Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Head of the House - 5 Final and Progression

Well, the Animation Mentor Polish and Portfolio term is over. :(
But now, 12 weeks later my work has improved by leaps and bounds. In the end I polished over 25 second of animation which isn't as much as I hoped when I starte (30 secs was my goal) but hey, my son was born during the term so I was a little distracted in the final weeks, :)

Much like my Get Out piece I have compiled some videos for my Head of the House shot.

Here is the "final" shot:

Here is the comparison of the final shot and where it was at the beginning of the term:

In the end I probably reanimated every single frame in the shot. I have yet to find a frame or pose the was not changed in some way. The man's excited preparation at the beginning and the entire dog walk are complete new animation.

Other major changes are the overlapping of the hands and frisbee as he jump (notice how they flow up and down after the body jumps and falls), better timing on the jumps, more exaggerated poses and heights of jumps, overlapping in the dog's tail, head, and ears, and the feet are more in sync with the music.

Finally, here is my reference.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Jay's playlist: Carol of the Final Fantasy Belles

Welcome to my playlist, where I discuss the music which is currently entertaining me. Below you will find a video, press play to begin the song and then read my feelings on the album.

This playlist is a little narcissistic since I'm the one who arranged and performed the piece, but since it is the only (recorded) piece with those qualities I'm not too worried about posting it. "Carol of the Final Fantasy Belles" is a piano arrangement which mixes Final Fantasy themes (usually the heroines/belles' themes) with Carol of the Bells and the orchestral theme to the (relatively) obscure game Parasite Eve.

My passion for playing the piano began in 1999 when I discovered sheet music for a video game piece from the game series Final Fantasy called "Tina" (or "Terra", depending on the Japanese translation). As the years went on I learned many other pieces from Final Fantasy and my other favorite composers, and when sheet music did not exist I created it.

By 2003 I had a nice repertoire of video game/George Winston/movie theme arrangements and I began noticing common themes in my favorite pieces. A few days each week I would experiment playing one piece and immediately transitioning to the next. Eventually this practice led to improvising the different the piano arrangements in one hour long mega mix each time I sat at the piano. Since it was my Senior year in college and I knew I would no longer have the opportunity to play the piano once I departed for California I decided to record myself playing my "mega mix" to archive my experiments long after I lost the ability the play at that level. The condensed version of this recording became "Carol of the Final Fantasy Belles".

My inspiration for the piece primarily comes from the piano arrangements of Tina by Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy VI Piano Collections), Carol of the Bells by George Winston (December), Parasite Eve theme Orchestral by Yoko Shimomura (Parasite Eve OST), and Carol of the Bells by Mark Hayes (a professional piano book). Also included are brief themes from Rydia (Final Fantasy IV), Mambo de Chocobo (Final Fantasy V), Aerith and Tifa (Final Fantasy VII), The Extreme (Final Fantasy VIII), Vamo alla Flamenco (Final Fantasy IX), and To Zanarkand (Final Fantasy X). During my time at Pixar the following year (while going through severe piano withdrawals) I created a nifty logo in the Ratatouille art style and wrote out sheet music which included a snippet of Eternity from Final Fantasy X-2 (don't ask).

One of these days I will own a piano again (I did purchase a weighted keyboard but it just wasn't the same) at which point I will begin my mixes again. One of my biggest disappointments is not being able to perform this piece at this level any longer. There was a time I was working with the (now mainstream) video game concert producers to perform this for a Christmas concert but, alas, I couldn't reach the performance level necessary. Martin Leung I am not. But I will always have this recording to bring me Christmas (Final Fantasy) joy each year.

Bonus Song
The following pieces are the original inspiration to Carol of the Final Fantasy Belles:

Parasite Eve theme orchestral

Carol of the Bells (George Winston)

Tina (Final Fantasy VI piano collections)

Finally, the video the inspired me to post this:

I did a search for new Carol of the Bells arrangements and games and, low and behold, one of the search returns was of a guy still playing my piece 4 years after I released it. Seeing him actually pressing the keys to perform this (and skipping some of the more difficult sections) reminds me of how crazy I really was back then. This arrangement is not easy.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Return

Well, as you have noticed this blog has not been updated since the birth of my son, Elliot, in late November. Needless to say life has been busy and I have spent the past few weeks traveling between California, Arkansas, and Texas to juggle the duel roles of taking care of family and professional work (as well as continuing to progress in my personal studies). Once 2010 rolls around I'll be able to update this site on a regular basis again, but the next few weeks are going to be crazy! But, as you may guess, I have lots to post about in all aspects of life. So stay tuned!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Elliot's first video

Elliot's first video:

