Project 4, Part B

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for the grand finale.  This is the officially the last project I have to post for CAT-111.  I have spent the last seven weeks with you, and I have learned much.  I enjoyed working with all of you.  Through the best and the worst, you people were great.  But now comes the end.  To me, it is bittersweet.  Yes the class is ending, but I wish that I had time to learn more.  Anyway, you have waited patiently.  This is your reward.

(zip file)

(sketches 1, 2, 3)

(Sketchup file)

(animation)

Now to explain.  My original idea (see my Project 4, Part A post from last week) was to create a linear story involving our hero, the Lego minifigure “Johnny Thunder”.  When it came time to start part B, I wanted to tweak the story a bit.  Based on input from others, I weeded out a few images and streamlined the story.  For example, the narrative originally ended with Johnny playing Halo, but I decided to cut that part out since it did not match up very well with the rest of the plot.  The plot, now that I mention it, is actually quite simple.  It follows Johnny as he wakes up, and proceeds to deal with the daily perils of being a Lego, which include wacky computer problems, and calling MacMedics to resolve them.  I can definitely relate, as my computer crashed several times just trying to create my 3D environment in Sketchup.  I found out the hard way that 2008 Macbooks do not really like the sandbox tools all that much.  The environment itself consists of a house, modeled after my own, and the animation I created moves from picture to picture, to tell the story of how our hero got through the day.  Simple enough.  I know it is not perfect, but I like it, and it was the best that I could do for the time being.  The animation is a bit rough (I could not help some of the wall clipping issues, being a confined space, and drawing a path to use as a smooth rail system for the camera was a nightmare), and I had to balance quality with file size when I exported it, but again, I did not have much choice.  With all the crazy things my computer did, I should consider myself lucky that it works at all.

Anyway, I hope you still enjoy it, and I hope you I was not too annoying to work with.  I guess I should take a cue from Johnny here and relax.

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Per audacia ad astra, friends.

“Retreat? HELL!  We just got here…”

Project 4, Part A

Hello, me again.  This week’s project was not unlike the last, except that instead of remixing stock footage and sound, we were making narratives from scratch, and using our own photos too.  I decided to take a break from the recent military theme for this one and focus on something else.  This was easier said than done, seeing as how I have been obsessed with all things military related since I was five.  Anyway, for this project, I decided to chronicle an average day in the life of me, through my (Lego) avatar, Johnny Thunder.  Context is probably needed for you to understand this one, but first, here are the images from my storyboard (in chronological order).

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Now for some explanations.  The narrative, which I kept in a short, “screenplay” format, is as follows.

“Johnny Thunder’s life is something of an oddity.  Being a Lego, especially one enrolled in college, you can expect his life to be fraught with peril, or at the very least, inconveniences.  When Johnny wakes up, it is usually not because he has to, but because he was crazy enough to set his alarm for 7:00 AM, even though he went to bed at midnight and does not have to be at work until 4:00 in the afternoon.  When he eats breakfast, it is not because he is hungry, but because if he is up, then he might as well get it over with.  Of course, after eating, the next logical thing to do is to brush your teeth and get ready for the day, even if it is early and you have many hours to do relatively little.  Johnny does not really know why he does this, except for this nagging suspicion that any problems could take a while to fix.  Therefore, it is usually best to leave room for error, even if doing so is usually unnecessary.  He walks back to his room (picking up his hat along the way) and checks his schedule.  Yikes!  There is more to do today than he remembered.  Next, it is off to his trusty Macbook, to look at the guidelines for project 4.  Suddenly, his suspicions are justified as the “trusty” computer crashes.  Johnny is quick to call Apple, but his 2008 model computer is no longer supported by tech support (who are also confused as to how a Mac managed to get a windows error).  So he phones the only place that will listen: MacMedics.  Before our hero has even put the phone down, a repairman arrives at the door.  There is good and bad news.  The computer can be fixed, but it will take several hours, leaving him without a computer to do his assignments.  The time ticks by, and with it, the tension grows.  What if it cannot be fixed, or cannot be fixed in time?  Suddenly, the repairman calls Johnny.  The repair was simple, and he is able to get back to work.  He even manages to complete his assignments in time to play a quick game of Halo before he goes to work.  Johnny knew there was a reason he got up at 7:00.  It was crazy, but it worked like he planned.   Now he just needs to stop worrying.”  (Taken from a word document).

