Export, Upload and Done

The Adaptation – Part 1 animation is now up on YouTube!

dance excited minions celebrate

A few of the posts regarding the scenes and whatnot didn’t make it, pardon my user error. They’re there, they just haven’t been ‘published’, most notably the ‘thermal’ imagery of Lucas’ sniper scope and the crabman at the firestation.

Anyway, that’s a minor thing. Right now I’m winding down after doing the rendering and re-rendering and tweaking and syncing and, yeah, I’m spent.

Without further ado (or animated gifs of minons):

Enjoy!Mini Jeztyr Logo


Let’s Animate… something.

I’ve spent some time on the music. I’ll need to spend some more time on it, of course, but I’ve had my fun and I should get back to the animations and whatnot.

Looking at my plan, I’ve made a few of the assets that I wanted, like Miss Penelope and the assault at the Sanitation Facility, I’ve got a basic tune to put it to, so, really, there’s no excuse to open up Synfig and start poking about.


With The Bullet animation, the scenes were mostly long running, which fit the slow pace of the book and music alright, but Adaptation is more action and adventure (mixed with some metaphysical introspection) so it wants shorter, dramatic shots.

Shorter shots, means a shorter run time which, in turn, means more shots per minute. Considering I’ve got the music, and the whole animation, to run for a minute, I’m going to need to up my asset count by… more than what I’ve got.

Still, the good news is that I can actually compose clips and shove them together to see what I’ve got and get a feel for where I’m going.

Composition in Synfig

I did The Bullet in Synfig Studio, I’ve gotten comfortable with it, so it makes sense to continue on with it.

All of my drawings are two dimensional, with shading and hashing to give an impression of depth, but that’s not all I can do to help. Backgrounds and foregrounds, for example, don’t have to be ‘in focus’. To give an impression of depth of field, I can use Synfig’s blurring layer over backgrounds or I can also simply blur them in Gimp, saving on rendering time in Synfig.

Crabman, an important element, gets a look-in, as will Henry and Lucas.

Now I’ve opted not to make Vectors this time, instead I’m aiming for a more ‘paper cutout’ look, with sketching, hashing, colouring and heavy light / shade. Because of this, I won’t have an opportunity to use the bones feature of Synfig Studio, but that’s OK because it wouldn’t fit the style, anyway, and I want to save that for Grosvenor Lane Ghost.

Edit: This post was supposed to be posted about a week ago. Don’t know what went wrong, guessing this fuzzy headed dude didn’t click the ‘publish’ button.Mini Jeztyr Logo

Be a part of it

Just about tied up the Animation, so don’t think I’ve gone anywhere, and if you’ve been following along at home, you’ll know that I managed to get the music sorted with help from MixMaster and DJ Extraordinaire CRX – Christopher Besant.

And this brings up a very important point for you, my dear audience, for you are part of something special.

What’s that?

The other day I overheard at Coles, of all places, a couple lamenting that movie producers have run out of ideas. They were saying how movies these days are rehashed versions of old movies (looking squarely at you, Total Recall).

I think that isn’t quite right. What I do think is that a lot of fresh, crazy, awesome, inspiring, zany ideas are right there in the heads and hands of all the independent artists, authors and musicians out there.

Think about it: If one is forced to create something for a buck, then the end product has to appeal to the masses, it has to be marketable to a target audience.

If, instead, one is able to create art for the sake of creating art, and to hell with the monetary side of things, then one breaks the shackles on creativity, boundaries are pushed, ideas are cultivated.

How can you help?

These are the people who, despite financial, occupational and temporal commitments, spend their limited resources making stuff. Cool stuff. Interesting stuff. Stuff that you won’t find anywhere else simply because it came fresh out of a mind.

You can foster these minds by becoming supporters. Oh, great, a bid for money: Yes, but money is only one part of it. Hear me out.

Indie artists spend their time and money and sanity to bring their ideas to you. If you like what they’re doing, or if you can see where they are going, then you can help by funneling some of that love back in.

Time – Husbands, wives, friends and relatives, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, all of you have your own talents. OK, you may not be able to write your indie friend’s book, but you can help out by proofing, or designing a cover, or converting / uploading the book to distributers.

With work, family, emergencies and helping others out, time is a very precious commodity indeed, and anything you can do to ease the burden means less time juggling commitments and more time making.

Money – Buying an indie’s stuff is a true way to support an artist, but you can also support the wider community and it won’t cost the Earth. For example, Radio Rock 92.6 the Blitz is registered on Patreon. For only $1 a month, you can keep the radio on air which, in turn, support independent artists from around the world, so they can get their ideas out.

