51. Alpha

It's been a while since I up-dated the blog, the reason is quite simple, I'm back at work. My real work that is... After (almost) finishing the animation, I needed to go back to work to save money to be able to finish the compositing and music of the film.

The compositing is when you add up all the layers of animation to create the final picture. It's usually (in my case) the main character on top of the background, but it can be much more complex, with camera moves, sfx (like rain or fire), depth of field, etc.

BG020 + DE_01_00_JIM_0001  =


To be able to add the character on top of the background, each frame of animation needs an Alpha. An alpha is a black and white pictures that tells pictures where to be transparent, white is not transparent and black is fully transparent.


The checker board is where I want the drawing to be transparent.

Jimmy Alpha

There are various techniques to create a drawing's alpha, in my case the line of the drawing are not closed so it makes it quite hard to use automatic techniques, so I decided to draw each alpha in photoshop. To do so I created a script that pre makes the alpha (using the magic wand) and I would correct it by hand, then save the picture as a png, which handle the transparency very easily. If you want to know more about the script gimme a shout, I'll be happy to send it to you.

The whole process is quite short (1 min per drawing), but because you have to do it for each drawings, and I am working with big files (long saving time), it adds up to quite a lot of hours.

It took me around 3/4 week to do all the shot, I did that after work, witch doesn't speed up the process at all, the good new is that every shot I animated so far have an alpha now, so I can work on compositing the shots.

As a little reward for finishing all the alpha, and as a joke, I edited a fake trailer for the film, it's put together using the automatic trailer maker that comes with iMove, its stupidly easy to do and takes about 5 minutes and here it is:


As a disclaimer, those are just work in progress.

48. Brushes! part 1

Allright, so before I decided weather or not it was possible to do any secondary animation on computer, I had to check that I could replicate the drawings fully digitally. For this I would need a brush (in photoshop, or what ever other software) that replicates the way my pen behave on paper.

This actually means that I need to replicate what the drawn lines look like once scanned.

Step 1: What to replicate


I start by drawing various type of strokes: Slow, fast, overlapping, light and heavy strokes.

Step 2: Understanding parameters


The amount of parameters can be overwhelming  but if you take them one by one it's actually straight forward.

- First you need to choose your brush size to match the pen. You won't be able to change the size of your brush once its finished, it will look odd. If you need a bigger brush, youll need to scan a bigger pen and create a new brush.

From now on stroke on the right is pen stroke on the left is "cg"


I've set the hardness to 33% because the pen is not drawing perfectly sharp.

Note: the size of your brush depends on the size of your document (because it's set in pixels) here i'm working at 300 dpi. If I was at 600 dpi i'd have to scale my brush up twice.

I keep it round because it's a classic pen.

- Then lets set the shape dynamics:

size jitter

The size jitter "randomise" the size of the brush in the range you set (here the brush can be 50% bigger or smaller). The size is also control by the pen pressure and I've put a minimum size so the brush doesn't disappear when I'm drawing lightly. (Here you need to match the diameter of your lightest pen stroke)

The size jitter represent the flow of ink of your pen and the randomness due to the paper, not the wobbliness of your stroke due to how you draw. I am not using the angle jitter and roundness jitter since my brush is round.

-  Scattering moves the brush in different axis, i am not using it here.

- Textures and Dual Brush aren't useful in this case.

- Color Dynamics



Color dynamics gives your stroke a more natural/scanned look. Scanner never scan black as black, it's multicolor darkness. Here my foreground color is a very dark blue and my background color is a very dark red. They are being mixed randomly at 57%.

A brush is just a succession of dots really close to each other. What the randomizing option does is give each dot a different value, in hue, brightness and saturation. The purity seams to multiply the effect. At -100 the brush turns black and white...

Note that if you un-tick "apply per tip" the color changes is applied to the whole stroke. It can give some nice effects.

- Transfer


Here you'll need to set the opacity and flow of your brush. As you can see on the strokes on the left, the pen doesn't cover the paper regularly (more or less ink comes up).

The opacity and flow are both transparency but one is applied by stroke, the other one is applied as you draw. With opacity you need to lift your pen and draw again to have a color twice less transparent whereas with flow if you draw twice in the same place in a single stroke, this place will be twice less transparent.

The important thing at this stage is to play with the pressure of your wacom pen. You might end up really easily with a completely transparent brush when your not putting a lot of pressure on your pen. You need to set the minimum opacity to something that suite you.

- brush pose is some kind of 3d ness of your pen on the wacom. lets not bother with it.

- The next parameters have no options. I change them on/off as I draw depending on the effect I want to give:



Adds sharp noise to the stroke.

- Wet edge


Makes the center of the brush lighter and the edges darker

- build-up is some kind of airbrush option.

