Random Post- What I have been up to

One thing I have always enjoyed about blogs when I get a chance to catch up on some of the ones I follow, is the random post that just says whats currently going on. So that’s what I thought I would do today.

Outside of all the work on Cosmic Rage, I have been in the process of a move which I promised I would go more in depth about as soon as I can. Currently I am caught up on some of the anime I have been watching, but I have a few series I still have laying around that I haven’t watched and reviewed yet. The next title I have planned to watch is Tsuritama. Not 100% what it’s about, other than fishing, and I fished a lot when I was younger so I thought I’d check it out. That review should be up some time later in September.

I have also been working on my presentation for this year’s SGMS conference. This will be the third year I will be presenting at the conference and look forward to seeing some of my Minneapolis friends again. I am also really looking forward to this presentation this year 🙂

With the move and finishing up some freelance work, I have had to put my Japanese language studies on hold for now. I am hoping to pick back up on them in the next week or so. I am afraid I am going to be rusty 😦

I am currently reading the Flowers of Evil manga since I enjoyed the show so much. I am afraid it won’t get an animated ending so I decided to read the series now as well.

Finally, I have been looking into planning a trip to Colorado sometime next year. I am researching hiking Pike’s Peak. I love hiking and I have been looking for a new peak to climb to since I climbed Mount Fuji last year.

I am also planning on attending Sogen Con this weekend and really looking forward to making it to a home grown con.

So those are some of the things I have been up to outside of Cosmic Rage. Have some really fun stuff to show for Monday’s production update as well as an updated image.

Production Update 58

Update time, here we go! This week I have been reaching out to friends and other artists about finding a new composer to create a track for the prologue and hopefully one to work with going forward. I have a couple in mind and a couple working on composing some samples. I really enjoy working with composers and seeing what their take on the world I am creating is and how it translates to audio and music creation. You can have an awesome animation, but if the audio work isn’t up to the level of the animation, it will reduce the overall quality of the piece. Something I am working hard to avoid.

Outside of my client work I was traveling a bit, working on some other client work and also had some family visiting. I did get some work done on the 3D environment and wanted to attach a screenshot so you can see some of the progression.

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 11.12.54 PMI hid the actual walls of the room so you could get a little bit better of a view of the entire space. I have a few more things to add into the space and also some hallways to create that lead to this area as well. Overall I am happy with the progress being made and look forward to getting a chance to work more on this environment.

Recent Viewing: Penguin Drum Season 2

I am a few days late on my review of Penguindrum Season 2, but when I sat down to write about it, I realized I needed a few more days to gather my thoughts. My initial reaction to the series was that I thought it was great, but at the same time there were so many layers to it, that I realized I couldn’t write a full on review of it without watching it a few more times to peel back each layers. I also instantly felt that I needed to do a research paper on the whole series because I felt that there was so many thing they were trying to say.

Let’s start with explaining the basic premise of the story. There is a sister, Himari, and her two brothers, Shoma and Kanba. Himari is terminally ill and one day while at the aquarium, Himari dies. Himari wears a Penguin hat that brings her back to life, but in order for her to continue living, Kanba and Shoma must find the “penguin drum”. Along their way of searching for the penguin drum they come across several interesting characters, Mr Tabuki, Natsume, Ringo and more.

You can read my review of the first half of Penguindrum here. Season 2 wrapped up the series and this review is going to be more along the lines of the whole series. Overall, season 1 was a mix of comedy, character backstories and hints of a larger plot that came to fruition. Towards the ending of Season 1, we received glimpses of a new character and potential story paths, but we could see how some of the characters were going to start having intersecting story arcs.

Season 2 starts to expand on these storylines and we learn more about what the Penguindrum is. At the same time we start to see a dark side of some of some of the characters and even darker areas of their backstories. I don’t want to spoil the series for anyone because I highly suggest for people to check this series out. I personally felt the series was written to make you view it several times, which are the types of series I enjoy. I give the show high ratings based on that. I reserved the right to change my opinion after a few more viewings so I can determine if I can make sense of potential arcs.

Season 2 saw a more direct influence of terrorism as an element, which coincides with an actual terrorist attack that took place in Tokyo. This angle of inspiration or creator statement, is one that really interests me. I am thinking next year, I might research this topic further.

There is also possible directions in Japanese society and in particular, homelessness and possibly homeless children. There are sprinkles of a fate vs destiny debate as well. With so many paths and influences towards characters actions, it is hard to write a non spoiler review of the series. That isn’t even touching on the purpose of the penguins as in the series as well.

I highly suggested the series to a friend and he read episode summaries before watching the series. He told me after he marathoned the show, he regretted reading the summaries. The episode summaries do not do the show justice. The best comparison I have heard in regards to Penguindrum, is the show is like a scenic train ride. It takes you from point A to point B, but along the way you see so much interesting stuff that you can’t explore at the time and makes you need to revisit it several times. Once you are through the show, you are no longer distracted from an entertainment stand point, and you can start to focus on things that escaped you the first viewing.

I will touch on the series again at a later date, once I am able to view it a couple more times. I hope you give it a watch 🙂 Penguindrum is licensed by Sentai Filmworks in the U.S.

Production Update 57

Unfortunately not much has changed since last week. However, I will fill you in on what has been a kinda crazy week. First off I have been finishing up some freelance projects that should be wrapping up in the next week or two. While I can’t reveal the full update yet, I spent some time this week traveling and also moving some of my things because I will be moving in early September, that’s about all I can say for now on that topic.

I didn’t get a chance to work on the environment so I don’t have an updated image of the working file. I did decide that I was going to model and texture the scene, but I will probably light the environment depending on the shot.

As for the prologue, I haven’t been able to get ahold of my composer over the last month or so. At this point I have decided to move forward and find a new composer for the project. Which means I don’t have a date to released the prologue to update you all with. I am a little bummed because I was really excited to finally push out the prologue for you all to see. I greatly appreciate all of your patience on the project. I will get it out, you have my word. 🙂

I can also report that my proposed presentation for this years SGMS conference has been accepted, so I will be presenting for the 3rd straight year.

Rage Session #6 Anticipation

Last week we discussed some timing and pacing, which is a pretty expansive and might go into another post as well. However, today we are going to switch gears and go into a topic that kind of supports timing and that is anticipation.

Anticipation is an animation principle that crosses over into the world of story writing as well. If you have taken any writing courses, you may also have heard the term foreshadowing as well. This means that we you lead up to certain events, or you can lead the audience on (tease) and not go through with the actual pay off.

Foreshadowing helps events in your story make sense and seem less random. There are different degrees of foreshadowing. For instance you can have a very subtle hint of foreshadowing, like a character could mention something in an inner monologue or in a conversation. They don’t need to dwell on the topic, but something mentioned even in passing can be enough to plant a seed of a potential plot twist.

These types of foreshadowing can be sprinkled in multiple times if you want the audience to pick up on it, or you could simply use it once or twice. If you use subtle foreshadowing, you can get some pretty large payoffs and unexpected turns. For instance two characters could be talking and one mentions how badly they dislike another character. You have now given the audience a bit of knowledge into the relationship between characters, and by opening that door, you may need to resolve that conflict.

Conversely, you could argue that continual foreshadowing of an event leads up to a large payoff as well. Imagine a show where a boy and girl character hint at a relationship and finally get together after several seasons.

In both instances we are building up an anticipation for a future event. By setting them up in certain ways, we can help control our audiences emotions. When using the subtle foreshadowing, it’s possible to sneak things past the audience leading to more surprising events. Not all events need to be foreshadowed, but I am a believer in using it when possible. If you consistently foreshadow an event it is just a matter of time until that needs to be resolved. Imagine the relationship between Kagome and InuYasha from the series InuYasha. The whole series we can see that there is a spark between the two characters, but we have no idea if Kagome is going to stay in feudal Japan or if she is going to return to her own time.

The longer you play out consistent foreshadowing, the more critical it is to have it pay off. If two characters have a discussion and one mentions something in passing, but we don’t do anything with it as a writer. Such as the above example about a character disliking another, if we choose to do nothing with this then it seems like a harmless sentence. But, if we have two characters continually in an emotional flux and then don’t resolve the issue, your audience is going to feel let down after the payoff.

One of the reasons, in my opinion, that InuYasha is a great example, is because we know something between InuYasha and Kagome has to happen before the show can end. Will they stay together or will Kagome return home? Will she still visit? We are consistently teased, however, the payoff comes in it not being predictable. We know Kagome is going to have to make that decision and some point, and that is why we keep watching. Is she going to stay in her era or remain in feudal Japan. Now if the entire story was in feudal Japan and Kagome was born and raised in that time, the story becomes a little easier to predict. In the actual story, Kagome needs to decide to stay with someone who she has fallen in love with, InuYasha, or she has to return home to her family.

With this struggle set up, we can see Kagome going either way and makes us eager to hear her decision. She stands to lose something no matter which way she chooses.

Anticipation is also something I read about when I was learning about storyboarding and background design for manga. That is something called a set up. Let’s say we have two characters battling to the death for the fate of the universe. They are both engaged in an epic struggle and all of a sudden, one of the characters uses a weapon and defeats the other character. Seems a little anticlimactic right? It seems like a cop out, that we didn’t think things through. However, if we set the stage that the characters were fighting in an room with weapons, or a previous henchman was defeated and lost is weapon etc, we can ease into a resolution through those means.

Imagine a typical slasher movie. Our main female character is running from a crazed killer. As she stumbles and trips trying to get away, she comes across a payphone. Wait, what? Yes, she comes across a payphone. Well, that was convenient… That’s how an audience thinks in scenarios where there isn’t a set up. All we need to do for this to be a more successful piece of the story is to foreshadow the phone. If this was a comic, manga or movie, we can suffice by showing the phone in a shot or background before the character interacts with the object. This way the audience knows that object exists in this environment and it exists before the character interacts with it. In a straight writing style you can set it up through your description of the environment as she runs or that she spots one and makes her way towards it, or she even knows that one exists a few blocks away b/c she walks past it all the time going to school.

By filling in spots like this, you can craft a story that should be freed up from plot holes and have the audience enjoying themselves.

Production Update 56

My apologies for not getting the production update up yesterday. I had some pressing work I had to get knocked out first, but better late then never on the update right? On the prologue, I am still awaiting an updated audio track. Hopefully I can get a better idea of the release date when I get the track.

I have been continuing work on episode 1, and the first thing to get done is modeling the environment, which is one of the major settings in the episode. I have been also watching tutorials on more Cinema 4D stuff and I am really excited to continue to model this environment. Cosmic Rage really is the first project that I have worked on where I am modeling 3D environments and I have found it quite enjoyable. Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day 😦 Some of the objects I am using in the scene were pre-made 3D models or purchased ones in some cases, but I have been some items and look forward to making more in the scene as well. As promised here is an image of what I got going on. It’s still mostly untextured, but you can get a little sneak peek.

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 12.57.55 PMI hope to keep pushing out some updated pictures every week so you can see how the scene is coming together. I think that’d be fun. I also still owe you all a small update on what has all been going on with me but I promise that will be coming shortly. Thanks for reading!

Rage Session #5 Timing > Possibly Part 1?

This week I thought I would write about some more tips in storytelling, today’s topic is Timing. Timing might be a hard concept to grasp when you are first starting out with your writing. First off, timing is not only relatable in terms of writing but also animation. While I was in college learning about the 12 principles of animation, it was striking to me that each animation principle could be brought to the world of writing as well.  I will refer to writing in a couple different ways in this post, and probably will need a follow up at some point because it is such an interesting and wide topic. However, the first being the literal meaning of actual time.

For instance, let’s revert back to our story of the child going to the store along with preparing for a test and dealing with a bully. If we time frame this story within one school year, we now know of an exact time frame the sequence of events operates in and when it starts and ends. Within this time frame, we can add many more layers to our story. For instance, if the bully and the kid become friends towards the end of the school year they could be disappointed that they won’t see each other until the start of the next school year.   On the flipside, if the conflict between kid and bully is resolved early in the time frame, they have the entire school year to be friends. We could even change this time frame to cover an elementary school career or the high school years of the characters.

You can operate in a universe where time is a little looser. For instance look at a show like Dragonball Z, they never tell you how long the battles last, there is very little reference to the passing of days in certain periods. Other shows use time even looser than this, and that is perfectly fine. Let me explain why.

I occasionally will watch some reality TV, mostly Top Chef. Last year they had their season finale as a cook off between chefs and the winner was the first one to have the best 3 dishes out of 5. The show operated in a one hour TV time frame. So what happened, was Chef A won round one, Chef B won round 2, Chef A won round 3, still on the edge of your chair? I wasn’t, I knew who won round 3 was going to win in 4 rounds. The reason I could tell was the winner of the 3rd round was announced about 45 minutes into an hour long show. Unless they were going to cram 2 cooking rounds in the final 15 minutes plus commercials, time can work against you. By locking in a timeframe, your audience now has an idea of how long they can expect a resolution and the closer you get to that time the more the audience expects a resolution.

Timing can also be used to emphasize key points in the story, in the regards of how much time is spent on a certain event. If you get the chance to watch Flowers of Evil, as I reviewed last week, you can see the timing in that show is very methodical and calculating. By acting in a slower and more calculating manner, they can build up more emotion in areas. For instance, after the climatic scene in episode 7, episode 8 has very little dialogue and it revolves on 2 characters going home. Now some people thing that it was boring or arrogant for them to spend an entire episode on that, however, I look at it in a different regard. The 2 characters had a major turning point in their relationship and I felt that episode 8 was exactly how I would feel as a person in that moment as well, the characters seemed to live in that moment and it emphasized one of those nights that we never want to end. There are earlier episodes that had 2 or 3 school days in them, by using an episode for just one night, tells the audience the importance of that night for the characters.

Note, there will also be critics of your work no matter what you do. You just need to be able to separate the ones being haters and the ones actually trying to provide you with feedback and useful thoughts. “This sucks” is not valid feedback. If that person doesn’t explain why it sucks or why they would have done it a different way, I would generally rule that comment as garbage. Writing like everything else takes practice and you shouldn’t be writing to please an audience, you should be writing because you have an interesting story to tell and share with others.

Just like an epic battle in Dragonball Z wouldn’t be completed in 1 episode, by spending more time in certain areas, you can use it to build up the importance of the event. The reason for this is because viewers want that climatic moment to be worth it, they want the pay off of their time being invested in your story. Whether its a 26 episode series or a 100 page book, the payoff is what sticks with the audience. We have all seen a bad movie we didn’t like how it ended, we didn’t like the payoff of our investment in time of watching the film.

Have you ever seen a film or read a book where all hope was lost and the odds were stacked against the characters so much and then an event or something happens and the characters turn out ok? That is also based on timing, just like when you hear someone say that so and so has great comedic timing. This is timing in more of a sense or emotional way. This comes in a variety of ways and formats it is impossible to name them all here. In films it could be a character who you thought was dead showing up to save the day. In comic books and manga they actually set frames up so cliff hangers are at the end of the page, so that short amount of time it takes you to turn a page you are filled with suspense to see what happens next. This of course happens in books as well, hence why we have “page turners”. Even tv shows have this in the form of the timing of commercial breaks and how episodes end in a series, its to keep your audience coming back for more. The building of events creates this moments where we can turn the story one way or another or use it as a breaking point before another chapter, episode or film.

Through these turning points that timing creates, we can create a fast paced action story or a slow methodical story with one or two distinctive pay off points. The slow methodical approach is similar to when you go to a horror movie and are teased about being scared, but they drag it out to the point it gets to be unbearable, but in a good way. For instance a person enters a room and sees something run into another room and the character tries to track down what they saw, only to jump cut to something creepy and scare you. There are benefits to both ways and it usually is determined by the story you want to tell.

I think that’s quite a bit to digest for now. Next week we will tackle the topic of anticipation and how that can effect timing.