If it weren’t for The Blitz, I wouldn’t have heard of Megan Cooper, Circe Link or Lions Names Leo (Side note, looking forward to Megan Cooper’s Album “Ghosts, Choirs & Kings“).

Sanity – You can help by supporting those creative minds, by saying to those indie musicians and authors and artists, “We dig what you’re doing!” The hardest part, speaking from personal experience, is the lack of feedback. A simple ‘like’ goes a long way or, better yet, a quick comment on to your fav’s YouTube post reminds them that people are listening, they are reading, that the world still exists.

The toll on an artist is greater than you might think – consider the rate of substance abuse among artists – and I truly think that letting them know that their efforts are not in vain does more than giving them time and money.

Go on. Be part of it. Support your independent artists anyway you can.

Special Guest: CRX

Being an indie doesn’t mean doing everything yourself. Sure, it feels like it, and, in many cases, everything that ‘happens’ is a direct result of you, but there are times when you need to ask for help and, importantly, accept help offered.

Midi Magic

One of the biggest areas of improvement that came out of the animation for The Bullet was the sound and the music.

I am avoiding using sound effects in this trailer, not because I’m scared of them or anything, but they don’t really apply. So that mitigates that side of things. As for the music, well, I think it’s hard to go wrong with Midi.

In my previous posts I’ve written about using Anvil Studio, getting the tune laid down, adding in bass and beats, then crying as I discovered just how utterly awful the standard Windows Midi Renderer is.

Virtual Midi Synth coupled with downloadable SoundFonts eases the pain: drums sound like drums. The honky-tonk piano sounds like a honky-tonk. But there’s still more that can be done.

What kind of more?

When in doubt, ask a pro

Introducing CRX. What’s CRX? Not what, who.

Who is CRX?




That’s who. He’s a music fiend. He’s a DJ. He’s all about making stuff sound shmick. Go to soundcloud, have a listen. I’ll wait right here.

So here’s me dabbling with a one minute score, like a child stoked that he made a bridge out of Lego, and there’s CRX building monolithic skyscrapers with cranes and pre-fabricated concrete slabs: “Hey, uh… any chance you could take a listen and help a brother out?”

And this is just one of the fantastic things about MIDI – “Hey, I got a band together to record a minute long score and we practiced all week to get this recording… We can re-write, and I’ll get the band back together in a few weeks and we’ll rehearse for another week and then you can listen and we’ll repeat the process. Can you help me out?”


“Here’s the MIDI file, here’s a wav of the current rendering. If you can tweak the notes and give me some pointers, that’d be grand. Can you help me out?”

I know which one I’d prefer.

To give you an idea, I’m going to include the initial tune with Windows General Midi Rendering, then with the Fluid soundfont, then… the score as it has been CRXified (coined that term just then). It’ll have to be a drop box or google drive thing. You know what? Just ask and I’ll post some links in the comments.

Anyway, all thanks to CRX and his amazing skillz at the deck, I’ve now got a score that outclasses any animation that I could dredge up. Kind of like dressing a chimp in a tuxedo.

Guess that means I’m to work harder on the animation.Mini Jeztyr Logo

First the Powder, then the Shot

Frustration. That was the key experience to take away from that exercise. Oh, I think I got there in the end, but, clearly, making up tunes is not my strong point.

I think the problem lies in that for every tune, there’s a an established tune that sounds very similar to it. Don’t know if there’s a term for that. Should be if there’s not: “The tendency for a new pattern to align itself with an existing pattern.”

The Beat or the Bass?

I tried a few approaches to getting something going. First I thought about a march, one-two, one-two, bump-ba-bum, bump-ba-bum, tiddly-tiddly-tum. Yeah. Nah. Why not? Everything ends up as the Liberty Bell March. Or the William Tell Overture.

So then I tried laying down some bass, trying combinations of chords to give me something to work with, and that helped a little. I could hear how the tune might change as I adjusted the interstitial notes (A, A, D#, G | G, D#, D#, G). It was tempting to add in accidentals and staccato and whatnot, because, hey, it’s a boring patch of what, really, is a combination of four notes.

Besides, does the bass drive the melody? Does the beat? No, not it doesn’t. Nor the accompaniment, nor the harmonics. These things support the melody. No point laying down foundation if one doesn’t know what the house looks like, right? Right? Ah, I dunno, it sounds good so I’ll run with it.

Back to the Melody

I came full circle, then. As a plan: First I shall work up a couple of tunes, then I shall refine one or two of them, then I shall place these choice few into Anvil Studio to tweak, add a beat and listen.

