Archive for October 22, 2014

Anime: Learning the Ancient Art of Animation the Japanese Way

They say I’m a tech geek.  Calling a spade a spade, I guess I am.  When I was just a young kid, I was taking things apart just so I could fix them.  That included electronics.  The second my parents left for work, I would start disassembling.  I knew I had better have everything put back together and in ship shape condition before they returned…or else!  So I became the master of fix-it.  That skin spilt over into everything else so when I got old enough to get a computer, there was nothing I couldn’t fix and no online issue I couldn’t solve.

Anime is my thing.  I have watched it ever since I can remember.  The first thing I did when I got old enough to get online was to figure out how to make my own.  Of course I create my own characters and the story lines too.  I go for the programs that are detailed and difficult as you can imagine.  Sometimes I secretly hope for a problem to come up…just so I can fix it.

“Can you make this guy sweat bullets?” someone asks me.  “Of course,” I answer.  Then there are those who can’t get the anime to act like anime.  The character looks right.  The scene is well set.  The plot is properly twisted but…something’s just not right.

There’s an art to making an anime production.  Not only do you need to watch hours and hours of genuine anime, you really need to analyze it too.  Each character will take on his or her own personality as they would if they were done by a Japanese anime producer.

In order to create like a Japanese, you must think like one.  In the Japanese culture, blood type and personality type is synonymous.  You’ve got to master these things.  Type O is an optimistic, strong personality.  Type A is creative and a bit reserved and perhaps over-responsible but stubborn at the same time.  Type B is passionate, irresponsible and self-centered.  AB Type is forgetful yet adaptable.

Birthdates and names are ultra- important too.  And don’t stop there.  Give them a job, a goal and a story that includes background information.  You will want to know where the story as a whole is going to go and what part each character will play in it.  The character’s appearances will have a lot to do with their personalities.  Their eyes will reflect their hearts.  Big dramatic emotion-filled eyes are usually on characters that we can all relate to as being good, kind or at least have some positives.  Evil ones will bear slanted eyes and harsh facial markings.

Once you have given your characters character, let them come to life.  Let them move around accordingly.  They will begin to act out their own fantasies but you must be in tune with the process.

If you want to make the best anime, you must study the best.  That is the bottom-line.  You must get into the role of a Japanese artist because there is no better anime creator than a true Japanese.  Research not only anime history and philosophy, but anything and everything else that has to do with Japan.  As your knowledge and feel for the culture begins to blossom, so will your work.  Remember, when it comes to anime, you don’t have to be Japanese to do it, you just have to make them think you are.  Practice makes perfect and only when done the Japanese way can anime be exactly that.

A Friend’s Inspiration

Animated characters are my forte. I get inspiration in weird places. No matter. They help me build an arsenal of scary, evil creatures that populate an imaginary magical realm. I want them to be new and fresh, with traits that have yet to be seen. With so much work out there, it’s getting hard. You look deep within for ideas. You look without for motivation. Whatever it takes to spark ingenuity is welcome.

Artists get inspiration in strange places sometimes. Picasso got it in women—not unusual at all. Cézanne got it in apples and oranges—mundane. Now Salvador Dali got it in melting watches on the beach. That’s eccentric and odd, in keeping with his personality. Animators are the same. They get charged up by anything in their surroundings that can be transformed into another time and place. Making the familiar strange is the definition of creativity.

You sit in front of your computer waiting for the ball to drop, for the mood to take you over, for the infusion of mystery and madcap–that is what makes art. In one case, as I was drawing from the depths of my gray matter, I remember something I saw on a friend recently—toenail fungus.

Toenail fungus is indeed the makings of ghoulish imagery. Evil beings can ooze a blackish yellow goop between their toes. Actually, the affliction lies under the toenail bed, but no matter! Viewers have to see it in all its ghastly glory. Sorry, friend. I don’t mean to insult you or to say you are hideous. It just makes for great gasps of disgust.

It is certainly not an infectious disease like the Ebola virus and nowhere near as serious. But you can rev it up for the right audience, make it nasty as heck like they did in this New York Times article. It is a simple thing akin to athlete’s foot but is hard to treat. It keeps growing, and gnawing away at your healthy feet.

My anime character will be otherworldly, of course, with tiny legs and giant feet. Claws will poke out at their ends like prickly cactus spears. The body will be thin, but the head enormous. It will fight for dominance with the feet. Hence the idea to add the flourish of fungus to make them stand out.

I can exaggerate the yellow color and the powdery texture to make it terribly unappealing. My friend just laughs. He hides his beneath a clean pair of socks and goes about his life as usually. My being will moan and groan with pain and roar with rage. He’s angry and ready to retaliate against the gods wielding mold and yeast. He turns from green to red when he looks at his toenails.

I hope this creative surge appeals to you as much as it does to me. Again, I get ideas where I can in all the weird and right places. Who knows? Maybe next time inspiration will come from a kitchen appliance or a faucet! There is always something you can do to transform the ordinary into the fabulous.

