Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This Is My Life (And It's Ending One Minute At A Time)

FINALLY. Episode 3 of Ronin Dojo Community College DX: The Digital Pirates of Dark Water Saga is DONE!

In this installment, the Fed's have Mark and Barry in a corner with enough evidence to put them away for however long they put you away for pirating a shit load of movies. But a special guest inadvertently comes to their rescue. Nobody puts Barry in a corner!

This one had a lot of trouble behind the scenes. The past three days have had Matt and I up until 5 and 6 in the morning, trying to rush this thing together. I'll post more on that later, but for right now I have to thank the peoples who made this cartoon more awesome than we could.

Big thanks to Tim Martin and Emily Tarver for doing the voices of Hank Henderson and Agent Wilkins. They both have been real good sports about recording in our shanty town style bedroom studio, and always help us come with good lines on the fly. That porcelain city bit- all Tim.

Thanks to Darrell for offering his help in scanning and cleaning all of our shitty drawings.
It's one of the lesser glorious tasks in animation but his help made all the difference.

And thanks to Dan for helping us pull some SFX and Andrew Kudlick and Jonah Beram- we're going to keep reusing the animation you made for us- FOOOREVER.

And to repeat my previous post, Matt and I will be in Boston this Friday and Saturday for a screening the Boston Underground Film Festival is putting on. It's called "New York Spawned A Monster" and it features the animation of famed indie animator Patrick Smith and- me. There's a screening from 6pm-8pm at Space 242, and a Q&A at noon on Saturday at the same place. It's free but you have to RSVP. So come on down, or up, depending on where you live.

Ok, done hocking shit. Here's the Indiana Cat poster Matt put togther. Click on it to get a huge version for your desktop.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dress In All Black So Please Call Me Chris Gaines

So, Matt and I have been real busy with a bunch of work. I've been constructing a new tutorial post on our cleaning process, but thought I'd just make a quick post here to tell everybody two important things.

1. Episode Numero Tres of Ronin Dojo Community College DX: The Digital Pirates of Dark Water Saga, coming out this Monday, February 23rd. We're working our asses off on it as we speak. Should be good. We got an old favorite making a reappearance. Old being the operative hint in that sentence. So make sure you check it out. And if you haven't seen any of the Digital Pirates Saga, check out this Youtube playlist.

2. Next Friday, February 27th, I'm going to be in Boston screening some of my animation. The awesome peoples at the Boston Underground Film Festival have invited me to show an exorbitant amount of my work alongside indie animator, Pat Smith. The event will be from 6pm-8pm at:

Space 242
242 E. Berkeley Street, 2nd Floor
Boston, MA 02118

So if you're in the Boston area, and want to see some For Tax Reasons animation in a setting other than on your work computer while wearing headphones, then come on down. I'll be there just standing around, wondering why I don't have new shoes yet. My current shoes are completely ripped up the side. If I do get new shoes by next week, then I'll be wondering if anyone notices that my No Sweat chucks are practically glow in the dark because they don't have any dirt on them. Yeah that thought conversation's not gonna last long.

There may be a artist talk on Saturday, with Pat Smith, myself and For Tax Reasons Matt, but I'm still waiting for details on that. But whatever. You get the deal. More info on Monday. Bostonians, come on down- we can talk about Big D and the Kids Table.

Anyways, and now here's shitty drawing I just did.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I've Got A Black Hole In My Mind

I've been working on a music video for the awesome pop punk band, Teenage Bottlerocket, and things are starting to come together. I scanned in some of my work to do a little lip sync test. Check it out.

While making the Ben Weasel music video, I discovered that animating the lip sync for a person singing requires a more than my standard set of 10 mouths I use for speech. Talking is relatively fast, so I can get away with popping between mouth shapes with little notice of the change. However the drawn out movements of singing require a few inbetween's here and there to make everything look smooth. So I draw one AH mouth and then a slightly smaller AH mouth to cushion the mouth movements. Several varying sizes of OO mouths, and so on and so forth.

It's not perfect, but it works ok, and I need to cut all the corners I can when I'm making this thing on my own.

Anyways, here's a head pencil test I did of Ray nodding his head along to the music. There's no music in the clip so you can just imagine him nodding along to anything. Maybe a song, maybe a school presentation you're working on about the Marshall Plan or something. I don't know, go nuts.

Monday, February 2, 2009

How We Animate: Part I: The Equipment

My inbox and the For Tax Reasons inbox have received a lot of emails asking about how we do our animation. "A lot" being a relative term. We've gotten more spammy notices about Comicon than questions about animation in our For Tax Reasons account. But whatever. I thought I'd do several posts about How We Animate. I decided not to say "How To Animate", because I think that's a bit too forceful if not completely arrogant. There are a lot of ways to animate, we're always looking to streamline and perfect our process- so the For Tax Reasons method is neither preferred nor perfect. It's just what we get away with. So if you can accept that into your heart- then we can begin.

The Equipment

Drawing Utensils. For the initial drawings, I use Col-Erase erasable colored pencils. They allow you to rough out out drawings and discern between multiple layers, and then roughly clean up with a black line over top. I sometimes use 2 HB Mirado Black Warrior pencils for the clean up, but lately I've been experimenting with these Rapidomatic mechanical pencils. They help me keep a thinner and more consistent line.

Peg bar.
In order to keep each drawing "registered" with one another, or in the same place, you're going to need specially punched paper that fits to a specially molded peg bar. These can be hard to come by in a brick and mortar art store. In NYC, I get mine from the the New York Central Art Supply, but you can find them online. Just do some searches. I use the plastic Acme peg bars.

Hole punch. These things can be fucking expensive. Most of these items, aside from the computer stuff, you can get for decent prices. But animation hole punches are such a niche product, so they always seem to be high priced. Ltd. has one for $599. There might be some cheaper ones out there, maybe on eBay. I'm lucky enough to be borrowing one from a co-worker.

The upside to having your own hole punch is you don't have to wait for a ream of punched paper to ship. And when you're pretty lax on stocking supplies like myself, it really helps to have a puncher at your side.

Paper. So if you don't feel like shelling out 600 bones for a punch, you'll have to buy pre-punched paper. (I could make a link again to Cartoonsupplies/Lightfood but I'm not sure if they have the best prices for punched paper).

If you're going the hole puncher route- any 81/2x 11 copy paper will do. I usually buy recycled, even though it sometimes has a rougher grain and some more flecks in it. It's worth it, planet wise, since I've resisted the jump to the paperless animation route- mostly due my lack of skill on a Wacom tablet and the expense of

Lightbox. You might be able to find Light Tracers and Porta-Trace's at some art stores around town since people can use them for photography and making stencils and stuff. If you search for these things on Amazon, they come up in weird categories like Home Improvement or Home & Garden. Strange.

I've got a Porta-Trace light box with two lights in it. It's great for seeing through 3 or more drawings, and I like not having a pegbar molded to the drawing surface. It gives you more free space and flexiblity. However, there are some great swivel light boxes that allow you to spin around your drawings; simulating a full on animation desk. Those are great for cleaning up. It's easiest for me to draw downward strokes, so having that option of spinning the drawing around so that I making the same general hand movements is great. It's a personal preference in the end.

If you're good with crafts and DIY building, you can make an animation desk with wood, a sheet of plastic and some flourescent lights. Works just the same. And you'll be much cooler or doing it on your own.

Camera & Tripod. To do pencil tests, you're going to need a tripod and any video camera that can send a feed to your computer. I use an old camera hooks up to my computer via firewire, and run the pencil tests using the demo of a program called FrameThief. I talk a a little bit about pencil tests in this blog post.

Scanner. Stores like Best Buy and the dying Circuit City barely have a selection of scanners that aren't those bigger print/fax/scan in one deals. It's kind of sad how electronic stores have turned into giant cell phone kiosks and TV dealers. Anyways, don't buy H.P. scanners. I'm sure they're just as high quality as any other scanner, but their scanning interface sucks.

Even if you're using Photoshop, you have to capture a scan via the scanners own interface. Since you're scanning hundreds of drawings, that have to line up with one another, you're going to want your scan marquee and settings to be the same each time- so you can just keep hitting SCAN. With the H.P. interface, the scan settings reset each time. If you want to save your scan settings, you have to make a little scan profile and load it each time you scan. It's just an extra, annoying step, and you've already got enough clicking to do.

I use an Epson Perfection. It's Advanced User interface allows for a good amount of tweaking, it saves the most recently used scan marquee and doesn't create some blown out auto setting each time you preview a new scan.

Microphone. If you're going to record dialogue for your shorts, you might want to invest in a semi decent microphone. I went down to Guitar Center and bought this AT4040 Cardioid Condensor mic at the advice of some sound engineers at my work. It's been working well for me, but I'm sure there's a myriad of models that'd do just fine.

MBox2 Mini. This piece of hardware allows you to record and edit in Pro Tools LE. It's the cheapest and smallest of their systems, but does in no way lack in quality. If you really need to, you could probably record using some shareware programs, like ones for podcasting, to capture and roughyl edit audio. I know that Final Cut has a Voice Over tool you could probably use to the same end. However Pro Tools is premiere audio program, and I make everyone do a billion takes and like to throw fancy ass compressors on my tracks to sweeten them up like sugar- so it's good for me.

Computer. Sorry Luddites, you're gonna need to borrow or buy one to do what we do, and it should probably be a Mac. I come from a Mac Family. Even though we started with a Commodore 64 (moving next to an archaic orange text on black screen laptop, then an Emerson IBM Compatible) we eventually made the switch to Apple and never looked back.

It was part of an entire childhood and adolescence as the secondary option underdog. I was a Jew, who owned a Sega Genesis and had Mac computers. How much more of an outcast can you get? My people suffered for years. I was persecuted in C++ class. The PC kids wrote "SMACK THE MAC" in binary on the white board. It was traumatic, but I made it through. And now I can stand proud and tall without fear of ridicule for my Apple Heritage. Complain about coffee shop hipsters all you want- we have survived.

Books. Ok, the last but most important part. If you're going to make animation like we do, you're going to need to LEARN TO ANIMATE. I can't go into detail on how to do that, I'm not smart enough. But if you want to learn, check out these books:

The Animator's Survival Kit by Richard Williams
Cartoon Animation by Preston Blair

Or Animation Meat, as Smo pointed out to me. Other blogs and forums have some notes and practice stuff posted on them, all from much more reputable sources than myself. So search those out too.

Ok so that's part one. Sorry it was so long. The next step will be about scanning, cleaning and coloring your work. So look out for it soon. And sorry for all the unintentional product endorsements. If anyone asks, I told you to steal everything.

Everything but the peg bars.