Thursday, April 29, 2010

Guitar jam achieved!

Today was another first for me: I played in guitar jam. A few people at work also play guitars (including the CEO) and so they brought them into work today, passed out music, and we jammed during lunch. Our repertoire ranged everywhere from The Beatles, to Bob Dylan, to Van Morrison, to Elvis, to Richard Berry, and more. the group consisted of 3 guitars (2 acoustic, 1 electric), 1 bass, an electronic piano, and a drummer. One of the players has his own band and knows lyrics to many songs of the past 50 years so he took lead vocals (although I think he made up most of the lyrics to "Louis, Louis", but then again, so did Richard Berry). Overall we had an awesome time and will definitely do it again!

No recording or photos today, but maybe next time!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Super Mario Crossover

If you are a child of the 80's you may remember the many fun games on the Nintendo: Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Contra, Megaman, Castlevania, etc. But did you ever wonder what would happen if the characters of those games ever swapped places? Well someone did, and the result of that experiment is Super Mario Crossover:

The flash game (you can play it in the link above) is the entire game of Super Mario Bros. for the NES. But now instead of playing only as Mario and you can choose from a roster of other characters complete with their own signature moves from their games. While the levels remain the same, the sound effects and music will change depending on the character you play as. And yes, all the moves of the characters remain the same. Suddenly, I realize Mario came ill-prepared to the Mushroom kingdom with his only way of killing enemies consisting of jumping on them or (if he was lucky) shooting a small fireball at him. Instead, he needed to bring a large spread machine gun (like Bill from Contra) or an arm cannon like Megaman and Samus.

Let's hope this begins a new trend of playable game crossovers beyond the videos previously shown.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Salmon and Pineapple Salsa

My next culinary experiment introduced me to the world of non-tomato based salsa (something unheard of by this Texan):

Salmon and Pineapple Salsa

The salmon was easy to cook and didn't require anything too odd in preparation. I was more worried about ruining a delicious salmon steak by covering it in a "salsa" the consisted of mostly pineapple and soy sauce.

I am not a fan of soy sauce, and I only like Pineapple as a standalone fruit or drink. Sweet pineapple on a pizza, ham, chicken, starch, or pretty much anything that is not sweet naturally ruins that food for me. But this salsa required the pineapples be grilled with onions/jalapenos and mixed with reduced orange juice prior to mixing them with meat, so I hoped those actions would tame the sweetness enough where it wouldn't overrun the taste of the salmon.

In the end, I was really impressed with the so-called tomato-less salsa. It was good enough (and spicy enough) that I dipped chips into it like a "real" salsa. And it went well with the salmon. I don' think I would eat the salsa too often and I still prefer the more traditional Tex-mex variety when it comes to snacking, but I did learn that mixing some of your least favorite ingredients can create a delicious dip.


A great short from a talented grad of Animation Mentor!

Helium. from Daniele Zannone on Vimeo.

The variety of facial expressions in this are amazing, and the simplicity of the short (essentially 2 characters and one object, no other sets needed). Plus a little morbid humor to end it all. Great job Daniele!

Monday, April 26, 2010

April with Daddy: pt 3

The girls enjoyed a wonderful time searching for Easter Eggs. I hid some eggsin hard places for the eldest daughter and made some eggs quite obvious for the 2 year old. But wouldn't you know it, the first eggs the older one found were the easiest ones meant for her younger sister. We ended up cheating and pointing at the harder ones for the little one.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Modern Vintage

I sense a new trend...
Check out these two ads to see it:

Man, the 80's had some weird commercials, didn't they? These ads bring back some awesome memories of these toys...
Or do they?

Well if they do, they aren't real toy memories. Because these two "80's" ads were created for products that came out in 2010! Lots-o-Huggin Bear is another used toy at the daycare in Toy Story 3 (and he briefly appeared in Up too), and Mega Man 10 is a new game created for nostalgic gamers which looks and plays like 80's entries of the franchise.

