|CBC Maple Shorts Contest
Me & Max Submission Journal
|Here's my work journal with all the inherent "Joys and Frustrations". I wrote this all throughout the production of the project to give you a little sense of what it was like working on this short film.
The Final Film was aired on April 20th, 2005 at 4:30 pm on CBC's Maple Shorts contest. There were 5 other short films also shown during this airing. The idea is that viewers are to vote online for their favorite show. The winner of the contest will have their concept turned into a pilot episode.
Back in the summer of 2004 when the teaching load at Seneca College was a bit easier, I spent my off time beginning to develop a new short film using my characters: Me & Max. I figured after coming in 3rd in the Animation Magazine's "Pitch Party" I should put together a short pilot show and see if I could do anything with it.
I came up with a short story and started drawing up some rough concept designs. The story involved Max and the dog fighting a dragon which was transformed from the furnace in the basement.
I modeled up the basement location in Maya and then drew some poses to match with a few key shots just to see how they worked together. The results were kinda neat considering I had forgotten a lot of the stuff I learned back in the summer of 2002 on "It's Alive".
The old saying, "Use it or loose it" began to ring quite true. I only had 2 textures - brick and wood to play with and I couldn't be bothered with hunting down any more... (I'm so lazy that way).
I took a weekend and built a maquette of the furnace/dragon out of any old thing I could find lying around in the basement. My kids helped me paint it up but I was constantly on them about being neat and not slopping the paint all over the place.
I began drawing the rough storyboards then went back and did the cleaned up boards and put them together with the Maya BG's.
During this part of the process I still didn't really know how to treat the Backgrounds during the imagination sequences. I was thinking that they should be drawn very child-like with crayons, so I did up some more concept designs. Then it turns out my kids are watching t.v. on Saturday morning and this show called "Chalk Zone" has a very similar style to the BG's. That really bummed me out. Then I thought of having everything look like it's cut-out animation but doing it mostly in the computer as 3D images. I was talking to one of my fellow instructors at Seneca College who is the coordinator of the Gaming program about the idea and he says, "Oh, you mean like in that film, "Flat World". I hadn't seen it yet, so he gets a copy of it and shows it to me. "D'oh!! That's exactly what I had in mind... CRAP!" So now I'm really bummed out.
Then I thought about just doing the characters in 3D during the imagination sequence and worrying about the BG's later. So, I went into Maya and started the modelling of the Dragon just for fun.
On August 24th, my dad calls me up on the phone and tells me about this contest that he saw advertised on CBC television called "Maple Shorts". It's for people to create a short animated cartoon which will be shown on t.v. and then the viewers vote for their favorite cartoon. The winner gets to have their idea made into a pilot cartoon. Wow! That sounds great. I can use the Me & Max idea for it! Then he says, the deadline is September 19th. EEEYIKES! Thats less than 4 weeks from now, there's no way I can get this done in that time.
I spent the rest of the evening mulling the prospect over, going back and forth over the pros and cons. Finally at 11:00 that night I decided to go for it, but I'd have to write a new story and make it short enough that I could complete it in the 25 days I had left. I went to their website and checked over all the rules. One of the stipulations was that it needed to be finished in "Flash". This put a new wrinkle into the mix as I have never worked in Flash before. I took a weekend course in "Director" about 10 years ago and knew that it was fairly similar in principle. How hard could it be?
I spent the next 30 minutes writing out a script for the new story. The running time was about 1 minute and 40 seconds on a dry read. The next hour was spent drafting a work schedule. On paper, it seemed possible if everything went o.k. Then I went to bed.
Day 25 (Weds Aug 25th / 04) Next morning I let my wife know what I was up to and she was very supportive (as she usually is). The morning was taken up with rough storyboarding and the afternoon was scanning and making the rough story reel in Premier.
Day 24 (Thurs Aug 26th / 04) The next day the kids saw what I was up to and that's when I conscripted them to do the voices for the characters. I needed a boy for Max, (my son Griffin was 7 at the time and was the same age as Max was supposed to be) and a girl for the voice of the alien girl and the real girl at the end of the story. My daughter Jenna was 11 and was really eager to do it.