- Smoothing smooth you brush stroke, I wouldn't use it with a tablet if you want a hand drawn feel...

At this point you should have a brush fairly similar to your pen:

red arrows show the cg brush strokes.


The only option i couldn't find is to have more opacity/flow at the beginning of a stroke, I think it would look much more natural. If anyone knows how to do this, let me know!

Sorry for the bad english, this took more time then i though and I need to go back to work...




47. Yiynova MSP19U

2013-05-23 12.57.15 After reading Frenden review a couple of month ago I was really keen on trying out the MSP19U, a cintiq alternative at only 30% of the price.

It was out of stock for a long time, so last Sunday, when it was back on Amazon, I ordered one. I just got it yesterday.

Since lots of people seamed interested, I thought I would share what I think of it, here.

2013-05-23 16.07.09

My overall opinion is GOT FOR IT. After drawing several hours on it, it's just a perfect tool.

I never used a new cintiq so I can't compare the Yiynova (pronounced yinova apparently) and the new cintiq. I did try an older model of cintiq and was not convinced, to much parallax, lag and muddy color, the cintiq was also too heavy and big.

But here is what you need to know about the MSP19U,and what probably justify the lower price.


-Price (only 680£ with delivery)

-Size (quite small and light, you can draw with it siting on your lap in front of telly)

-Pen feels better then wacom IMO (smaller tip holder) even though when you open it to put the battery it feels like a kid toy.

- Screen is solid glass and looks better then a cintiq.

- Drawing ecperience is perfect, no lag, no jitter, pression is awesome.

- The tablet seams like good quality, nothing like fisher price or anything.


- Set up: It took me a while to figure out how to get the right resolution with the mac. TIP: turn your mac of before connecting it, and then on. Don't just do a restart.

- Viewing angle is rubbish, you can't use it as a proper monitor, it's just for drawing. When you sit back you can see a gradient. But when you draw it's perfect.

-  Cursor jitter when your not drawing and the pen is on the screen, it's not a problem for drawing, but when you use the slider on a browser or highlight something, it's quite obvious.

- No space for keyboard: the tablet touches the desk so you cant put your keyboard underneath. It means that your body is 20/25cm away from the actual screen. A bit like if someone put your plate a bit too far. I'm thinking of building a little stand to be able to slide the keyboard under the tablet.

The handle to get the tablet up and down is not accesible enough to change the angle while working. Durring 5hours of drawings, I never felt like I should move the tablet up and down.

- I have one dead pixel. And I read of other people having one. While it's not a deal breaker, it's worth noting.

Over all, most of the cons are not related to the drawing experience. So as a drawing tool it's perfect. The difference is the same as getting a sport car and a safe car, they both do the job, but one has leather sits, A/C and buttons to change the mirrors ...

If the choice is No Cintinq or MSP19U, I definitely  recommend the MSP19U. Same if you're wondering between intus and msp19u. The MSP19U is a professional quality tool, not a cheap replacement.

Regarding the film, I will be using the tablet for backgrounds elements like véhicules, for sfx, and probably for the horse. I made photoshop brushes that reacts the same way as my pen. But that's next week topic ;)

In the mean time here is the first drawing I did on the MSP19U, I let you guess witch one is CG and witch one is pen: (it's big, if you click on it you can see the details...)


37. Loops

In animation we use a lot of cycles to save time on repetitive action, such as walks or runs. A cycle is just an animation that loops i.e. the first frame and the last one are from the same motion and we don't notice a change in rythme when the animation starts again.

Looping a video can get very tricky, but it will save a tremendous time in animation..

For exemple I'm working on a shot where the guy walks toward the camera, it's a 10 second shot, witch would mean 120 frames to animate. Way to much.

So let's turn this video (video is speed up):


into this cycle :


The first step is to find where the action repeats:


Now the first and last frames are kind of the same but the guy is moving forward...  Rubbish... So let's scale and rotate him so it matches as much as possible.


It's starting to get there, but because it's video, nothing loops at the same frames. It needs to be fixed, element by elements:


Each individual part of the body is looped. If you don't pay attention to the background.


Then I put the guy back together:


Et voila, if you look only at the guy,  the video is looping. You can see that I don't loop the lower body and upper body at the same frame, same with the arm and the guitar. That's another tricky part, as it's important to keep a natural look, but once drawn:


This fella can walk, forever!

An I only animated 21 frames!

Don't forget that first and last frame shouldn't be the same one, or you would have twice the same frame. You need to match 2 frames, and then remove the last one, if that makes any sense :)

It's the last day of my kickstarter if you wanna chip in, it's here: www.deadmansreachfilm.com

34. Kickstarter Update

backers Well the Kickstarter had an amazing start! We reached the initial goal in only 24 hours!

The initial goal was to cover the cost of finishing the film animation and the off costs, like festival inscription.