The creators of these ads recreated the 80's feel perfectly. The ads come complete with recorded vhs distortion, cheesy soundtracks, 80's apparel, and fake sitcom closers found on many 80's series. Gotta love the creativity, and determination, of these ad agencies!

Bonus: Lotso has a Japanese counterpart it seems...

I didn't watch much Japanese television ads as a child but I assume they weren't too far from this.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Head of the House - 3 blocking to spline

As mentioned before, I am finishing/completely overhauling my short one scene at a time.

I recently completely recreated scene 3 with new acting reference (essentially starting the scene from scratch). Below is the first pass of my blocking (planning poses without getting too detailed in the movements between) as I go into splining (figuring out the movements between the poses, focusing on smaller movements to complete the action).

It is a start! Again, for the non-animators this is just the very beginning of a shot which is why it looks rough. I probably have another 10-30 hours of work to go into this. Once it is "finished" I will post a comparison to see how much it changed!

You can see the original shot here, roughly at the 20 second mark.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Conan is in town

This weekend Conan O'Brien came to SF for his "Legally Prohibited from Appearing on Television" tour (the title is literally true, he is not allowed to be on television for few months after leaving the Tonight Show). The show was hilarious, but also very similar to his TV shows without trying anything new. I was hoping to see an uncensored/unrestrained Conan but save for a few curse words he was the same guy that I watched on TV. Which is fine because I laughed throughout the entire show. Unfortunately, there were no big name guest stars on this part of the show. The very next night Conan played in LA and had a special guest:

Oh well, it was still an awesome show. You can see the beginning of it here, and I'm sure eventually it will be broadcast online or on DVD.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Layout!

Yay! After months of dealing with the smaller proportions of this site which couldn't even fit a normal sized video I have finally torn apart the code and updated it! Most readers probably won't notice the difference, but the blog is now 190 pixels wider and can fit larger photos and videos. While this may seem like an easy fix, it is actually quite tedious because everything on this page, beyond the overall background color, is an specific-sized image. And once you widen the tables suddenly the background images won't fit and look odd. See those curves on each of the pieces above and to the side? How about the border lines on each side of this section? And the logo fade to the calendar above? Those are images that needed to be recreated and updated. Basically, in order to complete the simple task of widening this website I had to update about 10 images, upload them to a server, and then replace all the code which referenced them, as well as redo the buffer portions so everything fit just right. And all of this without a manual or guide anywhere.

Anyways, it wasn't hard exactly, just time consuming and a lot of guess and check is involved. But at least now I can show video without having to manually changing the sizes so they fit a smaller area!

In celebration, here is a random youtube video that wouldn't have fit normally:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Jay's Playlist: Kick-Ass score (sorta)

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.

Today's music is the score selections from the soundtrack to Kick-Ass (well not quite, read below)

(Warehouse scene)
Whenever movies release soundtrack albums and soundtrack scores I usually choose the scores. Most of the time the albums have a selection of current day pop music that will be forgotten in a few years, although a few albums from decade-specific movies (such as Dazed and Confused or Forrest Gump) have a nice "best of the decade" mix. Another bonus about score albums is it is new music, the score to a move is composed specifically for that movie and beyond hearing it in the movie you won't find it anywhere else.

While watching Kick-Ass, I noticed a lot of non-score song selections and assumed the movie would be an album-only soundtrack. But a few times some amazing score music played and I knew I had to find the soundtrack as well. Yet when I tried to find the score online I could only find an the album and not a single mention of the score music even on the album. "How odd" I though, "I know I heard score music but why doesn't it exist anywhere". Only by stumbling onto another movie's soundtrack on youtube did I find the answer: there is no new score music to Kick-Ass, the score pieces used in the movie are from other movies' soundtracks!

