Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Holidays!

I made a little interactive Merry Christmas animation (the idea was seeded in my brain when my instructor Josh mentioned a previous student - Bob, who is amazing on many, many levels - who had also made an interactive animation for his family last Christmas) - feel free to check it out, mes amis!

More Student Flash Sites

Here are some more student sites by genuine UCLA animation grads! Check out Evelyn's Pretty Pink Princess Land, and Eji's fly shooting game.

Have a great time out there doing your holiday thang!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Student Flash Sites

Gomen, gomen! I have not blogged recently in lieu of holiday insanity, but today I'm here to change all that. Witness the profusion of my bloggability!!!

O.K., so here we go - visit Jen's site today. A fellow classmate from my Flash 8 course at UCLA, her Flash site is a game (that is an element to an eventual, larger game she hopes to create). Throughout the next few days, I'll give you links to all of my fellow classmates's sites, so that you may know intimately the beast that is: student attempts at Flash 8 interactivity!

I've actually made a few changes to my own Flash site, but have not yet posted them. I'll let you know when I have the updates ready.

The image today is a part of my Flash site, which I would like to set up using intervals, which is why it's not up yet (because I currently don't have time to bone up on intervals). Essentially, I would like to have one scene of my Flash site on an independent timer, which cycles according to how much time you've spent on my site, rather than how much time you've spent on the one page containing the desired animation. Blah. Well, eventually this will be tackled.

Happy holidays!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Sexy Zombies?

I think you need to go check out some slutty zombies. An art project by zombie lounge singer Monique Motil, these decaying babes can only complicate those necrophiliac tendencies you've been trying to hide.

Oh, here: Yaaaay! I'm done with finals! Yaaaaaay! ... Now back to work on my unfinished website.

Today's pic: A picture I took of my mother's insanely creepy house. She doesn't live there now, but she used to (it's her "I grew up in it" house), and soon it will be moved to the magical land of Conduit. This pic you can steal with impunity - but no others! - lest I find you in a dark alley somewhere, with a craving for braaaaaaains in my belly!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

My New Website!

Come see my amazing new flash website (a lot of the artwork and sound design is incomplete, so please be forgiving!) You'll be so happy you did. :D

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Go Play a Fun Flash Game

I'm busy, kids, so go entertain youselves at the tokidoki site playing this amazingly supercute, addictive game made with Flash by Simone.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

This Weekend is Soo Busy

Yesterday, all I did was work on my Flash website, with the appropriate bathroom breaks, one meal time, and a quick trip to the grocery store. Today's forecast is for more of the same - although a friend invited me to an event at the Museum of Jurassic Technology (as a note, the website is sort of sad-looking, compared to how amazingly fun it's supposed to be), so I might do that if I'm ahead in my workload. Curioser and curioser, do you enjoy the kitty? She'll be up and present for the beta launch of my website next week. I wish she were real so that I could hug and squeeze her, but I'm a bit of a lovey spaz, so there we go (maybe if I ever get time for pet projects again, I'll make one of her).

Tomorrow looks like it will be a paper writing day, followed by a Monday of paper writing.

Back to work!

All images retain copyright with Michelle Lopes.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Calloo Callay!

Today is an amazing day of super happiness! Firstly, my father is going to come home from the hospital on the 19th (the date is tentative, but I don't care - he's making fantastic progress!). Secondly, the bulk of my action scripting is done for my Flash site.

I am sooo happy!

I constructed an inventory using normal variables at first when my teacher, Josh, suggested Boolean variables instead. That helped mucho much! Now my inventory is all bling, all I need to do now is: finish the artwork, tie up some coding extras I wanted to paste on, and animate! (The animation on my site is minimal, so this isn't as tough a job as you might think). Unfortunately, it won't be entirely finished (partly due to my unpaid phone bill, that promptly resulted in a turned off phone, which prohibited me from finishing up some major sound recording stuff for the site - blah!), but a great deal of it should be up and running soon!

Two finals due on Tuesday: twenty page research paper on the mobility of female characters in American silent films, and the Flash site. Progress on research paper: only research so far, but hey, I'm a pretty fast writer so I'm not too worried. Concerning the Flash site: Candy bar/cute kitten/super amazing happy stage of personal enlightenment nirvana.

P.S. If you guys want me to put a more detailed version of my inventory action scripting up, lemme know (you can comment on this post after you select the title of the post - then a comment option will pop up).

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sparks Waterproof Video Animation Contest

As a huge Sparks fan, I've been watching this contest for a while. Unfortunately, because of my school-based workload (and the fact that I started my internship over the summer just when the contest was announced), I never submitted an entry. Here are the entries that are going to be whittled down to one shining golden child of Sparks history. While some of them seem potentially promising, mostly I'm disenchanted - not to offend any of the entrants, but I feel like the gist of the song hasn't quite been grasped yet.

Yeah, I'm pretty much kicking myself for not entering.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Photoshop Filter Fun!

This pic is yet another sneak peek into my new Flash website that will be arriving soon! In Photoshop it's a good idea to experiment with filters. While some of the filters appear useless (who is actually ever going to mosaic anything? Ugh.), many look pretty good. With this image I used gaussian blur, blur, film grain, and a few others. In order to extract the filtery goodness, I rarely use multiple filters on one layer, but make many copies of the layer I like, then apply a filter to each - deleting and correcting as I see fit. In order to combine layers, I usually fuss with the opacity of a specific layer, or its layer properties, until I come up with a combination that appeals to me. That's it: all my secrets have been revealed.

Today is actually not going very well, so I'm distracting myself with a lot of work. Dad's back in for surgery, and here I am in California, feeling hopeless and utterly useless. So I'm trying to get everything ready for finals next week, and ignore the futility that keeps returning. Life is often like that, though, isn't it? We bury ourselves in blankets of distractions, hoping to somehow make living tolerable and devoid of emotional messiness. I know this post is kind of a downer, but I'm not really depressed - anxious, certainly, and a little melancholy - but optimistic in a strained way, too. When life is crap, things generally get better. I'm a firm believer in that, and it's a proven belief, tested and tried and true.

Well, this is very philosophical and all, but I'm going to go back to work.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Damn Cute Flash Drives

What's functional and frigging adorable? Flash drives from mimoco! In a fit of Christmas wish list-y-ness, I went to the mimoco website today to drool. I totally wish I'd gotten the glow ghost (that I saw when I went to the Comic Con in San Diego this past summer), which is sold out and a cause for much sadness, but if I ended up with a regular ghost flash drive, I'd be pretty damn stoked. They even have it in the 4 GB size!!!

Other than that: much research and flash website work makes Lopes a dull girl. However, here is my progress list:

Flash Website: Wrote code, much of which didn't work, and wept like an, um, girl.
Research Paper: Read through a book recommended to me by the teacher and took notes. Checked out book for further investigation.
TV Series: Had a meeting last week with Meghan and we rocked it!
Novel: Recurring vague thoughts, but no time to work on it recently.
My 8 Minute Film: Absolutely nothing.
Creating Presents for the Beloved: Nada. They will be sad this Christmas *sniff.*

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Here's my take on a Biblical meme. Girl + snake = good times! I made this in Photoshop over the summer, tackling the grass brush in particular (forcing it to look, to me, a lot more like grass than it usually does). I'm a little iffy on the anatomy of my subject here (I feel the arms, etcetera, are off), but que sera. Actually, it's probably due time I get my keister into a drawing class. Maybe tomorrow - I'm very out of touch with the whole "drawing from model" thing. Ack.

Well, off to school I go! Why am I even thinking about models? It's FLASH WEBSITE CRUNCH TIME!!! Now I'll go BRUSH MY TEETH and PACK A LUNCH so I can TAKE THE BUS TO SCHOOL!


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Free Decent Textures

A large part of my recent internship with 9 involved searching for textures on the internet. Now as I begin crafting my sweet new flash website, I find myself looking for textures yet again. Need some good free textures for your Maya project or lil' somethin'-somethin'? Try But be nice, kids, and don't take more textures than you need. Pay if you can, of course, you richies out there.

