A Dreamer Walking

Leafs on Fence

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on June 27, 2010

I softened and contrasted the fence and leafs a little bit. My goal was to create a balance with the leafs and the fence. I find opposite colors very interesting when put together. One element is nature created and the other man created. Would love to hear some critique.

Water Leaf

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on June 21, 2010

Used a paint tool in photoshop to help focus the eye on the leaf with the water on it.

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White Flower

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on June 18, 2010

This is a GREAT example of framing and using the background to point to the main piece. I really think the eye is drawn to the flower. I also softened the flower a little bit making it more pleasing to the eye.

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Film Mediums: 2D Animation!

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on June 16, 2010
Glen Keane Drawing of the Beast!

Glen Keane Drawing of the Beast!

2D animation is a very magical medium of film. As I said in my last post, there is nothing more magical to me then seeing simple drawings come to life. Another thing that 2D animation can do is show the hand of the artist through the actual drawings on screen. This drawing to the side was done by a masterful animator called Glen Keane. He has a very interesting style to his animation, different from any other artist.

One of the beauties of 2D animation is that there are so many different drawing styles. Each animator has his or her own way of going about a scene. During the rough animation you can definitely see a huge difference in some animators styles. In this Glen Keane drawing you see very dark lines, Glen is known for physically digging into his paper with the pencil trying to feel the emotion of the character he is drawing. However if you look below you can see a drawing by another masterful animator Ollie Johnson. He had a much lighter touch. Johnston was said to have barley kissed the page with his pencil, slowly trying to figure out the right look and movement for his characters.

Ollie Johnson Example

Ollie Johnson Example

In 2D animation you are constantly trying to clean up drawings so you can create a film that looks singular, as though one artist had created it. This is where Clean Up Artists come in. A Clean Up Artist is someone who goes over the animators original drawings and creates a fluid drawings that can match the other animation done for the character. A character like the Beast in Beauty and the Beast would have many different animators working so they could have the Beast’s performance done in reasonable time . It can take weeks for an animator to do only a few seconds worth of motion, thus each character calls for multiple animators.

You can not be a good 2D animator without studying the principles of movement. A animator needs to know how to draw well and have a feel for acting. Some animators plan out every detail of their shot before they go about animating. If you look at an animator like Milt Kahl (some say he is the greatest animator ever to live) you will see a pain staking amount of time that goes into planning out each shot. Milt Kahl tried looking at a scene from every angle.  He would thumbnail different ideas until he found something that would squeeze out the most entertainment possible. Milt knew exactly what he was going to animate before he even put pencil to paper. However, if you look at a animator like Glen Keane, he will be the first to tell you that he does not know what exactly the result of his animation will be. This is not to say he doesn’t put in the preparation, there is a lot of study Glen does into his character and how his character should move. However, Glen likes to animate based on feeling, he tries to get into his character’s skin and feel the movement of the character flow from pencil to paper. All the way through Glen’s animation process he is digging into his character’s head wondering what the next move should be and whether or not he could express that move through his drawing.

With 2D animation you need to simplify everything. A character is simplified to its basic roots. This often makes the artists put a lot of thought into who the character is and what shapes express the character the best. The audience eye is allowed to pay attention to the action instead of getting distracted by unnecessary details.

This field of animation also lets us look at a movie like a painting. It literally takes hundreds of paintings to create all the background for a story of a film. When 2D animation is at its best everything is painted to highlight the characters. The artists have the ability to dramatically change the color scheme in order to push an emotion. There are times where we only are allowed an impression of a location, like the Forest in Bambi for example. If you go back and study the backgrounds in Bambi, you will find that the paintings for the foreground and background are only impressions of what a real forest looks like. However, the feeling the forest in Bambi creates can be more real then a actual forest.

Some of the feelings I have gotten from 2D animation films like Pinocchio, Lady and the Tramp, and Bambi have never been matched in any other film medium. In 2D animation I am allowed to see the hand of the artist, the only devices the artists need to make the medium work is a pencil and paper. It is a personal field of study and you are allowed to see the sweat and blood the artist put into making the drawings come to life. The actual power of 2D animation is that you start with a blank piece of paper and are able to create anything you can imagine.

(Here are links to the rest of the posts for this series, Film Mediums, CG Animation, and Live Action)

Film Mediums!

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on June 15, 2010

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So there are three different mediums of film making that I have done a lot of research on. I have ambitions to make movies in each one of theses mediums. 2D animation, CG animation, and live action all have their own strengths. Contrary to many people’s belief, animation is not just for little kids. It can be and often is as much for adults as live action is. In this post I want to give a basic outline of the differences and strengths I see in each medium.

Above are some photos of the legend animator Frank Thomas. You can clearly see the resemblance of the real Frank in the cartoon drawing and the computer rendering. However, neither the computer generated picture or the cartoon drawing are supposed to look exactly like Frank. The beauty of both CG and 2D animation is that they are less interested in the reality of what something looks like but instead strive for creating the feeling of an object or person. In both the CG picture and 2D picture the artist have exaggerated Franks face.  It stays reconcilable but we are given a stronger impression of the person’s character.

