Brave New World

It's been a lifetime since my last blog post and a lot has happened to me to validate a new entry. I'll try to keep this short and sweet. As some of you may know, I've been working full-time for various game companies the last 10 years. It began when Say Design (Los Angeles) hired me as an AD and I worked remotely from my home on the east coast. After a year or 2 I was offered a position with Acclaim Games as an animator and studio art manager. After 2 years with Acclaim, we were bought by Playdom and then Disney Interactive. From there I was offered a job 7 miles from home with GSN Games and spent 6 years with them.

This past January GSN Games had their 3rd round of layoffs in just over 2 years and I was included in the culling of the herd. I was anticipating the layoff due to rumors of how big the numbers were going to be and the fact that my skills were under-utilized for the past year or 2 leading up to the layoffs. I could see the writing on the wall and in full disclosure I was hoping to be dismissed as I felt stagnant creatively.

The most fun I had at GSN Games was when we developed a game title in-house which was a very rare thing. Most of our games were outsourced to 3rd part developers and we would only internally QA them and add them to a container app for publishing. I was a "point of contact" for one of these 3rd party companies and attended daily meetings for the better part of a year leading up to the layoffs. Not exactly a "skill" I was excited to wake up for at 6am every morning. The title we did develop was super fun and very creative. It was a match 3 style mechanic with a cast of characters that I referred to as naked mole rats in bunny costumes. These characters were wandering around space on various planets harvesting their favorite food source: breakfast cereal. It was quirky, fun and visually rich with inventive personalities and engaging animations. We built the game with saga-style levels and QA'd it extensively. We also generated marketing assets and received approval from Apple. We were on the 1 yard line ready to go live when management pulled the plug on the entire project. The entire team was dumbfounded. We asked why and was told that they never intended to go live with the game and that we as a team, were merely being tested.

There are moments in life that define you, who you are and/or where you want to be in your life and career. It was at that moment seeing our game baby get shelved forever that made me realize it was time to move on. I hung on for another year and when the rumors of layoffs started, I bided my time to see if I was to be selected.

Layoff day came and I got the call along with over 80 other employees. Our entire San Francisco office was decimated also. It was widespread across the company and that came with lots of employees in tears, hugs and confusion. I was packed and ready and drove home looking forward to the next chapter of my career, if I still even had one. Having been focused on my current employees' whims for most of the past decade, left me unsure if I even had an audience anymore.


Learn the rules first

I was recently quoted as saying, I don’t care if Instagram has more users than Twitter. If you read the article you’ll note there’s a big “if” before my not giving of said thing.
Of course, I am trivializing what Instagram is to many people. It’s a beautifully executed app that enables the creation and enjoyment of art, as well as human connection, which is often a good thing. But my rant had very little to do with it (or with Twitter). My rant was the result of increasing frustration with the one-dimensionality that those who report on, invest in, and build consumer Internet services talk about success.
Numbers are important. Number of users is important. So are lots of other things. Different services create value in different ways. Trust your gut as much (or more) than the numbers. Figure out what matters and build something good.


Adobe Animate CC

11057343_10156517789465634_5052556706879225301_o
I'm a biased reviewer as I've been a Flash fanboy since the late 1990s.
Rebranding Flash was something Adobe needed to do since Apple decided not to support the Flash player. From that, the general public coined the phrase "Flash is dead" and those of us who know the difference between the player and the authoring tool realized that this is a falsehood that's not going to help the tool gain popularity.
Fast forward to about a month ago when I actually got a phone call from an Adobe friend who wanted to personally give me a heads up on the name change. I was impressed by this because they knew the news of rebranding the software I've been using for 20 years was potentially a touchy subject. But I couldn't have been more excited to hear that Adobe was going to change the name from Flash to Animate CC. Heck, they could have named it Adobe Beefcake CC for all I care as long as the tool itself continues to thrive.
Animate CC, for all intents and purposes is still "Flash". It has new and improved features which is nice but the biggest positive step with all of this is the solid foundation the application still has and rebranding is Adobe's way of ensuring us of their intent to further support and develop the product.
I've been on the prerelease for a very long time and I've constantly seen first hand how much the Animate CC team cares and supports the product. In recent years, every time I've heard someone say "Flash is dead" I roll my eyes at the thought of having to explain it for the umpteenth time that Flash is not dead and where the confusion for them lies. Ugh.
So yesterday marked a new beginning. A shedding of a skin for "Flash" and I for one think it's the best new "feature" this year; a new name. A new brand. A new life. A new audience. Maybe another 20 years.
So with that, Adobe rebrands the product with new features such as an additional brush that allows for custom strokes. 4K resolution support. There are more features worth mentioning and easiest to just go here:
http://blogs.adobe.com/.../welcome-adobe-animate-cc-a.../

I'm a fan. I have been and probably always will be. I love what Toon Boom is doing, I love learning programs like Spine and Anime Studio, but Animate CC holds a special place in my heart and maybe it's because I'm older and it's been a familiar face on my laptop for 20+ years. Something I can launch first thing in the morning and feel comfortable with all day long. Add a couple of new features every once in a while and I'll remain unequivocally content knowing I can continue to design, draw, storyboard, prototype, illustrate and animate anything I can think of, for a lot longer.


