In-Depth Week #7: Continued Mentorship

Last week, I couldn’t attend class due to the heavy snowfall, but I had a meeting with my mentor this week. However, even so, I was assigned a harder song to play than anything I have seen before this week. It touched on a few new techniques, such as playing octaves in a way that you need to press to get the correct tone. As well, the rhythms were significantly harder, with more dotted eighth notes and sixteenth notes.

My biggest struggle has been with rhythm, as it always has been throughout my endeavours in music. This acts as an inhibitor to my learning. It’s often harder for me to grasp concepts without seeing and hearing my mentor play it first, and this was the challenge I had it last week when I didn’t meet with my teacher. As a result, I ended up playing a lot of the song incorrectly and had to relearn it this week. Rhythm is often what gives a piece flow and joins together the melody in a musical way.

The thing that I’ve actually gotten a lot better at is tuning the guzheng. I think that the more I play and learn about the guzheng, the more my ears become attuned to the tones. I remember that last year Mr. Jackson mentioned that when he tunes his guitar, he imagines what the wavelengths look like in his mind. After that, I tried visualizing it myself and coupled it with what I already know about music and found that I could discover out-of-tune notes much easier. I have also been watching how my teacher tunes and found that very fine adjustments are good enough. Tightening the strings too much creates a very off pitch sound. It might not be a strategy that works for everybody, but it works very well for me.

Communication is a key factor in a mentoring relationship, and recently I’ve noticed that it’s been weakening between my mentor and me. Though there is a language barrier, my mentor teaches younger children than me who are less skilled in Mandarin, so this is not a factor limiting communication. But my mentor often leaves the room to check on other students for prolonged periods of time. As it is a group lesson, it is understandable, however I feel that she is not giving me sufficient guidance. For the next few weeks, I will try to ensure that there is stronger communication between us, and that more trust is built. Specifically, I’ll do this by asking more in-depth questions, and asking for clarification when I know I need it.

All in all, I’m well on my way to the final performance and I am looking forward to it! If everything continues in this fashion, Yuwen’s and my performance will be very successful.

 

In-Depth post #3

This week, I moved up to the third book of guzheng. The pieces increased in difficulty, as to be expected, but I’m still keeping up. So far, this project has been going swimmingly.

I was assigned three new songs, and I have been working hard on them. I don’t have any recorded audio yet, but I’ll continue to improve on these songs. Most of the new techniques are building on ones that I already know, so once I understand the concept, it’s pretty easy to master the technique. My mentor was very impressed with my progress so far.

  1. What went particularly well during your mentoring sessions?

What went very well last week was the way my teacher taught the lesson. She taught me the techniques, made sure I knew them, then let me practice on my own for a bit. After that, she checked in on me and confirmed that I had mastered it.

4. What logical challenges affected your communication?

The lessons  were fun, but they still had some challenges. At times, the communication wasn’t very effective due to a language barrier. My Mandarin isn’t very good, so it was hard for me to convey what I wanted to my teacher. On the other hand, my mentor’s English isn’t the best, so a compromise had to be made, and I thought it might be good to brush up on my Mandarin skills as well.

5. What three strategies could improve the quality of your mentoring interactions?

Three strategies I can use for future meetings include taking notes during meetings to remember the techniques better. I can also make sure there is better eye contact between my mentor and I for open and honest communication. And lastly, I will make sure that I come prepared with more questions to ask her.

As for the next two weeks, I’ll continue practicing for the final performance and keep working hard!

In-Depth 2018: Introduction

Immediately after In-Depth last year, I wondered about what I would do this year. Seeing as everyone in our class is fortunate enough to pursue one area of study they’re interested in, I thought a lot about my options. Of course, I wanted to do something related to art again at first, but then I thought that it might be good to try something different. After a suggestion by Yuwen, I decided to play the guzheng for In-Depth this year.

The guzheng is a traditional Chinese instrument with a history thousands of years long. I knew that as soon as I picked this as my topic I would have to put in some extra work outside the allotted five months time. It would be pretty hard to make satisfactory progress during that period, so I promptly began to learn in August. I was glad because I found my mentor almost immediately because I knew that there was guzheng classes taught in Henderson Mall.

