Blink - Paranoid GoAnimate Isometrix

GoAnimate's Product Manager, Nicolas, created a series of Isometrix custom characters and props which I wanted to try out but really didn't have anything in mind in terms of a story line.

Not to be deterred I decided to start putting together a scene with the available props in the hope that something would come to mind as I worked. The result was Blink which you can watch in the player below.

Blink by etourist

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This animation is probably a classic example of an idea that just evolved as I worked to find inspiration.

As mentioned I started to piece together a background using the available Isometrix props. Nicolas had designed an orange picture frame for the theme which I decided to use on the wall of my background set. Trouble was I needed something to go inside it.

Trying to feature as much of the Isometrix theme as possible I decided to use some head props inside the two photo frames I'd placed each side of the flat screen TV. The head with the green hair was fine and motionless but I couldn't find a yellow haired head that wasn't animated.

I chose a yellow haired head with the least amount of animation and put it in the frame. Looking at it, that's when the idea for Blink hit me. The old classic - spying through the eyeballs of a picture on the wall.

From there it was just a case of having the guy sitting on the chair say the right things. The blinking photo is never explained. You only get the guy's assumptions - which come across as some what paranoid.

I only intended this animation to be short so having him sneak out the room seemed like a good ending point. Then I thought it might be even funnier if someone else came into the room, unaware of what the viewer has just seen.

The character that runs in is Happy Bunny. Chosen simply because I went into the GoAnimate Studio via the Happy Bunny theme. It gave a reason for the copyright, Jim Benton water mark that appears on the background.

Obviously Happy Bunny notices the picture blinking and I end it there hoping you'll get that the cycle will start again with Happy Bunnies own delusions about what the blinking picture means.

The whole thing is just a bit of fun and probably a one off. The Isometrix characters are really cool but it really needs the right idea to make them work well. Who knows? Maybe I'll think of something for them in the New Year.

Domokun: Tashanna and the City

Unlike my other previous Domo Animate animations, Tashanna and the City is not a short comedy sketch. Started way back at the end of May 2009 I always intended this to tell a more complete Tashanna story but with my usual light humored approach.

I had the basic idea early. Tashanna is interested in fashion and style (what female 'tween' Weasel isn't?) and longs to be glamorous like her TV idol of all things stylish, Katie Teen.

One day, after watching Katie's show, Tashanna hits upon the idea to go to the city to ask Katie how she can become glamorous?

The scene was set. It sounded like a great idea so I started to animate. I never thought I'd need six months to get this story completed!

Tashanna and the City by etourist

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The title came about early and is inspired by the TV show Sex and the City which I used to watch. Had I not watched that show I would've probably come up with something different but the title seemed to suit for this even though it's not really about the city so much.

As well the title screen and opening scenes in Tashanna's home were all completed on the first day of animating. The problem was I didn't have any idea for how Tashanna would get to the city or how she would find Katie?

My initial idea was to have Tashanna seek out the help of Domo and Mr Usaji to travel with her to the city thus making this something of a 'road trip' story. However as I began to animate Tashanna going to Domo's house (well, hole in the ground) it all seemed kind of linear, boring and predictable.

I don't know exactly what caused me to think of putting Tashanna in a rocket ship but switching from her wondering how to get to the city to Mr Usaji putting Tashanna into a rocket ship and telling her to 'watch for the bright lights' was just funny. It's so far out of left field that I had to use it.

Not only that but it meant I could skip the whole 'getting to the city sequence' - or so I thought? You'd see the rocket take off and, in the next scene, you'd see it landing in the city - easy!

Then I thought, wouldn't it be interesting if Tashanna crash landed the rocket through someone's roof in the city, instead of making a boring, safe landing? Not having the ability to make any custom props - such as roof debris from a rocket coming through a ceiling - I decided, if I can make this look good with what I have available it's in.

So... to make a crash believable, you need an out of control rocket. Suddenly Tashanna's journey to the city is back in. We see her take off and shoot straight out high into space. The engine stops. Those immortal words of impending doom, "Uh, Oh!". The engines fire and the rocket hurtles, in a slightly less controlled manner back to earth.

To make things seem higher you see the rocket come down past the moon and continue down past an office tower window before CRASH!!! The rocket is through someone's ceiling.

If you've ever seen the spaceship sequence from Monty Python's Life of Brian you'll recognize the similarity of Tashanna walking away completely unaffected by the whole event - "You lucky b.. weasel!".

I was surprised that on my very first attempt at making the actual crash look believable - it looked believable. Five props for dust and debris combined with a screen shake was all it took. I never changed a thing to get it looking just right. Not even the scene length.

Obviously an event like a rocket ship crashing through your roof is pretty major but I didn't want to get caught up in that whole scene of the occupants of the house investigating the noise, being surprised, shocked etc. etc.

Hence Mr and Mrs we're not phased by anything in the lounge room glued to the television. Not even a talking weasel walking across their line of vision can disrupt their viewing.

At this point I have to mention how much of a 'God send' the Stick man theme is to Domo Animate. Specifically all the geometric shapes included in the theme that can be colored to any shade you like.

Not being able to import custom props, these custom shapes come in handy when you want to do something like create ceiling debris, hide the pointy end of a rocket ship so it looks like it's stuck in the roof of a house (as seen in the background when Tashanna sets off to find Katie after crash landing) or create the back end of a bus (seen briefly when Tashanna arrives at the TV Studio).

Another problem to overcome with Domo Animate is finding backgrounds - again because you can't import your own. Much of the time I spent looking at backgrounds to see if I could zoom in on areas to use as backgrounds and/or rearrange things to create new backgrounds.

For example in the two scenes pictured on the right. The top scene is the exterior shot of the rocket ship crashed into the house roof. Although you get the sense Tashanna is out on the street in front of the house she's actually in the Classic Characters, backyard background.

The bottom scene demonstrates how the Cafe, that Tashanna is seen in later, became the interior of my bus simply by deleting the table, moving the seats closer together and then framing the shot very tightly. I also added the screen shake effect on this scene to suggest the movement of the bus.

Another challenge for anyone who uses Domo Animate or even GoAnimate is what to do when your predesigned characters don't have the actions you need to tell your story. Simple actions like getting up from a seat in a cafe.

One way around this is a distraction technique that's kind of like animation slight-of-hand. If you've established your scene correctly so the viewer knows where everything is you can use different camera shots to distract the viewer while your character does whatever action you require 'off camera' (in other words you don't need to actually animate the character performing the action. You just imply that they did that action whilst the viewer is watching the distraction).

I actually perform this technique twice in succession in the cafe scene with Tashanna and Katie. Take a look at the sequence of images on the right. These are shown in exactly the same order they are shown within the animation.

You'll notice the first image establishes the scene. The viewer knows Tashanna has fallen on the floor, lying under the table and Katie is in the booth behind.

In the second image I distract the viewer by focusing on Katie - giving Tashanna time to get up off the floor into a sitting position 'off camera'.

In the third scene I focus on Tashanna, who is now sitting, to distract you from Katie who is climbing out from behind the booth 'off camera'.

The final scene both Katie and Tashanna are standing in front of Tashanna's table yet you never saw either of them actually go from a sitting to a standing position (note that the change of camera shot was enough time for Tashanna to go from sitting to standing without the viewer thinking it odd that suddenly she is standing).

Your mind doesn't pick up on this because, just like in real life, you know things can happen whilst you're not looking. Hence you accept that both Tashanna and Katie had time to stand in the time you were distracted from actually seeing them perform the actions to stand.

Note however, you do need to make sure that whatever a character does off camera you give them enough time to do it. I couldn't, for example, have Katie change outfits in the time she had to stand up because the viewer would notice she didn't have time to do that.

Speaking of the Cafe Scene... I got to this point - Tashanna sitting in the booth wondering what to do next? The booth behind her was empty because, I too, had no idea what to do next (I hadn't thought of the idea to put Katie in the scene yet).

It took several weeks of thinking and throwing around ideas in my head. At one point I thought about having Tashanna looking for some where to stay in the city and getting into all kinds of trouble from scary things like muggers and who knows what else?

The only problem was I really didn't want to turn this into a series. So I kept thinking, then realized, in the story it was early evening. Tashanna was at a cafe, most likely near the TV Studio. It wasn't that far fetched for Katie to be out having her dinner too.

From there I kind of coasted to the ending, knowing there was no need to show Tashanna and Katie's conversation - you get that it must have gone well since Tashanna appears on Katie's show.

The joke about Katie getting fan mail from Grizzly Bears was a deliberate set up for Hungry Bear's lines in the final scene. Katie doesn't find it odd that Grizzly bears write to her because, in this world, it's kind of established animals can talk and be upstanding members of the community (which is why I chose an actual Gorilla as security at the TV Studio).

The closing remark about glamor being a state of mind was nice but just wasn't all that satisfying to end on. I haven't met (or know of) any glamorous women that don't have a thing for a great pair of shoes. Whilst the shoe joke is some what predictable, it's still kind of funny in contrast with the earlier, more thoughtful, take on glamor.

The final comment I wanted to make about the creation process is the audio. There's no sound effects, only music because Domo Animate just doesn't have the sounds I needed (as mentioned previously - you can't import custom anything). For the most part I feel the music suited the actions on screen but I am getting tired of hearing the same pieces of music on many animations, including my own.

This has been a fairly long post so if you've read up to this point, thank you for sticking with it. I do hope you've found it interesting and perhaps learned something too.

I'm very proud of this particular animation because of the many challenges I faced to make the story work as I wanted to tell it. For the most part I didn't have to compromise on anything because of the limitations of Domo Animate. Which is quite an achievement in its self.

If you enjoyed Tashanna in the City then I hope you'll use the sharing options and show it to anyone who you know is a Domo and/or Tashanna fan. I'd also love to get your feedback on the animation. Feel free to do that using the comment section of this blog post.

Men In Black - Part 4

It's been several months since episode 3 of my Men In Black series staring Barack Obama and AKON but finally the two MIB Agents are back and hot on the trail of wanna be Evil Genius, Rashy (the sock monkey) - or are they?

If you haven't seen the previous episodes then I strongly urge you to take the time to watch them otherwise the current episode may not make a lot of sense. You can either click the links in the GoAnimate player below to view each episode on GoAnimate or, if you'd like to read my background notes, then click the following links, Episode 1, Episode 2 and Episode 3 to take you to each animations corresponding blog post.

MIB - Part 4 by etourist

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

As with previous episodes, when I started I had no idea where the story would end up. Episode 3 ended with Rashy about to set his special robot agent onto Bush and Cheney with Barack and AKON heading out to track Rashy down.

I did know that I wanted to put more action into this episode. A lot of my animations tend to involve characters in verbal exchanges but the MIB films that this series parodies isn't all talk. It was definitely time for some action.

In the opening scene I was really struggling for a logical location for Bush and Cheney to be, using the existing backgrounds on GoAnimate. Standing outside the White house seemed logical but why? Then I thought who better to give guided tours of the White house than the ex-administration. Unlikely but kind of funny too.

Observant viewers will notice the 'tourists' are all characters from GoAnimate's I'm a Mac, I'm a PC parody ads (because I knew the PC guy had a really good action where he goes flying after being kicked - useful in 'explosive' situations).

Note that when I started this series many of the props and effects that appear in this episode didn't exist as GoAnimate didn't have the Stick Man theme (where those beams of light both the Robot Agent and Alien Bush shoot at each other come from) or the Custom World backgrounds (the subway station, Agent Roy's Office and the Interrogation room). This is most evident in episode 2 where Bush turns the first MIB Agent to 'Poo' using a very poorly made prop from the GoA community.

In the second scene of episode 4 when we first see Barack and AKON there is a wide shot in which you can just see Rashy in the bottom left corner of the frame. This was meant to be a one off, throw away a joke for Barack's line about Rashy being a 'sneaky little monkey' but then in the subway scene I thought, why not put Rashy in the background again?

