NEW THINGS

I have two new training videos out this week. First off, in the world of TVP Animation I have my new Storyboards and Animatics video. You can check the trailer that out here.

Learn how to draw storyboards for your anime

Secondly, as some already know, there is the modo 601 Interior Lighting and Scene Setups video. This video is both about how quickly you can setup scenes due to the speed of using the modo content library and bringing dynamic realism to your scenes through lighting. You can see that trailer here.

Modo Interior Lighting and Scene Setups

That's not the only new thing to report though. As mentioned in the last Indiegen video, I have once again returned to Guizhou Province in the south of China and Dede and I have found a new place to setup shop and really begin focusing on my projects. This place is amazing and the environment is very conducive to creative endeavors. The cost of living is so inexpensive that it makes the independent life a true dream.

My New Apartment

As you can see from the trees outside the window, this place in not in a huge city like Shanghai. It's not exactly out in the country, but probably as close as you can get and still have all the comforts of modern life. With the rent being $110 USD for a fully furnished, 3 bedroom apartment, with a patio we can barbecue on, you can imagine why I am so excited about the future I can create here. That, of course, is not all.

My New Work Place


I finally have my own perfect little space which I can setup to be my studio. There's not much there now, aside from the cool desk and shelves built into the wall, but of course I will deck this place out with everything I need to make the shows I want to make and continue to show how it is done. One of the things I will surely be decking this place out with is the Samsung 10.1 inch Galaxy Note.



With this tablet solution, I won't be limited to working at my desk of course. I will be able to work anywhere. With the 3G model, that anywhere means staying connected while doing so. I guess I wouldn't be able to keep making updates to this site from out in the field, since I use Apple specific software for that, but I can do just about anything else I want for that. Who knows? Like I did in Korea, I may add a web based way to continue to add updates as was done while I was in Korea. Now that I think about it, there is a software extension to this web design tool that allows that. That is something to worry about later though. Right now, I am basking in the delight of new things, starting anew on ld projects, and creating a new life!

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INDIEGEN VIDEO 003



Here in the next Indiegen video blog segment, I talk about my latest projects and the future of Studio ArtFX since I have arrived in Guizhou Province in the south of China.
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IT HAS BEGUN!

Things are really starting to move! A special thanks to Paul Griswold of japancast.net for getting the ball rolling with our first contribution. I am sure this is the beginning of the snowball rolling down the hill. Still, there's more! Thanks to recent developments, it is starting to look like I will be able to set up shop a lot sooner than I expected. This means being able to devote more time and resources to making this project happen!

I am very excited about what has been happening over these last several weeks, but the things I foresee coming, in the next few weeks, are even more exciting, possibly challenging and, like my explanations of my experiences when I was actually there, more mind expanding!

Remember, back then I said the experience was life changing. I found I had less interest in the things that used to clamor for my attention. I found myself wanting something different from life, from work, from everything. Now, it seems, some of those desires are actually coming to pass.
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MY CHINESE NEW YEAR

This is the latest project to join my busy production slate. Unlike Paragon, however, this project, while it will be independently produced, it will not be something I am doing alone. I will be making use of the opportunities available in my new environment here and getting help from a variety of sources.

I have learned an incredible amount just this year and I am still learning. The evolution of my own production processes and those I have learned working with teams here in China will surely change the way I do things forever. Some of these things will be elaborated on in my Indiegen video casts. Others may appear in the Paragon production blogs. Still, others may appear in a new book, an update to Animation on a Shoestring, if you will, for our new, highly mobile world.

I have high hopes for the independent future. In fact, I see it as the only future for the creatives of our generation. Join me in making that future draw nearer to us everyday! I look forward to the amazing things that are coming.
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BORN IN THE WRONG TIME

Mushishi in Ancient times
Even though I like computers and, to a lesser degree, the internet, I feel like I was born in the wrong time. I feel like I should have been born in the ancient world. Perhaps life would have been more difficult on one hand, but then, I question the so called scholarly works which intimate that said life was brutish and short. Imagine for a moment living in freedom, hunting for your own food, fishing or even growing a small garden. Imagine just LIVING.

I read an article once that said that no other species on the planet has to PAY to live here. The world has been so organized that any normal man or woman needs a considerable amount of money to live anything approaching a happy or even normal life. We live in a world which is disconnected. People don't know their own neighbors and some don't even know their own family. I was completely a part of that world some years ago. Things changed when I began to travel and see a different world.

In my travels I came across simple villages where people still lived in a manner approaching the ancient ways. I saw people who grew their own plants, and washed them in the river, a river so clean and clear you could see to the very bottom. People were truly alive and happy in a way that I never saw back home. This literally made back home feel like The Walking Dead. You know what I mean by that. People in the west go about their routines and their lives like it were little more than a slightly interactive video game.