The new goal now includes the compositing of the film (putting all the animation layers together) and the sound recording!

I hope we can make it! So keep sharing the love!

Also I feel like the T-shirts don't get as much attention as they deserve, It's probably because I didn't talk about them in the video, so here we go:


I'm planing to print the T-shirt with the AMAZING Dude Factory, this means that the printing quality will be beautiful.

They print on American apparel cuts, Male and Female!  You can also choose a variety of colors. Check it out, HERE, And it's only £25!




32. Music Rights

Ok, where to start with this... So it's xmas and out of self absolution I decided to finely deal with the Music Rights. The film is based on my sketch book witch contains shit loads of lyrics from songs I like. To give the  short film the same spirit, I asked my musical friends to cover some famous songs.

Since I'm planning to get it into festivals and/or on the net, I need to clear the music rights.

I started writing that post and after half an hour it was 3 pages long... Music Rights are somewhat complicated.

I'll try to sum up:

How does it work?

2 différents rights/licence:

-  synchronization licence: is the licence to use the lyrics / partition / writing. It's the right to use a song if you re-record it yourself.

master use licence: is the licence to use a specific version of a song by a specific artist on a specific album.

Those licences are for using on images/film. To use them on a format (i.e. CD, tape, whatever) its yet another story.

So in my case I mainly need Synchronisation licences since I'm going to use covers.

How to get them?

Publishers hold the rights on behalf  of the artist. So licenses for a same song can be hold by different publishers. Lets say 3 artists wrote a song, and one sang it, the right can potentially be hold by 4 publishers.

To know witch publisher holds witch right you need to go on those 3 websites: www.ascap.com, www.bmi.com and www.sesac.com and find the specific song you want. You need to go on all 3 of them because there repository are not the same... Sweet.

You then need to contact the publishers and ask them for the licence you want. In the case of Warner and Chappell there's an online form to fill, it's pretty strait forward but quite specific. You will need to explain how you're gonna use the music, what is the film about and other stuff.

For some other publishers (for exemple EMI) you need to contact them directly by email or phone.

Why get them? 

When you aim at having your film in festival, it is mandatory . If your aiming at showing it to your mum, at a wedding or to a small youtube audience, you should ask for them, obviously, but it's probably not worth the time and energy  you and they'll spend.

The reason why I'm getting them is because my friends are spending time making covers and I want to be sure to be able to use them.


Usually producers deal with the music rights and I thing that a bit of négociation is involved. I contacted a few publisher and I haven't heard from them yet (Xmas brake I think) I hope the price they'll ask me for will be reasonable, that is between 0 and 50 dollars, but until they contact me, I have no idea what's gonna happen... STRESSFUL!

we'll see.


28. 3 minutes 12 seconds

I just finished a 92 frames shot, it took me 4 days... But the good news is that it means that I have finished the animation of 4 sequences (out of 15...) That's 3minutes12 seconds animated... 6 and half to go. Fun times!


the left column is green when I've shot the live action. The right column is green when the shot is roto and shaded, and orange if it's only roto.


16. And the Winner is...

Rosa Willcox

Well done to everyone that participated, and got it right

The answer was a Night Sky but Inverted.

You can always buy the book here to help me add more production days, and actually let me finish the film.

Here is the Sky, inverted this time:


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5. Animatic

I managed to finish the animatic first draft, It's a very rough cut since I don't have the final tracks. The great news is that Mooe started working on here cover, and that I'm off for a week in berlin to meet up with the Dead Pirates.

We'll be able to talk about the sound tracks. And party and get drunk. The usual.

So not much work will be done this week. I started a "Rotoscopy device" that I'll share with you later, along with some animation test.

To give you a bit of a tease, here's the first few minutes of the animatic. The song is "One" by Harry Nilsson. It will be cover by Mooe.


[vimeo 42797229 w=500 h=281]

4. Design and References

I'm quite happy with last week progress, I finished editing the first half of the animatic. It's already 6min30. I will probably need to cut it down a bit. I am planing to have a full animatic by wednesday night. I edited with a lot of attention to sound. I think sound is a really good way of getting the film rhythm going, not only for the audience, but for future animation.

Let's say the character crosses the screen walking. I only drew two poses. To time how many seconds each picture should be on-screen would require quite a complex mix of stop watch and imagination. On the other hand, if I find a sound (or record it) that matches the right speed of the guy walking, then all I need to choose is the amount of steps. I can just stick the two pictures on that timing, giving a greater impression of a guy walking. You can see what I mean in last week post, with the match or the drinking, the sound plays the biggest part in timing and understanding.

I'm using http://www.freesound.org/ the amount of sounds available is incredible! It's also the first result in google...

