My Best Blogs

Now is the time to submit your best two seminar blogs for the “Disney Animation, The Illusion of Life contest.”

Here’s what you do:

1) Select your best two blog entries for the semester.

2) Copy them into the blog area: my best blogs. Be sure to show the name of the person the blog is about at the top of the blog. Entries are due by noon, Thursday, Dec. 8.

3) Winners will be announced by December 14. Decision of the judges is final.

14 comments on “My Best Blogs

  1. Dan Wilson says:

    Toper Taylor

    I always love when television people come in. That’s an area in which I’d like to work more than feature films — I’d like to believe everyone wants to work for Pixar, and I’ll dominate the TV market. My favorite parts of Toper’s presentation were when he reinforced ideas I already have for specific shows and my view of TV in general. I had already been taught to think in 13 or 26-episode seasons just by being familiar with TV shows. I’ve heard before that 100 episodes is the goal for syndication, so I’ve also thought loosely in terms of shows being four seasons with room to grow.

    Though Maya might be my strength in terms of medium, I’m always happy when people admit that CG is not the answer to everything. “Comedy really hasn’t broken through on the comedy side.” Oversaturation is a problem, and for me that means comedy isn’t saturated with CG shows. It also means there’s tons of room for me to figure out what really works for CG in comedy (as well as lessons on what doesn’t work). I also think a lot of CG shows look really bad, so I’m most of all happy that the networks aren’t burning my eyes out with dozens of ugly shows.

    From my own experience, having at one point been a child, I don’t agree with the idea that kids don’t want to see important adults in shows. I never really cared what age characters were — I realized recently that one of my favorite childhood movie franchises, Short Circuit, was entirely centered on adults (and maybe a robot), and adding someone my age (like 9, not 24) would have done nothing for my already-thorough enjoyment of the films. The idea that kids need too see other kids in TV shows is superseded by something else Toper brought up: Kids could care less about the medium; they just want to see great characters in funny situations.

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    Alternate Seminar (October 4th): Hideo Kojima

    On October 4th, I attended an alternative event: SCA hosted Hideo Kojima, famed game designer and vice president of Konami Digital Entertainment.

    Kojima is perhaps best know for his Metal Gear Solid games, but his reputation and personality precede him. I hate to admit that I’ve had very little opportunity to play his games. However, I feel like I know Kojima better than his games. Years ago, a friend showed me the quirky and hilarious commercials Kojima made for a Metal Gear game. Recently, the game designer worked with the well-known American video-game-humor group, Mega64, to produce a ridiculous E3 trailer for Kojima Productions. The opportunity to see him speak was not one I could miss.

    Kojima wanted to make films before he got into games, and, looking at his success, of course I want to compare my own experiences with his. Probably from the time I was 10, I used my parents’ video camera and later bought my own to direct and produce movies starring my friends and younger brother. Kojima said that his biggest problem with making films was that his friends didn’t see their production as a serious activity. That’s exactly how my experience was: everyone wanted to make them, but my friends hardly ever had worthwhile (if any) ideas. What’s interesting is that I never consider filmmaking a serious career choice: I made games with my cousin around the same time, and that’s what led me to animation. I’d say that makes me one step ahead of Kojima.

    The stories he told about his childhood and career were endearing and always kept that Kojima sense of humor. My favorite story was about bringing his young son into work to spend more time with him: They designed levels with Lego bricks, and, after seeing this, his son told his mom that his dad just plays at work all day. It was sad to hear that his schedule doesn’t allow him to see his family as much as he should during the week, and it makes me wish Kojima could successfully pass off the Metal Gear franchise.

    He has a unique perspective on the industry that is fascinating for me as someone in a creative profession. There are a few Japanese developers that seem to know how to save the Japanese game industry and its cultural exports, Kojima being among them. There are increasingly fewer games from Japan that find success both domestically and abroad. Where many games will feature high school girls, Kojima’s are full of old men — he clearly has a different way of thinking, and it works. He talks about how abstract games like Super Mario Brothers were and how that assisted broad appeal, allowing the player to fill in the gaps with their imagination. This is something the entire industry should have understood ten years ago when photorealism and voiceovers were supposed to be the selling points of their games.

