WHO RULES THE WORLD?

It may be time for me to accept that Windows still rules this world and that I need to seriously consider getting something like this:

hp-zbook-x2-mobile-workstation-2-in-1-tablet-laptop-surface-book

"HP will be showing off the new ZBook x2 at Adobe's Max conference today, raising the stakes for pro-level 2-in-1 devices after Microsoft announced its Surface Book 2 yesterday… HP is labeling the ZBook as a detachable workstation and claiming it's the "world's most powerful detachable PC." Nonetheless with a starting price of $1,749, the ZBook can't help but be compared to its fellow Windows hybrid system." — from ZDnet.com

Even though it is clearly more expensive than getting one of the new Cintiq Pro models to attach to my Mac, there are other reasons for this. We still, after all these years, live in a world where certain tools are developed for Windows only. One such tool would be Akeytsu, the 3D character animation tool I learned about on my recent trip to Japan. Another, is one of the most amazing tools I have seen released in ages, CACANi.



Although I am not suggesting that I would move over to CACANi in lieu of TVPaint, but apparently they can work well together, and why not have more tools for the arsenal!? Getting a Cintiq on my MacBook would certainly mean I could draw better, but I would still be excluded from using these new, amazing tools, or, at best, waiting around until they decide to do a Mac port.

Now, granted, I don't have two pennies to rub together right now, so I am not sure how I'll be getting any of these expensive tools. I guess the first step will be to get creative with what I have and start making stuff again!!

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THOUGHTS ON QUALITY

The live action Ghost in the Shell


I haven't updated in a while, perhaps not since I came to Shanghai attempting to start down a new path. A lot has happened since then, both good and bad, and I have been seriously considering what I am really doing, what I should be doing, and what I want to be doing. One the biggest changes that occurred due to my time here, being busy, out and about in the world, and having new experiences, was that I never had the time to watch movies or TV. In the last couple of days, as things have calmed down, and I had some time on my hands, I sat down and watch The Matrix Trilogy, followed by Ghost in the Shell.

I call this post Thought on Quality because my recent experiences, both online and offline, and the films I viewed recently, made me think a lot about what I am doing. For example, I draw a lot. I have an idea I think it cool and I may draw a picture, a character or some other doodle. This is all well and good, but if my goal is to create independent animation, I should be animating a lot, not just drawing a lot. I haven't really animated much of anything outside of the many tests I did last year.

In all those tests, and in so much of my work, I was always trying to find "my style". This really makes very little sense because in reality your style finds you. What I was really trying to do was find what was easy. I was trying to find they way in which I didn't have to put in the work. Time was, no doubt, a factor, as I didn't want to spend a year on a ten minute short, but acknowledge that I was look for the easy road. It was clear as I posted those tests around which one people truly responded to. Deep down, I knew which one was the right one, but I chose to keep on searching for an easier one.

I recently read a book which said, "Successful people are concerned with pleasant results. Unsuccessful people are concerned with pleasant methods." — Brian Tracy

Morpheus loses everything


So I watched The Matrix. This isn't the first time I watched all three films back to back. Watching it as whole, I think I have come to understand the negativity heaped on the sequels. I have heard it said that it seems as though different writers were involved in the sequels, or maybe the studio reigned them in on the first one. I don't believe that to be the case. I think the problem lies with us as viewers, and how much we both like and respect Morpheus.

You see, Morpheus gives us our view of this world, by explaining it to Neo. We accept this view as being true, because he is a strong and wise character. We assume he must be right about everything on which he speaks. He has some of the greatest quotes of all time in that first film. We believe them because he seems to be speaking to us and it seems to fit our own feelings. Unfortunately, Morpheus is wrong.

In the scene pictured above, Morpheus says, "I have dreamed a dream. And now that dream is gone from me." This is a line from the bible, spoken by Nebuchadnezzar, after whom his ship is named. Here is where they signal us that Morpheus was wrong from the very beginning. Here is where he loses everything. From this point on, Morpheus is weak. He does none of the cool stuff we have come to know him for. He is almost subservient to Niobe for the remainder of the films.

I think a lot of viewers don't want Morpheus to be wrong. Like the character in the film, they simply can't accept that. I think this is why the sequels don't sit well with a lot of people. I do not, however, believe that this wasn't all planned from the very outset.