What brought me to these thoughts? WINE! Seriously, though, I was trying to record some videos this weekend. You know, the videos I said would soon replace my writing on this blog. Well, on the first day, I went to the office, with the idea that it would be relatively quiet on a Saturday and I could quickly get things done. I was wrong. I arrived only to find a number of people there, playing games, watching movies, loudly and talking and laughing. Disappointed, I left in a matter of minutes and returned home to sleep, feeling I had no place in the world.

Today I decided again to give things ago. This time I would forsake going to the office and just do it in home. It is summer now, and closing all the windows and turning off all fans and air conditioners for the purpose of recording was only the beginning of sorrows. Before getting a minute into the first video I began sweating visibly. Halfway through the recording, it seemed a construction crew decided to rebuild parts of building in which I lived. I am not exaggerating when I say that. Drilling, hammering, sawing and every other manner of sounds one associates with throwing up a new building destroyed all chances of continuing. I won't even get into the noise from traffic and the never ending stream of fireworks, even though there is no special event I am aware of.

Scrolls of Mushishi
I seriously contemplated just doing manga from now on. I could, after all, do that anywhere, and under any circumstances. When did life become so busy and fast paced? When did the world become so noisy? I think I would be far happier living in the ancient world, hunting for my own food, growing plants and like, and for my art, simply painting on the wall of a cave, or writing and drawing in parchment or scrolls. I would almost welcome 40 days of fasting and meditating in a desert somewhere right now.
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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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I'M BACK

I am finally back in Shanghai, having left that world of adventure to return to the "real world". I must ask, however, what is so real about it? What has made us accept this mode of living is the one correct way? Well, of course, all of us haven't. There are people who spend their lives outdoors, shun computers and connect with people face to face rather than on Facebook. Regardless, I have seen many modes of living, during my journey, and now I am back in what has, for me, been most normal.

Back in the office, I can begin to think about the next steps, and here I will try to give you a rundown of some of the things I am contemplating, and some of the motions I intend to make. The first on that list is Paragon. New technology has made it possible to achieve an even higher quality that I originally envisioned for this show. That technology is Poser Pro 2012. The new innovations in this software will bring a lot to the table. Those following the Paragon production blog will so more on that as it develops.

Poser Pro 2102 adds a lot help you make 3D cel shaded anime

The budget for this show, through the crowd funding website, did not reach where I had hoped, but that is not going to stop this production by any means. I have always said you don't need millions of dollars or major studio backing, and I am going to continue to prove this to be true, producing the best show that can be done with the available resources. It does mean I will have to intersperse its creation with other projects and time in the office, but doesn't that seem to be the way labors of love always work out? Either way, there are no limits today, only time.

There certainly are no limits when it comes to technology, and that brings me to my next issue. As you well know, the iPad started something of a tablet revolution and now every major electronics manufacturer has some form of tablet based product. Among those, that majority of which are very similar to the Apple model, are a couple which sport pressure sensitive pens, much like the Wacom tablets or Tablet PCs of old. You may remember the days when I was constantly drawing on my "Mirage Nomad" Tablet PC. Even though these modern tablets are underpowered compared to todays desktops and laptops, I suspect they might perform well against that older computer, and I want to put this to the test.

The Lenovo Thinkpad for artists?
Originally, I had my sights set on a new Tablet PC, of which there are few choices left in today's iPad market. That is to say, real Tablet PCs which run real Windows and are fully powered computers are few and far between. They also remain a bit on the expensive side. That may not be an issue, though, since I have been seeing reports everywhere of artists adapting these new, lighter, mobile tablets for drawing and producing great art on them. So I am thinking about trying a different path for 2D work. I will try one of these newer tablets, albeit one which comes with a pen, rather than add a third party device. It is my hope that, while I am sure this is only the beginning of the tablet revolution, we will see these things increase in power and ability such that artists will finally have a dream tool to work on, something easier to carry than a laptop, but more favorable for drawing and painting anywhere.

So what exactly will I be drawing on this tablet? Well, that gets into future projects, not the least of which will involve the things I have seen and experienced during my travels. The ideas and inspirations which have come to me as a result of my journey must be put to the screen. Of course, this will take time, but I am excited at all the new possibilities. On one hand, I honestly feel that something was lost upon my return to so-called "normal life". Still, I know there is a lot to be gained in getting down to some serious production and creating new things.

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SOME THINGS HAVE TO BE SEEN

A Village High Among The Clouds

I stood in a village, high among the clouds, and wondered what life was really about...