Let me just… almost… going to… bear with…

Putting it into Anvil Studio, adding some drums and bass, and an accompaniment

Annnnd there. I think I’ve settled on a ditty. It’s simple, which isn’t altogether a bad thing, and it was inspired from a tune I remember from when I was first learning how to play the piano. Playing it over a few times, I think it needs a couple of rests, but, all in all, it’s workable.

I’ll not throw the other ditties out. May as well put them into Anvil and store them in midi format for next time. Anyway, let me add a quick beat and bass to make it a bit more solid.

Now, I did get an invite from a certain muso with a certain flair for musical advice to give me a helping hand. Let this be a lesson to you indies out there: If someone who knows what they’re talking about offers you help in relation to something you know nothing about, you’ll do well to accept.Mini Jeztyr Logo

What’s the Score?

One needs to eat the meal before one tastes the dessert. Yeah, but it’s kind of tantalising, isn’t it? That’s kind of how I’m feeling when it comes to the music. Besides, I justify, I’m going to need to do it eventually, why not look at it now? Not to mention, I add, the feel of the music and the images presented need to match, so one will affect the other. Also… ALRIGHT!

I give in. Pencils and Gimp down, I’m going to divert to score the theme for Adaptation.

Bring on Anvil Studio

Learning from the animation for The Bullet, I’m not even going to bother trying to sing or play an instrument. Midi is the way to go, and I’m a little wiser this time around. For starters, I’m not even going to bother with mucking about with the instrumentation or beat until after I’ve got the basic melody in place.

Installed the latest Anvil

I had to reinstall Anvil Studio after the upgrade to Windows 10, no biggy, just an inconvenience. It works alright, only the Virtual Midi Synth, too, is knacked. It’s just a matter of downloading and reinstalling and… I’m done.

Now, the big question is where to start. I’m not writing a song for radio, after all, nor is it muzak to go with an abstract DIY YouTube clip, nor will it have words. It’s a theme. It’s musical. It needs a tune. Last time I had the tune stuck in my head. This time round I’m going to have to start from scratch.

John Williams I ain’t.

Humming doesn’t do it for me. Any indistinct tune tends towards an established one within a matter of bars. Da-dum-dum dum-da da-da-da bop boopeti-bop… and I’ve hit the Superman theme. A few attempts later, it’s Indiana Jones. Dammit! Lawrence of Arabia! And now Doctor Who.

You know what? I’ve got my old Yamaha keyboard in the garage that I’ve recently spruced up.

Dusting off the ol' keyboard...
Dusting off the ol’ keyboard…

Let me go out there and tap on it for a bit and I’ll get back to you…

Getting back to you

Ah, that brings back memories. I wasted a bit of time remembering how all the bits worked. You know, the white keys and the black ones, chords, scales, tone-tone-semitone, tone-tone-tone-semitone. *sigh* back to business.

What did I find out? I found out that I’m not after anything hugely complicated. A simple 4/4 time, coupled with a simplistic tune is what I’m after. To reaffirm this, I went to YouTube and had a listen to some sci-fi themes to get an idea.

Blade Runner, Alien, Terminator, Doctor Who, Terra Nova, even Flash Gordon! It seems that the space related ones, like Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and Stargate, are grand, epic themes with big cymbals, orchestras and drums. Alien, Terminator, Blade Runner and Flash Gordon are less about the overall tune, and more about the beat, sound and underlying feel.

Where does Adaptation sit between these two? Probably more toward the latter side.

So I figure what I’m after is a sci-fi ditty that I can prop up with a thumpa-thumpa beat or a jika-jang of a distortion guitar to bring it back down.

Ah, phooey. I might as well stop typing and start on the melody.Mini Jeztyr Logo

Darker Sketches

The first batch came up sweet. I’m still learning from my mistakes even from the last few drawings. For one, I really need to take the photo with a black backing sheet to get rid of the text showing through.

A fallen Vigil sketch with colour.

Secondly, the book is more than heads and scenes. It contains a fair bit of action, violence and brutality. Hence I need to include some of the more disturbing scenes.

Warning: The next portion does contain images that might be confronting. I apologise in advance for any offense, although I do conjecture that it is within context of the book.

ACS Troopers and Pan’s Torture

ACS TrooperSketch
ACS Trooper Sketch.
ACS Trooper
ACS Trooper converted to colour.

Two of the defining portions of the book come are the assault on the Sanitation Facility and Pan’s torture by the Rags.

