PARAGON

Paragon, original, 3D, cel shaded, anime Series Premiere Poster

After a long hiatus from any independent creative endeavors, I am finally back with a new animated series. I took many turns and went down many paths that didn't lead to what I really wanted to do for ages, but I finally found my place again. My current goal is to make this series weekly. Because of other commitments, that may not be possible as yet, so I will say, for the moment, that I will get the episodes out as fast as I can. Anyway, check it out!
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A WORLD WITHOUT JOBS

Steve Job and the iPad
No, this is not an article about the severe economic downturn in the U.S. and the rising rate of unemployment. This is about the official resignation of Apple CEO Steve Jobs and what that might mean for me, the world of computing, and the future of consumer electronics. It's no secret that Steve Jobs has been ill for quite some time. There have even been rumors of his demise, though unfounded. After three leaves of absence in the last few years, now it seems Jobs is gone for good.

This is quite a personal issue for me. It's not because I am a card carrying Apple fan. I'll tell my Apple story later. It's because Steve Jobs is a model of independent success. He is not an animator, of course, but his story follows a creative path that those of us who want to contribute something to the world via our ideas could only dream of. As someone who intensely studies the mechanics of success, through stories like that of Jobs and other visionary CEOs like Henry Ford, this raises some very important questions and strong emotional reactions for me.

First let me tell my Apple story. I was never a big fan of Apple. I got my start in the late 1980s on a computer called The Commodore Amiga. This followed my introduction to computers with the previous Commodore 64. This Amiga computer was light years ahead of its time. I could do much of what I am doing today that, now, 20 year old machine.

Apple computers were, of course, in existence back then. I would inevitably, in the world of computing in that day, run into the professors of the Mac religion, touting how their computer had more colors, or better fonts, or whatever might have been the case. I admit, I saw some impressive graphics, especially since Macs were really coming to prominence in the print advertising world at that time, but I didn't see anything that led me to believe I could make what I wanted to make on those computers. Even some of the software that allows me to do the shows I do today, like Lightwave and TVPaint, were around on the Amiga so many years ago, and got their start there.

In the early 1990's the Amiga died out. It was time to embrace something new and different. The world as whole seemed to have moved in the direction of Windows, and so did I. It would be almost ten years before I regained the ability to do everything I wanted to do again. Starting in the horrid Windows 3.1 I felt like I had lost an arm.

Over time, each version of Windows improved, and the software I knew and loved began to migrate to this platform. Before long, I was able to create again, and had all the power I once enjoyed to do full video with sound and editing and music. This was thanks, in large part to the advent of MiniDV. Not long after, I created Understanding Chaos.

Over the years I continued to grow with Windows, refining my workflow, gaining efficiency, and dreaming of creating new things. I was not wholly unaware of Apple and the Mac. There was a MAc guy working in one of the studios, who often touted the greatness of his chosen platform. He was often the guy who got the most jokes thrown at his computing preference. I also was already using iTunes, and Apple product, for my music and organizing my sound FX libraries. It is because of iTunes, actually, that things changed drastically.

There came a time when I wanted to do a series called Anigen. I wanted this series to be in the form of a video podcast, properly synched with iTunes and easily downloadable to supported devices. Me and a friend of mine struggled to figure out how to make all this happen using out Windows computers and software. We worked on it until 5:00 AM in the morning and never saw any progress. The next day, in the studio, I mentioned to that Mac guy we always laughed at what I was trying to do. He said something like, "Oh, that's easy!" He was already sitting at his Macbook Pro, and he opened some different iLife tools and did everything we were struggling all night to do in about two minutes. That very day, I went to the Apple store and bought my first Mac.

The Mac Mini
I didn't completely switch over. For years I ran both, using the Mac for what it was good at and continuing my workflow on the PCs I had always used. I also did my 2D animation on a WIndows based Tablet PC. Over time, though, I began migrating more and more tasks to the Mac, and things got better and better. I didn't have a plan to give up Windows, but when it came time for my travels to begin, I could only take one computer with me. I had to choose. Because of all that had transpired, including buying an iPhone somewhere in there, and where my workflow was at that point, I chose to go with the Mac.

