Thursday, June 30, 2011

Podcast Interview with the Stratton Foundation

I was very fortunate to be one of the recipients of the 2011 Stratton Foundation Scholarship earlier this year. But it didn't stop there, the foundation was also kind enough to purchase a piece of my artwork during this years CCS Student Exhibition Opening and interview me for their scholarship podcast. The interview is now online so if you are interested in listening then CLICK HERE to visit the Stratton Foundation's podcast page.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Photos from the 2011 CCS Student Exhibition Opening (I know, very late)

Last May, the College for Creative studies held its annual Student Exhibition show at the end of the school year. It was a huge hit and great to see all of our stuff on display. Posters, prints, and pieces from Dark Circus as well as some independent work was up for sale. I was so honored to find that some of my work actually sold! Doug and Kaoru Stratton of the Stratton Foundation purchased a signed print of the Dark Circus Promotional Poster with accompanying ink line art and Carrie Lezotte from One of Us Films purchased a collection of caricature prints depicting my classmates.

Doug Stratton and myself with the sold movie poster

Me with fellow filmmakers Shelbi Allen (middle) and Sara Smilnak (right) standing with the caricature prints purchased by One of Us Films.

Me and some ART!

Dark Circus is still on a mini hiatus for the mean time. (I needed a vacation!) It's really hard to get back to business when you keep finding way to make yourself too busy to animate. The job/internship hunt is still underway but I do promise that some wonderful prospects are underway for the future.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Well, Class is Over. I can see a summer of animating past the tassel of my graduation cap

So senior studio has come to an end and graduation is only a few days away. For an evening, I'll be trading out a pencil for a diploma. Even though the class is over, I plan on picking back up on production after a little vacation.I'm really going to miss those long hours in the studio with my classmates working an cracking jokes. It's been something golden.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Circus Poster Design

Texpert (text expert) and Graphic Design major, Alyssa Lopez, has completed the Dark Circus poster that will be used in the film! Thank you Alyssa!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Updated Work Reel for End of March

It's been far too long since the last work reel post. There is still a lot of things not in the reel yet like cleaned and colored animations. I'm still looking for folks who can help me with that. There's a lot to color and the more help I get the faster the film gets done. There is still a little more than 30 days left to work on the film before the deadline so it's back to the animation table for me!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Compositing in After Effects

I spent about 6 hours this morning taking a lot of the colored frames and renaming them, sequencing them, and then compositing them in After Effects. My clean up animator, Paul Blair, has also offered his services with batching the clean ups in Photoshop and coloring them too. SERIOUS TEAMWORK!! About 1 minute of the film is completely finished. Here are four of the finished shots I worked on this morning.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Flyer Design Concepts

One of my old roommates who got to witness Dark Circus in its infantile pre-production stages is a graphic design major here at CCS and gladly agreed to help me design that circus flyer that keeps appearing throughout the first 2 minutes of the film. Alyssa Lopez is an expert with text (texpert?) and has already drafted up a few quick concepts for the graphics on the flyer.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Batch Processing Clean up Drawings in Photoshop

I've been bouncing all over the place in terms of production, even with frame processing. I'll share how I do and if any has any suggestions to improve the process, then let me know!

I start by making a duplicate folder of all my scanned frames on the desktop. I also set up a folder that all my finished frame will go to once they are batched.

Before bringing them into photoshop, I label each frame. If you number them, make sure to start off with zeros. This helps keep them in order later. (i.e. 06, or heaven forbid that you have over a 3 digit quantity of drawings then 006)

Open one frame in photoshop, not all of them.

Okay, this next step will not affect the outcome of the batch, but it may affect the outcome of your sanity. Whenever you save something in photoshop, the program asks you to run a compatibility check. Most of us just dismiss this and forget about it. But imagine doing that OVER AND OVER AND OVER until all the frames are done. Yeah, it kills you a little. So we're going to do something to prevent it. Open up your preferences and go to File Handling.

There is a drop down menu next to the dreaded Compatibility checker. Change the setting to NEVER! If you're on a public computer then maybe it is best that you turn this back on to 'Ask' when you're all done just for courtesy's sake.

Now it's time to open up the Action box. (Hmm... action box, that sounds like a good name for a sports show. I'll have to write that down.)

This box should open up. We start off with a new set. Click the little button that looks like a folder.

I like to name the set after the shot title just for keeping things organized.

Now we need our first action in the set. Click on the button with the folded piece of paper.

You should only need to do this once, because once you hit that 'Record' button, then everything you do, where you do it, and how you do it will be recorded. You can always turn record on or off through the process if you need to stop.

Okay, we're recording now. My first action is to unlock the image layer. You can do this easily by going to the Layer box, double clicking on the locked layer, and then hit 'Okay'. Done.

I like to crop down some of my animations, especially the ones that are small and have little movement. This might not be a good idea for ALL your animations so judge wisely. Make sure that your cropping will encompass the entire path of action for your animation because those same dimensions will be repeated with every frame.

