Friday, March 30, 2012

The Lowdown on UG3

Ultra Galactic Gung-Ho Gurus 
Episode One: 
Ready, Set, Launch!

No, that isn't the synopsis. That is the title. Here's the synopsis:

An interplanetary team of reporters called the Ultra Galactic Gung-Ho Gurus, or UG3, are on their way to cover the hottest story in the galaxy – The Premier of a new flavor from the Spewberry Soda Corporation. In route, bungling occurs and the team is stranded in orbit around a planet they’ve never heard of – Earth. Rather than rescue the hapless reporters, the studio executives order the UG3 to investigate this planet and report on it instead. Soon a surprising fact is uncovered – Earthlings are on the cusp of being fully fledged space explorers. Pulling from the Earthlings’ history, science, literature and art the UG3 compile a story that spans thousands of years and attempts to chronicle how humans are finally able to break the bonds of gravity and begin their adventure into space. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Animated Students

As an educator I can’t imagine any better feeling than what hits you that moment when you see the light come on for a student. Usually that flash is signaled by widening eyes or a gradual smile or even outright laughter.  Friday I had the joy of seeing that connection being made a few hundred times over. Pates Creek Elementary School in Henry County has an annual Fine Arts Day where artists and performers are brought in to share their craft with the students of the school. I was asked to talk about the art of animation.

In several thirty minute sessions I spoke to students from Kindergarten through 5th grade. Each time I gave a brief explanation of how animation works – showing examples from the film. Then, we’d have just enough time to create a short piece of animation on the spot. I usually got a student from the group to help with a form of Stop-Motion called Pixilation – which is animating a human one frame at a time. Below are a few of the Pixilations we created.  Each is only a few seconds long so please take the time to view each one.

I want to congratulate the faculty, staff and students of Pates Creek. The whole day was a real joy, filled with intelligent questions, and great reactions. I also got to speak to a couple of young filmmakers. Two boys named Ben Peters and Aaron Page had already created some stop-motion animation and came back at the end of my last session to talk. They were so excited about their work that they had a parent burn a DVD of their short film and bring it to the school so they could share it with me. It was a 5 minute epic entitled “The Trojan War Lego Reenactment”. It is fantastic. It has action, humor and Legos. What more could you want in a film. They had submitted the film to the Media Festival and won in the county. It is currently under review by the State judges. I wish these guys and their wildly creative film the best of luck, and hope to see big things from them in the future.

Finally, I have to say thanks to Cheryl Newsted and Marcia Davis, the Fine Arts teachers who hosted the event. They are a credit to their field. Even though arts budgets are shrinking every year, these dedicated educators manage to bring this vital program to their school and do it with excellence.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Belly Button of The World - Youtube Channel

This was posted many months back. I'm reposting it here because it is now on our new Youtube Channel - where I'll be posting further video updates and linking them here and on Facebook.

It is a short we did in about 6 weeks (part-time hours) to test out the animation and compositing techniques as well as the writing and character development.

If you socialize on Youtube and you like the video help spread the word.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Kids Say The Darndest Things

I recently had the pleasure (and pressure) of screening our film in front of over 150 very sharp 8-11 year olds By showing the unfinished version of UG3 to this target focus group, we were able to gain important insights into what is working and what we need to improve. The most amazing thing about these kids was the maturity with which they approached the whole experience . Right now the film is in animatic form. There is some finished animation along with segments of composited footage, but the majority of the 30 minute film is an assortment of rough to polished storyboards sequenced to a working soundtrack.  But the students took all of that in stride and gave in to the humor of the characters and content that engaged them. They were a great audience.

The focus groups came about through the help of five incredible SAGE teachers here in Henry County. Cindy Carmack of Rock Spring Elementary; Cindy Fuqua of Red Oak Elementary; Diane Harris of Luella Elementary; Lisa Henriquez of Flippen Elementary and Paula Whipple of Mt. Carmel Elementary arranged for me to come to their classes as a guest speaker. It worked out because they were doing a segment on Space Exploration which happens to be the subject of UG3. I spoke about film making, introduced the characters of the film, showed some of the puppets, stop-motion models, artwork and some finished shorts based on the cast of the longer film. Then we watched the film-in-progress.

After the audience asked questions they took time to fill out an extensive questionnaire .And they were honest, which is what I’d hoped for and dreaded. What came out of that was insight into a few weaknesses that we’ve worked on changing. But there was also a huge amount of encouragement when I saw what they were most enthusiastic about.  The best thing for me (as any filmmaker can attest to) was sitting in a room full of people and hearing them respond to something that you’ve worked so hard on and believed in.  So I must say again to Ms. Carmack, Ms. Fuqua, Ms. Harris, Ms. Henriquez and Ms. Whipple thank you very much for this chance to share with your students.

The goal is to finish as much of the animation by the end of the school year to go back and present a more polished version of UG3 to the same classes and let them experience a little more of the art of film making.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Going Public With My Love Affair, Or…

…UG3 Has Its Own Facebook Page.

You don’t make animation, especially animated films, especially animated educational films to get rich. No, you do it because you’re crazy or in love with it. I’ll admit to being a little bit of both, but it’s mostly the love part that has motivated the stuff you find in this production blog.

Now is time to go more public with that love. We’re starting a Facebook Page for UG3 in order to gear up for the impending completion of the film in the next few months. We hope the page will be a place for friends, family and anyone else interested in our work to connect with us and each other. It is my hope as an educator that the Facebook page will also be a place to discuss and share ideas about a passion I’ve indulged since I was a teenager – that is, using the powerful techniques of entertainment to engage students in education.

I ask that if you are a teacher, parent or anyone else with a vested interest in effective education (which should be everyone) to go to the Ultra Galactic Gung-Ho Gurus Facebook Page located here, and simply click “Like”. And if you feel strongly enough, spread the work by posting to your own wall and encourage others to “Like” us too.

The updates will be frequent so there will be plenty to come back often for. There will be interesting, thought provoking questions; examples of art, animation and footage from the film; and even contests. So here’s to a beautiful, very public relationship.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New Character Pose - Thunderstone

This is the last of the Poster/promotional poses for each of the crew. To see the others scroll down to previous posts. This, of course, is the Supreme Host of the Show - Thunderstone.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Aliens In the Hatchback

Just loaded up the crew to head up to Tennessee for another shoot. We'll be doing some promotional stuff over the next few days. I just hope no one rear-ends the Highlander.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

New Character Pose - Fang

I'm gradually posting new poses of the characters. These are done for promotional purposes like posters, etc. Here's Fang.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sunday, March 4, 2012

New Character Pose - Bleeph

I'm currently working on some promotional materials for the film and have designed character poses of each of the UG3 crew members. This is Bleeph's pose created entirely in Flash.