Categories
Animation

Window Projections at the Peale Museum

I made the 1 minute film with characters from The Lunatics universe to be projected across three windows at the Peale Museum in Baltimore. I drew this to have the short story unfold in three panels, like a moving comic/cartoon.

This turned out as well as I hoped it would. The short narrative unfolds over the three panels. Super cool!

Categories
Animation

Sweaty Eyeballs 2023

It was a true honor to see my film Brains screen at both MICA (where I attended my first Sweaty Eyeballs and got started with all this) and also at Towson University.

I’ve talked quite a bit about the importance of Sweaty Eyeballs to me and Baltimore, and how it’s inspired me over the years. Everything I’ve written and said is still true for me, and made even sweeter this year because I was invited to contribute to the festivals signal film, which ran at the start of every screening. A game of exquisite corpse, I was given the prompt “jump,” and asked to make a 2 second animation.

I was going to do the obvious – some feet jumping, and then, upon reflection, decided on jumping a battery. I made the car Sea Foam green as a nod to my entry in the festival, Brains. I was going to use a character from the animation, and then used a raccoon, because, well, it’s me.

I’ve squashed the video down into the .gif below:

This festival was more expansive than last year, and there were workshops and talks. I got to meet and talk with Isaac King, and I look forward to continuing the conversation with him. An amazing animator, Isaac puts forth compelling messages about humanity’s place in nature, social media, and subtle explorations about conflict. His film Second Hand is a mind boggling achievement of animation, and very beautiful. We started talking about experimentation, and I hope to keep talking about that.

I also spent hours with both Joanna Priestly and Paul Herrod, and their conversation, advice and encouragement will remain invaluable to me. It was THE best weekend.

We (Beverly, our kiddos, and Dusten) started out on Thursday for the Baltimore Showcase at the Brown Center (Falvey Hall) at MICA after a nice dinner at Joe Squared.

Sweaty Eyeballs ring leader Phil Davis (above) has done so much for our region and for animation. He’s funny, kind and really, the best.

Paul Harrod gave an incredible presentation of his work over the years – I was particularly inspired with his work on Isle of Dogs with Wes Anderson. It was fascinating to look behind that curtain.

There was another screening at Van Bokkelen Hall Theatre at Towson University.

The exhibit at Current Space was wonderful, especially Isaac’s projection work. I got to talk with Stephanie Williams again, and many other Baltimore animation folk. I feel connected to, and part of, a community.

The animation programming was expansive, diverse, and plentiful. I’m so impressed with how strong the work in the Baltimore Showcase was, too.

This weekend, and the festival, has left me inspired, thoughtful, grateful, and fortified.

Onward.

Categories
Animation

Brains

What a whirlwind! Whew!

I’ve been busy. I completed my latest animation: Brains: A postmodern Prometheus story. Let me back up a bit to tell you about it.

It was toward the very end of the semester last spring when I saw the Sweaty Eyeballs call for entry. The final deadline was July 14. I had counted on having the summer to complete my next project, so I had to really hustle to pull this off.

It was around April 11 that I saw this post on Instagram:

I like Rebecca’s work a lot, and I like her instagram account. The A.I. generated images caught my eye. She writes:

“I made these but they are NOT my work – they are AI – and THEY ARE NOT ART.”

Rebecca Leveille Guay

And then she goes on the explain when the images are NOT art.

I’d seen other AI generated stuff, and I honestly think some of it is pretty cool. I had been wondering if I could take something AI generated, and then work with it in a 3D space in Blender. A way to make 3D virtual puppets, perhaps?

I shared this post with Beverly, and we wondered about the Art vs. Not-Art argument. The obvious historical parallel is the invention of photography, which did not destroy painting. Will AI destroy art as we know it?

We decided to look into it. I examined several AI image generators, and settled on Bing’s Dall-e creator. It’s free and easy to use.

Beverly made this image:

It’s a lovely color, and while the sleeves are odd, it’s unique, and Beverly is going to draft a pattern for it. Cool!

I began exploring the parameters around Dall-e’s text prompts, and I’ve already written about my first three efforts: The Shopping Trip, Clowning Around with AI, and EROS. I had recently done a little screen test called The Ghost of Red, which is a follow up to The Lunatics.

I took the background from an old movie poster. I liked the feel of it, as a concept, but I know it would take me a long time to make my own. So, I wondered what I could do with AI?

I also have been hanging out with these insect characters for a few years, and decided it’s time for their own feature.

I began to work on this in earnest while we were in Portugal. I downloaded some studies on insect behavior, and began generating possible background images. I started working on the story.

As I mentioned elsewhere, I picked up a copy of Frankenstein, a modern Prometheus story and read it on the trip. Prometheus, as you probably know, defied the Olympian gods by stealing fire from them and giving it to humanity in the form of technology, knowledge, and more generally, civilization. In some versions of the myth, he is also credited with the creation of humanity from clay. Frankenstein’s monster questioned his creators intention in animating him and giving him such a wretched life. None of this works out well for anyone, and after reading a few articles in the New York Times, it would appear AI may not work out well for us, either.

Most people this experts know what they are doing. We have no idea how it works, why it works, or how to control it.

Roman Yampolskiy, computer scientist. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/06/01/opinion/ai-technology-future.html

I love how nutty this is! So, I made a film about AI and used AI.

I hand drew all the characters and animated parts. I wrote the story myself. I used AI to generate the backgrounds – over 1300 of them. Now, here’s the rub – as of this writing, you can only make 1024px X 1024px images, and I’m working at 1920 x 1080. Sooooo, I found a tool online that will use – wait for it – AI! – to increase the size of an image up to 8000px by 8000px. Bingo!

I knew I needed an interface for my characters to interact with their own AI, so I started writing a JavaScript interface to look/act like a terminal screen. After about 20 minutes, it occurred to me to ask ChatGPT for help. Within another 20 minutes, I had a finished prototype that had a blinking cursor, would accept a text input, and could return a gibberish response. I styled the page’s CSS myself, too.

I like how Brains turned out. It was a lot of work – my hard work. I used AI as a tool, and I think “the hand of the artist” is visible in what I produced with it. I think that A.I. is information, not imagination. It will not replace our art.

You can watch Brains: A postmodern Prometheus story over on my animation site. Enjoy!

Categories
Animation

Born in Baltimore, 2023

The Lunatics was screened at the Born in Baltimore festival. All the work was very strong this year, and several of the award winning films had intense, social justice themes that hit hard. The Lunatics brought up the end with some comic relief.

We are fortunate to have such a wonderful festival here.

Categories
Animation

Short Loops

I made a few short animated loops as warm-ups while we were traveling.

Us on a train

The first one was drawn on a train from Lisbon to Porto. It was very bumpy, so I had to just be loose and go with it.

I’m just keeping things moving.

Categories
Animation

New Works Baltimore

I’m happy to participate in this – I’ve attended shows here, and we are lucky to have this in Baltimore.

April 14 at 2640 Space, St. Paul St., Baltimore, MD.

I’m lifting this from the JHU Newsletter site:

New Works provided easy access to experimental work by Baltimore filmmakers that otherwise might be lost to the ether. Its mission to connect viewers to artists within the same community is a commendable one. A creative Friday evening detour, an experimental film screening is a great way to mix up one’s regular thought patterns and behavior with the consumption of work by people who are thinking outside of the box.

https://www.jhunewsletter.com/article/2022/02/new-works-screening-is-an-idiosyncratic-showcase-of-experimental-film-in-baltimore