Mia's first video

Raeleigh's first video

You can find more videos of Raeleigh and Mia here

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Elliot David Epperhart

Elliot came into the world at 2:30 AM on November 21, 2009:

This rest of this weekend will be spent bonding with Elliot in the hospital. Videos and updates on Monday!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Head of the House - Jump spline

After "finishing" my Get Out shot (I shall return!) I have moved on to my next shot. This one is from my animated short film which is at the top of my "projects I started that I must now finish" list. Considering how much time has passed since I last worked on this, I look at the animation and see amateur work. I bit off more than I could chew this past week for my assignment since I decided that instead of polishing my animation I would start it from scratch (plus I had to rebuild most of the scene since my files didn't survive the 2 years of transitioning from computer to computer). So while I am not at the polishing stage, I am very excited at where the shot is heading!

Here is the newest update:

Changes from the last shot:
  • Man's preparation before the jump is new
  • Feet hit the ground in sync with the music
  • The dog's walk is entirely new, no key was spared. More emphasis in the hip rotations and shoulder shifts
  • The man's head and arm arcs flow better
  • Man lands with front foot and runs to the next jump faster
  • Added more feet and spine movement in the end

Even though this shot is literally 1/3 the length of my last shot, it is more difficult. For one, I have 6 feet, 3 hip pairs, and 2 hands I have to deal with which are constantly moving on every frame (my previous shot has some nice breaks and rests when I didn't have to focus on them). But, in the end, that's the entire reason I chose this shot to work on. If my entire reel was just acting shots of a guy from the hips up as he stands around and spouts some random dialogue... well not many studios would hire me.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Jay's playlist: Dexter Soundtrack

Welcome to my playlist, where I discuss the music which is currently entertaining me. Below you will find a video, press play to begin the song and then read my feelings on the album.

One of the best written TV series of recent years (along with Friday Night Lights) is Dexter. The show is fascinating and macabre, and showcases some fantastic acting from Michael C. Hall. Much of the Dexter soundtrack accents the shows atmosphere with its somber, haunting melodies. These are mixed with lively cha-cha-chas and rumbas to match the show's Miami setting (and its large Cuban influence). While the Cuban flavor is a nice touch, it is the eerie piano themes and dark ambiance that I love in the soundtrack.

Not to mention the title theme, which may almost be to "peppy" for the series, accents the brilliant visual opening sequence that focuses on Dexter's perfect morning routine.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The power of a good discussion

This has been an interesting week for many reasons. Unfortunately, I have not been able to keep up with each of my Seinfeld calendar task this week due these reasons that have a higher priority. I will update the October results soon, though.

One of the nice aspects of this week was talking with good friends and family. Almost everyday this week I have spoken to a friend, some of whom I haven't talked to in many years, and have enjoyed every minute of it. I'm not sure why everyone decided to call this week of all weeks, but I've decided to call this week the unofficial "let's check in with Jay" week (although I have been playing phone tag with some for a few weeks and we finally connected this week). One of my friends I literally hadn't talked to (or seen) in over 10 years yet we had a discussion like no time had past at all. The conversation surprised me at how people in completely different environments and chosen career paths can end up with so much in common.

A lot has happened in the past year and the results of the events have directly led to the purpose of this blog (improvement in all aspects of life). For many years I was pretty much incommunicado to everyone around me, even those closest to me, for needless reasons. One of the positive outcomes of the year's major events has been the reconnection with my friends from different times of my life. As they say "no man is an island" and a life without friends is no life at all. Thank you to everyone who called this week (and to everyone else, call me)!


Friday, November 6, 2009

The animation month begins

This month a new animated film is released every week: A Christmas Carol, Planet 51, Fantastic Mr Fox, and The Princess and the Frog. To my knowledge, this has not happened before and is a great sign of the state of the industry. Usually we get one or two animated movies every few months with a few more in the summer. But with four films released in four weeks, the animation industry is truly growing. Which is awesome because it means more jobs for my friends and coworkers. If you haven't seen an animated film this month (or a special effects film like Twilight or 2012) go treat yourself now to some fine entertainment.

