It’s Episode Two!

It’s been over a year in the making, but Episode Two of my planned decade-spanning animated time travel web series “Time Travellin'” is finally finished. Take a look at “A Common Misconception”

I learned a lot about animation by doing this, and I’m hoping the next one comes a little quicker. But if I keep getting all this paid work, it’s going to take forever.

Another Kind of 3D


I still haven’t shot a roll of 16mm on my Bolex Stereo system, but halfway through the (excellent) Toy Story 3D double feature yesterday I realized that I could retrofit my animation project for 3D. I spent today rendering left and right eye versions of the episode that I made almost a year ago. Unfortunately there’s no good way to distribute 3D video online, so we’re stuck with the old anaglyph nightmare. Back when I bought my linear-polarizing glasses for the Bolex Stereo system, I was sent a pair of Dr. Jacoby-style Red/Blue glasses by accident, which has come in handy today. If you happen to have some red/blue glasses, check out Time Travellin’ Episode 1: Robot Overlords (3D version) on YouTube. I recommend using the “Red/Cyan Glasses: Optimized (Dubois)” setting rather than the full color version. It makes things a little easier on the eyes.


Monetized HD Video Online

I just finished Time Travellin’ Episode One: “Robot Overlords”, my first new movie in a very long time. It’s also my first HD movie. I’ve edited a lot of stuff in HD over the past year or two, but nothing of my own. For the past few days I’ve been spreading the movie around the multitude of online video sites. My favorite is still Vimeo, because they have the best picture quality. But thanks to the limited amount of movement in each frame, this photo animation technique lends itself extremely well to video compression, so it looks pretty good even on YouTube (in “high quality” mode). But Vimeo doesn’t have any revenue sharing options. Call me crazy, but I’d like to make some money on my films. Vuze worked very well for me with Two Night Stand, but that was a kind of lucky fluke that I don’t plan on repeating. Of course I still uploaded it there, but the problem with Vuze is that it’s not something you can just embed in your website. You can embed a teaser clip, but in order to see the whole thing you have to download it in the Vuze client.

To download the full version visit

Obviously the reason they can afford to host HD video is that they’re using the Bittorrent network to share the bandwidth load. If Vuze switched to a web-based video distribution system they’d lose a lot of money on bandwidth costs and might not be so eager to share revenue with content creators.

I made a stand-alone website for this photoanimation technique and I had to choose one site to embed the videos with. I started with Revver, because I’ve earned about $120 from them in the past, and they have pretty good video quality. But all of that money came in a long time ago, and I’m not sure the drop-off has anything to do with the amount of traffic I’m getting. I feel like the quality of the advertising has changed, and fewer people are interested in clicking on the ads they’re showing.

I had a little experience with before, but I hadn’t paid much attention to it. I uploaded the new movie there, and I was really impressed. There are a lot of advertising options, the video quality is very good, and there are many, many customization options. I still don’t quite understand everything I can do, but I’m learning. There seems to be an option to upload your own encoded flash video, which I tried, but it wouldn’t load. I’m going to look into that more. But it also seems that they’re not resizing videos when they do the encode. I uploaded a 1280×720 H.264 QuickTime file and the flash file is still 1280×720. The bitrate is variable and hovers around 700 kb/s which seems good enough. I haven’t had enough traffic on blip to get any money yet, so I’ll report back on how that goes.

In other money-making news, I finally applied to be a YouTube “partner” so I could get ads shown next to my YouTube videos. I’m still getting 1,000 daily views on Two Night Stand there, so I’m hoping that brings in a little cash. I won’t get any reports from them for 60 days though, so it’s a mystery what kind of money that will bring in. I hadn’t applied before because they ask you how many videos you plan to post in the next month and I figured I wouldn’t qualify because I didn’t upload frequently enough. But I went for it, and they very quickly appoved the application. I’d say anyone holding off on applying should do it ASAP. What I love so far is the ability they give to brand your channel and video. I added logos for my main channel, and the 15framespersecond channel The scariest thing so far: you have to individually submit each video to turn on revenue sharing, and if it isn’t approved it will be removed from YouTube. I’ve enabled ads on all my videos except the 2.5-million-view Bad Webcam Sex video. I’m afraid they’ll think it’s dirty, even though it is very, very not dirty. The “high quality” YouTube videos are actually pretty good now, and it’s a long way from the old days when everything was blurry and four frames out of sync. And you can’t beat those traffic numbers. A few million views is nothing on YouTube, which is crazy.

Animation Approaches

I’ve made some big steps on my photo animation project in the past week or so. Today I finished lip-syncing all of Jennie’s dialogue, which constitutes the majority of the first episode, and I was able to copy the keyframes from the forward facing model to the 3/4 profile model without any trouble, which is very exciting to me because I don’t have to re-do all that work. The great thing I’m seeing in all this is that the default mode of these characters is a blank face, which is exactly the kind of thing I love to see in an actor. It makes the line readings seem that much more dry and odd. Of course, odd is the default for this whole thing. It’s really quite weird looking. And it’s the kind of detail work that makes my eyes tired at the end of the day.

I also used Photoshop’s Photomerge tool for the first time in order to create the background for the episode. I’m going to set it in a supermarket, so I went to my local Key Food and fired up my digital still camera. I put the drive mode on continuous shooting and pushed it down the aisle on a shopping cart. Then I had Photoshop figure out how to stick all the photos together automatically. It looks terrific, although it’s not particularly sharp thanks to a slightly long shutter speed. Luckily it’s a background so it can be out of focus a little.

Lip Sync

I made a lot of progress on my animation project recently. The biggest breakthrough came from Aharon Rabinowitz’s tutorial on Lip-Syncing for Character Animation over at Creative Cow. I highly recommend it. I’m using his time remap method for lip sync and eye movement. It’s really helped me understand how this project can be done as quickly as I had originally hoped. I should be able to create a whole scene from multiple angles and only do the lip sync once. I’ll just use the same frames for each mouth position for every angle (straight-on, profile, etc) and copy and paste keyframes to each one.

Here’s my first test. It’s a line of dialog from the first episode. I did an arbitrary camera move and put Jennie in front of a background so I can start figuring out how those things work. I finally figured out that increasing the aperture size of an After Effects camera is a quick way to ensure the low depth of field I was looking for.

[qt: 500 297]

Watch it in HD at Vimeo

There’s definitely an Uncanny Valley effect going on here. Since it’s so close to looking like a real person, I think it is guaranteed to look a little creepy no matter what I do. But I’m going to work with that, not against it.