I don't want to spoil the final film by showing to much of the plot so I won't post the whole animatic. You will be able to access it when you buy the book. But I want people to choose the amount of Work In Progress they see.

I thought a bit of Design and References would help getting in the film's mood, plus there is some great short film in there, which can be very useful on a Monday morning .

You can see them Here if the window below doesn't work.

You need to click the full screen button to be able to access the video references.

[googleapps domain="docs" dir="present/embed" query="id=d69mg2d_6gx898mgt&size=m" width="555" height="451" /]

3. First Shots

Week two is finished and I am already late on the planing! Mainly due to the excitement of receiving, signing, packing and posting the books. Greatly due to the promotion tour of the book which involved a lot of celebration beers!

Never the less I've changed my approche to the animatic. I was originally going to draw one drawing per shot, edit and then, later, add extra drawings to make actions clearer. I don't think it would have worked. Instead I've drawn all the key action from the begining.  I have storyboarded a bit more than half the film.

I did that in order to edit only once and to not have to spend an entire week on the computer. I will share the day between computer (scanning cleaning of  the storyboard, after effect "Animation" and editing) and hand drawing.

I've edited a small sequence to give you an idea of what I am aiming for. Music is a cover of soft cell's Tainted Love by Ben Franklin JR, who will be the voice of the main character, Jimmy.

Watch On Vimeo

[vimeo 42550983 w=500 h=281]

2. Shots ContactSheet

Big day today! I received the books! It took me a while to make them, I'm really relived as they turned out AWESOME, a bit more info here: BUY A BOOK. So here is what I've done last week, I cut the whole film into sequences and shots. Then I drew thumbnails  so they could be quickly defined. Those thumbnails are purely technical helps, and certainly not piece of art! You can judge by your self:


The next step will be to work on the composition and feeling of each shot. I also need to start selecting sounds and songs for the animatic. Record some as well. 

This way by next monday I should have a first draft of the animatic. 

A Few words on how I worked:

I have been using free and cloud based tools. This way data is safe and accessible from everywhere.

So far I used Google Docs to creat spreadsheets for the over all organisation of shots and sequences.

I used DropBox to edit thumbnails and drawings everywhere.

And the big one is CELTX, which I highly recommend. It's FREE and makes your script available on every  device. The script corrections are so easy to do, you can move scenes around, colour code them, and the whole formating is completely automatique. Once you're happy with the script, you can turn it into a storyboard in one click. After that, You just need to load the thumbnails. You can even play it. It gives you a very badly edited animatic, but it's incredibly useful to check framings extremely quickly!

One last thing I'd like to mention is the shot/sequence organisation.

Since I don't have an edit yet, I needed a reliable naming convention for scene and shots. I decided to gather shots by location (i.e. Ranch) and call that a sequence, giving it two letters (RA for Ranch). After that each shot has a number as follows: 01_00. This allow me to add new shot numbers really easily, without renaming other shots. (i.e: RA_01_01). This naming convention makes the shots not tight to the scene numbers in the script or in the edit, meaning more flexibility.

1. Day one, Week zero

Ok this is it. Today starts the making of Deadman's Reach, my short film. Where do I start? How to not Procrastinate?

I have six month to direct and animate a 13 pages scenario I wrote this summer,

meaning that I should have a finish film by the 7th of october.

Here are my goals:

* Finish the short film animation and backgrounds before I run out of money.  (Sound can be finalised a bit after that)

* Animation Backgrounds quality should be so that, at the end of the project, I can use them to have an exhibition.

* Finance the film by selling my Deadman's Reach Book, more on this to come, Here 

*  Get all the song covers and rights that I need.

* Update this blog EVERY monday.

* Use the computer as little as possible

I have started a small planning, so far it goes like this:

20 days of animatic, sound and planning:

At the end of those 20 days i should have an animatic so close to the finish film, that you should wonder if I really need to animate it.

For those who don't know anything about animation, an animatic is a rough version of the film, like a draft. So much energy is needed in production, that the animatic allows to focus this energy.

50 Days of Backgrounds:

I need the film to have only 50 backgrounds (or less), during those 50 days I will be doing one background a day or more. I will also start planning the final animation.

50 days of animation:

Those 50 days will overlap backgrounds obviously. I have very few experience in 2D animation, I'm planning to develop a simple technique that will allow me to animate fast and efficiently by using a mix of pixelisation and rotoscopy. We'll see how this turns out!

That's a lot of info for day one!


So this week I will be cutting my script into scenes and thumbnail so I get it into the 50 backgrounds allowed. And getting it ready for storyboarding.

preparing my edit tools, time lines, sounds etc... Starting dealing with production side of thing, music write, finance, paper buying etc... 


My friend Vincent Aupetit already had a go at storyboarding the whole film, talented chap. Here's a little sneak pick: