Featured GoAnimator: Enjoyinglifeinseoul (ELIS) - Witches of Misery!

EnjoyingLifeInSeoul
GoAnimator enjoyinglifeinseoul is the December 2013 winner of my GoAnimate, Get Featured in TET's Blog contest. Enjoyinglifeinseoul has had his account with GoAnimate since March of 2011 and in that time has amassed 3346 followers and published 49 animations. This is his second win of the contest. Read his first winning post here.

Enjoyinglifeinseoul chose to feature his animation , saying...
Well, it took me some time to decide which of my animations to have featured. I considered some of my older ones like “Prince of Persia” or “Turtle Shell! Turtle Shell!” and the latest ones like “Demon Fire!” and “Witches of Misery!” In the end I went with “Witches of Misery” because most of the challenges and special techniques I had used in the others were covered the last time I was featured here.  
Some fresh problems popped up this time and I thought that the solutions I came up with might help some of your readers. The other reason I choose this one, is because, I had so much fun making it from all aspects: The poem that the animation is based on, the characters themselves, the backgrounds and the flash props as well. I am also trying to get it published as a children’s book. Who knows maybe it will be seen here by a publisher.
Watch Enjoyinglifeinseoul's animation below and then read about his inspiration and challenges in creating the video.

Witches of Misery by enjoyinglifeinseoul on GoAnimate



Inspiration


The inspiration behind this animation came from many places. The first is probably some images of witches I came upon over a year ago, that resulted in me thinking that it would be great to see an animation about them. But I was busy at the time, so I put the thoughts away.

The second inspiration came from a habit of my childhood; if I didn’t know the lyrics to a song I just made up my own to go along with the tune. I continue to do this till this day, but now make up my own tunes as well. I can’t recall when I started it, but one day while waiting for the bus or while walking home from it. I started to think about the witches I mentioned above. 

I wasn’t planning on making a “Halloween Animation,” since Commedus, Miramanee, and myself were already running a contest for the holiday. However, some lines for the poem started to form in my head. One line became a pair of lines. Those lead to another and then another. Inspiration had struck, and the project was born; or at least the idea behind it. I still was not sure if I was going to make it or not, it was just lyrics and a few images in my head. Then inspiration struck again. 

This time it came from one of the witches herself “The Beautiful One.” I had originally made that character to be a troll being held in the dungeon of “Demon Fire!” but as I continued to work on the poem, I came to realize that she would make a great witch, so I pulled her from that animation. This got me thinking about making even more witches so into the character creator I went. 

I just dabbled the first time and didn’t save anything, but I knew that I would. I still thought I might save the project for the following year, but as the poem developed and ideas popped into my head, I got more excited about it. I also decided that while it fit the holiday, it wasn’t necessarily a Halloween Animation. That was what finally made me decide to bring life to the witches and their tale right away. All other projects were put on the back burner or fire as the witches would say.

Main Challenges


The main challenge I encountered came from how I wanted to present each witches story. As theirs is a realm of magic I wanted each tale to reflect that visually. I didn’t just want the stories to be told with a regular scene. So I came up with the idea of each story being told/shown through one of their magical items; the mirror, crystal ball and cauldron. 

At first I went with the traditional way of making custom backgrounds to cover things you don’t want seen, in this case parts of the character bodies, by using the square shape and matching the color to the rest of the background. 

However, do to the angles and curves of the mirror and crystal ball it was taking a lot of shapes and it started to grow tedious. Straight lined and curved objects don’t like to play nice together. The old square peg round hole conundrum had arisen. The solution I came up with was to make my own custom flash props. 

I took screen shots of the mirror and crystal ball, uploaded them to my flash program “Koolmoves” and then made large backgrounds to frame them. This way I could have only part of the characters bodies shown within the object. 

The cauldron presented a different problem. Unfortunately, I accidently overwrote the master file, before I had made a copy of it without the bottom. This meant that the solution I mentioned above wound not work. My fix to this problem was to do the opposite of what I had done before. 

Again, I took a screen shoot of my flash prop, but this time I made small backgrounds or props that had curved edges so I could place them within the cauldron to cover/hide things I didn’t want seen. 

The other problem I had was with movement, cause and effect and audio over scenes that have different lengths. This was when the witches were adding the various ingredients to the cauldron. I had them throwing things in and then splashes coming out. With the heart and bat wing it was only one prop to move but with the newt eyes and baby’s fat it was multiple. 

The objects were also different sizes and sometimes moving different distances. However, I wanted the speed at which they moved to be the same or as close as could I get them. I also needed all this action/movement/timing to match the audio. Anyone who has worked on this in the Goanimate studio, who isn’t a math wiz knows this can be trying. 

I must be honest I didn’t come up with any revolutionary way to address this issue, but I did come up with something that can ease the pain. After, adjusting the slide movement for the ingredients and resulting splash over the multiple scenes without satisfactory results, this is what I did: I made copies of each scene sequence and then pasted them after the original. I then made a blank/white scene between them to help my mind keep them seperate during the review process. After this, I would set the pixel movement for the sequences at different distances. It still took some trial and error, but was a lot easier. 

If all of this sounds like a lot of work, it was. But for those of you who know me, you know that I love it. For those of you that don’t. This all started as a hobby, but has become my art. And artists do what it takes for their passion. 

If anyone has questions about anything please feel free to message me on goanimate. Thank you TET and to all of you who have taken the time to take in what I had to say and share.

If you've enjoyed Enjoyinglifeinseoul's work then why not check out more of Enjoyinglifeinseoul animations on GoAnimate.

Runner up Featured GoAnimators for the month of December included:

Blabberize - Get your images talking

One of the best applications for making your face images talk is Reallusion's CrazyTalk. However if you don't want to buy such an advanced piece of software and just want to throw down a quick talking head to make someone smile then the online application, Blabberize, might be just what you're looking for.

Blabberize will get your images talking in more of an old style, ventriloquists dummy, kind of way by adding a lip-synced lower lip and chin to your face images. Not great for realism but perfect if you're going for comedic effect.

You can trial the service but won't be able to save your work until you create an account. It's free so you may as well. From there it's a simple five step process:
  1. Upload an image (front on images work best).
  2. Crop the area of the image you wish to use.
  3. Define one or more mouth areas.
  4. Record or Upload up to 30 seconds of audio.
  5. Preview and save.
 Once you have your video you can share the link or embed the animation anywhere that accepts HTML embed codes. You can also download your animation as an MPG video file which you can upload anywhere or import into video editing software as part of a bigger production.