If you study the face of the real Frank Thomas you will see that the animated pictures have the head 1 1/2 times the size of the normal head. Also, the nose and chin have been sized up. Frank’s facial features are more rounded, the artists are able to create a impression of Frank’s real face out of simple shapes that are easy to read.  In both mediums of animation you are allowed more freedom with expressing who your character is on the inside, physically.

Carl Fredricksen from Pixar’s UP is a great example of how abstract animation can make something physically look. Carl is a very closed minded grumpy old man, thus everything on the outside expresses who he is on the inside. Look at Carl’s head, it takes up more then 1/4th of his body. His body is extremely square, you can even see that the model artist has made Carl’s fingers square, no doubt representing who he is on the inside. If you look close, you can see that Carl is wearing some extra thick clothes.  The coat Carl has on is about 3 times thicker then normal.

We as an audience do not question the realness of Carl. Even though his body and clothes are very much exaggerated, we are allowed to get to know Carl and think of him as a real person full of emotion and feeling.

Another huge difference between live action and animation is the time it takes to do just one shot of film. With live action you just need to take a camera and record real life footage. With animation you have an animator for each character. Animators spend weeks of hard work just doing a few seconds worth of animation. This is actually one of my favorite things about animation because every single movement is taken into consideration, every single frame is carefully planned out by the animator.

With CG animation you are given a model to use. This model is a empty shell until the animator breathes life into it. In a model like Carl Fredricksen there are literally thousands of different body parts that you can move. For example there might be well over a hundred different switches that control Carl’s face alone. Each switch moves a different part of the face and allows the animator to put more detail into the acting.

With 2D animation you are given a blank page. The animator most likely has model sheets in front him or her, giving pointers on how to go about drawing the character in the right dimensions. However, each scene is different and the 2D animator needs to start with a blank page. 2D animation takes the most broad talent of the three mediums. The 2D animator needs to have a firm understanding of movement. He needs to be a good draftsmen so he could draw the dimensions of the character correctly. And, he needs to know how to act. Even though it seems 2D animation is the hardest medium to work in, I have found nothing more magical then seeing a bunch of drawings turn into a living breathing character.

I appreciate some of the wonderful aspects of live action. With live action you can have everything. The actor does not need to start with a blank page and he can not possibly think of every frame of movement he makes. There is a power in just going with something and not thinking about every little action you are going to make. It give you the ability to have on the spot inspiration and improvise. Improvisation is sometimes the most powerful aspect of film. There is nothing more exciting to some actors then to be thrown a curve ball and need to deal with a comment or action they had not prepared for. With live action characters are allowed to bounce off of each other more easily. You are allowed to see a scene be expressed in many different ways and pick and choose what fits best for the over all film.

In both types of animation you do not have more then one take. You do not have the ability to act something out a million different ways and choose what’s best. The best type of animators are able to thumbnail different ways on how to go about animating a scene, however they do not know exactly what is going to happen until they are done animating the scene. Because of this the animator and director need to already have a good idea on what they want from the characters and story in pre-production, before any animating actually takes place. Pre-production is the most important aspect in animation, a bunch of artist grow through hundreds of drafts of the story on storyboards  so they can figure out exactly what they want to happen in each scene. This is often the reason why animated films take much longer to create then live action.

In the next few posts I will highlight each medium and go into more depths on what their individual strengths are. I think this is useful information and gives you a good idea of the basics of each medium. I am sorry if I am not as organized in this post, I stated at the very beginning of this A Dreamer Walking blog that I will be talking about things from off the top of my head. If something I have said does not make sense please feel free to comment. I will try to have the follow up blogs come sooner rather then later.

(Here are the links to the rest of the posts for this series, 2D Animation, CG Animation, and Live Action)

District 9

Posted in Movie Reviews by Jacob on June 10, 2010

District 9 was a very original film in many ways. A sci-fi film put in a third world country is very unique. The movie was also the debut of director Neil Blomkamp’s first full length film. With the limited resources the film crew had to their disposal they were able to pull off some very realistic and gripping effects. The story outline was very interesting, the idea of a human transforming into a alien to find his humanity was something that I found intriguing. However, although I liked the outline of this movie and found some of the films aspects very interesting and well done, the execution of the story and the development of the  characters in the story were far from satisfactory.

Neil seemed to come from an effects background in film and knew how to direct the effects crew to make the most realistic effects and animation possible with the limited budget he had. But, I did not think that Neil was as confident with his camera work, the fact that he did not seem to have a grip on the heart of the story might be the reason shooting the film seemed difficult for him. Neil was also a co-writer on the project and it felt like he created some very shallow characters. Most of the character ark and development was non-existent. Neil said that he wanted the main character,  Wikus Merwe (Sharlto Copley), to be like a “dick” at the beginning of the movie. The only problem is that Wikus never stopped being a “dick”. In a story I expect to see characters go out of their comfort zone and grow from their experiences. In District 9 Wikus did go out of his comfort zone, the only problem was that he did not seem to grow from his experiences.