The story, in a nutshell, is that despite the fact that setting his alarm for seven will probably be unnecessary, one can never be sure, and delays can cost precious time.  It is an analogy to an average day in my shoes.  For example, the plot takes inspiration from the many, many computer glitches and problems that I have had to have fixed in the last few years, and how they always tend to happen at the worst possible moment. Fortunately, MacMedics have been great, though I do not know if it is good or bad that they now know me by my first name.

By the way, the Windows error message is for comedy, and because it never fails that every time something goes wrong, it is usually some obscure glitch or bug that leaves computer techs scratching their heads.

Murphy’s law is a pain.

On a side note, “Johnny Thunder” is not a name I came up with.  It is the actual name of the lego mini-figure that serves as my main character.  Way back in the 90’s, before Lego had signed a deal with Steven Spielberg and got the rights to make Indiana Jones products, they had a knock-off brand called Johnny Thunder Adventures.  By the time I was six, I had just about every set in the series.  It was awesome.  I still have them packed away, and when this project came up, I thought it would be great to dig out the old Lego bin to see what I could come up with.

I am not too old for Legos, and neither are you.

Project 3, Part B

It is done.  The objective has been taken, and no casualties have been reported.  I repeat, Part Bravo is finished.

Hello again, sorry for the military jargon, I could not resist, especially considering what this whole project is about.  You may have read my last post about part A, but if not, here is the sitrep.  This project is a PSA, designed in the spirit and style of the Cold War.  The inspiration I took for this project comes from many places.  The “Red Scare” era, Red Dawn, even the Department of Defense, gave me ideas as to how to make it look and sound authentic to the period.  But the biggest inspiration was Fallout, by Bethesda Games.  The studio’s use of dark humor was my greatest inspiration, and shaped much of the project.  Personally, I loved how they managed to be so cynical, as it really shows (albeit, in a highly exaggerated form) what really went on behind the scenes during the “Red Scare”.  I tried to apply their concepts to my film, and I think it turned out quite well.

Here are a few screenshots to get you pumped up.

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And here is the link to my Dropbox, so that you can actually view the film, along with a zip file link too, in case you are unable to view the movie directly.

The material used was free and completely available for use by the public.  The footage is as follows: The Big Picture: Armored Warfare, USAF Tactical Firepower, Operation Desert Strike, Footage from Operation: Grable, and Operation: Upshot-Knothole.

Yes, making you wait until you read all the way down was intentional, because I love messing with people.

Also, again, I have absolutely nothing against the military.  This is just a satire of the “Red Scare”.

Per audacia ad astra.

Project 3, Part A

Hello again.  This week’s project was a bit more my speed.  All we had to do was find free footage, and write a storyboard for a short film that would use said footage.  Now, I am not bragging or anything, but I do have the advantage of having experience in this area.  Back in the day (and by that I mean “two years ago”), my friend Chris and I decided it would be a good idea to write a summary of what the (sadly) now-defunct Halo movie should be like.  Three months later, we had a 60-page screenplay on our hands.  Our project (again, sadly) went bust last year when we found that nobody wanted our screenplay, but when Project 3 came up for CAT-111, I tried to channel some of those skills I learned, and I kind of like how it turned out.