INSPIRATION PART II

Clean air and water among the clouds
I have always said that travel changes people. In recent years, though, I have been doing it so much that the strength of these effects may have been lost on me. Still, I found, last week, as I stood in this traditional mountain village, that the effects are still there, still profound, and can strike at anytime. Was I standing in a fantasy movie? Could any of this be real? The air and water were clean and pure. The people were traditional and simple. It was like I stepped into a long lost age where all the things that seemed so important in modern life simply didn't matter anymore. How do you cope with the questions that arise when you're faced with a new picture of what life could be? How do you deal with the feelings that well up when you realize there is so much more to life, people and the world? Well, this is all a part of what we call inspiration. If you're an artist like me, you draw it!

If there is one thing these experiences have given me, it is focus. I like to call it creative focus. I can see so clearly how to apply my skills for best results rather than dissipate them on too many endeavors. I can see more clearly what I must create, and that I must create to find any sort of fulfillment. Although there may be pockets of fulfillment in all corners of life, things must eventually narrow down to that one main goal, that one thing that you know is your task. When you have discovered it, this is the thing you must devote yourself to fully.

Xijiang, a village among the clouds

My time in this fantasy world, and in this unreal life, will soon come to an end. I will be back in Shanghai among the maze of great skyscrapers, video screens and gadgets in every hand. I will not, however, be the same person that walked those streets before. I am more focused, and with new goals in mind I will move forward, ever so determined to create more of what I should create, rather than being pushed and pulled by perceived market forces and outmoded ideas. I have talked to the people that have done it, and are doing it. They do exist. Perhaps now my life among the rigors of big city and back in the office will be the one that seems not real.

Thanks to all that I have learned, the motions made over the next few months will be big. You already know about Paragon, and some will follow its production, but there is so much more on the horizon. It will not, however, be rushed. Nothing will be. I have already made that mistake and will not repeat it. This blog may not be big enough to describe everything going through my mind these days. Projects big enough to do that are on the way.

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HOW FAR ARE YOU WILLING TO GO?

The City of Shanghai

I was having a discussion, recently, with a fine artist, here in Shanghai, about making a life from your own work. The idea that seemed to interest both of us was gaining the ability to earn one's living by their own hand, their own skill, and use one's time to do exactly what one wants to do. I actually know people who do this, some even in forms of art one would never expect could make such a life possible. I myself have done it. This makes me ask the question, what would you be willing to give up to make such a dream a reality?

The artist I was talking to does oil paintings and exhibits them in local galleries for potential sale. This is apparently a very difficult prospect and one can go a long time without making any money. He seems to have little interest in commercial art, and he shouldn't need to have such an interest. The question here is about doing what one really wants to do, after all.

I know an artist who does reproduction Greek and Roman pottery. From my background, I couldn't begin to understand how such a line of work could result in a living, but it does. One reason is because the artist was willing to make sacrifices to make such a living possible. I am not talking about living like a pauper, certainly not forever. I am talking about making sacrifices to gain the time needed to build your name. Having done so, this pottery artist not only has loyal clients who buy her work, but was even commissioned to produce pieces for a couple of recent huge budget fantasy movies. Her sacrifices early on netted a tremendous gain in the long run. Would you do that?

So what about me? Those who have followed me at this site since its inception (it's been ten years now! Can You believe that?!) will know that I have done exactly what this article speaks of on more than one occasion. I began, pushed into it by my layoff from Westwood Studios actually, with selling the DVDs of my original, independent, 3D, cel shaded, anime movies, Understanding Chaos and Shadowskin from this website. Compared to working in a large game company, the income represented a drastic cut, but it was, or at least could have been, a living. I hadn't yet learned how to make the necessary sacrifices. I was still wasting money in the same fashion I did as a single guy, with no debt, and with a huge salary from a large game company.

I am, of course, older and wiser now. As the saying goes, if I knew then what I know now I could have made that early run build into something great. We live and learn, right? I followed up with some freelance and then the original manga works for TOKYOPOP, which was still living mostly by my own hand and power, but not exactly doing what I wanted to do. In 2005, I returned to the world of full time employment in a studio, this time a Hollywood studio doing film VFX work.

Working in the studios lasted about 3 years, but luckily, in this case, about halfway through, I really began to build up my website, name and products, teaching how to make your own anime movie, with creations like Anigen, The Ultimate Model Bundle and others. When the writer's strike hit and the major decline in production, and thus jobs, hit, my site was already going again. Of course, it wasn't going well enough to live in an expensive city like L.A. This raised the question, how far would you be willing to go to make this work? For me, the answer was about 10,000 miles.