(burning daddy scene)

The soundtracks are usually added as one of the final pieces to a film. A composer needs to see the (near) final movie in order to be inspired and even time the music to the actions on screen. But when the movie has test screenings they need to add a temp soundtrack so the editor throw some temporary music on the film which is usually from other films. And, in some cases, the directors like they mood of the temp music so much they ask their composers to create themes similar to the temp music. Case in point: below you will find the soundtrack to King's Row (1942) which was used as a temp track to the original Star Wars:

Suddenly the Star Wars (or Superman) theme doesn't sound so original.
Anyways, from what I've gathered, the director to Kick-Ass liked the temp tracks (from the movies 28 Days Later and Sunshine, among others) so much that rather than have a new composer imitate them he just paid the original composers to re-use the same music just like they were radio hits from years past. As such, the score to Kick-Ass is actually a "best of other movies scores", and I quite like it! I haven't found all the score pieces used, I will have to wait for the DVD to listen to everything, but if they others used as as good as these two then I need to check out some awesome soundtracks I may have missed!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Earthquakes are all around!

Living in San Francisco I have to deal with earthquakes. Even worse, I have to deal with irrational fear mongering claiming such-and-such reason proves the "big one" is imminent. The past month or so has been even worse than normal as the topic has come up often in various conversations. I was curious as to why this was, that is until I turned on the TV (a rare occurrence for me nowadays). Based on news coverage, it seems like everyday there is a new story about a medium-to-large earthquake happening somewhere in the world (and the more impoverished or damaged the area, the more news coverage it gets).

And you know what? They are right, everyday an earthquake ranging between 5.0-8.0 does happen!

The only difference between this year and previous years is the news companies decided to actually report about the earthquakes because that is how they earn money. While covering the tragic earthquake in Haiti this year, news organizations (aka businesses) gained lots of sympathetic viewers. Suddenly, earthquake coverage became a commodity and any time an earthquake happened somewhat close to a susceptible urban area the news organizations made a big deal out of it. Yet 5.0 earthquakes happen almost four times a day, and an earthquake ranging from 6.0 - 9.0 happens roughly once every three days. There aren't more earthquakes happening, there is just more news coverage of the normal amount of earthquakes.

Look at the chart below from the US Geological Survey (the world's expert in earthquake tracking):

Magnitude 2000

2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
8.0 to 9.9 1

101 2 1 2 4 0 1 1
7.0 to 7.9 14

151314 14 10 9 14 12 16 5
6.0 to 6.9 146

121127140 141 140 142 178 168 142 67
5.0 to 5.9 1344

122412011203 1515 1693 1712 2074 1768 1754 785

Monday, April 19, 2010

April with Daddy pt 2

Kids got to play outside, it was such a beautiful day. Even little Elliot was able to enjoy the weather. Mia played fetch while Raeleigh helped Elliot find his bottle...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Geek Fact no more

One of my odder talents is the retention of random movie facts and trivia. While mildly entertaining at parties (and "Scene It" games), this skill never offered any real-world application. That is until Animation Mentor decided to add a "Geek Corner" section to their monthly newsletter...

For over 3 years I wrote a monthly Geek Fact usually involving a movie or game released that month. Since I was already searching and internalizing this information (and spouting it off to my coworkers) the newsletter team asked me to write them down and after 3 years I have quite a collection. But, as with all publications, the newsletter recently went through a redesign to be more efficient (and lets face it, 2006 design trends look so old in 2010) and this most recent redesign no longer had a place for a Geek Fact.

So in remembrance of the facts de geek, here is my 3+ year collection of delicious movie-related morsels. And remember, most of these were written the month a movie/DVD was released, so some of the facts may seem outdated ("In this months release of TMNT") or the records may no longer be correct (both Transformers and then Transformers 2 topped the same records).

In no particular order:

Did you know that to gather reference for Pixar's Ratatouille, producers and artists ate at famous Parisian restaurants and toured their kitchens? Chefs also visited the studio and cooked the entrees depicted in the movie (including the title dish); and pet rats were kept in the artist's area for inspiration!

