Making Progress

This is my second month of being in the new office. Things have been settling into place as I’ve been developing my daily routine. Currently I’ve been working on a pitch reel for my Bottled Spirits series, adapting the idea from my original short and adding elements from other episodes. I’ve been documenting it on my Instagram.

I’m aiming to finish it by the 21st. After that I’d like to work on pieces for my freelancing reel and other less time-sensitive pitches. I want to divide my time between animating and building up diverse revenue streams. Designing various prints, shirts, and fonts will be a nice mental break from the monotony of bigger projects.

Moving House

My home studio has been a real asset to me over the years. Having designated space for projects has helped keep home and work life somewhat separated. When marathoning sessions and crunching to get things finished it’s nice to be able to stay in pajamas. Next month, however, I’m moving most of my equipment to a new location where I’ll be sharing office space. I’ll keep a bare bones setup here but I’m looking forward to the new opportunities that will open up. There’s an energy you get from having others around. After college the closest I’ve come to capturing that sort of environment was my yearly trip to Calgary for the QuickDraw Animation Lockdown. “Networking” and “making connections” are buzzwords I’d like to abstain from but I am hoping to get to know new people, maybe make a few friends. That might result in future collaborations, finding somebody who can make use of what I bring to the table, or perhaps I’ll find someone who can help me out somehow.

via GIPHY

In my previous post I said I wanted to blog on Monday, Wednesday, Friday leaving Tuesday and Thursday for posting videos on my YouTube channel. I was hoping announcing plans would kick my butt into gear. Like all New Years mistakes it was overly hopeful, presupposing I was actually ready to start sharing content regularly. Since we’re nearing the end of January it’s time for a check in to see where I’m at and where things are headed based on what’s actually in front of me and not, like, holiday season fairy dust and magic, or whatever causes us all to expect ourselves to be somebody different after midnight.

YouTube Ad-Pocalypse: Partner Program Edition

For those not keeping score, YouTube have recently changed requirements for membership of their Partner Program. In order to be a monetized partner channels must now have 4,000 hours of watch time within the past 12 months and 1,000 subscribers by February 20th. This means a lot of smaller channels, such as mine, are going to lose the ability to monetize through YouTube’s AdSense system. I’m not exactly heart broken over this news as even the most successful channels cite AdSense as their lowest source of revenue. Ads only really make serious revenue with large audiences, being on the Internet causes ads to be worth significantly less than they are on traditional media, and honestly I’m conflicted about advertising in general.

Advertising is a reality of life and business. In order for cool things to run creators need to get paid. This usually means running ads. Except ads today are a pain. They take us away from the content we came to see. Advertisers that pay the best often have the most generic ads aimed at the widest audience possible which results in a race to the middle. It also leaves creators beholden to their advertisers. YouTube’s ad money is very fickle. Back in 2012 Reply Girls exploited the algorithm and YouTube moved from favoring views to favoring watch time, making animators’ channels plummet in revenue. There’s also the broken content ID system, false flags, and a myriad of other problems with the platform. Still the fact remains the site is too big to leave.

I agree with Hank Green that no real competition for YouTube currently exists. If it did it would be dealing with the same issues any site of that size would. Services like Patreon and the recently relaunched Drip are going to be crucial if creators are ever going to move away from relying on ads for revenue.

Circling the conversation back, the partner changes impact me personally again in relation to Multichannel Networks, specifically my MCN the Channel Frederator Network. CFN found out about the changes at the same time the rest of us did. This left them scrambling to get things sorted for all of their members. If I’m unable to monetize my channel by the 20th, what’s my status with CFN and the tools/community it provides?

We are extremely proud to announce that although YouTube is disabling their partnership with some of you, we here at Channel Frederator consider you members in good standing. You will not be disabled from your partnership with us, you will still have access to our tools/platforms, and opportunities for growth to reach that threshold for monetization. This was decided on day one of this big change, a unanimous decision from all levels of management here at Frederator. We just needed to do some tweaking under the hood, and make sure that our dreams of still having you all with us can come true.

Below are some important notes we want to mention:

All members affected by Youtube’s new policy will still have access to the forums, all our tools, and opportunities while you’re still in contract with us.

After your contract ends, we will limit some of the services we offer until you’re able to monetize again.

For those who are interested, we’re dedicated to continue to help you reach the required 1K subs and 4K threshold. Then you’re more than welcome to be fully linked with us, and have access to everything!

