Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Fitness Lie

A few years ago I had a gym membership to a particular gym that offered really good yoga classes. It was time for membership renewal and they offered me a complimentary 40 minute personal training session. So I took them up on the offer and met with one of the trainers to discuss my fitness goals (gain muscle on my frame and keep fat gains to minimum). After the brief discussion of my fitness goal (10 minutes) and my inquiring of the trainer as to how he could help me reach that goal (to which, to my recollection, I didn't get very conclusive answers) we proceeded into the gym to the "work-out". It started with a 10 minute "warm up" at a moderate pace on the treadmill. This was followed by multiple sets of cable bicep curls while standing on a bosu balance disc. (10 minutes) Finally, the work out was wrapped up with a 10 minute "cool down" on the treadmill. (Sarcasm ahead)
Wow, quite a work out! I must have burned at least 100 calories and curled 50 reps closer to my fitness goal!

I wasn't satisfied or impressed with my complimentary session nor did I have any inclination to sign up for more personal training sessions with this trainer. The proposed 10 weekly sessions were more expensive than the actual gym membership!
I passed on the offer and continued on my fitness journey alone, vowing to discover how to reach my goals.

I look back to this experience of mine each time at my current gym and witness the personal trainers putting some clients through similar benign routines with lethargic enthusiasm. Aren't the trainers supposed to "train" clients for optimal results? When I discovered this article it all fell into place:


What bumps have you encountered on your personal journey toward optimal health and fitness?

Friday, July 10, 2015


Hats off to director Sung Jin Ahn and the amazing crew at Titmouse Animation that made the best damn animated pilot on Amazon Prime!
Thanks to Sung Jin for letting me pitch in and work on a huge storyboard segment of which the above clip is a small chunk. 
BTW: It’s not too late to watch the spectacular animated pilot on Amazon Prime if you are a Prime Member. Just follow the link above.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Memory Sketch "Adjust and Serve"

Lunch in sunny CA with my friend Will.
I tried to capture the essence of what I considered "adjust and serve".
Having a view into the kitchen from the counter, I witnessed food prep, plate return, and this little action of hiking up pants then grabbing food to serve by a hostess. Just thought it was unique for the sake of being uniquely human.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sidera Opening

 Recently posted to the Internets an amazing jam between CatfishDeluxe and Yapiko Animation for the French animated movie, Lou!Journal infime » by Julien Neel.

Does any of this make any sense? Not really, but it's pretty, flashy, and fires my curiosity! 

Gorgeous color reminiscent of 80's pop commercial art, no?

80's style meets 90's action meets 2000's production technology! Space adventure never looked so inviting!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Saturday Matinee: Touch of Evil

Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss with an artist, at this past CTNXpo, the aspects of staging a conversation scene involving three characters for a project they are making.

The premise of their scene is that one character is in a verbal conflict with two surrounding characters. The main character, lets color them blue, has some support from the character to their East, lets color them reddish  (not their full support since they are just learning the facts of the conflict). The antagonist character, greenish, is on the West leading the conflict.
The composition to stage the shot went something like this:
Pretty clear right?

As the audience, we can clearly see that the characters are there looking at the green character on the West. The horizon line almost bi-sects the entire frame, lining up with the characters shoulders. The elements of the scene are presented clearly and orderly. This composition set up was to be used for about 6 to 7 seconds of dialogue/ screen-time, which can feel kind of......

Not the most exciting way to stage this verbal conflict, you say? What other ways can we add variety and excitement to a shot where you must (as a directive of the story/ direction/ etc) clearly show all 3 characters faces (to deliver their dialogue and acting performance) in this verbal conflict.
If we drop a grid down on the frame (dividing up the screen into thirds) we see right away how even and static the staging is even if we were to soft focus the background with a different camera focal length.

Let's take a look at what Orson Wells cooked up for this same type of scene in the 1958 noir classic Touch of Evil.

Here we have the innocent Sanchez (center) "caught" by the wrong arm of the law, Capt. Hank Quinlan (West) and supported by "Mike" Vargas (East)
We can already see there is greater variation in how the players are arranged in the quadrants. 
Sanchez is the lowest and smallest figure in the foreground. He also has almost the lowest eye-line in the set up (more on that later).

We can further see the variation illustrated by breaking it down to simpler shapes.

Wells and cinematographer Metty "framed" Sanchez both figuratively (in the story/ dial) and literally between the two larger shapes in this set up. Quinlan takes up the largest space in the comp. His girth pushes right up to camera and practically over Sanchez. Sanchez is pinned between Quinlan's mass and the dark wall of onlookers behind him. There's no where to go.

Ok I know this is unfair, since I didn't do this for the shot at the start of this entry, but I think even if all the lighting keys and rendering were equal, we can still plumb the depths of the subtle design layered into the T.O.E. set up.  
In the above breakdown, we can see how the main focal points are clearly defined by the areas of light and shadow.  Quinlan is getting the most light exposure, Sanchez second most exposure, Vargas third most exposure, and the supporting cast gets the least exposure. Incidentally, the amount of "face time" that the supporting cast exhibits is subordinated by design so there is no question as to which faces to focus on through the scene. 

Wells and Metty further define the focal points in the scene through use of Value (lighting). Similar to what was described above, Quinlan, in this murky world of grey stands out with the highest contrast. Sanchez second, Vargas third, then followed by the supporting cast. 

Here's another interesting touch of storytelling in this comp. The variation of Eye-line of the main cast. Sanchez (the shortest of the players) has to look up to Quinlan putting him in a weaker position. How many times have you been to an important officials office, where you sat before their huge desk in a short legged chair as they peered down from over their desk at you? Same principle. 
Because of Sanchez's position in frame, it could be implied that Vargas has a clear eye-line to Quinlan because Vargas can see over Sanchez. In the first comp of our colored characters the Red (East most) character has an implied eye-line to the West but when flattened out, looks more like he/she is looking at the back of the Blue character's head.   
When you watch the scene in real time from Touch of Evil, take note of Quinlan's eye-line. Quinlan has a persistent lack of connection to Sanchez's eye-line or Vargas when he's delivering the damage to the accused (Sanchez). Sanchez, desperate to escape the situation and plead his case, cannot catch Quinlan's eye. Does it feel like a deliberate attempt to amp up the desperation for the one who is caught? 

Picking up on that previous thought, notice how the loyal followers of Quinlan (the other police), never break their eye-line on Sanchez. If we were composing the earlier scene with a supporting background cast, would their eyes be on which ever character that is talking for each line of dialogue? Or could we sell the subtle story point as above? 
Quinlan's trained dobermans are fixed on the target and waiting for the order to attack.

This take on the FLOW of the scene's characters is something that is very subtle. Once designed into a scene it can take something average and make it dynamic to hold on for 6-8 seconds of screen time.
Squint at the position of the actors, the cast of light, the value of the costumes and background. Notice how the arrangements of the shapes lead the viewer's eye from Quinlan to Sanchez, pass through Vargas into the BG then back around again to Sanchez. Zeroing in on the man "caught" in the trap. 

This last point of Spatial Depth, is what brings dimension to this three character setup. Taking note of the angles at which the characters are positioned in the scene. Quinlan's shoulders are angled at Sanchez. As well as Vargas shoulders. Their bodies break from parallel to picture plane and imply a direction for the viewer's eye, pointing the way. By contrast, the supporting players behind the FG players are parallel to picture plane and "flatten out" which blocks the eye from traveling deeper into the set up. However there is a subtle dynamic line created by lowered horizon and background components that drive the eye right to Sanchez. Everyone, every part, every element, subliminally signals to the viewer...."Look at this guy, Sanchez!" as well as traps him in the composition.
How does this stack up against the first comp we saw at the start of the post?

There are no hard and set rules on staging dialogue for animation and film. No "Right" or formulated way to "always stage dialogue this way". The same tools and film language are at everyone's disposal. As film makers experiment and make decisions, the choices that are made should best suit the material/ story to be delivered. It always comes down to the context and subtext of the story beat and how that can be best served by the staging to be most impactful. 

 Thanks for reading along for this post of Saturday Matinee! Ciao ;)

Monday, October 6, 2014

October Quick Sketch

For the inspiration of Inktober (and because I haven't updated in a while):


Friday, May 23, 2014

Howdy Y'all
I'm a little behind on updates but I thought I'd share this good news:

Recently, the shows MVA for Nickelodeon (which I storyboarded on) and 
Turbo F.A.S.T.  (on which I currently direct) have been nominated for a
Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Children's Animated Programs.
For Turbo, we have been able to push the action and comedy envelope to
eclipse any resemblance to the original film and become on of the most
viewed animated series on NetFlix. 

This year is shaping up to be one of the best years for the animation industry across all media outlets!