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An explanation is in order now.  The inspiration for this storyboard came from two places: Some from the movie Red Dawn, but most of my ideas originated from the Fallout video games.  For those that have never played them, the Fallout series takes a dark, yet humorous look at the “atomic age” of the 1950’s, creating a world that is accurate to what we thought the future would look like back then.  I tried to capture as much of that in this project as I could (just read the voiceover at the end about how you are encouraged to use nuclear weapons on our own soil).  The main character is you, presumably a new recruit in the US Army, and follows ‘you’ as you overcome various combat scenarios.  The whole thing is completely satirical, mostly consisting of dark humor.  I want to make it clear that I have nothing against the US Military.  I respect them more than you could possibly imagine.  This is just a parody of the 1950’s era “red scare”.  Most of the final editing will be worked out in Adobe Premiere, though I did include a rough idea of what techniques to use and when.  Most editing will consist of wipe-cuts (accurate to the period), alongside basic jump-cuts, to speed up the rhythm.  Moreover, I am considering many scenes to be montages, using matches on action to connect actions from clip-to-clip (in other words, trying to match stock footage from one source with footage from another in such a way that the viewer might think they are from the same scene). Much of the footage is stock, or taken from real (free) Department of Defense videos, such as USAF Tactical Firepower, and the pentagon series The Big Picture.  The voiceover, mentioned in the storyboard, will be recorded by me, along with any sound effects I am not able to get from the footage.  Timing of the clips will be dictated by the length of the voiceover, which will obviously have to match-up with the actions in the clips (the times listed on the storyboard are not finalized).  Music will be taken from The Big Picture as well as USAF Tactical Firepower.  I am considering other music for use during the scenes, but I am not sure if that would drown out any of the sound effects or the voiceover, so I will experiment to see what sounds best.  Lastly, this storyboard is just a rough draft, the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.  The next step is putting my ideas to work in Adobe Premiere.

Note: The only images shown are from those from Project 3, Part A for CAT-111.  The Halo screenplay is not related to school at all, so it was not posted.  I just wanted to clear up any confusion.  Also, if you are having trouble reading the storyboard, just click on the images, you should be able to zoom in.

Let me know what you think.  Constructive criticism is welcome.

 

Per audacia ad astra.

Project 2, Part B

Here it is, the result of several days worth of crash courses in how to use Adobe Illustrator.  Yes, I am talking about part “Bravo” of our 2nd project.  I think it turned out well (though that is my opinion.  Yours may vary), and much like part “Alpha”, I really do not want to mess with it any more, for exactly the reason listed last week.  I know it sounds lazy, but I really do not want to mess it up, and I think trying to re-work the picture now would just make it worse, rather than better. The jpg of the finished product is shown below.  Also, if you want the Adobe Illustrator file (which I could not post directly to WordPress), here is a zip file containing both the jpg and the Adobe-specific “ai” file, for use in Illustrator.  I would appreciate it if you reviewed both.  Enjoy.

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In case you are wondering, these pictures below are the original scans that I based part B on.

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When I drew part A, I tried to go for variety (though balance and unity still applied), which was easier said than done, since there are only so many ways to draw a stapler, and most of my attempts at drawing it from other angles just did not turn out the way I intended.  I also found that experimenting with the negative and positive space was interesting, but time consuming, and more difficult than I originally thought.  The stapler was mostly non-symmetric, which was both good and bad, but allowed me to experiment with other concepts.  When I started part B, I still wanted variety, though that would be a challenge because now, I was having a hard time choosing which three scans I liked most.  The ones I eventually drew over (above) in illustrator were the three that, in my opinion, would give the finished product the most variations between designs.  I tried to stay as true to the original scans as I possibly could, while improving them too.  The lines are straighter and more precise, and the dimensions are much more even than they were before.  When I had just started drawing in illustrator however, I decided to experiment yet again, but found that the designs were probably fine the way they were, so I left them that way.  That was probably a good decision, since simplicity is sometimes better, though I used the experience to learn more about how to use Adobe Illustrator.  Anyway this is it.  I have learned much about Illustrator, and I now see how useful it really is.  You can read the full story of part A in last weeks blog post.  Also, if you were wondering what pictures did not make the cut, wonder no more.

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They will be missed.  If you would like to leave comments or constructive criticism, please do so in the comments unless you are enrolled in CAT-111, in which case, please try to leave your comments in the critique for project 2.  Thank you.  I look forward to seeing everyone else’s posts!

Per audacia ad astra.

