Cool! Two big hits from Animation World Network today! First and foremost, a picture of The Mantis Parable on the front page which links to an in-depth REVIEW of the film which it calls "a luminous short" and a "visual stunner." Woohoo! It's a great review, but WARNING: SERIOUS SPOILERS! If you haven't seen the film and want to be surprised, don't read paragraphs 3, 4, and 5!

Also, a nice AWN headline of "Mantis Parable Bites at ION Fest" in the news section with a brief article detailing TMP's big win this past weekend at the ION Film Festival. Exciting stuff! :)
Had a wonderful time at the ION Film Festival this past weekend. I had the opportunity to meet many people and enjoyed some great films at the fest, which was held in a really cool theater on the UCLA campus...best of all, TMP won the International Animation of the Year Award! Last year's winner was the Academy Award winner Ryan. Woohoo! :)
Saw Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe last night with my wife. Amazing job! It's a beautiful film, and a worthy adaptation of one of my favorite books from my all-time favorite author: C.S. Lewis. Congratulations to Andrew Adamson (Director), and to my friends Micheal Flaherty (Walden Media) and Steve Hoogendyk (one of the animators who worked on Aslan at Rhythm and Hues - WOW) for a magnificent job on the film.

Also, wanted to remind folks in the Los Angeles area that The Mantis Parable will be screening at the ION Film Festival next weekend. TMP screens on
Saturday, December 17th, at 1:30 PM (UCLA - James Bridges Theater) and I WILL be in attendance! Hope to see you there! :)
At the last minute I've decided to attend the screening of The Mantis Parable at the ION Film Festival in Los Angeles next weekend. The festival actually takes place over the course of 3 days, the 16th - 18th (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) but TMP screens on
Saturday, December 17th, at 1:30 PM (UCLA - James Bridges Theater). Hope to see you there! :)

I should also mention that I've been contacted by the Spokane International Film Festival (right here in my hometown) and they've invited TMP to screen at the festival in February. It's a small sized festival with a consistently world-class film lineup. Should be fun. Hope to see you locals at The Met for that one!

Lost of festival announcements coming up over the next few days and weeks, so stay tuned to find out if The Mantis Parable is going to screen at a theater near you! :)

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving...we certainly did! :)

So last week's big news was that The Mantis Parable won the Starz People's Choice Award for BEST SHORT FILM at the Starz Denver International Film Festival (alongside Sundance, Telluride, Tribeca, Seattle,...Starz Denver International Film Festival is widely considered one of the top 10 international film-festivals in the United States). Woohoo! Amazing!

4 Days without email this past weekend...Oh, the Horror! :) Everything is back in order now. If you tried sending one and I haven't responded, you might wanna drop me another one just in case.

In other news, this evening I just had a wonderful phone interview with a major industry magazine, so stay tuned for more information on an upcoming article on The Mantis Parable!

And last but not least, today I pay a visit to Alpha Cine to view a :30 test of the film...on actual FILM! I will be having three 35mm film prints made of The Mantis Parable. Why? Well, firstly, it'll be pretty cool to be able to screen on 35mm at upcoming festivals, and secondly, The Mantis Parable has qualified for consideration for nomination for the Best Animated Short Film Academy Award and (it is currently being judged by Academy members at their branch screenings in Hollywood), and if it is selected, the Academy require two film prints for the nomination round of judging: Fingers crossed! :)
Just in case anyone has tried to email me in the last 2 days, my email server (through readyhosting.com) is down so I haven't been receiving emails. It's driving me crazy! I'm trying very hard to be patient. :(

In other news, my wife and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary this weekend. Woohoo! As part of our celebration we went to the Spokane Symphony last night where they performed the Lord of The Rings Symphony composed by Howard Shore. Accompanying the music, was a huge screen which displayed a video showcasing production art sketches and paintings by LOTR production designers Alan Lee and John Howe. It was pretty awesome. :)
Another amazing week! I've just returned from the Chicago International Children's Film Festival. The CICFF is the only children's film festival in the world to be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as an Academy qualifying festival, and now I can see why. FACETS, which runs the festival, has an amazing program which really gets kids thinking about the movies they're watching instead of just absorbing them. It's really a fantastic experience for the kids (and the filmmakers) and Kathleen Beckman and the rest of the staff do a phenomenal job. Thanks to all! Oh yeah, and I took home another award - 2nd Prize for Best Animated Short Film! Woohoo!

In addition to an amazing festival, I had the opportunity to make many new wonderful film-community friends - Beverly, Sam, Sue, Sara, Marcella, Chris,...too many to name. I hope and expect that we will continue to keep in touch. A special mention to Beverly who has a beautiful documentary-short called Mr. Mergler's Gift which has already been shortlisted for this year's Academy Award. It's a truly moving story about a young Chinese girl who turns out to have an amazing gift for music, and her wonderful piano teacher who has one gift left to give her. If you have a soft-spot for inspirational and heartfelt stories and an affinity for classical music (or even if you don't), the film is definitely worth viewing at a festival near you, or better yet, just take my word for it and treat yourself to the DVD. :)
Well, last weekend was indescribably surreal. First, there was the festival screening at the ArcLight Cinemas and of course, winning the discovery award for BEST ANIMATED FILM (which came with a gorgeous 20 pound trophy). Second, there were the random and bizarre brushes with celebrities - riding in an elevator with Ashlee Simpson and her friends, sitting directly behind Hugh Hefner and his "ladies" (plus entourage) at a festival screening of a documentary at the Arclight (accompanied by an over-the-top party that Hugh/Ladies/Entourage were all attending - among others - at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel)...but the most surreal was the Hollywood Film Festival Awards Gala itself which included:

(1) my wife and I walking in on the red carpet while the wall of paparazzi flashed their bulbs (not at us of course)

(2) mingling before the awards ceremony with stunned eyes wide open at the fellow familiarly-faced minglers

(3) a wonderful dinner while taking in the ceremony itself, and and last but not least...

(4) the amazing display of Hollywood professionals who presented or were awarded with trophies identical to mine just feet away from where we sat...a sampling of the list off the top of my head: actresses Halle Berry, Jodie Foster, Jennifer Aniston, Sandra Bullock, Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon, Rachel McAdams, Goldie Hawn, actors Matthew Broderick, Jake Gyllenhall, Joaquin Phoenix, Peter Saarsgard, directors Quentin Tarantino, Sam Mendes, the entire ensemble cast of "Crash", visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren, production designer Grant Major, and...drumroll please...George Lucas!

It was beyond surreal. I wouldn't consider myself generally prone to being star-struck, but the entire evening was simply outrageous. Of course, the highlight for me was getting to chat at some length with Dennis Muren, visual effects supervisor from ILM responsible for Jurassic Park and the Star Wars movies (all 6 of them) as well as countless other gigantic special effects-laden films.

A totally unbelievable night for my wife and I both. We just kept looking at eachother in disbelief saying "Is this real? Where on EARTH are we?" :)

Oh yeah, HERE is an article on CGW I stumbled upon. Enjoy! :)
The Mantis Parable's amazing journey CONTINUES. More info to come...
Sorry for the lack of updates, I've been swamped!

A couple months ago I did a lengthy interview for CG Maagazine in China, and yesterday I received my copy. Wow, is it beautiful! If only I could read Chinese! :)

Next week I'm off to the
Hollywood Film Festival where TMP is screening at the ArcLight Cinemas on Sunday, October 23rd at 4pm. I've never been to the Arclight, but I've heard it's pretty much the coolest theater in Hollywood to watch a film. TMP is showing just before another short and then a feature. If you live in the area and can make the screening I would really appreciate it. Not sure how many people are going to want to come to my humble screening what with all the celebrities flocking about! Seriously, it should be a totally surreal weekend, and while I'll feel like a fish-out-of-water, I'm really looking forward to it.

Oh yeah, and if I see Steven Spielberg I'll tell him you said "Hello". ;)
Another TMP mention regarding the Sidewalk Moving PIcture Festival HERE (not to mention it includes some worthy praise for my friend John Harden's La Vie d'un Chien). :)

ALSO, I've just received word that TMP will screen 4 TIMES at the Chicago International Children's Film Festival which runs from October 27th (The Mantis Parable will be one of the opening night screenings) to November 6th. The CICFF is the only children's film festival in the world to be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as an Academy qualifying festival. Woohoo!
Things really seem to be moving fast. Lots of great coverage on The Mantis Parable's big win already. Today, The Spokesman Review ran a SECOND article on The Mantis Parable to inform Spokanites about the 2 awards won on Sunday in Palm Springs. Here are some other links for your enjoyment:

Article on IndieWire.
Blog post by Spokesman Review reporter Dan Webster.
Preview of the "Animation Celebration" program, specifically commenting on The Mantis Parable in the Desert Sun (Palm Springs newspaper).
Award winners article in the Desert Sun (Palm Springs newspaper).

HERE is page one of the Spokesman Review Article published on September 24th.
HERE is page two.

HERE is the Spokesman Review Article published on September 27th (today).

Also, if you find any other related articles online, please let me know! Thanks! :)
Ok, so I'm pretty much speechless...thankfully, I can still type like nobody's business. Here's the scoop:

Not only did The Mantis Parable win BEST ANIMATION at the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films (WOW!), but I also won the prestigious FUTURE FILMMAKER AWARD. Check out the press-release HERE!

The BEST ANIMATION award affirms The Mantis Parable's qualification for consideration for an Academy Award (ZOIKS!), and the FUTURE FILMMAKER award is equal parts humbling, mindblowing, and stress inducing. What can I say? I, I, I'm...blah...speechless.