Did you know that Dumbo is the only Disney animated film where the title character does not have spoken dialogue?

Did you know ILM's visual effects in Iron Man were so convincing as the real thing that the film's director, Jon Favreau, once gave ILM notes to improve their VFX in a scene only to be notified that the scene was all practical effects that he filmed on set?

In Pixar’s movie repertoire… Preceding “Cars” is a Brad Bird film (The Incredibles), an Andrew Stanton film (Finding Nemo), a Pete Docter film (Monsters Inc), and Toy Story 2. Following “Cars” is a Brad Bird film (Ratatouille), an Andrew Stanton film (Wall E), a Pete Docter film (Up), and Toy Story 3.

Did you know that while Horton Hears Who may be the first computer animated Dr Seuss story, it is the second Dr. Seuss movie to star Jim Carrey (How the Grinch stole Christmas), the second computer animated movie to star Steve Carell (Over the Hedge), and the second movie to star both Jim Carrey and Steve Carell (Bruce Almighty)!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Epic everything

Sometimes artists create pieces of work that serve no purpose other than to mix some of the most epic characters/creatures/machines in the same painting. This week I've randomly come across three separate pieces done in this fashion so it that was message enough to convince me to make a post about them:

If this one doesn't make you feel patriotic, there is something wrong with you:
"George Washington defending a American flag from a Bengal Tiger on a sinking boat in the middle of a hurricane"

by SharpWriter

This logo is for a bowling event...

As far as I can tell, that is a silhouette of an angel on top of a unicorn with lightning for a horn surrounded by various weapons, a shark with an assault rifle, a manatee with nunchuks, and a t-rex with a hatchet. The website also includes a bald eagle, jets, and a stunt motorcycle.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Junk Dip and babies

This week we hosted a baby shower (or, as the converted birthday sign labels it, a "happy birthbaby"party) for one of our co-workers . We love celebrations in the office, especially since it gives us a reason to have a potluck and a few employees are semi-gourmet chefs. Food is a big deal in our office, so much so that one of our Christmas Party gifts was a company recipe book with each of the employees' favorite dishes in it. I contributed my favorite "junk dip" to the food table and received positive feedback on it. Beyond the usual red tomatoes, avocado, and onions I added my own touches of artichoke hearts, multi-colored heirloom tomatoes, and fresh habanero peppers.

I learned valuable lessons with that last ingredient: a single seed can burn your mouth for 20+ minutes; hiding 7 seeds in a 10 person serving (surprise spice!) is a great way to scare away those with a mild tolerance of heat; and the oil from slicing habaneros does not wash off. And while the habanero oil may not burn/agitate your fingers-calloused-from-guitar-playing, it will remain on your hands for hours patiently waiting for you to transfer it to more sensitive skin by casually rubbing your eyes or scratching non-calloused itches. Then it burns like fire of a million suns. That level of pain creates a lesson you only have to learn once. But I digress...

The baby shower came complete with entertaining/humiliating games. The organizers provided eight jars of unlabeled baby food and offered prizes to those of us who could identify them by taste. I excused myself from the tasting due to the fact that my mouth burned from the latest surprise habanero seed, but even if I had participated there was no way I could identify a paste with a flavor as obscure as "hawaiian chicken", "pumpkin and squash", or "grandma's turkey dinner". I can barely identify flavors in the meals I cook, and I know the actual ingredients I put in them and can feel the textures...

Overall, a great time was had by all! And congrats to the parents-to-be!

Dogs in slow motion

Finishing my mini-theme of dogs this week is this great reference video shot at 1000 frames per second. As an animator I am always looking for great reference that may help with a future shot, and having slow motion reference is invaluable. Even though we are animating video which plays at 24 fps we have to create it one frame at a time so seeing minor movements played slowly helps us create better animation. I would have never added a "floppy toe" overlap to a dog jumping, but seeing them at 0:39 helped me realize that there is so much more to add to a jump:

That is one happy dog at 0:57!