Once I do that, I toggle with the levels. Levels adjusts what is true dark and what is true light. This makes selecting the whites of the frame easier. Go to the Image menu and under Adjustments you should find the Levels. (Or apple L for short)

Adjust the little tabs around until the background is a little more pure white and the lines are darker. This might affect the line quality a bit.

Now we are going to select the white area. Using the magic wand tool, select an area in the frame that is white. REMEMBER, the point you click on will be recorded and photoshop will select that point for every single frame If there is a line present there in another frame then the lines will be selected and not the negative space. A corner is usually a good choice. Make sure the Contiguous box is not checked.

Select the white area and delete it. Only the black lines should remain. Easy enough, right? If you want to test out the lines, stop recording (the blue square button in the Action box) and use the paint bucket tool to fill in a test area. If there is still white edges, then more more refining is needed. Undo the paint and start recording again (the red circle button).

Under the select menu is the Color Range function.

This will help us target those tricky little white edges. Select 'Highlights' in the drop box. This will find those stray light lines. Hit 'Okay'. This will select the light pixels and you can simply delete them.

This is what the finished lines look like. If you want to, stop recording again and do another paint bucket test. But turn it back on when you're done because there is one last important thing to record. Save this file as a PSD in the batch folder you set up earlier. If you don't record this, then all of your files will just close themselves when they are done being processed and they won't be saved. Once you have saved, stop recording.

Under the File menu, go to Automate and select 'Batch'.

For the Play section, make sure that the Set and Action we started earlier are selected. In the source section, set the source to Folder and choose the folder of duplicate frames we made earlier, not the originals. In the Destination section, set it to Folder and choose the Batch folder you made. Check the "Override Save As Commands" box or else you'll be bombarded by the saving options box after each frame and you'll go crazy. Lastly, and this is really important, name the files. I like to name them after the shot title and then use 'Lines' as the extension so i can know what they are. But most importantly, Use a 2 (or 3) digit serial number. Photoshop's Automate function will name and number each file automatically.

Once you hit the 'Okay' button, your batching will begin. All the finished frames should end up in the batch folder. Make sure to review them when it's done. Batching is one of those things where the planets have to align in our for it to turn out right. One tiny little misstep could ruin the entire batch. And not all shots will turn out identically so there is a lot of judgement involved. I would suggest doing a few practice runs before actually doing it for real. It's a subtle art that isn't easy to get right away. If anyone can think of any ways to improve this process, make sure to tell me so that I can improve this tutorial.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Leaping into the Last Few Weeks

Even though spring break has been a nice little vacation from scheduled classes, that doesn't mean I've taken time off from working on the film. I've redesigned the first 35 or so seconds of the film so that it's a little more photo roman-ish and I've worked on several shots of rough and tie down animation.

Also, you may have noticed a few changes made to the blog, especially the HELP WANTED column on the left side of the blog. I am searching for a few animators that can help out with a few simple shots such as a paper falling or a hand grabbing a handle. There are other jobs that people can lend a hand with such as illustration work. Let me know if anyone is interested!


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

Experimenting with Compositing Modes = Awesome!

So while tweaking my work reel I thought I'd find a way to make the colored animation tests of the acrobats doing their stuff blend in a little more seamlessly. Normally you would drop all the PNGs into After Effects and sequence them into a video there but I did it in iStopmotion as a test and planned to do it in AE later. Lo and behold something strangely cool resulted on this. Even though this images were PNG files (which preserves the transparency) and had no background, iStopmotion hasn't figured this out yet and just fills the empty space with black. This wouldn't be the case with After Effects. I put the test into the work reel for a temporary placeholder and I tried playing around with the compositing modes so you can at least see the watercolor background beneath it. I was surprised by the results.
This is what the original test looks like. Note the black background.

The watercolor painting is brought into Final Cut and placed beneath the video clip.

Right clicking on the video clip and then selecting Difference in the Composite drop down menu.

See the difference! (^_^ lol, no pun intended)

It looks really interesting now because the inverted texture of the watercolor in the background can be seen in the acrobat. So spooky! But now the colors need a little adjusting. In the Effects menu, scroll down to Video Filters followed by Color Correction and selected the Color Corrector filter.

Using this tool I can change the color and value a bit to make the acrobat a little easier to see. I'm just going to adjust the value and saturation controls.

Here are the comparisons between the different stages.

And here is the final product.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Little Help With Clean Up Animation

I'd like to Introduce CCS freshman Paul Blair aboard the Dark Circus crew. He has been a HUGE help so far handling clean up work while I focus on other animation and a bountiful source of enthusiasm for the project even when I'm feeling a little drained. Thanks a lot, Paul!

Cleaned up frame from Shot 73

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

OMG Colors!

Check it out! I colored a couple animations yesterday morning and I think they turned out all right. I had to re-learn batching in Photoshop in less than an hour though. With the exceptions of about three separate animations which are still in the roughing stage, this is the whole fourth scene of the film.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

So, What Have I been Up To?

Oh my! So long since my last post! That's because I've been doing a lot of animation for the acrobats scene. Normally I would just key all the shots out and then go back to them once the whole film is keyed but I'd rather do some damage now while I'm still in the loosey-goosey flow of things and just keep going. Some of the shots are keys, some are tied down, some are clean, and some aren't even here in the video. I'll have more tests up soon!