I might not be the most active member of the community but I full-heartedly appreciate when they prove that “Frederator Loves You!” is more than a marketing slogan. I’ll be going into more details about plans and projects in future posts but I really want to take a moment and commend Channel Frederator on this. I planned on using their resources as I relaunch my channel with more regular content in 2018 and CFN have made me very proud to be partnered with them.

Status of the Blog 6/12/17

YouTube Thumbnail for Moon Over My Monkey

Quickdraw Animation Lockdown 2017

I recently returned from a three week trip to Canada. Part of that was spent in Calgary at Quickdraw Animation Society participating in their annual Animation Lockdown. Over the Victoria Day long weekend teams worked on shorts loosely themed around Brave New Worlds. Here’s my entry, Moon Over My Monkey.

Lockdown is a fun event, even though you’re always under the pressure of a deadline. You learn a lot about yourself over a four day crunch to finish a film. I started attending last year as a getaway from my regular environment. A chance to join like-minded people as we toiled away in our respective studio spaces. As somebody with ADHD I have a love/hate relationship with structure. Left to my own devices I can get overly ambitious and fail to finish anything due to perfectionism. There’s no time for perfection with Lockdown. Even if you spend time beforehand prepping you still only have so long to finesse before the screening.

Retro Animation Website

Inspiration

The recent YouTube Ad-pocalypse has made me think back to earlier days on the Internet. Sites like Homestar Runner and JoeCartoon would feature animated cartoons that were entirely their own thing. Of course that was before Flash was a dead program walking. The Brothers Chaps have tested the waters with a comeback. Cousin Joe Twoshacks has a band now. Jazza did interviews with various Newgrounds animators in his The Tale Teller & Mini Documentary Series, particularly in part three, The RISE of INDEPENDENT ANIMATION.

He also made a video entitled The DEATH of Independent YOUTUBE ANIMATION? joining in the discussion of the future of indie animation on the platform. Can You Make A Career Out of Internet Animation? The Pegbarians Are Definitely Trying also brought about some passionate responses from those in the community. YouTube competitor vidme has been courting frustrated animators with their Original Animation category. I encourage all creators today to put their content everywhere. This increases your chances of being seen, of growing an audience, and hopefully makes it harder for freebooters to gain traction. That said, having your own domain to point back to is very important. At the end of the day you don’t own any of the other platforms you post on. It’s risky running a business on a system that’s out of your control. One change in an algorithm can dramatically impact people’s livelihoods over night. This need for stability and control, coupled with a desire to experiment, is why my next big project is going to be building my own site for my animations.

Laying the Groundwork

After using WordPress for ~10 years I’m eager for a little more flexibility. It’s tempting to just start making pages but I remember early in my webcomics career, after I’d built up something of an archive, “How am I going to change the footer on all these… Oh.” I spent some time researching and comparing various flat file CMS systems and at the moment have settled on Grav. I still need to experiment in my local environment but right now that’s what I’m going with. I’m also going to be testing Animatron to make HTML5 animations with interactivity that should work on mobile devices.

Manga Studio

  • On July 24, 2012 ·
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Today I’d like to discuss Manga Studio. Known as ComicStudio in Japan, this app is actually pretty impressive in how it’s geared towards the creation of comics. Like Smith Micro’s Anime Studio, it comes in a cheaper version for beginners and a fuller priced version for professionals. (Manga Studio EX 5 and Manga Studio 5, respectably) When starting a new project you can select to either start a new page or a new story. You’re presented with some good preset templates or you can configure your own. The brushes are extremely configurable, the vector tools allowing you to adjust the correction and stroke in/out. You can make your own custom brushes or download some like these by Ray Frenden.

The brushes are probably my favorite thing about Manga Studio though there’s also the ability to import 3D models, all the various toning options, filters, and perspective rulers. It does take some time to get used to the interface but it’s pretty rewarding when you do get the hang of it. Meredith Gran of Octopus Pie was the first webcartoonist I saw making good use of it. Since then I’ve seen a number of folks trying it out.

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Photoshop Brushes

  • On July 23, 2012 ·
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Here’s some sets of photoshop brushes you may find useful. I’ve done my best to point to the original sites of the creators where possible. I tend to use the stumpy pencil and the digital inking brush from Geekasaurus-Rex almost exclusively these days.

