IS READING DEAD?

We all know that literacy has been dropping steadily in the western world in the last few decades, but this s isn't so much about whether or not people read Twilight or Harry Potter, it is really about reading on the internet. I, personally, prefer to read. I don't like to go to a website and be met with a link to a video. There are a number of reasons for this. One of them is that I may not always have my headphones plugged in and I don't want to play a video and attract the attention of everyone around. Another is that I just plain enjoy reading and like to digest information at my own pace. This is in relation to information, though, and not entertainment, where I certainly prefer movies and animation to books and comics.

This is not to say I have anything against video. I very much enjoy making videos and some things are certainly better demonstrated by video. If, for example, you wanted to learn how to draw, watching a video or a show like The Joy of Painting, will take you further than reading about it, even if the book has pictures. Learning 3D software by way of training videos serves far better than the manual in almost every case. There is no question that video is better for a number of things, but that's not what I am really talking about either.

With the partial exception of mainstream news, we have seen blogging and article writing descend into tweets and Facebook updates. We are seeing video pop up everywhere and it seems there is no one without a Youtube channel these days. We also have more people consuming online information via their smart phones or tablets. Everything is becoming instant and bite sized and few seem to take the time, or even have the time, to sit and read anything.

All of this makes me think about how I convey information here, and whether or not this site would be better served by making the move to video. This doesn't mean going so much in the direction of the original Anigen, a series built to teach you how to make anime, but perhaps something a bit similar, a way to disseminate the information, tools and techniques to readers, or viewers, and meet them where they are. If viewers would, in fact, rather watch a quick three minute video clip, than read a long and informative article, I would certainly prefer to make said video clip. In fact, I've been doing it already, as can be seen by the clips I do on the Japancast.net video episodes.

It seems that with the Youtube generation, there just isn't a lot of reading going on. The comics industry has been steadily declining and viewership on animated content has never faltered. Even comics in the digital realm, now revitalized on tablets like the iPad, are trying to add elements of sound and motion. What does that say about simple reading? Well, we all know there are different audiences for different mediums and the success of independent authors on Kindle shows that there are clearly people with no interest in mainstream books that will come out in droves for something more catered to their tastes. Still, that's not the internet, which is where we are now. It seems that video may rule the roost when it comes to web, mobile and tablet content. Am I wrong?
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THE RIGHT TOOLS

Drawing on the larger Bamboo Pen Tablet


I wrote before about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 inch tablet and my desire to draw on such devices, considering my experiences on the Mirage Nomad tablet I used in the days of Anigen. That tablet is, however, not out yet, and I certainly wouldn't want to postpone drawing until it should arrive. I however, was not entirely happy with the small tablet I had been using. It was great for its mobility and easily transportable in my bag as I travelled, but the drawings I was producing on it were not up the quality I desired, certainly not compared to what I could do on paper.

I may have mentioned sometime ago that Wacom invited me to test the Inkling some months before its release. As a thanks for that testing they gave me a much larger Bamboo than what I had been using. Since mine was also near 4 years old, the newer Bamboo featured 1025 levels of pressure, as opposed to 256 and a larger 16x9 drawing area. I hadn't really used it much though.

Practice on the new Bamboo Pen Tablet


Recently I decided to bring it out and develop what I could on it. Thinking about what Robert Rodriguez would say, you have to make the show you can with the tools you have, right? So I began to practice, and every day I improved a little. Now I am quite satisfied with the drawings and animation I can do on this new tablet. My speed is increasing as well. It makes a big difference in my creative process. Thanks to the new brushes I have been exploring in TVPaint, I am even developing new methods of drawing and painting backgrounds which I had not delved into before and I am happy with the results.

More practice on the new Bamboo Pen


While I agree with the sentiment that one must make the best show they can with what they have. There is some measure by which you must have the right tools. Nothing could, for example, make me be satisfied with the drawings done on that small, old tablet. And one does need to be happy with their creation if a project is ever to get finished. While waiting for the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 inch tablet may not be advised, sometimes it can be beneficial to at least wait for something that is good enough.

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IT PAYS TO CHECK THINGS OUT

TVPaint Custom Panel with New brushes
I have been using TVPaint for so many years that I may have gotten to used to how it works, or even become set in my ways. I remember thinking around the time of TVPaint 7, which was called Mirage in the USA, that this software is perfect! What more could possibly be added to it? Of course, many great features and new workflows have been added to it since that time. As I continued to work with it, though, I developed my own methodologies, workflows and techniques and tended to stick to them. Fortunately for me, I recently took some time to just practice, in an effort to improve my own skills, and gain speed at creating my independent animation. The plan is to push my Paragon project to a new level of quality.