I recorded Jenna's lines first. She did really well. We only had to do 2 or 3 takes of each line. Griff on the other hand was enthusiastic but couldn't get the proper inflections into the lines. He read them pretty flat. I tried to direct him as best I could but he had a total melt down and couldn't get it done. I knew he could do it but he just needed the night to get himself back together. I also went through and cleaned up all the storyboards as layout poses, then scanned them and modified the story reel. I also recorded my own voice for the Dog and the Alien Father. With Jenna's voice and my own I was able to drop in our lines, then I also did Griff's lines using my own voice just for basic timing. I fiddled around with the overall timing and got it to the point where it flowed properly.
Day 23 (Fri Aug 27th / 04) Griff was feeling much better today and we worked our way through the script. It was a bit painful at times and we had to take some breaks but we got it done. I wasn't happy with a few of the lines but figured we could record them again later before animation started on thoses scenes. I edited Griff's tracks in then set to work on the sound effects. This has always been the one area of filmmaking that I have found can really make a film sparkle. If all you have is dead air behind a characters actions, it's going to feel dead as well. Yet with the appropriate sounds, it breathes life into everything. I've seen several "Making of..." segments on various DVD's that talk about this area. I really find it quite fasinating. I only had 7 sound effects which were: birds chirping and outdoor sounds, the box hitting the floor when it tips over, the rumbling rockets on blastoff, a couple of beeps and clicks, the rockets in space, rockets landing, the door opening, and that's it.
The birds chirping and outdoor sounds proved to be a bit tougher than I thought. I figured I'd just go out into the back yard and tape the ambiant noise. We have lots of big trees in the yard and the wind was blowing so it made for a nice leaf rustling sound. The birds were chirping bit not loud enough to record. The final problem is that we live about 15 km from the Toronto International airport and our house is right under one of the flight paths as the planes turn to make their final approach. About every 2 minutes, there's an airplane flying by which leaves a window of about 20 - 30 seconds of quiet. Now don't misunderstand, it's not like a deafening roar of jet engines all the time here but the unmistakable sound does pick up on the recording. So I recorded about 3 minutes of outdoor sound, getting around 20 seconds of clean stuff, during which I had to chirp once in a while to make the bird sounds. I took the recording and editied it down then did some minor cleanup work using "Sound Edit 16".
The box sound was easy. We had just bought a new central vacume cleaner about a month before and I kept the box for the kids to play with in the garage. It was a bit smaller than the one in the cartoon but it sounded great when I tipped it over. The beeps and clicks, I just recorded the phone buttons being pushed. For the rocket sounds, I just recorded myself making the noise with my own mouth.
Day 22 and 21 (Sat Aug 28th and Sun 29th / 04) Needless to say, these were two non working days that I spent with the family having fun at Canada's Wonderland as this was the last free weekend before school started for the kids.
Day 20 (Mon Aug 30th / 04) I got the kids together after I had finished editing and placing all the sound effects into the story reel to re record all the lines that I felt needed to be fixed up. I edited these into the story reel. I should mention that during this editing and re editing process, the story reel almost seems like a balloon. It tends to shrink and grow as you take stuff out and add stuff in. The final running time was now 1 minute 49 seconds. At one point it was as low as 1 minute 29 seconds. I now had the reel locked and spent the rest of the day writing out most of the exposure sheets for each scene.
Day 19 (Tues Aug 31st / 04) I started to animate the bulky scenes in the film. By bulky, I mean the scenes that were basically "full animation" with a fair amount of movement. I began with the walk cycles of Max and the Dog from the first 3 scenes. My schedule had animation for 11 days with 20 scenes to animate. This first bit with the characters walking had 32 drawings total (a 16 drawing cycle for each character). I dove in and finished up the rough animation of the dog in about 2 hours. I did Max in the afternoon after lunch. He took about 1 hour. I then shot the animation and cut it into the reel. It was fun finally seeing them come to life.
Day 18 (Weds Sept 1st / 04) I did the Dog closeup scenes 4, 12, and 20 today. I didn't have any layout backgrounds done yet as I was still trying to decide on how I was going to handle them. The idea just sort of jumped into my mind out of nowhere as I was animating one of the scenes today. I grabbed my digital camera and went out into the back yard to snap a few pictures of the kid's play fort. I needed a Jungle Jim or Monkey Bar setup for the final shots and originally planned to draw them but we have a set attached to the fort already. I snapped a few different angles then downloaded them into the computer. I went into Photoshop and started playing around with the filters. The "Artistic - Watercolour" filter did a neat job of making them look like they were painted, so I decided to use photos for all the "real world" portions of the film. I went into the garage and cleaned up a bit and took a few more shots. The opening shot of Max and the Dog walking needed something in a park with a bit more open space. I was running out of good daylight so I left this shoo for another day.
