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Editor’s Note: Last Friday, we posted about how Microsoft has recruited Superjail! co-creator Christy Karacas to promote their Surface tablets. The video that Christy starred in was nicely produced, but noticeably short on details about how he uses it and what he thinks of it. Thankfully, Christy left a terrifically informative comment on that post in which he shared his thoughts about the Surface tablet. With his permission, we are republishing his review below. It’s particularly timely, too, since tomorrow in New York City, Microsoft will unveil the new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets.
Microsoft Surface Pro Tablet Review by Christy Karacas
For people who want to know, I think it’s a great tablet and I have been using it very often during Superjail! season four production. I use it for sketching/thumbing/boarding on the go. The most important thing I’m looking for in a tablet is a natural drawing experience/interface. I use a Wacom Cintiq to make Superjail!, which is great in my opinion, but obviously that’s a big and powerful non-mobile workstation I can’t take with me.
If you download the Wacom driver for the Surface tablet, the pen pressure/sensitivity is great and I’ve had no latency issues—meaning you can draw very quick and fast which I like to do—and the line doesn’t lag behind the actual pen in your hand. This was a problem I had with previous tablets/laptops.
Prior to this, I owned a Toshiba Portege tablet PC, and used it often to thumb/board during season one. The pressure sensitivity on it kind of sucked and so did the speed, but I would still use it as an option when not in the office or out of town. After season one, I stopped using it. (It was also very heavy and huge by today’s standards…haha). I would only work at the office or home and if I thumbed outside of work, I would do it on paper and then re-draw it in Flash which was kind of a pain in the ass. But when boarding, I like to get away from the office sometimes. I love storyboarding in cafes or bars so I can let my mind wander, people watch, get ideas, etc. I work so often I find a change of workspace inspiring and necessary.
As far as ‘negatives,’ I honestly don’t have any. My biggest hurdle was getting used to Windows 8 as I have a Mac at work and still run Windows Vista at home. I wasn’t used to the ’tiles’ system that is the interface of Surface, but it was just a matter of getting used to it. There is an automatic brightness sensor so when I was drawing sometimes my hand would cover the tablet and the screen brightness would change, but I just disabled that setting so it’s not an issue.
I haven’t and don’t think I would use the Surface for full animation because of its screen size (being a tablet) but I wouldn’t really want to animate in a public space anyways. I would want to work in the quiet of my room or studio. But I do really like storyboarding/thumbnailing in active cafes/bars/even the subway-I don’t know why but I get really good ideas in the subway—and for that, the Surface is great. I boarded a huge chunk of the premiere of Superjail! season 4 on the airplane to San Diego Comic-Con. I was able to email the .FLA file to my storyboard team right on the plane directly from the tablet—super convenient and allows me to get work done, send it to the storyboard artists and keep production flowing while I’m away. The battery life also impressed me—better than my iPhone which I seem to have to charge twice a day.
I think iPads look really nice, but they don’t have the pen driver support, only those blunt ‘stylus’ type pen interfaces that I can’t stand. Also, the iPad can only run apps, not true software like Flash which I need to make Superjail! I know there are more and more tablets on the market these days so there are probably going to be lots of new options.
The Microsoft guys approached me and let me play with it, I loved it and agreed to do the video. Also I have to say that I am really sick of Mac constantly updating their OS. It’s really annoying, and for some reason I find Flash runs better on PC. My PC at home has NEVER crashed making this show—not once! But the Macs at work sometimes do crash when we have a really heavy file. Flash really wan’t designed to do this kind of animation, but that’s a whole other discussion.
So yeah, for directors and storyboard artists, or anyone who wants to sketch digitally away from their workstation with a really sensitive natural pen interface, the Surface has worked out really great for me and I love using it.
Animators as spokespeople doesn’t happen often, but Microsoft is trying it out in anticipation of their launch of Surface Pro 2 tablets next week. To reach visual artists, they produced this online video with Superjail! co-creator Christy Karacas as its star.
As an animation professor at the School of Visual Arts, I try to keep abreast of all the latest animation how-to books. There are many books—excellent and otherwise—that are published regularly, but there is only one author who can tout having had close personal and professional relationships with such Golden Age greats as Milt Kahl, Grim Natwick, Art Babbitt, Emery Hawkins and Ken Harris, not to mention having won two Academy Awards. That animator is, of course, Richard Williams.