    Kojima’s advice about entering the game industry encourages me in relation to the animation industry, too. My strongest notes include: You should try to change things to fit your vision instead of changing your vision when you join a company. Achieving the impossible is what really earns you respect. The core concept must be fun from the start: no matter how much you change it, you can’t force it to be fun. And the most dangerous thing is to be affected by outside influence; it’s the road to disaster. I left with bold thoughts about my entry into the animation industry: striving for the impossible, changing the industry to fit my vision, and throwing out anything that isn’t fun or compelling from the very start. With that, there shouldn’t be any reason to complain about the current industry; it’s mine to change.

  2. Andrew Malek says:

    Candace Reckinger and Mike Patterson

    I had really excellent time watching Mike and Candace’s presentation and left feeling very inspired by their body of work. One of the foremost aspects I appreciated was the wide range of styles that Mike and Candace have taken on and mastered. Mike and Candace’s capability to direct a variety of projects made them uniquely suited for tackling the visual projection for Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” The diversity of animation styles were incredibly unique and at the same time the music allowed for the individual pieces to work as a cohesive whole. The piece passed with flying colors and I would hope see more endeavors of a similar nature in the future.

    Additionally I was really impressed with how well classical music from 1874 and animation from 2011 go together. Perhaps the reason for this is the animation provides stimulation for those who are not used to the long format of classical music, and at the same time the very expressive quality of Mussorgsky’s music provided a lot of life and depth for the animations. Another upshot of this pairing is the audio visual synesthesia that occurs, similar to that of Fantasia, where you can see music and vice versa.

    For me the most striking aspect of “Pictures at an Exhibition” was the composition in five screens. I have been very enthralled and excited by the possibility of working in a multi-screen format ever since learning about Napoleon (1927) and its triple screen projections (polyvision) in the finale. Such a projection format allows for a wider range of expression and a more immersive cinematic experience.

    Overall I can see how Mike and Candace’s experience of directing “Pictures at an Exhibition” must have been incredibly stressful, but at the same time hugely rewarding because they were able to do something no one else has done before, which is not easy to do. In addition they were able to mix “high-brow” classical music with “low-brow” animation making the music more accessible and elevating the status of animation in the audience’s eyes

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    John Frame

    Having unintentionally first seen John Frame’s work at the Huntington I was immediately charmed by the mysterious atmosphere that his exhibit created, seeing his film again in seminar I felt the exact same sensation and wholeheartedly enjoyed the experience. John Frame’s work to me is cohesive in the sense that his puppets are styled to be overlooked character’s from another time. With “Three Fragments of a Lost Tale” we are presented with the pieces of an epic and must try to imagine the events that have brought about such strange and complex characters. For me this is enough, any written story could not live up to the sense of wonder brought about by these fragments.

    While Frame might deny any rigorous symbolic language or concrete meaning in his films, I do feel like his work is packed with content. The poses and objects in the film refer to the pursuit of knowledge that existed in a bygone golden age that is now forgotten and unappreciated. This message could coincide with John’s current stance toward the art world, since he is looking back toward a more beautiful and rich era of art making, where art was made for art’s sake and has less to do with conceptual in jokes.

    Overall the beautiful artistry in John’s figures in unparalleled in any stop motion figure I have ever seen, and his patience and dedication toward learning a new craft is admirable, I look forward to seeing the second installment.

  3. Jay Kim says:

    Mike and Candace

    The dynamic duo of Mike and Candace collectively possess a very deep knowledge of cinematic language which has led them to create memorable pieces of visual art. Because they both understand the core fundamentals of what looks good and why, together they are able to input as artists, directors, editors, and overall creators. Their latest achievement at the New World Symphony was truly a grand task to undertake but with their experience and collective team effort they were able to come out of it with a remarkable accomplishment.

    Aside from Mike and Candace’s professional expertise, I respect them as people/mentors/friends because they are very kind and eager to mentor students’ work no matter what level or medium of animation a work may be. Their ability to switch gears without hesitation is what makes them, in my opinion, great examples of professionals in the industry.

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    Noureddin ZarrinKelk

    Very few times a seminar guest will leave an impression on me so strong that I will inspire to emulate him/her more for their mindset rather than for their artistic abilities. Not to take anything away from Noori’s amazing animations, but I admired his intentions a million times more. Like Noori, one of my driving forces as an artist has always been to bring people together whether it be through a message of love, peace, or commonality all wrapped up in a warm blanket of humor. Thus it was refreshing when, for possibly the first time ever of a seminar guest, Noori told us to “make love” after watching his first screening about a commentary of war.