An old friend of mine had retired early from the company where he worked with a small pension. He also rented out the house he had in the U.S. His monthly income would barely cover the rent in the place I was staying in L.A., but he was living an amazing life of adventure in SE Asia. Most importantly, he didn't need to work, ever. Granted, he used his spare time mostly for World of Warcraft, but I saw different possibilities in what he had done. I began to really look into this. I found more stories, even one of a guy who began doing freelance online, for what might be considered peanuts in California, but it got him out of the rat race and over to Asia where he was happily living a dream life. I won't dare tell you what he started out with. Anyway, this had me convinced.

When the writer's strike hit, I had two choices. I could step into the unknown or stay where I was in California, where I knew exactly what was going to happen, and where I would be in the next five years. I chose to step into the unknown. I sold everything I had, got a laptop, and got on a plane. I made plenty of mistakes, to be sure, and I ran into some rough patches here and there, but in the three years since that decision, I have also been around The Philippines, Korea, and Japan, with no job, doing my own thing, making my own anime and teaching you how to make your own anime movies, and having total freedom. The point is I did it. The question is how was I able to do it?

Well, back to my discussion with the fine artist in Shanghai. Shanghai is by no means a cheap city to live in. It really is not that different from L.A. and some parts can be even more expensive. Basically, it is not the place to do this. Believe it or not, there are places in the Philippines where one could really live on as little as $300 per month, if one is willing to make sacrifices. I am not talking about the room being $300. I mean all life. It can be done, and there are actually places even cheaper. The adventurous soul may find locations in India or Thailand where a life can be created for less. The goal to keep in mind, though, is that the purpose of such a measure is to build your name, build your website or other means of bringing in income by your own power. You have all your time to yourself and your work, not someone else's.

After spending months in such a place, I had built my website to where it was making as much as $3000 USD per month. That would be enough to live in most places in the US. The problem is, though, I needed time to get there. This time I would not have had were I spending all my days working for someone else while in the US. Only through the freedom gained by this choice, and having every single hour of my days mine to use as I chose, to create my own anime movies, could I build my site up to that point.

So the fine artist asked me why I didn't stay there and continue to do that? Well, that is another story. Maybe I'll write a book.
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THE SHAOLIN TEMPLE

The Shaolin Temple
Normally I would post something like this on my travel and adventure site, but that went down the same time as this site, and I don’t know that I ever want to get back into it again. I am trying to consolidate my efforts into one place and my work into one focused path. When I am not working, however, I love to travel, and last weekend, I went to The Shaolin Temple.

The story in the previous post is actually part of my travels in the Shaolin, which translates as small forest. It was some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen since I have been in China. That comes later, though. In the beginning, I was in the city in Henan, and we took a bus from there to the small forest, which is on a mountain. We continued on foot to the temple where after a quick introduction, we were presented with a martial arts demonstration.



A Plaque Explaining the History
After that we entered into the historical parts of the temple. A number of plaques explained the history of the temple, and the story of the monk from India who taught the basic precepts upon which the temple was founded. After entering, we were taken around numerous historical sites, some going back as far as 1400 years. There were large tombs for important monks from the temple’s history and many great statues of ancient gods and the Buddha. This was, overall, a great learning experience and, of course, a major inspiration for me. One of the greatest inspirations, though, came from the gorgeous scenery.

After taking the tram ride to the mountain top, we were met with some of the most amazing sites one could imagine. We walked along a very narrow trail cut into the mountain side, from where we could shoot photos of the gorgeous scenery. This gave me so many ideas for the kinds of beautiful settings I would like to create in my future works. I may even do a training video on creating such scenery in the very near future.

A trail along the Shaolin Mountain
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THE MISTY MOUNTAIN

The Misty Mountain

Inside Our Tram Car
We traveled in a lonely tram car through the misty mountain. High above the landscape, we watched the clouds roll beneath us. The scenery was absolutely beautiful. We were experiencing real nature in all its glory. As we watched the people passing by in tram cars going the other way, we could only imagine what great sites they had seen. We got more excited about our destination.

The Beautiful Scenes

The Mist Surrounds Us
Very quickly, the mist began to surround us. Visibility dropped dramatically. What was once distant fog, began to crowd right around our tram. There was a bit of tension in the car, but we continued on, automatically propelled along the cables to our destination. Before long, there was nothing. We couldn’t see anything outside our window. The cables gave no indication of where we came from or where we were going. They simply disappeared into the endless fog. We were beginning to get a bit nervous.

We talked nervously about what might lie ahead. No matter where we looked there was nothing more than a never ending grey. Finally we noticed the cars passing us on the other side, had no people in them!

The Empty Tram
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