Friday, July 25, 2008

Animation Block Party - July 25-27

Since, I'm started on an animation kick last post, I might as well follow it up with an animation festival. And not just any animation festival. This one is more like a party...actually it IS an animation party right here in our very own quaint little village of Brooklyn, NY.

To be specific, I'm talking about The 5th Annual Animation Block Party which pretty much includes everything the name implies- animation, good drink, and bands all in an outdoor setting in the inner city. Here's one of last year's films from my fellow NYU alum- Sarah Wickliffe:

Apart from the video and description from the official website below, I really know absolutely nothing about this event, but I do know a good time when I see it and this event looks like a good time for anyone, but particularly if you are a creator or fan of animation.

Unfortunately, I will be shooting another party in Brooklyn Saturday night- a multi-venue Barack Obama fundraiser, but this looks like a good time. Perhaps I'll make it through on Sunday sometime.

Here's the info and official website description:
Some call it punk rock, some call it grass roots, but labels aside - NYC based Animation Block Party is dedicated to exhibiting the world's best independent, professional and student animation.

Since the premiere of the first official Animation Block Party film festival on September 9th 2004 - we have received over 4000 animation submissions from all ends of the earth.

Animation Block Party will run from July 25-27, 2008 in Brooklyn. Over 100 films from a record 800 plus entries will be screened at the fifth annual ABP.

ABP opens on Friday July 25th at Rooftop Films, featuring live music from Plushgun, followed by a screening of ABP's most fun and fan friendly cartoons. A party at Bar Matchless will follow with free beer from Radeberger.

ABP continues on Saturday July 26th at Bam Cinematek, with experimental works and music videos in Program One and a storytelling focus in Program Two. Screenings will be followed by an after party at Cherry Tree with free Newcastle from America's News Source, The Onion.

ABP closes on Sunday July 27th at Bam Cinematek, with top professional and independent works in Program Three and the strongest narrative local and international shorts in Program Four. The closing evening party is at Habana Outpost, featuring streaming videos, delicious food specials and free draft beer courtesy of Autodesk.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Yo! Animate This!

Okay, I think this is actually so cool that I was at first tempted to just keep it to myself, but after playing around with it a little, I decided that it was so cool that it would be a public disservice not to share it with you and I think the company that developed it deserves proper mention for a job well done.

Confession time: Here's the sad truth, ladies and gentleman, traditional filmmaking is my thang, but I've always secretly longed to also be an animator, but three formidable obstacles have long stood in my way-

  1. Despite early promise in grade school, I suck at drawing
  2. I simply don't have the patience to work 6 hours to create 6 seconds of finished footage
  3. Merely thinking about high end animation software makes my brain hurt

Up until now, I've been haunted by this unfulfilled longing, but now the good people at Fuzzwich have created a virtual Fantasy Island for wanna-be animators like me. The relatively new filmmaking art of Mechinima has recently filled the longing for some computer-saavy wanna-bes. (See my previous Machinima post.)

However, I think Machinima is still not yet evolved to my "idiot-proof just-give-it-to-me-now and make-it-easy-and-intuitive like-my-ipod" kinda level. The new app I want to tell you about will have you cranking out clever humorous animations in 10 minutes flat from scratch. All of the animated clips on this post were created using it.

In a matter of minutes you can create and share a very cool, professional-looking, and creative animation with music using their funky-fresh brand-new still-in-Beta-testing, only-tell-people-you-like-about-it online app called Minivid.

Who Can I Turn To

I've seen other interfaces for various animation applications, but they were always fairly static and limiting. I think the people at Fuzzwich have actually nailed it here. They've actually made it super-easy for anyone to create a simple animation, have it look and play good, share it, and offer enough options in music, backgrounds, characters, and actions that everyone's cartoon creations can feel unique.

The interface is pure Down and Dirty- simple, effective, and not overcomplicated. After watching just a 2 minute video tutorial (see below) I was able to quickly get a cartoon up and running. The more I played with it the more I could see this app sucking up vast chunks of time without even realizing it as I try to top Pixar's latest effort from my laptop. (Reest assured the animators jobs at Pixar are still safe...for the moment.)

How to Create Your Own Minivid

How to Minivid! from fuzzwich on Vimeo.

Nevertheless, there's plenty of room to really grow this app with even more character choices, the ability to add your own music and pix, animate mouths seperately, etc., but it's a great start for us pencil-challenged wanna-be animators. Give it a few more versions and even us- the non-graphically artistically-challenged can become serious animators too!

It stands alone as just plain silly creative time-wasting fun- (especially with the likes of characters of George Bush, Barack Obama, and a Chewbacca knock-off thrown in!). However, a Down and Dirty DV filmmaker with the proper application of imagination and perhaps some creative post-hacking of a finished Minivid could easily incorporate such video animations (not the music) into a larger online filmmaking effort...assuming there are no legal issues with using finished video, of course.- If there are just remember you didn't hear it from me.

Le Ballet De Pug

Please leave your comments or point us to your Minivid creations below.

So, had I have stopped playing with Minivid long enough, I would've noticed their upcoming offering, Animator which apparently can do all the things I said that I'd like to see in future versions of this program. It's in a very private Beta at the moment, but perhaps you will be one of the lucky ones selected to participate.

I am intrigued and excited to check out the results from the beefier application. I think this really is revolutionary and a great leap forward for Down and Dirty filmmakers everywhere. If anyone has any Animator projects online, please feel free to link to them in a comment on this post.

Animator BETA Preview Video:

The Fuzzwich Screencast from fuzzwich on Vimeo.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ant's Consumer Camcorder Guide

I recently gave a quick crash course in choosing a consumer camera for the Fox Business News Channel at the B&H Photo Video Superstore in Midtown Manhattan. I also gave a quick overview of some of my personal picks for the best consumer-level camcorder bargains out there.
These cameras are primariliy for non-professional filmmakers- regular ol' people - who want to shoot personal home movies, vacation videos, or who may have some very simple business video needs.

If you
are an aspiring filmmaker on a really tight budget, the models below with mic and headphone connectors will get you rolling until you can upgrade to something a little more professional in the $2500+ price range. (If you are a filmmaker in the market for a more advanced prosumer camera, make sure you sign up to our mailing list at the top right of our blog and check out my 2 part podcast on How to Choose a Camera - part 1 & part 2.)

The first thing you want to consider in a consumer camcorder is image-quality. How good will the picture look?

HD vs. SD
HD video cameras will give you a much clearer, sharper picture and a more cinematic widescreen format. However, if you don’t own an HDTV or if you want to get more professional camera features at a bargain, you may want to go with a standard def camera, which costs less and will look just like the images you are already used to on any non-HD television.

The other image-quality factor to look for is the size of
the camera’s image sensor. Now image sensors, or image chips, are essentially the video equivalent of a photo negative- the bigger the sensor - the better the image quality. So a 1/3” sensor would give you a better image than a 1/4” sensor chip, and so on.


There are two different kinds of image sensor technologies out there - CCD chips and the newer and cheaper CMOS chips. When it comes to CCD chips, 3 chips is better than one. However, most cameras at the consumer price point are gonna be single chip cameras- and that’s perfectly fine for the home moviemaker.


Another factor to consider is the camera’s ability to shoot in low light. Look at the
specs for something called the lux rating of the camera. The lower the lux rating the better the camera will perform in low lighting conditions. (7 lux or lower is fine, but a camera rated at 3 lux or lower will perform great in low light.)

Mini-DV tape is still the most established consumer format, but there are now many choices of recording media out there including hard-drive, DVD, and flash memory-card based cameras.

Some of these newer formats you will find still have a few quirky performance and compatibility issues when it comes to reliability and editing, but they generally offer greater convenience, flexibility and savings in tape costs over mini-DV tape. My advice to you would be to spend a little extra time researching possible issues when purchasing any non-tape based camera.


Also check the specs for the type of connections or ports the camera has to hook it up to other devices such as your computer or tv. A Firewire and an A/V connection - which goes into the little yellow, red and white plugs on your tv - should be standard for any model.

For the best quality playback, also look for S-Video connectors or HDMI or Component connectors on HD model cameras. In addition to getting a picture out of the camera, a few consumer models may offer audio connections to plug in a pair of headphones or a microphone, both of which you’ll need if your filmmaking ever becomes more serious.


As home filmmaking becomes more accessible, more and more pro features have
been creeping into consumer cameras in the last few years. Now almost anyone can get more professional results using the same tricks as the pros.

The most valuable advanced feature is manual controls- specifically manual focus, exposure, shutter speed and white balance will all give you m
uch greater control over image quality when you are ready to switch out of full-auto mode.

An optical image stabilizer to help improve shaky camerawork is always a great feature to have. And if buying HD, look for a focus-assist function to help you focus those ultra-sharp HD images on that tiny LCD screen. A touch screen LCD, photo-capture, time-lapse recording, and 16:9 wide screen mode are also great advanced features to find in a consumer-level camcorder.

So now that we talked about the basic things to look out for, I wanna point out 3 different consumer models that pack in some great features at recession-friendly prices. So check out the all-new first time ever...

Price-Buster Consumer Camcorder Picks!!!!!
Ant's personal camcorder picks for the home movie crowd - all under $1000. Help out the economy by spending your recession tax relief check on one of these video camcorder bargains...

Panasonic - PV-GS320 - $320.00
  • Standard Def mini-DV camcorder
  • 3x 1/6” CCD sensors
  • 1 lux min. light
  • manual focus
  • S-Video Out (w/ special cable)
  • No mic or headphone jacks

Canon Vixia HV-30 - $750.00

  • HD mini-DV camcorder
  • 2.7” CMOS sensor
  • .2 lux min.light
  • manual focus and exposure
  • optical image stabilizer
  • mic/headphone/HDMI connectors
  • very simple controls
  • HV-20 is a great substitute model

Sony - HDR-HC9 - $900.00
  • HD mini-DV camcorder
  • 2 lux min. light
  • 2.9” CMOS sensor
  • touch-screen interface
  • exposure histogram
(*All prices are as found at B&H Photo Video Superstore in Manhattan, NY at the time of posting. Prices vary from market to market.)