Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cybernetic Eyes

Looks like cybernetic eyes are going to beat clone eyes. Saw something similar years ago where they had a direct plug into the brain.

Makes me wonder what other things they could map to the tongue, so for those of us with sight, could we get bonus senses on our tongue? 360 radar? infrared? around corners? xray?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Aspect Ratio and Framing

Ran across a new blog to me: david Bordwell's website on cinema which looks to be basically a film arts class in blog form.

Anyway was reading this interesting post about how having a wide aspect ratio allows you to include minorly important details without having to be heavy handed and doing a cut shot to show them, or being able to have people in the background listening without it feeling totally staged. Intersting read, though a bit abstract.

*probably gonna be mining there all day

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Comic things

Picked up recently how to do panning and tracking in comic book format.

Also the reason to scan at 600dpi is because line art needs the extra dpi to be crisp, otherwise it gets antialiased to hell. But if you don't care about the original line art the 300 would work.

a general rule of thumb is six panels to a page, 30 words to a panel.

*and now this has become my most verbose month yet, never realized I was such a windbag

Indie Thoughts - Lango - Simplicity - 2D

Lango's got a neat new look in CG, bringing back the lineboil from 2D to give himself less time needed to animate.

But raises the question to me, if you're going to spend that much time figuring stuff out, why not just spend it learning to animate in 2D, then you get the other advantages of 2D, like Eamonn 0'Neil's My Day (which Lango pointed out to me) Brings emotional strength to the piece in ways unique to animation.

my day from eamonn o neill on Vimeo.

Read somewhere recently that average viewing on the net is 30 seconds to 5 minutes. Was thinking about this new media distribution thing and how these little shots are perfect for the net, simple and short, simple characters basically 1 idea personified

Honkbarn by Todd Ramsay


JHD found this cool vid of a classic psych experiment

Oh, The Temptation from Steve V on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

In Character: Actors Acting

lots of shots here

* Couple shots up here

In Character: Actors Acting by Howard Schatz

Took me a while to find this book (I'd seen it once, but when I went to look for it I didn't know the title, and no one else knew it.) Anyway it's really cool. Professional actor's are given a prompt, then photos are taken of them portraying it. Beautiful book, great reference. Especially fun when they give the old guys prompts of being little kids.


Left: You're a finalist on America's Next Top Model who is hearing Tyra tell the other girl she's out—and you're prepping to give your nemesis a "sincere" hug. Center: You're a stand-up comic performing at a Toronto showcase packed with S.N.L. and HBO scouts—and your "lesbian chickens" bit is utterly tanking. Right: You're, like, 15, and he's, like, 17, and even tho U have only ever said, like, "Hey" in the hallways, he's just texted 2 ask U 2 B his D8 @ the prom!!! the prom!!!


Left: You're an N.B.A. power forward who's been lightly grazed by an opponent, flailing and wincing with Oscar-worthy panache to elicit a foul call. Center: You're an insufferable epicure at a revered restaurant in Lyon, having an out-of-body experience on your very first bite. Right: You're a high-school freshman who's just been publicly hazed by a bullying senior, skulking away ashamedly—but getting the last word.

Also included is short thoughts from the actors. Hence, these notes :)

I look for similarities and things that are very different as well. I decides should I play against certain moments or should I play into them? For example, if the character I just made has some kind of disability, do I want him to hide that disability and not make it seem so pronounced because I'm embarrassed by it? Or do I want to make that disability seen and do I want to elicit some kind of pity fro the audience or any other characters I might come into? - Giancarlo Esposito

If an actor asks me my process, I say I don't have a clue to my process. I just see it like it is a suit of clothes across the room, and my business, my obligation, is to walk across the room and get into that suit of clothes. -Richard Dreyfuss

All you really need to do on stage is have a good play, a good script, with good actors. The rest of it is almost unimportant. Adornments are unnecessary. The quality of the writing and the quality of the acting make everything alive...I don't really believe you need to act in movies. "Movie stars" do very little acting. They play themselves in various roles. They change costumes, and the situation is somewhat different. But Cary Grant is Cary Grant, no matter where you see him. And Cary Cooper and John Wayne; nobody in his right mind would ever accuse John Wayne of being an actor, for God's sake. -Philip Bosco

I read somewhere that "art is the search for beauty, and religion is the search for truth. And it hit me like a great revelation that it is the search - not the finding. And that search is the process where the art occurs and where the truth occurs. - Ellen Burstyn

I know that to play a role honestly you have to dig down into your own self and you have to find that little devil tn there who is yo, and you have to enlarge on that devil; you have to find that little angel - whatever is in there you have to find it. - Hal Holbrook