Another strange fact, not only is this the first month four animated movies have been released but it is also the first month movies with 3 different mediums of animation have been released: 2D, 3D, stop motion, and motion capture.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Raeleigh makes the call

Raeleigh is growing up so fast and doing so in such a cute fashion. I called my daughters today to talk to them about their day and say goodnight to them. Raeleigh seemed distracted as we were talking (as most 3 1/2 year olds are) so I wished her a goodnight and told her we would webcam tomorrow. Five minutes after hanging up with Raeleigh I get a call from her mother's phone which usually means we have some family business to discuss. But when I pick up the phone I hear Raeleigh laughing and yelling "I did it, I did it, Daddy look, I did it". She successfully figured out how to call me using her mother's phone and couldn't be happier. I have no idea how many people she called before reaching me, but when she did reach me it made her day. And mine.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Raeleigh in Cali: pt 4 Angels

On the final full day of Raeleigh's visit we took her to the local Discovery Museum and enjoyed the exhibits. She had a blast but that was just the beginning. That weekend was Fleet Week in San Francisco and the Navy hosted an air show. While Raeleigh enjoyed seeing all the boats and few military planes, it was the Blue Angels that really caught her attention. Sadly they did not fly too much due to limited visibility from the fog, but Raeleigh didn't care because she got to see the Blue Angels!

Monday, November 2, 2009

How to Train Your Dragon

The next Dreamworks feature has a new trailer and it is looking good!

Finally, Dreamworks chooses an actor who fits the lead character instead a marquee actor who draws in the viewers but has no actual voice acting talent. Most people don't recognize Jay Baruchel by name, but he has starred in cult favorite shows (Undeclared) and movies (Tropic Thunder)and even had a role in an Oscar winning Best Picture (Million Dollar Baby). He sounds perfect for this role. We'll see how it turns out in March!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween photos

Halloween has come and gone and this year had another great turnout of costumes at work:

And while note from my work, I love this costume is from a friend and former AM student. He just nailed the look!

Jay's playlist: Pride and Prejudice

Welcome to my playlist, where I discuss the music which is currently entertaining me. Below you will find a video, press play to begin the song and then read my feelings on the album.

In companion to this week's costume, the playlist is the soundtrack from Pride and Prejudice

The music from the 2006 movie is fairly simple yet one of the most emotional pieces I've heard. The majority of the soundtrack is performed by solo piano with an occasional orchestra accompaniment and the theme is actually performed in the movie by the characters themselves (being trained musicians trying to impress the men). The entire soundtrack hearkens back to a simpler time of the Regency era and the few non-piano pieces convey special events that were common for the era (balls, military march, etc).

Honestly, I don't have much to say about this soundtrack beyond that I absolutely adore it. If you haven't seen the movie yet and tend to enjoy your soundtracks based on the emotions they invoke then I highly recommend watching the movie before listening to the soundtrack as it is very emotional and the music accents this.

Finally, if you love this music as much as I do you will be glad to know that piano sheet music is available.

Bonus song
This bonus is from the same album as the others but it is a full orchestral arrangement of the main theme linked above.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

This is Halloween!

For the first time since I can remember I actually planned my Halloween costume months ahead of time. During the Summer, I discovered the character of Fitzwilliam Darcy while reading "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies" (and viewing non-zombie movie versions) and knew that is who I wanted to dress up as for Halloween:

Finding the costume wasn't too hard and took a little historical knowledge (not many "Darcy" costumes, but lots of "Regency era" ball costumes), the trickiest part was the homegrown requirements: at the time I had recently shaved my hair to an almost non-existent 1/2 inch length. In order to become Darcy I needed to grow both my hair and my sideburns completely out over 4 months. Since I am able to grow a thick beard in about a week, I was curious at what would happen over 4 months. In the end it wasn't long enough to match my reference photo (the likable Colin Firth) but given another month or so it could have been. My sideburns, on the other hand, were too long and I couldn't wait for them to be chopped off, especially since they whistled loudly while in the wind.

The final touch of the costume was the zombie head which was easily found at the local Spirit Halloween store. Overall the costume turned out quite well, my only disappointment was how few of my co-workers even knew who Mr. Darcy was (zombie or not). Well, that and the fact that top hats are no longer in fashion. I was informed by many a co-worker, male and female, that I totally "rocked the top hat". For once I have to agree...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Random Rants

Welcome to this edition of "random ___", where over time I collect random related items (funny videos, quotes, thoughts, etc) and post them when I have enough. This post's theme is "Quick Rants":

Why do speedometers have equal spacing when including speeds faster than I ever intend to go? I can't tell if I am going 60 in a 55 mph speed trap area because the difference between the numbers is less than a 1/8 inch, yet over 60% of the speedometer space is dedicated to speeds faster than 90 mph...

Just because someone wrote the book does not mean they have an interesting voice or the emotional range to read it for the audio recording.

Who the hell is Kayne West and why do people keep inviting him to public speaking events (and seat him close enough to take the microphone)?! In related note, the Mike Myers/Chris Tucker reactions during the telethon are wonderful "awkward moment" facial expressions reference.

