Muizenberg Tourist Map

Its done, and the first edition has been printed and delivered to Hostels & Restaurants in and around Muizies. I’m so excited and have been getting a really positive response from the first few people to have picked up a copy.

Muizenberg Tourist Map

The map has been a project of love done in my spare time since May ’14… when I started I had grand ideas of using the Official Muizenberg logo but just couldn’t find the ‘official owner’ for permissions, then shark spotter where happy for me to re-print their flag information which just gives the map a little more of an ‘official’ feeling. Its going to start with small monthly print runs, which will not only allow me to update regularly but also to adjust the content as I get feedback from hostels & guesthouses that are distributing and using the map.

Muizenberg Tourist Map Front

Sept 2014 Muizenberg Tourist Map Front

Muizenberg Tourist Map Reverse

Sept 2014 Muizenberg Tourist Map Reverse

Happy Travels & I hope you enjoy your time in Muizenberg! :D

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Inspiration, Motivation, Concentration

I don’t know about you, but I think I can safely assume that you know or certainly feel like you have something big in you. A something that you know will make you happy, make you feel fulfilled with the life you’re living right now, or when this ‘big thing’ happens. I sure know I do! I feel I could go in a few directions, become a photographer, finally write that photographic travel journal, or lets think even more crazy here! Since traveling through South East Asia I know how amazing my own beautiful country is, South Africa. I know we have huge tourism opportunities in the country and I would love to be a part of that process. I have have a few ideas lurking up my sleeve :)

My problem though! Finding the time & the motivation! I have other goals, travel being probably the most all consuming passion in my life… I hate to say it but just about every decision I make these days is based on one question, ‘Will it get me closer to being on an airplane to a new exotic country?’ I digress though :) I work full time, come home tired, make dinner & often find that the evening has largely slipped away. I know you can relate! You’re stressed from a rough day, traffic sucked, and its that time of year to sort out your taxes. What little time of your evening you do have left probably goes to getting a little RnR which involves an Episode of GOT, Hannibal or House of Cards. I know, I know, famous authors have written books whilst studying or raising kids and kudos to them, but whats their secret? I know it can’t happen to everyone but imagine the difference it would make if you knew you were busy writing the next Harry Potter, or filming the next viral Nike advert? You just can’t know that and so I ask you, where do you get the motivation to keep pushing on. Do you go at it like Dory from Finding Nemo? Just keep swimming?

Just Keep Swimming

Okay! You’ve got the idea, you’ve found that crack of time in your mad busy routine. What next? Load up on coffee and pull an all night’er like some of the great thinkers of our time? I sadly need my 8hrs sleep to keep myself functional at work each day. How then do we balance a distraction free environment in such a way that we can maximize concentration and effectiveness during this incredibly valuable piece of time you have just cleared up? I need music, it makes my flat not feel so empty. Do you shut down twitter, close facebook, turn off wifi & 3G on your phone? Okay… nailed it, no one can distracted you! What about your own brain? So easy to be distracted by household chores, the dishes, etc.

Great Thinkers
So not to get all profound and crazy deep on you, but I guess you have to ask what is important to you, in your life. I for sure have not completely figured that out, and crazy thing is I suspect no one ever does, I suspect that older we get the more jaded we become and simply loose focus. Horrible thought :( I am desperately grabbing at straws, clawing the wall but oddly enough my claws are not gaining any traction. We all have unique circumstances, take for example my brother. He lives in New Zealand runs a wholesale company back here in South Africa and travels so often, to cycling events, it sickens me! However recently he’s had a child and he finds himself like me in a much more regular 8-5 lifestyle… it what fits with his life & his circumstances. I however own no property, everything I currently posses fits in my car boot! Why? The 3D animation industry is fickle, jobs come & go and stability is nearly unheard of. You’re doing well if you’ve been in a stable position for 14 months and you must be a god if you’ve been permanently employed. This all fits with my goals… but again I digress.

Whats your trick? What are your thoughts?

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8 Noob Tips for Adobe Flash

I have been working quite intensely in Adobe Flash for the last 3 months, so I am by no means going to call myself a pro or expert. I can however offer some advice to a newbie who is busy trying to wrap their heads around the bizarre world of Flash. I won’t lie, its a terrible program, with archaic methods for animation and all the standard crappy bezier handles that adobe love to dish up in their CS Suite. However flash certain has its place in the world… I have honestly taken a step back at shock when it just does something thats freaking amazing. It certainly is going to be around for a while. Anyway, I have kept a list of small tips that might just help you get up and running a little quicker.