However in doing that it gave the impression that perhaps Rashy was following Barack and AKON when in fact he isn't - well not really.

In the last scene with AKON where he reports in that they haven't seen Rashy all day it was just too good an opportunity to have Rashy walk across that scene in the background. It wasn't like I planned it that way. Fortunately there was good reason for Rashy to be in the exact same location as Barack and AKON, with the destroyed Robot - so it worked well in the end.

I really like that Rashy is making no attempt to hide himself. It reinforces the idea that he's not actually trailing the two agents - they just happen to going to the same place and the agents just didn't notice him.

Unfortunately up to that point nothing in episode 4 really advances the storyline. It's all just a bit of a chase with no one being successful. Rashy doesn't kill Bush and Cheney. The Agents don't locate Rashy. I needed something to hook people into episode 5.

Part way through making episode 4 I discovered the Interrogation room background and knew I'd be using it at some point. Having brought Rashy's Dad into the story in episode 3 it occurred to me Rashy already had a former arch nemesis in the form of his brother SuperRica. Rashy was always playing some very cruel tricks on SuperRica so who better to haul in for questioning.

However brothers are still brothers so SuperRica isn't going to just rat out on Rashy that easily. You'll have to wait until episode 5 to see if SuperRica will crack.

I don't think there's anything else to say about this episode other than a side note about the joke relating to AKON looking like he needs to pee when he's on the phone. Unfortunately for most of AKON's body actions he dances - including talking on his cell phone. Obviously in this series he needs to use the phone a lot and it just looks odd that he's dancing whilst talking - I felt it needed some explanation.

It's kind of a shame really that all the characters in AKON's theme are mostly designed to dance along with AKON's music. They're some of the best drawn characters on GoAnimate. If they had more non dancing actions (and the whole theme wasn't so restricted in terms of not being able to add custom audio or mix the characters with other themes) I think people would have used them a whole lot more.

GoAnimate Complaints Department Christmas Special

People seem to like Happy Bunny so much as GoAnimate's Complaints Desk Operator that he was the obvious choice for this years Christmas animation from yours truly.

This outing I wanted to get back to a more universal humor and move away from some of the GoAnimate member centric humor of the previous episode, hence no members where parodied, sent up or poked fun of in the making of this animation. Except perhaps for myself.

My goal was to try and use as much of GoAnimate's Christmas theme as possible whilst still trying to maintain the idea that this is a Complaints Desk and therefore people should be complaining.

GoAnimate Complaints Christmas Special by etourist

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

It was obvious to me that Happy Bunny would naturally be cynical about the whole Christmas Holiday season and not really appreciate any attempt to decorate his space with 'holiday cheer'. However he would also get a certain satisfaction out of undermining the Christmas spirit by spreading the cheer with 'False Hope'.

This time around Street Fighter's, Ken only makes a brief appearance because I kind of feel I've done the Bison, 400 GoBuck, joke to death - though Bison's cameo I just couldn't stop myself from including.

Other regulars, The More Actions Protest Group nearly got a bigger role because all of the Christmas Theme characters could quite legitimately join their group. However this idea was canned when I realized the new character creator now included (just in time for Christmas) a Santa, standard template character - and his female assistant.

Naturally the original GoAnimate Santa would be threatened by this development and would certainly have grounds to complain.

There were all sorts of ways I could have gone but the idea of the new GoAnimate Santa having a beautiful assistant with a mouth just like Happy Bunny's really does appeal. Can you imagine her keeping all those unruly kids, wanting to sit on Santa's knee, in line with some kind of back hand remark.

Bison's Evil Genius Training Camp

Street Fighter's M. Bison is a mysterious boss and head of the crime syndicate and military organization Shadaloo. He is responsible for the murder of Chun Li's father and Guile's friend Charlie. Making him the ideal choice to train wanna-be evil geniuses from the GoAnimate cast of characters.

Of course, having spent 400 GoBucks (US$4.00) just to obtain Bison for my latest GoAnimate Complaints Department installment, was also a factor in making sure I got my monies worth from the character.