At the beginning Wikus is one of the higher ups at a very powerful company, that is controlling and experimenting with a group of aliens that have landed on earth. The aliens are no doubt victims in this movie, they are too weak to defend themselves and thus we see the humans take advantage of them. Wikus is put in charge of moving these deprived aliens to a even smaller shelter then they are at in the present. During one of Wikus investigations he is sprayed by some alien liquid that starts changing him alien.Wikus’ own company turns against him and he becomes a fugitive.

The only thought Wikus has is to find a way to turn himself back into a human. The transformation to alien is very slow and gory. The only choice Wikus has is to go back to the aliens he once discriminated against and ask for help. During this time we as the audience are supposed to feel for Wikus. The only problem is that Wikus has been portrayed as a “dick”, and his reasons for changing back are very selfish. We are supposed to relate to Wikus’ need to change back so he can return to his wife, the only problem is that we have not been given time to see the relationship he has with his wife. So the fact that Wikus wants to change back seems very selfish.

Through out the transformation Wikus finds the aliens as being appalling. When Wikus is forced to work with one of the aliens, so that he could change back to a human, he treats him with little respect. Their is nothing that Wikus said or did that seemed to tell me he was changing his ideas on knowing who these aliens really were.

Wikus’ selfishness continued until almost the very end. At the last moment Wikus’ chooses to give up his ambitions to turn human and instead he helps the alien who had helped him. Wikus had not earned this change however, there was no real reason to his change, it was just what the movie called for.

Through out the movie there was a lot of gore and violence. The only problem I had was that the gore and violence did not seem to be realistic or mean anything. Most of the killing we saw came from Wikus fighting the humans. He was in so much need to turn back into human that he was willing to kill dozens of humans to achieve his goal. Wikus used a alien weapon where when you shot someone they would blow up like a water balloon. Watching commentary on the film I found that Neil thought most of the violence and bloodshed was funny.

To say the least, I think that Neil has a very sick sense of humor. I think the movie was not gripping because Neil and most of his crew did not take the story seriously. Neil was dealing with some very serious subjects like war and racism. He wanted to make sure he was not shoving anything into anyone’s throats, I think that can often be used as an excuse to stay shallow. As a filmmaker I never want to push something in my audiences face, I do not want to be the person telling the audience what exactly to think. However, I do have a job to take subjects like war and racism seriously.

District 9 had a lot of potential. I think that in many ways Neil Blomkamp is a very talented director. However, the heart of the story seemed to be very shallow. I found that Neil had a very sad vision on what society has become and in District 9 he seems to not take a very serious subject seriously. The ending seemed to be very forced and undeserved. The heart of the film is where Neil missed, he seemed to take the cheap way out and made fun of the racism and violence that was going on.

Make it PERSONAL!!!

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on June 6, 2010

Film making needs to be personal. The reasons why I have a story worth telling is because of the personal aspects I bring to it. The personal style of each director and artist is what makes film interesting to watch. I think some of the best advice I have gotten on film came from Brad Bird (director of The Incredibles and Ratatouille), when he was asked, “What is the best advice you have for an upcoming film maker”, he replied, “Go experience life”.

I just got done working on some very sophisticated slideshows for my friends. I realized that I was able to bring a lot more emotion and individuality to the project because I knew the people in the slideshows personally.

When it comes to film, the audience has already watched a movie that has had a beginning middle and end before. If you break down a story to its basics you will find that there is no such things as a truly “original” storyline anymore. Most movies have a hero and a villain and usually the hero wins out in the end. The reason why people do not stop after watching one film, is because each director and artist have their own personal take on the story they are telling.

The more personal you make your project the better of a reason someone has to check it out. Brad Bird told the upcoming filmmakers to “experience life” because our individual life is what makes our thoughts and expressions unique. One of the greatest gifts we have is our own unique view on life, we as individuals are able to shine a light on any curtain subject in a different way then anyone else.

One of the greatest keys to making good films is to “Make it PERSONAL”. When I begin to direct a film I must be able to take it personally and go into depth on what I think would express the story I am trying to tell the best. When I start to write a story I look at my personal life as my main inspiration. Sure I watch movies to get inspired and might even take a few pointers from other directors on how I go about creating and/or executing my story best. The power of the story however, should come from my own personal touch. I want to draw from real life when it comes to creating a unique character or story line. I have tried to look deep into my relationships with friends for the foundations of the Characters I create. When I am in charge of shooting a scene, my number one question is, “How do I feel about this shot?”. The more confidence you build for yourself and what you truly think, the better you will be able to express it on screen.

What I am saying mostly applies to any given writer or director of a film book or play. The director’s job is to follow his or her own personal heart. The people following the director have a job to obey the director. I am not saying, “If you aren’t a director don’t bring in your personal touch”, just followers need to be just that, followers. Being a follower might call us to sometimes sacrifice our personal preferences. We need to allow the director to make his or her movie. If the director has a personal vision, your job is to make that vision come to life.