Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Monday, May 26, 2014

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Benjamin Franklin: Time Traveler

Early in 2012, a comedy news show called SourceFed premiered on YouTube.  I've been a fan ever since.  That's all.

Okay, that's not all.

In September, the streak of funny and informative episodes was interrupted by something unexpected and different.  That something was called Benjamin Franklin: Time Traveler.



It starred SourceFed hosts Steve Zaragoza and Lee Newton, was purposefully bizarre, made very little sense, and...a lot of people didn't like it.  But I loved it and it stuck with me.

Months later, after finishing a project with the amazing America Young (which will go online very soon), I wanted to work on something smaller before taking on another lengthy project and I knew what I was going to make.

Back in the late 80s/early 90s, a bunch of big movies (Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Bill & Ted, Beetlejuice, etc.) had Saturday morning cartoons.  My plan?  Animate an intro to Benjamin Franklin: Time Traveler as if it were a Saturday morning cartoon.
It took longer than expected, but I got it done.

After completing it, I took a shot and sent a few emails.  To my surprise, the video made it to the SouceFed office.  Even more mind-blowing?  I heard directly from Steve Zaragoza himself!  He wrote to let me know that he and everyone in the office loved it.

I sure didn't expect that level of awesomeness from a quick little side project.  I love it!

Enough of my word-babbling, here's what I made.  Hope you like it!

Friday, August 02, 2013

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

Giving Life to the Ghost

The Girl and the Ghost has been out there for a little while now.  It seems very odd to type that.  I worked on this project for so long that I don't think I've processed that it's actually finished and available for all to see.
A few nights ago, while working to promote the movie and get the word out, I started thinking about how it all started and thought maybe I should write it out for posterity and for anyone interested in the behind-the-scenes aspect of things.

I think it was Christmas 2006, I was at my Grandma's house and surrounded by family.  Some of my cousins were pretty young at the time and I found myself frustrated that I couldn't show them most of the animated shorts I had worked on.  My most recent projects were Tootsie Blow Pop and Batman's Gonna Get Shot in the Face and while I'm proud of them, they definitely aren't for little eyes and ears.  I wanted to make something that anybody could watch.  So, I started brainstorming.

My goal was to create an animated short that kids could enjoy, but I didn't want it to be so "kiddy" that it would turn adults off.  I wanted something that would let me play with atmosphere.  In early 2007, I came up with the idea for The Girl and the Ghost.  I liked the idea enough that I went ahead and wrote a script.  The script led to the creation of some concept designs.



I actually started animation almost immediately, even before giving voicework a single thought.  I was trying out ideas and techniques that were new to me and it was exciting!  Time consuming, but exciting.  Even early on, I was pulling off shots and visuals that I didn't think I'd be able to.  Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I'm my own harshest critic, so for me to impress myself like that was rare and surprising.  I had a feeling this project might actually work out and possibly even be something special.

Eventually, the time came when voicework was needed.  Larry and Aaron came onboard.  Larry was set as William and Aaron would be Harold, a character who actually first appeared in a script I wrote back in 2002 or 2003.  I remember Aaron was so excited, he volunteered to do a voice before I even had a chance to ask him.  As for the voices of Annabella and her mother, my friend Laura Segura recorded a test all the way out in LA.  I loved it.  She was in.  The cast was set.

The original cast.

Time passed, I kept working, and I got a good look at a bunch of the speed bumps that pop up during the movie making process.  I was excited to have the cast recording their parts from all over the country (Laura in LA, Aaron in Charlotte, and I recorded Larry here), but I soon saw the problem in that arrangement.  Everyone was in different places and using different equipment, this resulted in the audio quality of their recordings not matching up.  I tried to fix up the audio, but the difference was still jarring when the characters talked to each other.  I'd be able to record Aaron whenever he was back in town, but for my little no budget project, meeting up with Laura or getting her into a studio just wasn't possible.  I hated to make the call, but I was going to have to go another way for Annabella and her mother.
I had no idea who else I would get to play the parts, but the answer came at our premiere for The Greatest Fan Film of All Time and The Wimp Whose Woman Was a Werewolf in the form of my then new friend, Marisa Zakaria.


So, over the course of animating the movie, I'd record Larry, Aaron, and Marisa individually whenever they were free and/or in town.  If any lines ended up needing to be redone for whatever reason, it could be a long time before things lined up for us to get together and try again.  It was tricky, but we made it work.

Our recording studio was my living room.  Most of the dialogue was recorded on my MacBook using my Rock Band microphone.  Credit goes to Marisa for that one.  We were all set to record her lines and the microphone I planned to use wasn't working.  Marisa noticed my Rock Band setup and suggested we try that mic.  It worked beautifully.


For a pop filter, we used a piece of nylon legging stretched over a bent piece of wire hanger.  Fancy?  No.  But it got the job done.

Jake Ruby helped out with sound effects and did a fantastic job.  Everything sounded just how I wanted it to, but one sound eluded me.  In the movie, just before William appears, Annabella hears bumping and scratching sounds coming from her closet.  Jake tried a few things, I searched, but we couldn't find a sound effect that sounded right to me.  So, I took my trusty Rock Band microphone, put it inside a cardboard box, and had my mom scratch and tap on the outside of the box.  Got it.

The ability to work with what's available to you is important.  A little ingenuity can really save the day when you're in a pinch.


Video games to the rescue!

Music is a huge part of movies.  It helps create moods, it amplifies emotion, it helps the story flow.  I wanted great music for this.  Not good, great.  It was very important to me, but I was nervous because I didn't know who to go to that could do what I wanted.  Larry put me in touch with composer Mike Wilkinson.  We emailed back and forth a few times before he came up with a sample of music to suit the story and sent it to me.  It was outstanding.  I was blown away and felt so lucky.  As things went on and the project was delayed a few times (which I'll discuss shortly), our schedules no longer lined up.  By the time the movie was finally ready to be scored, Mike was committed to other projects and couldn't do Ghost.  It was totally understandable, but disappointing to be sure.  I didn't think I'd get that lucky again, but I had to keep looking and hoping.

I had met Karen Graves several times over the years, as she frequently plays violin with Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida.  I took a shot and asked her if she might be interested in lending her musical talents to the project.  It was a long shot, but I had to try.  To my extreme surprise, she said yes.  I got lucky again.

What Karen came up with caught me off guard.  I knew she'd create something beautiful, but I never could have dreamed it'd turn out as beautiful as it did.  Every time I hear the music she made, I'm taken aback all over again.  Karen raised the project to a whole new level.


It's a winding road loaded with detours.  Changes can pounce out of the blue and target any number of aspects of a project.  I had to learn how to assess and handle each change in its own way.  I even started making changes on my own.  Originally, there was one more character in the story, an evil shapeshifting shadow creature that was pursuing William and appeared in the finale.  He actually made it into the animation phase, but I realized he slowed things down and wasn't really necessary in the story, so I cut him out.  Change can be scary, but sometimes it can be a blessing and improve the end result in unexpected ways, so don't be afraid to embrace it.

Maybe he'll get his chance in a future project.

I know how long these projects can take, I know how long animation alone takes, but I can say without exaggeration that I had no idea how long The Girl and the Ghost was going to take.  I would get on a roll and make big strides with the animation and then put it on hold when I was needed on another project, or I'd be sick for a while, or life in general would have other plans for me and keep me away from working on it for extended periods of time.

Animation is a slow, tedious process and I'm fully aware that my situation exacerbates that.  Most digital artists use a drawing tablet for their work, but my disability doesn't allow me to do that.  I have very limited movement in my arms and hands, so I can't draw in the traditional way.  Everything I make, I make using only a mouse.  The Girl and the Ghost is 17 minutes long and animated at 24 frames per second.  That's a lot of images.  Drawing and animating with a mouse is time consuming, frustrating, and can really tire me out, but it was the only option available to me, so it's what I did.  Living with a disability, you learn how to adapt to situations that aren't always suited to you.  You have to.  Using a mouse isn't the ideal animation method, my actual techniques may not be the "right" way to do things, but I do what I need to do in order to make it work.

Years have passed and it's finally done.  My cousins are older.  Since I set out to make this movie, I've become an uncle.  My nephew, Matthew grew up watching me animate it.
One of my favorite memories is when I was syncing a character's mouth to the dialogue while Matthew was sitting next to me.  He was maybe two years old at the time.  Hearing the audio playing one individual frame at a time, he started to mimic the choppy sound of it.  "Eh.  Ooh.  Eeh.  Uh."
During one of the project's delays, he would watch the first 6 minutes of the movie over and over again, despite its unfinished state.  My cousins may have inspired me to make this kind of movie, but Matthew fueled me to see it through.  Watch for it and you'll even spot some of his own artwork in the movie.


Over 800 hours of animation, plus voice recording, plus sound editing, plus music creation, plus editing, spread out over nearly 6 years.  If I've done my job well, you won't think of any of that while watching the movie.  You'll only think of Annabella, William, and their story.  I hope I've done my job.

The Girl and the Ghost went online on November 19th, 2012, almost two months ago.  As I write this, it's been viewed 746 times.  In the scope of the internet, that's not great, but for a 17 minute long film by an unknown animator?  I'm happy.  That's 746 more people than had seen it before November 19th.  And far more important than the numbers- the people who have seen it, both child and adult, have responded positively.  That's what matters.  This is what matters.


So, now that it's out there, I'm going to continue to email, tweet, and do whatever I can do to get more people to see the movie.  If you haven't seen The Girl and the Ghost yet or if you just want to help spread the word, here's the link:

http://youtu.be/0R_A8NC6jLM

To those who helped me make it, to those who have watched it, to those who supported me throughout this long haul, to those who have shared it...thank you.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Now, as the Ghost Hunters would say...on to the next.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Jacob's Semi-Yearly Year's End Review of the Year- 2012

We're already 10 days into 2013 and I've yet to post my reflections on 2012.  I'd like to keep the semi-tradition going, but I feel like a full recap isn't really necessary, since the year's blog entries are all right here, so I'll be keeping this one brief.

Honestly, 2012 was a long, frustrating, and exhausting year on a personal level.  It was rough and I'm glad to put it behind me.  Amidst the negative, there was positive.  I visited California.  I saw my friends.  I went to Niagara Falls.  Grandma's doing better.  On October 13th, little lady London was born, making me the uncle of three beautiful, smart, and strong little people.  I'm thankful for those good notes of the year.

Creatively, things shifted a bit over the course of the year.  I helped Teal with My Gimpy Life, I created the music video for My Dear with Sébastien Lefebvre, and I finally released The Girl and the Ghost.  Looking back, I'm so happy with how everything turned out.  I'm proud of the results.  It feels good.  2013 is shaping up to be a good one too.  I'm helping out on a secret little project with my new friend, the amazing America Young and I'm hoping to make something happen with Waiting for the Sun.

So, thanks for the good stuff, 2012.  Here's hoping 2013 brings more good to us all.  Let's rock it.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Girl and the Ghost

It's been a long time coming.  Setback after setback kept popping up and delaying the project at every turn.  At this point, it's been five years since I had the idea, wrote the story, and began animating it.  I actually finished it a few months ago, but wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it.  A few weeks ago, I thought "it's nearly Halloween, it's the perfect time."  So, I decided that Tuesday, October 30th was going to be the big day.  Then, true to form, just as I was about to upload the movie, another setback popped up.  What was it this time?  Hurricane Sandy.

On Monday, October 29th, at 10:30 PM, an hour and a half before I was going to start the upload, I suddenly found myself sitting in the dark.  The winds proved to be too much and ended up snapping three electrical poles on our street and splitting a fourth in half, not to mention the tree that came down and blocked our street.

So, on October 30th, while everything was supposed to be happening, we were packing up to head over to Grandma's house, where there was still electricity, and more importantly, heat.  And that's where I stayed until November 3rd, along with Mom, Dad, Kris, Jessi, Matthew, and London.  It was an interesting few days.

Then I found myself back at home, but Halloween week, the ideal time to release the project, had passed.  I regrouped and weighed the options, trying to decide when the next best time would be.  One could go nuts trying to plan this stuff, so I decided.  What better time than right now?

At long last, I'm finally able to present to you… The Girl and the Ghost.






I'd love if you'd let me know what you think of it.  I'd be honored if you shared the film with your friends.  Most importantly, I hope you enjoy it.

Meet London

Saturday, October 13th at 6:10 AM- I was done unwinding after hanging out with the guys and was about to go to bed when the phone rang.  Jessi woke to contractions that weren't stopping, so Mom headed to Kris & Jessi's house to watch Matthew, who was still sleeping, while they went to the hospital.

7:11 AM- Mom called to let me know Kris called with an update and Jessi was at 6 centimeters.

8:03 AM- Mom called again.  Jessi was about to get an epidural, it was time to get ready to go up to the hospital.

8:30 AM- Mom brought Matthew over, I woke my brain up, got ready, and we headed up to the hospital.


We made our way up to the 5th floor and got settled in the waiting area as flashbacks of that night nearly five years ago began  to hit me.  I sat there with Mom, Dad, and Matthew and prepared for the wait.


Over the next little while, Matthew and Mom both took a couple turns each going back and visiting Jessi.  We watched Dora (en Espanol) on the waiting room TV while Matthew was there, The Walking Dead when he he wasn't, and then Justice League Unlimited.  It was an Amazo episode (the one where he returns from deep space and hunts down Lex Luthor), very awesome.  Eventually, Hanna and Kari came from the birthing room and joined us, as Jessi was in the home stretch.


Ten, maybe twenty minutes at most, had passed before Kari looked at her phone and simply said "she's here."  Thinking she meant someone in the family had arrived at the hospital, we questioned her, but no, at 10:43 AM, after only two pushes, London Ann Drake was born.

I was shocked.  I was ready to wait the 12+ hours we spent waiting to meet Matthew, but no, Little Miss London had a schedule to keep.

We waited.  Bobby, Jessi's father arrived, and before long, we started to got called back to meet her.  Hanna, Kari, Bobby, then Mom, Dad, and me.

Matthew came to hold the door for us and we went through the familiar halls into to the birthing room.  We were met with little cries and then we saw her.  Little London.  So tiny, so cute, and with such big feet and long toes.  If she were mine, her name would contain some kind of reference to hobbits or Hank McCoy.  Nerdiness aside, she was adorable, beautiful, and perfect.


We all just sat there and waited for our turns to see and hold the baby, as all in birthing rooms do.




Before too long, I got my turn.  And here is where the written-word format of this blog fails, as it would take a far better writer than myself to describe the feelings and emotions that rush through you as you hold a newborn baby.


In that moment, she, and everything in the world, was perfect.

In the following hours, we mostly just sat there, absorbing it all.  I loved watching Matthew, in many ways (in my mind, but surely not his), still a baby, switch into big brother mode.

Matthew was hesitant to hold London at first, but eventually found his bravery.


After that, he took charge.

"How's your pain?" he'd ask Jessi.

"How much pressure is she getting?" he asked the nurse, checking on London as she lay under the heat lamp.


He's going to be a great, caring, protective big brother.

For a while, we all just sat, soaking in the moment, being there and welcoming London into our lives.



Time passed.  Hanna and Kari left to get ready for the homecoming dance.  Jessi's parents left.  Then we all kissed the baby and left with Matthew, who was spending the night at our house.
We went down the elevator and the lobby, where Matthew casually told the receptionists "I got a new baby sister.  You should go up and see her."

The rest of the night consisted of pizza and video games back at home.  It was a crazy day, but a good day.

Welcome to the craziness, London.