This year is the first since 2017 I haven’t been able to participate in the QAS Animation Lockdown myself. But! There’s good reason for that:
I’ve been moving to Canada.
Cat’s outta the bag. I’ll have more on this in a future dedicated post but right now I’d like to encourage everybody to come to the QAS screening if they can make it. Support wonderful artists in the community and get to see some sweet animated films! 😀
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 toningoptions, 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.
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.
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.
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 postedbuildlogs 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.
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.
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.
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.
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