Quick Update – 2/5/23

I only have a few minutes to write this so I’ll keep it brief. I have 3 remaining scenes to animate and then it is on to audio. I did wind up deciding to purchase 3 additional speakers, I will have the option to mix the episode in surround sound. I intend to use splice for sound effects as they’re sounds do not inhibit monetization or commercial use for a reasonable price.

I greatly miss creating music and working with anything other than animation. The good news is I have been able to turn out a scene in a day or two lately – meaning recording the dialogue, animating the characters, and mixing them in with a background. The countless assets I created are working great, especially the vehicles and background characters. I am very excited to be done with this project soon.

I am still determined to put out short scenes but have not yet begun recording them. Once I am done animating the episode and take up work on the audio I will routinely create short 1 minute clips in the hopes of promoting the launch of episode 1. I hope all is well and you have a great day.

Progress and Pontification

I’ve made significant progress this week and have settled on a 23 minute run time for episode 1. I have 20+ minutes fully animated and am now working on the climax.

It’s time for me to get more serious about the marketing and building a sense of anticipation for episode 1. I have been releasing weekly web comics that are generally scrolled over but have nonetheless received 1-7 likes on social media, which in some circles is called “going viral.”

I am convinced youtube algorithm can be successfully maneuvered through purposeful planning. Releasing videos in batches, posting Youtube shorts, and live videos are known methods to attract viewers to your channel. Finding your way into the “suggested” pile is a surefire way to get a long form video viewed.

Starting this week, I plan to begin releasing short 1 minute scenes of Paramedic Robot that have nothing to do with the episode I’m currently working on. They will likely feature 1 perspective, a basic background, and sketch so funny viewers will have no choice but to keep scrolling and forget it ever existed. The key here will be the amount of time required to complete the scene and the amount of viewership this can gain.

I would like to employ the use of a stopwatch during editing at some point in time. I find I can be relatively quick when it comes to backgrounds and the physical actions of animated characters. When it comes to designing watches or more minute (My-nute?) details of a character I am prone to wasting large sums of time until it looks just right. After this first episode debuts, I must make a set of ground rules for myself in order to keep production efficient. Have you ever seen those videos about Middle Eastern bakeries? The workers never stop! They move like clockwork until they are soaked in sweat. That is what it takes to turn a profit in the private sector, and creating a successful film production company should be no different.

*Below is an internal discussion I’ve been having with myself regarding the audio mix. It doesn’t really belong here but I already wrote so I see no sense in deleting it now. Hope you have a wonderful day.

I ordered some new gear recently – a 2 terabyte nvme card, 64 gb of ram, and my first set of studio monitors and a subwoofer. The first two items were necessary so that I could edit on my desktop computer. Since the completion of the last episode of Mountain Cult, I have not had enough room on my C drive to operate any programs. I literally had to juggle programs like After Effects, Adobe Audition, and Ableton Live in order to work with files on a separate drive.

I am determined to complete my set of speakers so that I can edit in surround sound. Unfortunately, that will also require me to order more cables, 2 standing monitor stands, another desktop stand, and a TV stand. It’s not cheap and I do not have enough room for all that equipment. I am willing to work extra shifts for the gear, in fact last week I worked a 36 hour shift to pay for the aforementioned items.

Surround sound – multiple independent streams of audio coming from various speakers. This provides a more immersive environment that allows the listener to hear background noises independent from the dialogue coming through the center front speaker.

Stereo – Sounds are limited to 2 speakers (left and right). A subwoofer may be included to promote frequencies generally at or below 80 hz.

One simple solution that I have all but decided on is to improve my abilities at stereo mixing before ordering the additional speakers. Paramedic Robot will debut on Youtube – which does not support surround sound anyway. Many modern day streaming services do, however, and that is why I’ve been wrestling with doing it in surround (it’s easier to downmix from surround to stereo than vice versa).

Another advantage of working in stereo is that the music we listen to comes from stereo files. This means any songs I create in Ableton may be uploaded as downloadable tracks on a site such as spotify. If I decide to mix the film in surround, I will have to export what is known as “stems” so that I can send different instruments/tracks to the Left Side and Right Side speakers than the Left Front and Right Front.

Ultimately at this point in the game I feel I would be much wiser to mix in stereo. Episode 1 of Paramedic Robot will be lucky to break 1000 views on Youtube. Preparing for the future is generally a smart decision, but in this case I feel the effort will not be worth the reward. One additional component of my consideration is that mixing in surround now will help me mix with more efficiency in the future. I may even able to find work in sound design for a legitimate film with that experience.

A Peak behind the Curtain

I didn’t have time to make a comic yesterday, which means I failed my weekly social media commitment. Truth be told I ran out of time. I work graveyard shift Wednesday through Saturday and fell asleep straight when I arrived home.

The above still is the east parking lot to the hospital. I thought it would be interesting to breakdown why this animated episode has taken me so long.

Each and every creation takes time – obviously. But I believe in this undertaking because the process will become more efficient in the future.

Lets start with the background. It was designed together and exported as 6 separate layers. The layers are placed together in order of dominant perspective. The layers are as follows:

  • 1.)Front streetlight
  • 2.) Brick Wall
  • 3.) Rear Wall
  • 4.) Rear street lights
  • 5.) Pavement
  • 6.) Street, shops, and skyline

Most photography programs interpret layer order as dominance. For instance, if you have two boxes of the same size, one green and one blue, the layer on top will be the only one that is seen. Place the blue layer on top and you will see a blue box.

Now we move on to the other images. We have background characters and vehicles. These were also designed and exported as PNGs. These PNGs are placed among the background layers before the scene is rendered. For instance, I can see from the image above that the background characters were likely placed on top of every scenery layer. The vehicles vary. If I wanted to have a car moving behind the rear wall, I would simply place it between the rear wall and the street and shop layer. As long as it appears above the street & shop layer, but below the wall layer, I can make it appear to move behind the wall and on the street.

By keeping images separate I am able to reuse the same assets in different scenes. If I need a sidewalk and street in a new background I can simply drag and drop the isolated layer into a new scene. The same goes for the background characters.

Because of my strong belief that efficiency will improve with my asset library I have devoted more time to this episode than I am otherwise comfortable with. When I know an asset is being designed with the intent of reproduction, I spend extra time to design it in order to meet all future requirements. That means each 2d image includes a front, side, and rear profile. For each vehicle I also have a bright, illuminated layer specific for activated brakelights. Each character has a minimum of a front and rear profile. The main characters also have a left and right profile.

Hope this was informative in some way and you find joy in your day.

General Thoughts

I’ve got 20 minutes to write this before I attend a work required class. Not enough time to do anything of significance but maybe I can get something out there.

I hate watching days pass as I continue to work on my current project. As I’ve noted throughout, the belief in what I’m doing for the current episode is based in what it may provide for me in the future. I came to a realization that frequency and quantity of content is a better predictor of success than quality alone. If you make a perfect song as a no name artist, you may not have anyone to give it a listen. Pop stars, on the other hand, will have their bullshit replayed over radio waves until even the non-complicit listeners know the words. Film and novels are no different – there are tremendous stories out there that nobody has ever heard of, and maybe never will.

I think about Van Gogh a lot. We all know he was an insanely talented and tormented artist. But what amazes me most about Van Gogh is his inability to sell a painting. He lived in his mind, constantly improving his craft with a non-stop output of material. But his personality was abrasive which I believe led to a lot of personal rejection. I believe Van Gogh thought that strangers would see the magnificence of his work without having a personal relationship with him. Today’s “influencers” are the polar opposite – they don’t produce a product, they’re personality is the product. For me it is proof that the majority of people value social status over the invisible truths – beauty, love, faith. Today Van Gogh is universally praised as an artistic juggernaut because it is the accepted social norm of a view. In his day, I’m certain the common man would respond to his name with a “Who?”.

All this is to say I believe in my current project because it should enable me to produce more content faster in the future. I can return to making music and include a new track in each episode. I can reuse the characters I have already designed, programmed, and replicated in multiple perspectives. The show itself is about ambulance workers – so I don’t see why each episode shouldn’t include an ambulance and a hospital for 75% of the runtime. That means I can reuse backgrounds, which again promotes efficiency.

The lag I have experienced is related to this repeatedly. Reusable background are created in multiple perspectives, as are the dynamic assets within them (passing vehicles, phones, chairs, desks, etc.). But why design one vehicle in 3 perspectives, when you can simply change the color and create 10 vehicles in 3 perspectives? This same thinking applies to everything. Why create a picket fence for the scene at hand and not save it as a PNG with alpha to be reused later? It’s millions of small tasks like this that drain the day. I do not enjoy any of it but stand by my philosophy.

A few days ago I ordered some studio monitors (aka speakers). Last week I purchased a new focusrite interface that will allow me to mix in surround sound. I am extremely excited about this possibilities this provides. Even if I should start mixing other filmmakers work, that might produce better long term results than spending more hours at the job I currently have, which is unrelated to any of this.

Any way, it’s time for me to head out now. Hope all is well and you find joy with your day.

Paramedic Robot Comic #2

I’ve got 18 minutes animated for episode 1 and am nearing the finish line. I’m apprehensive about what the future holds as I still have to do the audio, sound effects, and music. My major new year’s resolution will be delegating jobs to others and disciplining myself to tight deadlines. In the meantime I’m going to accept that creating anything from scratch will always require more time than dragging and dropping the same asset in the future. I’ve enjoyed making these comics and have established a customized template. I intend to create one of these a week and devote no more than 30 minutes to the task. Hope all is well.

Paramedic Robot Update #2

Just a quick update – finished animating a major scene that features the above. It was a real pain creating all the background characters. The nurses were a special challenge, as I plan to feature them regularly. 5 different head positions and 4 separate body views is no quick task. I hope to make some major progress in the coming weeks and have this episode wrapped up shortly. One of the major philosophies driving the project is the belief that I will move faster in the future and do not wish to return to fix anything. In other words, animate main characters right the first time, then grab and load the asset in each subsequent scene. Anyways hope your Thanksgiving went well and will try and have more here soon.

Paramedic Robot: First Stills

I found myself at a crossroads following the completion of “Doctor with the Red Houseware.” I felt it was the most I could do without a reasonable budget.

I knew my next project would require a budget and would ideally be a feature. I felt that going door to door asking for investments would be a painstaking process. I decided rather than enter into a venture that would consume time & emotion, I would be wiser to dedicate my efforts toward expanding my current audience. A large scale audience could be used for leverage when the time came to request funding for a project.

I started thinking about animation and methods I could use to expedite the process while still delivering a marketable product. But no matter how I organized the production, I accepted the fact that the initial development of a variety of assets would require time and dedication.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I am resentful of how long its taken me to get through episode 1. Because I utilize different camera angles for the same thing, I had to create separate character portraits for front, rear, left and right profile views. It sounds simple on the surface, but when you include things like watches and sheers on one wrist or in one pocket it rapidly complicates things – especially when the hand with the watch is capable of holding a variety of objects. Now keep in mind watches have a top and bottom, and I have to apply the same “grabby hand” to all 4 profile views.

I am relieved that I have completed the most time-demanding tasks for the project and can finally begin moving with efficiency. I have developed 13 minutes of animation toward the first episode and the production continues to move faster. My goal is to complete 1 scene in one day. My hypothesis is that if I can develop a new episode each week, or every other week, I will reach an audience. So many bloggers, how to instructors, and reviews gain in popularity due to their ability to constantly produce more content. If you set out to create entertainment for consumers, you typically discover that a quality product is far too demanding to produce with that frequency if you do not have a bankroll.

So I just wanted to provide a brief update for any who cares. I hope that I will be able to post a link to episode 1 here soon. More importantly, I hope to regularly provide new content within the coming months. As the volume of assets grow in my library, so does the ease of building a new background. Hope to update you soon.

Robot Paramedic – First Look

Don’t worry about the mouths or eyes. They look funny because multiple expressions sit atop one another.