I have to admit I was kind of embarrassed at first, because there were eight-year-olds coming in there and they were already playing at a very high-level while I was stuck at level one. However, I used to play the piano, so I had some basic knowledge regarding theory and rhythms. It’s a really interesting instrument, and it sounds really beautiful when played.

My goal is to be able to perform a guzheng quartet with prerecorded audio with Yuwen. This is a goal which will require a lot of practice and adhering to the plan I outlined for myself. But I think this is a project I’ll have a lot of fun doing, and it’s also part of my cultural heritage as well, which is really interesting. In-Depth is a unique opportunity and a very valuable one for us to take control of our own learning, so hopefully I’ll be able to use this chance wisely!

 

In-depth post #5- the six hats

I don’t know if I should go as far as to say this, but so the past month or so has been a disaster.

I pretty much lost all my progress on my animation except a few storyboards since I found out my old computer couldn’t handle me re-downloading flash since flash requires your system to be running on 64-bit. And upgrading your system from 32-bit to 64-bit causes it to be very inefficient, so I had to veto out that option. So what I did was transfer everything (literally everything) over to a different device. So I spent all of yesterday doing that, downloading drivers so my tablet would work, learning how to use toonboom, and pretty much just animating and working out kinks.

Although I was previously using flash, I decided to go for a change of scenery and try out something new, since my project has pretty much been a train wreck. I found it to be relatively similar to flash and pretty much made 1 second worth of animation. Oh, the fruit of my labour. But really, the 1 second animation was quite simple, only 2 pictures which were nearly identical. But it still took my several hours since I was teaching myself how to use toonboom. That animation will probably be done by my next (and final) post.

So I guess in the short period between this post and the next, my goal should be to start on an actual animation (I have no idea how long it’ll be) and get a YouTube channel up and running. I also really want to be able to talk to my mentor more but that may not be possible because of his extremely busy schedule.

Anyways, onto the topic of my last meeting with my mentor. As aforementioned, I finally got around to talking to him about symbols and timelines. He’s pretty much been unreachable, each time I  try to contact him he’s always been incredibly busy. Which is one of the reasons why this post has been delayed till now, as well as a very full spring break. But here is an excerpt of the conversation we had (unfortunately over the phone)

Me: How do you move… the stuff and like rotate and use it, I guess. (really bad blue hat attempt)

Mentor: Mhm. So did you figure it out on your own yet?

Me: um…

Mentor: Have you tried yet?

Me: I have tried a little bit of stuff but like, the stuff about the object’s center of gravity was what I was confused about. (blue hat: I’m trying to lead the conversation towards my mentor telling me about tweening and symbols)

Mentor: Oh… okay, so, um, have you been able to use the motion tween? (green hat: asking this as an alternative)

Me: Not quite, which is why.

Mentor: Oh, okay. Well, in order to use the motion tween, the drawing has to be turned into a symbol, and not just a group. Groups cannot be tweened on the timeline. (white hat)

Me: Right. How can you turn it into a symbol?

Mentor: If you go under the tab, I believe it’s called modify? There is a convert to symbol, which the shortcut is F8. (white hat again)

Me: Oh, okay.

Mentor: So once you’ve converted to symbol, it will ask you to name it, which will be stored into your library.

Me: Right. And symbols have a specific timeline, right? (white hat: trying to confirm this is true, getting my mentor to focus on this information)

Mentor: It has a specific… What was your question?

Me: Symbols have a different timeline, right?

Mentor: Yes, when you turn something into a symbol, it becomes… well, it’s called a symbol but you can double-click and it has its own timeline because you can have multiple layers. (white hat) But for what you’re doing, I would keep it as simple as possible.

Me: Right.

Mentor: Without going too deep into it. (black hat: caution) But each symbol has its own timeline, and when you create a symbol, when you select it, you’ll see where the center point is, and the center point of that, is the center of the screen when you go inside. Does that answer your question?

Me: Yeah! I guess so…

Mentor: Yeah, groups do not move on the timeline. They cannot be tweened. Only symbols can be tweened. So it takes a lot of organizational skill.

Me: Yeah, okay, I guess I get it now. I feel like a lot of it is about working on the actual program, though. (red hat)

Hopefully my condition (?) will have improved by the next post. Until then, I’ll keep working hard on animating and figuring things out to the best of my ability.

