I’m not an animator yet

Every time I have watched a Pixar film or other film with 3D animation, my heart would ache. I would sit and watch the credits and think, “I want to see my name up there one day.” After watching The Incredibles I knew I had to give it a shot. I wanted to jump in my car and drive straight to Emeryville, California and sleep on the front step until the doors opened and then beg them to let me empty their trash and sweep their floors. I decided instead to go to a School of Communication Arts Discovery Day.

I’ve been thinking of pursuing a career in computer animation for years. I am finally doing something about it. I have always loved to draw and had an appreciation for excellent work. For reasons I won’t go into here, I didn’t see a feature length Disney animated film until I was in my late teens or early twenties. I was in awe at the beauty and complexity of Cinderella and could not believe it was released in 1950. I didn’t dare dream that I might participate in the making of something so huge.

My first memory of computer animation is from a show on PBS. I saw a flight simulator. Outside the cockpit of the plane you could see a flat green plane for the ground and spherical and conical trees. It contained the simplest of geometries, but I was astonished at the smooth shading and how the perspective was perfect. I thought that the machine that created that simulation must have been incredibly powerful.

I knew that I wanted to be in a career that involved thinking visually, but I wasn’t confident in my creative abilities, so I went the technical drawing route. I had excelled in drafting class in high school so at NC A&T State University I majored in Computer Aided Drafting and Design. I found the CADD classes too easy, but it was safe, so I continued. I was thrilled to discover that our department had a copy of 3D Studio and I devoured the tutorials. Then our department went on a trip to the School of Communication Arts. I could not believe that right here in North Carolina was a school that taught computer animation. I thought I had discovered Nirvana. I decided that when I graduated from A&T I would attend the School of Communication Arts.

After graduation I began to doubt that I could make it in the competitive field of animation. I kept putting off. I even applied once and paid my seat deposit, but had second thoughts and backed out. I did work as an intern at Audio Graphics, a recording studio and animation firm whose founder has since moved to Rhythm & Hues. That was some of the most fun I have ever had.

I would be ecstatic be animator for Pixar or Blue Sky Studios. I am willing to work at other jobs to reach that level: web animation, game design, commercial animation, but ultimately I would like to work on feature films. I know that producing quality animation requires long hours of staring at a computer screen in a dimly lit room. Pressure from deadlines can be intense and sometimes require all night sessions. I am going to keep plugging away and build my animation skills until I get that job.

Digital Effects and Animation Companies

Blue Sky Studios Joe’s Apartment, Ice Age
Industrial Light & Magic Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Hulk
R/Greenberg Associates Nike, Target, IBM
Rhythm & Hues The Cat in the Hat, X-Men 2
Weta Digital The Lord of the Rings
Entity Fx Smallville, Six Feet Under, X-Files
Foundation Imaging Bablylon 5, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Deep Space 9

Update:
Digital Domain Apollo 13, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Armageddon

I just had to include Digital Domain, too.

Get off the ground

I don’t know how long journalists have been using the phrase “on the ground,” but it seems to be more commonly used than ever before. I don’t see how it adds anything to a story. In the following examples if you removed “on the ground” the meaning would not change at all.

“… Marines saw and felt on the ground — their views on the failures and triumphs of their push toward Baghdad.” — All Things Considered , March 19, 2004 [I suppose the phrase is used here so we know the author is not describing what the Marines saw and felt at home or the office, but is that really necessary?]

“And Nadya Sbaiti says, ‘… manipulation of the facts on the ground in Israel and the Occupied Territories.’ ” –Jeffrey A. Dvorkin, Ombudsman, NPR. [I guess “on the ground” is used so we know the author is not referring to the manipulation of the facts by the media]

“West African peacekeepers who are on the ground will take off their berets and will put on the blue hats” CNN [Where else can peacekeepers be found but on the ground? Are there peacekeepers in offices?]

Edit: The article by the NPR ombudsman was removed from NPR.org.

Human powered transportation

http://www.adventurecycling.org/ Bicycling inspiration
http://www.ihpva.org/FAQ/Bicycles and other Human Powered Vehicles
http://www.recumbentcyclistnews.com/faq.htmlWhat is a recumbent bicycle?

Most people in America think of bicycles as toys, but they are just one kind of human powered vehicle. Sailboats, canoes, and bicycles are just a few examples of vehicles which require no fuel other than the fuel you ate for breakfast. A human powered airplane called the Gossamer Albatross crossed the English Channel on June 12, 1979. The Cycling World Hour Record is over 55 mph. The one-mile speed record for a human powered vehicle is over 78 mph. This was accomplished by building a bicycle which has the rider in a recumbent position and covering the vehicle with a lightweight fairing. In races where they are allowed bicycles built with a recumbent riding position hold all the records. Unfortunately they are not permitted in UCI sanctioned events. The good news is that you can buy your own recumbent bicycle.

Incredible Costume Creation

I went to a costume contest as part of Dragon*Con 2004 . The best of the show was Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem . No one else in the contest came close. There were other elaborate and beautiful costumes but they just don’t play well on stage. It’s hard to appreciate hand-made lace and intricately sewn beads on a fairy’s gown when you’re looking at it from the seventh row.

Edit: I can no longer find photos of Electric Mayhem on Halfmoth.com, but you can still see lots of other cool costumes. If you do a google search for Electric Mayhem Halfmoth you may find some photos.

Linux Operating System

From the Jargon File An operating system is the “…foundation software of a machine; that which schedules tasks, allocates storage, and presents a default interface to the user between applications…”

Linux is a Unix-like operating system that can replace Microsoft Windows or Mac OS. The best thing about it is it’s free. It is available in versions which will run on just about any computer. Most computers sold in the US have Windows or Mac OS already installed, but a few companies are now selling computers with a version of Linux. Apple has recently abandoned their old operating system and created a new one based on Unix but only runs on hardware sold by Apple. There are several varieties of the Windows operating system which will work on computers from many different manufacturers.

Here is one of many places you can go to find out more about Linux .

The Jargon File can also be found here