Acting is not showing. Only bad actors try to cry. Good actors try not to...How a character hides his feelings tells us who he is. The only people in the world who exhibit or show their emotions are bad actors. How a character distills and holds on to his feelings tells us what slips through. The power of that emotion is what tells us who our character is. In a well-written script, what people say to each other - the dialogue - is what a character's willing to reveal, willing to share with another person. The 90 percent he or she isn't willing to share is what I do for a living. The subtext is what makes the people do what they do. I watch people. It's not what they say that tells us who they are, it's their behaviour. - Martin Landau

The truth is a constant search, because it's constantly shifting and changing. It's the looking. It's the searching. - F. Murray Abraham

Actually, I think the word acting is a bad word for what we do. If we're doing it correctly, we are being. - Dennis Haysbert

Who can teach you emotion? Who can teach you how to be happy? Nobody. All there is to acting is find your mark, look the guy in the eye, and tell him the truth. - Charles Durning

An artist's job, is not to be judgemental. An artist's job is to tell his truth, too Tell the truth that he envisions. - Danny Glover

You go to the zoo, and you watch what an animal does, watch what a gorilla does, watch what an otter does, you know? And you try to move that way. A lot of my characters are bearlike. You walk like that. They're deceptively faster than you think. - Charles Dunning

Film, for me, is a director's medium, it's not an actor's medium. You have absolutely no control over your performance. It can be completely cut to smithereens. Your best work might never be seen. It's all up to the director. But what you can do is go for little moments of absolute truth. Because you're not going to go through it all start to finish, you really work with he moment. - Natasha Richardson

In movies, I always think of my job as putting globs of paint on an easel, for the director to paint his or her painting with long after I've left. For instance, i get hired for red and black, and I'd better have really iridescent black and vibrant red. - Scott Glenn

You have an uncomfortable feeling that all of these characters are within you, and the criminals out there are people who don't have an outlet. They're actually acting it out in real life. - Edward Herrmann

When a playwright writes a play, the orthodoxy says that he would be well advised not to direct it himself because director will find things in it...It's a collaborative venture, and as personal as writing a play is, we[directors, actors, set designers, composers etc.] could add tremendously to it. - Robert Klein

when I discover something that's true about the character in one moment, I try not to extrapolate it through the rest of the play. I try to keep what is true of the character in the moment true in that moment and then discover the true thing about the character in the next moment from the material.

With Strasberg you came first. You dominated the material. It's your character. It's what you want to do with it. You act out of yourself. - Robert Loggia

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Blip = clamshell eyes

Been thinking about Blip by Ben Harper and Sean Mullen recently. (I know it'd already hit the net a while back). I just like that it's such a nice clean style, simple and I'm totally into it. Was thinking about my rant about botox and that these characters a perfect example of simple, easily achievable character design that do all they need to tell the story.

Blip from Sean Mullen on Vimeo.

Kyle Balda Animation Tutorial

Finally found this with sound. Kyle Balda (once of Pixar, teaching summer school at Gobelins).

*little bit later

Had a chance to watch it. Interesting, it reminds me of the splinecast with Doug Sweetland (I think) where he talked also of starting just with the root musically to the dialogue. Makes me think that was the common technique at Pixar as they built there way up through those listerine and lifesaver commercials, when CG was still new. Animation Mentor really pushes the pose to pose style, which is very strong and can give good reliable results (probably easier to teach also), it's interesting to see this different style at obviously an equally high level.

Had me smiling that he was talking bout the same stuff I had just been pondering, namely that the fact that the audience is going to be watching the eyes and face, so get into it as quick as you can so you don't overwork the body.

Also funny when he says "sometimes you need a blink just to keep the character alive" which is a complete contradiction of Shawn Kelly's recent post. (I side with Kelly)

Supinfocom Gallery

Ran across the Supinfocom Vimeo Channel

some interesting stuff in there

Zoudov from Clement Bolla on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Plot & Structure by James Bell

Plot and Structure by James Bell he gets started with the common basic stuff, but then goes into lots of useful examples of how to do the things he's talking about, like stretching tension and raising stakes.

LOCK is the acronym he likes. Lead, Objective, Conflict, Knockout (a strong ending, like in boxing, instead of a draw). He boils down all stories to this basic schema for the 3 act structure, and you then add your unique non cliche ideas on top to make it interesting.

Act 1
a) introduced to world
b) call to action
c) through doorway number 1 (can no longer continue in their normal life)
Act 2
a) hero meets mentors and aids and maybe picks up some useful artifacts
b) scenes get more intense
c) hero might go through a dark patch
d) through doorway number 2 (direct path to final showdown)
Act 3
a) final battle
b) wrap it up

The inciting incident creates reader interest, but is not necissarily the main story point. Doorways of no return (aka plot points) how to get from Act 1 to act 2, and from act 2 to act 3, shove your characters through a decision/event they can't return to how things were afterwards.