Finished animating the 3 scenes with inbetweens. Cleaned them all up and shot them in Flipbook then cut them into the Story reel.
Day 17 (Thurs Sept 2nd / 04) Animated scenes 6 and 7 of Max and the Dog inside the box doing the count down to blastoff. Shot them as pencil tests and worked out the camera moves for the blastoff shake. Dumped them into Premier and added the cross dissolve. I still didn't have the Flash program and was beginning to get a bit concerned that I might run out of time having to learn it all from scratch.
Day 16 (Fri Sept 3rd / 04) Animated Scenes 14, 16, and 19 of the Alien Girl and the Real Girl. Scene 19 was a piece of cake as it is a held drawing of her body and only her eyes and mouth are moving. As I animated each scene, I also cleaned up the keys and did the inbetweens. For the scenes that take place in the "real world", the characters were cleaned up using a Pilot Fineliner marker. It's not something I would recommend that anyone try as it means that you can't make any mistakes or you have to throw the whole drawing out. You can't use white out as it's almost impossible to get a clean line over it and it really shows up bad on the final scan. To make matters worse, I have a thick outline around all the drawings like in the Fairly Odd Parents show. This was a style that I used way back in early 1980 when I was doing illustration work for magazines and editorial cartoons for newspapers. The thicker outline really made the drawings stand out. I've seen it used before by Alfonse Mucha from the 1800's in his illustrated posters. I fell in love with the style and have used it ever since.
This style added a bit more time to the animation clean up process but it looks really nice. I didn't do any coloring at this point as I was trying to focus on getting the animation out of the way.
Day 15 (Sat Sept 4th / 04) The kids desperately wanted to go to Canada's Wonderland one last time before school started. I personally can't handle roller coaster rides. The last time I went on one was about 15 years ago... the ride was "Top Gun". I did o.k. until the ride came to a stop. I thought I had everything under control until I started to walk away. I puked my guts out all over the ramp. The attendant was so ticked off because we were the last ride of the day and I guess he figured he was going to get away without having to clean up. Needless to say, I haven't been on a roller coaster since then.
Griff really wanted to go on "Drop Zone" and Wendy refused to go with him... something about dropping 11 stories.. I dunno. So Dad has to look good for the kids. I said, "O.k., let's go!" It was great. It was a straight drop without any twists or turns so I guess my inner ear can handle it.
Day 14 (Sun Sept 5th / 04) Animated the walk cycles for scenes 11 and 15 of Max and the Dog in their space suits. Drew the BG's and scanned them in then painted them in Photoshop. Pencil tested it all in Flipbook with the camera moves and pans. Flipbook is a really easy program to use and gave me really fast feedback on my animation.
Day 13 (Mon Sept 6th / 04) Knowing that this is the last full free day before school starts, I bombed through and completed all the remaining scenes in the film then flopped into bed at 3:00.
Day 12 (Tues Sept 7th / 04) Today is the first day back for the students of the animation program at Seneca College where I teach 2nd year Animation. My classes are from 10:00 - 2:00 on Weds, Thurs and Fridays so that time is completely gone from now unti the deadline. When Jenna and Griff go back to school (which starts today as well) my day basically goes like this: Wake up at 6:30, have breakfast, get the kids up at 7:00, make their breakfast. Make their lunches for school, get them ready for school. Drop Jenna off at her bus stop by 8:00. Get Griff to his school by 9:00, drive to Toronto to the college for classes, leave the college by 2:30, get home by 3:00 to pick up Jenna at her bus stop, pick up Griff from school at 3:30. Get them started on any home work they have, then make supper by 5:30. If you're wondering if I'm a single parent... no, my wife is a Doctor and has a practice. This arrangement works for us. When school starts, I do all my drawing and stuff between about 10:00 pm and 2:00 am (roughly).
I didn't do any work on the film today... too exhausted.
Day 11 (Weds Sept 8th / 04) Did some colorization on some of the animation tonight. Went to bed at 2:30.
Day 10 (Thurs Sept 9th / 04) Picked up the Flash Program today and have absolutely no idea as to what I'm doing.