So that's my Apple story. It doesn't seem to have a lot to do with Steve Jobs, right? Well, let's look at some aspects of that. First, I still very clearly remember the emotional impact of the death of the Amiga computer. In many ways that changed my life. It seemed to sidetrack my dream of creating. In the first couple of years, there was no more Lightwave, no more TVPaint and no equivalent software that, at least not that I saw as viable, with which I could continue. I was handicapped.

I should say, at this point, I do not expect Apple to suddenly die off like the Amiga did. I believe they are in good hands with Tim Cook, the former COO running things. I do however, believe that, over time, things will change. Things must change. Right now, though, as I have reached my highest level of productivity and the greatest workflow I could ever devise, I don't really want things to change, not anytime soon anyway. While it is true that all the major tools I use, like TVPaint, Vue, Poser, modo and others, exist on Windows, and the latest versions of WIndows are being touted as quite amazing, there would still be an inevitable downtime during transition. Worse, I don't see anything resembling iLife, which is really the glue that makes me current workflow as strong as it is. Everything talks to each other and is able to share data seamlessly. I would seriously miss that and feel, again, handicapped without an alternative.

Although that issue is something of a worry, it is not a huge deal. I have transitioned before and came out unscathed for the most part. The other issue, relating to Steve Jobs, is WHY he is resigning. It is because of his health. As I mentioned before, I am somewhat who intensely studies success and follows the stories of those, especially in any kind of creative field of endeavor, who have achieved success. The story of the self made man who puts everything into building success, but loses his health in the process is far too common. Is it a prerequisite? This is about finding balance. We all know that Jim Henson (The Muppets, The Dark Crystal) dies of an illness that is hardly life threatening in this day and age, but he died because he refused to stop working, take a rest, and go get treatment.

I have been working hard for many years to build a dream. Right now, it seems like I am working 16 or more hours every day. I am lucky to get 6 hours of sleep, and, in fact, rarely do. I have been told I am destroying my health and making myself old too fast. So how does one find the balance? My way has always been by improving my workflow, gaining efficiency and leveraging technology to make the impossible a reality. Is it enough? That remains to be seen. I certainly have no desire to work like this for the rest of my life, long or short. I know what my ideal life would be like and I am doing this now in order to get there, but what if when I get there I am already fit for the wheelchair? These issues of work/life balance have been of greet concern to me for a long time.

Although I don't have all the answers, and I doubt Steve Jobs does either, there is another issue surrounding this story, which I have to mention

THE HATE

What is with all the hate? Reading the comments indifferent news sites and blogs concerning this story, I am astounded at the amount of hate being directed at Steve Jobs. While I understand that no one can please everyone, and I myself have stopped even concerning myself with it, why would people actually wish this man dead, and his company gone? That, to me, is unfathomable.

Indiana Jones 4
Do people hate success? I have long given up on trying to please everyone out there. I would rather make my things and let those who are looking for that find it. Look at George Lucas and his new Star Wars films, or even the venerated Spielberg and the recent Indy sequel. All great successes and yet the amount of hate directed at them is astounding. There is even an unreasonable amount of hate directed at James Cameron and his Avatar, which may be the most successful film of all time. It's a battle you can't win. I have seen that clearly in the internet age.

For this reason I will do what makes me happy. By that I mean where the doing is what makes me happy without caring about the result. It may sound like strange proposition, but that is one thing I have found in common with all the successful people I have studied. Steve Jobs worked so long and hard, perhaps too hard, because he loved what he did and reveled in every second of it. I want this same thing, though I also desire to keep my health while doing so.
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SOMETHING NEW AND IMPROVED

You Wanna Learn How to Draw Manga?

Click the image above and you'll be taken to my media page where you'll find a new video, based on a new idea that recently came to me. It might be more apt to say that resurfaced, since I may have mentioned this before. The idea here is whether or not we sometimes have too much reliance on the tools. Don't get me wrong. Great tools allow us to do what was once impossible, but I am talking about if one doesn't have all the right tools, or hasn't yet mastered them, but they have ideas, imagination and are itching to get stories told.

In the past, I mentioned avenues such as visual novels and graphic novels, but that takes on new meaning today. Today we have the iPad2 and a mobile phone market, worldwide, which is seeing constantly increasing screen sizes with better resolution and color. Most of these mobile customers want content, and many of them happen to be fans of manga and animation. These are new avenues just waiting to be explored.