    It is impossible for me to pretend that I can understand the difficulties Noori has had to live through being a political artist from Iran, but I can understand his pure joy when we as his audience made him feel young and happy being in front of him; his vision has touched many people’s lives all over the world, a feeling Noori wholeheartedly deserves.

  4. Joseph Yeh says:

    Tochka

    From far away, it is so difficult to see the good in this world when it is plagued by so much evil and corruption. However, our individual struggles in life say otherwise. Tochka’s Pika Pika is a prime example of good; it is a shared experience that attempts to capture light in the world. I had the chance to ask Takeshi what his message was and he had one word: “Happiness”. It felt simple at first, but I later realized this simple message had a much more complicated meaning. Happiness seems like such a rare thing and so many people are struggling to for it when it is right outside their door. There is too little happiness because it is often ignored in midst of all the bad things that happen. However, Tochka is clear with its huge happy face light art and fun and happy gatherings of light; you can’t help but smile when seeing these beautiful images and simple messages of peace, love, etc. Tochka also emphasizes the importance of communication. Many of us fail to go out and tell their story whether it be a single word or something much greater, but Tochka’s light graffiti is one of the many great ways to do that. I’m glad that this humble couple is traveling to the world to spread their wonderful message!

    John Frame

    It is inspiring to know that some of the most successful artists are self-taught. The manly John Frame created a vision for himself and followed it through on his own. Many of the greatest ideas are born from endless research and years of brainstorming, lack of sleep, or even drugs. I am bond by my references and influenced by so many things, but seeing John Frame works proves that powerful work can come from freeing the mind of the outside world. Furthermore, he said he was “touched by a the muse”. Inspiration can be born from anywhere; sometimes its just a spark of luck that pushes you to create interesting work. It was fascinating to hear his enlightened moment coming from a prolonged waking dream. Dreams are fantastic and imaginative; they happen in a world where anything can happen. John’s waking dream reminded me of a rare, vivid and deep lucid dream I had after taking numerous dream journals and training my mind. I also saved the world in one of my dreams; maybe I can bring these experiences into my stories as well. John said his animation “The Tale of the Crippled Boy” wasn’t “about anything”, but I think it was about something- something insane and amazing. John is quite a talented master with an “intuitive lock” that I hope to obtain someday.

  5. Amy Ketchum says:

    John Frame

    The first time I saw John Frame’s work at the Huntington I was floored by his craft an vision. His lecture at USC filled me in on many of the questions I had while viewing the exhibition. Initially I did not know that his puppets were made with animation in mind, because I didn’t know about his previous body of sculpture. After I learned that he taught himself to make articulated parts for the purpose of animating his vision I was awed by his ambition and intuition. One of the comments he made that especially resonated with me, was his statement that he selectively filters what he sees to prevent a flattening out of his imagination and visual vocabulary. I thought about how for me imagination and creativity depends upon an uncertain balance between absorbing my interests and finding a unique voice. I look forward to seeing John Frame’s new body of work develop and evolve.

    Noureddin ZarrinKelk

    What an absolutely amazing seminar! I was deeply moved upon seeing Mr. ZarrinKelk’s work. Each piece whether playful or serious carries equal depth and speaks to the attributes of humanity, both beautiful and ugly. I enjoyed watching a retrospective of his work across many decades and admired the way he moves fluidly between styles and yet maintains a solid attitude across different animations. I also appreciated the format of the seminar, in which he played a film and then opened the room up to discussion in between films. Having international animators like Mr. ZarrinKelk at USC is one of the reasons I feel privileged to be at USC.

  6. Ruthie Williams says:

    Animation Show of Shows (Ron Diamond)

    I was so inspired by the work I saw at tonight’s Show of Shows. I came into the room trying to focus on and learn from the technical qualities of what I was about to see, but starting off with the Pixar short, I had a hard time not getting lost in these films. They remind me of what someone mentioned about the Tim Burton puppets we saw earlier this week at LACMA– You don’t see the seams unless they are part of the character. In these films, you don’t see the seams unless they are part of the design or the narrative. For example, the animals on the mobile in the German 3D piece are perfect for CG because they are toy-like. I really admire when any creative finds a way to look past a limitation of the medium and turn it into an asset. It made me think of how Pixar likewise embraced the limitations of CG with Toy Story. Also, the characters and story are so bizarre and cute that they completely stole my attention.