After toying with various perspectives and points within the scene, I’ve chosen to go for the ‘implied’ violence option. We don’t need to see someone being shot by a trooper dressed in dark armour, the implication of a trooper holding a gun, along with a body and some blood spattering is enough.

There is such a thing as gratuitous violence.

That’s not what Adaptation’s about so it shouldn’t be in the promo. Still, the assault took place, so a trooper, perhaps even a silhouette of troopers, and a fallen Vigil will suffice. Notice the shortened legs of the trooper. In the original sketch the legs are longer and wider, but I’ve got some perspective issues when taking the shot. No biggy, I’ll fix them up in Gimp.

Concept of the Assault on the Sanitation Facility.
Concept of the Assault on the Sanitation Facility.

And before you get all thingy, yes, I’m aiming for more troopers to be part of the assault and yes, I’m going to add shadows to the figures and the walls. This is a concept piece.

Pan’s torture is a turning point for Ottavio. Not only does it activate the Berserker module, it also reveals just what it is that he’s fighting for.

As such, I need to display the naked, brutalised, emaciated body of Pan, up against the drug-crazed yahooing crowd of steroid-using Rags. Rather than drawing every Rag there and having a very busy scene, I’ve decided to make a silhouette of the crowd, and have two or three Rags in detail accosting the poor boy.PanTortureSketch

So with the sketches in place, I scanned, coloured and converted them, so that I can make a composition in the order of:

Pan's torture and brutalisation
Concept of Pan’s torture at the hands of the Rags

Having the dark foreground blurred, the eye is naturally drawn to the centrepiece. Perhaps I’ll animate the red sheen falling over Ottavio’s eyes as Berserker takes hold and superimpose the hearts and livers of the assailants. Then again, maybe not. I don’t want to give the impression that the series is just a bloodbath.

Once I knock these off, I think I should be set to start putting some pieces together, maybe even get started on the music.Mini Jeztyr Logo

Colour me Happy

Sketches are nice enough, but add a dash of colour and, boom! They come to life.

A Different Approach

In the Bullet Animation, I rendered all of my sketches in Inkscape to vectors. This made them look flat, however I noticed that when I added the colour regions and overlaid that on the original sketch, it looked kind of like a watercolour.

I responded to that.

So this time I thought about doing things a wee bit differently. Getting into Gimp, I added the photographs of my sketches and cleaned the up the best I could, desaturating them, upping the contrast, adjusting the levels.

Then, adding a Layer (Layers are super) I created and coloured in my regions. I ended up with flat colours. OK, OK, nothing too different yet, may as well have done them in Inkscape, but, whatever, bear with.

Adding Layers makes the process a lot safer and easier
Adding Layers makes the process a lot safer and easier

I then added another layer, and another. One for shadows, one for shines. I bundled these into a Layer Group (Only learnt about these recently. They help a LOT). Now, with the aid of Gimp’s tools, I could shade in the various regions, quickly adding some dimension to the colour which, in turn, added life to the sketches!

The Results

And they’ve come up nice. Of course, they aren’t vectors, so that means I can’t animate them as I’d like. I guess I could pass them through Inkscape if I wanted to but I don’t think I want to. I’m still deciding whether I want to go down the sprites path, or down the stills path.

Transition for Master Pietro - Colour, Shading, Blend
Transition for Master Pietro – Colour, Shading, Blend

That’s Master Pietro. Here’s Brother Holland:

Brother Holland, drained of blood, eyes staring at the roof.
Brother Holland, drained of blood, eyes staring at the roof.

And Master Penelope. I toyed with a mustard suit, but purple seems to suit.:

Transition from sketch, colour, shade and shine, and blend
Transition from sketch, colour, shade and shine, and blend

Darn it, the print is showing through. I’m going to have to filter it out somehow… *sigh*.

Anyway, as I sketch and colour in more, I’ll post them for y’all.Mini Jeztyr Logo

Some Sketches

Even with my plan in place, I’m not entirely sure how this is all going to fit together. What I do know is that I can’t sit around umming and ahhing to the point where nothing is done.

That’s a philosophy of mine: When stalled, do something. That something might be thrown out later, but at least there’s something to throw out AND more often than not, whatever you’ve got has got a chance of being exactly what you need.

Waddya got?

So I looked through my pile of ‘Things that I’d like to show in the animation’ and picked out ones that formulated a scene in my head.

Master Pietro, with his wonky nose, strong jaw and weathered appearance

The first is Brother Holland and Master Pietro. I’ve got a half-idea of Master Pietro discovering the murder, and a close-up of Brother Holland’s blood-drained body. Master Pietro will be aged, weathered, gnarled. That won’t be too hard. Brother Holland, however, will pose an issue.