The mechanical animation in The Matrix is still the best.

If nothing else, never before nor since have mechs been done so well in film or television. I have always said that motion kills most CGI, not the rendering. Things don't make perfectly smooth motions in real life. This is why motion capture always looks jerky. The system exaggerates the minuscule ticks that happen in every real life motion. The artist has a tendency to want to smooth it all out, and then even the motion capture looks floaty, weightless and fake.

Hand keyframes work, especially in films where the actors are real people, is even worse. Too often, especially in the case of machines, the overly smooth keyframes motions, with computer generated interpolation between frames, just doesn't fit. In The Matrix Revolutions, they animated to robots to move more like the stop motion work done in the old Robocop films. It was jerky and mechanical. It felt heavy. It felt real.

They ruined Batou in Ghost in the Shell

I think I have watched Ghost in the Shell 3 times now. Despite its flaws, I seem to keep coming back to it. Some of those flaws, though, are glaring. I never expected it to be a philosophical as the original. I know that wouldn't sell in today's market, but come on. They really dumbed it down. They ruined Batou as a character. He is no longer Batou with the unsleeping eyes, the ranger with abilities comparable to The Major. He is now just typical Hollywood, guy gets blown up and has to have some parts of him replaced. Basically, he wouldn't have done it if not for the accident.

The Major is Unique, the first of her kind.


Should I even get into the Major? This also feels so typical Hollywood. She is unique, the first of her kind. She is super special. No. Aside from being very skilled at her job, which is due to experience, she is not unique. She is not special. Most of Section 9 is just like her. The world is full of people exactly like her. The first film even intimates that someone else can use the exact same body as her. She is not special. Most of what makes her great at her job would still hold true if she were mostly human. She does not have technology that no one else has. This is what leads to the bulk of philosophical considerations in the original manga and films. In Hollywood, they basically made her into Robocop.

There are other things which bother me. Like the garbage men who are simply taken over and mind controlled, and starting shooting up the streets. In the original, the hack done to them (and the camo guy) was truly special, so powerful that they were doing these things of their own "free will". Kuze, in the original, was unnaturally likable. People wanted to hang around him, follow him, and do what he wanted. He never had to force anyone to do anything.

What bothers me most of all, though, is they used some of the best elements of both animated films and both TV series. If they somehow managed to be successful, what were they going to do next? Perhaps make things worse with a totally original story conceived in Hollywood? Well, unfortunately, the movie was a colossal failure, so we will never get to know what they would do next, or how they might have improved it going forward. If nothing else, the film no doubt screamed quality.

The amazing CGI city extensions of Ghost in the Shell


Which brings me to why we are here. We are here because we want to make animation, games, comics or other artistic creations, and it has dawned on me that whatever it is we are to create, it must be of maximum quality. Dare I say it must be competitive. All my efforts to find the easy road, my unwillingness to do the hard yard, are precisely why I am stuck where I am at the moment, and have no advanced. The evidence has been around me all the time, but I chose to believe that I could do things differently and still reach a goal only reached by others who put out maximum quality.

Like Morpheus, whose ship went down in ball of flame, so too must I adjust to a new reality. In this new reality it is exceedingly difficult to get audiences to give up their precious time and attention to watch something, even if it is free. Only by offering the best of the best can one even hope to gain a moment of someone's time. Time is everything. It is through time, and how we use it, that one finds happiness or loses it. In order to get someone's time, your offer must be worth it. I now realize that I must create with this always in mind. Think of it like this. How cool would something have to be to get you to stop what you're doing and watch it?

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THE FINAL SALE!

You know how it is. As life goes on, and things change, opportunities arise and one finds new things on which to focus.

I am back in Shanghai and getting more deeply involved in the work I am doing here in China, and also my family, especially my 3 year old daughter. These occupy the vast majority of my time. Combine that with constantly rising web hosting and domain registration prices, and I feel the time has come to put to rest my web store and video training… Read More...
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WHY NOT PAPERLESS?

I recently got into a discussion about anime production budgets and CGI versus 2D hand drawn. Because of the BLAME! animated film, which I wrote about earlier, I had been thinking about digital paperless animation. Here in Asia, be it China, Korea or Japan, many studios still draw on paper.… Read More...
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DID MICROSOFT GO WRONG SOMEWHERE?