Now, back to my searches.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sketch of the Week

I did this in Photoshop today. I've been playing around a lot with brushes and stuff - so here it is. Cheesecake, yum yum! A personal message in a public forum: Hi Eddie! Here's your fish!


Rights retained on all images by the Lopes.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving Part 2

Ever since I've been a kid (and my parents split up) I've had two of everything - houses, families, and, of course, holidays. Hope your Thanksgiving has been a good one, mine was, and I'm off to my second one in Las Vegas with my Dad! I'm bringing my laptop in the hopes that I can get some of my Flash website work done. We'll see what happens.

Enjoy this festive greeting from arj and poopy. (Another website introduced to me by Amy Winfrey from her section of the Flash class) Fun, no? Alas, I haven't watched a single football game yet...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

My New Website: Sneak Peek

So this is some of my new art for my flash website, which should be up and running within a month or two. I painted this in Photoshop (I yearn for other, fancier painting programs - but they're expensive! Plus, Photoshop is pretty handy overall. It's a decently intuitive program to work with, and the layers make editing stuff - I tend to duplicate layers, then edit one of the duplicates, and turn the layer on and off, seeing whether I like the result - very easy).

The website will be very moody and atmospheric, and be rather like a game, where you can find items to unlock secret levels and animations. Ultimately, it's up to the viewer to discover what the hell happened to this seemingly bucolic town...hint: there's going to be a dead butcher in his own meat counter, and lots of stains scattered about... My portfolio will also be accessible through the site, so that will be fun and convenient.

Also, I figured out my action script problem thanks to the collaborative efforts of Jen and Jackie - fellow classmate and T.A., respectively - thank you! Apparently my biggest problems were this: I was missing a couple of braces, and my code was in the wrong order.

I've been trying to upload some of my favourite sound files through stickam, so that I can post them on my blog, but I keep on getting an internal server error. Boo! My file is the correct size, so what the heck is going on? Urgh - this has been going on for over a week. Maybe I should try another hosting site.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks! Eat lots of dead bird flesh!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

9 Wrap Party!

The wrap party last night was lots of fun. The animatic looks really great - it's been fascinating to watch it grow from its original story into something new and even better! 9 promises to be an animated film that's both beautiful to look at and an intense viewing experience, which is rare in an animated piece these days.

It was cool too because I got to meet a few people that I hadn't really seen around the office. I was mightily excited to meet Kevin Altieri (one of the directors from Batman: the Animated Series), and of course, being a Batman addict since childhood, I totally flipped (but not in an outright noticeable way...hopefully). I also got to congratulate Shane on his project, which was important to me because I feel like my meagre "Good Job" is my sincere way to let him know that he is, well, doing a good job! People need encouragement, and I love to give praise where it's due. More people should sincerely let others know when they're doing well; it makes life a smidge brighter. Sometimes I need to remind myself to be more encouraging, because I'm a bit introspective, selfish, and, well, daydreaming about 90% of the time.

I briefly met Shane Acker's wife, the lovely Sibyl, who has the super-cool job of being a set designer. She was extremely nice and polite, and I liked her quite a bit even though we chatted for approximately, oh, two or three minutes. The goodies from the wrap party: a T-shirt for each of us, and some French hors d'oeurves, as well as champagne mixed with pomegranate juice (yum, yum!). I think I drank at least six of them, they were so amazing! Don't worry, I got a ride home.

I really wanted to go drinking with some of the animation kids after the party, and I was invited to tag along, but alas! I had class the next morning, and I hadn't watch the film we were supposed to talk about yet (which my boyfriend ever-so-sweetly rented for me, Thank You!!!). Luckily, my friend had an early start planned for the next day, too, so there weren't any conflicts there.

Now 9's off to Luxembourg - good luck, guys, and happy eating!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Linkish Day

My friends strive to make my life better in a multitude of ways. For example, my one homie Evelyn is attempting to brighten my life with a new addiction, the ever-so-sexy World of Warcraft experience. I think I need this. However, I am unable to play at the moment due to a MASSIVE AMOUNT OF HOMEWORK. So I have been entertaining myself by watching the different races dance (also thanks to Evelyn). I am so Horde. Come January (when I'm signing up), the Alliance will be going down!!!

My other friend Meghan has expanded my horizons through mindless entertainment. Come and join the kittenwar (and lose a few hours of your life), or watch this prophetic video about fame (done in Flash, and actually animated in a style very similar to still yet another one of my friends's).

Speaking of Flash, my action script is going abominably today. My notes taunt me - why can't I figure out the rollOver thing so that my movie clip moves when a button is, ahem, rolled over??? That's it, I'm going to brood while I eat my lunch.

Tonight's the night of the 9 wrap party. Animatic and French food - yay! I will have to brood over a light lunch, instead of something overly settling and carbohydrate-y.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

9 Leaves California

Today is a SAD day at my internship - because it's my last! 9's wrap party for the pre-production peops is this coming Monday, and after that, it's off to Luxembourg for the higher-ups among the crew. One of my favourite co-workers, Chaz, left early today to go get married (track his approaching marital funtimes at monkeysgohome, his amazingly talented fiancee's blog - I wish I had money so that I could afford to buy her paintings!). When he left, it really sank in that today is my last day - boo. This internship has been a helluva lot of fun - the film itself is great (the story's gonna rock, trust me), the people I worked with are great, and the environment has always been very positive and committed to producing an outstanding work of art. I will miss this when I go out into the real world and have to get employed...probably.

In the meantime, my progress report:

My Novel: More Notes
My Film: Painted Some Backgrounds
My Flash Website: Worked on Some Artwork, Then Went to Bed
TV Series: Um, It Was a Bad Week Last Week...Meeting Was Supplanted by Avatar and Shots of Chocolate Liqueur.
Presents for My Loved Ones: Have Contemplated Much, and Produced Little
Also: Finished a Short Story About a Dildo in Love on Tuesday.

I have an idea for a painting I really want to make that I may squeeze in this weekend. If so, be prepared for the weird, as per usual!!!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Most Recent Animation From Around the World

If you're in the area, this Friday at 4:00 PM there will be a screening of short animated films that you can attend for the low, low price of free. Taking place at the Bridges Theater on the UCLA campus, among the shorts presented and hosted by Ron Diamond will be a new Pixar film and a quick flick from the artist who brought us the Academy Award-winning short, The Old Man and the Sea (apparently this new piece is in Russian without subtitles, but allegedly quite beautiful).

See you there.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Life Progresses...

This past week has been exceptionally rough. A couple of family emergencies have happened (in a row), and I'm reminded of how much my parents both want me to succeed. It's very, very important to them that I finish school (not a problem) and secure a place in life where I'm happy and financially supported (note I didn't state "financially independent" - that's not so important to them). I love both my parents very much, and like many children, try to make them proud.

The above may sound egomaniacal - this post is really about personal success - but when my dad was in the hospital this week that's all he wanted to talk about; me finishing school, how proud he was of me, and how much he loved me. That's all I'm going to write about concerning that. I don't need this blog to dissolve into a diary.

But here's why I mentioned it at all: my dad's words were inspiring, motivating. Sometimes I forget how much my parents are counting on me. It's a lot of pressure at times, and I'm not always great at staying on task, but I need to work hard and do my best, because they're counting on me. It's a large reason in a room of many.

The image this week is a prop from my 8 minute film. I ended up retouching some backgrounds today from that film, and this is one of my favourite stills. Lurid coloring, perhaps, but they're appropriate for the scene. Besides, brilliant colors fill my head all the time - sometimes they leak out in my art.

Again, all images retain copyright by me, Michelle Lopes.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Behold the Zombie Girl!

As promised, the (beta version) of the zombie girl I worked on has arrived! Click here to go visit her. Go on, you know you want to play...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Happy Day of the Dead!

I was going to post a sneak peek image of the zombie interactive thingy I made in Flash 8 (it's really easy to extract images of stuff you've created in Flash, just go to File/Export and save it as an image, adjusting the image quality levels until you're satisfied), but I left my flash drive at home! So instead I'll just have to wish you all a happy day of the dead, and show you this background I did for my film, which, appropriately enough, is of a cemetary. All rights retained by Michelle Lopes.