I Get my Best Ideas in the Shower

I like to think I am a creative. Who doesn’t? It saves us from the monotony of a bland life. I certainly admire the imaginative work of others in the fine and practical arts, especially in the field of animation. The Japanese anime tradition appeals to me the most in terms of imagery, draftsmanship, and expression. If I can’t do it myself, I can watch the ever-present streaming videos. Anime has been around for about a century and remains super unique. I have the habit of emulating the artists in this vein upon many an occasion. Dreams of conquering the field with my own characters, colors, and designs fill my sleeping (and waking) hours.

During the morning when I awake, I get my best ideas. As the shower head roars to life, and water washes over my moribund soul, I begin to conceive of ways of executing my fantasies. Since I am imbued with anime creations, I try to immerse myself in their folkloric tradition. They have a rich mythic path with religious and magical connotations. It is all part of a supernatural realm of gods and alien creatures that have some connection to Japanese history. If you can master the pronunciation of the titles you are a born aficionado.

I remain inert under the spray of a great shower as I think about my target audience and how far afield I would get—I don’t want to go too far from the fold. What genre would I use, like science fiction or fantasy? (Am I getting too esoteric for you?) Should I copy popular aspects of the Japanese style and borrow characters and stories? That would please me a great deal. So many questions are arising in time with the rising shower mist.

I twist the shower head to adjust the flow. It slants to the side and hits the tile wall of the stall abruptly. I move it back to focus the spray on my exposed face. Water pulsates as I move the lever to a new setting. My eyes are stinging, but are coming to life. I turn off the liquid cascade, towel myself down, and exit the bathroom. One more day and a new chance to change the world.

A shower is a great way to start off. You get creative right from the first morning thought. I don’t always get good results, however, but sometimes the ideas are distinctive and worth noting down. A daily shower is my ritual and hands-free rubdown. It massages my brain and spirit. It provokes and evokes in the way that only water can do.

I am floating on a cloud as I sip my freshly-brewed coffee and check my online emails. I reply to a few and jump over to CNN for the headline news. I look at my calendar and to-do list, and suddenly the excitement of the shower ideation is almost gone. The work day is beginning and a normal regimen is soon to begin. But not to worry. Tomorrow is another day.

The Wonderful World of Animation

When I first began looking for animation programs, I was looking for easy.  I needed a simple but effective program to put together videos relatively quickly.

I am in no way a technical person so when I say I needed easy, I speak the truth.  The problem was that many of the more elementary ones were exactly that…elementary.  They were for kids.  I needed a program that would allow for plenty of creativity but that would do so on a level I could grasp.

I found a lot of crummy programs but found some really good ones too.  I am not opposed to trying them out with a free trial but I don’t really like to.  Plus, there are always watermarks and stipulations so I prefer just to take my chances as a rule.  Needless to say, I wasted a good bit of money on finding my favorites.

Something to note before beginning the search is that there are 2D and 3D variations.  The difference is, of course, dimensions.  Another difference is that 3D uses digital modeling while 2D relies on the onion tool function.  2D is the easiest, in my opinion at least.  But sometimes you may have something in mind that only the use of 3D dimensions will rightly portray.

Another thing to think about is your purpose for the production.  If you are using it for your own personal use, your options will be broader for some programs.  If you are planning to use it for commercial use, be sure to check out the policy regulations regarding such.

Muvizu is a pretty good program to get a feel for making animation videos.  You’ll definitely know if animation is up your alley or not.  When I downloaded the free version, I used it and really liked it but that’s where it ended.  You can obtain a license to use it commercially or “rent” the rights on a month-to-month basis but that wasn’t for me.

Toon Boom is another program I like.  It offers both 2D and 3D.  Toon Boom Studio is one of the best, I think.  Anime Studio Pro is awesome.  It has great bone/inverse kinematics tools that make for realistic movements and also features a fantastic lip sync tool too.

Gotta say thought that Reallusion with Crazy Talk and IClone wins, hands down, in my book.  It’s a world all its own.  What I like is that there are all different types and levels of programs to choose from all under the same roof.  Many of them you can use together or add on to.  They even offer anime characters.

I started with Crazy Talk which is pretty simple but made for some pretty cool ads I created.  The program allows character heads to talk.  You can use the models that come with it, purchase kits to make others or you can use any photo you have for a totally original character.  It has super easy technology where you place points on certain facial spots in order to make the lip sync and expression look more real.  But, for me, a talking head can only go so far.

I then purchased the IClone Crazy Talk Animator 2 that allows for full characters who can interact.  Like the original Crazy Talk, you can use text-to-speech, record your own voice or even order a professional voice to put on it.  It took some time before I felt I had this program mastered but I sure like what all I can do with it and its business friendly too.

IClone has some very innovative programs.  Some are rather complicated and some just look complicated.  That’s what I like is using one that isn’t difficult but looks as if it is.  You can use pre-set facial features and movements or you can create your own.  There are programs for real life footage like Newsroom and you can add in special effects and props.  There is also a very innovative add on to the animated programs where you can make gestures and movements with your own body that will cause your animation character to mimic you on the cartoon.  Now, that’s my kind of technology!

The world of animation is a wonderful one. The more I learn about it, the more I want to learn so I can unleash more and more of my imagination as only animation allows me to do.