A Different Kind of Halloween Costume

I don't know exactly what it is, but I dislike the idea of dressing up in costume. Wearing hats and makeup makes me nervous. The only explanation I can really give is by opposition. I enjoy blending in and being anonymous in public by default, and only leaving that position by choice.

So Halloween is always a bit of a conundrum. I like participating in Halloween, and would hate to arrive at a Halloween party without a costume, yet I also don't want to where a costume.

So this year I found a very interesting solution. Instead of actually wearing a physical costume I went the route of Relational Art, and interacted with people in an interesting way. I had been given a set of string magic tricks for my birthday, so for Halloween, I learned magic.

Now with this idea, it was actually important that I didn't wear a costume. At the party I went to people would ask what my costume was, and I had a perfect opening for the magic.

The whole thing went astonishing well. People were really interested by the tricks. Sometimes I did them right, other times I messed up, but every time there was some real attention and interaction between people.

It also changed how I was at the party. I was more attentive because I was remembering what tricks I had shown who, so I could come back with more later. I was also being more attentive to the other people at the party. To do magic you really have to pay attention to your audience.

Also, as the party progresses, the influence of alcohol takes hold and people are more easily fooled, only contributing further to the fun.

Happy Halloween


Math Notes

From my perspective, my most distinctive class is actually a math course I am taking: Vectors and Matrices.

I decided to take it first because it is a prerequisite for a computer programming course I am taking next semester. But it is actually the perfect math class for me. It is the basic math that is fundamental to all of computer graphics, and actually most of computer math. It is an incredibly powerful way of doing math that allows it to more easily work with computers.

It is really quite weird to go back into that type of class room environment where everybody sits quietly as the teacher talks about things written down in the textbook. I don't really know anyones name, and I don't have to comment on there work, and there actual test that I have to right and I actually get marks back that mean something.

I have to say, I really like my animation courses. We watch movie, have discussions. Sit around and talk. And then we get to serious work, that we personally care about and show it to everybody else. I sort of wish that type of thing could happen in math. I would feel personally invested in it and would actually make something cool out of it.

Instead we are committed to learning things that are written in a book, it just feels so monotonous.

I suspect that I have some of the more interesting notes in the class. For one I keep them in a giant sketch book, and for the other, I sometimes start sketching. Nothing really good because I do actually have to pay attention.


Line Animation

Here is my first character animation from this year. We were given the music and a total of four lines to work with to represent two characters.

This is quite delayed from I finished it. I've been a little bit hesitant to put up short pieces of work without polishing them up together into something a little more substantial.


When A Lesson Physically Manifests Itself

I'm currently enrolled in a puppet animation course, otherwise known as stop-motion animation. It is taught by Erik Goulet, the most distinctive teacher I will ever meet. He will also be the teacher who I will think back to if I ever become a teacher.

The reason for this is likely quite simple: he is unyielding passionate about the subject. His enthusiasm is so strong that even as a night course, taught between the hours of 6:00 pm and 10:00 pm, no one is ever tired. But it goes further than that. There are consistent obvious examples of his attempting to make the class succeed.

There is also another very important aspect of his class. The fact that is it "his" class. He developed the curriculum, the handouts, the assignments. He is in complete and utter control of the class. And his character come through into the class. Thinking back on prior courses, I suspect that some of my favorites have been my favorites for this same reason. When a course is actually a teacher's course, and not simply the curriculum that has been handed down from a higher level, or passed on from a previous teacher, there is something new, fresh and entirely ire-producible that exists. The examples I can think of of hand are "Theory of Knowledge" with Mr. Kelly in high school, my "3d Modeling for Rapid Prototyping" at ACAD and my "Animation I" course at ACAD. Maybe I will remember more later.

To top it off there was even cake tonight. But moving on to the actual topic of discussion.

I am building a metal ball and socket stop motion animation armature. It is the thing inside the puppets in films such as the Nightmare Before Christmas. It is the gold standard when it comes to what you put inside puppets. It doesn't wear out easily. It is really sturdy. It is smooth.

