From The Archives: A Couple Of Minutes

From The Archives:

This was an Intro To Video project (I think). No particular assignment other than “make a project for the End Of Semester Show.” The core idea was to make an elaborate tracking shot with stop-motion, which is a neat idea but I did, like, zero planning. This came out pretty sloppy.

Having myself dance around the frame like I do came from a weird fixation I had with the animator being part of the animation, and the means of the animation being transparent. (The film Pan With Us by David Russo does this a lot better.) I still like some of the ideas in A Couple Of Minutes, but I’d want to execute it considerably better if I did it again.

The only surviving copy of this project was on a VHS tape, which I piped into my camcorder with RCA cables and then imported into Final Cut. There was a gap in the timecode just before the project played, which turned on the display (which would not turn off). Blame the overall image quality on storing a VHS tape in boxes for 7 years.

Audio by Stevie Hryciw (sampling heavily from the Contra Hard Corps BGM.)

Archives!

Off and on for the last month, and especially in the last week, I have been putting together my portfolio for transfer to the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. If you’re not in the know, I dropped out of college four years ago with one semester left til graduation. There were several personal (and several more financial) reasons for it that I won’t go into here, but I’ve been an artist with 7/8 of a BFA for the entire time I’ve lived in New England.

I’ve never been able to afford to return to my former school, even for that one semester, and as I’ve been living 2600 miles away it gets harder and harder to just up sticks and go back to California for 4 months. That’d cost me my job, my home, and it frankly wouldn’t be fun to leave my girlfriend for that long.

Long story short: between my Pell Grant and my Education Award I got for my AmeriCorps Year of Service, I have enough money to finish my degree at MassArt with no money out of pocket, because tuition for Massachusetts residents is fuckin cheap. I dropped off my portfolio yesterday.

Putting the portfolio together has been a really weird and, frankly, unpleasant experience. MassArt’s policy for transfer students is to have them submit 3 pieces of art for every single studio class they want to transfer. My first semester at California College of the Arts was in Fall of 2004, which has left me with 8 years to lose work. I was using a Digital8 camera in those days, the Betamax of digital video, which is now completely obsolete. And I didn’t have an external hard drive for a chunk of college, or even a home computer, so a lot of work got wiped from the school network every summer. Add in that I lost tapes when my camera was stolen and the number of hard drives I’ve had die, and you get an idea of what providing 3 works for each class is like.

Some of my favorite projects are lost forever.

BUT! Some of it has been salvaged. A decent chunk of work from college, and some recent work that hadn’t been put online yet, is being uploaded now to Vimeo and Soundcloud, and will be posted here shortly. I want to talk, at some point, about what making this portfolio was like (kinda shitty), but that can wait til the work is online. Meantime, look forward to a bunch of content going live today.

twenty-four Issue 3

We’re at it again!

Issue 3 of twenty-four magazine kicks off in a couple weeks. Head on over to that website, if’n you want, Issue 2 is free now and my grubby fingers are all over it.

I made this video with Sara while she was in town a few weeks ago. If I’m to be brutally honest (rarely a good idea), I look and this and say “I know I could do better.” I was about to leave for vacation to California and had a load of work that needed to get done before I left, so the editing on this all got done in one day. It’s a good quarter-mile better than the previous, before-my-involvement videos, so I’m not complaining. But I know my abilities, and I could have had more fun.

Still, 75% today looks like 110% of a few years ago. And prepare thyselves for the wonder that will be Issue 3.

An Apology:

Soon after I discovered the indie gaming scene, that there even was and indie gaming scene, I found a game developer whose work I enjoyed and who, it turned out, was a woman. I checked out her site, played through one of her games, and, on a whim, I sent her this email:

You are beautiful and wonderful and funny and perfect. I pledge myself to you.
If we never meet, know this:
always,
always,
always,

I am yours.

I wasn’t trying to accomplish anything specific, I don’t think. Emails such as this rarely get sent with a lot of thought put into them. I think I hoped she’d see it and laugh, see it as a spontaneous compliment for making cool work, comically exaggerated. Because I’m so funny and genuine, y’see.

And I felt funny and genuine for the maybe five minutes after I hit Send. And then on until now, I’ve felt like an asshole. This was four years ago.

Since then I’ve worried over being recognized. There are only a few degrees of separation between any two people in the indie community, and the longer I am part of it, the higher the likelihood that she’ll find my name in a press release, or a mailing list, or the credits of an actual game, or even be introduced to me at a jam or conference. Would she recognize my name from the email? Would she remember what I’d said?

Make no mistake, I’ve sent spontaneous compliments by email to developers that I like, and there’s no harm in that. In fact, given how much care and effort some people put into trolling devs and other creative types, I make a point to send unsolicited goodwill now and again as a corrective. But the only time I’ve ever phrased a compliment as a pledge for all eternity was to one of the only women in the scene.

I wondered just how many other guys had sent her similar emails. (Probably not as “artfully-phrased” as mine, but still.) I know from her Twitter she’s gotten several.

Dudes rarely send emails like this to other dudes. I certainly haven’t. And maybe a single hyperbolic email from a random guy on the internet is innocent when your general interaction with guys on the internet is respectful. But it’s not one random guy. It’s lots of dudes sending lots of similar emails, which makes you question just how innocent it is. If I’m having the same idea as a bunch of other dudes, it probably has less to do with admiring the artist and more to do with being male.

Because I sent a specific kind of email for a specific reason: because she was a woman. And while I wasn’t as educated a feminist four years ago, I still knew better.

An email like this weirdly mirrors trolling, in a way; it’s not trying to start a dialogue, or serve as a “from your secret admirer” note where the recipient wonders about who sent it. It’s completely uni-directional with zero accountability, just a note that says “apropos of nothing, some dude likes you!” Any repercussions are hers, not mine.

It’s no sin to have a mild web crush on a woman, especially one based on admirable accomplishment rather than simply being pretty. (Or was it based on the fact that she was “into” what I was into? Hard to say.) The problem is when you feel entitled to make it her problem. Go check any IndieGames.com article about a female developer and watch how few of the comments even mention her work, and how many mention how attractive she is. (Note that my email didn’t actually compliment her for making good games.) Being a woman in the indie gaming scene can be like being a woman at a bar with 30 million men, and maybe all you wanted was a drink. Dozens of articles about you and your work just keep mentioning that you’re a woman, and if you talk about what that’s like, you get feminist backlash. (Not that you need to know what this is called, but it’s called “othering.”)

I’m not speaking from personal experience, because of course it’s never happened to me, and I’m in no way more – or even as – qualified to talk about this than any number of women. I’m only saying all this to stress that I get it – I get what I did wrong. The anonymous nature of the internet makes it easy, if you’re embarrassed about something, to just pretend it never happened, and hope the other person never brings it up. But given the nature of the problem, that feels disrespectful.

So:

Female Game Dev, I’m sorry I was creepy. I hope you know, if we ever do cross paths, that I actually like your games and admire your work.

And I hope some sizable proportion of dudes who’ve written you weird emails feel as stupid as I do, and are just avoiding the topic. I’ve kept you anonymous in this post, but I figured it was worth saying publicly.

Thanks for reading.

Sprites!

Sprites for a small game project I’m working on with a couple Boston-area devs. (Forgive the compression artifacts in this animated GIF, but WordPress disallows embedding SWFs. You can view a smallish version of the Flash file here.)

It seems squiggly lines are here to stay. I’ve never been crazy about tweens, so I generally create a basic body shape on a guide layer, manipulate it how I want, and then trace each frame over it. The hand-drawn quality appeals to the same part of my brain that loves seeing thumbprints in claymation. But moreso, the subtle boiling has a way of smoothing out motion. If I draw zoomed in far enough, the squiggles are barely noticeable in the finish product (in the game itself, the sprites will be half this size). I’d like to figure out how to get a bit smoother still, but I might be reaching the upper limit with frame-by-frame. This might be the best I can do.

But I can see my technique with cartooning has improved since the ESL Panda Promo. That was only a few months ago, too. This kinda makes me want to tackle a short, for myself, without a client. We’ll see.

Button Brigade Trailer

DEBUT! I made this trailer for Axis Sivitz’s game, Button Brigade. This is the most up-to-date Innuendo Studios has ever been: the trailer was finished two days ago.

I met Axis a little over a month ago at a Boston Indies meetup. This is his second game, and as it’s almost done, we’re talking about possibly working on something together, possibly [redacted]. In either case, Axis is a cool guy, so I made this trailer! Then immediately some time-consuming paid work came along and I ended up having to cram this in during my scant free time. But as I am wont to do, I still gave him the works – voice-over, lots of edits, and really down-to-the-wire I threw in some animation. Got to break in my new Snowflake mic, too.