Behance

If you haven't tried Behance portfolio yet, you should. Behance is not only an easy clean way to quickly create an online portfolio, it's also an amazingly active network filled with other likeminded artists from around the world. Also consider that many employers search Behance portfolios when looking for prime candidates to fill artistic roles.

 


Wacom Webinar – Flash Animation Techniques

Wacom makes cool products. Wacom loves the artists that use their products. Wacom also loves the graphic design and animation community. But most of all, Wacom is cool because of people like Westom Maggio and Joseph Sliger, the hosts of a regularly scheduled webinar that showcases artists, designers and animators of all walks of life and how they integrate Wacom products into their workflow. This week I was asked back to present again on Flash design and animation techniques because contrary to popular belief, Flash as a development tool is very much alive and well.


Flash CC – Top 10 reasons why it’s awesome

10. Core – Adobe has rewritten the very core, the foundation if you will, of Flash. Flash was originally built to be a 3 story home and we reached the roof level and kept trying to add on to it – which weakened the foundation. Now with Flash CC, the core of Flash has been rebuilt to support enough stories to justify a skyscraper. So think of this as Flash 2.0 moving forward. You’ll notice this new core every time you launch Flash CC. Instead of waiting 30+ seconds for Flash to start, Flash CC will only make you wait 3. If you blink you might miss it.

9. Dark user interface – For the first time, one thing does not look just like the others. Flash CC boasts the same dark user interface as the rest of Adobe’s software offerings. Don’t love it? Switch it back in Preferences.

8. Toggle Guides & Masks – There have been a few Timeline enhancements specific to layers. You can now toggle multiple selected layers between Guide and Mask behavior.

7. Multi-device connectivity – Authoring content for mobile? Test on a variety of devices in a single click (as long as they’re connected via USB). Flash will push builds to each and every one of them and launch them automatically.

6. DragonBones extension – This is one cool extension for authoring sprite animations and spit them out to XML and sprite sheets, ready to be plugged into the game engine of choice.

5. Distribute symbols & bitmaps to keyframes – I love this feature. Select multiple objects and tell Flash to place each in it’s own keyframe in its original position. Done.

4. Swap multiple symbols & bitmaps – Now we can select multiple instances of objects and swap them all out for another.

3. Scale to Anchor Point – Need to change the stage size and all the contents of your project along with it? Now you can and even better, choose the area of the stage to base the resize on.

2. Unlimited Pasteboard – Whoa! Unlimited! Yeah, just like the sky! We can now look back and laugh at the days we were limited to a puny 2,280 pixels to work with.

1. Video Export – It’s ok, you can let the tears of joy flow now. Adobe has not only solved the video export feature in Flash CC, but integrated the Adobe Media Encoder to boot! It’s all too much for animators to handle but I think you’ll find a way to handle it quite nicely.

[alert style="blue"] Honorable mention: Line preview, Panel enhancements [/alert]

[alert style="blue"] A few things you might not like because they are now deprecated: Object-level Undo, Project Panel, ActionScript 1&2, TLF text, Motion Editor, Deco tools, Bone tool (IK), Project panel, Printing, Strings panel, Behaviors panel, Movie Explorer, Bandwidth Profiler, FXG format, Actions Toolbox, Kuler panel, Share my Screen, Code Hinting (JSFL), Video Cue Points, Close Captioning, Device Central, Customizable Tool Panel, Importing BMP, TIFF, AutoCad, AIFF, Sound Designer,, Around AU and Adobe Sounds Document formats, File Info (XMP Metadata), Fireworks PNG Import [/alert]


Inspiration

[text_type type="three" max_font_size="" min_font_size=""] If you are lucky, inspiration can drop right in your lap. [/text_type]
For me this could not have been more literal. My daughter Andrea had just turned two years old. She was quite precocious at an early age, with a confident command of the English language and a newfound singing voice. On one particular day she wandered into my home office to show off a new song that she had learned: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, a popular English nursery rhyme from the early 19th century. Andrea asked to sit up on my lap and as usual I obliged. Being at my desk with my computer in front of us and my little plastic USB microphone at the ready, I discreetly clicked record and began capturing her entire performance in digital format.

Andrea was unaware she was being recorded. Her performance was completely natural and not without the human imperfections of a two-year old trying to perform to a level beyond her years. The recording captured all of her hits as well as misses. It was evident that she had not learned all the words to the song as she fumbled her way through the performance but that is precisely what made this recording special: it was real on a human level.

I saved the audio file to my hard drive and went about the rest of my day. It wasn’t until seven months later that I would resurrect this audio file for the purpose of using it as the soundtrack to an animation. Since it was the holidays, we tried to take a family photo to send to family and friends as our holiday card. Our efforts were thwarted by our five-year old who was expressing his disdain for being photographed in an emotionally unstable manner. Combined with the dog not posing ’correctly’ and various other photographic mishaps, we were unable to get that perfect family shot. Two weeks before Christmas and we had nothing to send to anyone.

andrea_drawing
I’m an optimist at heart and knowing every problem has a solution, I turned to software for help. I thought maybe I could use Photoshop to edit the best of each of us from all the photos and combine them into one single, perfect family picture. Then I thought of importing the photo into Flash and adding some animation, possibly some snow falling and maybe even some Christmas music. Then it hit me! The audio of Andrea singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star would be perfect to use as a soundtrack to a holiday card. I should also mention that Andrea and I would spend time together drawing and each time I would ask her what she would like me to draw. Her response was always the same: ‘Draw me, Daddy!’ Using crayons, colored pencils, felt pens and various markers, I had drawn a large number of Andrea characters. Eventually I perfected my daughter as a cartoon character.

[text_type type="three" max_font_size="" min_font_size=""] At this point I realized: [/text_type]

  • I have a recording of Andrea singing.
  • I have Andrea designed as a cartoon character.
  • I know how to animate in Adobe Flash.
  • I had all the ingredients to make an animated holiday card.

[text_type type="three" max_font_size="" min_font_size=""] All I needed now was a concept. [/text_type]

Having done enough work for clients in the world of advertising, I knew that the most successful creative campaigns were the ones with the best concepts. I listened again to the recording of Andrea singing and noticed that she made several mistakes during her performance. The idea of pretending she was performing in an audition on a stage was an easy one to come up with. The rest just fell into place. This was one of those animations that miraculously created itself. It was inspired.


email_3
Once I finished the animation and uploaded it to my website, I sent the URL to family, friends and clients as our holiday ‘card’. The response was overwhelmingly positive. About a year later I received an email from someone in Australia with the link to my animation. ‘I love this and I hope that you will like this to.’ was the body of the message. This was the first time I had created something viral. A complete stranger sending me my own work. It’s something I’ll never forget.

The annual Georgenes holiday animation was born

Andrea_rigging_01

This is an excerpt from Pushing Pixels

 


RIP SWF > Premiere Pro Workflow

Apparently one of my favorite and most efficient workflows when it comes to animating in Flash for video has been removed from Adobe Premiere Pro. Was I barely on the bubble with this workflow? Perhaps I was but it worked really well. It seems to me Adobe feels like the Flash > SWF > Premiere > (insert chosen video format here) workflow is not popular enough to support. That's bad news because it's a workflow I have detailed in a couple of my books.

[text_type type="three" max_font_size="" min_font_size=""] Crap [/text_type]

So now what can we do?

Well this morning I opened up a project I created using the above mentioned Flash > Premiere path only to find all of the imported SWF media to appear as offline in Premiere. I used the "locate File" command only to find that the SWF format is completely invisible in my Finder window.

[text_type type="three" max_font_size="" min_font_size=""] Double crap [/text_type]

It's really true. Premiere Pro CC completely ignores SWF files.

[text_type type="one" max_font_size="" min_font_size=""] Go to a happy place...go to a happy place...go to a happy place... [/text_type]

 

My options are:

Open each FLA and use the "Export Video" feature in Flash and replace each footage with the resulting MOV file.

Import each SWF file in After Effects and import that After Effects project into Premiere.

The sad part about SWFs no longer supported in Premiere is that SWFs are much smaller in file size than MOV files. It was also much easier to make changes in Flash after editing in Premiere Pro. Simply updating the SWF by publishing from Flash was super quick and easy as the SWF compiler takes a fraction as long as exporting to Video.

Open plea to Adobe: We all just want the SWF > Premiere workflow returned to us – no questions asked. Just leave it on the front doorstep and walk away. Nobody else has to get involved.

There's power in numbers folks. If you feel the same way as I do, go here to voice your request.


OFFF Motion Graphics Conference

OFFF

Thibault Imbert (Adobe Systems) and myself holding court in Paris a few years ago.


An author's perspective

TechEdits

This is what 392 pages of technical and copy edits looks like in hard copy form. I'm actually in this photo – buried underneath the pile of paper somewhere between chapters 9 and 10.