Looking at the available trailers, it seems that both the titles, and the graphic quality of said titles, for the Xbox are lagging extremely far behind that of the Playstation 4. I have not been seriously into games for some time now, except for the promise held by game engines to help indie creators realize their dreams, but… Read More...
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BLAME!

When I first visited TOKYOPOP, years ago, to do World of Hartz for them, they told me I needed to study manga. They gave me access to the huge library of titles they had. One of the things they handed me was a manga called BLAME! Read More...
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THE BEGINNING OF THE END?

We have all heard about how robots and AI will begin to take over the majority of jobs. Whole industries will be wiped out, and masses of people will have to find new ways to earn a living in a completely new kind of economy. One area I thought would not be affected, at least not for ages to come anyway, was the realm of art and animation. I may have been wrong… Read More...
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EVERYTHING I WANTED?

The new Marvel Black Panther film looks like everything I ever wanted to see in an African style fantasy film. I guess I don't need to make anything now! Read More...
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THE HAMMER

It just dawned on me that all throughout the Netflix Luke Cage series, when they are talking about special weapons from Hammertech, they are talking about this guy from Iron Man 2!! Read More...
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A SPACE OF LITTLE HOPE

Sometimes I fear that truly don't understand what audiences want. I recently watched the movie The Space Between Us and loved it, only to read reviews afterwards which say things like, "The Space Between Us strands its star-crossed young lovers in a mind-numbingly vast expanse of shameless cheese that will send all but the most forgiving viewers eye-rolling for the exits."… Read More...
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A DECISION TO BE MADE

There are a lot of considerations when deciding whether or not to go with 2D hand drawn or 3D cel shaded for an animation project. A lot of it depends on what the goal is, the type of story being told and the style that best fits it. A lot also depends on the abilities of the artist doing the work… Read More...
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WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN

Nothing pisses me off more than a show that "could have been". I think I may have written about this before, back during season one of Outcast. The first two episodes were some of the best television I had seen and held such promise. The show went straight downhill from there… Read More...
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SOMEONE DREW THAT!

I found this incredible Akira blog on Tumblr which features original cels, layouts, backgrounds and other materials from the 'Art of Akira' exhibit. It got me thinking… Read More...
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ONE OF THE GREATS

We have been having some great discussions, in the comment sections on recent posts, about the world of animation and the path of the indie creator. Much has been said about how our animation should look. I think, in the past, it was the noted Disney animator and character designer Glenn Keane, who brought us characters like Belle, from Beauty and the Beast, and Ariel, from The Little Mermaid, who said that animation looks the way it does simply because of a technical limitation of the times… Read More...
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WHY MESS WITH PERFECTION?

I remember seeing the posters for the live-action Beauty and the Beast movie, in the subways of Shanghai, it seems like years ago. Considering the direction Disney had gone with films like Cinderella, Maleficent, and Alice in Wonderland, I had no reason to expect that they would do a faithful remake of the original 1991 animated film…. Read More...
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THE IMPORTANCE OF QUALITY

I don't keep up with anime often. In fact, I don't even know if I could be called a fan anymore. I used to absolutely love it. In the days when it was on VHS and DVD I would buy several titles every week. Now, there's very little I'm interested in watching. Don't worry. I'm not going to go into a rage about the good old days… Read More...
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THINGS CHANGE

Things change. Things get old. Some things die. That was the case with a number of the tools that I used to do my website. I have been saying for a while that I was going to overhaul my website. When I finally got around to it, tragedy struck… Read More...
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YOUR NAME TOPS CHINA BOX OFFICE

The latest theatrical release from Makoto Shinkai, the director who began his career with the independent anime film Voices of Distant Star, has topped the Chinese box office, becoming the highest grossing 2D animated film of all time in the country. Read More...
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LEARNING NEW SKILLS

Artist Paul H. Paulino, with experience in look dev on films such as Independence Day: Resurgence and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, writes about his journey into the world of visual art in this amazing, must read article! Read More...
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THE COST IS TOO HIGH

I was reading an article about what killed the Saturday morning cartoon. Back in those days, to produce a half hour of television cost as much as $330,000 USD. That was the 80s. Today a show like Avatar: The Last Airbender can cost as much as $1 million per episode! Read More...
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