NEXT STEPS

A recent 2D test on how to draw anime

The holidays are upon us and we are approaching a new year. It's time to start thinking about those resolutions. When it comes to independent animation, my resolutions will be plenty. Far from the usual bids to quit smoking, lose weight or get that better job type desires we often hear about, my resolutions are really about creating, and creating more masterfully than ever. After all, 2012 is approaching, right? :)

In my previous post, I mentioned Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, the writers and directors of the independent animated film My Dog Tulip, which is animated entirely by two people in TVPaint. I've known Paul for, perhaps, over ten years, thanks to the TVPaint community, and he was the first person to get me into Wacom technology and paperless animation way back when. Recently, I have been corresponding via video chat and email and he has given me a lot of advice, inspiration and ideas on where I could go with all that I am doing. As a result, my greatest goal for 2012 will be to simplify!

Simplifying things can have a lot of meanings. You may remember that in times past I had way too many websites. There was this one, the iPhone Alchemy site, the mobile manga reader, the Zahur site, my travel adventure site and a couple of others you probably never heard of. On top of that, I was selling 3D models on Content Paradise, writing articles for Ezine Articles and doing gigs on a few freelance sites. All of that, in the end, served to keep me from the one thing I should have been doing, which is creating more independent animation.

Realizing this problem, I began to, over time, pair things down to just a couple of sites. Later, of course, all my sites went down because my web host from that time wouldn't accept payments from a foreign source. Now that I am back, I have only this site and no others, with the exception that my modo training videos are being sold on Source3D.net. That is one aspect of simplifying that is getting me closer to my goal of creating more. The other aspect deals with simplifying different facets of the work itself.

In the past, I was always heavily influenced by the work of Production I.G., particularly Ghost in the Shell and Jin Roh, as far as anime was concerned. In the 3D world, I always leaned towards very realistic works like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and Beowulf. This led me to spend a lot of time attempting to draw, or create in 3D, very realistic, anatomically correct characters with little stylization. What I eventually found out was this created a situation where I often enjoyed the results of an animated project, but not the process of getting there. I'm sure you heard it said that the journey is more important than the destination. If you don't enjoy the process of creating your own anime work, why do it? I needed to get back to where I enjoyed the doing of the work, because it is the doing that counts, not the final product. As with Stephanie Meyer, the creator of Twilight, the process of writing brought her joy even though she never intended to show it to anyone. Still, look what happened when her sister pushed her to get Twilight published.

Too alleviate this problem in the world of 3D and cel shading, I created the WYSIWYG method which I expounded upon in Anigen: Final Secrets, and which you will be able to see in its entirety when the completed video comes out next year. Even inside that method I began to learn more ways to simplify the process. In the world of 2D, I had to take another path. To simplify meant to rethink my character designs. Studying the work of creators such as Katsuhiro Omoto or the directors at Studio Ghibli, you can see that their character designs are very simple yet so full of life and expression. It is little wonder that they are able to achieve such a high frame rate in their films because their characters are so much easier to draw. See for yourself. Put up a frame of Ponyo side by side with a frame of Ghost in the Shell 2. The difference is night and day. The gains from this consideration are quite a bit larger.

In the 3D world, characters which are very realistic enter into what we call "The Uncanny Valley" where something about them, which we cannot express, turns us off. Something similar can happen in 2D as well, if the designs are too realistic. They don't look alive. In Ghost in the Shell, the often expressionless faces worked for the film because the characters are mostly machine, questioning their own humanity. Even there, characters which needed more expression, like the chief, where more stylized. When you simplify a character's face, it becomes so much easier to add life and expression. Compare a character from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within to a character from How to Train Your Dragon.

After much discussion with Paul Fierlinger, and showing different examples to people around my work and home, I have begun practicing to simplify my 2D character drawings. There are two reasons. One is to add life, the other is to gain speed. I am not just simplifying the faces and adding stylization, I am simplifying the line work, with less emphases on perfectly clean and sharp lines. When I watched animation of this type, like the Kojiro Shishido short Naked Youth, or the anime series Kemonozume, it feels like it has more life.

As I move into the new year, my goal is to create more. I will also keep updating here on this one site to show you how to create your own anime as well. If I am so inclined, I may dare to write a year end review in the next few days. I haven't done that in a while and it is a very helpful exercise to see where you have been, where you are going, and what you are leaving behind. If not, have a happy holiday season and keep creating!!
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ANIGEN UPDATE: MY DOG TULIP



In this update I want to talk about an independent animated movie that truly epitomizes everything that I have been talking about on this site for years. Paul Fierlinger, the writer and director of this feature film, is really doing it. This full length feature not only got done, but got international distribution. He has also done a lot to help me in moving forward with my own creative works, which I will talk about later. Also, if you want to learn how to make anime for your own projects, take a look at the trailer for my new
Final Independent Animation Training: The Last Course You’ll Ever Need!
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TIME TO START DOING SOMETHING?

Time of Eve

You may remember back when I started doing Anigen videos, the series which teaches you how to make anime, I talked about an artist named Yasuhiro Yoshiura, who almost singlehandedly created a short 2D/3D, hybrid, animated film called Pale Cocoon. I bought that DVD from Japan back then and studied it well. Lately I decided to check up on what independent artists like him were up to these days, and I discovered Time of Eve, a six episode original net animation (ONA as opposed to OVA) which he wrote and directed.

This series uses similar techniques as his previous works, combining highly detailed 3D backgrounds and engaging camera work with fully hand drawn, 2D characters. The overall effect is nothing short of amazing. As you might expect from a smaller independent series, the show has very few locations. This is not a globetrotting adventure. The entire story almost takes place is a single cafe called Time of Eve, which does not allow its patrons to discriminate between humans and robots. Only a few scenes take place outside of this venue, in 3 or 4 other locations we see over and over. None of this detracts in the slightest from this amazing story.

Another interesting note is the pace of the production itself. Most episodes are about 15 minutes in length and it was produced at a rate of about 3 episodes per year. He did not, however, animated this by himself as in previous works, and a staff is listed in the credits. When the series finished its run on the net, it was collected, with some scenes updated and some new scenes added, and it was released as a feature film in Japanese cinemas. You may remember a similar path was followed with Macross Plus over a decade ago. IN both cases, the quality was more than good enough to get there. The point here, though, is that if you wish to learn how to make anime, with your eye on seeing your project on the big screen, there are many possible roads to travel. You needn't waste your time or energy pitching to studios or trying to sell your script. DO IT< even if a little bit at a time, and it will get done. If the quality is there, you will find your place among the greats!
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NEVER STOP IMPROVING

My Practice drawing cute anime girls

If you want to learn how to make anime, it stands to reason that your basic drawing skills need to be up to a polished level. Even if you have been drawing for a long time, you don't want to rest on your laurels. Only by doing so everyday will you be able to gain speed, create better and sharper lines, or generally improve the quality of your images and animation.

I have jumped back and forth between 2D and 3D for years. At times, especially while working in Hollywood, I did 3D exclusively for a very long time. My drawing skills began to slide, naturally, as they did not receive everyday use. Now I am getting back to work on really sharpening those skills. Another issue that arises, though, when trying to learn how to make anime, is the tools.

Of course, if you just want to sharpen your basic drawing skills, a pencil and paper is all that is needed. Still, in the world of digital paperless animation, you might be thinking about things like a Wacom Tablet or Cintiq, or even a tablet PC. I currently use a Wacom Bamboo, the first Bamboo model actually. I have been told it should be retired to a museum. Going back and looking at some of my drawings when I used the Mirage Nomad tablet PC, and comparing them to what I am doing now, the old stuff looked a lot better. While I am certain I need practice, a lot of this is also due to the tools.

When I first got a Wacom tablet, an Intuos 2 9x12 model, it tools me a few days to be able to draw anything on it I would dare show anyone. I had to relearn. That was back in 2002 or so. Even many years later, while living in Korea. Me and my friends pulled out large reams of paper just to sit around and draw for fun. I was shocked at how much faster I was on paper and how much better my drawings looked. To this day I still cannot reach the same level digitally as I can on paper. Does this mean I should draw on paper and scan the drawings in? I would have to say no.

If your goal is to learn how to make anime, you have to take into consideration many factors. In the studio where I now work, the 2D team did, in fact, still draw on paper, using a light box, and these drawings were scanned in, and probably cleaned, before going to inking and color on the computer. A one-artist-show can't really afford to do that, especially if speed is a consideration, and it should be.

Ideally, you need to adapt your style to fit the tools you have, or get better tools. If you can't go out and get a Wacom Cintiq right now, or a tablet PC, do not sit down and wait for the best tools to fall in your lap. They will probably never do so. Practice every day with the tools you have and improve. If need be, adapt your style to fit the tools you have and start creating. Before you know it, the tools you really desire will find their way to you. The key is to never stop. If you want to make your own anime movie, you should be doing something about it right now, today.
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THE WISDOM OF CROWDS

I decided it was time to do something a little different. I decided it was time to move things to the next level. What you are about to witness may very well be the future of indie animation, if not independent content creation all together. From the beginning, back when I made my own anime called Understanding Chaos, I always said you don't need millions of dollars or major studio backing. That was based on the technology of the year 2000. Today that statement holds more true than ever. Today we can do more on a single laptop than I could do with the whole room full of equipment with large cables running everywhere that it took to make my first indie animation happen.

Compared to Hollywood, what you really need to make your own anime project work is very little! The important thing, of course, is that you need to survive, while you make your project. You need to keep the lights on and keep food in your belly. If you have a family, you should probably keep them fed as well. When I did that first film, I was still working in EA Games in Las Vegas, working only nights and weekends to make my own anime. You can certainly do that for a short film, but attempting it on a feature project could lead to many bad consequences unless you are of extremely strong constitution.

Now, it seems, some brilliant people have found a way that may enable you to devote everything to your project and raise the funds necessary to do so. That way is called crowd funding, meaning that rather than seeking out a single venture capitalist to put money into your dreams, you seek out a large number of people, the very people who would be most interested in seeing your project come to life, and seek out small contributions from them. I am doing so with Paragon, using the site Indie GoGo. Other sites, such as Kickstarter offer similar serviced. This is something I recommend seriously considering as you move towards your next project.

Also, if you would be interested in supporting this project, click on the widget above and visit my campaign page. Help spread the word. Tell your friends. We can make history together!
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