Williams’s indispensable The Animator’s Survival Kit is a book that everyone should already own. It should be sitting next to your Illusion of Life, wherever you do your animation. I no longer even list this as a recommended book on my syllabus because I expect students to already own it when they enter my classroom. Thankfully, most artists starting animation school have picked up the book and have already begun applying the knowledge to their projects.
Then, there’s the 16-dvd set of the Animator’s Survival Kit in which Williams teaches a room full of staff at Blue Sky Studios. The $950 price tag on this set has made its amazing wealth of knowledge unattainable to most art students, enlightened amateurs, and even ordinary working professionals.
The latest incarnation of the Animator’s Survival Kit is the iPad app, which sells for $34.99 at the iTunes store. The app, published by Faber & Faber, is an interactive blend of William’s excellent book and DVD set. While the app doesn’t include the Blue Sky lectures/William’s dry erase board lessons, it is much more personal in nature, with new clips of Williams speaking directly to the viewer. The app also includes the expanded edition of the book—a treat for all of us first edition book owners—with sections dedicated to animating quadrupeds and winged creatures, as well as extra animation exercises and personal anecdotes from Williams himself.
The app interface retains the homey look and feel of the original book, using Williams’s handwriting rather than a print typeface. Each chapter is clearly laid out and accompanied by dozens of clips of animation exercises. One of the real highlights is the playback function available on all the animation exercises which allows the user to play back the animation frame-by-frame, at full speed, or to scrub back and forth through the action. Some of the exercises have an onion-skinning feature that allows the user to closely gauge each drawing in succession, guided by the animation’s motion charts.
Completing the app is an extras section, showcasing both new and previously seen work by Williams. The most intriguing is the nine-minute short film Circus Drawings that spans sixty years of Williams’ progress as a draftsman. Beginning as a montage of circus drawings by young Williams (oh, to draw like that at twenty-years-old!), the figures come to life by his contemporary hand. It’s an unusual but fun film for any artist with an interest in visual progression.
While I highly recommend this app, I realize that not all students own iPads (or Apple products for that matter). PC users are out of luck for now. Perhaps the next installment will address this discrepancy. For those who are unable to purchase the app, the traditional book still contains all the essentials of Williams’ advice, even if its format is not as glitzy.
The clarity, draftsmanship, and knowledge of Williams comes through in all three formats—book, DVD series and now, iPad app. Who knows what digital learning tools will come next, but Williams’ Survival Kit will continue to be the standard textbook for generations to come.
CELIA BULLWINKEL has worked on feature films (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Chicago 10, Hair High), TV shows (Little Bill, MTV’s Friday, Ugly Americans, Wonder Pets), and far too many commercial projects. “Alpha’s Bet,” her music video collaboration with visual artist and hip-hop pioneer Rammellzee, was exhibited in 2011 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. She is a faculty member at the School of Visual Arts animation department, and teaches at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s MFA Illustration program. Her first short film, Sidewalk, recently won first place for independent film at the ASIFA-East Animation Festival.
Vine, Twitter’s mobile looped video app, is less than a year old and still remains a new frontier. Not everyone is sure how to use it and like most of the Internet, the common subject matter of Vines center around cats, babies and high school kids. For that reason, the people who are experimenting with the capabilities of Vine as a medium truly stand out.
Etsy has recently produced a handful of stopmotion Vines that are not only fun to watch, they reinforce the DIY aesthetic that defines the online market’s brand. Etsy’s initial Vines were a product of Hack Week, an event where the company’s engineers are encouraged to abandon their regular work and focus on any project of their choosing. Nicole Licht and Clare McGibbon, one of Etsy’s in-house designers and support staff members, respectively, decided to take advantage of the event. “The goal for us during that week was to jump start Etsy’s participation on Vine, experiment, and collaborate across teams,” Licht told Cartoon Brew.
Even though the team had no experience in stop motion animation, they set out to make at least one video a day. Prior to each shoot, they sketched out their ideas and gathered craft supplies, but kept their agenda loose. “We found that improvising and seeing how the materials responded in the moment made the most sense,” said Licht. With just natural lighting, a lightweight tripod, and an iPhone mount, the process of making a single six second vine took anywhere between one and four hours. “We really had to just go for it once we started shooting,” added Licht. “With Vine, you either post or not. There are no editing or saving functions, so we never reshot.”