Coming up with ideas:

Come up with a cool title to a book, then write the book that goes with it. Come up with a cool opening line and run with it: "ever kill anyone?". Quickly jot down a list of nouns, then go back and look at any associations you have with them. Write on an issue you care about: poverty, war, etc. "I think arresting fiction is written out of a sense of outrage." -Robert Ludlum. Come up with the most intense climactic ending scene you can, then fill in the story before it.

Establishing a bond with the reader:
Identification: character goes through an experience we've all had (not getting the toy you want at the store)
Gain sympathy with, Jeapordy, Hardship, Underdog, Vulnerability, Likeability, Inner conflict (people who react without 2nd guessing or being afraid are too different from regular people)

ARM action, reaction, more action, fundamental rhythm of a novel. Lead character has to be doing something, can't just stand there, they're trying to achieve a goal, and for the scene to be interesting there needs to be something in the way. More conflict and tension you can add the more interesting the scene will be.

Keeping them reading through the long Act 2

Trim the dullness, combine or cut characters, absorb uninteresting subplots, look at your scenes if one doesn't have enough conflict punch it up, or kill it and drop the knowledge into a different scene.

Stretching the Tension
There has to be something to be tense about, potential badness about to happen to the character. Set it up so the audience know: "Saturated by silence, the house brimmed with also with an unnerving expectancy, as if some bulwark was about to crack, permitting a violent flood to sweep everything away." -Dean Koontz, he then spends the next 7 tense pages walking a girl through a house to find her drugged up mother. Slow down to make more tension. Action, thoughts, dialogue, description, milk them and more to slow down the pace of a scene and get the reader more into it, so they're worried about what's going to happen and you're pointing out every detail, in film they do this with slow motion. What's the worst thing from the outside that can happen to my character? What's the biggest trouble they can get into? Is the reader prepped enough? (can't worry if they don't know they're supposed to) Emotional tension, go through it beat for beat with the character showing what they're going through, where their thoughts are flitting, what emotions are boiling up, what they're emotional stake makes them physically feel. What is the worst thing from the inside that could happen to the character? (hint: look to their fears) What is the worst information my character could receive? Does the reader care enough about the characters to go down with them? Stretch your big scenes out of course, but also stretch out little passages as you go (not a whole scene but a momentary bad thing a half paragraph instead of a half sentence) It's easier to stretch all the bad as far as you can in your first draft and pull it back, then try and cram it in later.

Raising the stakes
If you can create a character worth following, and a problem that must be solved - and then along the way raise the stakes even higher - you're going to have the essential elements of a page turner. 3 aspects of stakes to consider, flowing from: plot, character, and society. Plot stakes the bomb, the papers, What physical harm can happen to my character? What new forces or characters come into play against my character? Is there some professional duty at stake? What's the worst thing I can do to my character? Character Stakes inner turmoil, How can things get more emotionally wrenching for my character? Can I twist the emotional knife in my character through another character? (law and order governer's only son is under suspicion for murder ,what's our gov gonna do?) Are there dark secrets from the past? Societal Stakes like Scarlet O'harra's can raise the tension. Whose on which team socially? What big sociatal issue could they be dealing with? Now take your list of troubles, sort them from least to worst, and now you have a stakes outline (don't have to use all of it) to keep ratcheting things up as act 2 rolls along. Just keep asking: What else can go wrong, how can I make it worse?

HIP: hook, intensity, prompt
hook pull readers in, don't start with boring description, suck them into the action, tease them with what's gonna happen, etc.
intensity keep the reader anxious through tension, make the tension with emotional or physical conflict.
prompt make the reader want to know what happens next. Where does this new revelation leave the characters? How will they react to this news? How are they going to get out of this one? What are they going to do about this? Reversals, surprises, questions.
Intensity Scale: Within a scene the intensity will change. And different scenes will have different overall levels of intensity. If you analyze your scenes from this angle it will help you build your story. A novel usually revolves around a few Big Intense scenes, like guideposts you move from one to the next (passing through less intense scenes) always going up to the climax. If you've analyzed your scenes (go ahead, make a graph, each scene 0-10 (although 0 is probably too boring)) then you can plot out your story to have good balance, to always be stepping it up, and to be giving the readers a breathing break everyonce in a while.
4 scene chords: action, reaction (minor chords) setup, deepening.
Action scene: character trying to achieve something (scene objective). He comes against an obstacle to keep things interested. Commercial fiction majority of scenes are action based.
Reaction scene: how character feels about what has happened, often done beat by beat. (literary novels may feel like they have more reaction scenes, because they are more about the interior or the characters.) Can put a reaction beat in the middle of an action scene. If you handle action and reaction well your plot will move along smartly.
Setup scenes: are needed for the rest of the scenes to make sense, they potentially can be dull, so build in a problem to pep them up.
Deepening: not really a full scene, use it sparingly, it's added spice. The "barf-o-rama" story in Steven Kings "The Body"
Scenes fall Flat: find the hotspot, the essential point of the scene,(if there isn't one, dump the scene) circle the hotspot and go up from there trimming dead wood sentences that don't catapult you into the hotspot

Long Novels
Like the story of a snot nosed Irish urchin who grows up, emigrates to America, and dies as the major mob boss of New York. Treat each section as a mini story, 3 acts, LOCK, but change Lead to Locale, and K to Kick in the Pants prompt to read the next part. Locale:Ireland, Objective:get out of Ireland, Conflict: Abusive father, Kick:beats up Dad and runs. Locale:Boston, Objective:find a way to live, Conflict:gangs and cops, Kick:kills a cop. Locale:NY, Objective:Rule it, Conflict:Rival mobs, Knockout ending:becomes mayor. Have to make each section work on it's own.

Character Arc
Our core self, who we really are, we surround with harmonious layers. To change you have to penetrate through all the layers to the center (self>core beliefs>values>dominant attitudes>opinions). Take Ebenezer Scrooge: opinions (xmas is a humbug, clerks try to take advantage)<attitude (profit greater then charity)< values ($ more then people)<believes (love is pointless)<core (miser and misanthrope). Can't just jump to a change, have to break down all those layers.

The rest of the book (half of it) goes into different ways to write, outlining, not outlining, getting through the first draft, different archetypes of story (quest, revenge, love, adventure, chase, one apart, one against, allegory) Common problems (wandering on a tangent, characters taking over, writers block.)

Show don't tell. Showing as if you were watching it: Marc's eyes widened and his jaw dropped. He tried to take a breath, but breath did not come..." the reader feels the emotions along with the character. Telling: "Mark was stunned and frightened." Don't list: "Perry Mason, on the other hand, was urbane, fair, logical and smilingly frank to the jury." we don't really believe he's urbane fair logical and frank just because we're told.

Soap Opera tricks: 1)Don't resolve anything to soon, raise questions then delay answering them. 2) If you can cut from one scene leaving the reader hanging, to another scene, then cut from that scene leaving them hanging. In other words force them to come back for more because you always leave more threads then you tie up.

Navone - acting ref & rhythm/texture

Nice acting analysis by Victor Navone on In the Heat of the Night

and a good breakdown of Rhythm and Texture

"I usually start by just throwing out every idea I can on paper and/or video tape. Next I narrow it down to my favorite ideas that I think are most appropriate to the shot. From these I try to find the ideas that flow together naturally and create a nice progression, making sure that the biggest change occurs at the right time to emphasize the point of the shot. "

"Once I have this phrasing worked out, I start to block my poses and actions into the computer. Now I can start to experiment with timing, playing with the speed of the individual actions and moving my beats around in time to try to break up the rhythm of the shot. The computer is great at helping you figure out your timing without wasting a lot of effort. This is how I find the texture in my animation. "

Monday, September 14, 2009

Peter Mohrbacher Painting Tutorials

I was checking out the WIP podcast (another one about fantasy/sci fi illustrators) and went to check out the artists. Ran across Peter Mohrbacher who has a huge chunk of youtube tutorials on his page. He has some good noob tips that I should've already known but didn't

Sunday, September 13, 2009

1 way to make 'em like your characters

Been listening to Ninja Mountain Podcast for a while now. It had me thinking about character. While the podcast is decent, and they do talk about stuff that would be useful for illustrator's, a lot of it is also pretty common sense. I realized the real reason I listen to it is because they are having so much fun. I like the people on the blog because they are having fun together (check out this opening). Which is something mentioned in the director's commentary of the Usual Suspects. He said that the actor's were really messing around, the scene wasn't written funny like that, and they were surprised when he cut that version into the final show. But he said he did it because it was a way to get the audience in and sympathetic with the characters we would follow, who are criminals so not your first bet for sympathy. An instructor of mine said that those annoying "Wazzzz-Up" commercials were so successful because it was a group ritual that they all had a lot of fun doing, and we as the camera voyeurs felt included and part of the ritual, and since they all had so much fun doing it we were having fun to.

*careful STRONG language ;)

Ikea Lamp

I thought I posted this a million years ago. Just a beautiful example of how far the audience comes out to meet you. They paid their money, they came to the theater, all you have to do is give them something to hold onto.

Orson Scott Card

I like Orson Scott Card (except for his politics, but Pixar's Adrian Molina can speak for me there) and I recently read his How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy and Characters and Viewpoint

We judge who someone is based on what we see them do. (A guy talking loudly, spilling his drink, and being rude we'd think was an obnoxious drunk)
But knowing why someone is behaving a certain way changes the impression. (if we know the hostess just cruelly ended the affair she was having with our "drunk" 5 minutes ago, we'd judge his actions differently.)
A character is what he does, but even more what he means to do. (difference between murderer and victim good at self defense)
And is defined by their past. (it matters if our adulterous drunk is married to a meek devoted wife, or if his first girlfriend had been so manipulative he's never been able to completely open up to a woman since)
You can let the reader know their reputation, and live up to it, or violate it (and show how they got it like a conman who pretends to be pious)
Stereotypes can be used as a quick fill in of a character, if the character's minor you can use stereotypes to not need to spend too much time on them (need a thug use a thug), you can also use them to break expectations (the old man in the poor fitting suit and bottle of wine in a paper bag could be a wino, or a cancer survivor making his way to a party)
Showing us the how a characters different social networks work and treat them informs us.
Specific details make fiction more real. Habits, preferences, and talents that a person has make them interesting and tell us about them. (been doing kickboxing for 12 years, carefully stacks his quarters, love of b movies)
Physical characteristics are not very important (unless it's a peg leg) let the reader flesh it out (they'll probably imagine themselves into it)
If you don't care about your character's your readers won't either, you are the first audience member, keep yourself interested and entertained.
Tools to making a character important: Ordinariness vs strangeness, amount of their "on screen" or talked about, how many plot characters their choices affect, how much everyone else focuses on them, frequency of appearance, how involved in the action they are, readers sympathy with them, are they narrating.

If you don't tell what the character's motives are the audience will assume the most obvious, cliche, boring ones. To make character's more believable we give them more complex and justified motives. Each new revelation of a character's motive doesn't just add information, it revises all the information that came before.

We want to know what the character's think and feel about what's going on around them, it clues us as to what we should think and feel about it too, and makes the character more alive. It is through attitude that we learn what people think about each other.
"what a day" she said.
Yeah, right. poor dear, couldn't she find a single dress that fit right?

"what a day" she said.
She could say anything right now, and it would be music. He didn't realize how much he missed her until she came back.

A character's expectations imply what their past experiences have been. How people view them and interact with them tell us who they are now. If you're character is changing their behavior, you don't have to show the cause before or during, but you need to let the audience know that the character's behaviour change is a mystery that will be cleared up (otherwise they just think you're a bad writer and can't keep track of your characters). The more important the character and the bigger the change the more time you have to spend making it believable.

Main Character:

Who's in the most pain? they have the biggest motivation for action, and the strongest ability to elicit sympathy from the reader. Who has the power and freedom to act? The greatest power to act unpredictably is usually found away from the center of power (the king can't just haul off and kill the ambassador, the way the kitchen boy in the alley can) If Captain Kirk acted like a captain he would never leave the ship putting himself in danger, that's the job of front line troops, of scouts.

The Protagonist:
The hero is who you are hoping will win, the main character is who you are most fascinated with, they are not necessarily the same. If the one who's making all the interesting decisions is the bad guy, you'll probably be spending a lot of time with him (like Darth Vader). The viewpoint character is the one we ride through the story with, who's view we most get to understand so will obviously be important to us. Dr. Watson is the viewpoint character, because if it were Sherlock Holmes we'd know who did it almost right away. The viewpoint character must be at the main events, actively involved in them, and have a personal stake in their outcome.

Tools for making readers care:
Pain: the more someone suffers, or inflicts it, the more important they are (but if it's repetitive it loses it's edge and gets funny) You increase the amount of pain by showing it's causes and effects (not by describing it with more detail). If you show us how much they loved, and how hard they work to cope after the loss, we'll believe it better. Pain is stronger with more choice, setting a broken leg is important, setting your own is even more so. Sacrifice raises the character's worth (love vs integrity). Jeopardy, anticipated pain, raises a character's value, the more vulnerable the more oomph (which is why children are such strong fictional victims), but jeopardy only works if the reader believe it can happen. Sexual Tension raises the stakes of both characters (as long as we believe they are attractive to each other) until they reach sexual harmony. If the character is a victim, they'll gain sympathy of the audience, but may loose some respect, you can try to show the character fought all the way, or is trying to cope with it but you may never get all the respect back. It's easy to like saviours, but if you want to make sure they stay liked make them reluctant to interfere, or give them an invitation to come in and save someone. Character's need to have a life, they have needs and plans that they are actively striving to fulfill, and if we understand their reasons and believe in them we'll be with them, don't just have them "doing nothing in particular". Readers respond to a character who is brave, plays fair, will take risks for what they believe in, doesn't gloat, and lose sympathy for characters who cheat or are cowardly. Character's attitude towards others, and towards themselves can help win the audience, if they man up and admit their mistakes, if they give people second chances, basically if they have good traits you would appreciate in real people. Volunteer or Draftee, gain sympathy if they volunteer for a crap job, or if they're mandatorily recruited for a glory one. Keep their words, if Pete holds onto the family farm, even though it's failing and everyone wants him to sell it, because he promised his dad on his death bed, the audience will be rooting for him, even though he's dragging the family down in flames, we admire those who stick to their word, and dislike people who make promises and break them. Audiences appreciate cleverness, quick thinking problem solving, but not intelligence because it's snooty and aristocratic. (Indiana Jones is great on his feet, but bumbling when teaching). Of course if you're character's perfect they won't be believable, so give them some endearing flaws (just keep the overall balance on the sympathetic attributes). Murder for selfish reasons or against those who don't deserve it earns dislike, but if it's to protect someone or punish someone who deserves it the murderer will gain audience sympathy. We hate people who appoint themselves, people who try and make themselves experts, but if they later earn their position and gain the respect of those around them they become okay. Actually crazy characters are never liked. You can soften your bad guys by partially justifying their actions.


Why? and What Result? questions that will build your story. Why are they doing that, what are they trying to avoid, or make happen? What made this happen, what was the purpose, what was the result? (What happens when your 12? you can babysit. What happens when you babysit? baby cries. Why? Sick. What do you do? Burp it? no. Call the Dr.? no too sick. Grab the baby and run to get help. Why didn't you wait for the ambulance? mom died waiting before ambulance arrived. etc. brainstorm quickly splintering ideas off, chasing interesting ones, circling back if you hit dead ends. Don't just take the 1st good enough answer. 1000 questions in an hour.) It's fiction, exaggerate some, make it a tale worth hearing. Try taking an assumption and giving it a twist, (baby's sick because it's actually in the final stages of an evolution cycle, and becomes a luminous being) If it's a setting or an idea you want to start with you can ask "who suffers most in this situation. Beware the cliche, the easy first answers.

Ideas come from life. If you see something that catches your eye, play with the idea. A guy eating a banana. Looks like it's covering his face - maybe he's going to make an entire biohazard suit out of banana peels. Everyday, everywhere, get your brain in the practice of being creative and playful. Use the people in your life, take the passion your sister had for horses and the struggle she went through working in the barn to afford it and put that into an elderly character trying to learn to dog sled race. Take a random time from your history and wander forwards or backwards in your memory until you find something juice, your high school chemistry teacher letting your make a fool of yourself in front of the class as you try to figure out an experiment, and put it into a new place like a wife trying to start a new career in the husbands field and the husband letting her fail so she could "do it on her own".

Or Ideas that the story needs. Who must be there? (If you want to do a story about a princess locked in a castle, you're gonna need her jailer.) Who might be there? (maybe the princess strikes up a friendship with the rats in the tower) Who has been there? (is the jailer's real problem with the princess' mother?)

All of Cards stories marinated for a long time before he wrote them, years sometimes, and often he combined two unrelated ideas to get one story.

1st Contract with the Readers: Readers will expect the story to be over when the first major cause of structural tension is resolved. So if a man is murdered we won't be satisfied until the murderer is caught,but if a woman is widowed we won't be satisfied until she has established her new role in life, even if both of these stories use the same characters and events, it matters what starts it off. All good stories do NOT have to have full characterization. Character stories do, but we never cared what Indiana Jones' father was like in the first two flicks because they were Event stories. You need to be able to write interesting and believable characters, but not necessarily take the reader through the results of your heroes angsty teenage rejections. "Characterization is not a virtue it is a technique, you use it when it will enhance your story, and when it won't you don't." So what part of the story are you most interested in telling? Of course you can mix it up, and use all the parts for different kinds of sub plots, but knowing the main type of story helps you structure and prioritize and decide how much characterization you need.

Milieu is about WHERE the main character is. When you are most interested in the surroundings: suburban life? Tolkein's world? Deep characterization isn't needed, character's can stand in as representatives. LoTR fellowship has 1 dwarf, 1 ranger, 1 elf, 1 smeagel etc. Tolkein spends time talking about history or daily life of hobbits, or how treebeard and his pals think about things. Starts when the main character heads off to see the world, ends when they've seen it, maybe having been transformed by it. Frodo isn't done when the ring goes into the lava, or when they kick wormtongue out of the shire, he's done when him and all the elves check out and it's the end of the age. Dorothy's not done when she kills the witch, she's done when she gets home.

