid to start drawing so my professor would walk over to there area and draw a mark on their paper. He would tell them “Now your paper isn’t perfect any more”.

In everything you do, you are not going to be an expert, you are not going to be perfect. The point of starting something is to get your work or idea out there and get feedback or validation of it to improve upon it. If you wait until everything is perfect before unveiling it, it will never get released. This is because as you work on it, you find more imperfections in your work and if you constantly go back and revise and revise, you can see the loop you fall into and you are shorting yourself the satisfaction of having something out in the world.

There is a saying “It’s only a mistake if you don’t learn from it”. You have to be able to see the positive in negative results. So go get your project started, go practice what you want to be good at, just start. Chances are, you will learn something even if things go south, which will leave you better prepared for your next venture!

Invest in Yourself… and Others
This is something I learned during the recession while I was reshaping my career path. At the time, I had spent all of my career doing sports animation, which I really enjoyed doing. Due to circumstances I couldn’t control, I had to shift gears a bit. During the time I did full-time freelance work, I decided to invest my own money into software and other things I wanted to learn to get better. I recall a time where I spent more money on a piece of software than what I was getting paid for a job.

I was looking long term and decided that this was a direction I wanted to go so I spent the extra money to get there. No one was going to pay for me to learn this piece of software, no one was going to buy the software for me. If you are unwilling to invest in yourself, others won’t invest in you.

While this is going to sound a bit contradictory considering the above statement, you need to invest in others. True story, when I was freelancing I was struggling to find a full-time studio position. I knew a full-time studio position is what I needed because I had a hard time turning off when I was freelancing. When I wasn’t animating I was networking and sending emails and reels out. I simply did not have the structure to have “off” hours. I had personal projects I wanted to work on and other things to do like travel.

I couldn’t get a studio to really give me a chance, granted this was still during the recession and budgets were cut and places were laying people off. I was able to find a small studio at the time and they took a chance on giving me a couple projects so we could see how each other worked. The studio and myself each invested in each other and the result is that we have been working together for almost 2 years now. Sometimes you have to give someone the chance to step up, they might surprise you.

Leave Things Better Than You Found Them
This phrase was plastered on the wall of the art studio I went to school in as a freshman. While I didn’t stay at the school, it was a phrase that applies to so much more than simply a room that students would sometimes leave a mess, it applies to everything.

The current job you have, will most likely not be your last. Where you live, the community you live in, might not be your last either. The planet we live on, the people we live with and interact with, should all be left better than you found them.

We have all worked with a person or perhaps were that person, who thought “When I leave, this place will fall apart”. How often does that actually happen? Almost never. The competitive society we live in somewhat promotes this mentality. The same goes for relationship break-ups, wanting to prove the other person was wrong and they can’t do better.

Instead of these mentalities, we should be helping each other succeed and setting people up to succeed through our movements in life.

What things have you learned in your life so far that you want to share?


Production Update 131: Halfway There

I really love writing these updates, I think that has to do with the fact the I love reading and seeing behind-the-scenes work on animation. I recently picked up a few anime series almost specifically for the behind-the-scenes content, like Blood the Last Vampire and Samurai 7.

This past week we started a new event at our local anime club. Several of us went out on Thursday night to hang out and all work on personal projects. It was a good time and turned out to be a productive night. I think it is something that we are going to keep trying to do on a somewhat regular basis.

The scene I am working on consists of 6 shots, I currently have 2 done and have been working on getting the other four framed up and rendered out. I have 2 scenes ready to be composited. One of them I left my computer render over the weekend as I did some work around the garden and the apartment. The other two shots I have the backgrounds framed up, just need to do a final render on them. Depending on render times, I should be able to get things wrapped up for next week.

I had one issue this week. I rendered out a scene and didn’t have the anti-aliasing set high enough so the render was a little poor in quality, which is why I re-rendered it over the weekend.

Production Update 130: New Scene Production Begins

Production update once again and things are back in order after the slight issue with production last week. The shot I was working on was finished up after another slight production modification as well.

The current scene I am working on has 4 more shots in it. I found out last week when I was starting to prepare the shots, I forgot to actually color and shade the character artwork for the scenes, so I spent the night doing that and also coloring a piece for the dialogue scenes for the e-book. I also got cameras positioned in the scenes so I can start setting up test renders this week. I am hoping I can actually finish up all 4 shots this week.