Why do people distrust medical professionals so much that they believe ads claiming "single mom discovers new weight loss drug/teeth whitener/panacea/etc that doctors don't want you to know about!". Seriously, when it comes to your health why you would rather trust a single mom (who likely doesn't exist) over someone who went to school for 10+ years to study medicinal techniques developed and refined over hundreds of years?

If your car's flamboyant, cosmetic upgrades (wow, flashy spinning hubs and a car bottom one inch from the ground!) actually prevent you from driving the speed limit then maybe you shouldn't add them and/or drive your car. Especially if the upgrades cost more than the value of the car.

Facebook's new layout lists a reminder to "reconnect" with one of your random friends who hasn't been active recently. So far it has reminded me to reconnect with: a person currently in jail, a person who tragically died last year, and my dad. Thanks for the great suggestions Facebook!

24 hour news anchors: while it is technically true "some people" are "outraged" about an isolated incident that conveniently becomes an issue during a slow news week 6+ months later, it really doesn't count if "some people" are the opinion hosts (whose shows that just played before yours) trying to manufacture "outrage" to boost their ratings. Focus on reporting legit outrageous matters please, like getting rid of Kanye West...

Why does the nearest theater show the newest movies in only small Imax (LieMax) or in 3D? Both options add an extra $3-$5 to the ticket price and offer little-to-nothing to (most) movies. 9 months ago it was nearly impossible to see a movie for less than $11 here, now I can't even go to one for less than $14 unless I wait 2-3 weeks for a newer movie to kick it off the LieMax screen. I don't mind options, but don't let the luxury options prevent the standard option.

Good idea: purchasing flood insurance if you live in an area that is hit by hurricanes (even if it is every few years)
Bad idea: not buying flood insurance and blaming an insurance company for not covering your hurricane flood damage

I don't know which is worse: ads for loans/refinancing/school-financial-aid that include random videos of synchronized dancing aliens, women caught by surprise, cheerleaders falling, etc; or the fact that people actually get loans through those ads due to their selection of random, non-financial videos (why would banks continue to advertise that way if it didn't work?).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chocobo Collection Achieved!

One unwritten rule of being a geek is you have to collect something different. Anyone can collect mainstream comics, trading cards, stamps, pogs, pokemon, etc., but it takes a special collection of obscure "they actually make that?" items to truly show one's geekiness. And 9 years after beginning my collection I have finally completed it...

As mentioned many times before, one of my favorite game series is Final Fantasy and my first game in that series was Final Fantasy 7. When Square released FF7 in 1997 the game was huge. As with any new installment in a hot franchise, soon Final Fantasy 7 merchandise of all sorts appeared in various outlets.

Final Fantasy 7 included a mini-game called "Chocobo Racing and Breeding". Chocobos (cho - co - bo) are essentially giant chickens used as mounts to travel the world. Like horses, in the mini-game you train your chocobo by racing it and feeding it special grains. Then you breed your trained chocobo with another chocobo with differing skills and, with a little luck, you hatch a different colored chocobo with a new set of stronger skills. Beginning with the generic yellow chocobo, you progressively train and breed your chocobos up the color ladder (green, blue, black) until you reach the ultimate color of gold chocobo. (There was also a fat chocobo that occasionally appeared but he wasn't raceable, he just sat on enemies to assist you).

As geeky as it is to collect plush animals of video game characters, that alone wasn't geeky enough to earn my geek cred (lots of movies and cartoons have plushes after all, just visit Disneyland). No, to make this collection truly geeky it needed more obscure qualities. And these chocobos fit the bill: a. they were only released in Japan (foreign); they were a limited release in 1997 (old and rare); and they could not be purchased in stores, they were only released in "ufo catcher" toy crane machines in arcades (hard to find). That's right: I collect colored chicken video game plushes only found inside rare toy crane machines from Japanese arcades in 1997. Bam, instant geek! Woohoo!

After discovering these plushes existed in 2000 I began my search for them online. Of course the only way to find them (at least in Arkansas) at the time was on Japanese auction sites. Within months I found and purchased my first one, blue chocobo, in 2001. Through the years I kept up the search (although it did go on hiatus once I started having children save for an occasional eBay search here and there) online and at anime conventions and would come across one for sale (some were fake/knock-offs, booooo...). This week my last plush, a real black chocobo to replace my fake one, arrived and my collection is now complete after 9 years of searching!
Like Inigo Montoya, now that I am finished with my goal I really have no idea what to do next. I probably won't begin another collection anytime soon but who knows what new forms of geekery will be released in obscure locations over the next decade... Until then I am enjoying my chocobos and can't wait until my children are old enough to enjoy them and begin their own collections.