In-Depth Post #4

This week, I met with my mentor with a few specific questions in mind, which was good since this week’s De Bono involves asking questions and listening carefully to their answers. Prior to the session, I finally downloaded flash, which also gave me some troubles. For some reason, every time I tried to download it, it would stop me with a message. I finally managed to surpass it after several days of trying, and I went onto Flash to try out its functions. Unfortunately, I hit a roadblock the very first day and had to meet with my mentor that weekend.

The questions I brought up were very technical, mostly for troubleshooting, because there are a lot of things I still don’t understand about Flash. I asked about the timeline, grouping, symbols and smoothing. Although I’m sure there are many flash tutorials online, these were useful questions to ask because I could see it firsthand as my mentor demonstrated on his monitor. It’s a lot to take in, but I feel like this helped me a lot as I started working on animating.

This was helpful to me because learning about the timeline specifically helped me to figure out a lot of things, like how grouping is almost like creating a new layer, which creates a see timeline each time. Grouping is very useful, because there’s no need for several layers to be created. Unfortunately, due to the fact that my questions were mostly about technicalities in Flash, I couldn’t really ask a multiple choice question so that fell through.

I can tell that my mentor has really come far with his work and the My Little Pony series that DHX is doing. There’s a lot of things that are possible in Flash as long as you keep experimenting with the program, which is what I found out over the last week.

Anyways, I’ve been diligently working on my first animation which will be a channel trailer for the YouTube channel I plan on making for the course of in-depth (Deon did this first so I can’t claim credit for the idea but shoutout to her). It’ll probably be done by Monday or so, because I’ve been making pretty good progress with it and I’ve learned a lot about Flash over the past two weeks. I was kind of stuck in a rut earlier, but I’m quite glad that things are going better this time.

Also, spring break will be soon and unfortunately I’ll be travelling quite a bit, so I think that I’ll meet with my mentor this weekend to talk storyboarding, keys, and get a review on grouping and symbols because it’s still a little iffy to me. But I’ll be working on my animations a lot next week, so I’ll try to write more on that in the next post.

In-Depth Post #3 -Troubleshooting

Since my last post, I’ve embarked on several endeavours to bring myself closer to my goal. Unfortunately, there were a lot of things that went wrong in those few weeks. Maybe not that many, but there were still several moments of frustration.

After the first few weeks of being pretty confused and going in circles, I finally downloaded an art program where I finally finalized character designs. I didn’t finish colouring, or the different views, but I do know what the character is going to look like, which is good.

sneak peek at my character (image credits to me)

I decided to download flash as well, but for some reason it didn’t download onto my computer. I might’ve missed a step, but there’s also the fact that my computer is in Chinese which makes it pretty difficult for me to read. I’ll get it figured out during these next two weeks but I need to finish storyboarding (which shouldn’t take long, considering this animation will be under on minute).

During the last session I had with my mentor, he talked about the animation industry and about how ideas were generated. He started talking about how the idea gets approved, then I clarified that writers were the ones who turned the idea into a story. When we got to talking about the actual animating, I added that animators can only do so many frames in a day, making labour quite expensive. He agreed, and I also said that this was one of the many reasons why I was worried about going into the animation industry. We continued the discussion, and I found that it was pretty much like what I already thought about animation.

I’ll continue working hard for the next few weeks. Hopefully by the next post, I’ll have actually started animating!

 

In-Depth Post #2

I haven’t really done much so far, to be completely honest. I did make several character designs but I couldn’t save them because I have the beta version of the program. But I did figure out what I wanted to animate and have decided on a design. It’s going to sound incredibly nerdy, but there’s this bit in a Naruto opening theme where the titular character is running and growing up. That doesn’t make any sense, so I’ll just add a link into the post. running gif (sorry for low quality)

Other than that, I just had a second meeting with my mentor and it was pretty interesting. We talked a lot about how the animation industry works and kind of how successful cartoons are made. There’s a lot that goes into an animation, even a 2 minute short. There’s a whole process, really. One idea is handpicked out of several, and that idea has to get approved before it gets to the scriptwriters, storyboard artists and design. Then the design teams create designs which are then approved and sent off to the storyboard artists so they can create the guidelines for the actual animation and the scriptwriters create the story for them. A lot of time and money is invested into this process, so you can imagine what happens when an animation doesn’t capture viewers attention. Millions of dollars are wasted.