I can't say enough about the new friends I made this week at the festival. Thanks to everyone for being so nice to me this week and for all the wonderful chats. Your films are all amazing!

Oh yeah, and some of you may have seen the huge article on The Mantis Parable in the Spokesman Review this past Saturday. I'll try and get a web-link to it soon for you out-of-towners. Stay tuned for that. Woohoo! :)
Looking forward to the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films next weekend in Palm Springs, CA. This festival is widely referred to as the "Sundance of Short Film Festivals". Woohoo! Looking forward to seeing a ton of great films, hanging out with other film-makers, and presenting The Mantis Parable as part of the Animation Celebration at 11:30 at the Camelot I. If you can make it, I'd love to see you there.

ALSO, for those of you who live in the area (and have alarm clocks) I will be interviewed at 6:00am on Friday on KMIR-TV NBC 6. Believe it or not, I think my interview follows one with Melissa Joan Hart from Sabrina The Teenage Witch who directed a short-film called Mute also screening at the festival. Is it just me or is my life getting more and more bizarre? :)

And another thing! The Mantis Parable will compete at the Sidewalk Film Festival this week as well, screening twice: 11:45am, Saturday 9/24 and at 11:30am, Sunday 9/25, both screenings at the Rushton Theatre. I won't be there, but I would love a report if you get the chance to go! :)
What a crazy time this is! This morning I received an acceptance email from the St. Louis International Film Festival, the 6th Academy qualifying festival to screen The Mantis Parable in competition and the 17th festival over all. Woohoo! TMP will be screening in 8 fantastic festivals over the next 8 weeks, 4 of which are Academy qualifying. I am planning on attending at least the ones in Palm Springs, Hollywood, and Chicago...if you can make it to a screening I'd love to meet you there.

Stay tuned as well for an upcoming newspaper feature article on The Mantis Parable, and last but not least, this week I'm polishing up the paperwork on TMP's submission to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the 2006 Academy Awards. Yikes! :)

Oh yeah, and did I mention that I'm currently unemployed? :)
Life is full of Ups and Downs.

The UPS: The Mantis Parable continues to be on a roll. Over the weekend TMP was selected to screen at 2 more incredible festivals - Starz Denver International Film Festival (alongside Sundance, Telluride, Tribeca, Seattle,...Starz Denver International Film Festival is widely considered one of the top 10 film-festivals in the United States) and Uppsala in Sweden (as a film-maker friend of mine put it: "An Academy nomination is one thing, but UPPSALA! Now THAT is the big-time!"). Amazing. Simply amazing! :)

The DOWNS: This will come as a shock to many of you, but Cyan Worlds (the creators of Myst, Riven, and URU: Ages Beyond Myst) is shutting down. I've been at Cyan for going on 12 years now as CG Production Director, Lead Artist and Game Designer, and the last 7+ as Art and Visual Design Director...but now, for the first time in my life, I am unemployed. Cyan has been like a family to me. When I first came to Cyan there were just 6 of us - Rand, Robyn, Chris, Rich, Bonnie (my future wife!), and myself. It was truly a "garage startup" back then, as I lived and worked in Robyn's basement. Over the years we created some amazing stuff...arguably the most beautiful and inspiring games every created. I'm not a gamer...I consider myself an artist and storyteller. Even so, I was blessed with a job that allowed me to grow artistically and as a storyteller in an industry virtually devoid of such lofty concepts. I am truly grateful for the time I've had there. Now it's time to move on.

In many ways, this is a blessing in disguise. As you may have guessed, I have felt for a long time that my future would lead me into the animated film industry and the time has come to take that step. My hope is that I can find a new "home" where I can contribute my skills to great projects while collaborating with the best. Stay tuned. :)
Another day, another festival! :)

Today, The Mantis Parable was accepted to the Sidewalk Film Festival. Since its debut in 1999, filmmakers from across the country and around the world have come to Birmingham to screen their work at Sidewalk and have been thrilled to discover fresh, enthusiastic crowds eager to devour new independent cinema In 2004, Sidewalk attracted more than 12,000 attendees during the festival weekend. With six venues located within Birmingham's historic Theatre District, spontaneity rules the schedule of Sidewalk attendees. The result is a crowd rich in diversity and united in a hunger for new film. I'm thrilled to have TMP compete in what looks like a wonderful event. Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend. :(
Add another one to the list!
The Mantis Parable will screen at the prestigious Hollywood Film Festival in late October. The festival was created to bridge the gap between Hollywood and the global creative community, while at the same time honoring established Hollywood professionals. The Awards Gala on the final evening of the festival is a star-studded event to say the least...you know, Mel Gibson, Steven Spielberg, Denzel Washington, Harrison Ford...uh, me. :) Woohoo!
The amazing news keeps rolling in folks!

Just returned from a wonderful week at the Rhode Island International Film Festival where TMP received the Grand Prize for Best Children's Film! I had such a wonderful time in Providence. Everyone made me feel special and showed their personal appreciation for the film (check out the beautiful note left by Regina in the Guestbook!). Many thanks go out to all the wonderful people working at the festival, as well as the many film-makers I got the opportunity to chat with (Stu Pollard, Rover (sorry!), Stephen Collins, Michael Showalter, Aruna and Aram, Greg...the list goes on!).

ALSO, TMP has received an acceptance to the Chicago International Children's Film Festival in October. The CICFF is the only children's film festival in the world to be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as an Academy qualifying festival. It's awesome! Palm Springs in September and Chicago in October. Woohoo!
Off to Rhode Island tomorrow for the Rhode Island International Film Festival. The Mantis Parable is screening on Thursday and Friday at 10:00am at the Columbus Theater...a very cool old theater in downtown Providence. TMP will also screen on Saturday night at 6:30 at the Columbus Cinamatheque. If you can make it to any of the screenings, I'd love to see you there! TMP is up for an award, so fingers crossed! :)

In totally unrelated news, just for fun I created a couple Color Illusions pages which may just blow your mind. Enjoy!

Oh, and if you haven't read the AnimWatch feature interview on The Mantis Parable. Go THERE now! :
AnimWatch feature interview on The Mantis Parable. Go THERE now! :)

This week I was notified that The Mantis Parable has been nominated to receive an award at the Rhode Island International Film Festival in Providence, Rhode Island August 9th - 14th. Fingers-crossed! Woohoo!

Also, The Mantis Parable has been officially recognized by IMDB.com as a short-film and has finally received a voter rating (currently 9/10!). If you've got a second (and you've actually seen the film), head over there to vote and/or leave a comment! Thanks!

What a week! Today I received notice that The Mantis Parable has been selected to screen at the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films. This is another big one folks! All first place winners in the Live Action and Animation categories will automatically become eligible for nomination consideration by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the short film categories. This festival is often called "The Sundance of Short Film Festivals". Woohoo! :)
The Mantis Parable has been invited to screen at the Rhode Island International Film Festival in Providence, Rhode Island August 9th - 14th. Woohoo! Now in its ninth year, the Rhode Island International Film Festival is widely considered one of the top 10 Short Film Festivals and Top 10 International Film Festivals in the United States. Winners of the Best Short Film category qualify for an Academy Award. This looks to be a great festival! :)

Also, what a wonderful weekend I had in New York at the God On Film Festival. Awesome! TMP screened in the beatiful Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom to a huge crowd of people and got a fantastic response. Thanks again to all the GOF organizers and to all my new film-maker friends from the event, hope to see you again soon! :)

Oh yeah! Don't forget to check out the photos from NY in my new PhotoBlog!
I will be attending the God On Film Festival on July 11th at the Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom in New York, NY where The Mantis Parable is nominated for BEST Under 10 Minute Short Film in the competition. Hope to see you there! :) Of course, I'm thrilled to be bringing along my camera to fill up my new PhotoBlog with lots of shots from the Big Apple.

Additionally, TMP will be screening 12 times (!) at Anima Mundi in Brazil over the next couple of weeks. Unfortunately, I won't be attending, but if someone sees Mantis and would like to give me the scoop on the festival, I'd love to hear!
6.30. 05
I will be attending the God On Film Festival on July 11th at the Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom in New York, NY where The Mantis Parable is nominated for BEST Under 10 Minute Short Film in the competition.

ALSO, I bought a camera - the first "nice-ish" camera I've ever owned - and I'm goin crazy with it (it's a Canon S2 IS). I've gotta put all these pictures somewhere, so I created a PhotoBlog which I plan on updating often. I'd love to see you over there...as always, comments are welcome and encouraged! :)
6.16. 05
The Mantis Parable has been officially recognized by IMDB.com as a short-film. Cool! If you've got a second (and you've actually seen the film), head over there to vote and/or leave a comment! Thanks!

Oh yeah, and if THIS doesn't put a smile on your face, I'm not sure what would. Enjoy! :)
6.15. 05
What a week!!!

The Mantis Parable has been invited to screen at the God On Film Festival in New York, NY on June 11th. This one-day festival takes place in the Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom. Can you imagine TMP screening in that amazing place! BTW, The Mantis Parable is nominated for BEST Under 10 Minute Short Film in the competition, and is therefore also under consideration for BEST OF SHOW. Woohoo!

6.12. 05


The Mantis Parable has won Best Animation at the Winnipeg International Film Festival! I was shocked considering the great competition (some of my favorite animations involved in the competition include last year's Academy Award nominee "Gopher Broke", and the traditional animated "Handshake", and "A Plan"). What a wonderful weekend I had watching so many awesome films and befriending such great film-makers - Nessa and Dwight, Luke, Ross, Terry, Milt, Sidney...not to mention Rod and Paris. Looking forward to the next time we cross paths!