Go check out the game! I look forward to playing it on my housemate’s iPhone.

ESL Panda Promo

A promo I did earlier this year for ESL Panda.

When animating, I’ve mostly stuck to rotoscoping, so this is by far my longest and most complex work that is predominantly cartooning. Oh, there are rotoscoped bits peppered throughout – all the buildings, the world map, the panda – but I enjoyed mashing up a lot of different techniques. Trying to make a style that matches that of my high school drawing book – and keeping it consistent – was something I’d never done before.

With my critical eye, there’s a lot to pick apart. For instance, this is really a 1-minute promo in 30 seconds. There’s simply too much information. Even 30 seconds of animation can take so much work, so much¬†time, that it’s easy to forget just how brief the finished product will be. It became most clear near the end when I listened with the voice-over, and it was dense as a neutron star – a neutron star made of information. I re-wrote the script to cut out about 1/3 of the words and slacken the pace, but that only achieved so much.

But let me be honest: this is, flat-out, the best animation I’ve ever done. Collating all my work on one site for the first time, it’s clear to see. A lot of time went into this, and I was ecstatic to see it finished. Warts? I don’t mind a few warts.

twenty-four magazine

(I made a magazine.)

twenty-four magazine is sort of like a game jam, only you make a magazine. You pack around a dozen creative professionals into a Brooklyn apartment and make a magazine in 24 hours. This was started by my friend Sara Eileen earlier this year after a successful Kickstarter campaign.

I was not on staff for the first issue, and it’s only because she and the rest of the Issue One staff have agreed that I’ll say out loud – the first issue looked a little amateurish (nevertheless impressive for 24 hours). She invited me on the staff for Issue Two and she and the other organizers tweaked the process a bit to help make the magazine better. Last Friday at 10am we started, and by (er, roughly) 10am on Saturday, we had a magazine.

Forgive my Anglo-Saxon, but I am so fucking goddamn proud of what we made.

Myself, I interviewed Scott McCloud (author of Zot! and Understanding Comics, and the creator of the 24 Hour Comic) and James and Lisanne of Indie Game: The Movie. I also wrote a piece on science, did some of the online documentation, and showed up in a few photos. The Scott McCloud interview ended up being the front-page article, and I’m like holy shit.

It was a fantastic weekend. Everyone’s contributions were amazing, not least of all Jack’s layout (Jack being one of only 3 people that made it the whole 24 hours without sleep – I crapped out in the last 90 minutes). Please do click the link (oh look here it is again), you can see a few pages of the magazine for free (it is so pretty). The PDF version is only $3, so by all means, check it out!

And I’ll be on staff for the next one. Boosh!

Climblapse

Hey, this is a thing!

AmeriCorps Year of Service, 2009-2010. True story. I did after-school programming with low-income kids through the Providence Children’s Museum. A portion of my 1700 service hours went to a Museum Enrichment Project where we documented the construction of the Museum’s Luckey Climber. We set up a camera in the building next door and it took a picture every 20-or-so minutes. We never exactly found out why the camera kept stopping, and it was apparently getting bumped by the cleaning staff, so there are large gaps in the timelapse and the angle keeps changing. Regardless, I was quite happy with the finished product, though it drives me nuts that we missed the cone going up!

I did the first pass on the editing, but most of the credit goes to Melinda Rainsberger – she provided the camera & the timelapse program, she did all the motion graphics and color correction, she finagled a friend to submit the soundtrack, and did a pass on the edit after I was done which markedly improved it. And she did it for credit and some museum passes. She’s a classy lady.

Longy

Link to Longy. (Apparently embedding is disabled.)

I was the editor on this one, working with Lynn of Wiesswoman Productions. I’ve been working with Lynn for the past few months – officially I’m an intern, but she gets me some paid work on shoots as well. She’s been an extremely valuable mentor for me as I learn the ropes of being a freelancer, and has plugged me in to a lot of resources. When working for free, or for a small stipend, I can be very choosy about the work in a way I can’t otherwise – when only a small number of people are offering money, I don’t have a lot of freedom to say no. But lots of people are looking for free help, so, while I still have the time for it, volunteering and interning are ways to working exclusively with people I like and on work I find interesting.

Fav performance: 0:47.