One of the things I have spent some time working on lately was backgrounds. I wanted to develop a method that had a nice look and was a good fit for the type of animation I desire to do. With that in mind, I began further exploring the painting tools. Of course, I knew where they all were and how they worked, so I proceeded to simply use them and work on developing my skill rather than worry about tools. What that meant, though, is that I didn't check for new tools.

Having some time on my hands today, I decided to continue my practice. Aside from the default tools, there were a couple of natural media style brushes that I used from the custom panel. Today, though, I noticed one of them was not there! Eventually I found that it was still there, it had simply been renamed and had a new icon. Noticing this, though, also led me to see that there were many new brushes of which I was wholly unaware. I began testing them.



Many of the new painting tools deliver the most natural and realistic effect I have ever seen in digital painting. It reminds of an old TV show I used to watch called The Joy of Painting. I learned many techniques that I continue to use in my own painting from that guy with the afro on the program. The most interesting thing is, for the first time since I have been using digital painting programs, these techniques really work just as they did in the real world! Had I not taken the time to just experiment and try these things, I would never have found this out. It really pays to explore your software and find out all of the cool things it can do. Don't get too set in your ways or your own workflows. There is always something new to learn!

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THE TRUTH ON THE GROUND

Terrence Travel's to Xijiang
I have been writing in various forums for some time now and it has become quite clear to me that such time is wasted. People are not interested in the truth. People are interested in validating what they already believe. I have travelled extensively around Asia and been to some amazing locations one can scarcely imagine. Try to tell people about such places, though, against their already biased opinions of country, and it seems to matter very little.

The mass media infects people with ideas, whether they be true or not, that are difficult to get out of their heads. Even when those same media outlets retract their negative stories, or they are proven to be outright fabrications, the damage has already been done. Those who wish to believe the original negative story will continue to do so. They would rather follow sensationalist hype rather than listen to the experience of someone on the ground, who has been there. All the writing in forums, even with pictures, is never going to change that.

Terrene Samples the Amazing food
When I first began to travel, I was astonished at some of the things I encountered. The places I visited were nothing like what I had seen on the TV. It's no secret that western television shows, movies and news almost always depict the worst aspects of other countries, showing only their poverty, strife and crime. They rarely show anything positive, and certainly never sho these places at their best. This still persists to this day. I remember watching an episode of Smallville, where the characters were supposed to be in Shanghai, one of the most advanced, modern cities in the world, and they showed it more akin to a 100 year old village. I won't even get into the Sho Kosugi movie, Revenge of the Ninja, which opens with the text "Tokyo, Japan" while depicting green fields and wooden huts.

There really is only one way to counter this. That is to show a new image through art. It won't happen writing in forums and arguing the points with people there. One has to create something. That is what I hope to do. What I have to say, I will say here. What I have to show, I will show right here. Those who come here and read may find something new and counter to the information often presented out there. I am no longer, however, going to chase people down and try to show them what's out there. Those who wish to follow and validate their outmoded beliefs will continue to do so regardless of where I meet them. Those who wish to see another picture may find it here.

The City of Kaili

In my next project, I will begin to show some of the things I have experienced, and present some of the images I have seen. I want to show the character and heart of the people and places I have visited and lived. Animation is a great way to do that. Even with my current project, Paragon, which is undergoing some change at the moment, some of these ideas may be injected into it, because they are so close to me. As much as I like to write, I feel it serves so little purpose, and from now on will only so so here. I welcome those who continue to read.
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OUR LAST HOPE

Star Wars Comic Cover
I saw this picture from, what I believe to be, the new Star Wars: Knight Errant comic book mini series and it got me thinking. When you consider how amazing recent cartoons like Avatar: The Last Airbender and the new Thundercats are, why don't we have an awesome 2D animated Star Wars series? Don't get me wrong, I think the Clone Wars 3D cartoon is great, and some of the stories therein are better than some of the material in the recent feature films, but traditional 2D animation has always been the stuff that my dreams are made of.

To look at this image and just imagine seeing it in motion, with the same quality of motion seen in the Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoons, which was often choreographed based on real martial arts experts, gets my blood racing. This would be a show that I rush to see, like when, as a child, I would race my bike at top speed to get home in time to see Robotech on TV. I miss that feeling. I haven't felt that way about a show in ages. Maybe that means something. If I can imagine a show we don't have and wish for it, maybe that gives a bit of insight into where my own creative passions lie. This is not to say I have to, or even want to, do a Star Wars cartoon. The elements I mention, which get me so excited, can be applied to any cool science fiction or fantasy show. The idea is merely a starting point.