Evil Genius Training Camp by etourist

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

It was GoAnimate member Coady who planted the seed for this concept in an unrelated GoAnimate forum discussion called Great Tactics for getting fans although I suspect his comment "TET, do I feel an evil genius video coming back?" was referring to my original Evil Genius series for getting views.

I remember a few years back reading a list of things an Evil Overlord should do when plotting to take over the world and just now spent some time searching for it online. I was almost at the point of giving up when I found the very list at: Peter's Evil Overlord List which includes the Top 100 things you should do if you ever become an Evil Overlord.

The list includes such gems as:
No#15: I will never employ any device with a digital countdown. If I find that such a device is absolutely unavoidable, I will set it to activate when the counter reaches 117 and the hero is just putting his plan into operation.

You should definitely take the time to read the entire list. Your face is guaranteed to hurt from smiling and/or laughing by the end.

Anyway, I digress, it was my memory of this list that prompted me to create Bison's Evil Genius Training Camp but, rather than point out the flaws in many Evil Geniuses plans, I thought why not make those flaws a requirement to becoming an Evil Genius?

To explain further, you've all seen the movies where the Evil Genius is foiled yet again by either his own or his armies incompetence right?

For example, in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Obi-wan is clearing up the smoldering remains of some Jawa's and explaining to Luke that only Imperial Storm Troopers are 'so precise' (in how the Jawa's were slain) yet through out six films it's evident the average Imperial Storm Trooper isn't going to trouble the movies heroes too much any time soon.

Hence one of the jokes in my animation is about why Evil Geniuses tend to hire henchmen that never seem to hit their targets.

Probably the only other explanation this animation needs is the choice of characters who appear as students.

Regular viewers of my animations will recognize Simon Bar Sinister and Witchy from my aforementioned How to Get Views The Evil Genius Way series.

Happy Bunny is an aspiring Evil Genius with his acerbic tongue who is learning his craft on the GoAnimate complaints desk whilst Rashy (the sock monkey) is a running joke for an unlikely Evil Genius in several of my animations but most famously in my Men In Black series.

George Bush... do I really need to explain or does the phrase 'War on Terror' make it clear enough? George tries to be the good guy but he's just too incompetent - he has to be an Evil Genius in training!

Pencil - Free 2D Animation Software


Pencil is a 2D bitmap and vector based, free animation tool for MACs, Windows and Linux that I'd like to say is the perfect introduction to 2D, computer assisted animation but can't.

It is a great tool. Clearly set out, easy enough to learn, versatile. In fact you can create an entire animation within Pencil, including audio tracks, and then export it all to a single movie file that you can upload anywhere. It will also export files as Flash/Shockwave movies (which is my interest in using it).

However, the Windows version of Pencil is extremely buggy making it frustrating to use and sometimes down right impossible (forced software closures, lost work etc.).

I suspect as a tool for creating animations, using bitmap images, Pencil is ideal. There's much less to go wrong. On top of that you could choose to edit all your frames in any bitmap editing software you choose then just import them into Pencil, add some sounds, export to a movie file and you're done. If that's all you need to do I highly recommend this software - its free - so give it a try.

Once you get into vector animation the frustration starts to set in. Specifically with the vector 'area fill' tool. If you haven't properly closed an area you'll keep getting a warning message telling you there's a gap in your drawing or you've 'Zoomed Out too much'. This is a known problem that is documented within Pencil's manual.

It's frustrating because often there are no obvious gaps - even if you zoom right in to check. I've found that larger areas are likely to trigger this warning. If you can't find any gaps then the best solution seems to be to break the area up into smaller fill areas using the 'invisible line' tool. Then fill each section as you go until the area is all filled.

Because of the buggy nature of this software, personally I wouldn't use it to create anything too advanced like a full vector animated movie. However if you're just looking for some vector animation software to create scalable, animated props, heads and backgrounds for your GoAnimate movies this is a good stop gap until you can get your hands on something better.