So what if you don't have Maya, 3DS Max, or whatever tools you may think you need to get your idea across in movie form. I am willing to bet you have a paint program. It doesn't really matter which program because they all basically have the same tools and workflow, which hasn't changed since DPaint on the Amiga in 1989. With your handy paint program, you can begin creating something cool right now. If you say you can draw very well, I am now going to show you how!
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THE INDUSTRY BANDWAGON

The Amazing Spider-Man
I was on a forum where I came across a discussion of the new Spider-Man reboot project. They had posted pictures of the new Peter Parker and the new Spider-Man costume. There was a link to the trailer, but I am currently at the office, where the internet is too slow to watch any video. I will try to check it out when I get home. That's not the focus of this post anyway. It's about why they felt the need to do this reboot, and a pattern that we are seeing in Hollywood, despite the fact that this pattern met with repeated failure.

For the sake of simplicity, I'll call this pattern The Twilight Bandwagon. I will grant that the Twilight films were far from the originator of this pattern, but they may be the best known example of it, so I think it a fitting name. Since Twilight was a huge success, it can't really be said to be part of the problem, but more of a great reveal of the lack of creativity currently in Hollywood.

The absolute best example of the industry jumping this bandwagon would be the film Red Riding Hood. This film had Twilight written all over it. It hit all the plot points, filled every cute, young character spot, and even had a huge werewolf. What more could the audience ask for? Well, apparently, the audience wanted something different because the movie failed at the box office.

I would have thought the movie version of I Am Number Four would have been a shoe in for success on the Twilight Bandwagon. I loved the book. It had all the elements, including the characters actually being in high school, which seems to be a necessary part of the equation. Shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Smallville and Teen Wolf show that TV is not exempt either.
Still, I am Number Four failed at the box office.

So now we have a new Spider-Man being put back into high school. I don't expect this one to fail, certainly not on the level of other attempts to cash in on this trend, and I suspect that unlike the first Spider-Man film series, he will never get out of high school this time. The question was asked, in that forum, why couldn't this same story be done with the original cast? Well, the original cast are now too old for the Twilight audience. Movies have been skewing younger for ages now. I read somewhere that even The Expendables sequel will be adding fresh young faces to the team, which seems to go against what that movie was about. I guess they'll be adding tough, ass kicking women to the group now too.

The more I write this post, the more I start to wonder why I even waste my time looking at what Hollywood does. It's always about lowest common denominator. The reason is simple. When you spend that much money on a film, you have no choice but to try and draw the largest possible audience. This is why you won't see a Bogey style mystery in the cinema anytime soon, or an Alfred Hitchcock type film either. I suppose I should focus on the world of animation, but do I even want to get started on where the anime industry has gone?
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WORKING OUT THE KINKS

I am not sure why, but it seems I am having trouble putting up video in this blog. I guess this should be expected to some degree. With any new endeavor there will always be obstacles, big and small, to overcome. Luckily, these usually only have to be overcome once. I had my site running like a well tuned machine for years, but then it went down. Now I am back, but with a new web host, on a new server, and attempting it all from a new country.

Many things are different in the online world here. Of course, there are the banned sites, but it stretches far beyond that. There are also speed issues with connections to certain servers. Visiting a Chinese video portal may be lighting fast, but doing a Yahoo search may be excruciatingly slow. It becomes difficult to know, being faced with all new software and tools today, where a problem lies. For example, on my computer, I may click on a video and see the Quicktime logo, so I wait. The video doesn’t load, but the internet may just be slow. On another computer, however, I see the broken Quicktime link. Only then do I know there is really a problem. This is how all these things work out.

It can be the same way in managing independent anime production. I spend a lot of time focused on things other than making my own anime movies. This has moved me away from how things got started in the first place. I started everything with Understanding Chaos, a ten minute short, 3D, cel shaded, anime that launched all of this. Thinking back, that is what has been missing for a long time. That is the reason I created my media page. The idea is to populate it with new comics, manga and anime or animation. It is there I must place my focus and continue to work out the kinks to get this site up and running at the level it should be!
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ANIGEN UPDATE: WHERE ARE WE TODAY?



In this update I’ll play catch up a little bit, having been gone for so long, and take a look at where we are today in the industry, starting with what I recently experienced in China. Also take a look at the trailer for my new
Final Independent Animation Training: The Last Course You’ll Ever Need! If you ever thought, “How do I make my own anime”, your answer is here!
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