I also received the first draft of the previous scene I completed with audio work. We have some revisions to make to the scene, so I hope I can get that back this upcoming week as well.

I think I can get these shots done because this past week we spent some time working in our gardens and getting the fences put up for the year. I will probably spend some more time in the gardens this weekend to finish up planting and to also get the netting up to keep the deer out.

Over the weekend I also spent most of Saturday fixing up a cabinet that we are going to add to our apartment. It’s a nice break to get away from the computer for a day and work with some physical materials.

Remaining Flexible in Production

I thought I would actually be writing more posts about this kind of subject, but to be honest production has been going pretty smooth. However, I ran into one of my first small changes I needed to make which is what I want to discuss.

As you may know, I complete all of the backgrounds in Cosmic Rage in a 3D animation program called Cinema 4D or C4D. Some of these renders can be slightly time consuming and others go by pretty quick. Lots of things go into effect when setting up these renders and also many things contribute to how long these renders take.

The current shot I am working on involves a 3D city view with a nice camera move to travel up close to a set of doors since the shot is setting up where the scene takes place. I spent some time this week putting together some test renders to get some of the texturing and lighting right.

During these tests, it isn’t uncommon to knock the settings down to get faster results. Once I was happy with the camera move I set up the final render. The final render time estimation was simply too long to wait, so I needed to lower the settings. I spent most of today letting my computer render while I was at work, but when I got home I felt that the quality of the render wasn’t good enough to keep the computer rendering to finish it. The reason for this is an effect called aliasing, which makes the image kinda flicker in areas and most noticeably in areas of high contrast. Given the grungy nature of the scene, it simply wasn’t acceptable.

As a way to compromise on quality and movement, I rendered out a larger image and will have to do a scale instead of having a camera move. This way I can get moving onto the next shot and not have to worry about the shot looking bad. Can’t wait to share more next week!

Production Update 129: Scene Complete!

I was finally able to get that pesky scene done. It felt like I have been working on tat scene for a long time. Lots of things sprung up during production on that specific scene. The scene has been sent off to get audio work done. Here is actually a screenshot of the final shot from that scene.


I also spent some time this week with some revisions to the freelance project I was working on. Have one last minor edit to wrap up and then it should be good to go.

I also traveled and visited some family over the weekend. It was good to see them and things have been somewhat stabilizing with my grandpa and his condition.

One pleasant surprise this week, was the notification we got that we would be able to get into our garden almost month earlier than last year! So we spent part of Sunday putting up the fence and getting some early crops planted.

Given all of that, I am starting to prepare things for the next scene. Just to give you an idea of the next scene, it is composed of 5 shots. I am aiming to get a good chunk of it wrapped up for the next production update. I am anticipating that 3 of the shots will need 3D background renderings that will be more than one frame so part of the progress will be focused on how fast things render.

I also have a few minor edits and tweaks to make in anticipation for Akon 26 in Dallas, TX.

Con Announcement: AkuaCon, Watertown SD

I’ll be presenting my History of CGI in Anime panel at AkuaCon in Watertown, SD. I grew up in Watertown, SD so I am really looking forward to presenting and meeting more of my fellow fans in South Dakota. The interesting thing with AkuaCon, is it is a one day free con for everyone to check out. Here are more details…

The History of CGI in Anime
Watertown, SD
June 27, 2015

Production Update 128: Where Have I Been?

It’s a fair question to ask, there hasn’t been much for updates around here or much of anything else. I have always tried to be transparent about things behind the scenes, just to let everyone know what has been going on from time-to-time and what obstacles or issues occur during production and also just to let you all into my lives a little bit so you know your not wasting your time reading updates on a project that won’t get completed. This will happen, trust me ;)

So the last time we left off, I was working on wrapping up a scene. I am still working on that scene, however, I have the 3D render complete and plan on wrapping up this shot this week and more. I am also wrapping up a freelance project that I have been working on over the last couple weeks as well.

With all of this, what happened? Well, the be blunt, there was a medical emergency in the family. My grandpa has been sick and there has been some traveling and lots of phone calls trying to determine a diagnosis. In the meantime it I have been visiting my parents and some family to just help everyone kinda cope with the events going on.

Things have somewhat stabilized given the situation and anticipate getting back on Cosmic Rage this week. The freelance project is very close to being wrapped up, which got a little delayed given the events as well.

I appreciate your patience and look forward to getting back into production!