    Another example of invisible seams was combination of media in the Argentinian story about the man and woman at the lightbulb factory was so incorporated into the tale (props for making a sheet of paper that interacts like a smartphone then sticking it in his ear!). I didn’t even notice that there was any drawn animation until the Q +A. I did feel that the Pixar short, which was of course irresistible, fresh, charming, and iconic, was detracted from only the slightest bit by the 3D, mostly in the beginning sequence where my focus went to the water line instead of the characters, and the boat looked a bit like its floating in a bathtub.

    The Canadian short film ‘Wild Life’ was also so stunning in its execution that I didn’t fully consider the use of mixed media until discussing with a classmate afterwards. I am looking forward to looking at each one of these again, and hopefully next year I will be getting closer to work of this quality myself.

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    Mike Patterson and Candace Reckinger

    My favorite part of Mike Patterson and Candace Reckinger’s presentation last night was getting to see the arc of their work combining film and music over the last 25 years. Look at how much has opened up in terms of what is feasible! Somehow music really brings another layer to animation, and vice versa. Collaboration among the arts is always really exciting, I think due to the audience’s fascination with the idea that there can be yet another layer of coordination and relationships, and also that more of our senses are being simultaneously stimulated in a graceful or intended way. While screening “Pictures at an Exhibition,” it was amazing to think that over a hundred years ago, Modest Mussorgsky was standing in a gallery, so inspired by his friend’s paintings and the experience of that final exhibition that he created a beautiful relationship between his music and Viktor Hartmann’s paintings. Then here we are in 2011 and that aesthetic bond has been picked up again and further expanded to include animation, architecture, and components of film and theater. I really wish I had been able to view this as a live presentation. It was also really interesting to hear about the process of directing the project and get a behind-the-scenes look at how ideas were hashed out and how the collaboration worked. It was really inspiring to hear about the obstacles that Candace, Mike, and the whole team of animators had to be overcome for this project to come together.

  7. Lisa Chung says:

    John Frame

    John Frame’s lecture left a surprisingly deep impression on me…not only because he is an amazing sculptor in stop motion animation but for his outlook on life and art. He had A LOT of REALLY meaningful things to say on the topic. They were profound and ideas that I had never really considered.
    For example, he spoke on how he embraces the self-taught method because in the long run you short cut your intuitiveness when you get someone to teach you. Personally, I learn best from others. I’ve always been a firm believer on getting the basics down from teachers and peers, and then exploring the rest on my own. I hate fussing with something for a few days that can be clarified in a minute. However, I realize because my brain is wired to learning this way, I have a difficult time learning a new subject on my own. I need that teacher. I believe that is what John means when you shortcut your intuitiveness: you don’t rely on yourself as much as you should. When you take the time to learn something the hard way, really you are programming yourself to learn anything in the long run.
    Another profound process that John talked about was isolating himself from the mass media when he started his stop motion project. He did not want to be influence or draw references from what already existed. He wanted his idea to be purely him and original. He sees the large impact that media has on what society thinks and do. As I thought about this in class, it struck me pretty strong. “The man is right.” Almost everything we artistically produce is influenced by something that already exists. As a result, there are very few original ideas. When I saw John’s stop mo project, it was unlike anything I had seen. It was totally new and fresh. This was due to his careful isolation during the process. I draw from reference all the time that I wonder if I separated myself, what kind of work I would produce or would I be totally empty.
    Thanks John for an exceptional presentation and lecture! Good luck on getting the necessary funds for your next stop motion project. I look forward to seeing it!

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    PiKA PiKA

    I was not aware of light animation until Lisa Mann introduced our class to the art form a year ago. It was one of those media that reel me in fast and has kept my interested since. Therefore you can only imagine how excited I was when I knew they were coming to USC to do a workshop. The combination of bright colors, loose drawings, simple technique and super satisfying results makes light animation such a fun and approachable art form. For this reason, PiKa PiKa is such a success and sensation. They can grab 200 people with or without prior animation knowledge and create a finished and impressive product all within the same day of making it. In fact the community aspect of this technique was brought up multiple times at the seminar. I could not agree more that this is one of the reasons that make light animation so rewarding. We were able to witness the magnitude of this when Takeshi and Kazue showed us the project for Japan’s devastating earthquake in March 2011. It consisted of hundreds of light animations sent from people all over the world letting Japan know they are in their prayers and thoughts. Super heartwarming.

    In addition, I really appreciate hearing Takeshi and Kazue’s story on how they started PiKA PiKA. It was the repetitive and overworked studio environment that made them rethink their career path. Takeshi had one question in mind and it was how to keep the fun he had in college continuous through out his career. After becoming a freelance artist and planning their first light animation event with some friends through Mixi, PiKA PiKA was eventually born.