You can see a sample Blabberize below that I created as I wrote this blog post.

video

The above is the MP3 version of my clip but, as mentioned, you can embed the animation directly from Blabberize's site for better image quality that looks exactly as you made it.

As you can see it's pretty basic. If that's all you need, it's a great way to animate faces without much effort.

Animation: The Star Trek Fan (TSWF 2)


The Star Trek Fan is the second installment of an earlier animation I created back in March of 2013 called The Star Wars Fan. If you haven't seen it I would recommend you view it first as The Star Trek Fan is a kind of continuation of the dialogue but in a new subway location.

Once again the Tourist, his travel companion Mia and their R2D2 unit are minding their own business when they are approached by a metro cop who inquires about their droid.

The Star Trek Fan (TSWF II) by etourist on GoAnimate


With it being such a long time since the first installment I don't think I managed to get Mia's voice sounding the same or get any real difference between all of the character voices. Also the voices aren't consistent because I just wanted to get the animation finished, since it had been sitting in my GoAnimate account for months as I tinkered away on it between business animation clients.

However I think it still works and the script is strong enough for people to overlook my poor voice work effort.

The opening line where Mia says "What do you mean I sound like a man?" is a direct reference to the comments I got on the previous installment, despite my efforts to make Mia sound more female.

The rest of the dialogue just grew organically from the premise of what if the same thing happened again but with a different metro cop?

I knew at some point I'd have a red shirt guy de-materialize on the platform. Which may seem a little out of left field but (in my head at least) the Tourist is a dimensional traveler, modeled on Doctor Who. The implication suggested by the cop is that the Tourist, Mia and the R2 unit also arrived in the same fashion.

For those of you that know the Star Trek in-joke about red shirts (mostly from the original series) you'll know that they tended to be the first - and only - crew members to die in any alien confrontation.

Finally, if you know movies you may have recognized the Wilhelm Scream at the end. A very fitting sound effect for the demise of my Red Shirt guy when you consider that the use of the scream was revived and went on to be used in hundreds of movies after it was used in the original Star Wars film.


Crazy Talk Animator 2 and iClone 5.51

3D motion for 2D characters in
Crazy Talk Animator 2.

Crazy Talk Animator 2

I'm very excited at the release of Crazy Talk Animator 2 from Realusion. So excited that I bought my copy on pre-order as part of a pre-visualization bundle with iClone 5.51. I bought over $1000 worth of software for 70% off and got Crazy Talk Animator 2 for free, thrown in.

The down side is I won't get Crazy Talk Animator 2 until it's released some time in December 2013. The upside is I'm now the proud owner of so much 3D animation software I could just about make my own Toy Story movie (or maybe a sequel to The Invincibles since Pixar won't get their act together).

Regular readers of this blog will know I have the original Crazy Talk Animator. You can see pretty much the sum total of my efforts with it in this blog post on animating Cool Cat, Froyd. I just haven't had the time to really dive into it.

However, aside from all the new 3D features for 2D characters in version 2, what's really got me excited is the new feature of being able to draw your own characters to a specific template that you can then import and have your character take advantage of all the new 3D features. That's hugely exciting to me. Previously characters were much harder to animate in three dimensions, involving a lot of swapping of different views of body parts to achieve the desired effect.

Character Templates.

There's also a new, built in, character creation system that looks like it could be a great addition to my animation business. I'm hoping it'll allow me to create custom characters quickly so that maybe I can finally offer Crazy Talk Animator videos as part of my explainer video business.

Rather than me run through every feature, take a moment to watch the demo, sneak peek video below. If it doesn't get you excited then you must be a hand drawn animation purist or something.



iClone 5.51

3D digital actors in iClone.
At this point I feel like I've bought the entire iClone catalogue of tools. Just yesterday I bought extra plug-ins for it despite not yet having even used the program since installing it a week ago. 

I've got the main program along with the Avatar Toolkit, the Monster Avatar Toolkit, the MoCap Device Plug-in, the pop video converter plug-in, 3DXchange (for converting models made with other 3D software), the Toon Maker Plug-in and a whole bunch of other content and training materials. All up I spent about $425.00 because all of it was bought on special (this software isn't usually this cheap!)

When I started out in computer animation, 3D animation is what I wanted to do, after being inspired by the cut scenes created for the very first Tomb Raider computer game. However I never had a computer powerful enough. I still don't really, but my humble Toshiba laptop can just about manage, especially after I bought an extra 4GB of RAM.

With everything I bought for iClone I can now realize that dream but my main focus is more 2D animation these days - hence my excitement for CTA2.

I can't tell you much about iClone, having not really used it yet. However I do know the interface between CTA2 and iClone follows the same basic layout, making it very easy to switch between the two. If you want to get into 3D animation with a tool that makes it relatively easy then see if iClone is for you by watching the video below. 

I'm sure at some point in the future I'll be posting about my efforts with both CTA2 and iClone so be sure to keep coming back.



Featured GoAnimator: TheseStars - Hoot and the Yellow Canary

TheseStars
GoAnimator TheseStars is the November winner of my GoAnimate, Get Featured in TET's Blog contest. TheseStars has had her account with GoAnimate since April of 2010 and in that time has amassed 965 followers and published 21 animations.

TheseStars chose to feature her animation Hoot and The Yellow Canary, saying...

I choose this video to be featured in this article for several reasons. The first being that I strongly feel it is my best production thus far as an armature animator working within the GoAnimate Studio. The second reason for my choice is that I would like to share this particular spotlight with the other people who contributed to the success of the production. And lastly, I choose this video because I strongly believe in the message the story line serves to tell others. That they too can create a little magic in their own life.
This video production tells the story of how I literally found a yellow canary on the same day that I told a canary breeder in a pet store that I would, "one day have a Yellow Canary when the time was right".
To this day, it blows my mind how the events of that day unfolded. You see, the timing was perfect. I had an extra bird cage since I was travelin' with Ginger my pet cockatiel and kept an extra larger cage at my other home in New Jersey. 
Anyway, I figured since the story was going to be about birds, I would use my HOOT, the owl character and his side kick Stick figure to advance the story. But I was strugglin' for a storyline to introduce the canary. Which I feel silly about now because the best stories are the true stories. 