Project 2, Part A

Hello again.  The last time you read my post, I was still learning the ropes.  It’s funny how time flies.  Anyway, My project (part A) is finished, and I just emailed it to the instructor.  Even though now I must bear the pain of suspense, it is still a great weight lifted off my shoulders, for no matter how suspenseful waiting for feedback will be, it still pales in comparison to what I went through to send it in.  It all started well.  I created a few rough sketches (of a stapler), and before I knew it, I was creating pencil and sharpie abstractions left and right.  It took some getting used to.  My first attempts were less than successful, but I quickly got the hang of things.  Then came time to scan them.  Now, my Mac does not like my printer for some reason, probably because the printer is made by Epson, and Epson printers generally tend to do anything but work well with Macs (at least, according to my past experiences).  That would have been no big deal, since I do have access to another computer (a PC).  The only catch is that this particular PC happens be on its last legs.  I had no choice but to use that one, and it really had seen better days.  Despite all the technical difficulties, I marched on.  It was a chore to get the old PC working again, but it managed to pull off a miracle.  Photoshop worked beautifully, as referenced by these pictures.

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Now, couple of things to know.  First, ignore the texture of the paper.  The printer worked a bit too well today.  Also, these are “finalized”, meaning that I already cropped them, changed the resolution to 150, set the quality to 12, and changed the contrast, which is why they appear so clean.  Also, I have no idea how well photoshop worked, as there appears to have been a glitch with the picture size, even though I followed all the steps listed in the lesson on scanning.  I let the teacher know this when I submitted them.  And, if you happen to be wondering what the originals look like, here they they are.

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The original concepts of the stapler above.

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I also ended up re-drawing some of them.

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Now, all that remains is to explain myself.  When I chose the stapler to draw, I must admit that it was a bit random. However, the principles of balance, unity, and variety still applied.  It was difficult to get all three, but I opted not to use other angles of the stapler because I did not like the way they turned out (the only exception was the last drawing that you see directly above, which is of the front part of the stapler.  I decided to have some fun with the negative and positive space, but quickly found that was easier said than done.  Nonetheless, I am proud of how they turned out, even if variety was a bit difficult.  Also, the stapler was mostly non-symmetric, which was both a blessing and a curse.  Personally, I think they ended up with a little bit of an art-deco look, and I do not want to mess with them any more because I am afraid I will screw them up.  As said above, I am proud of how they turned out.  Also, any advice or help for part B would be appreciated.

So, I guess this is where I leave you.  One more thing (to my teacher): I do not know if you got all of the original pictures listed here, so I posted them all, just in case.

Per audacia ad astra.

Feet first

Hi, my name is Zachary Holtzman and this is my first post for CAT-111 at AACC!  Because this is the first time I have ever posted to a blog, I will keep it simple.  First, a little about me.  I started at AACC last year when I turned 18 (College was my 18th birthday present.  Hooray for me…) and it has been a learning experience in more ways than one.  I am currently studying Communication Arts Technology.  My hope is to transfer to a four-year school, where I plan to major in Interdisciplinary Studies, then go on to get a Masters degree.  My goal and dream job are one and the same.

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Bungie Studios, that wacky game developer team from Seattle that you just cannot help but love.  Bungie’s origins are humble, and I can definitely relate (It all started with two grad students who turned to each other one day in 1991 and said “What if we made video games?”).  They have a laid back attitude, and only care about making games that they like, regardless of what anyone else thinks and much to the chagrin of their (former) publisher Microsoft.  It would be an honor to work at a company like this, especially since independent game developers like Bungie are a dying breed, giving the industry one last “Hurrah”.  But anyhow, that is a bit far off at the moment.  Game writing is my dream job regardless.  To clarify, I do not mean sitting at a computer all day writing code.  What I am talking about, is storyboarding, writing scripts for characters, coming up with a ‘universe’ for the game (a universe refers to all of the things that happen behind the scenes in a particular game.  Similar to a backstory, but expanded enough to hopefully explain everything).  However, game writing also requires a good grasp on art concepts, since half the process is usually figuring out what certain characters, environments, vehicles, etc, will look like.  This means, at the very least, rough sketches, and at most, actually rendering the object on a computer.  The skills I hope to learn at AACC, especially CAT-111, will most certainly apply.  A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  College, AACC, and CAT-111 are my first step.  “Feet first into hell” as Bungie would say.  Per audacia ad astra (“Through boldness to the stars”). I’ll see you there friends.

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