Pencil features a nice 'onion skin' tool that allows you to import a bitmap image onto one layer then use the vector tools to trace it - as I did with my animated campfire prop below (you may need to click on the image to see the larger version and my vector lines traced over the bitmap image).


By converting the bitmap animated campfire into a vector animated campfire it will now look great in any scene without becoming pixelated if you zoom in for a close up.

You can see the fully animated version of the campfire in Deer Hunters Creek.

Pencil creates animation through the use of Key Frames. This is great because it means you don't have to draw everything on every single frame. For example, with my campfire I drew the rocks onto one key frame then, over the next ten frames I only drew the fire (which obviously had to move on every frame to look like, well... fire).

If you look closely at the image of the campfire above you can see along the bottom of the screen there is a time line featuring two Vector Layers. Within that time line there are rectangular boxes. Each box represents a key frame. On the first vector layer there is one key frame for the campfire rocks. On the second there are ten frames for the fire.

You'll notice there is also a camera layer in the time line. This layer is used to size and frame your various 'shots'. Just like other layers you create key frames for the different camera shots.

For GoAnimate users you'll need to create a camera layer for your object with just one key frame. The camera size should be the same size as the GoAnimate Studio Stage (550 x 354 pixels).

You'll then need to size your object relative to how big you want it to be (initially) compared to the stage (generally it's best to make sure your object always fits within the stage. You can easily make it larger once you've imported it onto the GoAnimate Stage).

You'll then need to position your object in the top left corner of the stage with the corner being approximately in the middle of the object as shown below. (If you're creating a head prop then the top left corner of the studio is roughly where the neck of your characters body will be).


From there you simply export the file as a Flash/shockwave file (you will have to add the '.swf' extension to the file name yourself) ready to import into the GoAnimate Studio.

Note that for any GoAnimate users thinking that Pencil would be great for creating fully fledged GoAnimate compatible characters with, unfortunately you're out of luck. Whilst it's great for backgrounds, animated props and heads, it cannot save files in the correct format for characters.

Despite it's short comings I've used Pencil to create all my vector based props on GoAnimate. Sometimes I drag my feet thinking, oh no, I don't want to use pencil again, but, unless you want to buy some software, I haven't come across any other free vector animation software compatible with GoAnimate.

Like I said it's a good stop gap. If you find yourself using Pencil a lot and you're really interested in flash animation then you'll probably want to buy something better eventually.

That aside, for a free program it really does have potential. The drawing tools are quite basic but, with enough patience, you really could do some very impressive animation work.

More GoAnimate Complaints and Domo Gas

It appears you can't keep a good (or even a bad) rabbit down. Not even death has stopped the return of GoAnimate's favorite complaints desk monitor, Happy Bunny.

This time around the rise and rise of GoA member, Coady, is one of the main themes. Coady is so nice and so popular that other members just can't help but devote entire forum topics to We Love Coady!!

Coady recently passed me on GoAnimate for most views of all time so this video is therapy whilst I try to recover (LOL).

Of course the Complaints Department wouldn't be the same without Street Fighter's, Ken, complaining about having to pay real money for Bison. I've extended that theme with a special guest appearance by me complaining about all the money and go-points I had to spend just to make the video.

Then there's the usual random references to things on the GoAnimate site like the regular complaints about no Sonic the Hedge Hog or Mario themes and more. Oh, and if you've never heard of T-Roll, click the link in the video to find out who he is.

GoAnimate Complaints Rise Again by etourist

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

I will admit that Coady's animated head - that he made - really does make this installment work so much better. I'm really glad too that Coady's such a good sport for making it public and letting me use it to poke some fun his way. No wonder everyone likes him!!

Baby Bears Meeting is my latest Domo Animate creation. For anyone that likes a bit of 'Fart' humor, Domo's always good for that. I think this is my third animation with Domo that features his ferocious flatulence.

This time Baby Bear's called a very important meeting to discuss the issue of Green House Gases, clearly an issue that Domo may just be contributing to!

That's about all the set up you need, so enjoy the video below.

Baby Bear's Meeting by etourist

Like it? Create your own at DomoNation.com. It's free and fun!
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