Idea story is about How the main character solves a puzzle. When you're most interested in the process of solving a puzzle. Murder mysteries, Capers, and Sci-Fi where the ship needs a part, are all examples. Characterization doesn't really need to go further then maybe a few eccentricities to differentiate and make the characters entertaining, and everyone having their own reason to have killed the bastard. You could go high-brow and have each character be a symbol of something, like Mr. Compassion vs Mr. Greed. Sometimes the detective needs to be good at figuring out what kind of person someone is, but rarely does anyone experience growth or change in a story. The story starts when the puzzle is posed (mystery is so established that the readers will give the author some leeway to actually get going), and ends when it's solved.

Character story is about WHO the main character is. When you are most interested in what makes someone who they are and how they go about changing. You're main character is the one who's changing triggers everyone else. The conflict that drives the story is when the main character can no longer stand to be in the roles they are in, so they try to change their roles in their social circles, or change their social circles, and of course the ripples from there. Sometimes the break from the old role is easy and the story is about the search for the new one (coming of age). Sometimes the break is very difficult and the story is about how to make it happen (escaping a manipulative relationship). The most complex character stories to write are the ones where someone tries to change themselves without loosing their relationships (becoming a strong independent woman while keeping the old world husband.) Starts when the character must transform from the roles they are in, ends when they have

Event story is about WHAT the main character does. When you are most interested in trying to set the world right. There's an evil king raising an evil army(Indiana Jones & the arc). There's a love that can not be allowed, yet can not be denied(wurthering heights). There's a great crime that has been committed and justice must be meted (macbeth) Deep characters aren't necessary to get the story told, we don't know much about Lancelot other then his main roles. Starts when the person crucial to righting the balance gets involved, ends when they have or have failed completely.

2nd Contract: the more time you spend on something the more significant to the story. Don't spend 3 chapters talking about the characters first dog unless something like the dogs habit of putting slippers in the empty dog food tin leads the hero to find the final clue in the dog food container.

Suspense is not created by withholding information, suspense comes from giving almost all the information so the reader is involved in the characters and cares about them so really wants to know how the tiny bit of key information that has been withheld will decide the characters' fate. In other words, the only information you keep back is what is going to happen next.

Show Don't Tell, sometimes:
Fiction is life with the boring bits left out. Telling is giving the information needed from the boring bits, without living through it. "they went through 19 file drawers, paper by paper. They cracked open books that had 10 years of dust on them. Even after all that searching they almost missed the answer when they found it."= compressing a day of tedious searching through telling. Showing is making the reader live through the event with the characters. The important dramatic scenes are relatively rare, but the take the most space because it takes a lot more space to show then tell, which makes these the scenes that stick with the reader afterwards.

Card talks a lot in both books about the art of language, what kind of voice and tense and viewpoint to use, how to make phrases presentational vs representational. Honestly, at the moment, all of that stuff is over my head. I figure it will take some practice of me actually writing to have enough foundation to absorb and use those ideas.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pencil Test Blog

PencilTest is this cool blog that collects into one spot those pencil tests that are floating around out there on vimeo and youtube and what not.

I love pencil tests because if I stare long enough at them I start being able to see how to do it 2D. Learning to animate on the computer first is tricky, because you can move things before you're eye has developed enough to really see. 2D on the other hand gives you nothing for free, you consider every frame because you have to draw them all. One of these days I'm gonna figure out how to do it.

*found by Carlos Fins (we went through AM at the same time but never managed to have class together, guess we'll just have to meet at some studio some day :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

10 Dimensions

can't. hold. it. gotta level up my brain

*found on swench

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tim Schafer on Brutal Legend

Tim Schafer (the god of fun point and click adventure games) talked with Shacknews about his new game Brutal Legend

Lessons Learned from Psychonauts

Psychonauts was kinda developed like an adventure game was, where we built a lot of assets and we built a lot of worlds, we built a lot of environments, we built a lot of different characters and stuff, and then at the last minute tried to pull it all together and make it work and it didn't work and we were out of time and we had to start over on some stuff.

We really took a more character-centered approach with Brutal Legend, where we started with Eddie. We just built Eddie, and then we said, "What is the essential thing for Eddie to do? It's for him to walk around while playing heavy metal music and swinging his axe around." So we got that working.

So, we immediately had Eddie and his axe fighting, we made some enemies for him to play, and just that really basic visceral feeling of being in a heavy metal world doing axe combat was--right off the bat, we had our game playable and kinda fun in that way.

