WHEN IT WAS ONLY ANIME

When I was a kid, hot on the bees of Robotech having been broadcast on television in America, me and a group of friends got together with the idea that we were really going to build an amazing robot. Granted, back then, we had no idea of the billions of dollars in research and development that would be necessary to pull such a feat off, nor the physics knowledge necessary to make a huge bipedal machine stand or walk. We were simply going to do it, because that’s what we want to do.

When I got older, I eventually went on to study mechanical engineering in university, still holding on to this idea that I would create amazing robot technology. At this time, however, I had also already been introduced to CGI and was slowly developing techniques that would allow a single artist to make their own anime. It soon dawned on me that what I really wanted to do was learn how to draw anime about cool robots rather than make them for real. After all, the technology just wasn’t there. The cool stuff I envisioned was never going to happen in my lifetime, right?



Fast forward a number of years and I eat crow. Of course, the exoskeleton above, from the Japanese startup company Skeletonics, is far from the amazing robots of anime, but I think that is an important point. This product is being created solely for entertainment purposes. It is a toy, for people who probably had visions, like me and my friends did when we were kids, except now they can get in a cool suit and really play those visions out. Their plan is to sell these suits to vendors, rather than individual users, and those vendors could rent them out to people, for an hour or two, to play with. This is by no means, however, meant to imply that the real stuff isn’t happening.



As I mentioned in Anigen II, companies like Boston Dynamics, in the USA, and Perceptual Robotics Laboratory in Italy, whose video you see above, are making it happen for real! The robot exoskeleton pictured in the video above is truly a mechanical wonder, giving the user super human strength. IT would, for example, allow the user to life extremely heavy items and control them with accuracy if the user were, for example, working on an aircraft. It has been claimed that companies in this field are experimenting with directly controlling the technology from the user’s brain.



In Japan, there is another robot creator who makes no secret of his sci-fi influences. He called his lab CyberDyne and was inspired as child by novels such as I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov and the anime TV series Cyborg 009. This creator is Professor Yoshiyuki Sankai of Tsukuba University. His robot suit, unabashedly called HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) , is the epitome of bringing anime and sci-fi into the real world. Built on the idea that the brain sends tiny electrical signals to the muscles of the body, his suit can analyze these signals and perform its tasks. It also greatly increases the wearers strength.

Professor Sankai’s robot suit also contains complex programming related to A.I. which works in conjunction with the analysis of signals from the brain. This means that if the user, for example, had lost the use of their legs, the suit would be able to compensate for that and being able to perform the tasks given the legs via electrical impulses received from the user. That is a huge difference in comparison to other such robot suits currently in development. In fact, that sounds a lot more like something out of an anime such as Ghost in the Shell.

While Professor Sankai can’t name names, he has been contacted by certain militaries who would desire to gain his technology for use in future weapons. The idea would be to use his HAL suit to create what is essentially a super soldier. If that isn’t an anime story waiting to happen, I don’t know what is. Luckily, the Professor believes that robot technology should be used to help people, allow the elderly to work, or the disabled to walk and function. He does not believe it should be used to hurt or kill people. For this reason, he has refused such offers.

Even though I personally chose to learn how to draw anime about the technology of the future, rather than pursue a career trying to build it for real, it is happening. Stories right out of science films are playing out right here in the real world today. While I don’t see myself attempting to return to that field in any real sense. I would definitely like to further explore these concepts through my own art.
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ROCKING THE INDUSTRY

When we look at the world of animation, the thing that usually comes first to mind are the big films. By this I mean the $100 million or more epic features like Big Hero 6 or How to Train Your Dragon 2. We hear and dream about the big studios behind these features and consider the large sums of money being thrown around in their creation. We gasp at the fate of big animation executives like Dreamworks Founder and CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, whose salary was recently cut by over half, and how he must now struggle on a mere $6.4 million per year. Nevermind that a few whole movies could be made on that money, which is less than 10% of what is being spent by the majors.

As an independent creator, you need to get your head squarely and completely out of those clouds. We are not a part of that game. Trying to get into or become a part of that game is nearly an exercise in futility. You need to create your own game.

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A perfect example of this is the indie creator Signe Baumane and her recent micro-budget feature film Rocks in my Pockets. This film was apparently on the short list for the Oscars, but was not nominated in the end. Being a realistic tale about depression and suicide, based on true events, maybe it was too indie for them. While many Hollywood animated features are little different than live action blockbusters, she travels the paths that only animation can travel. She spoke about this not long ago in an interview with Vice.

“Telling that amount of history in a live action film is nearly impossible. Showing how a person feels from inside, how depression works from inside, is also nearly impossible in live action.

Do you remember that film A Beautiful Mind about the mathematician who went crazy? To depict his state of mind, they used blurry spinning images. This is all the language you have in live action. In animation it's different; you can just walk into a person's mind and you can show everything going on in there. In animation you're free to do anything you want.”

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Is this really true? Of course we know it is, but you might not think so looking at the big films in the industry. They are just as formulaic and, in some ways, lacking in artistry as any Hollywood Blockbuster. For the indie, any attempt to mimic that would be a recipe for disaster. This is a notion of which I am often reminded by independent animation veteran Paul Fierlinger, who has long been advising me to put more realism and more of myself into my work. He is adamant that the indie trying to directly compete with Hollywood, or anime, or anything else mainstream will find themselves without an audience. Signe Baumane certainly has her style and definitely speaks from her heart in her films. This makes them decidedly different than the mainstream.

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“...what really bums me out is that animation is misunderstood as a medium for children; this makes me really upset. Animation has been around for ages, it was the first moving images. Then sometime around the 1920s, it was hijacked by children.”

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THE END

This is the end of this blog. This is the final post. The basic reason is that I have used Mac based tools to create this site and it ties me to this one computer by which to update it. The thing is, when I am at this computer, at my desk, I don't want to write, nor am I thinking about doing so. Now that I have a tablet computer, and in it a 3G sim card, I want the power and freedom to update from anywhere, in the moment, when the action is occurring. Thus, I give you a new blog. Indie Life!

Indie Life, a new blog
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THE MODO SHADER TREE

The Modo Shader Tree

The modo 601 shader tree can be a very powerful tool once that power is unlocked. Combined with the vast array of procedural textures that modo ships with, the shader tree allows for the possibility of adding untold realism to your CG creations without the limitations often associated with traditional texturing methods. To that end, I have created a new video with which you will go deep into the processes which make the shader tree such a powerful tool, and learn how you can take advantage of it to add incredible detail, weathering and realism to anything you wish to create!
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FORGETTING THE RULES

Blood Shower, original short shows how to draw anime

Following up on the email I sent out concerning forgetting the rules, I really did something. After looking at the little clips and shorts that Kevin "Q" Quattro had done, I really got inspired. For those who were unable to find his Youtube page, you can search under the name "pixelsmack". His short videos and animations are sometimes funny, sometimes serious, sometimes just expressing an idea. It's the idea that's the important thing. With that in mind, I decided to just make something.

You can see it on its own media page by clicking here.
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