The main downside is that they are fairly complicated and difficult to build. For that reason I was the only one in the class to actually decide to build one. Once the opportunity arose there would have been simply no deterring me. I was going to go to the metal shop and build that armature.

So here we are are twenty hours of metal shop time later. I have my puppet built, after lots of trials and tribulations. The thing is holding together. Except I have doubts. Some of the solders that I have been doing have been breaking. Not that they are really weak, but they need to be really strong for their job.

But this project needs to get done, and I get it done, ready to show my class. Here is the armature before I go to my class.

All looks good. People are seeing it, and they are excited that I got this thing going.

But the fact is after class it looked like this.

This is because I had left my doubts about my armature unchecked. I had coddled it through the last few steps so that I wouldn't fail, instead of testing it is harshly as I should have.

It wasn't as though the teacher ripped this thing apart though. First one arm fell off halfway through class when I was messing with it. And then, at the end of class, I went over the armature one-on-one with the teacher. It felt like at that point I had been given permission to really test the armature. It is hard to describe, but once I had opened up about my doubts about the project, and the teacher was completely understanding, I could finally do was needed to be done and really try to tear the thing apart.

And then it really broke.

The thing is, after talking more, we discovered that it is likely a simple error I was making during the soldering process that was leading to all these weak joints. So tomorrow I will be able to fix it.

It is however, very interesting how visually and conceptually well this experience represents the greater world of creation (by which I mean art, design and pretty much anything). You need to have a very strong base structure to build everything else upon. You need to spend lots of time building it, and then actually test it. In this case a teacher provided a great means catalyzing this testing process.

It is incredibly important that I found and accepted the weakness of my armature now, instead of when it was too late, when the whole thing is covered in layers foam latex and it would actually, without exaggeration, ruin everything.

Whatever you are making, don't be scared to test it, because if you are scared to test it, it is all the more likely that it will break.


Sketching as scales

In the past few months I've started something new with my drawing process. When I am just warming up I've started using the same thought process behind piano scales. You need to practice the techniques that you are going to use in the actual art. In piano, this means chords, note progressions and all sorts of other things. In drawing, this means connecting lines, drawing shapes, making even lines, making progressions of shapes, making straight lines, joining curves. It can mean all sorts of things. So now when I start, I generally make up drawing activities to get myself into it even if I have nothing to sketch really.

Some of the following sketches are the result of that warm up. Others are preparation for animation I was working on.


Thanks Giving

Well Happy Belated Thanksgiving.

My family came to Montreal to celebrate. It was great to be able to have them at the apartment. They have this great ability to just make a place better than it was before. Things get fixed, cleaned and added as though by magic when they showed up.

While my apartment may be a little bit bare, it really is feeling like home.


Art Science Business Religion

Art is my business.

Science is my religion.

Somethings are more authoritative
when you don't try to back them up.


Drawing and Animating

I just realized that I made a fairly severe error and have made the same error before. I was trying to animate something which I couldn't draw.

Sure maybe I could draw it once or twice, and get it pretty much right, but that is by no means good enough to animate. You should be able to draw something from everything angle from almost memory before you start animating.

All I have been able to do because of this is make myself frustrated with my skill. I was thinking I wasn't good enough, when in actual fact I had simply chosen the wrong things to draw. I need to start designing my characters within the realm of my drawing ability that allows me to draw for animation.

I can't draw for sketch, use those sketches as a starting point to animation. Those sketches need to be converted and simplified into something that I completely understand, in which there are no unknowns in my mind, which I can draw for animation.

Next time I will have to take this advice to heart. I still don't know how badly the stuff I was working on turned out, so maybe I don't need to be so hard on myself. But I need to fundamentally shift my attitude towards drawing and animation because they are controlling me, instead of me controlling them.



Spectrogram Analysis

One of the most important steps in animation is called sound breakdown. It is the process by which an animator will listen to sound and figure out it's timing. It an animator is going to animate a voice of a character, they need to determine the timing of the pronunciation. If they are given music, they need to be figure out the timing of the notes.

In the old days, before digital was all the rage. The audio would be on a magnetic tape and they would play that backwards and forward very slowly to time everything out. It took along time, but was a good process. With the advent of digital technology, there has actually bit a turn for the worse for most audio breakdown. Most programs to play audio aren't very accurate and don't sound great when you try to slow something down a lot and scrub through it.