As I am sure you know, Katsuhiro Otomo, when he started his master work Akira, began with the idea to do his version of the old popular showTetsujin 28. His character Tetsuo, which means iron man just like tetsujin, even had the number 28 stamped on his arm. Still, Akira became its own entity and grew into something wholly different from what he originally envisioned. His own creative spirit came in and drove things in a new direction. Perhaps this is another means by which inspiration works. Who knows? Since I am in China, maybe I can find a martial arts expert or two to shoot some video reference for me!
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THE NEW SAMSUNG GALAXY

Samsung Announces New Galaxy Note

It really is starting to seem like this is the tablet to get, for now, but my main reason for getting any tablet is to be able to draw on the go, like having a real sketchpad, and ditch lugging around the laptop. What I mean by this is that if you remove the pressure sensitive stylus, and any real drawing features, I would surely get an iPad too.

The reality of my situation is that I am not going to take my laptop everywhere I go. I don't even want to. I use it at home and I use it in the office, but if I am taking a bus to the country to visit people, the laptop is not going with me. A tablet, however, would! Also, once you add the need for a separate wacom tablet to the laptop, it is no longer as portable as one may think. I use it set up on my desk in one spot. I couldn't lounge around in the living room and draw if I chose to. Lately, I have been doing that with a pencil and sketchpad. The tablet would open these doors as well.

I would love if the tablet had phone features as well, eliminating yet another device to carry around, but it has already been stated the new Galaxy Note will not have this. Samsung appears to be positioning this as their iPad Killer, and their reaction to Apple CEO Tim Cook's remarks against Android tablets indicates they are certainly concerned about this competition. Every Android manufacturer is really. HTC added a pressure sensitive stylus to their Flyer and, from what I read, it didn't go over very well. From my standpoint, as an artist, any 7" tablet is just too small.

Somewhere I read that Wacom themselves will be jumping into the fray with tablet really targeted at artists. Considering Wacom's track record, I imagine this one will be one to watch, but I also imagine it will be priced well out of the range of most users, who likely wish to combine the artist friendly features with those of other tablets on the market. No matter what features one throws on a tablet, once the price starts going over $500, people will begin to question how useful this device is, and will certainly measure it up against the iPad. One of the greatest arguments of competitors to Apple in the past has always been that they offer more features and functionality for a lower price point that Apple's expensive products. Some of these Android tablets seems to have completely forgotten that. Very few people will buy a $1000 tablet when all the marketing messages are sticking the name "iPad" in their head before all others.

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MODO 601 IS HERE!

Modo 601 is here!!!

For nearly ten years now modo has been a big part of my overall workflow. This is apparent in both my Final Independent Animation Training as well as my Anigen Final Secrets method of creating animation, both of which involve the use of this tool. It all started because of a project I was working on all those years ago, called Daniel: Visions and Dreams. At the time I was using a different toolset for creating models and ran into some issues with a temple I needed to build for one scene. I just couldn't do it. With little to lose, I decided to give it a try in that first version of modo and was met with shock. This model, which was giving me so much trouble, and which I couldn't wrap my head around, just happened in a few minutes. The toolset in modo was that different!

Now, so many years later, we arrive at modo 601, which has to be the most comprehensive upgrade to this software yet. Gone are the days of modo being a simple modeler and renderer. Over time we have seen the addition of complex environments, sculpting, an animation timeline and the famous replicators. Now they have gone even further with the addition of bones and character animation tools, volumetric effects, particles and even dynamics. This puts modo in the big leagues, right up there with the major players in the industry.

Modo Characters

I haven't personally tested these new features, but on paper it seems there is little lacking to make modo a possible tool of choice for all of one's 3D animation needs. Of course, we live in an age, now, where using many different software packages to achieve the final result is common. That doesn't mean it wouldn't be great to see some of those tools fall by the wayside. For me, one tool which may be falling out of use will be Vue Infinite.

For years, I absolutely loved Vue Infinite and the power it gave me to create natural scenery, especially for the fantasy style backgrounds I like to do in animation. Still, it was one more tool adding complexity to the workflow. When they came out with version 6, which introduced the amazing clouds, which had a look that always reminded me of the skies in Macross Plus, I was hooked. Great as the results were, though, Vue was far from easy, and certainly never fast. Over time, as you can see in my modo nature video tutorial, modo began to add the tools which created fewer and fewer reasons to go to Vue. Now, in modo 601, they have gone over the top.

Modo 601 has volumetric rendering

The new volumetric rendering engine has brought amazing looking clouds to modo. Of course, it doesn't stop there. The new volumetric rendering in modo is in combination with replicators and their new particle engine. This means you can do smoke, fire, and many other fully animated effects which are not as easily achieved in Vue. When you look at what is possible with modo's surfacing, via the shader tree, the replicators, the environment system and now with real volumetric rendering, you can actually do more than was possible in Vue and you don't have to deal with the incredibly slow renders or flickering.

Needless to say, I am very excited about the new modo 601, even if just for what can be done on the nature side of things, or for backgrounds. When you factor in the new developments in character animation, who knows where this can all go? I haven't actually played with it myself though, so we will see how things develop in the near future.
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