Few other companies, thus far, have discovered how to effectively use Vine. They could certainly take a lesson from Etsy, where employees are given the freedom to take new approaches and experiment with ideas and tools along the way.
Animography aims to make life a little easier by offering animated typefaces delivered in neatly organized After Effects files. The type foundry is the creation of Jeroen Krielaars, a graphic designer who runs the Amsterdam-based design studio Calango.
Animation and typography has always been a tricky combination. Hundreds of hours go into designing a family of type, a process that is, at times, highly exact. The moment you start toying with any typeface by scaling and adjusting the characters, you risk creating a warped graphic that doesn’t look quite right. For that reason, Animography should be on your radar. The typefaces offered on the site are scalable without any loss in quality.
What’s particularly promising about Animography is that it creates opportunities for graphic designers and animators to collaborate, experiment and build together. Currently, the site has teamed up with designer Derek Weathersbee, whose newly released typeface called Franchise is being animated one glyph (character) at a time by 110 different animators. In the challenge, each animator is given a single glyph to animate in a maximum of one second, 25 frames, and four colors. There have only been a handful of completed glyphs, but it promises to be a challenge worth keeping an eye on (check out animator Daniel Savage’s letter B submission—B is for Bouncy Beard—above).
Animography seems to have more plans in store, and is on its way to carving out a completely new niche. For more, check out Animography’s brand reel of animated typefaces from dead or fictional brands:
Amazon’s filmmaking arm Amazon Studios announced a new tool today that is designed to eliminate storyboard artists from the filmmaking process. Called Amazon Storyteller, the software lets scriptwriters convert their scripts into boards through an automated process.
“We’ve found that many writers want to see their story up on its feet in visual form but find it harder than it should be to create a storyboard,” said Roy Price, director of Amazon Studios and a former Disney TV Animation exec. “Storyteller provides a digital backlot, acting troupe, prop department and assistant editor-everything you need to bring your story to life.”
The free online tool, which is currently in beta, works like this:
Storyteller begins by scanning a movie script that has been uploaded to Amazon Studios. It identifies the scenes, locations and characters from scene descriptions, and “casts” them from a library of thousands of characters, props and backgrounds. Filmmakers can recast or change locations, or they can upload their own images. Storyteller places the cast in front of the right background so that filmmakers can focus their time on the emotion and energy of scenes by using pan and zoom, changing the facial expressions and positions of characters, adding vehicles or props or adding captions with descriptions or additional dialogue. Once completed, the storyboard can be published on Amazon Studios where other users are able to view it and give feedback on the project.
Animation artists may be safe for now. The Amazon Storyteller FAQ explains that, “The Amazon Storyteller library of backgrounds, characters, and props currently works best with contemporary dramas or romantic comedies.” But people around the Internet are already envisioning more artistic uses for the software, like this idea from a commenter on Engadget: “Imagine. An illustrated comic of yourself and any given Sports Illustrated swimsuit model in your own porn story.”
When Jace Cooke and Alex Chung founded Giphy, they simply wanted a convenient platform for sharing and searching GIFs. But now, Giphy, which launched in Febrary, is reaching beyond its search engine origins and aims to serve as a tool to empower artists and animators.
The first round of features to roll out on Giphy over the coming month are built to serve GIF makers rather than consumers. Artists will have dedicated URLs, making their work easily accessible for fans. When embedded on another blog, each GIF will include a coded block that shows the creator’s name. That’s right, no more stumbling onto a great GIF on Tumblr and wondering who created it. “I want Giphy to be what Vimeo is for videographers or Soundcloud is for musicians,” co-founder Jace Cooke told Cartoon Brew.
Cooke invited several notable GIF makers to launch artist pages, including animator Frank Macchia (see GIF below) and wildly popular Tumblr GIF artist Matthew DiVito (aka mr. div). The next step will be providing GIF makers with uncapped uploads—Tumblr, for example, has a maximum upload of 1 MB per GIF. Eventually, artists will have personalized dashboard with analytics for tracking where their GIFs are being shared. “I want to lend more credence to GIFs, give them a wider audience and open up the possibility of monetization for artists,” adds Cooke.