Internship report: So far I've spent the day scanning an entire book. It was, um, repetitive, but O.K. Also, I really felt like having a beer at lunch so I said screw it, and had a beer with my burrito.

Progress on Novel: None since last report.
Progress on TV series: Nada
Progress on 8 Minute Film: Zip
Progress on Web Site: I Made a Flow Chart!!! Wheeeeee!
Progress on Research Paper: I Thought of a Really Good Topic and the Teacher Liked It.
Progress on Drinking While on the Job: One Beer Down...Um, I Don't Think This Is Really Going to Be a Regular Thing, So...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Thanksgiving Approaches...

How was your Halloween? I've made a little interactive zombie for you to play with, but alas! It won't be up on the internet until next week. Until then, I hope this little appetizer can tide you over. Ah yes, it's time for more Photoshop fun! In this piece I opted for more of a cut-out, not quite properly blended feeling. I used about five layers for lighting, adjusting the opacity on basically black brushstrokes untill it felt somewhat organic. Although many artists at my internship don't opt for separating shadows onto different layers, I find that they often want to go back and make changes, and aren't able to do so as quickly as if you divvy them up. Kitschy and adorable, can you resist cuddling this sweetheart of a skull?

Again, it's my skull (I even signed it!), so no stealing por favor.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Flash 8 Tip: Why Can't I Erase Anything?!?!

This will happen sometimes in Flash 8: you're puttering along, drawing, and you want to erase something. So you select the eraser, and, lo and behold, you're not erasing squat! The first possible solution, which is available in Flash 8's Help, is that your eraser settings are off. In that case, go to the tool bar, and find the little "eraser mode options" icon (make sure the eraser tool is selected first, or that icon will not appear - even if threats are offered), which is a light blue circle with a darker blue rim, and adjust it appropriately. (If you hold down on it a menu will come up and you can erase fills, erase lines, erase normally, etcetera). If the eraser still doesn't work, it's because you've stumbled onto a little problem that Flash 8's help section doesn't cover - namely, you've just made a symbol and you didn't know it. This primarily happens when you're working inside of a symbol already, don't ask me why. Simply select the offending section that refuses to be erased (with your cursor tool), go into Modify, and highlight Break Apart. Now you can erase like the little mistake monkey that you are!

Personal Progress On:
Novel: Some Notes Completed, 5 Pages Out of Sequence
8 Minute Film: Zip
TV Series: More Healthy Brainstorming Accomplished
My Flu: Down to an Unhealthy Rattle, Unpleasantly Sore Eyes, Hot Flashes (I feel menopause's sweet succor already!)

Now go here and love the sweet fan video therein. It's the best damn fan Flash flick I've ever laid eyes on!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sketch of the Week

O.K., so it's really an older sketch of the week, but hey, it's been a busy week and I'm sick. (Flu makes me dizzy and gross-feeling - yay!)

Again, as always, all rights retained by me, Michelle Lopes

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What Does An Animator Look Like?

You always wanted to know the answer to this question, and here's the general answer: silly. Animators (as a cruel generalization) tend to be happy, silly people. They wear comfortable clothing and have sappy expressions on their faces when they watch cartoons. They are prone to giggle a lot, and make stupid jokes. Even the hardcore experimental animators are complete ninnies. The following pics are (extremely personal) examples of an animator...mainly because they are pictures of me. They are not all terribly amusing, but at least I was having fun when they were taken. Plus, I threw my cat Thursby in there, even though he's not an animator, because he's pretty sappy himself.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Lemony Snicket Speaks!

If you're a huge fan of the Lemony Snicket series (a.k.a. A Series of Unfortunate Events), and you were a huge dork like me and bought the final book when it came out two weeks ago (aptly titled The End - quite possibly now one of my favourite book titles of all time), then you'll want to hear Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler's dulcet tones pleading for you to stop reading in this sweet lil' audio clip. Yes, it was for a promotional campaign, but who cares! It's Lemony Snicket!!!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Did I Mention I Was Busy?

On Tuesday I ended up not finishing my Flash assignment entirely, and completed only two out of the three symbols required - ugh. Part of the problem was that I couldn't figure out a way to duplicate a symbol, and then edit only the new, duplicated version without effecting the original - without dragging the duped symbol into a new Flash document. The other part is that I'm just not a fast animator. My instructor, however, was very forgiving; she said that she wouldn't have known I hadn't done all the required work if I hadn't told her, because my in between states were so long...oh well.

This made me laugh last night. There's more great stuff at, too - not everything is awesome, but the rarities are more than enough to compensate. Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Flash 8 Tip: Bringing in Videos and Images

These past two weeks have been absolutely chaotic as I try to adjust to my new school/internship/excersize fiend lifestyle. My Flash class has proven to be both really inspirational and intense. Here's what I learned this Tuesday: Did you know that in Flash 8 you can import movies and photographs relatively easily? Just go to File/Import/Import to Library and follow the instructions as the menus pop up. However, not all settings will provide optimal picture quality - you have to play around with them. Remember not to compress your files before you bring them in, because Flash will end up compressing them later anyway, and if you compress them beforehand the image quality will really degrade quickly! (This doesn't apply to .tif file LZW compression, however). For images, Flash loves a jpeg, and is fickle with other file types. Fun stuff, huh? It really broadens what you can do with the program, however, especially once you realize that you can convert video into a symbol, and alter it just like you can with symbols! I'm so stoked, the text written here can never do enough justice to my stoked state.

Catch y'all later!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sketch of the Week

Whew! This week has been busy!
In honor of Halloween, and because I like to draw creepy things, here's my sketch of the week.

Again, all copyright rights retained by me, Michelle Lopes.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Back to School: Flash 8 and Silent Film Seminar

The school year at UCLA has started, and I'm enrolled in a Flash Animation course and a Silent Film Seminar - both of which promise to be both interesting and challenging, with the Flash course probably superceding Silent Film in the challenging department. My teachers are excellent, and include Amy Winfrey and Josh Morgan; the former covering the animation/interface part of Flash and the latter, coding. Because my classes promise to be so intense, I've had to cut back my internship to one solitary day a week, but thankfully they were understanding at the office.

This is going to probably be my last year of school (unless I go in for a PhD, which my Dad keeps on encouraging me to do - but what does a doctorate in animation do? Look pedantic at screenings of new Disney films? I could break out the pipe and smoking jacket, though...tempting), so I'm a little nostalgic. Add to that the fact that I watched Kicking and Screaming last night, I'm filled with a mix of anticipation, sentiment, and (slight) anxiety. Filmmaking is tough - add to that the immensity of the Hollywood film system, and all its sexy bureacracies, and you have a vast world where a lot of people don't succeed in fulfilling their dreams ("fulfilling your dreams" always sounds a little cheesy to me, but it's apt).

But I'm going to do it - I only get the jitters every now and then. Sometimes I think it might be nicer not to have a lot of clearly defined goals: when you succeed it's a pleasant surprise instead of a source of worry. However, if I didn't have my goals, I wouldn't be a very happy person. There is nothing I love more than pushing myself hard and having, at the end, the satisfaction of doing what I set out to do.

Right now I'm also writing a novel (by myself), and a TV series (with a good friend). I'll let you know how both progress. One thing's certain, I do enjoy filling my days with projects!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Lazy Sunday Painting

I finally set aside enough time to paint, and I have to admit it felt really, really good. I painted this landscape yesterday using acrylics and a pre-primed canvas. I like painting landscapes or backgrounds because they become fragments of worlds I'd like to explore in my daydreams (or writing). Technically, I'm not very realistic, but my stylization suits me fine. What's nice about painting, too, is that you have a physical product in your hands when you're done - something you can touch and smell and watch as the light reacts with it - which is a far cry from the digital work I've been doing lately for school and for '9.'

On the lighting for the photograph of this painting - it blows out in some patches (along the weave of the canvas fabric), but it's a pretty decent photo overall, nice and steady - thanks to Bri for photographing it for me!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

San Francisco and Bookbinding Pics

As promised, here are pics of my first attempt at bookbinding - a perfect bound journal with fabric cover, and accented endpaper ( I used ex-props from my last stop motion animated short - namely moss and fabric leaves).