For me, I had somewhat of an idea about this, but to hear it from an animator himself was pretty shocking. There’s so much risk involved in this industry but pioneers like Disney and Catmull have done it anyway. We also talked about 360 marketing, such as using youtube and generating ad revenue and creating merchandise. I definitely agreed on this point. You can see short animations all over youtube, and I’ve even watched several of them myself to get ideas for this project. There are a lot by CalArts students and they’re absolutely amazing. But there’s usually an ad before the video plays, so ad revenue is generated. More views, more money.

One difference I found with my mentor was that he said you should make yourself an extrovert. And I would generally categorize myself as an introvert. But I actually had a conversation with Ms. Mulder the other day, and we were talking about how the world actually needs introverts, the quiet people. I can definitely see where my mentor is coming from, since forming connections is so important in society but at the same time I would usually agree with what Ms. Mulder said, that the world needs both introverts and extroverts. Obviously my mentor’s opinion is based on the competitive world he lives in while my opinions are based on prior experience and much thought after the aforementioned discussion. Either way, I hope the next two weeks are productive.

gif courtesy of giphy.com

 

In-depth post #1-animation!

Art is pretty much the only consistent thing in life for me. In fact, I still remember the drawing I did on the very first day of kindergarten, with those awful crayola crayons. No offense crayola, but I’ve moved onto to bigger and better things.

I probably discovered digital art in middle school. Honestly, it was difficult and totally different from traditional pencil and paper art. I worked on my iPad without a stylus at first so it was totally like finger-painting. Then I found out about wacom tablets. You basically plug the tablet into your computer and instead of using the mouse you use a pen on the tablet. There isn’t any display on the Wacom intuos though, my current partner in crime. I really, really wanted to get a Cintiq, which pretty much doubles as a another monitor, allowing you to look down like you would normally, but it was too pricey. So I settled for the Intuos.

image courtesy of wacom.com. I’m using this tablet currently :)

wacom’s cintiq! image courtesy of wacom.com

So when it was time for in-depth, the first thing I defaulted to was art. But we were supposed to learn a skill that was pretty much new to us, so when Phia suggested animation to me, I jumped at the prospect. I’ve pretty much grown up to Spongebob Squarepants, Dora the Explorer, Pokemon, and other childhood cartoons. And when I was about 10 years old I was introduced to anime, Japanese animation. I honestly could not dream of producing something so amazing, especially seeing as I’m a beginner and a one-man team. But I’m ready to take this on!

However in-depth isn’t just about acquiring new skills. In fact there are two goals applicable to everyone:

1. Know something about everything and everything about something.

2. Learn what others tell you is important and learn what you decide is important.

More specifically, I’ll be working on 2D animation. I haven’t quite narrowed it down to character animation as of now, but it’s starting to seem like I’ll be taking that path. I will be doing everything from character designs, backgrounds, storyboards to the actual animation. This is an incredibly extensive project, and I haven’t even figured out what I’ll do for the audio! I wanted to use mp3 files but if I’m going to be using Adobe Flash then it won’t work apparently. I might have to ask somebody who knows how to convert them, and apparently Deon’s sister knows. But then there’s copyright issues, which I won’t get into…

As for the storyboard and character model sheets, I have a dilemma on my hands. The program I’ve always wanted, PaintTool SAI, is finally coming out with version 2! Now I’m stuck between using the free trials of clip studio paint and PaintTool SAI version 1 or the beta for version 2. Hopefully the actual program comes out by the time the free trials have run dry… I am a despicable human being.

Luckily for me, my mom had a coworker whose husband did animation. We had our first meeting this Sunday, and it was honestly so amazing. He works at DHX Media, and he does designs for My Little Pony: Equestria Girls. He showed me some designs, backgrounds and even an unreleased 2 minute animation! Let’s just say that a brony would’ve killed to be in my shoes right then.

gif courtesy of giphy.com. Pinkie Pie is really highstrung……

As for now, I’ll be familiarizing myself with my tablet and drawing more often. More on in-depth soon!