You may think that the waveform of a file would be useful in figuring out the timing. Wave forms are fairly useful when some basic sounds are happening, but soon they become useless when there are too many sounds.

What I have been looking into for the last year is a different way of representing sound: spectrograms.

A spectrogram is fairly simple to understand. On the horizontal axis time is represented from left to right. The vertical axis represents the frequency of the sound. The color represents the intensity of he sound.

This is an example of a spectrogram of piano and violin music. If you can see a spectrogram in action it becomes fairly easy to distinguish notes, chords, and other sorts of sounds. You can see rhythms, scales and all sorts of other parts of the music.

While it may not be immediately apparent, there is a vast amount of extra information visible in the spectrogram which is simply hidden in the waveform.

I have two suggestion for software if you would like to try out spectrogram analysis.

The first is only for windows, and I find mostly useful when you are starting out with spectrograms because it allows for real time analysis of sound. This means that if you have a microphone on your computer, you can make noises and seem them appear on the screen. I have spent hours making noises at my computer to see what they look like.

The program is Spectrogram 16.

It is only available for Windows. There are other versions of this program, Spectrogram 5.0, and others, but for some odd reason I can't get them to work well.

If can get the program working do the following.

Press- File/Scan Input

A whole bunch of options will appear, leave them at the default. Press OK.

Now if everything is working you can start making noises and seeing the results.

I would suggest trying whistling, talking, singing, instruments and whatever other things you can think up.

The second piece of software I suggest is much more robust, is compatible with Mac and Windows and is more useful for animation audio breakdown.

Sonic Visualizer

With this software you can import prerecorded sound files and really analyze them well.

To work with this program:

File-New Session

Then press File- Import Audio.

Now to see a spectrogram:

Press Layer - Add Melodic Range Spectrogram - All channels Mixed.

Now it should generate a nice spectrogram of your audio

I will stop now with this talk about spectrograms. There are lots of settings that can be adjusted which can drastically change the appearance of a spectrogram. I will have to write an even more in depth explanation of that in the future. In general it is good to play with the settings and look at the results. If it looks more useful it probably is.

 While I have been able to really get a full grasp on this more advanced topic of spectrogram analysis, it is possible to read spectrograms, meaning if you could determine what a person said simply by looking at the spectrogram.  This ability is extremely applicable to sound break down.  For more information  see Spectrogram Reading.

If you do start using spectrogram for audio analysis, I do want to end with one word of caution: Never stop listening to what you are doing.  If you allow yourself to fall into the trap of only looking at the sounds, you could miss something very important in the sound.  Spectrogram analysis is only a tool that helps the precision and accuracy of sound break down, it is not a replacement for listening.


Free Will and Action

I think I might have stumbled upon a peculiar lapse in how my mind functions. It seems that when I have to start or stop something that I am doing, if there is no other influencing factor, my actions lag roughly fifteen minutes behind my thoughts.

The simplest example is playing the video game Geometry Wars. It is a game that is generally played over and over again, because each round lasts only about 3 minutes. The real difficulty is deciding when to stop, and then actually stopping. If you have nothing of urgent need to be done, there is simply no built in stopping point to the game, you simply have to make yourself stop. You have to decide that your done, and then actually turn the game off.

That may sound simple, but I suspect that it is not because there are less similar situations than one might suspect. Take for instance TV shows. You don’t have to consciously decide that you are over. The show ends. It tells you where to leave. Suppose you are playing a sport. Either there is a set time limit, like in soccer, or you will tire yourself out, natural endings.

To clarify, what I noticed was that there was roughly a ten to fifteen minute delay between my conscious decisions of action with no inherit force determining anything for me other than my mind. If this is true, it is of major importance. It means that I haven’t been making many “free will” decisions without a roughly fifteen minute lapse between mental decision and physical action.

So the real trick now is to notice when this is happening and tightening that timing up. As I have discussed before, I suspect this type of learning can happen incrementally over time. So as long as I do slightly better at this all of the time, I will get better at it.