And this is me at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, kneeling by the Frances E. Willard plaque. It was a beautiful, cold day, and the museum had some really outstanding pieces - I loved it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bookbinding Supply Heaven

I went to San Francisco over the weekend, and ended up getting some really great bookbinding supplies at Arch (located at 99 Missouri, between 16th and 17th Street - for the curious). It was really the best art supply store I've ever been to, with a thorough selection of paints, papers, waxed linen threads, and crazy stuff (I ended up coming home with a box of bandages that look like strips of bacon) - I highly recommend the place. Plus, they carried Japanese bookbinding drills that undercut the cheapest prices I've seen on the internet by 50 percent! Great stuff.

I've already made one paperback perfect bound journal that I'll post pictures of soon - I can't wait to try making a hardback book - my next project awaits!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Spasticsnap's Sketch of the Week

I'm feeling sleepy today! Enjoy this illustration illicitly crafted at my internship. Happy Thursday!

Again, all artwork and writing on this website belongs to Michelle Lopes, who retains copyright.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

SketchCrawl 2006

Pencils out, kids. No, it's not a test, it's just three days away from the 11th WorldWide SketchCrawl. On September 23rd, feel free to take some time out from your day - be it a few minutes or a few hours - take a look around, and draw what you see. When you're done, you can post your doodles among good company at

It isn't restricted by media or time spent doodling, only the thought
that you're taking a break from your day and drawing the mess that's
around you. So sketch with your Wacom, jot with your watercolors, or
dash with your ball point - but remember to have fun.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Amazing Screw-On Head

Based on a Mike Mignola (a la Hellboy) comic, The Amazing Screw-On Head promises to be an animated series filled with action, humor, and the strange (part one of the first episode features a lycanthrope, an evil wisecracking zombie, and Abraham Lincoln). Brought to us by the SciFi Channel, this would be a T.V. series I'd actually watch...provided I had cable T.V. Check out part one. (Unfortunately, the sound is tinny, and it cuts off at the very, very end, but it's worth the view - trust me.)

Oh yeah, and Paul Giamatti is one of the voices. Sweet, no?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Why I Am Filled With Dread

Well, it finally happened. I hit "publish" instead of "delete" when I was getting rid of nasty spam comments, and now 38 spam comments are published somewhere on my blog.

I have no clue where they are, or how to delete them. Namely, because the template I'm using for some reason doesn't show any comments. Maybe that's good. After all, if I can't see the spam, certainly my faithful readers (all two of them - thanks guys!) can't see it. Hypothetically. I have no idea.

So I am frustrated, and just searched every entry in my blog, only to come up with a whopping total of zero comments on anything - which is nonsense, 'cause I've published at least three legitimate comments in the past.

I will go and try to find my happy place. Excuse me while I weep into a carton of ice cream.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Look It Up!

To celebrate the researching fool that I have turned into, via my fabulous internship, I decided to post a bunch of weird photos that I have run across on the internet in my search for references. (If you haven't been following along, these references are used for the artists to base their artwork on in this pre-production stage of the animated film). Enjoy!

Disgusting? Quite possibly, but this fabulous flickr find is the best decayed canine I've seen in a while! Skull references, you bet!

Be one of the most stylish Submissives on your block in this antique dog collar...

Or perhaps one of THESE babies!

And I'll throw in this antique radio just to muddle it up a bit.

So what exactly is this animated feature I'm working on about? Won't say. However, I just possibly may end up on a "Behind the Scenes" DVD extra because I opened up my big mouth and made a lot of suggestions (monomaniacally fixed on giving the villain of the flick more, well, complexity) during a huge story meeting where the lowly unpaid interns were allowed to make big noises. Will they take my suggestions? No idea. I do know, however, that I signed my soul away to a big film company - and that I didn't know that the big film company was going to be at work that day so I was totally grungy and unprepared.

But I get to eat all the junk food I can get to first - score!

Friday, September 01, 2006

What ELSE Does She Do All Day At Her Internship?

A little thing, but it makes me happy:

So, I've recently been asked to do something else at the office - paint a prop! I will be using Photoshop to apply selected textures to a line drawing of a prop that will be used in the animated film, '9' - this is absolutely thrilling for me! Anything that could potentially be published in a future coffee table book is definitely a plus to work on.

Of course, they might not like my painting, or not end up using it for one reason or another, but I'm going to work very, very hard on it to make sure everything looks O.K. I wish I could publish it online but, of course, it's not entirely my own work so I can't.

Very excited, though!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Illustration of the Week

I made this illustration in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet and a photograph of clouds. All images on this website retain original copyright by me, Michelle Lopes.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Jim Balent n' Holly GoLightly!

Here is the website of some of my favourite comic book people, Jim Balent and Holly GoLightly. Always good to the fans, with plenty of cheesecake art (lil' bosoms need not apply!) in their titles such as Tarot (where big busted witches do right), Three Little Kittens (where big busted kitty cosplay spies kick bad guy booty), among can I praise them more highly? The books they write are always campy good fun, and as addictive as chocolate. Plus, they got married in a Star Wars themed wedding - Darth Vader and Princess Leia - the ideal incestuous match! I am extremely envious; what utter fun. Apparently I (in my sweat-drenched, makeup melted, hair slicked, water retaining phase of uber bloatiness) will end up in the back of a new book 'cause Jim took a picture of me at the San Diego Comic Con - if my pursed puss hasn't been published yet already. O.K., O.K., so I need to go buy a ton of comics - I have a list, and if my pic is in one, I probably should buy it. However, I'm not sure which title it will pop up in - let me know if you (my faithful readers) find out first.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

My Internship: What Does She DO All Day?

As in intern in the art department of a 3D animated film, I am doing a lot of the following: researching material on the internet that could be used as art references, assembling documents in Adobe InDesign (a fabulous program that I wish I could afford to help my zine along!), and printing artwork out. Also, I scan and photocopy - but that's par for the art department course. What - that doesn't sound insanely fascinating and artistic?!?! Well, it is, actually. In my small, distinct little way I am shaping the film's look; which is absolutely a warm, tickly feeling in my nostrils. Ah, no, that's just the incessant allergies.

The interesting thing is that I've become so good at InDesign that projects that should (I guess) take me hours to complete take me about half an hour to an hour, leaving me a lot of spare time...hence this post. What do I do in all this heaping spare time? What is driving my soul with passion, love, and fire?

Shh, it's a secret, come in close.

I'm taking a keen interest in bookbinding.

That's right! I've just ordered some Davey book boards (supposedly some of the best quality boards from my research) on ebay, and I'm about to become a bookbinding fool! Be warned - I will probably post images of these books in the future and gabble incessantly.

Of course, I'll still work on my own animated short - but my internship has put that on hiatus, and all my computer time has lately started a craving in me to make something with my hands. I painted a couple of weeks ago, and that was satisfying, but then I ran out of canvas and I'm low on a few crucial colors (in my art world, black is a crucial paint color, despite the stern looks from teachers). I'll post a pic of my painting soon. Prepare to be astounded! You will love my art!!!

I would drink coffee right now to wake me up, but it makes me ill half the time, so I'm taking a walk around and spying on the animation work. Man, this is going to be one beautiful feature film.

Monday, August 07, 2006

San Diego Comic Con...and more!

I have been immoderately absent. To rectify this, here is a brief listing of some of the utterly sweet and buzzworthy biz from this year's San Diego Comic Convention.

Pan's Labyrinth - go see it. A live action flick that resembles a grotesque fairy tale (and the sequel to Devil's Backbone) in its previews, you simply must watch it. There was a panel with the amazingly funny and likable Guillermo del Toro, whose charm and use of crass language instantly endeared him to me.

Speaking of fairy tales, you need to read Alan Moore's Lost Girls. If you didn't know, Alan Moore is one of the many gods of comic books. They recently adapted his classic V for Vendetta, but there is so much more to his repetoire, including The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and, of course, the incomparable The Watchmen. If that isn't enough, realize that Lost Girls, which is a collaborative pornographic graphic (in the future I'll just shorten that to pornoGRAPHIC novel) novel made with his fiancee Melinda Gebbie, chronicles the sexual awakenings of characters from classic fairy tales. Dear lord you need this book.

