Monday, April 29, 2013

Spike from Karen Ross on Vimeo.

“Spike” is a short animated film about a character who is dealing with OCD. It is called “Spike” because this is a term commonly used in the OCD community to describe when someone is quite worried or anxious about something, related to OCD. Specifically, he is worried that his locker is unlocked, even though he knows that this is not true. He repeatedly goes back to check it, but in the end, makes an ultimate decision to accept the uncertainty in his mind. The film presents a day in the life of a person with OCD, which while not perfect, highlights a small victory. The film is done with 2D traditional animation, with backgrounds rendered in Maya. The process included rough storyboards, layout, rough animation in Toon Boom, and cleanup. Jeff Gipson modeled a locker for me, and using that, I built and lit the setting, and rendered images for each background. I had a lot of help in this process, and I truly appreciate all the feedback I’ve gotten. This is the final result of my work.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Project 2 Proposal


A boy in high school is troubled by the idea that his locker may be unlocked, even though he knows it is not. He repeatedly goes back to check it, driven by his anxiety and the minute possibility that he may have been wrong. It is an exploration of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and the ability to be tolerant of uncertainty.

Narrative arc:

In the beginning, the main character is getting his books and backpack out of his locker, getting ready for class. The bell rings, and he closes his locker and clicks the lock, walking toward class. However, he is plagued repeatedly by a vision of the lock unlocking, and he needs to go back and check it repeatedly, resulting in frustration and exhaustion- eventually, he is unable to leave.


The techniques I am using are traditional animation, done in toon boom, and background shots done in maya. The background of the hall and lockers is done in maya, and the rough animation is composited on top of these backgrounds.

Concept sketch:

Storyboard examples:

Example of work that could be a model for this project:

Production calendar:

Week 1: Present project concept, get feedback, make changes and work, find additional sounds needed for project

Week 2: Continue/fix key frames, start doing breakdowns/inbetweens

Week 3: Continue breakdowns/inbetweens, work on locker background- I want this to look somewhat more cartoony and less realistic than it is now

Week 4: Continue breakdowns/inbetweens, locker background- add animation of locker opening, synced with the 2D animation

Week 5: Continue inbetweens, start cleaning up drawings

Week 6: Finish inbetweens, work on cleanup

Week 7: Continue/finish cleaning up, start coloring in toon boom

Week 8: Continue/finish coloring, work on final composite and editing

Week 9: Finish editing everything together, render out final project

Distribution/exhibition possibilities:

Online distribution (youtube, vimeo, etc) and entered in festivals on

Monday, February 18, 2013

Les Mis: The Condensed (and unfinished) version

A lot has happened over the last few weeks. I've been experimenting with different styles of color, finding results I have been generally unhappy with. The lineart has been taking a much longer time than anticipated. In addition to several other setbacks, I was out sick for a week and lost a lot of ample work time. I am hoping that I may be able to work on this a little longer before I present it to class.

Here is one version of a still frame, including color:

I wasn't satisfied with how this was turning out. While my sister was visiting for the weekend, she helped me with the the painting in photoshop, and this is the final result:

Truth be told, neither of these are the look I was quite going for. With the deadline approaching, I decided to keep this frame, but the rest of them are in black and white (and for the time being, a few are unfinished.) I also have not been able to animate the characters, and for now they are just still images.

I am not where I want to be at this point in the project, but I still enjoyed doing it and I believe I conveyed the story the way I wanted to.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Been putting this off for far too long

For a long time now, I've been meaning to write a post about some of my concerns and insecurities about being an animator. I'm not sure why I've delayed posting this for so long. I feel like I've made myself vulnerable in the past and I am hesitant about sharing too much. Then again, I've put a lot of myself into my work, to the point where I'm almost uncomfortable talking about it. If you want your animation to be true to life, then shouldn't it be about what you know, and be told in an honest and sincere, meaningful way? I am torn between doing this and revealing too much. At the same time I do not want to be dishonest in my own work and maybe I just need to get over feeling uncomfortable. I don't know. Anyway, that's not entirely what this post is about (even though that's what I've written so far..)

Mainly, I'm worried about whether I'm "doing things right"...which is a very anxiety driven thought. I think I focus on this too much, but at the same time, it is something worth thinking about. The problem is focusing on this and over-thinking to the point where I do not get the work done. I feel that many people have this problem. When I do work, I often second-guess myself and think about how things could be better. If I weren't in school and was doing projects on my own, I think I would end up being impatient and scrap things too soon. I realize this is a learning process and I'm not going to like everything I've come out with. In fact, a lot of animators aren't happy with their work, and are always seeking to improve. I appreciate the attitude of always being a "student" because there's always more you can learn. At the same time, though, I feel that we should acknowledge the improvement and change that happen over time, and not dismiss those things as meaningless by saying "oh, I could do better, this is no good, no good at all, I hate where I am in this process, etc"- and instead, say "this is better than my previous work, I still have more to learn, but I am happy with my progress, I am always learning new things and everyone learns at a different pace, etc"- thereby having a more positive attitude. I think about the project I worked on for over two years in undergrad. I watch it now and I am unhappy with it. I see things I want to change and revise, but know I should move on. I almost wish I had moved on and worked on other projects while in undergrad. My concern is about whether I am doing good work now.

I am really enjoying my classes so far. In Expressive Motion, I am finally learning Maya, something that has been a huge struggle for me thus far. I like the project I am working on in my studio class. 6300, the class that is preparing us to write our theses, caters a bit more to the DRD track than DAIM- but I really like our professor, and the class is enjoyable. My main concern is about whether I am spending the time outside of class wisely.

