Thursday, June 28, 2007

Brad Bird interview on Fandango (*update* and Time Out)

Fandango has a short interview with Brad Bird here. It's not much, but I thought this article might get overlooked by the other animation sites. Probably not, but who knows :P

Ratatouille tomorrow! I'm going to go see it again :)

*update* Here's an even better interview with Brad Bird on Time Out that I found via Mark Mayerson's blog. This one is really worth reading. Here's a quote from Bird:
See, that’s what I mean. People on the far right and the far left only see their own myopic little agendas and are not awake to many other things that are going on. And I think there’s a tendency to polarize all thought and speech by relegating it all to one of two categories, far left or far right, which doesn’t serve any of us. I’m one of the people who think the whole red state/blue state dichotomy is ridiculous, because if you actually go down to the level where actual people are, it’s pretty much purple. Most people are right around the center, but these straitjacket categories get imposed on the map because it makes good TV, and it’s good strategy for both sides to sell this idea of a compartmentalized society. So I’m glad my films are politically confusing.
Man..I know how he feels.

A friendly reminder: "I am the Director's tool. It's his project, not mine."

So, today was a particularly tough day. Rather than going into the details, I think it's more appropriate to re-post Shawn Kelly's tips and tricks article, "You Are a Tool" (from Nov 2006). The title makes it seem like a negative topic...upon reading it again, (and having a fresh experience to relate it to), I see that it's a very positive article. It's really all about how to handle unexpected revisions to your shots.

It's nothing that I didn't know before, when I read it last November. But I tell ya what, the day your shot gets unexpected revisions, read this article again. It's one thing to know this stuff when you're not going through the emotional repercussions of the event, at those times you can say "yeah, I know this" and put it away. But keep this article bookmarked, and re-read this at those times you need it the most. I feel a little better already.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I "love" commuting

So yeah, I got on a 7:30pm train tonight, and what should have been an hour long train ride turned into a 4 hour ride. Apparently the storm that was taking place took out some of the electricity, some track switches weren't working, and believe it or not the conductors had some paperwork to do. Good 'ol LIRR! Gotta "love" it. At least I got to pass the time chatting with a girl who was sitting next to me, who just happened to work for an advertising agency in Manhattan. (Do you like how I tied this post into the NY advertising industry at the end there?)

The moral of the story--don't choose a long commute if you don't have to. So that's really all I have to say, heh. Now it's time to sleep.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Psyop Unisex Loves 4 Square

The anticipation!
The action!

The disappointment!

The cheers!

For the past few weeks a small group of us at Psyop Unisex (the studio's new space, where the Coke team lives--a converted hair salon) has been spending lunch hours playing 4 square at a nearby park! If you haven't played 4 Square since your days in elementary school, you should try it again--Our games have gotten pretty competetive and the various tactics developed have been surprising! Not to mention that it's a heck of a lot of fun! Friday was Chris and Jordan's last day working on Coke, so we had a big pizza party in the park, followed of course by a game of 4 square--with a few new recruits since nearly the entire office was there. There seems to always be something uniquely memorable from each gig I've had, and I'm pretty sure 4 square will be on that list for HF2. Go Team Psyop! ;)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Ratatouille Sneak Preview

I was fortunate to get tickets to see the Ratatouille sneak preview in New York last Saturday! I don't think there's really much I can say about this movie that's not described in that image above. Fantastic design, animation, film. I can't wait to see it again! We had a big group of people from Psyop there, as well as some of my SCAD friends, which made it that much more fun! I've never been to a sneak preveiw before, the audience that night was pretty much all adults, with only a handful of kids, maybe 5 kids max. The movie went over well with the entire crowd.

I also managed to stumble across the "Ratatouille: Big Cheese Tour" today, that's promoting the film around the country. It wasn't that big of a deal, pretty Disney-esque, but I did manage to grab a free Ratatouille poster!