Later that day, The Mantis Parable was honored with 4th-Runner Up for the Golden Space Needle Award for Best Short Film at the Seattle International Film Festival! It sounds sort've silly to be excited about 4th-Runner Up, but the Golden Space Needle Award for Best Short Film is a pretty big deal, especially considering my film is an animation short - in the kids program no less.


6.8. 05
Off to the Winnipeg International Film Festival this weekend where TMP will screen on both June 10th and June 11th at 1:00pm at the Ramada Theatre (screen 1). Hope to see you there! :)
5.30. 05
The Winnipeg International Film Festival has announced their schedule and TMP will screen on both June 10th and June 11th at 1:00pm at the Ramada Theatre (screen 1). This looks to be a great festival! One of the films in the same program as TMP is Gopher Broke, the short-film from Blur Studios that was nominated for an Academy Award last year. Come to think of it, at the Seattle International Film Festival TMP was programmed with Blur's other highly successful short-film from last year In the Rough. Frankly, both of those films are amazing and I feel honored just to play alongside them. ;)
5.26. 05
What an amazing experience! I must say, it is totally surreal watching TMP on a huge screen in a beautiful theater surrounded by hundreds of people eating popcorn and slurping soda. Everything about this past weekend's whirlwind tour was fantastic - The Mantis Parable couldn't have been better received. Woohoo! Next is the Winnipeg International Film Festival. I will be attending all 4 days of the festival. Hope to see you there! ;)

Also, the first of the 4 articles on TMP has been published by 3D World Magazine and is available, although I think the magazine is released in the UK first and to the rest of the world a couple weeks later.
5.20. 05
Big weekend ahead. Tomorrow I will be attending the screening of TMP at the Seattle International Film Festival, and Sunday I will be attending the screening at the Danville International Children's Film Festival. Hope to meet some of you there. Otherwise, wish me luck! ;)
5.15. 05
More exciting news! The Mantis Parable has been accepted to it's 7th festival, the Boston International Film Festival. I was born in Boston, so this is one is particularly special to me. :)
5.14. 05
I've removed the "MANTIS SHOP" link (unfortunately, my professional printing friend is no longer available anyway!) and replaced it with "SCREENINGS" which provides information on upcoming dates where you can see The Mantis Parable on the big-screen. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available. :)
5.13. 05
Great News! The Mantis Parable has been accepted to it's 6th festival, and this looks to be a great one. ANIMA MUNDI will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from July 8th to 17th and in São Paulo, Brazil from July 20th to 24th. This dedicated animation festival is extremely large, attracting an audience of over 65,000 people. Woohoo! :)
5.9. 05
Boy. It's amazing how much work there is to do once you're done with your film. Sometimes I think it's more work now that I'm done with it! The festival circuit is truly a full-time job - researching festivals, preparing submissions, burning dvd screeners, printing labels, dvd covers, getting tape transfers, buying envelopes, preparing/updating press-kits, creating promotional materials, driving back and forth to the post-office (every time I walk in there the postman behind the counter asks: "More movies?")...it's exhausting! I've been to the post-office at minimum twice a week for the past 8 weeks! ;) Still, I'm really looking forward to the World Premiere of The Mantis Parable in Seattle on the 21st. That's less than 2 weeks away! Following that I'll be traveling down to my ol' stomping grounds to attend the screening in Danville, CA on the 22nd (BTW, it's also screening in Danville on the 21st...but I'll still be in Seattle). :)
5.3. 05
Big thanks to Jeff Douglas from North By Northwest for helping me get some tape transfers made for the festivals. Friday night he was willing to stay late at work to make a BetaSP, DigiBeta, and HDCam version of the film for me. Amazing! Those guys at NxNW sure know what they're doing. I have to admit, it was pretty cool to see The Mantis Parable playing in HD on a $40,000 monitor too. :) Thanks again Jeff!
4.21. 05
I've been keeping this under wraps for a few weeks now, but I can't take it any longer!

3D World Magazine has asked me to write 4 articles (released in consecutive months) featuring the creation of The Mantis Parable. It will cover from start (concept) to finish (the festival circuit) the process of producing and promoting a truly independent CG Animated short-film. In typical 3D World fashion, each article will be accompanied by a CD which will include bonus clips and behind-the-scenes stuff from the film.

Start saving up your pennies cuz the first article is scheduled to appear on the shelves in late-May. Woohoo!
4.16. 05
Festival schedules showing Mantis are starting to be finalized. For starters, Mantis will show at the the Academy Award Qualifying Athens International Film Festival in late-April, and the Seattle International Film Festival in late-May (the most highly attended festival in the U.S. - 150,000 per year!). Mantis will also be in California (the Bay Area) in late-May and Canada in June. I will be personally attending at least the Seattle and California showings. I should learn of more acceptances (or rejections) sometime in May. As soon as I know exactly where and when I'll post the information here so stay tuned for that. Hope to see you at one of the screenings! :)

In other news, it looks like I finally got the guestbook problem figured out (so sign away!), but unfortunately in the process I lost the last 3 months of guestbook signings! Ugh.
4.13. 05
Just returned from a couple amazing weeks of vacation with my family. WOW! What a fantastic trip - New York, Boston, and several other wonderful cities throughout New England. In any case, if you've been wondering where in the world I've been, that's where! :)
4.1. 05
Apologies to those that signed the guestbook over the last couple months. The guestbook has been the occasional target of spamming for a few months now, and I think the last time I cleaned stuff out of it I screwed something up in the database (!) I'll do my best to figure out what's wrong and get it back on track. In the meantime, if you've got something to say, just email me! I'd love to hear from you. :)
3.25. 05
Great news! The Mantis Parable is being well-received on the film festival circuit, and has been accepted to the first 5 film-festivals I've received notification for. 5-for-5! I hope to actually attend a few of them, so maybe I'll see you there! Stay tuned for venues and screening times. :)

I can't even put into words how much I love my (I mean, my kid's?) Incredibles DVD. The story, the visuals, the music...everything is just so awesome. Congrats to everyone at Pixar (again) at making such a wonderful film. I seriously can't get enough of it!

3.18. 05
Long time since my last post! What on earth have I been doing?

Well, one thing I got the opportunity to do was to take my kids to Robots, the new CG animated film from Blue Sky Studios, the creators of Ice Age. Robots is visually spectacular, and proves that Blue Sky belongs at least up there with Pixar and Dreamworks in this regard. Everything in the film is made of metal, which is accurately shiny, rusty, chipped, polished, whatever. The animation is smooth, fun, and just generally fantastic throughout. While I wish there could've been a little more room for character development (the characters were a lot of fun, but I wanted to know more!) I really enjoyed the film and my kids did too. Woohoo! :)

Well, further evidence of how little I understand the whole festival scene (again, this is my first film) I've been expecting about a 2 month wait before I hear from any festival on whether or not The Mantis Parable will be accepted. Lo and behold, I received a call TODAY from the Winnipeg International Film Festival, and The Mantis Parable has been accepted! Woohoo! I can't believe it. Most surprising is that Winnipeg will still be accepting submissions for another 2 months (!). I guess I assumed that they would wait until all the submissions were in before deciding on a film's inclusion...particularly because I submitted it less than a week ago. I'm totally confused, but also very excited. So, for all of those who live in or around Winnipeg, Canada, keep the week of June 9th open because TMP will be coming to town! :)
I've received several questions lately regarding the process of submitting The Mantis Parable into the various festivals. If you're curious, over at AnimWatch I've explained everything I've researched thus far in a forum thread titled Festival Madness. For the last few weeks (and months) I've investigated the whole festival scene to figure out how it all works. Unfortunately, while there's bits of information all over the internet, I couldn't find a single comprehensive explanation to my satisfaction. Considering this is my first film, I'm certainly no expert at the festival submission process, but I would like to share what I've learned thus far. If you're interested in what is required to enter a short-film into a festival, c'mon over! :)

Speaking of AnimWatch, this month's feature article is a one-on-one interview with Chris Wedge, the director of Blue Sky Studios, creators of Ice Age and the upcoming feature film Robots which comes out next week! Woohoo!
Now that the film is completely finished, I've updated the Intro with the new final version. Enjoy!
Thank you so much to everybody who has sent me congratulations for finishing the film. I really appreciate hearing from all of you!

Most of you are asking a very important question: When can we see the film!?

As far as seeing the film on DVD or downloading it from my site, well, I've got some good news and bad news (ok, mainly bad, but it's not my fault!) As I've mentioned in previous posts, my plan has been to enter the film into a number of festivals. Unfortunately, the festivals really frown on showing films that people have already seen (their point is, why would people come to our festival if they've already seen the film?) So releasing the film on the internet (or even selling it) is strictly prohibited - at least for now. That's the bad news. The good news, is that if the film does well (if it gets accepted to a lot of festivals), chances are you'll be able to see it on a big screen at a theater near you along other quality films as part of a festival! I really have no idea how many festivals the film will be accepted to, but I'm working on the list right now, and in fact, I'm sending out DVD screening versions of the film to at least 8 festivals this week(!). Included on the list are festivals that take place in Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto, etc...even Ohio! Of course, I will be updating the site with information as to where and when the film will be shown should it get into a festival. Unfortunately, I won't find out if the film has been accepted myself for a while (I think the first notifications from festivals go out in May or June!). Believe me, it's a very frustrating and confusing process (and expensive) as each festival has it's own cost of entry, format, press-kit requirements...ugh.

