Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far

APPLESEED was a joy to watch.
This is not news, as it's been out now for three years.
Not only was the story intriguing, but it was one of the first cel-shaded action movies from Japan to make waves in this country. Being a huge fan of cel-shading, this was a huge inspiration to me.

Appleseed, based on the graphic novel by the same name, was written by Masamune Shiro, and the graphic novel was so well received that it won the 1986 Seiun Award for Best Manga. Shiro, a fan icon inthe cyberpunk scene has gone on to pen many more stories, but for a large group of fans, Appleseed was a crowning achievement, followed only by the Ghost in the Shell series.

Two things come to mind when thinking about stories by Shiro; his frequent use of strong, female leads in his stories, and his philosophy on mecha and its limitations. For as much as I've seen, Shiro's stories have always had strong female leads, something which I admire. Let's face it, guy's and dolls, there are a lot of kick-ass women out there who hold their own just as much, if not more than men. Recently, there have been more heroine's in major media, Lara Croft, Ripley from the Aliens series, Battlestar Galactica's Starbuck and more that I'm sure I haven't mentioned. This is not to say that Shiro makes them larger than life necessarily, like so many male heroes have been, but he shows a determination and inner strength, as well as physical prowess that matches the boys. It's this fan's opinion that doing such was a great move by Shiro, as it not only set his work aside, but it finally gave the spotlight to those who deserve it.

Shiro once created a Rules of Mecha article a while back detailing the physical limitations of mechanical augmentations to the human body. Why is this significant? Well, in most movies, books and film, the artistic direction is completely implausible. Let's say you have Joe Action who loses both arms while fighting off a ferocious tribe of pygmy armadillos. Joe gets back and has bionic arms grafted to his body. Now he can lift up cars, steel vault doors and the like. Nope, sorry Joe, no dice. According to Shiro's articles, while the bionic arms themselves may have the capacity to lift an incredible amount of tonnage, they are still grafted to Joe's original bone structure. Due to the transfer of weight throughout the body, the shiny new arms would be fine, but the rest of poor Joe's bones would shatter. He's probably cry too... pansy.

Observations such as this changed the way that mecha (specifically human augmentation) has been designed. For example, all of the physical augmentations that deal with strength have been written to include fully reinforced skeletal structures.

So why do I bring all of this up?
Because there's a sequal coming. It has been announced today that Appleseed Saga Ex Machina, the sequal to the first movie, is now in production and will be released Q4 07 in japan (so most likely Q1 08 stateside). From the trailer available on the official Appleseed Saga Ex Machina website, the technique and direction has significantly improved, as well as the quality of animation. Its being directed by the #1 fan of slow motion doves, Mr John Woo, so expect a good amount of gun-play and eye candy.

So am I excited? Oh hells yes. Not only does the fact that the series is continuing excite me, but seeing the cutting edge technique is something that I've been waiting for. Don't get me wrong, I like my share of ogres, donkeys, talking cats, talking, gingerbread men, talking penguins, talking toys, talking rats, surfing penguins, lost zoo animals, superheroes, talking mammoths and talking cars as much as the next red-blooded American, but I'm growing older now. My tastes have changed. I'm glad someone, somewhere has notices, and is making movies accordingly.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Dave Loves DAVE Loves 9.0


Ladies and Gents, you are now looking at one of the newest accepted applicant to the Digital Animation and Visual Effects School, affectionately referred to as the DAVE school. Lemme tell you about this place I like to call Heaven.

The DAVE school is located smack dab in the middle of sunny (and from what I hear, friggin humid) Orlando, FL. It's actually in the back lot of Universal Studios, FL. It features a slew of computer labs, motion capture green screen room, recording room, and some of the best instructors that a CG hopeful could ever ask for.

The DAVE School program runs for one year, and is broken up into 4 sections called "blocks". Each block focuses on a different levels of proficiency, starting with basic modeling and knowledge of Newtek's Lightwave 3D program, architectural modeling and rendering, character modeling and animation, bluescreening and compositing, and finally group dynamics, leading a team. During the program, aside from digitally compositing yourself into any movie of your choice, creating a good amount of portfolio and demo reel, you work with your team to create not only a half live action, half CG short film, but a completely full CG short film.

The instructors at this school are second to none. People here have worked on a variety of blockbuster movies, fantastic television, and more. They teach what they know, they teach what they love. These are people that left various studios, companies, and firms to teach people like me how to work together in groups like this, how to put together a demo reel, how to use what we have to create fantastic images and video.

Not only that, but after graduating, graduates can still use all the facilities that the school offers. Demo reel hosting, access to all new classes and new professors, access to green screen facilities, etc. All this for the low price of $29.5K. There inlies the biggest hurdle. Financial loans are available, but that's still close to $30,000.
Kinda makes me really think seriously about it. Not that I would ever miss this chance, but more like I would work harder at this than I ever have; ever at school, and ever at work. I have to put all I have into this. And I plan on it.

In other news, I just purchased the upgrade for my personal copy of Lightwave, bringing me up to version 9.0. This one has a slew of new advancements, and hopefully, It'll help me find my groove again, and get back to producing (and hopefully finishing) many many products before I move over to Florida.

Clock's ticking. Time to get to work.