Anyway, yeah--I know any of you who read this blog already want to see this movie. Get your friends and family to go too :) In the meantime, don't forget about Surf's Up! I've seen that one twice already, and my opinion of it has not diminished in the least.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Interview: Kylie Matulick and Todd Mueller of Psyop (via Motionographer)

This is a fairly old interview, sounds like it happened last summer after Happiness Factory 1 was finished, but I found it randomly online tonight! I have the pleasure of working under Todd and Kylie again for Happiness Factory 2 right now. But it's interesting to hear their story about how HF1 came about, because I've never heard it! I wish I had more time to work directly with both of them, but with the MUCH larger team on HF2, there's a structured hierarchy of directors-leads-juniors that seems to be working out well. Psyop functioned that way before, but the team is so much bigger now that it certainly requires more of that. I think there's 30 some people on this project alone, a dozen of which are animators. Definitely the biggest team I've ever been on in NY so far, and Psyop is becoming one of the largest places around here.

It still blows my mind a little that during the time I was working at other places in New York, the HF stuff was taking on a whole life of its own and becoming this huge project! Now it seems like the bulk of freelancers in the city are at Psyop working on this, and they're all very talented. I really feel like I'm learning a lot from the people around me, in terms of both animation, and working on a production. When you work with talented people, you can't help but want to push your work to be the best you can make it.

11 Second Club!

Hey everyone, head over to the brand spanking new 11 Second Club ( In case you didn't know, 10 second club ceased to exist as of last fall, so my friend Aja Bogdanoff and her husband Mark decided to make their own new site. 10 Second club was a very popular way for young animators to practice with audio clips and see how their work compares with others. I'm hearing some really cool stuff about what might be in store for 11 Sec Club, so definitely spread the word! They're beta testing it now to get all the bugs out, so be patient and don't judge too harshly yet ;) It's gonna be sweet!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Freelancer's Guide #6: NYC Studio List--Applying for Jobs

I've decided to post a list of a few places that I know around NYC who often look for freelancers. I don't personally know all the places around here, the only ones I know are either ones I've worked at, ones who've contacted me, or ones where my friends have worked. So I will try to update this list when I hear of others, but don't take this list as complete or a "ranking" of studios by any means.

At the very least, here's a few places that can be a starting point for those of you looking for places to send demo reels in New York. Also, note that most of my knowledge is about places that do 3D work--I think there are a lot of places that do flash around here as well, so if you're looking for them don't be discouraged that they're not on this list...yet.

Framestore NY ( Maya, Linux--The U.S. branch of Framestore CFC in London. A talented team that has done great work on the Geico Gecko, Fed Ex "Stick", Dodge "Focus Group". One of the places that does the most 3D character animation in New York. And they have a Simpson's Pinball game upstairs, which is very addictive ;)
Psyop ( Maya, Windows--The other place in Manhattan that does the most 3D Character Animation. They've been known for their motion graphics stuff for quite a while, but since Coke "Happiness Factory" came out they've gained quite a reputation among 3D animators as well. They are quickly becoming one of the larger(est?) studios in NYC.
Charlex ( Maya, Windows--Worked here on "One Rat Short". They do a lot of cell phone commercials and other CG for advertising, not a lot of character animation since One Rat Short finished. If you're into motion capture and use Motion Builder, they are usually looking for people at their sister company "Launch", which does a lot of previs work.
Tronic ( 3DS Max, Windows--I worked for a little while on some M&M's stuff for the M&M's store in Times Square. Haven't heard if they are thinking of doing more character animation in the future.

Curious Pictures ( They write "Codename: Kids Next Door" for Cartoon Network, but do a lot of animation/effects in advertising locally. I believe they also animate "Little Einsteins" here.
Rhino FX ( They do some similar work to Charlex, a lot of misc CG, effects and lighting work, occasionally other things.

The Mill ( Also based in London, but have a studio in NYC.
Digital Kitchen ( Studios in Seattle, Chicago, and NYC.
Hornet, Inc. ( Studios in LA, NYC.
Stardust NY ( Studios in LA, NYC.
Eyeball NYC ( Contacted me about a character animation gig recently.
Click 3x ( Interviewed for a gig there once.