Man! Blogger is NOT KIND to video quality!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Motivational Meme

I found this while briskly browsing some of my routine internet stops. I found it quite motivational. This image and other meme-themed (hehe, that rhymned) goodies can be found at

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Little Under the Weather Lately, But Still Animating...

Hey there everyone, I apologize for my lack of posting in the last few days. There really hasn't been much to say other than I'm recently recovering from a nearly 10-day-long stretch of chronic coughing, nose blowing, tea drinking, nap taking, and medicine dosing. I usually get sick around this time of year so I can't say that I'm surprised by this. But all in all, I kept up on the animating (at a slightly slowed pace) and had a lot of fun working on the shots of the acrobats. I'll have some videos posted as soon as I shoot all the animations. Thanks for all the well-wishing and care taking, my friends.

This is how I felt. True Story.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Work Reel with Colored Backgrounds and 'Little Bang Theory' Music!

The clock is counting down and there is much to do. So let's get crackin'!

Also present in my current real is the musical stylings of 'Little Bang Theory' who specialize in composing and playing songs on toys and childrens instruments. For my film they gave me premission to use "Garden Party", "Dada boy Overture", and "Toy Suite #3" in that order from their 'Elementary' CD. The three members of Little Bang Theory are Frank Pahl, Terri Sarris, and Doug Shimmin.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Man, I have really come to appreciate what an amazing tool photoshop is. There is no way I would have been able to color so many of these things by hand and still have a full head of majority brunette hair. I've been putting my foot pedal to the metal on finishing these backgrounds since the start of winter break and now they finally are done! I know that I might have to go back and change a color here or tweak a gradient there but there is sometime so amazingly satisfying about scrolling through your entire work reel and every bit has a colored background. it really juices it up. but most importantly, now my time can be focused towards forging out the animation!

Something about passing another milestone in film production makes you feel like a Thunder Cat!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Backgrounds Are Almost Done!!

There is still a small handful of background left to be worked on. Some I'll have to draw from scratch and some I just need to make some tweaks to an existing background for a new shot. Either way, the final has become a lot more colorful since the end of the fall semester. I have a lot of fun coloring the backgrounds and I'm pleased with the progress I've made over the months.

I had been pulling a lot of inspiration from the background illustrations for the anime film, 5 Centimeters Per Second by Makoto Shinkai. The movie is gorgeously realized with astounding artwork. Definitely look it up if you want to be pulled into a breath-taking visual experience.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Backgrounds in the Witch's Den

As the end of winter break draws closer, the background coloring process is also going to be coming to a end as well. These are some of the backgrounds from the climax of the film in the Witch's den. So far, these have been the only backgrounds that required the additional assistance of Adobe Illustrator.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Inside the Dark Circus: Watercolor Background Process

Tutorial time!

As I mentioned a few posts ago my very helpful background assistant, Homin Jang, painted up a collection of custom watercolor textures for me to use the backgrounds for inside the circus tent. I went with the idea of a simple textured background because I didn't want to draw too much attention away from the acrobats' performance with any overly detailed and heavily saturated backgrounds. These watercolor backgrounds are just interesting enough to lightly compliment the animation of the the acrobats without being too distracting. Another plus is that I can make them really fast and easily so they're a great time saver. Let's get started!

This is the watercolor painting I start off with.

I bring it into Photoshop but I decide not to mess with levels or saturation. The colors and textures are just fine the way they are.

For these backgrounds, I'll be using my all time favorite tool, the gradient tool. I LOVE using gradients to shade and render images so it's what I'll be using to add values and colors to our painting.

Make a new layer overtop the original painting and select the color black with your color picker. Make sure to have the color-to-transparency setting selected and also don't forget to play around with the opacity. Use both the linear and radial gradient tools for varying looks.

Now just drop in some random gradient values anywhere you fancy. Be careful not to go overboard and lose all those beautiful textures.

There we go. Now our painting has some ominous shadows. But keep in mind, it is better than these backgrounds are too light rather than too dark, and it's always better to assume that more screens will show things darker than your work screen.

Next it's time to drop some more colors into our backgrounds. To keep with the slightly creepy theme, I'm going to add some more dark reds, pinks, and purples. Feel free to turn off your black layer for this.

Make another layer below the one you just did. Repeat the same process as with the shadow layer by dabbing in some globby gradients of color. Just don't overdo it.

Now for the final adjustments. Since we want to make the black layer a shadow value layer, set the mode to Multiply. This means that the darker the color, the more opaque it is sinks into the image while lighter values become more transparent. That way, is it's too dark, you can lighten it up a little with some gray gradients. You can also toggle the opacity to achieve the desired darkness for this layer. The color layer we just did needs to stay below the value layer and keep it set to Normal. And don't forget to label your layers! Organization is key!!

And there you have it! The original painting has been Dark Circus-ified. This process is easy to repeat so a lot of these can be done in a jiffy.