Then we had the car, and you could drive your car over dudes and swing your axe around, and that's when we knew we had something that was gonna be cool. And then we just expanded outwards from that, which made it a much more--we know the whole entire time that we could play the game and have it fun. It was kind of a different methodology towards approaching the game.

Designing Multiplayer First in Brutal Legend

The reason we started with multiplayer is because we knew that we knew we wanted to have it.

We're going into production, and you first have to do the scariest, most out-of-control thing--you should always tackle the hardest problem first, because you don't want to be doing those when you're right up against your deadline. We're like, "what do we know the least about? Well, we've never done multiplayer, so let's do that first."

So that was the very first thing we worked on until we felt good enough about it to--we felt like, as a team and as a company, we've done singleplayer games, we've done story, we know characters and dialog and so we're like, we don't need to prove that right off the bat. let's prove we can make a good multiplayer game. So that's what we worked on, four years ago now.

On Avoiding Publisher Problems

If you you can get a game made in a year and a half, I think you can avoid these things. That's my new goal, to try and make games quicker, because stuff happens at publishers. They merge, people change jobs, and if your new game takes three or four years to make, you're going to encounter some instability out there. So get them done quicker, I guess, that's my goal.

But also, I mean, there were things that we did that helped us weather the storm that I don't know how to recommend. Our team really cared about the game and they were really dedicated and they kept on working and no one really freaked out or lost faith in the project. I think that's just the strength of having a game that everyone believes in and everyone on the team is invested in.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Kazu Kibuishi Comic Class

Couple comic making tutorials (yeah, I went for the alliteration in the title) by Kazu Kibuishi. One on a copper page start to finish, the other on cleaning and flatting a scanned pencil page.

Oh, and here's one by Jake Parker who does Missile Mouse

*Starting to wonder if I need a few more labels for my blog, like comics, and break up story and character, and find a way to spread out the interesting links one

Miyazaki's Porco Rosso - seed comic

I'm thinking of doing a graphic novel (okay really a feature length clock punk stop motion film, which is probably impossible, so I'm thinking to start as a graphic novel, which also pretty unlikely because I have way more interests then time :P but hey, I've realized that just imagining and playing with ideas is valuable in itself, and it's not a loss if a project doesn't actually go anywhere.) Anyway, I'm wandering through Kazu Kibuishi's blog (editor of Flight, and creator of the Copper comic's which I think have a lot of heart) because I remembered him talking about working on his graphic novel Amulet and revising it a lot, multiple drafts, which is more of a fiction thing then a comics thing, because it means a lot of drawing work(he talked about it Dec '06)(and speaking of rough drafts, Craig Thompson of the masterful Blankets has a lot of examples on his blog.) I see in an interview he says: "The inspiration for the project[Flight] was the comic strip Hayao Miyazaki drew for Model Graphix magazine, called Porco Rosso. In several short comic strips about five pages in length, he told a story that became the basis for the film of the same name. After seeing that one of his best films began life as a comic strip totaling 16 pages, I wanted to find a venue to draw a comic strip in a similar manner to develop into larger projects."

Now, I knew Miyazaki sometimes drew/draws for Model Graphix Magazine (and I would love to see some of those comics) I hadn't realized that Porco Rosso started in this manner. So because the internet is AWESOME!!! I pretty quickly tracked down the comic (in french) on Ghiblicon (which is a pretty decent Miyazaki fan blog, with links to fan subs of unattainable in the states Miyazaki stuff). Here's page one, go to Ghiblicon's Post to get the rest (wish it was higher quality, but what ya gonna do?)

* yes yes I think I have already firmly established myself as a Miyazaki fan boy long ago on this blog

Friday, September 4, 2009

Photoshop Custom Brushes

Paul Lasaine who's worked on some animated films has some useful blog posts about making PS brushes that'll do the work for you.

Here's the brush sharing thread over on ConceptArt

and of course there's Daarken's vid:

Digital Painting demo's by Mercuralis

Artist named Mercuralis has been recording herself paint (and ramble) for a while. Can pick up some tricks if you sit through some. She's got some chops. Free!

Cat Pajamas. or rather Cat shorts

sorry sorry bout the title, but you have to admit "the cat's pajamas" is a sweet phrase ;P

Cat Piano is out! By The People's Republic of Animation (out of Australia) production blog. Cool style!

The Cat Piano from PRA on Vimeo.

and here's their older brother (metaphorically) Estoria do gat e da Luna by Pedro Serrazina 1995

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cameron Fielding Push Off in a Walk

Old tip from Cameron Fielding about giving a little more authenticity to a walk. (took me a while to track it down again so posting it here for quicker finding next time.)

Here's one of His vids from it.