Pencil Brushes

Stumpy Pencil V2

 Pencil Box 1

Pencil Box 2

Awesome Photoshop Pencil Brush

Cloured Pencil Brushes

Pencil Brushes

PS Brushes – Coloured Pencil

PS Brushes – Pencil

PS Brushes – Pencil Brushes 2

Sketching Brushes and Pitt

Photoshop Pencil Brush

My Pencil Brush Set 1

Ink Brushes

Inking Brush by Geekasaurus-Rex

Simple Inking Brush for Photoshop

Painting and Inking Brushes

Ink Pen

Dave’s Camelhair Brushes

Dave’s Camelhair Brushes V2

Misc Brushes/Sets

Nagel Brush Series (This is a series made up of about 43 different sets. Sets 1-39 are collected here while you can grab 40, 41, 42, and 43 separately)

Graphic Brushes

The Sketch Arsenal

Sketchtastic Brush Pack

Brushes Pack

Brushes Pack .05 – Watercolor

Ink and Watercolor Brushes

Mateu7’s Watercolor Brushes

Custom Brushes from idrawdigital

Crack Brushes 1

Crack Brushes 2

Crack Brushes 3

Rising Sun Brushes

More Rising Sun Brushes

 

Lightboxes

  • On July 20, 2012 ·
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Today I’d like to talk a little bit about the lightbox. Some artists starting out may not fully realize the benefits of using a lightbox. It’s a really simple tool and it makes tracing over/reworking your art a lot easier. How simple is it? There’s a number of blogs online about how to make one yourself on a budget.

Using tupperware boxes and a lightbulb

Homemade animation table including registration pegboard out of tupperware, light, and ruler

Slightly more industrial version

Glass picture frame, bulb, cardboard box

Converting an old suitcase into a portable lightbox

Recycling an old scanner into a lightbox

Building a lightbox

Lightbox for under $20

Constructing a lightbox

Light table under $30

Simple diagrams and instructions are easy to find online, even video tutorials.

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You can buy lightboxes in stores but expect to pay more unless you’re getting one used or from a wholesaler.

Animation desks are slightly more involved in design as the require a way to register the drawings in place with each other and usually facilitate turning the drawing. Here’s an online gallery full of reference for people looking to buy or build their own. Other animators have posted build logs online of their desks being put together.

This Disney Studios animation desk went for $8,200 on ebay. I like to think I’m responsible with my money but if I’d had the 8 grand damn right I would have bought it. Actually I should mention I bought my animation desk from AnimationDesks.com in Canada where Colin Johnson assembles them at a very competitive price. He builds the desks with adjustable heights, includes an animation disc with pegbar and backlight, and ships it all for what you’d probably spend on materials and labor.

Bill Plympton – Cheatin’ Production Blog

  • On July 19, 2012 ·
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“King of indie animation” Bill Plympton has been doing a video production blog on his latest film, Cheatin’.

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Be sure to check out the rest on his Vimeo profile and his blog he shares with Patrick Smith.

Some of my favorite Plympton animations: His guest couch gag on The Simpsons.

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The Kanye West music video, Heard ‘Em Say.

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The “Weird Al” Yankovic music video, Don’t Download This Song.

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Nick Cross – The Pig Farmer (NSFW)

  • On July 18, 2012 ·
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I’ve been watching a lot of student and independently animated films lately. Today I’d like to highlight Canadian animator Nick Cross’s The Pig Farmer. Be aware that the film is for mature viewers and not work safe.

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I chose this cartoon to bring up because A) it’s a well done and weird little short that should be seen and B) it’s production was well documented with behind the scenes blog posts.

Original fundraising post with drawings

The animation process in 9 stages with video

Inking in Flash demo video

First scene completed

Background painting process

Incidental paintings for the film being sold as prints

Slitscan effect sequence

Cross mentions on his blog that he wanted to defend Flash from some of it’s detractors by showing that a film like Pinnochio could be made with it. I recall John K. mentioning when he switched to Toon Boom Harmony that Flash wasn’t really made for animators. I personally think Flash, like any other program out there, is a useful tool though it’s not exactly ideal for traditional animating. You can bend any tool with enough effort and know how, just look at MS Paint. It’s really more a matter of which software you feel more comfortable using, which fits your production pipeline better, and which gives you the best results you want the fastest.

Anyway, be sure to check out Cross’s blog and his profile on Vimeo for his other films.

Animation Softwares

  • On July 17, 2012 ·
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Here’s a list of different software packages out there for animators. I might review some of these more in depth in the future but for now here’s just a general list of things I’ve found so far.

Freeware

Pencil 2D – Cross platform open source program that does bitmap and vectors as well as sound. Still in beta and kinda buggy. I stopped using it when it started crashing my Wacom driver.

Plastic Animation Paper – Windows-only (though there was a Mac beta floating around) program that went totally free when the development schedule went up in the air.