Watch TheseStars' animation below and then read about her inspiration and challenges in creating the video.

HOOT! and The Yellow Canary by TheseStars on GoAnimate


Inspiration

The overall inspiration for this video production had some very magical and extraordinary events surrounding it right from the start. So, I'll tell you about them and start from the start.

 The original inspiration came when GoAnimator EnjoyingLifeinSeoul (otherwise referred to here as ELIS) noticed that I was sharing pictures and news updates with friends and family on Facebook about the Yellow Canary that I found on my front lawn in New Jersey. It just so happened that ELIS was in the process of teaching himself how to animate props and characters using the software program, KoolMoves. ELIS asked me if l would like to have a yellow canary animated to join my other original GoAnimate character, HOOT! the owlet that likes to play around with anagrams. Of course, I was thrilled, and said, "absolutely".

Main Challenges

It was on March 2nd 2013 that I first saw the yellow canary come alive for the first time. So now I had this wonderful little moving canary who could dance, talk, close his eyes, fall over in his food dish, and of course, just stand still. The problem was, as I mentioned earlier in this writing, was that I was strugglin' for a storyline to use him. You have to understand that in my head I knew the video would have to be a great production because someone put all this effort into making this character for me. I knew I had to honor that time with something special. I had nothing.

So now time is still passing and it's now June, and I still have no idea how to introduce the Yellow Canary. No idea how I was going to make ELIS proud of his work. Then enters Gypsy Grass, the music. Written and performed by Shawn Gonzales.

Blues Musician Shaw Gonzales is an acquaintance who I had met in November 2012 through New Jersey Hall of Fame Blues Guitarist, Dean Shot while doing some promotional work for a night club.  The quick back ground story on Shawn is that he played slide guitar on one of Johnny Lee Hooker's last recordings before he died. It's now July.

Shawn sends me a link to hear some of his new original music that he just upload online. In just a few short notes, BAM! I knew instantly what I was going to do with the Yellow Canary. I was going to tell the amazing story on how I found him. And I was going to use Shawns' Gypsy Grass to do it. It was the music that sparked the initial inspiration to sit down and start the process in the studio. And it was the music that revealed to me how the story line would flow. Now I had two people to make proud. ELIS and Shawn. The pressure was mounting.

Since I wanted to use all of the music, which was 5 Minutes and 32 seconds in length, I now had time to play around with another story line, besides the true story of finding the canary, to make the work more fun. And who better than to give a story line too, but too my other alter ego personality, Stick Figure. I love setting him up for trouble, and I needed the time filler.

I didn't ask Shawn Gonzales' permission to use the music until after the video was complete. I figured if he heard my amazing true story being told alongside his own original music, that it would be easy to get his permission. So that's what I did. On May 18th, I presented the work to Shawn Gonzales asking his permission.

Yes, I did all that video production work, prop making, and story writing to his music knowing the whole time that there was a good chance he would say, "sorry, I would prefer that you didn't use my music". But thankfully, that's not what happened. This was his response, 'You have no idea how special that was for me. Thank you for such a wonderful experience Renee. I lost my bird "Brutis", of 12 years only 9 months ago. He looked very similar. It was so well done. I would be proud for you to show this to anyone. Thx again for even considering using my music in that way.'

 So besides the amazing story of finding the canary on the same day that I told someone I always wanted a Yellow Canary, is the finding of the music that immediately sent the story rolling through my head was written by someone who had his own personal and touching truth about a bird. Does life get any more uncanny than that? I don't think so.

 I believe the content of the production and the story behind it, could help others learn two things, 1. That they too could drum up some of their own magic in life if they just believe in the power of their own thoughts and words. And, 2. Allow a piece of work to have its own place in time for when it's ready to be, ---don't rush anything that doesn't come easily. I'm not saying you shouldn't try over and over to get a prop right, or a scene right---your should work hard on it, you should probably make several and choose the one that fits best, what I'm saying about story line is don't rush the telling of a story ---especially if its not flowin out on its own.

In the end of it all, I think I made a production that all three of us could be proud.

Here are two more funny things about this production. There is more truth hiding inside the scenes that no one yet has ever noticed. The first is with Stick Figure when asked by HOOT!if he, 'read the script'. Stick figure replies, "don't tell anyone Hoot, but I usually wait till the last minute". It's true--- very rarely do I stick with a script. I rough one out to give me a start, but than the story itself takes over and well I let it go its own course. 

And lastly, there is something in the video that no one ever noticed. It's the name on the directors' board prop I made. Kent Seehem. You can't see him. He is hiding behind my character Thesestars, who I also only give you a cutoff shot of, because I am trying to make it feel like a real studio production getting ready for the big introduction of the characters and the entrance of the Yellow Canary. Thought I'd give this a mention before signing off, and wishing everyone Happy Animating while following your own true stories.


If you've enjoyed TheseStars' work then why not check out more of TheseStars' animations on GoAnimate.

Runner up Featured GoAnimators for the month of November included:

Six D.I.Y. Video Animation Tools


Can't draw or animate to save your life but want to create cartoons or explainer videos? Here's a list of six do it yourself animation sites/tools that are worth a look and you can try for free - no drawing skills required.

Before we start I will admit I've barely used any of these sites except for GoAnimate, so don't expect in depth reviews. The best I can do is give you my initial impression, ask you to watch their video and then go and try them all for yourself. I may do proper reviews at a future date.

GoAnimate

I'm a big supporter of GoAnimate which has been around since 2008 and allows you t create short, 2D cartoon animations using their library of thousands of characters, props, backgrounds and more. It's the leading site in its field and is being continuously refined with improvements.

What makes GoAnimate stand out from the competition is that it can keep up with your growth as an animator and film maker. You can get some very professional looking results sticking with the content available but if you want to branch out and start animating your own characters and props using flash animation software you can. Import these back into GoAnimate and take advantage of how easy their studio is to use as well as still having access to their extensive library.

GoAnimate has evolved into a site promoted heavily for business explainer video creation but coming through it's initial hobby animator route it includes several character themes ideal for story telling including Anime, stick figures, Lil' Peepz, Politics and more.