Jay's Playlist: Wolf's Rain (Orchestral)

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.

Today's music is the orchestral selections from the soundtrack to Wolf's Rain by Yoko Kanno:

Wolf's Rain depicts wolves, who can take human form, searching for paradise at the end of the world. The animated series' accompanying soundtrack by Yoko Kanno is diverse; the influences range from Brazilian guitar, to techno rock, to peaceful orchestrations. This post discusses only the latter style but hints of the previous influences will be apparent. The above piece works as the theme of the series, and although the middle does contain a few annoying ambient sound effects in my opinion), the emotion rings throughout its entirety. Maybe the nostalgia of the story's emotional high points overtakes me, but I cannot listen to the build up and resolution of this piece at 3:30 without partially tearing up. (plus, isn't that wolf puppy cute?)

Yoko Kanno is one of the greatest composers living today. I am constantly amazed by the breadth of her compositions skills. Her works span multiple genres and each one seems fresh. One of my favorite soundtracks (and future Playlist topic) is Cowboy Bebop, and the interesting story behind it is the producers of the series asked Ms. Kanno to write music in every genre she could before they even animated the series. Once she finished composing they animated to her music and created one of the most intriguing anime series to date. Wolf's Rain focuses her genres to the few listed above and once again she astounds me with her skill in the international flavors of music. Her Brazilian guitar pieces (partially sampled above) feel like they came out of Rio.

While the pieces selected for this playlist may seem sad (or sad-but-driving) they are actually balanced out by other themes in the 44 piece soundtrack which I am saving for a future date. The below piece is one of my favorites and depicts the friendships the wolves develop over the course of the series:

Bonus track: Before Yoko Kanno scored for anime and film she composed for video games. Luckily, the games she was assigned allowed your to use recorded music rather than synthesizer music (back when the games were small enough to fit on a CD and still have plenty of room for recorded music on the disc). Even then she loved using the guitar and one my favorite pieces of hers was this Sailor pub music from Uncharted Waters 2:

I only found this piece by accident. On a whim, I listened to Japanese soundtracks to games I never played and when I heard this piece I couldn't get it out of my mind. When I decided to use it for my short film years later I looked up the original composer from the 90's and was startled to find it was composed by a young Yoko Kanno!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Head of the House - Let's do this thing!

The short film: the art student's dream/nightmare. Almost every animation/film student creates a short film, either as their final project or for personal pleasure. For some, this is their dream - an opportunity to create and entire tale that is entirely their own and do with it as they please (a luxury that is not given to animators working on a commercial film). For others, the short film looms ahead as an impassable mountain; those animators just want scenes to animate and don't want the hassle of story creation/layout and the long nights of animating more frames than any sane person would volunteer for. For me, well... I was a little of column A, and little of column B.

Monday, April 12, 2010

April with Daddy: pt 1

The girls loved my hat when the saw me and wanted to wear it. Since I only had one hat there was some disagreement on who got to wear it, but I needed another hat anyways so we went to the store and picked up another one. The entire time Raeleigh was wearing my hat Mia kept asking "daddy, hat, daddy, hat" meaning she wanted one of daddy's hats too. Once the new one was purchased it went straight onto her head and all was good in the world! Raeleigh also showed off her drawing skills by drawing a portrait of me with my hat:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Vibram Five Fingers

Over the past year, I ran in numerous neighborhoods and parks and enjoyed my own improvements and triumphs over the time. A few months ago, my studies of running techniques brought my attention to some interesting facts: the human foot does not need a trendy, padded sole in order to run properly. Actually, the running shoe (a relatively recent invention), encourages people to run improperly by hitting with their heel first. The impact of this running style distributes force in correctly and hurts the knew and shin. The foot is built in a such a way that the ball and arch of the foot absorb the impact before spreading the remainder of the force to the leg. While padded shoes do absorb impact, the actual force placed on the knee is higher than when running barefoot.