For Cooke there are two major questions going forward: For GIF makers, how can Giphy adapt to best serve their needs? For everyone else, how can Giphy encourage more people to try creating GIFs? Cook is turning to the animation community to find answers to these questions, particularly the latter. Many creative people who work in CGI are interested in GIFs, but they haven’t yet given it a shot. “There’s a learning curve,” Cooke says . “They understand the value and they’re excited about it, but they’re a little apprehensive.” Ultimately, Cooke hopes to see more animators embrace GIFs, which he describes as “animated trading cards.”
Even though there are many GIF repositories and search engines like GIFSoup, Tumblr, and Google’s new animated image search, Giphy is the first coherent attempt to elevate GIFs as an artform. “There is something really powerful about an art that is halfway between a photo and a video,” says Cooke. “GIFs are a legit medium, a form of expression that’s only going to grow.”
My iPad and I are getting along effortlessly and now to make it even better our Texas library listserve has been touting the advantages of using Reflection to connect and use the iPad with a projector in our libraries. What? Did I need more reasons to love my iPad? We all know we can buy a VGA adapter (limited to a roving range of the length of cable) or use a product like Apple TV (wireless but expensive), but we want to be free and untethered and we want something inexpensive. Reflection and AirServer seem to both hit the mark. They are still fine tuning some bugs, but I have high hopes for both of these products.
Ricardo “Mr. Doob” Cabello is an innovator in using WebGL technology in modern web browsers to create advanced interactivity and real-time animation.
WebGL is described on the technology page of one of the projects that he worked on as a technical director:
WebGL is a context of the HTML5 canvas element that enables hardware-accelerated 3D graphics in the web browser without a plug-in. In other words, it enables your browser to show some really beautiful visuals.
That particular project (stills shown above) is an interactive music video for “Black” from the album ROME by Danger Mouse and Daniel Luppi, with Norah Jones on vocals. You can see a talk he gave about the creation of this video here. Notably this video also includes 2D animation from Anthony F. Schepperd, previously featured on Cartoon Brew here and here.
Ricardo has a blog here where he shares things such as this valuable advice that applies to all creative freelancers. His Mr. Doob interactive portfolio is here which you should access with a modern browser such as Google Chrome to best enjoy all of his strange and cheeky web experiments.
Video gameplay is about to get a lot more realistic. Game producer Activision unveiled this new demo yesterday at the Game Developers Conference. Uncanny or not, the progresss in computer animation has been remarkable. Real-time rendering techniques today look far more impressive than any rendering from a decade ago:
This animated character is being rendered in real-time on current video card hardware, using standard bone animation. The rendering techniques, as well as the animation pipeline are being presented at GDC 2013, “Next Generation Character Rendering” on March 27. The original high resolution data was acquired from Light Stage Facial Scanning and Performance Capture by USC Institute for Creative Technologies, then converted to a 70 bones rig, while preserving the high frequency detail in diffuse, normal and displacement composite maps. It is being rendered in a DirectX11 environment, using advanced techniques to faithfully represent the character’s skin and eyes.
We may not be living in the Diamond Age quite yet, but Neal Stephenson’s Primer is here. My friend Andy Diggle (who’s the reason I read The Diamond Age in the first place) sent me this link about a learn-as-you-go software project influenced by (and named in honor of) The Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer, that amazing smart-book device from Stephenson’s nanotech masterwork:
“We left the boxes in the village. Closed. Taped shut. No instruction, no human being. I thought, the kids will play with the boxes! Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, but found the on/off switch. He’d never seen an on/off switch. He powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs [in English] in the village. And within five months, they had hacked Android. Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera! And they figured out it had a camera, and they hacked Android.”
“OLPC” stands for One Laptop Per Child:
The One Laptop Per Child project started as a way of delivering technology and resources to schools in countries with little or no education infrastructure, using inexpensive computers to improve traditional curricula. What the OLPC Project has realized over the last five or six years, though, is that teaching kids stuff is really not that valuable. Yes, knowing all your state capitols how to spell “neighborhood” properly and whatnot isn’t a bad thing, but memorizing facts and procedures isn’t going to inspire kids to go out and learn by teaching themselves, which is the key to a good education. Instead, OLPC is trying to figure out a way to teach kids to learn, which is what this experiment is all about.
