"Idol Chatter"    [ 15 ]   
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Aug 2010

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Right before Jessi & I departed for the Hawaii, I discovered something disorderly in my website: busy layouts in these blog posts sometimes exceed the bounds of what most printers can manage!

 "     " & Domencleise

. . . meaning that any print attempts for these entries may not have resulted in legible documents. Mainly due to the generous layout of images and props, slices of text and certain graphics could be cut off along the right margin. This became obvious when I happened to print post #11 (the one about Flashbelt). Dave and a good portion of the text simply dropped off the paper's extended right margin! (So much for reliable word-wrapping)

The most equitable solution would be, of course, to cut back on the use of graphics, which is a proposition that really stings. I mean, how else can a middle-aged creative type lure his own children to visit Dad's super-überific-coolerific web site? ..But I can't NOT have the print option work. So, at the risk of reducing my audience by some 50%, I will henceforth lay off the graphics to ensure website functionality (except for entries featuring Just Photos) . . . after this one . .. (I can quit anytime I want, I swear I can!)

This little incident got me thinking about a few things while kicking around Hawaii a few weeks ago. Forget the web stuff - I wondered how much of my own life might be out-of-bounds while I motor on . . . blissfully – tragically – unaware?  How much of my life falls out-of-bounds, as it were . . out of the FOCUS for which I should be living? With a full-time job, home & auto maintenance/repairs, unfore$een emergencies, a myriad of other kid-related errands, community involvements, and cat crises, all set to the tune of 'Raising My Family Alone', it's a wonder I find time to do *anything* beyond just function day to day. I had high hopes this year to learn ActionScript 3.0, and also practice animating on a professional level (installing ToonBoom 5, finally), maybe write another book, maybe finish some piano compositions I've been neglecting for, oh, five years or more . . But my daily allowance of 24 hours just won't allow for alla that. This technical error I discovered in my site may actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Less graphics means less time required to dream up / design / find / prepare / optimize them. It has been over half a year since Jessi and I got all fired up to develop an animated short together. However, once she fully comprehended just how much TIME animation requires, she decided she preferred to just draw her fabled characters and not fuss about animating anything.  (To her credit, she animated more for our hoped-for project than I did!)  So her ideas for 'Sasha' are no more . . .   :-(

So I don't know if that project will ever get past the couple of graphics we kicked around between us. And that's OK. We have already moved onto other things . . she in her high school art class, and me with . . oh . . catching up on [see the above paragraph]. And it's really OK because Layla from Bible study says it's OK. A single parent herself, she reminds me that it's perfectly acceptable to satisfy ourselves in what we *can* accomplish in our single parent day-to-day activities, opting not to come unglued about what we 'OUGHT to be' accomplishing, according to one's [possibly] over-the-top aspirations. Caring for our children the way we do is Quite An Accomplishment in itself, she says, and I am quite inclined to agree . . . though the Mysterious Forest of Creative Animation still beckons from the turbulent, curling burn-scorched, uncharted regions of my imagination . . .

 "Lost Weekend" DVD

Speaking of aspirations, I have been learning some AS 3.0 code lately. After partnering with my employer to purchase a dozen or so CS4/5 & AS 3 books, I plunged into the daunting pile by selecting the (so-called) 3-day video course by Colin Moock, James Peterson, and Hoss Gifford, entitled "Lost ActionScript 3.0 Weekend". It took the better part of three weeks to crawl through it -[ TIME! ]- but to my astonishment, all of my carefully typed code (500+ lines) and each of my eight hand-crafted, interacting external classes Actually Functioned Properly! That is not to say I actually understand which functions call what exactly, or when, or the real-world differences between modifiers: private · protected · internal · public. That's for Rocket Scientists, like these guys. ..Oh, I'll get there one day, I'm sure, after trolling through a few tomes, but I'm only just now getting my AS·3 glider off the ground! I mean, seriously . . this is the kind of banter they shared on these DVD's:

In addition to invoking those methods, we also pass them an object of the event class, so the event object here that I'm creating will be passed to the methods that are the event listeners. All the event listeners will be told the event has happened, because they're invoked, but they also get some information about the event through this event object.
— Colin Moock  


If we ever do hardware acceleration, it's not possible in the abstract sense to draw arbitrary 3D-stuff with alpha channel data correctly in a z-buffer.
— Chris Nuuja (guest from Adobe)  

Have you ever felt chained up behind a team of horses as someone slaps one on the rear with a shout: Off you go, God help ye! . . That's kind of how I felt after typing up (ie. blundering through) the third or fourth ActionScript CLASS in this demo. So, just like years ago while learning AS·2, I simply plowed forward regardless of my ignorance of the Secret-Club AS·3 Programming lingo . . . and at LAST, for all the effort, I now have THIS to show for it (four graphics provided by Colin - I enhanced 'Stan' a bit to demonstrate various stages of distress):

 CLASSES

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Colin is, of course, really into programming. Turns out I'm much more into building and animating the graphical side of things. (big shock) Trust me - there's a LOT going on behind the scenes in this example - you just can't see it. When next I explore how and why all the programming works to make this do what it does, I'll likely spruce things up, provide a visual 'health' bar, an apple (+/- worm) and a nice slice of sushi (which, incidentally, provides WAY more health than clicking like mad on the 'Feed Apple' button).