Edited all the pencil tests of all the scenes into the story reel. Went through and chopped off bits and pieces from the beginning and ends of the scenes to make it run really tight. Went through and edited all the exposure sheets to match all the changes made.
Day 9 (Fri Sept 10th / 04) One of my students let me borrow his Flash Bible. Spent the evening scanning all the remaining animation drawings and doing a bit of coloring.
Day 8 (Sat Sept 11th / 04) Wendy took the kids over to her parents for the weekend to give me some time to focus on the film. Colored animation drawings all day and read through a bunch of the Flash Bible until I was rendered unconcious sometime in the middle of the night.
Day 7 (Sun Sept 12th / 04) Spent the day finishing up all the coloring of the animation drawings. Took the evening to start trying a few things with the Flash program.
Day 6 (Mon Sept 13th / 04) Began importing backgrounds and animation drawings into the Flash program and setting up the scenes.
Day 5 (Tues Sept 14th / 04) I was watching t.v. with the kids after school today and saw the commercial for the Maple Shorts contest. I was shocked when I heard that one of the rules was that the cartoon needed to be between 4 and 6 minutes long. My film ran only 1 minute 49 seconds!!!
I immediately ran to the computer and went to the website... "Nothing about a minimum length... hey, what does this say? Due to popular demand the deadline has been extended to October 17th, 2004. What the....!?"
I sent an e-mail off to their contact person and sure enough the deadline was extended... thank goodness, now I can breathe. The stipulation for the length was to ensure that they didn't get any "short gag" or "one-liner cartoons" and it would be up to the jury to determine if the "submission is indeed within the guidelines of being a good story and can it be expanded to a half hour pilot episode".
I figured I could add a bit more to the film to puff it up a bit, especially with this bonus time added on now.
The other really nice thing was that I was bothered by some of the animation that I had initially done of Max. His design was too tall and it made him look older, like around 12 years old as opposed ot 8. Now I had the time to go back and reanimate these scenes and put him back "on model".
Day 32 (Weds Sept 15th / 04) Took a couple of days off to catch my breath.
Day 29 (Sat Sept 18th / 04 original deadline) Storyboarded new insert scenes to add a bit more time to the overall story as well as fill in some blank spots. The film would stand up o.k. as it was originally boarded, these scenes simply added a bit more visual information. There was the addition of another spaceship shot, a shot of the Dog holding up a map, a shot of the map showing their flight path to the planet, and a truck in on the planet. I also decided to change the opening shot to a series of photo montages that described the relationship between Max and the Dog a bit more clearly. I also took out the shot of Max and the Dog walking together in scene 2.
Day 28 (Sun Sept 19th / 04) I got Griff to do his additional lines for the new scenes. Edited the new tracks and put them into the story reel along with the new storyboard panels. Recorded new sound effects, edited and cut them into the reel.
Day 27 (Mon Sept 20th / 04) Cleaned up new scenes for layout posing.
Day 26 (Tues Sept 21st / 04) Reanimated Max walk cycle for scene 2 as a close up.
Day 25 (Weds Sept 22nd / 04) Animated shot of map with dotted arrow. Scanned drawings, separated levels and colorized.
Day 24 (Thurs Sept 23rd / 04) Put map shot together in Flash.
Day 23 (Fri Sept 24th / 04) Began putting scenes toghether in Flash.
Day 22 (Sat Sept 25th / 04) Animated all the additional scenes - Changed all scenes where Max and Dog are walking on planet to them with jet packs on their backs. Took new pictures of back yard for BG's in opening sequence.
Day 21 (Sun Sept 26th / 04) Drew all the poses for the opening sequence, matched them up with the BG's in Photoshop and then colored them all.
Day 20 (Mon Sept 27th / 04) Scenes into Flash. Re edited entire movie with new scenes added. Locked down final timing to 2 min 14 seconds without opening titles. See final individual scene frames.
Day 19 (Tues Sept 28th / 04) Scenes into Flash.
Day 18 (Weds Sept 29th / 04) Finished last scene in Flash. Started to compile individual scenes into one long Flash movie but ran into some major problems when the new scenes would not go into the timeline in a non linear way. I had to start at scene 1 then add scene 2 and then 3 and so on. Then as the scene got longer the newly imported scenes began dropping frames randomly. I tried starting over again but it kept doing the same thing. I tried just forging ahead but the computer started crashing. I thought maybe it was that the Flash file was becoming too large but it was only 30 MB. The Premier version of the film was over 400MB and nothing was happening with it. I'm starting to get very frustrated.