My friend Alexiss wrote about this subject and found great reference illustrating this:

I'm sure you are asking "We know that running barefoot is actually better for the legs, what do we do about it? Have you seen the ground outside? There is all kinds of stuff out there that can hurt our delicate little feet. What do we do?" Well, that is where the Vibram Five Fingers shoes come in:

These shoes let you feel the ground just like you were running on bare feet, but protect your feet from sharp objects and surfaces of varying temperatures. I've been running in them for a little while now and you really can feel the different types of ground beneath you. I will occasionally go off track and run on different surfaces to feel them out. And now, running on concrete sidewalks just doesn't work for me so I find myself searching for new paths that are a little gentler. Also, now that I feel every impact I naturally started running one the balls of my feet which has taken some time to get used to. The shoes also force your toes to spread apart into a more natural formation, up until now my pinky toe has been squished next to my "ring" and these shoes finally forcing to carry its (my) own weight. My full report on running with these shoes will appear later this week, but I highly recommend them!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

GDC Newsletter article

Animation Mentor releases a newsletter each month with animation interviews, news, tips, and tricks. Last month, I attended the Game Developers Conference and was surprised at how few animation students/alumni I saw at the convention. So I did what I normally do when I am passionate about a subject that more people should know about: I wrote about it.

But, unlike my intentions for this blog, I wanted a large and animation-specific audience so I wrote my impressions for the AM Newsletter. This is not the first time I wrote an article for the newsletter, but it has been quite a few years. I think it may be time to write a little more often, there is so much to share!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Nic Cage teaches overacting (unintentionally)

When acting out dialog an animator (or actor) may tend accent every syllable or action with a pose or hand gesture. This is an easy trap to fall into because once we force ourselves to think and analyze conversations, especially when breaking it down to 24 fps, we no longer act "naturally" and tend to add movements and gestures no person would actually do in real conversation. You end up creating a scene with so many accents that nothing stands out and one which confuses the viewers, or worse, takes them out of the movie completely. Watch the clip below of Nic Cage over emphasizing:

"Not one time!"

Remember kids, overacting is bad! (Although it can be quite funny once taken out of the movie and shown to the world)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Nic Cage as everyone!

As odd as it may sound, this week as been an unplanned "theme week" for my posts. Beginning with the Face/Off reference in the "How to Train Your Dragon" soundtrack, going through the Kick-Ass Premiere and Wondercon preview, and ending with tomorrows interesting reference material, this week has had a Nicolas Cage theme. And I didn't plan that. It just so happens that there is a lot of Nic Cage material out there and somehow it came across my browser more this week than it has in the past 7 months.

But the ultimate collection of Nic Cage humor is here:


(a smaller collection of pics can be found here too)

For some reason, the internet mobs decided to take Nic Cage's face and insert it into (in)famous people/characters. The results vary, but here are a few of my favorites:

Wondercon: Celebs

More pictures from Wondercon this past weekend, these are of the stars who attended the convention. We took our seats in the main hall at 11 AM (after buying a day's worth of food at the local grocery store) in order to get the best seats for all the presentations throughout the day. Even though we were there hours before the presentations, the place was almost completely full (over 4000 people). We did get good seats at the very front but we were directly in front of the video screen and not in front of the actual stars. After every presentation either James or myself would get up and try to find a newly vacated seat and it took us almost 5 hours to get better seats, just in time for the Kick-Ass panel. I feel sorry for people who want to see the presentations and only showed up early by 3 hours or less because they did not see anything...

The movies presented were:

Prince of Persia
Sorcerer's Apprentice
Toy Story 3
The Losers
A Nightmare on Elm St
Resident Evil 4

plus a few screenings of shows like V, Fringe, Human Target, and Happy Town (which was pretty cool).

You can find more info from James!