For all round versatility and ease of use it can't be beaten.



Powtoon

Powtoon is best suited for explainer videos rather than story telling, unless you want to tell stories in a presentation style.

Their studio is kind of like Microsoft Power Point with a cooler library of clip art and more features geared towards animated presentations. If you just want to create videos with graphics that fly in and out of each scene Powtoon is a great option that's a little less complex than GoAnimate.



Wideo

Much like Powtoon, Wideo is best suited to explainer videos. Its studio takes a similar approach to Powtoon using the familiar Power Point slide approach. Its library of pre-made props, characters and backgrounds isn't quite as extensive as Powtoons given it's a newer player in the field but what's there is pretty unique so you might choose Wideo on that basis alone.



Moovly

Moovly is another recent entry to the animated video explainer market. Like the others it has a library of pre existing and animated content at your disposal. Creating animations using a more traditional approach of working around key frames on the studio's timeline.

Just like Wideo its content library isn't that extensive yet but it does have a few unique styles that no other site really has. For example Moovly has the most convincing animated, whiteboard marker, drawing arm I've seen yet.



Video Rascal

If you have a thing for animated text explainer videos then Video Rascal may be for you. Although it only seems to have two templates it looks like there are plans for more. Creating a video is a very easy step by step process where the most difficulty you'll have is planning exactly how to layout your text so it looks good with the template you've chosen.

You could probably do everything Video Rascal can do in GoAnimate, Powtoon, Wideo and Moovly but not anywhere near as quick. It's not that pretty just yet but with more templates and development it could be the go-to site for text based explainer animations.



Plotagon

Plotagon s a little different but familiar to those of you that may remember Xtranormal (which shut down earlier in 2013). In a nutshell it's 3D animation software that you can download and use to create animated short films just by typing in your script.

At the moment the quality of the finished animated movies make Xtranormal's platform look like it characters could act Shakespeare plays convincingly but I'm sure Plotagon will get better with further development.

Unfortunately Plotagon is a huge download (over 800MB) and I have to say I was pretty disappointed by its limitations. Again Xtranormal's desktop software, Slate, was a smaller download with greater abilities.

On the plus side the 3D is more realistic than Xtranormal and the interface is set out almost exactly like how you would format a screen play.

Currently it may be more useful as a pre-visualization tool, since the software chooses the optimum camera angles for you based on established film making principles. If you were making a live action film you could use the chosen camera angles as a guide for your live action camera placements.





I'm sure there are other sites out there - please let me know of any free sites within the comments and I may feature them in a future post.

Personally I would recommend GoAnimate to you every time but I would suggest you at least try the others, as I've become so accustomed to GoAnimate's studio that everything else tends to be quite limiting. If you're coming to these sites with no prior experience you may prefer some of the simpler studios in comparison to GoAnimate's highly evolved offering.

Featured Animator: WOW™ - Eve

WOW™
GoAnimator WOW™ is the October winner of my GoAnimate, Get Featured in TET's Blog contest. WOW has had his account with GoAnimate since May of 2011 and in that time has amassed 357 followers and published 22 animations.

WOW™ chose to feature his animation Eve, saying...

"I chose this particular animation, because this is such a complex idea that I would like to elaborate for you all. First and foremost, Eve is initially (yes, I said initially) a post-apocalyptic story set in an ice age. I would also like to reiterate that this a dramatic story, because I want to develop realistic characters in a realistic way. There’s a lot of dialog here."

Watch WOW™'s animation below and then read about his inspiration and challenges in creating the video.

Eve-Trailer by WOW™ on GoAnimate


Inspiration

You may notice the black and white visuals in the trailer, with a slight touch of colors throughout the trailer. This is loosely inspired by The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. When the story reverts to full color, I want it to be breathtaking similar to when Dorothy enter the Land of Oz. As for the story, it’s directly inspired by an episode of The Twilight Zone called “The Midnight Sun.” It was one of my favorites of Rod Serling, and I recommend anyone to check it out.

Main Challenge

In the trailer, you get a sneak peak of the dialog and camera. I introduced a new version of the over the shoulder camera shot, which is starting to become much more popular on GoAnimate. It’s a very challenging but rewarding camera angle, which involves a Lil Peepz character with circle props (colored the same as the character’s hair) layering almost the entire head, and the correct camera positioning. I started to put an outline to make it feel more part of the animation itself. I want the camera angles to feel as professional as possible, with dialog camera angles leading the way.

You also see in the trailer some interesting lighting techniques. The empty store near the end of the video features lighting that is darker in the back of the store. That means it took approximately eight or more lighting props layered over each store shelf. This is why I prefer designing all of my backgrounds first, because I get interesting ideas like that while I’m finishing my scenes. It also prevents me from rushing, and it gives me an idea on what’s possible and what’s not.


If you've enjoyed WOW™'s work then why not check out more of WOW™'s animations on GoAnimate.

Runner up Featured GoAnimators for the month of October included:

Featured Animator: Rocque - Baby New Year (Part 5)

Rocque
GoAnimator Rocque is the September winner of my GoAnimate, Get Featured in TET's Blog contest. Rocque has had her account with GoAnimate since March of 2011 and in that time has amassed 915 followers and published 78 animations.

Rocque chose to feature her animation Baby New Year (Part 5), saying...

"I chose this animation to feature because I think it is my favorite one so far out of the series that started as Baby New Year then was going into a series titled 2012. It seems so long ago now. This one is special because of the incredible voice acting. I was honored to have Hollywood3514, Latin Fire, J Files Graphics, and RoTV take time out of their busy schedules to lend voices. It was almost 6 minutes long and there were a lot of lines."

Watch Rocque's animation below and then read about her inspiration and challenges in creating the video.

Baby New Year Part 5 by Rocque on GoAnimate


Inspiration...


When 2011 was nearing its end there were so many rumors about 2012 being the end of life. So I started the Baby New Year series.

 I still have not really gone into too much detail about what happened, but the short story is that something happened and Baby New Year was not growing. He was stuck in infancy and that could only mean something had gone wrong with time. That was the premise for my series in my mind.

As a baby he was being sheltered by the girl (Hope), and the Ravens had to find a way to take him. Whether the little ravens are good or bad still remains to be seen. So I am not even near to be finished with this series even though the year is long gone. 

 I like to leave a lot of unanswered questions in my animations to see who can figure out what direction I am going in. Especially in a series like this was intended to be. 

 I also was inspired because I was spending lots of time in hospitals with my mother who had a turn in her health and I got into watching some older anime series with really cool sword fights and magic.

Main Challenge...


There were a lot of challenges in making this animation. Syncing the scenes was not as easy then. Getting all the scenery to move in one or two directions, the sky to move in another and then the characters to move, too, was very time consuming and challenging. It was still fun though. 

I wanted there to be a lot of scenery changes to keep it really interesting for the viewer. 

Up til this time I never really used sword fights, and I did not want a full sword fight but something that would draw in interest for future sword fights. That was before the tutorials and the fabulous fights we now are used to seeing. I wanted to have the female fight but not to kill just to establish who had more power. I was hoping people would notice the Raven had the more powerful sword and it had magic attributes. 

Techniques I used were adjusting frame lengths, parts of the frame that the viewer could access, and a whole lot of trial and error. I spent hours finding the right music, deciding on volume and layering. I wanted this to be Go Animate Epic!

In the end I am happy with the results. I loved the Sea of Sorrow part, too. There is just a lot in this animation. I admit I do watch it still, and when I do I get inspired to continue the series even though I might not until 2015. If people have suggestions maybe they can let me know.

If you've enjoyed Rocque's work then why not check out more of Rocque's animations on GoAnimate.

Runner up Featured GoAnimators for the month of September included:

Business Animation: Your Terrible Script, How to Make It Better

I can't begin to describe how hard it is to work on a business explainer animation that has a terrible script. The script that the client wrote so they don't have to pay me to write it properly, with fewer words and an easier to understand structure.

It's especially difficult when the person creating the explainer video (i.e. me) doesn't understand the product from reading the client's script, even after asking the client questions. You'd think that would send alarm bells ringing for the client that maybe their script just doesn't do the job.

If you do happen to be writing an explainer script for your product or service then it pays to follow a tried and tested structure which is as follows:

1. Define the problem your product or service solves.
2. Introduce your product or service as 'the solution'.
3. Describe how your product or service solves the problem and why it's the best solution.
4. Summarize your product or service and what it does.
5. Call to action - e.g. 'Contact us', 'Visit our website' etc.

Often when I'm writing a script for a client I'll use the points above as headings to help make sure I maintain that structure. From there, the goal is to fill out each section using as few words as possible whilst still getting your message across.

The largest section will be point 3, the rest you should be able to manage with two or three sentences at the very most. Remember, shorter is usually better.

Need an example? Let's look at my own promotional video for my animation4business site...



My video starts by defining the problem in just 16 seconds: You need an animated video but it's hard to get quotes because other studios don't advertise their prices, are expensive and probably beyond your budget.

Next I offer my animation service as the solution and give you my starting price right there in the video in just 11 seconds.

For the next 47 seconds I describe my animation service and tell you all the essential features and benefits including some additional fees you might encounter if your video needs to be longer or requires custom elements.

Then I spend 24 seconds summarizing what I've just explained and throw in a few smaller details to add some extra credibility - like my experience with using GoAnimate as the third most fanned user of all time.

Finally, the last 10 seconds asks the viewer to either email me or visit my website.

Notice just how much information I managed to squeeze in to my animation and I still managed to keep it 8 seconds under two minutes.

This structure is not the only way to construct an explainer video but if you've never written one before it's a good starting point for keeping your thoughts focused and your video content organised.

If you have already written a script you can use the points above as a check list to see if you've covered all the essential components in a logical order. If you haven't then consider a rewrite using this structure and your script may be all the better for it.

At least you won't be submitting a terrible script for me to decipher if you decide to use my services.


Featured Animator: Artem™ - ~Evil Awakening~

Artem™
GoAnimator Artem™  is the August winner of my GoAnimate, Get Featured in TET's Blog contest. Artem™ has had his account with GoAnimate since April of 2013 and in that time has amassed 126 followers and published 11 animations.

Artem™ chose to feature his contest entry, ~Evil Awakenings~, saying...

"I chose this animation because it was a challenge that I beat. I was having a lot of trouble with this animation. It was a theme that I never used before and a short amount of time."

This is the first time someone has chosen their winning video to feature so I thought I'd add in my comments as to why this animation was selected to win...

"Attention to detail and great editing, along with a strong script set this apart from the rest. Use of audio to add background noise and to suggest actions occurring off screen was impressive. Then showing a fight scene by not actually showing a fight scene but by using creative editing to imply actions that are occurring was very well done. Capped off with some good voice acting and a really good use of a custom darkness effect by Immortal Dreams."

Watch Artem™'s animation below and then read about his inspiration and challenges in creating the video.

~Evil Awaking~ by Artem™ on GoAnimate


Inspiration...

I was inspired by two other users on this site. Chaostoon and Denom. Chaostoon, because he made a very cool video called Swords. And I decided to make my animation a fight/attack. Denom, because he makes dark and spooky videos. That's why I had the dark ending in my video.

Main Challenge...

This animation was the hardest I ever made. I made it in a short time, but boy... was it a struggle. I needed to make an animation that had some plot and story, but at the same time wasn't too long and squished in the 1 minute. I made probably 3 different types of videos, but turned them down because they did not have the perfect blend. I finally got this one out, right on the deadline.

If you've enjoyed Artem™'s work then why not check out more of Artem™'s animations on GoAnimate.

Runner up Featured GoAnimators for the month of August included:

Featured Animator: Balacafa - Super Kent - THE ROBOT

Balacafa
GoAnimator Balacafa is the July winner of my GoAnimate, Get Featured in TET's Blog contest. Balacafa has had his account with GoAnimate since October of 2012 and in that time has amassed 627 followers and published 20 animations.

Balacafa chose to feature his animation, Super Kent - THE ROBOT, saying...

I chose this animation because I actually spent time getting the effects in exactly the right places instead of just putting them at the start of the scene, I made sure they were at exactly the right times.

Super Kent is actually one of my own characters from my early days on GoAnimate. You can view my own three episodes at Super Kent, Super Kent Returns and Super Kent - Man of Steel.

Watch Balacafa's animation below and then read about his inspiration and challenges in creating the video.

Super Kent - THE ROBOT by balacafa on GoAnimate


Inspiration...

Well, when I was in the forums I stumbled across a forum by Gipsy and I was curious about what it was. So I checked it out and saw that Gipsy had released Super Kent in the community library - at the time I hadn't seen Super Kent so I checked out the original (by TET) and after I'd seen the whole animation the idea for Super Kent - the robot popped into my head.

Main Challenge...

It was extremely hard getting the correct sound effects in exactly where they needed to be, and for 1 particular effect I had to preview it about 8 times before it was in exactly the right place, however I overcame these [difficulties] by replacing some of the sound effects with easier ones which start straight away, not halfway through the scene.

If you've enjoyed Balacafa's work then why not check out more of Balacafa's animations on GoAnimate.

Runner up Featured GoAnimators for the month of July included:

Tools for your Home Digital Animation Studio

Synfig Studio
There is the Rolls Royce of digital animation tools that any professional animator would probably aspire to but if you're just starting out, animating for a hobby, or just not in any position to get the top level gear then I've put together a few options below to get you started.

Many of the tools I've written about before so I'll provide links to those articles if you want more information. You'll also notice that your software studio can potentially consist of entirely free software.

Hardware.

I'm going to assume you already have a computer. One with real processing power is ideal but even most low budget laptops have enough power to get some pretty decent results. Beyond that you'll need either a graphics tablet or scanner to get your drawings into the digital realm.

Bosto Tablet
  • Graphics Tablet
    A graphics tablet is not absolutely essential but it will make your life a whole lot easier. You'll get more out of many animation programs which have tablet support.

    There are two main types used in the animation industry - those where you draw directly onto a screen with a digital stylus (pen) and those where you draw onto a pad that matches your pen movements to the cursor on your computer's screen. The former can be in the thousands of dollars whilst the latter can be obtained for under $200.00.

    Wacom is the leader in the field of tablets and can be quite pricey as a result. I've heard their cheaper Bamboo range of tablets is actually quite good so don't discount them. Personally I have a Wacom Intuos 4, medium sized tablet that I was lucky enough to win in a competition a few years back. I wouldn't go back to not having a tablet now that I'm used to it.

    Bosto is a relatively new player in the tablet market. Worth a look if you really want a budget priced tablet where you draw directly on the screen. Prices start from as low as $649.00.

    Drawing on a tablet is quite challenging at first but the more you practice the more it feels just like drawing with a pencil - though less scratchy and no graphite lead smudges on the side of your hand.
     
  • Scanner
    If you just can't adapt to drawing on a graphics tablet or haven't been able to buy one yet then the scanner that comes with most multi-function printers will be your friend. Unless you're really good at drawing with a mouse or touchpad a scanner is the only way to get your drawings into the digital work space.
     

Software


There is a whole range of software out there to choose from that isn't high end or expensive. If you're serious about eventually working for an animation studio you'll need to work towards learning Adobe Flash or Toon Boom but if you're planning on being independent then you can pretty much use whatever works for you.

It goes without saying that you'll need some kind of image editor/paint/drawing program. Paint.net is free and a good place to start. I use it as my 'go to' image editor when I don't need anything too flashy and feature packed. I use Serif DrawPlus when I need more advanced tools.

As far as animation/film making software goes, I'm not going to list every option just the software I've used or am at least aware of.

  • Script Writing
    You can write scripts in a word processor but if you want them laid out in industry standard format so that your actors can clearly see whose saying which line then Celtx is a great free option. You can also storyboard with it, as well as have your scripts formatted to the style of production you're planning. It also has online collaboration features if you need to bring others into your production.
     
  • Spring Board.
    Storyboarding
    Digital storyboarding software is an absolute godsend. No more scribbling on bits of paper and trying to fit in scrawled notes in the margins. Good storyboarding software lets you draw directly into the thumbnail panels and you can fit as many notes underneath as you need and still be able to read it the next day (if your handwriting is as bad as mine when I storyboard on paper).

    Toon Boom Storyboard is the pricey option but if you want something that will do a perfectly fine job for just $40.00 (and free to try) try Springboard. I can't sing the praises of Springboard enough. Once I found it, it transformed the way I did storyboards and made them something I looked forward to working on.
     
  • Animation
    Your choice of animation software will depend entirely on the type of animation you wish to do. This article would be too long if I tried to write about them all. So here's a list of those I've used with links to either their website or the article I wrote about them.

    Pencil - Free 2D hand drawn and Flash animation tool (tends to be very buggy!).
    Plastic Animation Paper - Free 2D hand drawn animation development tool (and one of the best I've ever used for hand drawing frames of animation.
    Synfig Studio - Free, professional 2D bitmap and vector animation software. Quite a learning curve but definitely the best of the free software.
    Serif DrawPlus - Supports both 2D hand drawn and flash animation though this software is more of an illustration tool.
    Anime Studio Pro 9 - Very versatile animation studio not just for Anime but all styles including cut outs and even 3D to a limited degree. If you're just a hobbyist then the standard version is cheaper but still very powerful.
    Crazy Talk Animator
    Crazy Talk Animator Pro - 2D puppet style animation. Can use photos or your own artwork.
    Papagayo - Free lip syncing calculation tool that integrates with Anime Studio.
    Koolmoves - 2D Flash Animation Software.
    Blender - Free 3D modeling and animation software.
    Daz3D - Free 3D Scene designing tool that draws upon an extensive library of 3D models. When paired with other software it becomes a powerful tool for 3D animation.
     
  • Video Editing
    Depending upon how professional you want to get, many of the animation tools above won't actually allow you to make complete animations with them. Instead you build your scenes individually and import them into your video editing software to create the final cut of your animation. The benefit being that it gives you access to much more powerful video and titling tools.

    I've tried a few video editing programs but the one I use is Serif MoviePlus. It's inexpensive, powerful and most importantly, is able to preview what you are editing in real time.

    If your budget doesn't stretch to a video editor then WeVideo is a fully featured online video editor that will give any bought software a run for it's money. You can get started with a free plan for personal use and upgrade if you find it useful.
     
There's plenty of additional choices of hardware and software out there for equipping your home digital animation studio. If you haven't found what you're looking for above, be sure to keep searching online and see what else you can dig up.

Bitstrips - Social Comic Creation - No Drawing Skills Needed.

TET Bitstrips Avatar.
I recently discovered Bitstrips, a social comic creation, Facebook application that enables you to create gag cartoons and comic strips staring yourself and your Facebook friends - even if you can't draw.

Whilst Bitstrips doesn't have much to do with video or animation the parallels with GoAnimate's animation studio - that everyone can use, even without drawing ability - is obvious. Bitstrips actually has more flexibility than GoAnimate when it comes to creating poses for characters. Almost any pose, expression and emotion is possible even though the characters are all 2D.

It would be a dream come true if Bitstrips partnered with GoAnimate to turn their content into 'Bitanimations' as well as 'Bitstrips'. They pretty much have all the artwork. They just need the underlying animation application to support it.

The Bitstrips Facebook application seems to only allow single panel, gag cartoons and provides a number of ready made jokes which you can customize quite a bit.

If you want to do a bit more then head over to the web application where you can create multi-panel strips completely from scratch. You can even create and add in your own custom characters instead of being limited to your friends avatars - as in the Facebook app.

Click for larger image.
I won't go into the whole process of creating comic strips as it's all very easy to pick up. All you really need is a good eye for staging and framing your images, along with a few great ideas.

I prefer the web application but if you just want to add a few quick status cartoons to your Facebook wall then the Facebook application is very quick and does most of the work for you with it's suggested comics.

Well worth checking out if you have any interest in cartooning or comic strip creation. You could even use Bitstrips for storyboarding your videos.


Beware the Batman - Cartoon Network's New CG Animated Series Trailer Doesn't Excite.

Cartoon Network released their first full trailer for the new CG animated series Beware the Batman and, although I'm a long time Batman fan - particularly animated and on film - it just didn't get me excited for the show.

It's not that I think the trailer is bad or that the show looks like it's missed the mark on what makes Batman great it just that it's all CG animated and, for some reason, I find that disappointing.



Which is really odd because this show is following in the footsteps of the Green Lantern CG animated series. Although I didn't watch much of Green Lantern, the episodes I happened to catch were really great, and I did like the design of the show. So much so that I have considered buying the series on Blu-ray or DVD - and I'm not that much of a Green Lantern fan.

My problem is I can't get excited for CG animation anymore. Which is a shame because at one time CG animation was something I really wanted to do myself. Still do, in fact, but back in the day I used to be excited by the possibilities - as I mentioned in my post Tomb Raider to Tears of Steel: 3D Animation with Blender.

Perhaps it's because everything just looks too clean and sterile in a lot of CG animated cartoons. Even The Croods movie by Dreamworks, which is about cave people, had a very polished look about it.

The clean look worked for Green Lantern's CG series a lot better because much of that was set in very futuristic environments but, for Batman, things generally need to be much grittier.

Batman works in the underbelly of Gotham city, where things are both literally and figuratively much dirtier than the impeccably kept Wayne Manor. Looking at Beware the Batman's trailer I don't think you can see so much as a discarded piece of paper anywhere.

Back Alley available
for DAZ 3D.
I know CG animation is capable of creating lived in environments. You only have to browse through many of the models, architecture and scenes available for DAZ 3D's studio, such as this back alley environment (pictured right).

I don't really know if that's my issue or whether it's just because I'm much more excited by 2D animation these days.

Whatever the reason I think it would have been better if Beware the Batman had come up with a new look rather than copying the style of Green Lantern's series.

But now that I think about that last sentence, maybe they're planning to do a Justice League CG animated series in the future and are just ensuring the different character model designs will work well together if put in the same cartoon.

I'll probably still tune in to this new Batman series. It has every chance of being very entertaining if Green Lantern's series is any kind of guide but I'm certainly not on the edge of my seat waiting for July 13 (or whenever we get to see it in Australia).

What do you think? Are you excited for Beware the Batman. Leave a comment and let me know.

Featured Animator: Denom - Miquiliztli Yahochihua, Ep. 13

Denom
GoAnimator Denom is the June winner of my GoAnimate,Get Featured in TET's Blog contest. Denom has had his account with GoAnimate since April of 2011 and in that time has amassed 2528 followers and published 239 animations.

Denom chose to feature Episode 13 from his series, Miquiliztli Yahochihua, saying...

I chose this animation because it's one of my best animations and identifies me. Fighting animations are my thing. I tried to make something that has never been done before on GoAnimate. Not just with the animation, also with the voices.

Miquiliztli yahochihua episode 13 by Denom on GoAnimate


Inspiration...

The inspiration came from a Dragon ball Z movie in which the strongest characters of the series fight each other, and the background music I chose.

Main Challenge...

I tried to make an exaggerated fight using very short scenes and several custom effects. The custom effects I used were the back view of one character, hit effects, power of different colors and a circular negative effect.

If you've enjoyed Denom's work then why not check out more of Denom's animations on GoAnimate.

Runner up Featured GoAnimators for the month of June included:

Ideas for the Animated Short: Finding and Building Stories - Book Review

Ideas for the Animated Short: Finding and Building Stories by Karen Sullivan, Gary Schumer and Kate Alexander is a book I was looking forward to reading but had my expectations take a beating right from chapter one. From then on it became a chore to read. Despite that, I persevered and breathed a big sigh of relief when I finally reached the last page.

Which was disappointing because I took a long time in choosing what animation book to buy on Amazon as part of a two book purchase that included The Animator's Survival Kit by Richard Williams (a book that is considered an essential in any animator's library).

What I was looking for was a lively book on idea development with interesting insights and examples from the various professional animators interviewed. Something that would show a real passion for short story telling, how different creatives approach finding inspiration and how they develop their ideas into a story for short film.

What I got in Chapter 1 was a history lesson in story construction, structure, themes and character types presented in a very dry, text book like fashion that made you want to poke your eye out with a pencil, like  when you had to endure this stuff back in your school days. Not surprising, I guess, since all three co-authors are teachers.

I'm not saying it wasn't great information. In fact the book and accompanying DVD includes a lot of really good information and some excellent short films by both professionals and students. It's just that much of it doesn't live up to the promise of the book's title. This isn't a book about ideas. It's a book about story structure and the building blocks that make up a short, animated story.

Everything is broken down and analyzed... and I'm having a tough time remembering exactly what I read because it was tedious and clinical. It's almost like, at every step of developing a story you should have thought about everything to the 'n'th degree at every step and be able to explain the 'why' of everything present in your story.