OLPC created special learning software for the tablets in this project, specifically modeled on the Primer.
If this all reminds you of a certain science fiction book by a certain well-known author, it’s not a coincidence: Nell’s Primer in Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age was a direct inspiration for much of the OLPC teaching software, which itself is named Nell. Here’s an example of how Nell uses an evolving, personalized narrative to help kids learn to learn without beating them over the head with standardized lessons and traditional teaching methods…
Neo-Victorians, nanotech, and education: this novel had me at hello. Top-notch world-building; there’s a little dose of cyberpunk in the opening, with a ruffian named Bud getting himself fitted up with a skull gun that fires explosive bullets upon his mental command; and then we’re whisked off to New Atlantis/Shanghai, the home base of a thriving Neo-Victorian community, where the upper crust are Equity Lords (aristocrats by dint of their corporate ties) and the birthday entertainments involve creating fairylands that rise out of the sea for a day, thanks to the limitless possibilities of molecular manipulation. There is something delightful about this melding of Dickensian characters and futuristic tech.
One of the upper-crustiest of the Equity Lords is an elderly gent who, for all he esteems his phyle and works to protect and promote it, rues the loss of opportunity for young Neo-Victorians to experience character-building adversity. His adult children missed out on something important, he believes—after all, he himself grew up on an Idaho farm, was homeschooled until age fourteen, pulled himself up by his bootstraps and all that. He determines to offer his granddaughter an alternative to the soft Vicky upbringing, in which status and comforts are often taken for granted by those born and raised in the phyle. To this end, he hires a gifted techno-engineer, one John Hackworth, to create a sophisticated, interactive book-slash-computer, the Primer, which will provide his granddaughter with personalized instruction in academic subjects, ethics and morals, handcrafts, self-defense, computer programming—pretty much everything under the sun.
Hackworth rises to the challenge…Hackworth, who, as it happens, has a young daughter of his own. He attempts to procure a bootleg copy for four-year-old Fiona, and therein lies the tale. The illicit copy of the Primer goes astray and winds up in the hands of a young thete child—thetes belong to no phyle at all—named Nell. As in “little Nell”—a Dickensian waif full of pluck, growing up in dreadful circumstances in a cold, cruel world. If ever a child needed a Magic Book, it’s Nell. Well, and Pip, and David Copperfield, and Oliver Twist…but no, really, Nell’s in worse straits than all those lads (her mother, Tequila, has worse taste in men than David Copperfield’s mum), and we’re thrilled to see the Primer offer her some tools for digging her way out of the squalor.
Ptch is a new iPad/iPhone app that allows users to remix photos, videos, songs and text into 60-second music video-style shorts called Ptches. Sort of like an Instagram for videos (with “styles” instead of filters), Ptch aims to make video editing as intuitive and reflexive for the masses as taking a photograph with a smartphone. The app also allows users to remix ptches made by their friends so that each person can share their own version of an event. The software is available on Apple’s iTunes Store for free, though add-on songs and film “styles” will cost money in the future.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Ptch is headed by Ed Leonard, the Chief Technology Officer of DreamWorks Animation and the former director of R&D at Disney Animation. He convinced DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg to launch a new company called DWA Investments. The company, which is funded entirely by its parent DreamWorks Animation, has 15 employees, a third of whom are former DreamWorks staffers who took paycuts (in exchange for stock) to join Ptch.
Sites like Fast Company and BetaBeat have been debating what Ptch means for the future of DreamWorks. For example, does it signal the company’s transition from being a content producer into a technology company? Ptch helmer Ed Leonard hinted at that possibility while speaking with BetaBeat:
“There’s a lot of ambition at DreamWorks, they’re thinking about how to leverage ambition on the film side and how to reinvent themselves as more of a technology company than a movie company and really leverage all that value. If you get close to what Jeffrey is thinking about in terms of the DreamWorks brand … Jeffrey really believes in the intersection that’s happening between technology and entertainment.”
It’s hard to know what to make of all this just yet, but Leonard’s quote reveals that DreamWorks Animation is evolving in different and unexpected directions.
Brazilian artist Jomário Murta used multiple Microsoft Kinects to generate a sequence of point clouds (a set of points in 3D space) as reference for creating animation. The process is akin to motion capture, but not the same:
This is something like animating over the videos. Just like we usually do as reference for timing and more complex movements. The difference is that I can animate three-dimensionally “inside” the video; the advantage instead of mocap is that the animation process is more free, where I can easily exaggerate the movements and play a lot with the poses without compromising my style of animation.
Murta admits that he is still in a research phase and hasn’t figured out any practical applications for the technique, but that’s to be expected of any exploration of a new technology. The results are promising thus far, and it’ll be interesting to see how he and others build on the process.
It also means that when I screw up my tax extension, I look very carefully at the software path that got me there.
It was April. I needed to file an extension. Like most Bay Area tech nerds, I hate mail. I consider it a personal affront if I have to print out a form, write an address, locate stamps, and put a letter in the whatsit…mailbox…thing. Naturally, my first step was to search irs.gov for “file extension online“.
Problem one: Too many results
The IRS site is too damned helpful. There were 948 results for my search. Many results were press release or blog type articles hinting at the existence of online extension filing, but containing no direct links. I wanted to find one or two good matches. Instead, I found a sea of irrelevance.
Problem two: Too many names
I hopped down a bunny trail for about ten minutes, searching for a feature alternately referred to as “E-file an extension”, “Free file”, “Freefile”, “Free Fillable Forms”, “Free File Fillable Forms”, “Free Federal Extension”, “Form 4868″, “Traditional Free File”, and “IRS e-file”.
Problem three: Inconsistent design
I eventually landed on a modern-looking site that seemed likely. I clicked “Get Started” and wandered through four increasingly less-well-designed pages which jumped from site to site, forcing me to read and parse options despite having already told the system what I wanted.
Problem three: Asshole account requirement
The eventual winner was a page called “Free File Fillable Forms” which required me to create an account and update my Flash plugin. I was already logged in to irs.gov, but that didn’t count. I created “a password that is different than my User ID, between 8 and 32 characters, and contains at least 1 number and 1 symbol”. All the eye-rolling gave me a headache.
Problem four: Misleading email
I received a spammy looking ALL CAPS email telling me my account had been created. I filled out the IRS extension form, which was the easiest part of the process. I submitted, and received another spammy ALL CAPS email saying “Your federal return was successfully transmitted”.
At this point, I fell on the bed and whined to my husband for several minutes about information architecture. Then I fell asleep, secure in the certainty that I had filed an automatic extension. Taxes wouldn’t be bothering us for a few more months, by which time we would certainly be getting more sleep.
Last week I spoke at OSCON Ignite, the evening entertainment bit of the O’Reilly Open Source Conference and the Google Awards.
Talks took the traditional Ignite format of five minutes, 20 slides. Slides auto-advance after 15 seconds, ready or not.
Speakers were encouraged to address their personal brand of geekery. I chose to talk about the Librarian Avengers Film Rating System, which addresses some movie metadata I’d like to see. Things like “This film contains a Creepy child Singing” and “Warning! Sylvester Stallone!”
Thanks to everyone who emailed today regarding the news of a clever real world Muggle marketing and advertising campaign that will echo the moving photos seen in the Daily Prophet. The BBC reports that on September 18, readers in LA and New York who purchase a copy of Entertainment Weekly will see their issue contain special video -in-print ads. These will be "slim-line screens - around the si...
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Like so many others, I was eagerly anticipating Apple’s iPad, but the device falls shorts in many areas, including in its usefulness to the animation community. As it relates to animation, it appears to me that its two biggest deficiences are:
— lack of stylus input, which means no animating on the device
— lack of Flash support (in other words, no indie animation on Vimeo or Newgrounds, no Flash on websites, and no ability for playback of your own Flash animation)
The absence of these two on the iPhone is inconvenient, but to have them missing on the iPad is inexcusable. Flash, in particular, is such an integral part of today’s web browsing experience that I can’t imagine owning a full-screen device without that functionality. I’m curious to hear your thoughts about the iPad specifically as it relates to animation. What are the possibilities and what could be better in the next generation?
The crowd-funding path for short filmmakers is finally gaining traction, and established filmmakers are experimenting with the concept. Throughout the years, various filmmakers have toyed with the idea of funding their films in this fashion, mostly by soliciting Paypal donations, but the gamechanger has been new websites that are dedicated solely to facilitating crowd-funded projects. The two most prominent sites being used by animators right now are IndieGoGo and Kickstarter. There is a difference between the sites: IndieGoGo’s fundraising period continues indefinitely, whereas Kickstarter has a 90-day fundraising period and if the artist doesn’t meet their monetary goal, all the money is returned to the donors.
Last month on Cartoon Brew, I linked for the first time to a crowd-funded project, The Future. Expect to see us doing a lot more of this in the months to come; crowd-funding is a major development in how animated shorts will be funded. Right now, I anticipate the concept will work most successfully for filmmakers with a proven track record, like Nick Cross, who set up a page on IndieGoGo last week to fund his next short The Pig Farmer. Nick has made numerous animated shorts over the past few years (The Waif of Persephone and Yellow Cake among them) and all of them without any outside funding. Backers of his project will feel confident that they are investing in a name brand who will get the job done.
There’s also the stop-motion short Line by Justin and Shel Wagner Rasch. They’re asking for $2500 and are already halfway there. The Raschs have two things working in their favor. First, they’ve already posted an animated clip from the film that gives funders a clear sense of the type of work they’re helping them produce:
Additionally, they’re offering unique perks for funders at different levels, including actual puppets used in the film and a chance to attend the music recording sessions. As crowd-funding takes off, it’ll be fun to see the creative goodies that different filmmakers will offer their fans.
A point that needs to be made is that the Raschs and Cross are obviously spending more money on their films than they’re asking for, but at this nascent stage, modesty isn’t a bad plan. Crowd-funding is in its infancy, a natural by-product of the growing intimacy between artists and their audience. The most successful filmmakers of the future will be those who grasp the increasingly intertwined relationship between creator and consumer, and recognize how best to take advantage of this new connectedness.
Addendum: After I wrote this piece yesterday, I caught up with my blog reader and noticed that Aaron Simpson at Cold Hard Flash has also recently written a piece about crowd-funding. It appears that we were both spurred to action by the news of Nick Cross’s project, and we mention a few of th
Steve Jobs is taking so much heat for his decision to ban Flash from iPads and iPhones, that he’s published a lengthy missive defending his company’s actions, along with spreading his fair share of misinformation. I’m no fan of Flash, but I’m even less a fan of what Apple is doing. And while I’m all for looking towards the future, my current iPhone doesn’t offer a “full web” experience and lacks functionality that could be easily remedied by Apple. I’m certainly not planning to plop down more money for a larger device that is similarly broken. Jason Scott may have put it most succinctly on his Twitter feed:
The fact Jobs can banish something from his platform on the basis the thing is not “open” means the platform is not open.
Be forewarned: Unless you are interested in nitty gritty web crap stuff, this post is NOT for you. In fact, if you don’t like it, I suggest skipping down to the section called “So what have we learned here?”
Although this is going to be as nerdy as shit, in the hopes that others who find themselves faced with the same challenges as I have met may google this and find some guidance. For those who don’t want to wade through it, there are two lessons to be learned:
1) OWN AS MUCH OF YOUR CONTENT AS YOU CAN.
2) DON’T BE AFRAID TO LEARN
A Seven Year Journey
The Beat started, if I remember correctly, in July of 2004. (Aside: Jesus Christ — six and a half years of daily blogging.) It was hosted at Comicon.com and, after a very brief struggle with a CMS called Greymatter
, mainly used Movable Type as the blogging platform. Seven years ago, MT and WordPress were competitors for the blogging crown; MT at the time was a bit wonky and unstable. Several crashes slowed things down and I even lost about two months of blogging at one point. I was a web neophyte at that time and Comicon’s mastermind Steve Conley had wisely given me extremely limited access to the backend — The Beat was hosted at a massive ginormous site that housed many other subsites and tinkering was out of the question.
Eventually I got a fantastic offer from Publishers Weekly to move The Beat and actually get PAID to blog, so I moved over, and switched to WordPress which I was very happy with — I was already using the blogging client Ecto
, which I found super useful, and WP had even more functionality. That was Spring, 2006. Reed Business International, PW’s parent company, was going headlong into this “web” thing, and they were adding blogs, and it all made a lot of sense for everyone involved.
As time went on, of course, problems arose — because no popular website is ever static, and amazingly, it turned out that the “Web operations” department at Reed Business “did not support WordPress.” As in they wouldn’t do ANYTHING to fix or upgrade the site. That’s because most of their site and some of their blogs were run on a ghastly Web 0.9 software called eLogic
, which RBI owned, along with Variety, Library Journal, School Library Journal, and many other B2B magazines. In some ways, I could understand sticking with the home product. But it made no sense for contemporary content management, especially something as dynamic as a daily blog. Even with no support, this was the Golden Age of blogging and The Beat’s traffic soared — to the point where it was soon nearly Display CommentsAdd a Comment
So I need some tech help from those of you out there who use Blogger. Pretty much everything I do with my blog is self-taught so I could use your help on this one.
For those of you who blog on Blogger, I have a question about using longstanding graphics. I'm thinking of those who use graphics for the review ratings, or if you have a picture for a regular feature like In My Mailbox or Waiting on Wednesday. How do you insert the graphic into your posts?
In the past in these situations I've just copy and pasted from another post with the same graphic. But it's a little clunky since I have to have 2 or 3 tabs open to do the new post. Is there an easier way to set it up, a shortcut of some kind? Or is that pretty much it? I don't want to upload it every single time I do a new post, since it takes up room in my blog storage, but is that the way I should go?
If you have any suggestions, tips, tricks, explanations, etc. for me, it would be very much appreciated!
Cartoon Brew readers might have seen this coming a mile away, but not Wall Street. The business world is finally realizing that 3-D may not be the revolution that Hollywood’s snake oil salesmen promised it would be. Yesterday, shares in 3-D technology licensor provider RealD sank nearly 16% to $15.48. It’s significant because this is the first time the stock is trading below its 2010 IPO price of $16 a share. The stock was trading at over $35 just two months ago.
The stock plunged following the company’s first quarter report which topped analysts’ expectations but fell short of estimates on Wall Street. Analysts have already begun asking whether it’s game over for 3-D.
The problem with RealD’s approach (as well as IMAX’s to some extent) is that it up-sells movies without adding significant value to the experience. I’ve seen 3-D films only a handful of times and I’d be hard-pressed to recall which films they were, much less point out a moment where the 3-D made the film richer or more fulfilling.
As someone who lives in a Cintiq household, I know well how highly this is anticipated. Wacom made the official announcement today for their Cintiq 24HD. The first thing one notices is the sexy new counterweighted stand that allows for adjustable height and angling of the screen. Here are some of the key under-the-hood specs:
* 1920 x 1200 HD display
* 178° viewing angle
* 16:10 aspect ratio
* 550:1 contrast ratio
* 2048 levels of pen pressure and 40° of tilt
* Featuring Wacom’s new Tip Sensor
* DVI-I and DisplayPort connectors
* Weight: 63.8 pounds
* Price: $2,499
And here’s a video of a sophisticated and serious artist (clearly not an animator) using the beast:
Publishing isn’t dying, it’s just becoming more animated. Los Angeles-based JibJab sees an opportunity to benefit from the emergence of digital children’s books on tablets like the iPad. They recently launched a new product line called JibJab Jr. Books. Powered by their “Starring You” technology, it allows kids to insert themselves into their storybooks. The app is free to download on the iTunes store, and comes with a starter book. Additional titles can be purchased for $7.99 individually or $3.99 as part of a monthly subscription plan.
The JibJab titles don’t offer the hyper-clickable interactivity or audio narration/sound effects of other recent iPad children’s book efforts like Bill Joyce’s The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, but they have an equally compelling feature in content personalization. Right now, that’s enough to stand out from the pack, although they’ll likely need to add interactivity and sound at some point to stay competitive. Another unique aspect of the books is that JibJab is commissioning a lot of fresh voices, including many from the animation industry, to illustrate their book titles. Among the artists they’ve enlisted so far are Nate Wragg, John Martz, Brigette Barrager and Kai Wu.
(Disclosure: JibJab is a sponsor of Cartoon Brew’s 2011 Student Animation Festival.)