Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Heading up north!

We left LA for San Francisco on Sunday. The weather is a bit colder here. It's also more windy, kinda like back in Norway which is okay after a week with very hot weather in LA.

We spent the first day walking around downtown San Francisco. The life up here seems a bit calmer and more relaxed than in LA. We also went to see Harry Potter at the IMAX theater, which was kinda cool. The last 30 min of the film was in 3D. Nice!

Our hotel is at Union Square and on Monday we took a long walk all the way down to Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf and hung out there throughout the day. Just relaxed and enjoyed our honeymoon :)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Professional Bus Passengers

For our last day in LA, we decided to go to Century City. Earlier we've taken a cab everywhere we went, but this time, we wanted to try out the LA public transportation. We was going to take a bus! I gotta admit, I never take a bus, not in Norway and certainly not in LA. But as I remember it as a kid, it worked like this: enter the bus, tell the driver where you are going, pay what he ask for and sit down til the destination is reached. Right? Nhahaa. Not quite how it works.

The bus arrived, we went on. At first the driver didn't even looked at us, so I said "Century City..?". He said "yeah?", still not looking. After a very awkward pause, he added "1.50". I held the money up. Then the guy looked at me with a very strange, but kinda cool facial expression: "dude, what are you trying to do??" and I was like "well...I'm trying to pay you..." Suddenly I guess the driver realized that he had to deal with stupid foreigners on a LA bus for the first time in their life's, so he showed us that we had to put the money into a money automate thingy (which of course spitted out the paper money three times, just to make the situation even more painful than it already was). We finally sat down and believe me, payed very very close attention to how the people that got on the bus did it.

We had a great time in Century City and when we were going back home, we went onto the bus, put the money (which this time were coins) onto the automate, nodded kindly to the driver, he nodded back and we sat down. We knew how to do this by now - we're professional LA bus passengers :)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sony Pictures and Universal Studios

On Thursday we went on the public studio tour at Sony Pictures, which is just a block away from our hotel in Culver City. It was kinda cool to check out the sound stage where one of my favorite movies, the Wizard of Oz, was shot. We also went to see Ratatouille. It was outstanding! Beautiful animation!

On Friday, we went out to Universal Studios and spent the whole day having fun in the theme park. We also took the public Universal Studio Tour which was okay.

We paid a bunch of extra money for a "First in Line"-pass and it was totally worth it. We never had to wait any longer than max 5 min for any ride :) and we also got reserved seats at all the shows. "First in Line" rocks!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Santa Monica, Beverly Hills & Hollywood Bowl

After a pretty intensive first day, we were going to take it bit easier the second day. Elaine picked us up around lunch time and we drove out to Santa Monica and had lunch at a very nice restaurant.

After lunch we walked along the beach and out to Santa Monica Pier. We hung out there for a while and just relaxed. Next we headed for Beverly Hills and a nice walk on Rodeo Drive.

Elaine had arranged a wedding present for Kari and me this evening: Concert at Hollywood Bowl! We picked up a picnic-basket at a restaurant, all pre-ordered and set, took a shuttle up to the bowl where the concert was - "Jazz at the Movies"! It was a fantastic experience!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A great first day in LA

After almost 24 hours of traveling (lots of waiting for transferring flights in Amsterdam and Minneapolis), we got a short, but well needed, night sleep at our hotel in Culver City. A very nice hotel, haunted, but cool :)

After a quick breakfast and a couple of coffees, Elaine (a very good friend since AM class 1) picket us up and we headed out to Glendale and Dreamworks Feature Animation! We had an appointment with my class 4 mentor, Sean Sexton and he offered to give us a tour at the studio. Elaine's mentor, Morgan Kelly, was also joining us.

First we had a super Dreamworks-lunch (means there was A LOT of food) with Sean and Morgan. After lunch they showed us around the studio. It was really cool to see all they stuff they are working on. Super-inspiring!! Seems like an awesome place to work. They even have their own game room. Fantastic!

Next we went up to Griffith Park where we got a great view over LA. We had to walk up though. We were told it was suppose to be a 20 min. walk. I think we spent an hour walking up...at least it felt like that :)

After spending some time at the observatory at the top, we headed down to Hollywood Blvd and Walk of Fame.

We ended the evening with a very nice dinner at Palm Thai restaurant in Hollywood with a group of other students from Animation Mentor.

Elaine, which is totally awesome, spending all the day with us and showing us around, dropped us off at our hotel at around 11. We were exhausted after a really long, but supercool and exciting first day in LA :)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Coming to America!

Sooo...tomorrow night we're leaving for our honeymoon, the Animation Mentor Graduation Ceremony and Siggraph! We're going to America for three weeks. It's gonna be crazy awesome and I'm superexcited! It will be my first time in the US ever and through 18 months at Animation Mentor I've met some really fantastic people that I'm looking forward to meet in person.

We're flying out from Torp (Sandefjord Airport, Norway) to Amsterdam and from there to Minneapolis and then straight to LA. Gonna stay in LA for about a week, then head up north to San Francisco and after a week in the bay area, down south again for San Diego, Siggraph and Animation Mentor Graduation.

This is going to be so coooool!!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Getting the short done in time

Just read a post over at Keith Lango's blog about what to spend time on when making a short. With my short just finished, I have to say, I totally agree!

I did Animation Mentor full time (mostly) and spent about 12-15 hours a day for the last 6 months at AM. I thought class 5 where we "only" were developing the story, was going to be an easy term. No animation, just come up with a story and develop it. Simple eh? Man was I wrong. It was a hell of a term and maybe the hardest of them all. Creating a story that I (and my mentor) was happy with was so hard. Cause I got really blind very fast and with contradictory feedback it got even harder as the story was developing. Still the feedback is totally necessary, cause you want everybody to get the story. It's always clear to the storyteller, but not necessarily to the audience.

When my story was locked (mid-term class 5), I was warned by many and rightfully so, cause my story involved some visual effects like the transformation from the old guy to the young man. I told myself at that point that Class 6 was going to be animation only. I wouldn't spend any time what so ever on anything else but animation in class 6. I knew there was going to be a wedding right after Class 6 was finished and that it was only 1 month before we was leaving for Siggraph - hopefully bringing my short with me. That meant I had to figure out all the effect-stuff, the modeling, the backgrounds etc before I started animation. It wouldn't be time for it after. If I wasn't able to finish all the non-animation stuff before I started the blocking, I had to go for plan B (which I had) that was a cut-down version of the story with no effects. I did figure it out and when I was done with class 5, I had an animatic with all the effects, all the temp-sound, the backgrounds etc. There's nothing great about those effects, but it gets the story point across :)

Class 6 was animation only for me and I was lucky to have a mentor that was focusing on animation only. After class 6, I spent only three weeks putting on procedural textures and render it using a very simple fake GI light-rig.

At AM we're under a very strict deadline, which is really good. We simply have no choice but to make all the non-anim stuff simple. If I was going to attempt anything like the Ratatouille-sets (ref Lango's post) for my whole short (1 min 10 sec actually screen time), it would have taken me decades to finish and the motivation would have been
gone long before that and the film would probably never been finished.

The purpose of my short is to get a job as an animator. And because of that, focusing on animation was really important to me. My short has about 1 min of actually animation and doing that in one 3 month term was really hard (AM recommend 30 sec max for a 3 month pace). It took 12+ hours a day, every day. It is possible for a while, cause it's sooo much fun doing it, but there's only a certain amount of time you can keep up with that before you crack.

Of course we're all different and some people have crazy talents, but to me, Lango's post is spot on and something to keep in mind when doing my next short. :)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"Forever Young" is getting out there

I posted my short film on CG Talk a couple a days ago and the response is awesome. Almost 1500 views (and counting) so far and a bunch of really nice comments. I've also noticed that it's been posted on several other forums which is really flattering.

I posted a copy on YouTube as well and it's actually getting a lot of hits there too. I have no idea how people find it among all the stuff thats posted there, but they do :) Pretty cool!

I've also updated my showreel. Taken out a few shots and added my short. Awaiting the AM critique on it, but I'm not sure if I'm gonna get the crit before we leave for the US on Monday, so this is how the reel will look for a little while.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Forever Young - The Gate of Youth

It's been said that a film is never finished - it's just taken away from you, and I truly feel this about "Forever Young". Obviously I can keep polishing it forever, but I have to let go at some point. So here it is, my Animation Mentor graduation short film: "Forever Young - The Gate of Youth".

This version is a low-res render. I didn't had time for a hi-res render before we leave for the US. On the AM alumni site, we'll get another final Animation Mentor critique from a mentor on our short. When that critique is dealt with, the plan is to render it out as HD.

It's been a lot of work, long hours and frustrating days during the making of this film, but I've learned so much about all aspects of movie-making and animation, that it's all been totally worth it.

Hope you like it :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Audience Involvement

At our wedding last Saturday, there were speeches after the dinner and when it was my wife's bridesmaids turn (which was her sister) she were standing up, ready to deliver her speech. Everybody watched her with excitement, wondering what she was about to say.

She started "Dear Kari and Martin....." then suddenly she bursted into tears. She tried to continue, but was unable to get any word out that made any sense. But she kept standing. I looked around and noticed 60 people, fighting their tears with her, including myself, as we all were totally sucked into her emotions and feelings. It was complete silence in the room when suddenly her 2-year old daughter said "You don't have to cry, mommy!". People started to laugh in a kind of mix between laughter and crying. It was so perfectly beautiful. Then she responded to her daughter and in an awesome way used that to get her self back together and continued with her speech.

It was a wonderful moment and definitely one of the highlights of the wedding for me. There are of course lots of moments like that in life, but this one was a pretty strong one and it involved every single person in the room. To me, it was a great first hand experience of what Frank and Ollie calls Audience Involvement in the first chapter of "The Illusion of Life". They say "In our own lives, we find that as we get to know people, we share their experiences - we sympathize, we empathize, we enjoy." Then they talk about radio shows in the early days and how the voices and sounds made you believe and feel: "...it was not the actor's emotions you were sensing anymore. They were your emotions".

Then they continue: "Fortunately, animation works in the same way. It is capable of getting inside the heads of it's audiences, into their imaginations. The audience will make our little cartoon character sad - actually far sadder than we could ever draw him - because in their minds that character is real. He lives in their imagination. Once the audience had become involved with your character and your story, almost anything is possible." They also talk about what they did to create audience involvement (pg. 18-22 - "The Illusion of Life").

One of my goals, and I know I'm very very far from it, is to be able to create such strong emotions in the audience. My wife's bridesmaid did it very simple - totally unintentionally though, but still - all she did was standing up and kept standing. Hopefully in time, probably years from now, I will be able to generate that kind of emotions with my animation :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Happily ever after :)

Saturday I got married to my girlfriend for 7 years, Kari . Lots of guests were coming in from all over, from both sides of our families and to get them to know each other better, we had an outside (due to rain, it turned into an inside) party the evening before with grilling, drinks and games.

On Saturday we had the wedding ceremony at the church and a very very nice dinner afterwards. A great sunny (mostly) day with good food and drinks, tasty cakes and a bunch of totally awesome people :).

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Alumni! YAY!

We got access to the Animation Mentor Alumni Site today. And it's so cool! Lots of great info about jobhunting and how to deal with the "real world" etc. It's really awesome, cause it feels like we will never leave the great community we were a part of for 18 months!

It's been pretty busy since school finished with texturing, lighting and rendering my short film. To be honest, I don't enjoy this process that much and I kinda regret that I didn't just payed someone to do it. It's truly an artform in it's own and I feel that I don't master it that well. And besides, there's too much waiting :).
Anyway, I've tried to keep it as simple as possible by using as much procedural textures as possible and a simple light-rig with fake GI. In addition to that I've rendered an occlusion pass in an attempt to get it look at little bit better.

Here's a couple of images from the current state.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Disney Family Albums

I love watching documentaries about the old masters and today I came across some really cool links at YouTube. It might be old stuff to some, but I've never seen it before :)

Ward Kimball Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
Milt Kahl - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
Frank Thomas - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
Ollie Johnston - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
Wollie Reitherman - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
Eric Larson - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
Marc Davis - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3