 Treasure Planet

But in considering all of this Return On Creative Investment, I am reminded of Disney's 2002 animated offering: "Treasure Planet". With fanciful ships and characters whirling about the cosmos in a grand splashingly-color-schemed æther (apparently pressurized and comfortably breathable), this little gem is quite a testament to creative character design and project execution (Jar-Jar-wannabe B.E.N. aside). To my knowledge, it was the very first wide-release motion picture to fluidly combine traditional 2D hand-animation with 3D digital animation, and was also the first movie to be presented on both IMAX and regular theater screens simultaneously. The thing took pretty much a full decade to create ~ 10 years, my friends ~ and cost some $180 million to produce, but only grossed 'just' $109 million world-wide.

You're not supposed to lose money on such a venture.

ALL THAT TIME and effort, planning, creativity, marketing, so much focused hard work . . . all for what? A limited theatrical run, and some dusty DVD's on bookshelves in a few first-world countries? One might argue that the experience yielded greater design skills and stronger résumés across the board for all parties concerned, but even then I ask: for what? To make even more elaborately decorated cabinet-fillers? Yes, I understand, money must be made to Make A Living . . and why not in that industry? After all, even the king of theatrical ambition, James Cameron, started his career working in the shop for such über-bombs as "Battle Beyond the Stars" and "Piranha 2" — And what's wrong with that? Just look at where he is NOW! I mean, this guy created:

   •  the Terminator
   •  Aliens
   •  The Abyss

   •  T2
   •  Titanic
   •  Avatar

 
     

I have spent years pouring my time, imagination, and better creative aspirations into this industry, following the makers and shakers, imagining that I too might one day be a producer of fun animated shorts, joining the artistic ranks of they who weave such wonderful visions. But I just can't keep justifying so much time, thought, and energy invested into what is essentially a hobby-interest, all for nothing to show for it but More Talking Knowledge about the history and/or current development status of world-wide animated productions. I have heard it said that a man becomes what he idolizes, and I wonder now just how much of my heart I have given to this brand of communication?

 

Sci-Fi magazine
 mag: Sci-Fi
Entertainment Weekly
 mag: Entertainment Weekly
Animation Magazine
 mag: Animation Magazine
Cinefex
 mag: Cinefex

So while I stay up late poring through animation magz, struggling with all the latest software upgrades, and sketching ideas for projects I'll never have time to pursue, my children's request to just hang out together more rings in my ears. Seriously, though . . how cool is that? Not only am I blessed with Super-Cool Kids, but they actually want to spend time with their Dad - - probably because I'm so much into crazy stuff like this!  :-)  They (and some of their friends) are asking that I teach them how to play piano. What fun! How awesome! It is nice to be wanted . . if I only had the time!  (If I only had a brain!)

You see, this is where my little fantasy breaks right down. With so little to show for my animation dreams (outside of learning code for work), I only have a few years to spend with these wonderful adults-in-the-making. My time is FAR better spent worrying less about Animation and the entertainment industry than it is working out a music lesson plan for my children .. and maybe one or two of their friends. I will gladly trade off something that is Good for something that is BEST any day!  ~  Reminds me of that quote by Jim Elliot:

He is no fool who gives
what he cannot keep to
gain what he cannot lose.


Though Jim spoke here of Matters Eternal, the basic idea still applies to eternal relationships which in reality are only beginning here on earth!  [Think about *that* for a moment!]  Oh sure, I may indulge a couple of fun little projects if I cough up some inspiration (and time) - but for now, I ungrudgingly slice off this limb of ill-performing ambition to focus more on my children, choosing a more fruitful produce than any Orange Arrow could ever yield, reaching years and even generations beyond any stylistic DVD on a shelf, developing truly what is BEST in this world: deeper relationships with my family and friends!  And so, in typical 'friendly' fashion, I've expended nearly 2,000 words to describe a simple change in my priorities regarding free time.  ;-)  (This is why they say a picture is worth a thousand words .. kind of why I leaned toward animation to begin with)

And, OK - because I know some of you are wondering just how far we got in our little storyboard from back in January . . the answer is:  not far.  Not far at all.  Not without a team of animators, I've learned .. .  Here, take a look:

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