Again, I know it may not be much consolation to you at this point, but it's the best I can do. Eventually, my plan is to make a DVD available that will include tons of Making Of materials for those who are interested in the process behind making the film, but that will take some time for me to produce, and again, it will have to wait until the film has run its course on the festival circuit. :( There is a bit of good news too though, as now that the film is done, I will have more time to actually update the site with Making Of features, and perhaps release a few more clips of the film online.

Thanks again for your interest and your support! :)


That's right folks! The Mantis Parable short-film is complete in DVD form and ready to be thrown onto the film-festival circuit. I can't tell you how wonderful I feel today to know that it's finally done and people will get the opportunity to see it. Thank you to everyone who has encouraged me throughout the last 18 months+, I couldn't have done it without your support! :)

So, what does finishing the film mean? Well, it will mean a few things. Sitting to the left of me is a first batch of 10 DVDs, 6 of which will go off to film-festivals next week. Having the film finished will also free me up to spend more time plugging Making Of pieces and Production Journal elements into the site. One of the first things I will be doing to the site will be updating the Intro with the final version (very similar to the one released last summer, but with the completely final visuals, sound, and music). Anyway, I've got a million things I could talk about, but most of all, I simply want to shout:


Some of you may remember about a year ago my grandfather passed away (my mom's dad) and I got the opportunity to put together a video for his memorial service. Early last week my grandmother died (my dad's mom) and I was honored to be able to put together a video for her service. I am so blessed to have such wonderful grandparents...it really is a priviledge to help put something together to remind people of their amazing lives. In any case, I've spent the last 3 days working on it (I was up until 4:30 yesterday morning finishing it) so I haven't had a lot of time to work on TMP, but I've made so much progress lately I still appear to be in decent shape for finishing by the end of the month. All of the visuals have been re-rendered at 1280 (I'm going to continue to make minor tweaks here and there, but nothing major) and I'm moving on to finish up the music and sound. It's been an exhausting week to say the least, but the finish line is so close I can feel it! :)
1.28. 05
Getting a lot of work done, folks. I ended up purchasing a second PC to help with me get everything rendered in time and it's helped A LOT. I purchased a refurbished Dell PC (3GHz, 1Gig RAM) for less than $700 bucks. Not bad. My budget for this film is actually still under $5000. :) In any case, I expect to have everything re-rendered by the end of next week if not before. I really can't believe how quickly the re-rendering process has gone. Kind of makes me nervous! Anyway, hopefully by the weekend after that I'll be able to get back on music and sound in earnest. Only a month to go if I want to hit the 1st two film-festival deadlines! Eek! :)

1.17. 05
Ok, finally an update. :)

I've completed rendering the Intro, and as of this morning, Act III. Tonight I will move on to Act II. I hope to have Act II rendered by the end of the month, if not sooner.

I guess I didn't mention this in my last post, but I've also decided to render everything at 24 frames-per-second instead of 30. As I mentioned previously, while investigating the film-festivals I discovered that many of them will require a 35mm film version of the short - film being 24 fps. So for the following reasons, I made the 11th hour decision to do everything at 24fps: (1) It's a lot easier to go from 24fps to 30fps (video/dvd) than 30fps to 24fps. (2) There's just something about film. As my friend Terry Coolidge said: Josh, are you making a video? or are you making a film!? Well, after all this work, I'm definitely making a film. There's a certain elegance to film that is hard to put your finger on, but you know it when you see it, and believe it or not, some of that has to do with the 24fps. Hard to explain. :) (3) It's 20% less to render! Basically, although the length of the film (in terms of time) is exactly the same, there are 20% less overall frames to render, which helps me on a number of different fronts. Instead of 13,000 frames to render (30fps), I now have 8.040 (24fps). Woohoo!

1.06. 05
Happy New Year!

First of all, I apologize for taking a little more time than usual before updating.The truth of the matter is that The Mantis Parable has hit full steam ahead and I'm incredibly busy. Frankly, feel like my head might explode at any minute.

One of the reasons I wanted to get that first-pass complete by Dec. 20th, is that it would give me the opportunity to burn it on a DVD and show it to some family and friends over the Holiday Break and get their input. Wow! What an amazing response! Their encouragement has given me a huge boost of energy that will surely take me right through to the end of the project. Now, as to the end...

One of the other things I researched over the Holidays was the whole festival scene. There are hundreds of film-festivals around the world every year, and it's very difficult to know what festivals to enter, not to mention the fact that entering your film into festivals can be very pricey - some festivals actually require that you create a true 35mm film transfer of your film or they won't show it - even for a short-film like TMP you're looking at a few thousand dollars for a film-transfer. Eeek! Considering I'm doing this project all on my own, in my spare time, with no financial sponsors, I need to be especially careful. There are so many things to consider - each festival has its own specifications of size/resolution/format/length/genre/cost. HERE is a great site I found that helps you determine which festivals to enter, and even helps you by streamlining the process of entering them...Speaking of festivals, the first big festival I would like to enter is...(drumroll please)...SIGGRAPH. SIGGRAPH happens to me one of about a hundred Academy Recognized short-film festivals (you know, the Oscars?). I know I'm probably dreaming, but why not shoot high, right? Problem is, the deadline for submitting films to SIGGRAPH is March 11th, which means I have to have everything tweaked, re-rendered, and have all of the sound AND music completed by then. That's almost impossible. Obviously, not submitting TMP to SIGGRAPH wouldn't be the end of the world, but it's certainly something to target. It's also nice to see the "light at the end of the tunnel" only a couple of months away. In other words, my late nights are full! I have a lot to fix, AND I've got to 13,000 frames to re-render!

Speaking of which (this is a pretty big update, eh?) I've decided to render everything at 1280X1024, or rather, 1280X694 (the black bars will be added at the top and bottom for NTSC). Up until now I've been rendering everything at 1024X554, but (again, humor me here) some festivals - including the Academy Awards will only accept films with a native resolution of 1280X1024. Whew!
12.27. 04
Hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas! My family certainly did. :)

In other news - I'm not sure if I mentioned this or not, but it turns out the Chris Clanin will be unable to work on the sound-foley for The Mantis Parable. He has recently left Cyan to take a job in Utah, and won't have the time (or the equipment for that matter) to help out. After discussing the situation with a couple of comerades, I have been encouraged to do it myself. So, the one thing that I was hoping to rely on someone else for, has fallen back into my lap. The good news, is: Wow! Recording sound-foley is fun! :) After doing quite a bit of research, yesterday I went and bought a couple of microphones. Actually, I had originally intended to just buy 1 microphone, but when I was at the store I found THIS deal. I've only used the 991 Condenser Mic so far (the slim one), but it's working great. Simply plug the thing into my mBox fire up Pro Tools LE (it comes with the mBox) and record away. Woohoo! Hoping to get a sound-foley pass done by the start of the New Year. :)
12.21. 04
WOOHOO! The first-pass visuals for the film is complete! Over the next day or so I'll be putting the clips together and beginning to work on a first-pass of the sound effects and music. I can't wait. Even though there's a lot of work left to do (camera and animation tweaks, little additions, etc.) it feels great to finally have a complete version of the film. I haven't completely compiled the last couple of rendered clips, but it looks like the film will end up being just over 7 minutes long. Stay tuned for more info.

In other news, the TUTORIAL I wrote for the Bathroom Scene has finally reared its head over at www.the123d.com. Woohoo!

12.13. 04
In order to keep my "promise" of having the first-pass done this Fall, I need to complete the visual first-pass of the film in 7 days or less, and I think it's gonna be close, but I'll make it. I'm starting to get excited about the possibility of the film finally being finished in the next few months. Woohoo! I've already started creating the pages of tweaks and fixes I'll need to do before rendering the final pass, and last night I made some significant headway with the music (at least I think I've made progress). I haven't actually laid the music side by side with the visuals yet, but I think I've got some riffs of the main theme that will work for the various parts.

In other news, over the last week or so I've added a couple sketches to the www.joshstaub.com site. So stop by there if you're interested in that sort of thing.

Also, adcritic.com ran a little story on the 3D Illustrations I did for a local advertising agency and their "Fear No Mirror" campaign (the Bathroom Scene was the "kernel" of one of the illustrations). There's a little blurb about me in the story (3rd section down), and a link to a pdf of the images. I'll warn you, the color and compression in the pdf images are terrible. I hesitate to even show them to you because they're so ugly. Oh well. What are you gonna do? I plan on posting some nicer versions of the images at www.joshstaub.com in the next few days, although, with all the self-imposed pressure of getting the first-pass of TMP done in a week, who knows?

12.7. 04
Bit the bullet yesterday and bought Frischluft's Lenscare plugin for After Effects. After the first-pass of the film is complete (I'm targeting Dec.20th) I will be going back and finessing animation, tweaking pacing and cameras, and adding miscellaneous set dressings and then re-rendering the entire film for the final version. One of the things I would really like to use in the final version is "depth-of-field" where appropriate. Unfortunately. rendering with DOF on is incredibly time consuming. I've done rendering tests where a standard image w/o DOF takes 2 minutes, but with DOF they can take 15-20 minutes! For my purposes that is completely impractical. Thankfully if I render the images with a "Z-Channel" and import them into After Effects, Lenscare will allow me to add realistic DOF as a post-production effect. Did some tests last night with it and I think it will work great. Maybe I'll post a couple here for your examination. :)
12.4. 04
Some of you may remember a few months ago I mentioned that The Mantis Parable had found a small part in a book called Inspired 3D Short Film Production. Well, the book came out a little while ago and I've been waiting for my free copy to arrive. Yesterday it finally came. Wow! I have to say I wasn't expecting quite a book. First of all, it's huge. It's 470 pages chock-full of images, sketches, and behind-the-scenes information on dozens and dozens of 3D Short Films. As if that wasn't enough, it comes with a DVD with 36 (yes, 36!) short films led by one of my all-time favorites - Bert. Seriously, I had no idea it was this comprehensive a reference book. It's filled with tons of good information for those thinking about creating a 3D short film, or even just interested in the process. Sure makes a good Christmas gift doesn't it? :)

Speaking of which, don't forget to check-out The Mantis Parable Shop. Mousepads and T-Shirts make great gifts too! :)
11.29. 04
Wow! I'm so close to finishing the first-pass of this thing! My plan to render the first-pass of the film in the Fall is going to come true, but it'll be a squeaker (considering Winter begins Dec. 21st I think). I expect to have a rough version of the entire film w/o sound by Dec. 20th (if not sooner) and hope to plug in at least temporary music and sound by Jan.1. Woohoo!

