Recent Viewing: Oblivion Island Haruka and the Magic Mirror

The only bright side of ever being sick is the fact that it allows one to sit under a blanket with juice and a stack of movies. On that note, I am going to provide a review of what I think is a must watch film called Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror. It’s a film that went rather under the radar in the states. I actually only heard of it due to amazon suggesting the title to me. So here we go!

Oblivion Island was released in 2009 from Production I.G. and licensed in the states by Funimation. First off the story has a very interesting plot/theme. The premise is, that there is a second hidden world which its inhabitants take neglected items in the human world back to their world. The main character, Haruka, sees one of these creatures (which look like a stylized fox) takes her keys that are sitting on a staircase. She decides to follow this creature and get her keys back. While in this world, she realizes that this must be where he childhood mirror she received from her mother as a gift must be. The quest for Haruka and the creature, Teo, begins in search for the mirror.

The settings of the film were very inventive. The portions that took place in the real world were all inspired by actual places. The creature world however had a cleverly built world out of borrowed items. For instance, there are several buildings that have surfboards for shingles. Many settings in this world have a feel as a cross over between a Ghibli film and a Pixar film. Lush ocean areas, islands and an underground are all scenes in Oblivion Island, even an underground moat made out of orange syrup. During certain shots of the film, it felt as if I was watching a video game due to the details in the environments crossed with camera angles.

One of my interests over the last year has been the use of CGI in Japanese animation, this film is almost exclusively 3D, which was one of the reasons I needed to see it. The film is very well animated and rendered. The characters skin does’t look plastic and the cloth and hair animate well. Nothing feels rigid or out of place that takes away from the film, Haruka moves around really well. As the other characters are as well. There was several shots that had a variety of dynamic systems in them, such as cloth, fireworks and more.

I thought the character designs were well done as well. They felt as if they were all from a video game which was really refreshing. Many of the characters wore masks, which were very unique and added to the mystic of some of the characters. The Baron character’s mask fits him very well, Haruka wears a mask at points that appears as its from a large baseball.

I highly suggest watching Oblivion Island. Especially if you are a fan of Ghibli and Pixar films. Overall the film has a very sweet story and well produced visuals. You can  actually watch the movie for free online here in either subbed or dubbed.

http://www.funimation.com/oblivion-island/movie/oblivion-island/dub

 

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Production Update 32

Pretty short production update this week again. I closed out a couple freelance projects last week and also managed to get sick too. So when I wasn’t in front of the computer working, I was  guzzling vitamin C and sleeping. Thankfully it’s not the flu or anything too bad but nursing myself back to recovery has taken precedence over personal projects as usual.

With that said, I do have the audio track for the trailer (which I now think of more of a prologue) and have begun editing it to some of the shots that have been rendered. I have to rework a bit of the timing at the start of the prologue since it was done with some placeholder voice over. This will just be a case of extending some keyframes and adjusting some keyframes for some simple parameters. This week I am planning on focusing on the first part of the prologue and getting some of that reworked. I do have a couple drawings I need to create for the first part of the prologue.

I also have some bigger news coming soon, most likely to be revealed next week. 🙂 Stay Tuned!

Progress/Status:

Prologue:
Storyboards: DONE
Drawing: DONE
Inking/coloring/shading: DONE
Animating/Compositing: In Work
Audio: In Work/ VO is done

Episode 1:
Storyboards: DONE
Drawing: DONE
Inking/coloring/shading: DONE
Animating/Compositing: In Work
Audio: NONE

Episode 2:
Storyboards: DONE
Drawing: 3/20pages
Inking/coloring/shading: 0/20
Animating/Compositing: NONE
Audio: NONE

Production Update 31

It’s been a hectic last week, I have been putting the finishing touches on another project I will be announcing shortly. I have also been working on a few freelance projects this week as well, which means limited time to work on Cosmic Rage.

I did manage to get a couple rough drawings completed but that was about it in terms of getting anything actually produced. On an awesome note though, I did get two reads of the  voice over for the trailer. The two reads have different personalities and I am very eager to work with them and determine which fits the trailer best.

As for the rest of the week, I will be busy working on some freelance projects and closing them out. So on Thursday I won’t be writing about anything new I have seen and can break down. I am hoping by the weekend I will be able to get a little bit of work in so I will have an update for next week.

Recent Viewing: Burst Angel

At the suggestion of a friend, I decided to marathon Burst Angel in the span of a day while getting some work done. Burst Angel was created in 2004 by Gonzo and licensed in America by FUNimation (I told you I would get to a FUNimation title).

The story is very similar to Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 (BCT 2040). We follow around a group of girls that are fighting against mutated people/creatures that are wreaking havoc in Tokyo. Each character set has the a few archetypes of characters. The strong silent/ rebellious leader, the loud quirky girl, the young genius (in BCT 2040 its a young male), and a serious but yet sometimes fun leader or business head.