Synfig Studio – Cross platform open source program, does bitmap and vectors as well as sound.

MonkeyJam – Windows-only pencil test/stop motion program and supports sound.

Blender – Cross platform open source 3D content creation suite.

Commercial Software

3D Studio Max – 3D modeling, animation, and rendering package.

Maya – 3D modeling, animation, and rendering package. Fun fact: South Park is made with it since they’re able to simulate cut out stop motion with textures very quickly.

LightWave – 3D modeling, animation, and rendering package.

messiah:studio – 3D bone rigging, animation, and rendering system.

iStopMotion 3 – Mac/iPad stop motion/time lapse program.

Toki Line Test – Mac/Windows pencil test/stop motion program that supports sound.

Moho (Formerly Anime Studio) – Vector and puppet animation with bone rigging, simulated physics, and auto lip-syncing. You can do some nice South Park-like animations with it.

Stop Motion Pro – Used in films by Aardman Animations like Wallace & Gromit and Pirates! Band of Misfits.

AnimatorHD – Windows-based stop motion and time lapse program.

Dragonframe 3 Stop Motion Software – Windows/Mac stop motion software and keypad. Used in films like Frankenweenie

Adobe Flash Professional CC [Digital Membership] – Vector animation and web interaction interface software. Most commonly used for it’s motion/shape ‘tweening and scripting capabilities. Traditional animators can also achieve some very impressive results with it.

TVPaint – Designed to mimic traditional art techniques. Cross platform and supports paper as well as paperless animating. Looks both awesome and totally intimidating.

Toon Boom – Various vector-based animation systems. Everything from the hobbyist up to huge studio workflows.

Digicel Flipbook – Designed from the ground up with the traditional animator in mind. Supports scanning/photographing

Books for Animating

  • On July 16, 2012 ·
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Over the years I’ve collected a bunch of books on animation. I might review some of them more in depth later but right now I’m going to give you my list of the most useful ones.

Cartoon Animation by Preston Blair

 Cover of Cartoon Animation by Preston Blair

Pound for pound this book contains the most information stored in an easy to understand format. It’s deceptively simple. It covers everything from drawing and character design to the basic elements of animating and production. The layperson can flip through it to gain an understanding of the essentials while the student and professional will regularly flip back to the super useful charts illustrating the differences between all sorts of bipedal and animal movement.

The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams

 Cover to the Animator's Survival Kit by Richard Williams

Where Preston Blair’s book is the essentials, Richard William’s book is like the expanded manual. He provides detailed and analytical breakdowns of movement. The copy I actually have from college is a pre-expanded edition so I need to update myself. There’s even a 16 DVD box-set which I would love to have someday.

The Animator’s Workbook: Step-By-Step Techniques of Drawn Animation by Tony White

 Cover for the Animator's Workbook by Tony White

This book is a nice primer on the basics and a decent addition to the reference shelf.

The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation by Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnston

 Cover to the Illusion of Life: Disney Animation by Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnston

This is a beautiful book showcasing a lot of behind the scenes art from Disney classics. My only issue is it’s more of a retrospective of the studio’s achievements so you’re not going to glimpse the same understanding of what the artists are doing in this one as you would in the how-to guides on this list.

 

Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist by Chuck Jones

 Cover to Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist by Chuck Jones

This book is a really great read. Jones walks us through his formative years and how he got started down the life path to cartooning. I almost want to say it’s like The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance for cartoonists. There’s bits of animating advice and art throughout but this book really illustrates the thinking mind of a great director.

Chuck Reducks: Drawing from the Fun Side of Life by Chuck Jones

 Cover of Chuck Reducks: Drawing from the Fun Side of Life by Chuck Jones

An interesting follow up to Chuck Amuck, this book focuses on character – specifically key characters throughout Jones’s career. His other book dealt with the discovery that characters in his cartoons are really parts of himself personified. This time around he analyzes what makes each particular one tick and how he identifies with them so we in turn do the same. An important part in understanding how a character moves is understanding what they’re thinking and feeling. Being better aware of what the character is all about leads to better acting in the animation.

Make Toons That Sell Without Selling Out by Bill Plympton

 Cover of Make Toons That Sell Without Selling Out by Bill Plympton

“King of Indie Animation” Bill Plympton shares his thoughts on making cartoons. This book has a very personal voice, which isn’t surprising considering it’s from a guy that animates shorts and feature films by himself. He explains his methods of production and how one man can make cartoons outside the system. It’s a good overview and makes you think about every stage in putting a film together and getting it seen.

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