Take some Shortcuts

So lets assume you have used a few other Adobe apps before. I would hazard a guess and assume you have used Photoshop? Great, so ‘Cntl+0′ right? Super useful shortcut… well lets set that up in Flash quick. Sadly flash doesn’t have the exact same functionality and so you will actually need to set two shortcuts to achieve the same result. Start by going to Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts:

  • Zoom to All, otherwise known as ‘Show Frame‘… set that to Cntl +9
  • Zoom to 100%… and set that to Cntl +0

Now if you hit those both right after each other, you will have effectively centered the Frame to the work area, and then zoomed to 100%. I find this super useful, coz I keep popping back to 100% to check my drawing & line thickness etc.

  • Create ‘New Layer‘… set that to Cntl+Shift+N

I couldn’t believe there was no predefined shortcut for creating a new layer… anyway this was a simple solution to that one. Sadly there is no way to easily rename a layer and so you will need to either click to rename or get smart using the Distribute to Layers option (see below)

You’ll be stop();’ing alot

I found that most animations by default looped, there are some options with in a Graphic Symbol to make animations only play once, or loop a set number of times. The simplest method for quickly stopping the playback of an animation at any desired point would be to simply create a layer for action scripts throw in a key frame where you want the animation to stop, hit F9 and simply type in stop(); This is going to become your newest best friend so learn to love it because you’re going be typing it a lot. :p

stop();

Put on your Mask

If you’ve ever worked in Corel Draw then flash treats masking just like a powerclip (just across layers). If you haven’t then don’t stress, you just need to imagine that your ‘mask’ (which can be any vector shape) is just a window to another world. It like sitting in your house and looking outside, you know there is more garden out there however you can only see through the ‘glass’ or mask area.

To create a mask, start by making a new layer and drawing a simple object/shape onto it. Next right click on that layer and hit ‘Mask’. It will automatically mask the layers below it.

Putting On Your Mask

Fill the Gap

Probably the single most useful feature when it comes to filling outlines with colour. I was so often frustrated that no matter how hard I tried a line would often never be accurately ‘closed’ and thus the fill tool would never let me fill an object with colour. Well finally when I discovered the ‘Close Gaps’ options it changed my feelings towards flash forever. Very exciting and very useful indeed… use it!

Flash Close Gaps

Gradients need the Transformers

Not exactly Michael Bay style Transformers… but you are going to find that Gradients are not entirely controlled inside the ‘Color Pallete’ they instead have an entire tool to themselves (Shortcut = F). Yup, this enables the Gradient Transform Tool which lets you do everything you would expect of a gradient fill, move, rotate and scale it to your hearts desire.

Gradient Transform

Distribute to Layers

Oh Yes! This one rocks :P I would often find myself getting lost simply drawing out my objects on my set. I would be careful enough creating symbols for each object or item, but might find myself forgetting to create layers. The ‘Distribute to Layers’ command, found by right clicking on a selection of symbols will automatically go ahead and create a new layer for every symbol. What makes this part of my everyday workflow now is that it names each layer for me to the name of the symbol! Oh yes, now we’re cooking on gas! Just as a word of warning, I did find this tool a little unstable on large numbers of items. Save your file before distributing.

Distribute to Layers

Colour Effects

Ooooh yes, must remember these! Colour effects, only offered on symbols can be ridiculously useful. Just being able to key the ‘Alpha’ value of an object via a classic tween is super handy… not to mention tinting standard items of one colour to another to be reused somewhere else. Often the ‘Advanced’ option was my first port of call, allowing colour tinting and alpha all in one keyable feature. Just watch, you’ll start using this one a lot.

Colour Effects

Alpha Masks

No no, not Alpha Males… just alpha masks! So you thought the mask tool was super handy, eh? Well meet the Alpha Mask… finally something that lets you fade off your masking for a vignetted style fade! Oh YES! It gets a little more complicated but ultimately its pretty straight forward. In my example below I have a vector symbol named ‘fade’ and in that symbol I have a standard black to white vignette. Well this code below then converts that vector image to a bitmap and this is then set in code to only mask the object ‘lightBeams’. Go ahead an copy the code from below onto your Action Script layer. I would generally initialise these sorts of effects on frame one.

Sadly these effects don’t preview in the workspace, but once published they work just perfectly.

Alpha Mask

python   
fade.cacheAsBitmap = true;
lightBeams.cacheAsBitmap = true;
 
lightBeams.mask=fade;

Summary

Just my final thoughts. I had never heard an extremely positive comment about Flash, these past 3 months certainly have shown me some of the hidden powers of Flash. So easy to publish to Android for example! WOW! Its a strange beast, very strange indeed… however it has a unique place and nothing else is able to fill the shoes that flash suits just perfectly. I am glad to have learnt it, yet equally glad to be moving back to my first love of 3D Animation. Next up time to learn Houdini :)

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Life’s a Journey

Wow, its been a few months now since I last wrote a post. Life has certainly taken me places over the last 10 months. Khumba was succesfully wrapped up on the 28th of Feb 2013 and from there I have been on quite the journey. It started with a few weeks back in Joburg to celebrate my fathers 70th birthday and my uncles 80th, before returning to the Cape to work as photographer/videographer on the Absa Cape Epic. The 8 days of the cape epic where spent entirely shooting (mostly in the mornings) and putting together a 1-2min video clip (mostly the afternoons) highlighting each day of the event. It was great to have finally escaped the ‘desk job’ style of work I had been doing for the last 7 years and to be on the road, camera in hand. The cape epic wrapped up just toward the end of March and so I hit the road, my car full of stuff from my life in Cape Town and headed for the Tsitsikamma/Garden Route where I spent the next four weeks being an absolute beach bum with not a care in the world, except for reading a few Lonely Planet guides about South East Asia. You see in mid Feb I had booked a flight to Bangkok for mid May and that date was quickly approaching. I had allowed just a couple of weeks back in Joburg to sort out my final arrangements for my trip, things such as visa’s and foriegn currency etc.

The next thing I knew, I was sitting in a Hostel in Bangkok with a Chang in my hand and not a care in the world, with the realisation that the next 6 months where going to be spent entirely here in South East Asia… I had no plans to work, no plans at all actually, I could do anything and go anywhere the wind blew me. Turns out, that is exactly how I spent those months, ending up in 8 countries, thailand, vietnam, cambodia, laos, myanmar, singapore, malaysia and india before finally catching a flight out of Chennai and heading all the way back to the bottom tip of Africa. They say travel changes you, and well it does! I have come back a very different person, with very different goals, and very different outlooks on the world. The materialism of this modern consumerism driven world we live in grosses me out. I firmly believe that even though South Africa is classed a 3rd world country, a healthy portion of our people live a very ’1st world’ life style. Until you’ve seen the simplisity (in our eyes ‘poverty’) of a life lived in a truely 3rd world nation, sometimes a socialist nation, its very hard to understand how ridiculous our lives appear in comparison. On a side note, I visit a local shopping mall now as we approach Christmas and cannot believe the number of numb, empty lives (zombies) I see walking/rushing through the shops. I never see a smiling face, people mindlessly spending money on clothes which they hope will make them feel better about themselves. Oh dear!

coconut sunrise, perhentian islands, malaysia

Suffice it to say I am now back in South Africa, 3 weeks after returning I have already found work in the animation world again and have moved to yet another new city! I love it, it feels as though I am still traveling, still exploring new places… sadly it has a down side, I am back at that ‘desk job’ it does however allow me to begin saving towards my next trip. My newly optimised life, with regards to money, allows me to pump money into the travel fund and hopefully I will be on the road before I can snap my fingers. South America is calling me! In the meantime, this is my opportunity for some ‘high intensity learning’, time to learn a new language (spanish), learn a new skill set for work (as I am now working in Flash, a refreshing change from 3D animation) along with beer brewering, get my motorcycle lisence, continue to further my photography and who know what else.

fisherman, u bein bridge, myanmar

I have certainly realised that work does not define who you are, you create who you are by the experiences you have… work is just a means to an end (money) and money is a game! You just need to leverage personal strengths to win the game (and right now that strength is animation).

glorious sunrise, bagan, myanmar

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Exciting New Chapter

 

Kai & Gogo - Zambezia

It is extremely exciting to see that Adventures in Zambezia has become the highest grossing South African film in more than 30 years, taking more than $18 million through several key territories.* It was such an honour to be a part of the amazing team that Triggerfish Animation Studios pulled together to produce Zambezia. The focus in the studio of late however has very much been the production and completion of their second feature film, namely Khumba, which is set for release later this year I believe.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank Triggerfish Animation Studios… its been an exciting 3 years, filled with ups and downs but we made it! Two feature films is no small task :) I was lucky enough to work with some of the best people that South African Animation has to offer. I wish them all the best of luck and hopefully we see you all back on the farm for the 3rd film. ;)

Tendai - Zambezia

The completion of Khumba however has allowed me to follow a dream of mine. Travel! I have a ticket booked to Bangkok as of the 18th of May 2013 and hope to spend roughly 5 months travelling, exploring and relaxing in South East Asia. Over the past year my passion for photography & videography has grown out of control and so I hope to publish a photo journal of my time in Asia. Its an Exciting New Chapter of my life, during which I hope travel changes me and allows me to grow into an even newer and more exciting future. I am going to be spending a lot of time writing, reading & learning (maybe even a new language) during my travels and who knows where we will go from here!

In the meantime, keep checking out my Twitter Feed. I will be spending the next 2 weeks filming & photographing at the Absa Cape Epic and will be sure to post images up to twitter.

* 12 March, 2013 | By Mark Adams, Chief Film Critic - http://www.screendaily.com
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Behind the Scenes: ‘Get Up’ Music Video

The song ‘Get Up’ has been nominated for a 2013 Annie Award, to celebrate this nomination Triggerfish Animation Studio decided to shoot a music video. I was asked to head down to Digital Forest Studio on the day of the shoot and get some background photographs and video. This is the result!

Composer: Bruce Retief
Vocals: Zolani Mahola
DOP: Chris Cunnington

Equipment Used:
Canon 600D
18-55mm Kit Lens
50mm f1.4 Lens
Manfrotto MonoPod

Shot on location at Digital Forest Studio in Constantia, Cape Town

Final Music Video

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Monoscopic vs Stereoscopic Depth Cues

A few months ago I wrote a post about Stereoscopic Depth Compression, the fact that our binocular vision and ability to judge depth reduces over distance. This phenomenon happens in real life too, and is not restricted to 3D Cinema, although in cinema it can often be exaggerated by using smaller interaxial settings. Due to this effect our three dimensional brain is forced to switch to the classic monoscopic depth cues to gather depth information from the frame. I have heard it said that 90% of a 3D films depth is actually based on the classic 2D depth cues. Cinematographers have had years to develop their methods to portray depth within a 2D cinema frame and as stereographers we should use that as our springboard to adding more depth.

So what are some of monoscopic depth cues? Well, many are based on the effects of perspective which I will not include in this list. So imagine all this was happening on a 2D orthographic level.

Relative Size

We as humans have developed a set of size expectations. A matchbox is small, a human is average and a building is big! So if we see a man standing next to a building, and his head is inline with the top of the building, our first assumption is that the man must be closer to the camera! Obviously our second option is to assume that he is a giant, but first we assume a physical reality exists.

Texture Gradient

If we have a repetitive texture created by objects, or scene elements (bushy landscape, etc) as those objects get further from the camera they will appear smaller, effectively following perspective. If the objects are similar in shape, your brain will assume they are further away.

Colour

Hue - Warmer colours advance & cooler colours recede.

Saturation - As you reduce the saturation of a colour it will appear to recede in your scene.

Occlusion

Its a big word, but its pretty simple. Basically if you see a bush in front of a house, it is occluding your vision of the house, then clearly it is in front of the house. If we were to move the bush so that it is occluded by the house, then your brain tells you it must be behind the house.

Motion

Two forms of motion allow our brains to see or assume depth. The first is based on our Point of View. Imagine you are sitting on a train looking out the window, near objects will be moving faster, or have a greater horizontal parallax, than those on the horizon. This illusion is used a lot in 2D side scrolling animations or games to this day. The second method is based on the objects speed. If we remove the movement from the viewer or camera, as in the first example, and use a static camera we are able to judge distance & scale based on the speed of an object. For example, an airplane in the distance appears to be moving very slowly, vs a airplane that fly’s directly over our head.

Depth of Field

Objects will often soften as they advance or recede with in the focus of a shot. This classic use of camera lensing has become a standard in the language of film, and viewers fully understand the depth cues created by depth of field.

Further Reading:

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