Kaos Studios ( (THQ) If you're looking for a staff position, this is a good place to look. They're currently working on "Frontlines: Fuel of War", an FPS game, keyframe animation. I've heard it's a nice place to work too.

Blue Sky ( Located in White Plains, about a half-hour north of Manhattan on the Metro-North train. You all have heard of them I'm sure.

These places don't often post jobs on the online job boards. They often don't know they need an animator until a job comes in for them, and usually they need someone pretty quickly. That being the case, it may be harder to grab a freelance gig if you're not local. But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen--I was hired by Charlex because I had a recommendation by a friend, and I had a week to move to NYC! More of that story later.

Character Animation gigs are sometimes hard to come by, with exceptions at places like Framestore and Psyop. Other places will have a character animation job every now and then, but lets face it, the bulk of commercials on TV that require animation and effects don't have characters. Don't ask me how I've landed character animation gigs so far, I think it's just been a good year for character animators. Don't let that get ya down, just realize you may have to animate a spinning cell-phone or something else sometimes to keep the income flowing.

Again, check out David B. Levy's "Your Career in Animation: How to Survive and Thrive" for great tips on how to job hunt in New York. Freelance gigs in New York are often filled through recommendation only, but some places do keep reels around to look at when they need to find somebody. Mostly though, they call back freelancers they've worked with in the past. It's not uncommon to see a lot of familiar faces at different studios, as we freelancers hop around a lot.

Lastly, most jobs around here are on a freelance basis. Occasionally you'll hear of a place that's hiring staff, but that is a rare occasion. Some people land staff positions after freelancing at a place for a while, and they usually have proven to be able to lend their talents for more than one aspect of production. For example, animatiors who can also rig, and riggers who can also animate.

So there ya go! I'll try to update this list in the future, I know of others that will be up here too. Anyone who knows of others, go ahead and post in the comments and I'll add them here too.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Go see "Surf's Up"!!!

I saw Surf's Up tonight with a bunch of other animators from Psyop and the New York area. It was great!!! Seriously folks, this is one of the most original animated films to come out in...well, in a long time! It's not your typical animated flick. The whole thing is set up as a documentary of Cody, and his hero Big-Z. The characters have so much life, they truely live in this movie. As I was watching, I thought "this is an animator's movie", because the bulk of it is long acting shots, where the characters are relating to each other and finding out who they are. During the main story, they cut to "interviews" of the supporting characters, where you'll be treated to some fine straight up acting/dialogue shots that I think are sometimes seen more often in demo reels than on screen.

The movie has such a film look to it, in the lighting and post effects. The handheld camera works really well, and it's so interesting to see how these characters act when they know someone's watching (they are aware of the "camera crew" that is filming, though you never see the crew on screen)

The acting is really top notch. The story is interesting, but it's not so much the story they tell that makes this great, but how they tell it. I was reminded of some of the old Disney movies, the ones when the 9 old men were really in charge--the movies came to life through the characterization more so than the story. That's not to say that there's no story to Surf's Up, there definitely is and it's good. What struck me more, however, was how well developed the two main characters were, and how well the main relationship in the story was developed. These characters have history behind them, they have a story before this story starts.

The water looks fantastic too, some gorgeous underwater shots, and shots inside the waves. There's a lot of texture to the water, varying colors and depth.

Last but not least, kudos to my friend and co-worker Miles Southan, who got to work on the movie! Be proud to have been a part of it!

Everyone else, go to fandango and buy your tickets :) If you're an animator, I think you'll really enjoy Surf's Up.

**Check out AWN's featured pages on Surf's Up--interviews, featurettes, pictures--awesome stuff! (here)

Monday, June 04, 2007

Arj and Poopy

I usually leave finds from other blogs for my Google Reader shared items page, instead of posting here, but this is just too darn funny. (Found at the Channel Frederator blog.) Bernard Derriman, who made "Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me" apparently has this internet cartoon called "Arj and Poopy". This one is random, but funny, such great poses and attitudes too! The dog's dance moves are the best!