Categories
Animation

Plasticland WIP

I started working on a project I’m calling PLASTICLAND. I am continuing to tell stories with my action figures.

While staying at my girlfriend’s house a few months back, I took a long walk. I found a blue plastic toy abandoned by the side of the road. I think that it was part of an infant’s car play-set. I was struck by both the loneliness of the seemingly useless object, and also the possibilities it offered. I decided to bring it home. One less chunk of plastic polluting our environment, right? It became the set for these little stories.

I made the following camera tests over two after work filming sessions in my backyard. I used my iPhone to capture the shots in Dragonframe. It worked well enough, and I love the portability of the phone. I’m having trouble exporting a quicktime file in Dragonframe, however. It’s choppy and slow. H.264/ACC works fine, so I suppose that will have to work for now. Dragonframe support said:

MP4 is much more compressed, and suited for playback. If you are outputting a really large (dimensionally, like 4K) Animation Codec movie, it might not play back in real time. That format is more intended to be used as an intermediary for editing.

For fun, I edited the two takes together. I’m approaching each scene as though my younger self were sitting in his childhood backyard playing with these objects. That’s really my only narrative principle. I made storyboards as a kid showing how I would animated scenes with my stuff, had I a working camera and film. I’m finding this as satisfying now as I would have as a boy. My intention is to use this footage as projection material for playing music. There’s a lot of boiling in this – my hands and other things.

As a bonus, Brood X has arrived. My yard is full with emerging cicadas. One fellow made an appearance in a few shots. They haven’t started singing yet. I can’t wait to record them. Here’s a bonus video I made for Instagram:

Categories
Opinion

The Labors of Love: Animation

I started animating stuff back in 2001. I was working at a shop that needed a Flash developer to accompany their Director developer (software for making CD-ROMS). I liked Flash’s drawing interface, and I was able to quickly get a grip on ActionScript. When the iPhone came out, Flash lost favor and marketshare, and I stopped working with it. Flash finally died last year.

In 2016, I began animating again in earnest, this time using a DSLR on a camera stand to make stop motion. Sometimes, I drew on an iPad. I decided to focus my graduate school efforts on pursuing animation. I’m still putting down roots as an animator, and finding my way.

In 2020, I made eight animated films. They are all “shorts,” and they all took a long time to make. On more than several occasions, I would glance at the clock and see it was 2:00am, and I would wonder why I decided to undertake such a long, protracted project that asks for so much patience, concentration and focus.

Then, I’d finish the project, edit it, and publish the video. Soon, I’d forget all about what it took to make the film, and I’d start thinking about the next one.

A colleague warned me that it’s difficult to find festivals to show work. The competition is thick. Most festivals charge an application fee, which violates my rule of never paying to enter work for a show. It can get expensive. My pal Martha Colburn advised me to just keep working on dioramas. Lucky for me, I ignored that advice.

I’ve had some luck. I checked a big item off my bucket list by having not one but two films in 2020’s Sweaty Eyeballs Animation Festival. I’ve had a few other screenings, too.

So, animation is expensive, both in terms of my time, and trying to find an audience. And what I’m doing is not likely to make money.

Why do it?

First, I don’t make art to make money. It’s delightful when someone buys something, for sure. But having other income lets me make the art I want to make, without the consideration of living off the proceeds of sales.

Second, I’m a storyteller, at heart. Animation has been a lovely addition to my artistic pursuits. I get to combine and incorporate many things I love into a single work: drawing, storytellings, puppets, writing, costumes, decor and sets, music and sound. Animators invent both technical and narrative solutions, while completing projects. There’s a kind of magic in thinking of something, giving it form in the world, and creating the illusion of life. Like Dr. Frankenstein. It’s challenging and rewarding.

While I was watching other animations at Sweaty Eyeballs, and listening to some of the animators talk, I was struck by the idea that animation is a lovely labor of love. Independent animation is a form where the animator has the complete freedom to make lots of decisions and choices about what to do. The end result can be a singular piece of work reflecting its creator in a way other forms do not, and it’s a form that, to me, inspires wonder.

Categories
Animation

Wind is Ghost

It has been a very windy week in the neighborhood. I’ve been compelled to record the wind with my phone, and finally decided to animate something in an Altoids tin. This is a quick one. I wanted to do a camera test and play with the layers and light. I say it was a quick one, but it took a week to get this, after several false starts and abandoned takes.

behind the scenes, camera stand
work in progress
Working

Thanks for looking at this. I plan to do more elaborate attempts next.

Be well, stay safe and enjoy the autumn.

Categories
Animation

The Benefits of Radiation

I am happy to present my latest animation, The Benefits of Radiation. It’s the backstory for some of my action figures.

The story takes place in a Baltimore bar called Roshambos. You’ll figure the rest out if you watch the video above.

I’m happy with how this turned out. I’ve spent more time on this than anything I’ve completed to date. Time, both in terms of the hours it took to make, and also from the time I that had the idea for the story, up to this evening.

A ream of drawings...

I drew each frame on a light box and used about a ream of paper.

Drawing of a hand holding a can of space dust.

I finally found a use for Space Dust, too.

I enjoyed doing the foley for this. I enjoyed getting to know some of the characters. Perhaps you will enjoy this.

In any event, please please please… Enjoy Radiation Responsibly!

Categories
Animation

Scientifically Sound Question: COVID-19

I made another installment of Scientifically Sound Questions – the Coronavirus Edition. There’s a lot of bad information flying around that needs clearing up.

I created a site where you, dear reader, can ask your own questions. It’s the Bureau of Scientifically Sound Questions. Please ask something today!