    Comparing the freelance commercial projects with their early studio work they produced for their employer, the difference is huge. One is static and the other: their personal work is bursting with life. I can only imagine how much happier and satisfying their work must feel now.

    Thanks Takeshi and Kazue for collaborating with us and leaving such a happy mark on our campus. It was a honor and pleasure. Good luck with the solar energy animation. I can’t wait to see it!

  8. Einar Baldvin Arnason says:

    DreamWorks Animation:

    Getting us, as students, familiar with the process of creating animated features is as important as it is inspiring and Dreamwork’s presentation was a particularly good one.

    I found it fascinating to hear of their process and how filmmaking is approached within Dreamworks. Seeing the videos of the creative process as well as hearing it explained live was eye-opening and informative I found the points on the adaptation of novels for the screen of particular interest and agreed with most of what they said, too often it seems that adaptations simply go through the motions of bringing the source material to the screen resulting in something that often seems more like a trailer for the novel than a film in its own right. Interpretation, I think, is better than adaptation.

    As a final note, Mr. DeBlois’ brief explanation of his career I found of extreme importance. He mentioned that he started as an animator but moved into writing when he discovered that he was able to improve the writing being passed around the studio. To me this illustrates what is great about the studios, namely that within them, each person is allowed to shine at what is proven, through experience, to be their greatest talent. It serves as an important reminder never to settle for one thing, to constantly evolve your talent, even if this mean making the leap to another profession.

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    Mike Fink

    Mike Fink represents what is great about USC, extensive knowledge condensed into a very small place. It is truly remarkable that we can boast such an accomplished artist as one of our faculty members.

    It is always particularly useful to be able to listen or talk to someone with an extensive and varied experience of working in the industry, certainly not the easiest place for making art but one that consistently provides us with mind-bending examples of it.

    The level of expertise at display during Mike’s lecture was incredible and it was enlightening to hear the stories behind the images while being able to ask direct questions.

    It worried me quite a bit how little respect a master like Mike seems to command within the industry he works in. With years of experience, he seems constantly being placed under young directors with little understanding of animation or special effects and just vague ideas of what they want to accomplish. This is of course a danger with anyone who becomes a true wizard of what they do, people will think their mastery and command of the medium stems from that fact that the act itself must be easy, not realizing the painstaking effort and thought behind each frame and thus treat the footage lightly, wasting millions of dollars in the process.

    Keeping this in mind, it is amazing what artists, such as Mike accomplish within that system and witnessing his presentation and seeing what is really just a taste of the great many things he has worked on was as inspiring as it was enjoyable.

  9. Tristan Dyer says:

    DreamWorks
    Okay, truth time, I haven’t seen “How to Train Your Dragon.” It’s on my list. Especially as someone who enjoys 3D this is a shameful statement to make. Despite this I still very much enjoyed seminar this week, particularly the behind the scenes insight on the story changes. A point that I really admire about the film and DreamWorks was that they said to hell with animation conventions and wrote into the story that a main character suffered a consequence to violence, which I feel is an important lesson for all the kiddies to learn. I also enjoyed the candor of the DreamWorks team share with us the trials and tribulations of reworking major story points when the film was in full on production. Kudos to transparency.

    Pika Pika
    Admittedly, the day Pika Pika was held I was in a bit of a funk. Celebrating my 30th birthday in class while my wife was on the other side of the country had me in emo’sville. Not to mention I didn’t know my classmates as well as they knew each other due to some traveling I did. Which brings me to my point: being placed in a cooperative setting with other people who were generally happy brightened my mood. I met some nice folks: a graduated animation student, a biology student, and an engineering student. It felt good to work together without too much pressure and create something fun. Not to mention I haven’t had kimchi in five or six years which worked out as a perfect 30th birthday cake. A little sour and bitter, but ultimately a good taste, much like being 30.

  10. John Frame

    Jordan Hansen says:
    10/11/2011 at 4:03 PM

    Frame was an interesting speaker. His work is unique in the field. There are some obvious parallels between early stop motion animators like Ladisla Starevich as well as contemporary artists like the Quay Brothers or Jan Svankmajer. However, his work has a singular spirit. There seems to be more of a focus on narrative and character, than gesture or atmosphere. Frame’s work is in the same vein as Peter Greenaway. He works somewhere between the avante-garde and traditional narrative structures. It seems true that this sort of work would have a small but dedicated following. The work is too mainstream for the modern art world at large, but it is too abstract for the mainstream audience. That being said, because of the limited market for the work, the amount of people working in this fashion seems extremely limited. Therefore, it is easy to carve out a niche. Frame is able to work in a truly unique fashion. I can see this series continually expanding into a larger and larger series. I do enjoy the craftsmanship of Frame’s work and hope to see him continue in his line.

    Dreamworks

    Jordan Hansen says:
    12/09/2011 at 10:24 AM

    I have been lucky enough to hear many people from various aspects of the production of “How to Train Your Dragon” speak. The thing I find most interesting about what I have heard them say in the past, is the narrative of the production of the film. It is a wonderful and remarkable film. It doesn’t seem as if it would have such an interesting back story. I am not familiar with the books on which the film is based but I had no idea, until hearing various people discuss it, that they were so dissimilar.

    This seminar specifically had a unique point of view from other occasions I have attended lectures by those involved with the film. This is the first time I have had the opportunity to hear what a development executive had to say about this project. To be honest, this may have been the first time I have had the opportunity to hear a development executive speak in public. Chris’s take on the production was of interest, simply because of the long path from concept to creation the film took.

    I have had the opportunity to hear Chris and Dean speak in past about how they got involved in the production. I appreciate the insight that Dean offered during this seminar and I always find it interesting to build a story with assets that largely have already been built ahead of time. Not that it was any worse because of that, it is just a different approach than is usually taken to large commercial animation. The film did not suffer because of that restriction, quite the opposite. It seemed to let Dean and Chris rebuild the story from the ground up and really focus their time and energy making story decisions.

    Bonnie offered interesting insight as well. I have not heard her speak in the past, but I have heard many producers, few of whom are as credentialed as her though. Again, her insight into the story of the production itself was what I found most exciting. Her wealth of experience and defense of the film seem to be partly, at least, responsible for shaping the film into what it became.

    Overall, it was an enjoyable final seminar. The insight into the production of “How to Train Your Dragon” from people at the top of the team was enlightening and appreciated.

  11. Toper Taylor

    Toper was an A+ speaker. His frank and direct presention was an eye-opener and incredibly informative. I’ve always wanted to know, how much a show costs to make, how it works on the global economy and why certain shows get made and others don’t. Toper was able to break all of that down and more in a very clear way. With the rising costs of animation around the world, I wondered if it made sense to still produce new animation, but clearly it does. Live action cost about the same and may earn more money up front, but animation tends to win in the long term, which is why animation is still relevant financially.

    It’s shocking how difficult it is to pull off a new show. I always knew that it wasn’t a cake walk, but to really understand the economics and why even successful shows had a difficult time breaking in is shocking. I think I was most moved by his story about the scary anthology series he worked on with CBS in the 90s, along with partners in Canada and Germany. Diversity in television has always been important to me and I was very surprised to see other producing partners have the power and the will to remove that aspesct from the show. It completely changes my viewpoint on the landscape of television.

    I hope we’ll meet more people as honest a Toper this semester. I can only imagine how much my knowledge base will grow.

    Dr. Richard Weinberg

    I had a great time in Seminar this week. Revealing things that are otherwise hidden has always been a fascinating way to re-examine the world that we live in. While I found the discoveries from Dr. Weinberg’s work appealing, I think the notion of the imagery being real and “filmed” is far more compelling than just the pictures themselves. It’s very possible to get talented digital arts to replicate what we saw, but it doesn’t carry the same weight. I would be very curious to see if there are new ways to photograph under the microscope that would allow not just apparent “top-down” views, but also over-the-shoulder and even first-person views as well. It may mean inventing a new microscope or a different approach to what already exists, but I would love to see what could happen if microscopy could move beyond observing and start engaging something more manipulative. In other words, gaining the ability to more deliberately and predictably design what will happen under the camera.