I’ve been tirelessly designing an animated web series that I intend to launch before the end of the month. The show is a buddy comedy about Blue, a salty paramedic and Ricky, his enthusiastic robot trainee.

The first episode will be about Blue realizing Ricky was not engineered for immediate success. They will experience their first real call together and it will put Ricky’s to-the-moon expectations through the meat grinder.

I have no intention or desire to be an animator, however I do view it as an effective media for storytelling. I can utilize skills and abilities that I’ve learned through filmmaking, music, and writing to produce short episodes with a high standard of quality. The cool thing about animation is you can constantly reuse assets – facial expressions, backgrounds, character actions. The larger plan is to produce episodes on a weekly basis that allow for greater time efficiency. Once the ball is rolling I hope to write a feature length script. As I build an audience for the show I can use that as leverage for other projects.

Hope all is well and I look forward to updating progress for episode 1 here soon. If you haven’t seen Doctor with the Red houseware yet, feel free to click the link and check it out on TUBI.

Obstacles Ahead – 11-2-20

russell no color

Original, untouched footage in S-Log3

I’m close to finishing the edits on episode 4, and I’m very proud of what I have. There have been more than a few bumps in the road –

1. The 1st day of filming I used bizarre color settings and shot in S-log3, which has made color editing a huge challenge.

2. The 1st day of filming I recorded audio at Medium gain, which has forced me to add a lot of gain in post which can cause some distortion in a few places.

Russell no painting

Same frame with color correction applied

3. The day I filmed with my brother (day 5) we were constrained with time and decided to do the entire scene in one take. It came out pretty well, but unfortunately significant portions are not in focus and I have been unable to find a good way to cut those out. I have close ups (like, lips and eyes close) of myself that I recorded right after he left. I’m leaning towards sticking to 1 take even if that means we’re both temporarily out of focus.

out of focus 1

At least in this frame it focuses on my brother rather than the latch.

For the above 3 problems, I have decisions to make. Ultimately, however, I am limited in what I can do to fix these issues. I have accepted that, and am also grateful I’ve improved my filmmaking ability so that I did not consistently repeat these errors on the following days of recording. It’s a harsh lesson but an important one – get it right during filming, and your days of editing will be SIGNIFICANTLY easier. Beyond that, I have these obstacles ahead of me:

  1. For the outdoor shoots, I attached a lav mic to each character and turned the gain on “HIGH” for my microphone. Consequently I have 3-4 audio tracks for each line of dialogue. From what I’ve gathered, my best choice is to use only one track, so I’ve got to locate that for each line. Not too difficult.
  2. Digital blood – There are 2 instances where I would like to edit in digital blood. I’ve been learning Adobe After Effects for the past week and have made 1 animation for blood. It is not ready yet but I do believe I will continue to progress and make the blood squirt appear authentic.
  3. Digital intro – I want to have “Mountain Cult” appear in 3-dimensional space in the beginning of the film. This can be done through after effects. It will be a challenge, but it is also one of the easier type of animations you can make.
  4. Adding in digital paintings – This is a bit of an OCD thing, but there are a couple of shots filmed in my apartment that have WAY too much white wall in the frame. I am determined to add objects – e.g., a painting, into the background. This can be done so it appears seamless. I’m in the process of learning how to do it right.
  5. Find a contest! I’ve been searching online and there are several contests I can enter the film into. Once it is completed, however, I would like to upload the video to youtube. I want to create shirts for “Mountain Cult” and ask for any person who supports the series to show support with a donation. That donation will give me a production budget for the next episode. In return for a donation, supporters will receive a T-shirt with the series logo on it.
with painting 1

Same frame with the painting (object) I’d like to add in.

Anyways, this is what I’ve been up to. If I am diligent I can cross most of the items off my list in one weeks time. The only hang-up I have is that I will be working 72 hours this week beginning tomorrow, which means I have to make the most of my off time. I can tell you I’m very excited, and am also obsessed with the ending my film – as it is the best sequence I’ve ever shot, written, and directed. Looking forward to posting the episode here soon.