Day 17 (Thurs Sept 30th / 04) Tried again to compile the scenes. Broke the film into quarters in the hopes of keeping the file size low but the exact same thing keeps happening. I'm running out of time.
Day 16 (Fri Oct 1st / 04) I mentioned my Flash problem to some of the guys at the College today but they can't seem to figure out why this is happening. I'm so close to just scrapping the whole thing. It works great if I output it from Premier as an .avi file or Quicktime .mov but I can't seem to get it put together in Flash. The Flash Bible doesn't seem to offer any solutions.
Day 15 (Sat Oct 2nd / 04) Took a physical and mental break from the project for the weekend.
Day 13 (Mon Oct 4th / 04) Tried again to compress the file size of the individual scenes and then string them together but I keep ending up with the same problem of dropped frames and crashing.
Day 12 (Tues Oct 5th / 04) Designed the opening titles for the film. Jenna wrote a little song for it and played it on the piano. We recorded the song and I did some pitch changes and mixing to get a fuller version then edited it onto the reel.
Day 11 (Weds Oct 6th / 04) I took my computer into the school today to see if I could get someone to help me with the problem. The one guy I was talking with earlier was not in today. I'll leave the computer at the school and try again tomorrow.
Day 10 (Thurs Oct 7th / 04) I showed the problem to the guy today but he couldn't figure out why it was doing it. We reallocated more memory to the program but that didn't seem to work.
Day 9 (Fri Oct 8th / 04) Did the final mix to adjust all the levels and assign left and right stereo mix to the sound track. It looks pretty good.
Day 8 (Sat Oct 9th / 04) Tried once again to put the final version into one long Flash movie but it has become far too frustrating for me. I'm going to put it aside for a couple of days.
Day 5 (Tues Oct 12th / 04) Began writing the first draft of the Bible and compiling the illustrations.
Day 4 (Weds Oct 13th / 04) Edited the first draft of the Bible and showed it to Wendy. She made a bunch of suggestions to fix things up.
Day 3 (Thurs Oct 14th / 04) Made revisions to the Bible.
Still have not been able to resolve the Flash problems. I e-mailed the tech person at Maple Shorts to ask if I could submit the entry as an .avi file, Quicktime .mov as well as a VHS version for the deadline and then try to solve the problem if necessary. They replied that this was an o.k. solution but that the final version must be as a Flash movie as Macromedia were the prize sponsors of the contest. Of course this made perfect sense.
I exported the final version of the movie as an .avi, .mov and then dubbed a copy to VHS.
Day 2 (Fri Oct 15th / 04) Showed Wendy revisions to Bible. Made some minor suggestions. Revised.
Day 1 (Sat Oct 16th / 04) Burned the final DVD with an .avi version and a Quicktime .mov version. Double checked the DVD to make sure the movie was burned properly. Printed out the CD lable. Did a final proof read of the mock up bible, made some minor revisions.
Final Due Date (Sun Oct 17th / 04) Printed out the final version of the Bible, cut the pages and stapled it together. Printed out the DVD case cover and put together the final package. I drove into Toronto to drop off the final film at the studio but nobody was home...duh... it's Sunday.
(Mon Oct 17th / 04) Drove back into Toronto again today and went into the studio and finally dropped of the finished entry... yay. Now I still need to figure out how to make it one large Flash movie.
Dec 17th / 04 Got a phone call from a Maple Shorts employee who congratulated me on having the film accepted for television screening for the final contest. The show is going to air sometime in March 2005. However, I need to submit the final film as a .fla file or it can't be aired. This was the news I had been dreading. They needed the final version by Dec 24th.
I have no idea as to what I'm going to do.
I am so close to just saying forget it, I can't do it.
Dec 18th / 04 As a last ditch, stab in the dark, I took the existing .avi file and imported it into a Flash movie timeline... what do you know???? It worked! I just can't get the audio track to import now.
I e-mailed the tech guy again and he said it was o.k. to send the audio file separately as a .wav file... thank-you very much!.
Dec 20th / 04 I've mailed the Flash and Wave files in today.
Dec 21st / 04 They recieved the CD's but now they want the Bible as and Adobe Acrobat file. I scanned all the pages in and saved them in Acrobat then e-mailed them out.
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