    Something else that stuck out to me was how a lot of the real-life creatures and forms we saw looked very much like a lot of our most extreme designs in science fiction. While I don’t know if those designers were inspired by some of the things we saw in seminar, the idea that even our wildest dreams are still present in the natural world is quite intriguing. I also wonder what would happen if we are introduced to something that is truly unlike anything present in this world. Hmm…

  12. I apologize for the delay, but I hope you might still accept my submission!

    Nouri ZarrinKelk
    It was truly an honor to see Mr. ZarrinKelk’s work at USC. I was able to attend both his Sunday and his Wednesday screenings, and I feel grateful for both of them!
    Noori’s work is particularly powerful because it elegantly communicates complex themes. His visual style is immediately engaging, and his sensitivity – both in humor and to injustice – comes through in all of his work. It is particularly interesting to view his three ‘socially conscious’ films in a row, it gave us an opportunity to see his progression from metaphor to more specific commentary. I think all of the films have a powerful resonance. The moment that stood out for me this last week was in Super Powers when the fighting had stopped and the film ended on gravestones. The piece creates conflict between plus and minus signs, and the only moment where they are able to peacefully coexist is within death. It’s so ironically powerful to see crosses erected with minus sign shadows. It’s the first time they are seen next to one another without trying to harm one another. This image stuck with me, it was so tragic.
    Even upon second viewing, I also really enjoyed Amir Hamza the lover, and the Dancing Zebra. The animation is so minimal in some parts, and with such a humorous payoff! I think this piece demonstrates how a simple, stylized approach with a strong concept can be incredibly effective in communicating. The artwork in the Dancing Zebra is also interesting, as it represents a more classic Iranian style.
    This was an inspiring seminar. I am very grateful to all those who helped arrange Noori’s visit – from Kurosh ValaNejad to Lisa Mann and Christine Panushka + many others!

    Mike Fink
    It was truly inspiring to hear Mike Fink’s presentation. He has vast experience in the visual effects industry, and due to his experience and insightful nature, he is an incredibly knowledgeable and thoughtful presenter.
    One thing that resonated with me was related to the course Mike will be teaching in this coming semester, a directing for green screen course. I recently went to see Hugo, after hearing Mike speak. I had heard before – through the grape vine – that a famous director had complemented a set painter on their beautiful set, and then commented “too bad it is a dying art.” They were referencing the fact that visual effects might become more and more integrated with production design in film. At the time, I didn’t quite believe the whole interaction. However, after seeing Hugo, which seems to frequently utilize CG sets, I’m starting to think this is a serious possibility. It was interesting to reconsider Mike’s lecture through this lens. He is so knowledgeable about the history of visual effects (which, in itself, is immensely interesting), and he is also an expert of sorts at integrating all of these things. I think his skills and his knowledge base are going to be even more in demand as this side of our field develops, and I am seriously considering taking his course if it continues next fall.
    With a door opening to allow for the creation of CG environments to be integrated more frequently with live action, I hope we might see the continued development of backgrounds that are integral to the content of films. As I’ve discussed with classmates in the past (Simon Wilches Castro), there is an interesting opportunity within a film (or animation) for a filmmaker to utilize the backgrounds to help create the content of the film. A recent live action example may be seen with Inception. Simon has been studying this in the context of animation, but I hope that as this integration of CG backgrounds with live action becomes more prevalent, we will continue to see the development of content. This reminds me of the essay “Designing a Movie for Sound” (http://filmsound.org/articles/designing_for_sound.htm) by Randy Thom, which deals with the integration of music and sound with film. Thom writes, “What I propose is that the way for a filmmaker to take advantage of sound is not simply to make it possible to record good sound on the set, or simply to hire a talented sound designer/composer to fabricate sounds, but rather to design the film with sound in mind, to allow sound’s contributions to influence creative decisions in the other crafts.” I would like to re-examine the role of production designer in light of this new opportunity to create more elaborate sets, and make a similar call for filmmakers to consider designing the film with the set in mind, allowing the set to become an integral part of the story and content – rather than an addition (or an aid) to it.

  13. Robert Calcagno says:

    Jill McNitt-Gray

    At the core of animation, you could say the medium’s like an illustrated pantomime of real life; be it ultra-realistic or utterly abstract. So dancing, and subsequently music, makes for a mutual match in animation. I’ve used dance and music plenty in my past animations; there’s a lot that can be expressed with the human body just by basic physical fluctuations, which was a good lesson learned by Dr. Apostolos. Capturing the subtleties of the human body, even something as simple as breathing, is critical in theatre, dance, and ultimately animation. The use of robotics is an intriguing concept but I think robotics as a whole is somewhat a standstill due to this miserable recession; a full robo-production of The Black Swan seems a ways off.

    Professor Gray’s presentation of force physics is something that many modern VFX artists all need to take into account. One of the issues I have with CGI in a lot of films is that there’s no sense of inertia or basic distribution of kinetic energy in their movements. It makes them look rubbery rather than a legitimate entity. The industry has improved in that department but perhaps a bit more science should be incorporated to turn a good-looking graphic into a virtual being.