In other news, I have another film to recommend - The Iron Giant. I saw it several years ago, but just recently bought the DVD because the "Special Edition" just came out and it's got lots of little behind-the-scenes goodies that I love. It's also worth mentioning because the creator of The Iron Giant (Brad Bird) is also the director for The Incredibles (which you already knew was awesome, right?). There is some mature language in The Iron Giant (and some action sequences your kiddies could find a little frightening), so you might wanna pre-screen it before you show it to the little kids, but I gotta tell ya, my eyes tear up at the end every time I watch it. :)
11.22. 04
Some of you might be wondering if I've lost steam over the last couple weeks because of my lack of updates. Actually that couldn't be further from the truth! :) I'm actually making great progress on the final Act of the film (I'm over 30 seconds into it now) and expect to finish it up by the beginning of December! :)

In other news, a few nights ago my wife and I got the opportunity to see the stage version of Les Miserables. Awesome! I knew the story, had grown up listening to the music, and actually enjoyed the film version, but the play was great. If you wanna know what sort of stories I like, well, that's certainly one of my favorites - themes of grace and forgiveness are woven throughout. Quite the storyteller that Victor Hugo. :)
11. 13. 04
Lots of stuff going on right now. Because of all the interest generated from the Bathroom Scene image, I've just completed an interview and a tutorial which should show up on the internet in the next few days. I'll keep you posted as to where and when they'll appear.

I've also added a couple simple design sketches to the www.joshstaub.com site for those that are interested in the sort of pre-production work I generally do for the artists in the Art Dept. at Cyan. Most of my pre-production work is in the form of sketches (for specific items) or digital paintings (for environments and look-and-feel). You can find examples of both over at www.joshstaub.com. Enjoy! :)

11. 8. 04
Hard to believe, but The Incredibles actually exceeded my lofty expectations! Amazing! I spent the entire time grinning from ear-to-ear. Great work Pixar!

In other news, there has been quite a response to the Bathroom Scene image. I've had both interview and tutorial requests (not to mention several kind and gracious emails) from folks who just wanna know more about it and how it was made. I'm hoping to find some time in the next few days to put something together. I'm also planning on posting the other 2 scenes from the Ad Campaign on the joshstaub.com site in the near future. Stay tuned! :)

11. 5. 04
Today is a big day in the Staub household. First, an afternoon matinee of The Incredibles with the whole family. Woohoo! Then, a family date (our friday evening ritual - tonight it's my 2-year old son's choice of where to eat), then swing by Blockbuster to pick up our "free" copy of Shrek 2 which also comes out today. It's a CG Film Family Extravaganza! Hope you're day is gonna be as good as mine. :)
11. 2. 04
Purchased an Epson Stylus Photo 1280 printer last night. Woohoo! It's a large format printer that prints photo-quality images up to 13X19, perfect for great big images from The Mantis Parable! So what was the one and only thing I printed on it last night? Why, my monthly Blockbuster Free Movie Rental Coupon of course. :)

10. 25. 04
Ok, so I know it's been a terribly long time since I released any sort of clip... I just don't wanna give anything away! :) In any case, HERE is the first pass of a quicky animation of the mantis take-off - flying (jumping) up to peer in to the top of the jar...I rendered this just over 2 months ago. Enjoy! :)

The "bridge" between the 2nd and 3rd acts is done (didn't I tell you it was tiny?) and I'm just about to start the 3rd act. Woohoo!

10. 21. 04
Well, 2 and an Intro down, 1 to go!!! :) WoOhoO! That's right, the first pass of Act II is in the books. I can't believe I've finally gotten this far. It feels great. Next up is a tiny little clip that bridges the 2nd and 3rd acts, and then onto the 3rd and final act (which I expect is the shortest of the 3 acts). Thanks for all the support everybody! :)

In other great news, The Bathroom Scene image has been awarded the prestigious CG Choice Award over at CGTalk.com. You can get a look at a hi-res version of the image and read what people are saying about the it HERE.
10. 19. 04
Getting more time to work on TMP lately and I'm feeling very motivated to get to the end of Act II. Act III (the finale) is shorter than Act II, and I expect will take less time to complete, so I'm feeling pretty good about that as well.

BTW, I don't know about you, but I'm very much looking forward to The Incredibles. From everything I've read and seen it looks like it's gonna be fantastic. Those Pixar guys sure know what they're doing. HERE is another cool link (a blog) that follows all things Pixar if you're curious.

Also, I've gotten some emails from some concerned TMP fans about me not putting up as many journal entries. I sincerely apologize for that. The biggest reason is simply because up until a few nights ago I haven't had much time to work on it. The other problem, is that I fear that images and clips that I show from this point in the film will simply give too much away and ruin the story. Either way, I'll do my best to more diligent about updates. Thanks again for following along! :)
10. 14. 04
Finally found a few hours the other night to work on TMP and I made significant progress - still shy of finishing Act II, but progress is progress! I've had some other things come up recently (not the least of which is an awful case of bronchitis I just can't seem to get rid of). Anyway, HERE is one of those things that has been taking up my "spare" time. It took me about 3 days working part-time to do it. There's actually 3 separate scenes I've been asked to create, and I've completed 2 of them so far (as soon as the 2 print ads are published I'll be sure to post them here). Enjoy! :)
10. 7. 04
Handed over the Intro and the first-pass of Act I to Chris Clanin a couple of days ago for sound foley treatment. I'm really looking forward to seeing (ok, hearing) what he comes up with. Having someone else infuse their talents and skills into your work is inspirational, especially when it comes to audio. After watching Act I a million times without any audio whatsoever a little audio is certain to be refreshing! :)
9. 27. 04
Last week I was approached by sound-designer Chris Clanin (from here at Cyan Worlds). He has offered to do the sound-foley for The Mantis Parable. Very exciting! Stay tuned for more updates as to the future of the sound in TMP! :)
9. 14. 04
So, last week was supposed to be a "vacation" week for me, when instead I spent the whole week sick at home. Ugh. I made very little progress, although I did hack a temporary piece of music to bits and splice it into Act I to get a taste for how it might feel. I've found it very helpful to take music from other sources (film music, etc), chop it up, and place it with the film to give me a first glance at what the final will look and sound like. It also helps me figure out if the timing of the video clips will work or not. So far so good! :)
9. 6. 04
Sorry for the lack of entries recently! I've been busy with some other projects, out of town for a couple of days, and since I've been back I've been exhausted. Still, I hope to make some good progress this week. I've been playing with morph targets for the mantis' eyelids (yes, real mantises don't have eyelids, but the one in our story does) so perhaps I'll post a couple of examples of that in action once I make some progress with it. Stay tuned! :)
8. 27. 04
Just wanted to say thanks again to CG Channel for their feature on The Mantis Parable. They've rotated the next feature to take the place of TMP, but you can still read the article HERE if you missed it. Great to meet so many new fans through your guestbook signings and kind emails. Thanks! :)
8. 23. 04
Article on The Mantis Parable running on CG Channel today! Looks great.

For all of you who are new to The Mantis Parable, welcome! While you're here, you can watch the :34 second Intro to the film, check out some behind-the-scenes work in the Making Of section, and of course, read through the Production Journal which includes all sorts of updates and odds-and-ends from the project (including lots of still images and clips - look for the GREEN links). I try and update the Production Journal a few times a week (and the Making Of section every month), so enjoy your stay and come back often!
8. 20. 04
Updating a previous entry, the ANIMWATCH Collection: Volume I DVD is on the fast-track and looks like it will be shipped in September. If you're interested in purchasing one (which I strongly recommend), drop an email to info@animwatch.com so AW can calculate demand for the DVD. I can't wait! :)
8. 17. 04
As I write this, my Dad is sitting at a computer, writing, in the room where CS Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia. How crazy is that?