The hipster Shag spoke at a panel. I got him to sign my limited edition Disneyland bowling bag that he designed, and learned lots of fun things like: he (used to?) be a Mormon, and went on a mission to Germany; he drinks now; he's done a ton of band album covers, and joined bands in order to design even more covers; he's done covers for Rob Zombie - including Head Shrinking Fun!. Good times. He was very nice, which made me profoundly happy.

Of course I went to The Animation Show and Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation. I much preferred the former, as the later involved a voting system where shorts were voted off the Spike and Mike's DVD a la Survivor according to the volume of boos, hisses, shouts, etcetera the crowd could muster. And indeed did they muster. It made viewing the films a pain. I pity the fool who submits to them. (That may be me in the future, by the way - self-pity!). I would highly recommend you go see something Dr. Tran related, as those shorts were the only thing that made Spike and Mike's salvageable at times. Interestingly enough, I'd already seen the majority of shorts that went into this years The Animation Show, but the program is worth seeing again. The films are solid, and that's not just cuz I'm working as an intern on one of the shorts-turned-feature.

And how, pray tell, is my internship going? Wonderfully. I feel appreciated and useful, and I'm not running around picking up anyone's dry cleaning or answering phones. I am in internship nirvana.

The pic is of me with one of my fave comic book writers, Jim Balent. I'll write a whole thing just about his stuff next post.

Good night.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

My New Internship!

The true joy of living in L.A. is working for free. Starting next week, I'm going to be an intern for the Shane Acker animated feature '9,' based on the Academy Award-winning short film of the same name. Produced by Tim Burton, and awash in lovely artwork, this gorgeous 3D film is going to be amazing - and it's just in pre-production. My links aren't working right now, so you'll just have to copy and paste if you want to find out more about the project. Go to

An interesting side note - Shane Acker graduated from the UCLA animation program, and a lot of the interns working on this flick are also from the program, including me. See? Stay in school, kids, education pays!

Totally unrelated news: I'm going to the San Diego Comic Con starting tomorrow, so the posts may be sparse, but I'll be sure to return with all sorts of interesting animation-type tidbits. Stay tooned.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Defeating Procrastination Through Yoga

O.K., so I don't know if I believe in the title of this post, but the thought of it amused me terribly, so it's staying. Essentially, I'm a little procrastinator. My workspace is a mess, and there is a mystery smell emanating from the kitchen, which is located just nearby. After a halfhearted search with much retching, I failed to find the offending odiferous object, but did discover a wizened banana with friendly gray-blue fringe - sadly, not the perpetrator, and ended up watching a film instead of working on my own. (My First Mister, if you're curious, so I can't even claim I was studying by boning up on my animation skills) With everything messy and smelly, my concentration's shot (not that my concentration's been particularly good the past couple of weeks anyway). So, in honor of procrastinators everywhere, I'm going to perform a little procrastination myself by making a list of things I do to get myself focused (oh what a tangled web we weave).

1. Clean up the area I'm about to work in. I'm not talking elbow grease here, just some basic tidying would help. When the workspace is orderly looking, I'm good to go.

2. Exercise. Because doing something else I'm not good at usually makes me want to return to my field of choice.

3. Make a list and finish at least half of the items on it. If I finish the full list, I've essentially been replaced by an android. A really organized, with-it sort of android. Probably the kind of android I'd like to have around the house right now to hone in on the mystery stinker (oh, I wish it'd been the banana!).

4. Complete a smaller project I've been working on, such as an illustration or short story. In the theme of number 3, finishing stuff makes me feel great. Like I can take on the world or something. And then I promptly try to until I get really sleepy and have to go to bed. Tomorrow, world, you'll see!

5. Do the cobra pose. This is a fairly new one on my list. After taking just one yoga class this past week, I've learned that the illustrious cobra pose stimulates the adrenal glands, which has the effect of waking you up and giving you energy. I'll test it out. It certainly worked in class.

That's about it. Drinking coffee just makes me want to chat with people - it's such a damnably conversational beverage - I rarely fall into line after a cup of joe. So which one shall I choose right now?

Exercise. But the gym in my apartment's only open for another twenty minutes, so I better shift it before my urge to curl up around a book kicks in.

Good night!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Another Reason I Wish I Were Canadian...

Check out some of the sweet stop motion skullduggery of the new series, What It's Like Being Alone. Unable to relocate to Canada, I cannot relate to you the merits (or demerits) of this show, but it looks beautiful, and who couldn't love a show with a premise of taking you inside the orphanage where all the unloved, unwanted orphans collect to mope, belch flying pigs, and set things on fire? If it's bad, let me know, if it's good - don't torture me!!!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Chain-Smoking Naiad

Here's a pic from my portfolio. I crafted it entirely in Photoshop using my Wacom tablet and with one imported photograph of a fish. I did some of the coloring using the technique I described here, but the lighting effects were a bit more complicated. All images and writing posted here are copyrighted by Michelle Lopes, 2006.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Coloring in Photoshop

Everyone has a different method for coloring their images in Photoshop - I have developed a very specific pathway to help me zip along with my animated film, but of course it might not be the correct pathway for you. When coloring, experiment a little. If you don't like the texture or look of an image, don't settle for it, just keep on pushing!

First I draw an image on a piece of white animation paper. Sometimes, I draw directly onto a Photoshop file using my Wacom tablet. I looooove my Wacom tablet. For the uninitiated, it's a super-sexy sort of mouse pad that uses a sensitive pen (with eraser on the opposite end) to pick up not only the length of a line, but uses a pressure = line thickness ratio that is divine. The only people that I've heard complain about it either A) don't pick their pen's settings themselves (which are extremely adjustable and easy to do) or B) wanted a Tablet PC in the first place.

After I've scanned my image in, I open it up in Photoshop, and make two new layers underneath it. Since I'm animating, I've previously made the backgrounds and merely drag and drop the background layer from existing artwork in another tiff or jpeg file.

One layer I name "edgefinder," and make it a bright, obnoxious color that is markedly different from my current color palette. The edgefinder layer becomes useful in helping me spot where I color outside the line. Then I change the original drawing layer settings from "Normal" to "Multiply," which you can do in the layers box.

I name the layer sandwiched between the original drawing and "edgefinder" something with "color" in the title. Then I select colors from my color comps (using the eyedropper tool, and then saving the colors in the palette box), and use a brush tool to color the area. Sometimes I use the fill bucket, too.

Once I turn off the edgefinder layer, I save the new file as a jpeg or tiff with no layers, and I'm done!

Since my belly is full of strawberry shortcake, and writing in my blog is just a fancy form of procrastinating, I'm going to go work on my film. Happy coloring!

All images on this website: copyright Michelle Lopes 2006.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Storyboarding: Step One in Filmmaking

Let's say you want to make an animated film - or actually any kind of film at all. Where should you begin? The best place to start is with a storyboard.

Crafting the storyboard: Don't be intimidated by a lack of drawing skills. A storyboard isn't meant to show off your artistic talent, it's meant to communicate the placement of characters in shots, and the action that occurs within. Storyboards are now a common extra on DVDs, and I recommend you take a look at a few before you start your own. Remember: The Matrix was storyboarded with a bunch of stick figures, you can surely do the same! Storyboards should be made once you've figured out, through whatever creative process you normally use, the beginning, middle, and end of your film. If you write, fine. If you doodle, fine. Even if you're making an experimental film, it's a good idea to plot where it's going to go, and realize ahead of time that audiences grow bored if there isn't any change within a film, no matter how interestingly it's shot or written. Change, or conflict, is extremely important when you make a film. We all change, and that is why such things as character arcs ring true to us.

If these terms I'm flinging around seem entirely too new to you, I would advise that you read up on the art of storytelling, or take a writing class at your local community college. Story, by Robert McKee, can be a good (if an intimidatingly weighty) place to begin. Or, a la Tarantino, watch a lot of films. I mean A LOT of films. Watch Westerns, Horror Films, Romances, Cult Classics, Film Noirs, Sci-Fis. Don't start with color films or anything from the nineties on, start with stuff from the thirties and forties. Watch a Chaplin. And take notes: what do you enjoy about the film? How was your favourite scene staged? In what order did the shots occur? Watch more films. Are there any similarities or patterns that arise, despite the differences between genres? I'll bet there will be.

A storyboard is sort of like a comic book of your film - a bunch of illustrations that describe the action that should take place in the course of your piece. Figure out what order they should go in, and start drawing out different panels that represent shots. Notice that it's often good to vary the type of shots you use: the typical Hollywood pattern is wide shot, long shot, then either medium shots or close ups. Like someone walking into a room for the first time, you notice the space first before you notice details. Without an establishing shot, or wide opening shot, the following space you cut within can be confusing. Some filmmakers like to make the audience feel lost - if this is your intent, then that's fine, but realize that your content better justify that decision - as should be the case whenever you break the rules. Try getting a hold of the book Film Directing Shot by Shot, written by Steven Katz. It's good stuff to start with.

In the Industry, storyboards never have "action shots" or splash panels like comic books do. What that means is that storyboards make show Mr. X on the left hand side of the screen, and in a second panel show Mr. X on the right hand side, but you never draw him walking in between unless it's important to the story. If Mr. X is supposed to be exhausted for some crucial reason, then sure, draw an extra shot of him zipping along. But normally, don't bother. If someone jumps, you show the character take off and land, but you don't draw a mid-air panel. You only draw changes in a storyboard: if a new character enters, if a prop is moved, if the location changes, essentially if there is change - these things are indicated. Otherwise the board just gets overly long and dull.

It's nice to make these illustrations as big as you can, and to pin them up on a large cork board or some other board so that you can look at your entire film at one time. Walt Disney began the process of storyboarding with his first feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and since then it has begun common practice to use storyboards in live action features as well. If you get a chance to rent the DVD, look for the extra that shows Walt pitching (or presenting) his storyboard in front of a group of animators. Note how he pitches the storyboard as if he were telling a story. This is important. You should try pitching your own story in front of a group of (hopefully kind) friends to start out. Then you can gauge for yourself: where do they lose interest? What should I speed up or slow down? What should I remove altogether? What, frankly, isn't working? Never fall in love with your storyboard - the only thing you should realize that you shouldn't change is the stuff that makes you want to make the film in the first place. This is very important: I've seen a lot of great ideas become a burden to a filmmaker or animator because they changed too much, and lost the heart of their films. Don't do that! Accept criticism from critics that understand what you're trying to communicate, and change stuff that isn't necessary to tell your story - realize that a lot of stuff you like a lot can and should be cut - but don't change the heart. This is tricky, and takes a great deal of judiciousness. Take a few days off after a hearty critique and think about what your story should mean, what you instantly fell in love with. After all, why do you want to spend months, and possibly years, working on this project? Figure that out, and you should be O.K.

Get started, kids, and once your storyboard is a work of flawless storytelling genius, come back.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Completely Techie Post for the Especially Nerdly: Reconnecting Files in FCP

O.K., so I finally figured it out - files will not reconnect in FCP automatically (or at least the "reconnect files" window won't pop up with only the relevant clips listed) unless you have FCP open at the same time you save your new files. What does this all mean? If you're animating like I am, plugging individual tiff files into a Final Cut timeline, and you want to change the animation along the way or somehow alter the tiff files so that you need to resave them, the cool little reconnect files window won't pop up and allow you, well, reconnect, the necessary files (or plug the new, updated tiffs in). Instead, you have to go do it manually, going into File/Reconnect...and thereafter swimming through an extremely long list of tiffs and jpegs. Do the smart thing (that I eventually figured out): save while you have your file open. You'll be so cool that way.

Final Cut Pro tip of the day: A particularly handy one from my instructor - does your sound have some hideous clicking going on, particularly once you've made a final QuickTime movie in FCP? That's because you put an MP3 sound file in FCP, and FCP hates MP3s. Hates them! Arggh!!! Simply go into ITunes and convert your MP3 into an AIFF. Or spend a ton of money on some other sound file converting program. Your choice.

Have a delicious day.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Claymation Vs. Stop Motion Animation

I found out that the other day someone was looking for the "difference" between claymation and stop motion animation, and came to my site for assistance. Alackaday, the person in question left dejected. As I'm deeply saddened at leaving people dejected halfway round the globe (I think the surfer was from Germany or something), I'll explain in detail. Firstly, there is no difference between claymation and stop motion animation, this is because claymation is a type of stop motion animation. And as a postcard is a type of a letter, or a romance novel a type of book, stop motion is a broad category of animation divided into genres.

Stop motion animation is primarily defined in this way: it's the animation of any object, animate or inanimate, in front of a camera, with the exception of drawings or cut outs on flat pieces of paper (or cels, etcetera). Primarily, stop motion animation is defined by depth - three dimensionality occuring in real space, as opposed to created space in a computer or on a piece of paper, generally occurs. I say generally because there are always exceptions, especially when you start to mix mediums.

Claymation is a form of stop motion animation that involves, you guessed it, clay. Puppets or dolls, many of which are outfitted with metal armatures (or inner metal skeletons), that are made out of wet clay are manipulated frame by frame in front of a camera. Gumby is a good example of claymation. If you're interested in creating your own claymations, Claytoon carries an excellent product line of clay that remains pliable while working with it, and does not tend to melt underneath the hot rays of film cameras. They carry their own series of plastic armatures, called Bendy Bones, but while Bendy Bones make for fairly tolerable maquettes, they haven't proved to be sturdy enough for the prolonged experience of stop motion animation (in my humble experience). Instead, I'd advise you craft your own metal armature using the appropriately named "armature wire" (available at most art stores), or check out the extremely sexy armatures at

So what is stop motion animation? It is animation using about any handy object lying about, barring wet clay. Jan Svankmejer likes to use meat, dress shirts, stones...truly just about any sort of item, really, including clay. When he uses wet clay, it's claymation, but his work is not, obviously, necessarily limited to the moist bosom of terra firma. The Quay Brothers also use a broad array of items in their animations, particularly dolls, screws, and other odds and ends. Stop motion animation does not have to limit itself to found objects, however. Puppets not made out of clay, such as the wonderfully crafted dolls of Corpse Bride, fall under the broader catagory of stop motion animation. Meanwhile, the frame by frame photography and animation of a human being is called pixellation. So you could build an armature for a solid figure or doll just as easily as you could for a clay one, you just have to treat the joints differently.

Well, I hope that was helpful! As I work on my 2D animated film over the summer, I'll be sure to update this blog with my progress. In addition I'll be giving blow-by-blow advice for crafting your own stop motion projects, as I have a few of those babies under my (shiny, ostentatious, Texan) belt (buckle) at this point, and am confident in doling out advice for beginners.

Happy sculpting!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Animation (Definition of)

Finals are coming, and the weather is gray and dim, but hot at night so I sleep in restless fits until morning, when I grow sound and weary. To animate is to spend your time replaying motion in your head again and again, trying to slow things down into distinct parts, trying to fracture time.

Repetition is the soul of animation, time is its law. When you animate, you are splitting human beings into atoms while they laugh, dance, run.

My technical definition: Animation is the stylization of natural movement through the creation of a series of still images which, when seen in rapid succession, appear to be alive. Animus, another word for soul, is the root of the word animation (which in another definition, means "movement"). The soul, apparently, is described by movement.

Something to ponder, anyway.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Purpose in Life Regained!

My cup of enthusiasm for my animated film runneth over today, after my editing/Pro Tools instructor waxed positive. Which is good, because basically I feel like my life really is occupied by some ambiguous project with an equally nebulous objective. This week is dense with work, but for the first time in a while, I am entering the work with a bit of pluck on my sleeve (eeew, who plucked on my sleeve?) and a song in my soul.

Something unusual and for the geeky - I think that tiff files don't automatically want to reconnect in Final Cut Pro, but jpegs do. Why is this? It's annoying, because then I have to go in and manually reconnect them - raspberries to that! Maybe it's the compression with the tiffs...? Nah, I think it's just FCP.

For today: another background. You love it so hard. There's a creepy antique (circa late 1800s I believe) haunting the shadows at the peak of the triangle. It wants to eat you and any spare baby flesh you have lying around.


Thursday, May 25, 2006


Deadlines loom, and although I feel a vestigial anxiety about them, there's really nothing I can do. I can't work fast enough to finish my beloved monster (tentatively titled: Violets and Roses) by June 7th, so any concern I might feel is completely wasted here. Yet the stomach cramps still come, and I do not sleep at night, don't even feel tired despite my complete lack of stimulants. I feel empty, though, as if I am racing towards a void - waiting to be swallowed up by nothing at the end. I work, but I work slowly, at times passionate about my project, then merely overwhelmed. Who am I impressing? What is my audience? My audience is unknown, or if taken literally, a handful of friends. What do you do when your goal seems so intimidating, yet so abstract?

I am not hungry, but I eat at mealtimes. I am not tired, but I eventually force myself to sleep. Yet I am happy, too, and content. I am at ease, merely confused in the bargain.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Mirrormask DVD Review

Check out my extra-saucy review of Dave McKean's very excellent film Mirrormask. You'll be happy you went to read it, especially if you didn't enjoy the film as much as you hoped you would. Note that this genre, that of live action and stylistically integrated animation, is one of my personal favourites.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Straight Ahead, Matey!

I am an excellent straight-ahead animator, yea verily. And of course, in keeping with previous posts, I will explain to you what straight ahead animation is.

Simply, straight ahead animation is when you animate, drawing one picture after another, without having any previous layouts to guide you. The opposite to straight ahead animation is key frame animation, where certain "key" poses, or important poses, are drawn first, and other drawings are created to fill in the gaps between the keys. These gap-fillers are, appropriately enough, entitled "inbetweens."

When do you use straight ahead animation? Mostly, you use it on flowing, erratic things like liquids and cloth, pushing through the pages of artwork with an immediate style and sense of motion. So why don't you use straight ahead animation all the time, if it's so immediate and flowy like some New Age music video? Because if you do, you'll run into problems - characters won't fit in with the layout properly, or end up moving out of frame, and often you'll have to go back and redo the work you've already slaved over.

I rejoice when it comes time for the straight ahead animation to be done - my cloth flows naturally, my liquids drip and quiver realistically, and I feel great when I'm actually sitting down and animating. I don't know why, but I get this tremendous rush when I'm freed of keyframes and layouts - perhaps my little hidden anarchist taking a peep between my animator's eyelids? Perhaps.

Back to work. Or maybe a nap. The white sheets on my bed beckon with greater urgency than the white sheafs of paper glaring from the light desk. If I get this film done in time for the UCLA Animation Prom, someone else has been animating my film.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

On Gather, and My Upcoming Midterms

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So this week is midterm week for me. Yea verily, do not expect much posting from me (although honestly I have been a paltry poster recently - one a week? For shame and infamy!). However, recently I have been posting a lot of my fiction - short stories, etcetera - at a site called, which is sponsored by NPR and provides a great forum for feedback. For the articles I've posted there so far, it's pretty much been a love fest. However, if you're just a casual site surfer at Gather, you'll only be able to see two of my published pieces, since the rest are flagged for at least one, if not all of the following vices: profanity, nudity, explicit violence, or explicit sex. If you wanna see my hardcore stories (which are all done in good taste; expect nothing less from an animator), you're gonna have to join Gather.

Today, I also include one of the backgrounds for the film I'm working on, which will be critiqued upon this Thursday. Don't steal, kids - you'll just look foolish.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Staying On Model

Psst...come here, I have a secret for you. For animators, it's a pretty deep, dark one too...

I have difficulty staying on model.

What is this? Some new sexual ritual that all animators must do? A sort of circle jerk for the paintbrush set? No. Staying on model means the animator's ability to draw, consistently, a character that looks like the character it's supposed to be. The term is derived from something called a model sheet that shows a character, such as Homer Simpson or what have you, drawn in turn around (or from the front, the right side, the left side, and the back; four seperate drawings on one sheet of paper). Using a model sheet, an animator is supposed to "fill in the blanks," or imagine all the conceivable angles that a character should be in according to that spectacular, god-like, splendiferous set of examples. Oh, how easy it should be for any draftsperson! But alas, alackaday, I am a paltry animator.

I struggle with keeping my characters consistent. Like fingertip whorls or the folds in a cerebellum, my drawings vary intensely from one to the next. I am lucky, actually, because right now I'm only working with a set of characters that I've come up with, and still...and still.

I deform, I mutate, I perambulate (in order to walk off the stress from all of my deformities and mutations). I can only console myself with the thought that I, honestly, want to write animation much more that I want to animate animation. Knowing that Walt Disney was a poor draftsman is helpful, too - after all I want to be a master storyteller someday - but I will never be a Disney. I'm too sexually explicit and violent to be left in charge of entertaining the kiddies. In less you're a really, um, open sort of parent I suppose.

In the meantime, however, my project consists of animating, not dreams or excuses. Well, maybe a few dreams. This is a project I've conceived of, after all.

So while I can, while still safely tucked away in the protective arms of graduate school, I live to make my dream come alive, like a little mad scientist a la Frankenstein, or a mud-goddess sitting on a shore. Only, I wish that I was a better animator. Or that I could hire better animators to work for me.

The little mud-goddess, however, is a wee bit strapped for cash at the moment.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Animating on Ones, Twos, and Threes

My apologies for being remiss - for about a week I have been a non-poster! Gasp! Aieee! Other interjections of horror!

But now for the meat: this is a post explaining what I mean, and what all animators mean, when they talk about animating on 1s, 2s, and 3s (or 4s, or 5s - you could essentially put any number here). First, you must understand that film is composed of a series of photographs, traditionally running through a camera at the rate of 24 frames (or photographs) per second. For any film student, this is a basic fact, like knowing that the first three letters of the English alphabet are A, B, and C. But this is not common knowledge unless you've made some dabbling jaunts into exploring filmmaking or film in general. So, 24 frames per second (or 24 fps) is the rate to remember when you're discussing animating on ones, twos, and threes.

As a side note, for television and digital cameras, there are actually 30 frames per second, which is why the mediums tend to look so instantly distinct from each other - well, one reason of many.

Nevertheless, whether shooting for TV or on film, animation works on the 24 fps timing principle. Now comes the 1s, 2s, and 3s part: these numbers refer to the number of times you photograph each drawing you create (or pose you hold, if you're animating with stop motion) before changing to the next pose or drawing.

That was a confusing definition, so let's make it simpler. If you animate on ones, you draw 24 completely different drawings per second of film - a lot of work, and yet the animation flows very nicely. Disney animated feature films often are animated on ones. If you animate on twos, you draw 12 completely different drawings per second of film, photographing each individual drawing twice so that you end up, once again, with 24 frames per each second of film. Contemporary American animated cartoons on TV tend to animate on 2s because the quality of the animation doesn't suffer too badly, and this method saves money because you're not demanding as many drawings per episode. Therefore, when you animate on threes, you create 8 completely different drawings per second of film, photographing each individual guessed it, three times. If twos are cheaper, why not threes? - you might ask. Well, when you start to animate on larger numbers, the animation starts to look jerkier and stiffer, which American audiences, at the very least, won't tune into with any degree of regularity.

So there you have it. Now you know - aren't you a clever bird? Now try and animate something - it's fuuuuuuuuuuun!

Monday, April 17, 2006

How to Tell the Difference Between Stop Motion and Computer Animation

Want to be the cool kid on the block? You know, the one who can actually tell the difference between a Quay and a Pixar flick? Because it's not easy for everyone, you know (especially if you've somehow managed to come in late, had someone else buy the ticket, and covered your eyes whenever you saw a sign that might clue you in as to the title of the flick you're about to see), and in this vein I've come up with a few quick tips for the layman or laylady (lay) to bandy about the movie theater and, in general, annoy everyone else there.

By the way, this is in no way a good method to watch a film in order to enjoy its delightful story and sentiment. It's just a good way to be a smart ass, essentially. Nerds love this stuff.

1. Look for fingerprints. This takes some concentration, and it will only apply with traditional claymation (or clay animation - yes, it is the way it sounds), which is a form of stop motion. Studios like Aardman, makers of the Wallace and Gromit phenomenon, have become frighteningly good at hiding their fingerprints, but from time to time the familiar shadowed whorls will appear on the soft flesh of the characters you're watching. When this occurs, make sure you say "A-HA!" in a loud voice, while pointing. Of course you probably won't get anymore popcorn from your seatmate after that, so stock up in advance.

2. Look for unusual objects. O.K., this tip is a little more vague, but it will work beautifully if you're at a film festival and Svankmejer or Quay are on the bill. If you see things that look like screws, doll heads, slabs of pot roast, or other odds and ends, the chances are that you're watching stop motion. This, however, is not a sure indicator. It needs to be combined with a few other hints in order to be pulled off successfully. After all, maybe some computer animator wanted to bring to life a virtual pot roast - although this seems unlikely, you can't be too certain. Pot roasts are delicious, after all.

3. Look for motion blur. Motion blur can only be really successfully observed at home, where you have the ability to pause the film and examine individual frames. If you have this capability at the theater, I'll have to advise you not to use it unless you want to end up stuffed in the bottom of a trash can somewhere (ah, high school). Motion blur is simply this: the blur that occurs when objects in motion are moving and photographed at the same time. You can track motion blur best when looking at a particularly active scene frame by frame. Lots of computer animation tends to replicate motion blur (it's relatively simple to do), while stop motion, since it is not made in a computer, will not blur unless the animator went all crazy or fell or something during a take. The exceptions are films like the ever-so-tricky Corpse Bride, where all the frames were doctored in a computer afterwards directly in order to confound lists and generalizations such as the one you're reading right now. That's O.K. We don't (sniff) mind much...

4. Look at the lighting. So this is an extremely subtle way to determine a film's animated style, and is not recommended for beginners. Because objects in stop motion are all done at a much smaller scale than we are (dolls for these films are about a foot - 14 inches high or so), the props are also a lot smaller. Look for props in particular that are made of glass, such as jars, glasses, or mirrors. In computer animation, these props will have appropriate light scatter (due to such amazingness as programs like mental ray), and so will appear to be as big as their "real" counterparts are. In stop motion, they will look quaint and tiny, like the props inside a doll house. Also, because stop motion is dependent on "real" lights being in the scene, whereas in computer animation you can stick virtual lights everywhere, stop motion lighting may be a bit more limited, and will change subtly over the course of the day if they're shooting outside - although this is not always the case. If you had no idea as to what any of this meant, forget about it and move on to number five.

5. Look at the credits. A great last resort, looking at the credits is the best way to tell if the animation was stop motion or computer. Did they have someone to manufacture props? Did they have someone who was in charge of rigging? Rigging is distinctly a computer animation term, and physical props of course belong to the realm of stop motion. If they use the words "3D" somewhere you'll either have to return a pair of nifty glasses to the usher on your way out, or it was computer animated, or both. Look too for the names of computer programs, but be warned, a lot of stop motion will use computers for effects, so don't put too much credence into that.

Great! Now you're ready to be really and truly insufferable! Don't worry if you make mistakes, lots of animated films will combine methods anyway (although it's rare if a truly computer animated film will use a smidgeon of stop motion...possibly unheard of at this point). The best way to learn the differences between the two is to watch a lot of animation. After a while, after about three seconds of watching any film you will definitively know what is stop motion or computer based on observing motion alone. Isn't that frightening? I'm definitely a little scared.

So go out there, and show off your stuff. Just not in public. I'm pretty sure that's illegal.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

New Pic, Old Poem

This is how I feel today:

Creative, but with very little incentive. I've done a sketch for a painting, and written a poem that is a little rough so I'm not comfortable sharing it yet.

Instead, here is a poem from my Tattoo Notebook, entitled Research Project.

I am looking for a depiction of women
I am reading articles, going on the internet,
perusing a book entitled 'Women';
of course I know nothing.
I am not a reliable resource -
of being a woman
these ovaries do not enlighten me.
I am detached, mostly three feet away;
whenever my physical body
is reflected in another's mouth
I am shocked.
Disoriented, I scramble to touch my own breasts
but too often end up touching

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Girl at Work

So I've decided to stop torturing myself - I haven't heard back from the people who work at the TV show I (sort of) mentioned previously - so I've decided to just throw myself into my film whole-heartedly. Scheduled for today (and tomorrow): lots of background creating/polishing, and possibly some animation. I'm a bit behind with my animating, but I am bound and determined to catch up. In case you're interested, I'm animating first on paper, generally animating on 2s (which means that there are 12 drawings per second, instead of the normal 24 that would occur if you animated on 1s), sometimes animating on 1s if there needs to be more fluid motion. Then I scan the drawings into a computer, and paint them in Photoshop. After that, I import the frames into Final Cut Pro, and synch them up to the soundtrack that I've already laid down. In case you want a further explanation on how I'm animating this, write me a comment (anyone can comment on my blog, but I have vetoship due to a frightening amount of viagra offers I've received) and I'll elaborate.

The pic is from a contest we held among the animation labmates to determine what our advertising should look like for the Animation Prom film festival held at UCLA this year. My entry (above) didn't win, and is in no way affiliated with UCLA or the animation lab at UCLA. (I felt I should add that to be on the legal up and up). The advertising info on the pic, however, is accurate and should entice you to come see the show this June. I will be there, and if you mention my blog I will be very excited (if not downright flabbergasted). Whether my current film makes it into the Prom remains to be seen, but I will at least be showing a short there, which is pretty funny (I made it over the course of a weekend as a part of Falling Lizard), and deals with the inimitable question of who is the more dominant and kick-ass - pirates or ninjas?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Writing Parable

This was written three years ago, in the notebook of Lost Music:

She hated their criticisms, their comments, their snide laughter - so she sank the knife into her belly and began to pull out her small intestine - yards and yards of it unspooling, until a little Italian man arrived and put up his hands, as if trying to stop a car from hitting him. He shook his head and said, "They won't eat that. You'll have to make it more appetizing for them."

She nodded and cut some meat from her right thigh, and chopped it very fine, then stuffed it into the intestine and twisted it every six inches or so. The Italian man nodded.

"It might not be very clean, but at least they'll take a bite."

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Bad Timing

So one of my past instructors (who thought that my work in class was exceptional, apparently) has been trying to get me a job on an extremely well-known and popular animated TV show. I'm not supposed to tell anyone yet (in case I don't get the job, plus the instructor doesn't want to start a rift of jealousy or anything), and so I've been sitting on this thing which is a bundle of excitement and anxiety for me all at once. I would love to have this job: in the animation world, it is the equivalent of assistant directing. It would also be my first job in the industry that was not an unpaid first position in the animation industry period. I've been checking my email fairly frequently, and fantasizing about the position, knowing full well that I just may not get it (there's a test for it, I've yet to go into an interview for it, etcetera). But oh, I would so love to get it. I know I would do my best - I would work hard and try to balance this position in addition to working on my (dear Lord) eight minute film - I would work like a speed addict. But with better precision and clearer faculties.

For now, there is only waiting. Only this weekend I had planned to go away on a mini-vacation that would take me far, far, away from my beloved Mac. Yes, I know that there are internet pay stations, but those are probably the crankiest, slowest pieces of technology known to humankind. Plus, if I need to have an emotional breakdown - of a positive or negative nature - I would prefer to do it in the privacy of my hotel room. Only, alack a day, my laptop bit the bitmap last year. So here I am, excited about the trip, excited about the potential job, and wanting to strangle someone. Pretty much anyone that sits next to me in public.

This should be fun.

Happy Birthday Animation!

Did you know that today is animation's 100th birthday? More importantly, did you know that the first animator was a drag queen? To find out more about animation's storied past (and see what is considered the first animated film, Humorous Phases of Funny Faces from 1906), click here. All I know is, that I have a lot to live up to.