There are so many things I want to learn, and I realize these are things that I need to be self-reliant about. The people who were most successful in undergrad were those who went and did things for themselves...the time spent outside of class is just as, if not more, important than the hours spent in. People tell me I am a good animator, but there are so many things I need to improve on. I think that a lot of this can be addressed by simply doing more work, and practicing. But how to organize my time so I can do all these things! Here is a list of some of my goals.

1. I need to animate quadrupeds. It's simply something I haven't done nearly enough of. One assignment in my intermediate animation class (taken over 5 years ago), and the cat at the beginning of my demo reel, are the extent of my experience doing this

2. Volume control and consistency. Even though I've been doing animation for a long time, this is still something I have not mastered yet. I am careful and check from drawing to drawing that volumes are consistent. But I tend to have trouble with this.

3. Secondary action. Things like hair moving, flags waving in the wind, clothing, things blowing in the wind in general...basically things that aren't living things, reacting to environmental factors.

4. Certain effects. I know effects animation is different than character animation, and there are programs that will do some of these things so you don't have to draw it all out. But I want to know how to do it anyway. Things like water in general, large bodies of water, splashes, fire, lightning, etc. This ties in with secondary action somewhat

5. Character performance. This is a big one because character animation is my main focus. I need to improve and do more dialogue tests.

6. I need to improve my illustration skills. I am interested in storyboarding/character design as well as animation. I want to get better at working in color as well.

7. I need to get better at pretty much every software related to animation. I work with them all, but I have not mastered them, to the extent that I want to.

Why do I want to know all these different things if I want to be a character animator? Well, I want to know how to animate more than just characters. I want to make my own independent short animated films, heavily employing traditional animation. I want to improve in all these ways so I can make my own films better...and pre-production is also something I am interested in. I want to be proficient in animation and character design/storyboarding. That is my main goal, and I feel that I am not there yet.

The problem is there are so many different things I want to do that it gets overwhelming. What order should I do these things in, and where should I even begin.

I realize this entry isn't terribly organized, with lots of different ideas floating around. I've been meaning to write this for a long time now. Any feedback would be appreciated.

Monday, January 28, 2013


I have an animatic with sound to show for today. I'm not quite where I want to be, though. In order to have this finished by the due date, the animation is going to be fairly limited. Kind of like a moving storyboard, where things are on separate layers and moving somewhat, and maybe small subtle things here and there. I plan for the finished drawings/assets to be well-rendered though, which should make up for the limited animation. Also, I highly dislike the sound of my own voice, but I know I'm not alone in that.

I have a follow-up to this post that I will write within this week.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Les progress!

I'm going to start off this post admitting that I'm a bit behind.

I've fallen prey to my biggest weakness: over-thinking things, without actually getting enough work done. Since my proposal, I've gone back and forth between a few different ideas, and have wasted time in doing so. However, I am back on track.

I have my script recorded and goal for this weekend is to have the animatic finished, with some animation.

I have chosen to do only the first part of the story...simply because in reading the script out loud, it took me almost two minutes to read the first section. In trying to condense this massive story, I don't think I would have been able to do it in the time allotted. This will be a "Part 1" of a possible series. Does anyone have any feedback on this idea?

I watched more of the 30 second Bunnies animations, but I feel that even in that format, far too much would be lost. Rather, I'll do an introduction to the whole thing, which will hopefully get people interested. I would also rather do something shorter, and come out with a finished product I am proud of, then undertake a monumental task and come out with something I feel unsatisfied with, and is unfinished. The script I have recorded is a little over a minute.

I think the style I will do this in will be kind of like a moving storyboard. The animation will be limited, but the drawings will be well-rendered and readable. I will have examples to show soon.

Monday, January 14, 2013

6400: Project 1

Hello Everyone! So I'm starting up this blog again, to document my progress in my Design 6400 class. For my first project, I'm planning on doing a motion graphics animation. The subject matter I've chosen is Les Miserables...mostly because the thing is so hard to explain! Here is what I have so far for the proposal: The concept of my project is to explain “Les Miserables” in 2 minutes or less, using animation in Aftereffects. People who do not know the story sometimes ask what it’s all about, and those who are familiar with it have a hard time explaining- simply because there is so much going on. This would be an attempt to familiarize viewers with the story, in a way that is both entertaining and accessible. The narrative arc will begin with the story of the main character in “Les Miserables,” Jean Valjean, and his being pursued by the police officer, Javert. Theirs is an important relationship in the story and may be touched upon with a bit more detail than some of the others throughout the project. As it progresses, it will show the other characters and their story arcs, compressed in a 2 minute time-frame, while still explaining little interesting facts about both the text and the musical. The techniques I plan to use are to make assets in Photoshop, and use those in Aftereffects. I would animate using the characters as puppets, but the animation would be somewhat limited. I am also using traditional media, pencil and paper, to do pre-production work (such as storyboards and designing the characters.) These techniques support the concept in that the actual animation would take less time than another technique, such as animating traditionally. It would also lend itself well to quick transitions, and compressing a complicated idea into something that can be understood quickly.
Schedule: Week 1: Create proposal and presentation, rough storyboard Week 2: Work on refining storyboard, making an animatic, finding sounds; do aftereffects tutorials Week 3: Start animating; continue tutorials Week 4: Continue animating, take things into premiere for editting Week 5: Continue animating, start final edit Week 6: Finalize the edit, tweak small problems, render out final project Some possibilities for distribution or exhibition could be to enter this into short film festivals, and/or making it available to watch online. “Les Miserables”, the book, is public domain, but I am not sure whether there would be a problem entering this into festivals.