In other news, I continue to make progress, and just last night I began attempting to animate the most difficult scene of the film, about 90% of the way through the 2nd Act. Frankly, I'm not sure I can pull it off! How do I get a mantis who doesn't speak, to convey something so complex? Ugh. Just gotta keep pluggin away at it I guess... :)
8. 10. 04
Long time since my last update. Sorry :( Good news is that I continue to make steady progress, and I feel like I'm rounding the bend towards the end of Act II (which is the longest Act). I've also gotten the chance to show a handful of people the DVD I burned a couple weeks ago, and so far everyone gives it a thumbs up! The most frustrating part of watching the DVD is that - aside from the Intro section - there's no sound, so viewers have had to use their imagination somewhat. Still, I think it's looking very good. I'll try and grab a couple more screenshots to post here in the next day or so. Stay tuned!
8. 1. 04
Some of you might remember that several months ago, I played with some secondary animation on the Caterpillar by adding some spring joints to the bones in his antennae. Well, I got tired of that, and I've resorted to (1) detaching the antennae polys from the Caterpillar's body mesh (they're now 2 separate objects linked to the head-bone, (2) deleted the bones that were in the antennae, and (3) simple attached a flex-modifer to each of the antennae (with a few parameter tweaks). Basically, I get the secondary animation I'm looking for, without the bones, and without quite the complexity. Take a LOOK.
7. 28. 04
So, many of you may be asking - What IS a parable anyway? Well, it is defined by Webster's Dictionary as: "a short ficititious narrative of something which might really occur in life or nature, by means of which a moral is drawn; as, the parables of Christ.." A few weeks ago at church, our pastor Ken Ortize gave the first of several sermons covering the parables of Jesus present in the book of Mark. "Right-click-save-as" HERE for an mp3 of the first sermon (it's both an explanation of what parables are and why they were used , an in depth look at the Parable of the Sower, and a preview of some of the other parables found later in Mark). It's an hour and ten minutes long, but it's worth it. :) I also heartily recommend William Barclay's The Parables of Jesus for more in-depth study of parables. Enjoy!
7. 22. 04
Put together a DVD of the first 3 minutes and 32 seconds last night just to get a feel for how it looks on TV and it looked great! The Intro Sequence of the movie suffered most from compression artifacts, I assume because it tends to be darker and the default DVD compressor chooses to compress higher contrast sections better. In the end, I expect I'll resort to tweaking the DVD compression settings so it looks best throughout, but for now, it was a worthy test. Back to animating! :)

7. 18. 04
Several new items of interest for you to check out -

URU: Complete Chronicles - This is the grand-daddy of all URU games. It includes not only the original URU: Ages Beyond Myst, but also URU: To' D'ni (the underground cavern expansion) and URU: Path of the Shell. To be honest, with all three put together, it's an enormous game and it seems a crime to sell it for $39.99. But, well, I'm biased of course. :)

URU: Complete Chronicles Official Game Guide
This one was a bit unexpected. Originally, I had heard rumors of a Making Of URU book, but it appears that instead PRIMA has taken all of the content from a Making Of book and put it into the back of this "Official Game Guide". Basically, the last 100 or so pages of the book is chock full of color behind the scenes photos, pre-production images, sketches, game shots, etc. AND tons of commentary from a handful of "Cyantists" (including, frankly, an obscene amount of commentary by yours truly) covering the making of Myst, Riven, and URU. If you ever want to hear me comment on my "day-job", well, this is the book for you. It's amazing how much stuff is in there, and they're selling it for $13.99!

However, I would be remiss if I didn't mention a few things about the book. It IS a great book and there's tons of great stuff for fans in there. However, it seems ridiculous that a few people who have been critical to the success of Cyan and our products appear to have been left out almost completely (I've only skimmed the book so far). Namely, Jason Baskett - our "animation guru" since Riven, Steve Ogden - great artist and fellow short-film freak (and creator of ANIMWATCH), and last but not least, my WIFE (then Bonnie McDowall), who is mistakenly left out of the list of people who actually worked at Cyan before even I got there. There's a bunch of other great people who have been left out too. Ugh.

Anyway, it is a great book with lots of great images and information, but just remember there's always more than meets the eye. :)

7. 13. 04
Cruising right along on TMP and making good progress in Act II.

In other news, check out the Inspired 3D Short Film Production book now available at Amazon.com. Rumor has it that there are images from The Mantis Parable inside, along with a lot of great images and behind-the-scenes info from other short-film makers as well. I'm expecting a copy from the publishers any day now, so I'll give you my 2 cents when it arrives. Better yet, why not take a look for yourselves? It looks to be great!
7. 05. 04
Making good progress! HERE is a shot of the Mantis and Caterpillar "face-off". Enjoy! :)
7. 01. 04
Those of you who are particularly attentive may have noticed that the image on the "about mantis" page has changed somewhat. That is because the original shot that was used there was created almost a year ago, before the progress on the film had actually reached that point. I had simply placed the mantis and caterpillar in the positions I expected them to be in, and took a shot. This morning I ceremoniously replaced it with a new "official" one, because now I'm actually to that point in the film. In fact, I'm exactly at that point in the film - the moment where the caterpillar and mantis meet for the first time face to face. Woohoo! :)
6. 23. 04 (Part 2)
Success! Added The Mantis Animation Rig to the Making Of Mantis section. IMPORTANT - in order to view the video, you need to download the TechSmith Quicktime Decoder for either PC or Macintosh OS9 or OSX. Don't be afraid, it's quick and painless! Enjoy! :)
6. 23. 04
I've been struggling to ftp this movie clip (20MB) onto host's server for a couple of hours now. It appears as though I may be out of space (!) and/or the server is timing out and canceling the operation. Anyway, I'm on the case. Once I can get this movie clip copied over the Making Of piece will be available. Aargh!
6. 22. 04
It's 12:06am and I've just completed a Making Of piece on the Mantis Animation Rig which includes a screen captured clip using the Camtasia trial software I downloaded yesterday. Unfortunately, I have to get up in about 4 1/2 hours so it probably won't be until later tonight that I can wire it into the site. It's been a while since I put up a Making Of piece but I think this one will be worth the wait. I'm off to bed. Stay tuned! :)
6. 21. 04
Been an entire week since my last post! Sorry. :( Good news though, as I'm continuing to make good progress with Act II. In addition, I've downloaded the 30 day trial version of Camtasia which will enable me to record "real-time" periods of my work time for your viewing pleasure. Might even be worth putting together a Making Of piece from it. Stay tuned for that.

In other news, the short film Love Tricycle has been released on DVD (I just purchased my copy yesterday). The DVD looks to include a lot of behind the scenes footage, concept work, etc. so what are you waiting for? :)
6. 14. 04
A trailer for The Mantis Parable will be included on the upcoming ANIMWATCH Collection: Volume I DVD. As a supporter and admirer of short films, the Volume I DVD is a "must buy" in my opinion. It includes a number of great shorts, including Bert and a new trailer for Rustboy (2 of my favorites) plus Love Tricycle and Little Red Plane which I have been looking forward to seeing for some time now, and Steve Ogden's own Bristley Bob short which he expects to complete in August. Can't wait to get my hands on that DVD! :)
6. 11. 04
Well, I've completed a first pass of the first 700 frames of animation of the Mantis and fly in Act II. Next, I will be doing a pass of the Caterpillar that will encompass the same section (again, 700 frames, although I expect far less complicated of animation). All in all, I've completed a first pass of - The Intro (:37), Act I (1:27), and I'm :56 into Act II. That's exactly 3 minutes of film so far. Whew! :)
6. 7. 04
If you haven't seen it already, ANIMWATCH has done a great June feature with Tim Larkin, Sound Director at Cyan Worlds. Tim has worked with so many people and done so much in his career, it's a fascinating read. Most recently, Tim has been working with Doug Chiang on the trailers for Robota (Doug himself even chimed in with a few comments regarding Tim's work), and of course on the soon to be released URU: The Path of the Shell. Great stuff!

5. 31. 04
Great WIRED article on Pixar and the upcoming movie The Incredibles. Check it out!

5. 25. 04
I've noticed that a lot of movie studios assign animators individual characters for an entire film instead of animation sequences or scenes. I can understand why that is - it helps maintain consistency throughout a film because the character always acts like you would expect that character to act. On the other hand, it seems like it makes the process of animating a complex scene (one with a lot of characters) incredibly difficult. How do they decide who goes first? In other words, character A (lets call him "Hero") has to be animated blindly, while character B ("Villain") gets animated later by someone else entirely. In essence, Hero is animated blindly and Villain simply responds to Hero's actions and movements. Anyway, in my case, there's no confusion since it's all animated by me, which - for better or worse - also provides an element of consistency throughout the film. :)

HERE is a short clip (mainly in wireframe) of the Mantis attempting to catch the Fly.
5. 23. 04
I had the opportunity to be involved in a very insightful discussion regarding the value of software knowledge vs. idea construction vs. experience vs. raw talent, etc. over at the Rustboy Forum the other day. Technically, the subject focused on the technical and creative boundaries that cg artists encounter and how they deal with them consciously and subconsciously. Several voices weighed in, including Brian Taylor (creator of Rustboy) and Steve Ogden (creator of AnimWatch). It's all really good stuff!
5. 21. 04
In case you've been living under a rock for the last week or so (or perhaps if you're just not as big of a movie freak as I am) the trailer for Pixar's next animated movie The Incredibles is out and it looks great. Go HERE to see it. Go HERE to check out the official site which has a bunch of goodies including wallpapers and an iron-transfer print-out to make your own shirts. Woohoo!
5. 19. 04
Still plugging away at animating the mantis for his part in Act II, and thankfully, he's getting easier and easier for me to animate. His rig is very complicated (by my standards anyway) so a lot of my progress is 2 steps forward 1 step back. Still, I am making considerable progress. :)

Yesterday I had the sneaking suspicion that somehow my email had stopped working (my wife's seemed to be down as well) and upon further investigation I discovered that...it had been down since Friday! Oh, the HORROR! Luckily, I was able to track down and solve the problem last night (and retrieve the emails floating around in cyberspace), but apologies to those who have felt neglected by my silence!