I really had no knowledge of the series going into it, it had been a while since I had seen a trailer for it and I have never really looked into the title to see what it was about. Having said that, there was an early episode that really had kinda set up some high hopes of a direction the series would go. However, the story never progresses down that path. After a few episodes of introducing characters in the first few episodes, I thought this storyline was going to be the main plot for the remainder of the series. It only turned out to be a one off kinda episode that never touches the topic.

All was not lost, from a production standpoint, Gonzo creates some of the best CGI in all of anime. I really got familiar with their work when I was preparing my SGMS presentation last year. However my presentation covered only 3 time periods of CGI in anime, it’s inception, the titles when it started to become more mainstream and where it was at today. If I had a longer period of time to present, one of the areas I wanted to go into was the mid 2000’s. Some titles that were the first to use CGi were in the late 1990’s and Gonzo was one of the studios that was at the forefront of the movement.

So to see a title from 2004 which is the time I wanted to study more as there was a flurry of new techniques and such coming out. Burst Angel had some really nice animated robot sequences in the later episodes. A couple years prior to this title there were studios that when animating robots, would animate them very robot like and not too responsive, they look very rigid and unnatural. Burst Angel has scenes where robots are slinging around large weapons and you can get a sense of the weight of the weaponry from the way the robot is wielding it. The robot will swing the weapon into position and they go past where they need it and bring it back just a little. It is one of the animation principles, but you didn’t see these applied to CGi robots before in anime.

The downfall of the series a little bit is the lack of compositing in those final episodes. By compositing I mean that there are effects that look like they are just dropped onto the animation and don’t blend into the environment to make it fit in. Explosions are placed over the top of the animation and sometimes you can see that things around them aren’t effected by the burst of light and fire. In one shot in particular you can see the building underneath an explosion has no breaking windows or even damage.

I may be coming off as really harsh, but I’m not. At the time this was released it probably was pretty solid to other anime titles being produced at the time. A lot of titles in that time were experimenting with CGI and how they could use it. I have a fascination with this time period because in a way it relates to what I am working on as well.

All series have budgets and restrictions, in my Cosmic Rage project, I have the limitation of doing the whole project with my laptop. I dig into these titles because it is very intriguing to see how other animators cut corners to save on budgets and how they have to keep budgets in mind. It is fun to dissect how they did things to get a certain look as well. And to be honest some of these things they can get away with because the audience doesn’t know what they are looking for in some cases.

I enjoyed Burst Angel, I thought it was an entertaining 24 episode series that really allowed me to see more of what Gonzo was doing in the mid 2000’s. It is a time period that I would enjoy to see more titles from since it was such a time for experimental techniques and balancing looks with a computers render power as well.

Production Update 30

Last week I completely forgot to mention that it is the 1 year anniversary of my blog. I had been working on this project for a while and with my blog I have been able to go back and see some of my first posts. My first posts were mostly discussing the project since at the time I didn’t have much going on in terms of production. I was able to get a lot of drawing done over the year and even work on the animation and the trailer as well as starting Episode 2.

First off, the script for the voice over has been finalized and sent off to the voice actor for recording. Once I get the VO (voice over) back, I can work on having some background music created as well. I have created some slight alterations from the original script and within that, it is going to alter a couple of the scenes I haven’t created yet for the trailer. I am hoping to get the voice over script soon so I can get back to work on it.

I also had a chance to flesh out some more drawings for the second episode. I am now currently drawing shots on page 3 and roughing out others. I also was able to scan in all of the drawings I have for Episode 2 as well. I can now start inking/coloring/shading those as I set up other renders for the trailer.

I need to review the work I have for Episode 1 currently to give a better update on that. I have some scenes animated and I need to look into where I left off and what scenes need to be done yet. I will have more of an update on this next week since I left some of my Episode 1 materials at home and I am currently traveling.

I am also close enough to launch one of the other projects I have been working on. I am aiming towards the end of February, I just need to generate some more content. I am extremely excited to have this ongoing project be open to the public soon.

It has been a great last year working on Cosmic Rage. I am looking forward to continuing to provide updates and insight to what I am working on and looking forward to really digging into the animation and compositing in the near future as well as the process for Episode 2.

Progress/Status:

Trailer:
Storyboards: DONE
Drawing: DONE
Inking/coloring/shading: DONE
Animating/Compositing: In Work
Audio: In Work/ VO sent to actor

Episode 1:
Storyboards: DONE
Drawing: DONE
Inking/coloring/shading: DONE
Animating/Compositing: In Work
Audio: NONE

Episode 2:
Storyboards: DONE
Drawing: 3/20pages
Inking/coloring/shading: 0/20
Animating/Compositing: NONE
Audio: NONE

Recent Viewing: Mardock Scramble Vol 1 & 2

I recently watched the first 2 Mardock Scramble DVDs, there is a third one coming out at some point but volume 2 came out kind of recently so I felt the need to let you know about the first 2 and if it is worth your time. The third and final volume is slated to come out this fall.  First off, Mardock Scramble is a little graphic so if that’s not your cup of tea, don’t watch the trailers.

Mardock Scramble was released in the fall of 2010 from Sentai Filmworks. Again, I promise I am not biased against other distributor it just so happened the last few titles I ordered were all from them. Anyways, it was animated by a studio called GoHands, which I have never heard of. After looking into them a bit I discovered that they were founded in 2008, so they are a recently formed studio. I will for sure be looking into more of their work.

Mardock Scramble is a darker series, with several scenes that can get a bit graphic to people that are sensitive to that. The first disk didn’t have any special features, but after the initial release I believe there was a directors cut added. The second disk has a directors cut as an extra.

The story is set in a darker setting with very interesting settings. Visually the film reminds me a bit of the film Red Line where in scenes the shadows are black. There are also nice contrasting color glows from lights since the film was digitally colored. From a visual standpoint, I tend to like darker series with the high contrasting glows.

The first film starts off with a montage of very interesting camera effects. A handheld camera feel with some motion lines that one could do in post create a tense situation which is exactly what they should be going for given the situation in which our main female character is in danger. We also have several shots with distorted camera lenses which create very interesting compositions and could be a metaphor of the lies of the character, have to find out in the final installment.

Another use of some CGI features are the futuristic ad spaces. Whether they are floating or rotating around a parking garage post of instance, such items would be easily interchangeable in a program like C4D or After Effects. Appearance-wise they appear as almost any other anime’s holographic ad spaces.

The environments are pretty detailed and really help sell the gritty world they are in. There are even such details in scenes where the characters are in a car and you can see the sound waves from the radio displayed on the radio face, similar to an equalizer.

On the topic of cars, the cars are of course done in CGI and are very good looking. It is awesome to compare them to the cars from the first season of Initial D and see how far they have come in about ten years. The car chase scene is one of my favorite scenes in of the first installment.

In the second installment, they maintain a lot of the same art direction. They use film treatments and distorted camera views to build up past events of the series and character flashbacks. At the start of the installment we have a resolution to the ending of the first disk. After that we are taken to an area with some very lavish backgrounds. I think it is easy to overlook the gains in background painting in the new age of anime. With all of the incorporation of 3D and compositing techniques it is easy to overlook a well painted background.

There are effects of the character doing math and breaking down advanced formulas etc. There are some nice lighting effects and lens flares as well. It is a longer scene that is fun to watch and to think of how they created such effects.

The last half of the show revolves around a bit of a casino/gambling plot which has some very interesting screen cuts and effects. I can tell that the creators were inspired by the film 21 with Kevin Spacey and even the casino scene in the Hangover

Production Update 29

It is hard to believe it is February already… Another week of work in the books and here is what we completed this past week on the freelance front. I had some freelance work/revisions to complete, I will share this project when it is done, it has been a very fun project to work on. I also worked towards another personal project that I am hoping I can reveal this month.

Jumping to Cosmic Rage work, specifically the trailer, I have one additional shot completed and working on a re-render for another. A re-render was required for some compositing work, which I am starting to study and learn more about. Not only that, but also creating actual 3D environments and scenes and such as well. It has been a good 2 weeks of watching tutorials and getting things more streamlined. Creating shots for 3D animated scenes is vastly different from the scenes and such that are created using logos and for motion graphics. But fundamentally they are very different, maybe this would make a good entry for later. I am really excited to take all of these things i have learned and add characters to them.

I didn’t get any work done on Episode 1 this week, since my computer has been rendering out content for the trailer. There isn’t much I can do when computer is rendering for one shot. However, I did get some drawing done for Episode 2 as I continue to work forward. I have some drawings finalized, but I did get several more roughed out which I hope to complete today. While the computer will be rendering out scenes for the trailer and first episode throughout this process, I will be able to continue to draw, ink and color in anticipation for episode 2.

I also started a little bit of a progress report (as seen below) to give you a better idea of the progress of these items and where I am at. I will be referring to everything as “pages” So when you see something like a 0/20 that means I have not completed any of the 20 pages of the storyboards. This way you can see every week the progress gained and what items are done for each project.

 Progress/Status:

Trailer:
Storyboards: DONE
Drawing: DONE
Inking/coloring/shading: DONE
Animating/Compositing: In Work
Audio: In Work

Episode 1:
Storyboards: DONE
Drawing: DONE
Inking/coloring/shading: DONE
Animating/Compositing: In Work
Audio: NONE

Episode 2:
Storyboards: DONE
Drawing: 1/20pages
Inking/coloring/shading: 0/20
Animating/Compositing: NONE
Audio: NONE