    The most fascinating aspect though was the presentation about the giant pterosaurs and the mechanics behind how these magnificent creatures could have been able to have flown. It was an enlightening video, for myself in particular. The previous semester I rediscovered paleontology for a painting project and became enthralled by the almost mythical Quezacoatlus (the big pterosaur he was talking about); the creatre was the size of a jet and the fact they’re bringing it closer to reality is amazing. I wish them the best of luck.

    John Frame

    Frame is most definitely a modern artist, which in and of itself can be rather confusing in its philosophy. The art world is currently going through what I can call “counter-Modernism”. True Modernism is not the deconstruction of the medium but rather the creation of a new “pure” medium. Post-Modernism was an expansion on that concept yet reincorporating ideals and artistic vision.

    Counter-Modernism seems to be in opposition to the creators of the past and John Frame himself stated that he wanted to create work that was in opposition to the art scene in the seventies, which was dominated by Minimalist readymades and Pop Art. But then there’s the conundrum: in opposing other artists, you somehow have to depend on knowing what you’re trying not to be. Therefore, you ARE ultimately depending on other artists, even if it’s the opposite.

    He’s a craftsman and an artist at heart and I can attest to that being a Fine Arts Major (originally I was going to specialize in Painting). And that level of dedication to the figures and settings is apparent in his shorts. However, at this stage he is moreso a sculpter who animates rather than an animator who sculps. Animation is an incredibly meticulous medium that’s surprisingly not as subjective as sculpture; therefore, the mechanisms and fludity behind it are of utmost importance. Frame’s almost there and as an artist he will surely expand his animation understanding.

  14. Nesli Erten says:

    Mike and Candice:

    There is a secret Mike and Candice have discovered, yet did not share with us during their presentation. A secret of great importance. A source of bewilderment and admiration. A secret of happiness.

    I have known many husband/wife teams that go to business together in tango. (A realm in which I am becoming increasingly aware I use as my platform to understand this world) Partnerships as such have a categorically distinct division of labour; namely, follower and leader. While listening to Professor Patterson & Reckinger dispel their evolutionary story last week, I found what’s most interesting and inspiring is the dynamics of collaboration as two directors. Two artists, affluent in their own right, working hand in hand to produce unique artistic ventures on a grand scale. For me, what is even more beautiful than the actual work they have produced, is the way in which they work with each other to realize their visions. Their presentation, a dialectic tango: leader-to-leader, was a beautiful exposé in a myriad of design elements interwoven to make movement come to life. And to that end, make movement come to life via music. Which for me, is the pinnacle of which all animation should aspire.

    _____________________________________________________________________________

    Evgeni Tomov:

    The breakdown of creative and technical processes implemented in the feature animated film was insightful. Paintings used to conceptualize art direction in the film’s most primitive stages were greatly influenced by Flemish artistry from the 16th and 17th century. Yet, while most CG films deviate from elements present in the early stages of formation; Evgeni Tomov made it a point to hold true to his original vision and reference material from inception to completion. This is particularly evident in textures and lighting used throughout the film. His efforts are admirable and inspiring.

    On the same token, it can be argued that CG has room for improvement if its objective is to create something “organic.” I ditto Tomov in that, this is merely the beginning for a rapidly evolving medium. Its’ possibilities are endless. An increase in the number of technically savvy, skilled draftsman entering the realm of CG animation paves way for new possibilities. It is an exciting time. I am excited!

    _____________________________________________________________________________

    AND

    For those of you who were giving me grief earlier this semester for only writting one sentence for Noureddin… Here you go.

    Noureddin Zarrinkelk is my inspiration.

    پروفسور زرینکلک گرامی،
    از ماه اکتبر گذشته که سخنرانی شما را شنیدم، سرگذشت شما برای من مایه الهام بوده است. فکر نمیکنم که قبلا توانسته ام احساسات خودم را در قالب کلمات بیان کنم. زیرا کلمات از بیان آنچه که میخواهم بگویم عاجز هستند. امیدوارم که این پیام گوشه ای از تقدیر من را نشان دهد. و همچنین امیدوارم که همانطور که شما در کشور خود، ایران، و در مقیاس بزرگتر، در دنیا، مایه اثر بوده اید من هم در کشور خودم ترکیه اثربخش باشم.
    شاگرد کوچک شما،
نسلی

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