Finally, I wanted to mention that the first of a few features on The Mantis Parable is going to appear in June at shortfilmmaker.com. Apparently, The Mantis Parable is scheduled to be the June artist spotlight. It appears that the shortfilmmaker.com website is going through renovation until June when they have their grand reopening, but come June 1st (I expect) The Mantis Parable is going to be featured, so stay tuned for that. :)
5. 11. 04
It's great to talk about the nights working on The Mantis Parable when everything is going smoothly and I make a ton of progress. I think it's equally informative to discuss the nights when things haven't gone so smoothly. Last night was one of those nights. I find the mantis himself very difficult to animate to begin with, but last night I attempted to animate him walking down the books and wooden box to the table-top. I stayed up until 12:30 this morning trying to get the walk to be fluid and convincing, but alas, I'm afraid I may have to get him to the table-top via a different route. It just doesn't feel natural for him do do what I had imagined. It's discouraging to work for several hours on something and realize in the end that 99% of it needs to be reworked. Very discouraging. Oh well. I'm sure the animation will be better for my small changes in the long run, even if it did cost me hours of sleep! Onward and upward! :)
5. 03. 04
Whew. Been a while since my last update. I've spent some time tweaking the arrival of the mantis, but in addition over the last few days I ran into some technical problems where 3D Studio Max would crash whenever I tried to render something. Uh, yeah, not good. Turns out the last couple versions of my scene had gotten corrupted, so I ended up spending a considerable amount of time updating pieces of animation here and there (by merging specific elements in from the corrupted scenes) to make sure that everything was up to date. Anyway, it still requires a bit of tweaking, but HERE is the newest version of the mantis arrival (btw, this is a cropped section of the final image). Hope you like it. As you can see, the mantis is a bit of a reckless lad. :)
4. 21. 04
Still working on the Mantis entrance. I spent late Monday night actually replicating my original attempt at the "entrance" with my old mantis rig. Basically, the original rig (skeleton and animation controls) that I used in the mantis animation tests I did several months ago worked really well for the mantis walking around, and even jumping. The beauty of this particular rig was that when I moved the legs, the body moves with it automatically, because I've setup the body root to be constrained to the position of the mantis' knees. One of the very frustrating things about animating a character is trying to keep one of his/her feet on the floor while moving the body forward - for example, when you take a step, you leave one foot on the ground while the other foot steps forward. The original mantis rig worked great for making the mantis walk around, but what about for flying? Stay tuned for an animation clip (very short) of the mantis making it's appearance through the window, with an explanation (or perhaps even an in-depth Making Of piece) of the mantis rig.

BTW, I'm not planning on making a habit of advertising, but I do LOVE movies, and I keep getting these coupons in my email from Blockbuster. The email says I can share these with friends and family, so if you want to rent a movie this weekend for $.99, HERE is a coupon (this weekend only!). What are friends for? :P
4. 17. 04
Working on the Mantis entrance. It's been a bit tricky to get back into animating the mantis again (after spending so much time with the caterpillar), but I think it's working out alright so far. HERE is a sneak peak of the scene. I might publish a tiny little clip of the animation in the next post. Stay tuned. :)
4. 13. 04
Well, the Mantis Shop is now open for business! If you're a fan of The Mantis Parable and want to show your support for the film, why not purchase a $10 T-Shirt or a $7 Mousepad? Remember, if you have a special order or overseas shipping please email me at shop@themantisparable.com with your request. Enjoy!
4. 06. 04
Back to the white background. The new pages with the mantis background (and the rounded corners) seemed to take longer to load and I was never quite sure I liked it as much as the simple clean white bg. So, the white one is back. Of course, all of my other recent changes to the site are still in effect. Please let me know if you have any problems navigating the site. Enjoy! :)

4. 02. 04
As you've probably noticed, there have been some changes to the site. Hopefully you approve! First and foremost, I'm not forcing your browser to spawn a "master" window anymore. The reason I had been using that system is because I've been doing most of the site work with layers but frankly I'm a control freak and I wanted to make sure that the content was centered properly, which is a real nightmare to do with layers without taking total control of the window. In addition, layers can cause problems with Netscape browsers (ugh) and I'd heard a few reports of that sort of thing happening recently with the site. There are still some little things here and there that I'd like to clean-up, but the majority of the site update is finished. Here are some of the new "features"-

1. No more spawning of the master window. This should alleviate problems those running at lower resolutions may have been experiencing.
2. Layers painstakingly converted to tables. This allows me to still center the content in the browser, AND add the fancy mantis background pattern. :)
3. The guestbook is now visually more consistent with the look of the other pages. You can also now scroll through the entries instead of clicking through endless pages. That thing had been annoying to me from Day 1. :)
4. The Mantis Shop is almost open for business. You'll notice that the link is down there, but I haven't turned it on quite yet. A couple pixels more of tweaking and it should be fully operational. If you want a sneak peak at what will be available, click HERE (but don't buy anything yet!).

I'll probably go into more depth over the next few days, but one of the big hurdles was trying to convert my old "server-side-includes" (the scrolling tables in the Production Journal and Making Of Mantis sections) which worked great when embedded a layer, but don't work the way I need them to inside of table cells. Thanks to Derek (qa tester from Cyan) for helping me find the solution - IFRAMES! Anyway, it's been a lot of late nights for me trying to figure all this stuff out, and it's very close to done.


3. 30. 04
First of all, thanks to all of you who've emailed me with condolences regarding the passing of my grandfather. The memorial service was beautiful and it was great to see family and friends I hadn't seen in years. :)

Also, I've received a few questions lately regarding the rendering-to-project-to-compressed-movie process I use, so I thought that in addition to answering your emails directly, I'll post it here as well. Seems like just about everybody has a different process, but here's what I do...

1) I know most people render out to frames (tiff, targa, etc.) but I just don't. I render out directly to Animation Uncompressed Quicktime Movies.
2) Then I import the file(s) into the After Effects project and lay them out according to the film. Actually, I've finally purchased a copy of Adobe Premiere (I used it for my Grandpa's memorial service video and it worked very well), so I expect I'll use that for putting the final project together from now on. It will allow me to more easily plugin audio, etc. and it does a much better job of real-time playback. I'll still use After Effects for "effect passes" and compositing.
3) When I want to make a "final" movie, I export whatever sections I need (or the entire thing) as an Animation Uncompressed QT Movie. These things are huge, sometimes as large as 4+ Gig (and that's just for the 1st Act).
4) If I'm going to publish the clip to the web, I import it into Sorenson Squeeze 3.5 Compression Suite and compress it there. Sorenson Squeeze DOES work with After Effects, but I like to compress using the Sorenson app itself because it gives me all the options I need, it provides the best quality, and it's quite a bit faster.

That's it!
3. 24. 04
Haven't been able to work on The Mantis Parable for a few days. My grandfather passed away a few days ago and I've been spending most of my "free" time putting together a video for his memorial service. It's been a lot of work, but at the same time it's been a great priveledge to be able to make some sort of contribution to honor him. In addition, I've learned a lot about him in the process. He was a great man - great most of all for his amazing humility and tireless service of others throughout his life, and yet he was quick to laugh, and a smile rarely left his face. A remarkable example to everyone who knew him! He was always thrilled with my artistic endeavors and I only wish he could've gotten to see this video. He would have really enjoyed it. :)

3. 20. 04
The Mantis Parable is being featured among the 3D Short Films in production in the upcoming book Inspired 3D Short Film Production. Stay tuned!

3. 16. 04
The Mantis has made his appearance! Well, almost. Last night I took the old Mantis rig I had setup for him walking around and jumping, and ripped out all the "bells-and-whistles" in order to make him fly. As with the caterpillar, I'm probably going to need a couple of separate rigs for the Mantis in order to get him to do what I need him to. After simplifying his rig, I was able to play a bit with a flying posture and added some wing flaps. Looks promising. Stay tuned. :)

BTW, I hope I didn't sound too harsh when talking about CafePress. I'm lucky enough to have a friend with a nice, professional quality press. Even better, he's crazy enough to want to make the shirts for me! Anyway, CafePress is a great thing, and if I ever want to make mugs, etc. I'm pretty sure I'd have to go that route. I just wish it wasn't so expensive.
3. 13. 04
Generated a composition of the film including everything I've completed so far - The Intro, Act I, and about 30 seconds of Act II - and it totals about 2 minutes and 34 seconds. I expect that puts me on target for a completed short-film of somewhere between 6 and 7 minutes long. Woohoo!

In other news, I'm seriously considering adding some The Mantis Parable merchandise options to the site (T-Shirts, Mousepads, etc.) for those that are interested. A couple of important points regarding this - I will not be using CafePress, because I simply can't justify charging $19 for a T-Shirt (plus shipping!). Instead, I am considering selling T-Shirts for around $10, plus $4 shipping (priority mail - 2 to 3 days delivery in the US) and perhaps a selection of mouse-pads for about $10 (including shipping). The point is, I'm considering selling merchandise purely to generate more interest in the film (so more people can follow along its progress while it's being made) and also to provide something fun for fans of The Mantis Parable. That's it. Rest assured, the merchandise will be of professional quality, screened on a professional quality press, shipped quickly, at a low cost to fans...or I just won't do it. It's that simple. I've got some T-Shirt ideas I'm considering but I'm definitely open to other ideas if you have any. To be honest, anything you have to say about this matter would be greatly appreciated. :)
3. 09. 04
Added The Intro - Behind the Scenes to the Making Of Mantis section. Enjoy! :)

Update: As of this evening I posted a new wireframe movie to replace the one I originally posted in the Intro - Behind the Scenes..the new one is a more clear indication of what the geometry looks like for those of you that care about that sort of thing. :)
3. 07. 04
I've had overwhelmingly positive response to the Intro, and have actually had a lot of questions regarding the music. Well, the music is a personal composition I wrote a couple of nights before I released the Intro here on the site. I'm a classically trained pianist, and while I haven't ever done any scoring to a film, I've written several pieces over the years, and I'm planning on writing the score for The Mantis Parable. This morning I re-recorded it because I finally received and setup my MBox and ProTools LE. Needles to say, there's a huge quality difference between recording mono through the 1/8th inch microphone jack on the back of my computer, and recording stereo through the MBox using ProTools LE. I've also had many people assume that the piano recording is a real piano. Well, it's not. I've got a real piano, but I don't really have a clue how to mic it properly, and even if I did, there's a larger problem - when my kids are asleep I can't play the piano, and when my kids are awake, I can't RECORD the piano! Ha! It is, in fact, recorded on my Yamaha p80 Digital Piano. You can find a picture of it (and the rest of my "studio" setup) in the Making Of Mantis section of this site. Anyway, HERE is today's final recording of the piano solo from the intro (w/o all the rain and thunder). You can also download the updated Intro (w/the new music recording) HERE.

BTW, Hoping to find some time tonight or tomorrow night to put together a little Making Of Mantis piece to give some background information on the creation of the Intro.

3. 05. 04
Installed a new 160GB internal hard-drive last night. It's amazing how disk space just goes when you're working on a short film. To put things in perspective, a full-resolution (1024X554) animation-compressed (lossless) quicktime movie of the intro (34 seconds) takes 1GB of space. The 2 minute First Act requires 4GB of space, and that doesn't include all of the various movies that are put together in the After Effects project to generate the film. Basically, my 80GB hard-drive is down to about 3GB of space (even after some spring cleaning) and it was time for a new drive. Ah, it feels good to be able to breathe again! Heheh.
(Of course, thanks to the magic of Sorenson 3 compression, the download version of the intro is only 9 MB - thanks again Sorenson for supporting The Mantis Parable!)

BTW, welcome to The Mantis Parable to all who arrived via the generous link from cgchannel.com! Enjoy the project! :)

3. 03. 04
Well, here you go. The Intro Sequence to The Mantis Parable. Hope you like it!

BTW, I hope to put some sort of a "behind the scenes" in the Making Of Mantis section to explain some of the little tidbits in the next few days, so stay tuned for that. Suffice it to say, I finished writing the music piece yesterday morning at about 1:30am. I originally intended to add some orchestration, but I've received so many comments from people who like it just the way it is that I may end up just leaving it alone. I'm sure I'll end up tweaking things here and there - I plan on having a few more props on the desk, etc. when all is said and done, but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. As always, comments are welcome and encouraged. Enjoy! :)

Oh yeah, you may have noticed some changes to the site - for one thing, the logo has changed, which is a result of me modifying the logo for the Intro Sequence and I just couldn't have them be different could I? :) Also, I've added links to the bottom of the main pages directly to the Intro for your convenience (so you don't have to sift through the production journal looking for it).
3. 01. 04
I've received very positive feedback from the handful of people I've shown the Intro to. I'm very excited about posting it here soon. Stay tuned!

BTW, last night I did a sketch of our hero, the caterpillar. Enjoy. :)
2. 26. 04
Making swift progress on the intro, and aside from a few tweaks here and there it is visually complete. In addition to working on the visuals I've begun to work on some ideas for the music, but in the meantime I've plugged in a temporary piece that has the right timing and mood. WOW! A friend of mine once told me that it's a good idea to plug in temporary music to get an idea for the feel of the film, the only problem being that occasionally your temporary piece works so perfectly that it's hard to imagine (and write) anything else to take its place. Well, for better or for worse, I think that's happening with the intro! The timing of transitions match the temporary score in an uncanny way, great - because it really makes the intro (which is 30 seconds long btw) feel polished and sets the mood perfectly, and not so great - because I may not be able to imagine anything else working quite so well. Ah! Anyway, while the visuals may take a few more nights to finish tweaking, another part of the process will be sound foley which probably won't get done for a couple of weeks. The sound foley for the intro will be very ambient, but there's some dynamic stuff going on in the environment so I expect it (like the music) will add a lot to the clip. Once it is complete I will definitely be posting it here so stay tuned! Here is a little snapshot sneak peak from the intro.
2. 18. 04
I've spent the last couple of nights working out the intro and credits sequence. There are 2 main goals for the intro sequence - 1) clarify the fact that the caterpillar has only recently been placed in the jar (like during the night before the morning of the first act) and 2) set the mood for the film...in thinking about how to accomplish this, I had a bunch of elaborate ideas that would have required more asset creation and thus, more time in production. While I want this film to be as good as it can possibly be, I also realize it's very important to get it done so I've had to find creative solutions using what I've already got in an interesting way. Because of this, I've already been able to make significant progress and I think the intro sequence is going to work out great. Even better, once it's complete I may try to add sound and music to it and post it here on the website. Stay tuned! :)
2. 12. 04
Haven't worked on Mantis for a few days because my family and I have been in Disneyland! My wife and kids had never been there, so even though I'd been there several times, I was able to experience many things with renewed appreciation. What a wonderful trip! In any case, I'm expecting to spend my next Mantis work cycles on the intro section I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. Stay tuned.

On a somewhat somber note, URU Live has come down. While URU: Ages Beyond Myst has been very successful and continues to garner accolades from all over (most recently Best Adventure Game of 2003 - PC Gamer) the live portion of the product (only available to those with broadband internet connection) has been canceled. Instead we'll be releasing the bushels of content we've created (and continue to create) via expansion packs so even those without broadband connections will be able to experience the expanding worlds of URU: Ages Beyond Myst. In addition, plans for the URU Macintosh version are underway which I'm sure is exciting news to many of our ardent fans.
2. 03. 04
Still making progress on Act II (here's a tiny clip), but more than that, I've continued to tweak the timing of the cameras in Act I. It's nice to be able to work on multiple things at once. If I get stuck in one spot, there's always more to do elsewhere in the process (ain't that the truth)...have I mentioned that making a short film by yourself in your spare-time (or lack thereof) is hard? Well, it is (at least for me). :)
1. 30. 04
Got my RAM. I'm up to 1.5 GB of Ram in my main machine and I'm still at 512 Meg on my oldee-but-goodee.

I'm up to the point where the mantis makes his grand entrance in Act II, but I've found myself spending more time polishing Act I than moving forward on Act II. I'm sure it's just a matter of time (I'm actually probably a bit nervous about jumping in to animating the mantis and caterpillar together - that's about 100 bones!). BTW, I've been showing Act I to more people lately (still not many) and I've gotten very positive feedback. Very encouraging!

I've also pretty much decided that I'm gonna have a tiny intro that appears before Act I to lay down a bit of story foundation - there are a couple of people who've been a little confused with a particular issue in the first act that I think a tiny intro would clear up. Not a huge thing, just a couple of loose ends to tie up.
1. 22. 04
Time to get more RAM. I realized that my current 512MB just isn't cutting it anymore when I tried to render out the newest version of the first-pass of the Act I. This isn't the rendering of the images out of 3D Studio Max, this is the rendering of the compiled movies that have been put together in a project (including title screen, blends, effects, etc.). Currently, a generated movie of the entire first 1:45 at full resolution (1024X554) requires 4.5 GIG of hard disk space. Thankfully, I'm not running out of hard-disk space (yet) but halfway through After Effect's most recent attempts at generating Act I it just, well, stops. I'll probably be purchasing another 512 or perhaps a Gig of RAM in the next couple of days.

Whenever I buy RAM, I recall the time 11 or 12 years ago when Cyan needed to purchase more RAM for a machine (artist Chuck Carter's if I recall), and labored over the fact that it might be a good idea to purchase the new "16 Meg RAM" stick. 16 Mb of RAM was a borderline ridiculous amount (so HUGE) and cost over a THOUSAND dollars! How times have changed. :)

BTW, I'm 30 seconds into the first pass of Act II. Stay tuned! :)
1. 17. 04
Wow. Can't believe it's been so long since my last update! Time's just been flying by this year I suppose. While still tweaking the first-pass of Act I, I've begun work on the first pass of Act II.

On a side note, I exported a qt mov of the entire first-pass of Act I at 720X389, added black bars to the top and bottom to boost the size to 720X480 (NTSC Standard), dropped it into iMovie, exported a DV version to our DV Camera (I'm sure there are far better ways to accomplish this), and watched Act I on our TV. It was the first time I'd seen it on a TV and it looked great! Making the transition from monitor to TV always amazes me. In the back of my mind I'm thinking it would be fun to put The Mantis Parable on a DVD (filled with making-of bonus material of course) and this was the first time I could visualize the movie in that format. In addition, it made me realize that when I'm ready to render out all of the final frames it might be worth considering rendering it out for HDTV (wouldn't be that much larger than what I'm rendering them out at now). :)

1. 07. 04
Added The Mantis Parable Studio to the Making of Mantis section (finally). It's not full of exciting new film images, in fact it might be incredibly boring to most people, but hey, I like to see what other people's work spaces are like, so here's a look at mine. :)

1. 03. 04
Happy New Year!

As the minutes ticked away on 2003, my machine rendered away on the final animation of the first-pass of the first act. It is complete and I think it's pretty good. Woohoo! So, what does "first-pass of the first-act mean anyway?" First of all, there are 3 acts. The first act takes up about 1 minute 45 seconds, I'm guessing the second one will be a bit longer than the first, and the 3rd will be about the same length as the first. Secondly, it's time for me to take a good hard look at every bit of the first act and decide what battles to fight - for example - lighting / animation tweaks, particle effects, additional (non-critical) props to fill up the scene, that sort of thing. In addition, I can show it to my circle of "advisers" for pros/cons, what works / what doesn't. