Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The First Big Thing

Saturday, June 7th found me very tired and unmotivated upon awakening. I got up at 9:00 am and took the dog for a walk. The walk was good for getting some of the lethargy out of my system, but when I got home I wasn’t ready to get back to work so soon. I wanted to indulge in the fact that my time was my own, so I opted to cook John pancakes for breakfast. This is a major accomplishment for me since I do NOT cook. All in all, he took it pretty well, once he got up off the floor.

I procrastinated even further, waiting for just the right moment that I would be full of motivation and inspiration (maybe a sugar buzz from all that syrup?), but nothing came. Fargo’ was on, and I actually got into it in spite of the commercials. I had seen it before, but not with my full attention. It’s actually a good film!

At every commercial break, the nagging feeling would creep in because I had an animation due for church in the morning. I would look at the clock, ‘procrastination-math’ would zip through my head ‘if I start now, I’ll be done by 6:00 tonight’. After 3 or 4 commercial breaks of mental attack and mathematical defense, it occurred to me that I was working harder at sitting on the couch than I would actually ‘working’. So, one final stab at procrastination in waiting for the illusive ‘inspiration’ – and I went back to work.

I spent some time doing more detail work on the character for ‘The Academy’. The original sketch lacked a lot of detail in the clothing, so I spent a lot of time on the shirt collar and tie knot. I knew they had to be tight and straight, but I kept getting more of a European type color and skinny tie. If we were doing something for the ‘Fab Four’ it would have been dead on!

Working with the specialized buttons on the Cintiq tablet made experimenting with different lines extremely easy. I was able to draw lines with the ‘brush’ tool and with a touch of a button right on the tablet, switch to the ‘eraser’ without even looking away from the sketch. I prefer to do my exploring and experimenting in separate layers, so I programmed one of the buttons to add a layer when pressed. This keeps my mind focused on that illusive ‘inspiration’ that I tried to capture with pancake syrup.

The ‘zoom’ slider on the back of the Cintiq doesn’t thrill me. It’s pretty sensitive, which is nice, but the increments are too large. When I slide my finger along the strip to zoom in or out, it jumps too much, I can’t get it to exactly where I want it without playing with it for a few seconds. When everything else is so fast, this drawback becomes a little annoying. So, I resolved the issue by programming two of the top most buttons to the ‘zoom in’ and ‘zoom out’ keystrokes. This allows me to get in closer, or take a step back, in the increments that I’m used to.

I continued to work on the character for the rest of the afternoon – still doing my procrasti-math for the next day’s animation. When it got to the point that I would be up until midnight, I felt the time was right to finish up the character and move on. I was shocked when I drug the image from the Cintiq to the computer monitor and my character was suddenly a jaundiced mess! I had color calibrated the monitor during the initial set up, but it was no where near that of my computer monitor. It was horribly too magenta.

The calibration process was pretty tricky. At first, I worked with the basic calibration tools that came on the iMac, but I was still getting too much magenta. I then tried adjusting the calibration settings directly on the Cintiq. I was getting closer, but I couldn’t get rid of the magenta AND have rich contrast. I fumbled back and forth between the computer tools and the Cintiq settings, and after an hour it was BETTER, but it certainly doesn’t match my computer monitor. If anyone knows of a good calibration tool that I could use on both monitors to calibrate them to each other, I’d love to hear about it!

By then my procrasti-math told me I was going to be up until 1 am to finish the project due in the morning. I emailed the character drawing to the producer, and started in on the church animation. Right from the start the whole process moved much quicker. The actual drawing time was just a little bit faster, per frame. I was very surprised when I completed principle drawing within four hours. The Cintiq allowed more control over the drawing of the frames, and I was able to quickly create additional frames with the ‘new layer’ function I had programmed into on of the keys.

Even testing in the animation pallet went a little faster. It still was a very repetitive process (I’ve never been able to get the ‘make frames from layers’ function to work to my satisfaction), however it was much quicker to just tap and tap and tap my way to several frames of animation.

I finished the whole project and was able to start the DVD burning even before I went to bed. I slept pretty good that night, knowing my Cintiq was just the tool I’d been waiting for all along.

See the finished animation in the column to the right.

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