It’s one thing to draw a face, another thing to draw a face in recline, and yet another altogether to draw one that has had all of the blood siphoned out of it.

My first few attempts looked too healthy, too plump and firm. Kind of like a movie where they slap a bit of tomato sauce on the hero to show that he’s been beaten up, yet you can see he’s still fighting fit and feeling well. Hmm.

Brother Holland, emaciated, blood drained, face sunken, lips drawn and eyes skyward.

I then trawled the internet for examples of mummified or desiccated corpses. OK, that wasn’t fun, and the example were too dehydrated. It went in the opposite direction. So I mixed a bit of both and ended up with something that might pass as Brother Holland, staring at the ceiling with his lips drawn back over his teeth.

Last one my list of must haves is Miss Penelope. She’s not someone you see the back of. Nor her profile. She is always looking your way, watching, observing.

Master PenelopeSkewSmall
Miss Penelope, crisp, sharp suit, glasses, hair pulled back.

Now, Miss Penelope does a lot of talking, but no one wants to see a head yapping away, so I’m thinking I might include the head shot in some kind of introductory way, perhaps as a contextual piece or to juxtapose the various ‘action’ oriented scenes.

One thing you’ll notice is that there is print on the back of the images. This is a mistake of mine: To save paper, I used an old proof of Hampton Court Ghost and drew on the back.

Now those letters are coming through on the front. I’m concerned that, with the paleness of the pencil, upping the contrast to get some lines will also include artefacts from the print. I’ve run into that problem before and I’ve found that re-taking the photo with a black piece of paper behind the image works well enough, but we’ll see.

In any case, these are the first of many that (fingers crossed) will give me enough material to work with.Mini Jeztyr Logo

Failing to Plan

Moving past the cliche, the plan is where any endeavour begins. I had an idea in my head that I was going to make the Adaptation animation a set of short scenes or stills, now the big questions came.

How long will it go for? How many stills or frame do I want? What kind of drawing am I after?

The Plan

I figure that a minute is as good a time to aim for. Too short, there isn’t enough time to get stuff on the screen. Too long, it’ll drag out. That, and I’ve a very limited time resource up my sleeve. Pretty much to the end of the year.

A minute. Slice that up into arbitrary pieces and that gives about ten six second shots or six ten second shots. Which means I’ve just committed to drawing up at least six scenes. Sheesh. At least that answers the second question.

What about the type of drawing? Well, it’s sci-fi, so slick would be nice, but I can’t draw slick. I do scruffy. I also don’t colour stuff in a lot, mostly black and white, or pencils or charcoal, that kind of thing. Then again…

There was a time, way back when, back when the magpies gorbled in the morning sun and I could ride my bike across paddocks, that I would draw line art with a mouse, fill with blocks of colour and then air-brush to lighten or shade the regions. Tada! Artwork!

Of course, I couldn’t print them out. Bubble jet printers were a few years away, and printing a full page image on a black ink 9 pin dot matrix is a torture left for the fourth circle of Hell. Ah, memories.

So… the Plan?

Right, sorry. I figure I’ll pick up where I left off, draw my scruffy black and white images, scan them into the magic electron shuffler and colour them in the old fashioned way. That’ll keep it handmade.

The next part of my plan is the scenes. I don’t think even-Steven timing is the go, but I’ll need to get, as I mentioned before, at least six scenes / drawings to play with, from different parts of the story:

  1. Ryan assaulting Henry underneath the maglev controller
  2. Penelope putting forth her questions to Ottavio
  3. The troops storming the Sanitation facility
  4. Lucas’ scouting the ruins, seeing the two figures disappear
  5. Master Pietro discovering the body of Brother Harris
  6. Father Abraham revealing himself to Ryan and Kahira
  7. Pan’s torture by the Rags, with Ottavio and Simon watching on
  8. Cassandra pleading with Ottavio not to leave
  9. Professor Jung’s demonstration to the Board
  10. Brother Janus, Sister HanifĂ© and Ottavio’s emancipation
  11. And there’s Ali, and Emily, and Norbert and Lucas and Masters Theodore and Jacob and Marcus, of course…

Ahhh, great. So many choices. Well, the good thing is that there’s plenty of material. The bad thing is that this poor shmuck is going to be busy with his pencil, mouse and eyeballs to create all the assets required.

Might as well get cracking. I’ll post as I go. If I’m not back before Christmas, send out a search party <breathes deeply>…Mini Jeztyr Logo