Why is that character in the story? Why did that character do or say that? Why did you choose that location? Why did that happen and not this?

The book seems to forget the most important part of story telling is to just get your ideas down first. Get it all out on the page, into your word processor, script writing software etc. It feels like that's the chapter that is missing. At the heart of story telling, even stories for short films, is the fun of telling a story.

All of the other stuff this book covers is information that will help you in telling a story - especially when it comes to revising subsequent drafts but a lot of it is not anything you want to think about at the idea stage. If you did you'd squash many potential ideas before they got off the ground and the rest would get lost under a huge magnifying glass of over analysis.

What might have saved this book for me is the interviews with various professional artists and other industry experts at the end of each chapter. Unfortunately the questions asked weren't really what I wanted to know - or I was just so thankful to have finished another chapter I struggled to absorb anything I read in the interviews.

Even worse, the industry interviews on the DVD ask the same set of generic questions to seven different professionals that is non-specific to their own work. Making them tedious to read (yes read - not video interviews or even audio only - read. Could have just put them in the book).

The DVD does contain a video series of acting examples presented by co author, Kate Alexander (which she covers in more detail the book). These lessons are useful to some degree in creating more realistic emotions for your characters. Though when you look at a lot of comedy, animated shorts they rely heavily on cliche and over the top emotion simply because there isn't the time to be more realistic.

Possibly the best part of the book and DVD is the Student animations. There are 16 of these and most include behind the scenes sketches, storyboards, modelling and animatics.

According to the Preface this book is intended for beginners, covers the basics and is meant to be easy to read (it's definitely not easy to read). If you are completely new to story telling for short, animated films then it is a fairly solid grounding in everything you need to know. It may even prove useful to more intermediate level short film makers looking for more direction in story analysis.

For me, the title is misleading and doesn't really explore ideas at all. It's more focused on considerations derived from common story structures, theory, themes and other building blocks than actual ideas.

It's very much a text book that I imagine might be on many animation courses reading lists. After reading through it, I can't say I feel energized and enthusiastic to create short animations. I'm just glad to see the back of it.

Man of Steel - Super Kent Returns to GoAnimate

The character of Super Kent was one of my first creations on GoAnimate way back in 2008, not long after joining the site. The basic premise of the character is that he is a parody of Clarke Kent with the sole purpose of trying to convince his boss at the Daily Planet that he really IS Superman.

Previously I created two comedy shorts, Super Kent and Super Kent Returns, both with the same format of Kent initially trying to convince his boss of his super powers without success. The boss then sends him to report on a breaking news story.

It wasn't a character I had any plans to return to any time soon as I felt I'd moved on from my early GoAnimate superhero parodies.

However TotallyEpicHD, the winner of my April TET Blog Contest, resurrected the character in his entry to my contest. Which inspired GoAnimator, gipsy, to make a flash version of Super Kent in his Super Suit. When I came across his post in GoAnimate's forum's I asked if he could create a flying action and a holding something above his head pose. Which he did.

That's how I ended up creating a new Super Kent episode, that follows the same format of the previous episodes, but this time Kent plans to tell everyone he is Superman at a specially organised press conference.

Man of Steel - Super Kent by etourist on GoAnimate


Custom Work

Other than gipsy's custom Super Kent character, those of you familiar with the Cartoon Classic's theme may have noticed that I added a custom beard to the Alvin character head.

The beard is actually a head prop. However if you add it to a character, the head will disappear being replaced with a floating beard.

In order to get the full head behind the beard I simply placed a copy of the character with the Alvin head behind the one that had the head replaced with the beard. So long as both characters are set to perform the same actions they move exactly in time.

Script

This one was pretty easy to write. Kent, being a journalist, goes to press events all the time. I felt it would be his next logical step to convince others that he's Superman in order to convince his boss.

I recently saw the movie Iron Man 3 which ends with Tony declaring he is Iron Man. This caused me to remember that Tony Stark had told the world he was Iron Man at a similar press event in the first Iron Man film.

By Iron Man 3 Tony has made a whole bunch of different Iron Man suits that all seem able to function completely autonomously. What if some of those suits were made to look like other superheroes?

Stark's seems to love the attention of being Iron Man so why wouldn't he enjoy even more attention by going around and announcing he's responsible for other superheroes too?

From there it didn't take much to set up the word play that would have you thinking Stark might back Kent up but makes his own announcement instead.

Voices

As noted in the credits, all the voices are mine. It's a little hard to gauge how successful they are because to me, they just all sound like me, however I am trying to vary my voice enough to act all my own characters. I know I need more practice. I hope I'm getting there.


I don't really plan to do another Super Kent episode.  This was just a fun aside. Though I won't say never. Who knows, I may have another idea and the time for another small, fun side project with Kent.

Featured Animator: Smirks - Shooting Star (Music Video)

GoAnimator Smirks is the May winner of my GoAnimate, Get Featured in TET's Blog contest. Smirks has had his account with GoAnimate since August of 2011 and in that time has amassed 2969 followers (formerly known as fans) and published 60 animations.

Smirks chose to feature a music video, Shooting Star by Owl City, saying...

I chose shooting star because it's one of my most inspirational video i have made, and because i think it's the best video i have made (skill wise).

Shooting Star by Smirks on GoAnimate


Inspiration...

I was inspired to make it because I've noticed all the people, who are saying that they get picked on and saying that they are worthless (and believe me I have been there), and the song to me felt like it was saying that people can have their chance to shine anytime, so because of that I decided to make it.


Main Challenge...

The main problem making the video was the masking, like at the scene where it shows the 4 characters in the squares, the most difficult masking was putting CCA's dress prop on the character, it wouldn't fit the character, but eventually I found a way to get it on the character

Some techniques I used in the video was masking the characters and squares (like I mentioned earlier) which was the hardest technique. I had to use the square props to make sure none of the props were outside the main 4 squares. another one I used was making the star prop spin. Every scene I placed it in, I had to keep re spinning it to get the effect. Another one I used was the sun over the city scene. I had to make the city prop and all the other buildings slide down whilst making the clouds and the sun slide up while moving the camera backwards to get that effect.

If you've enjoyed Smirks' work then why not check out more of Smirks' animations on GoAnimate.

Runner up Featured GoAnimators for the month of May included:
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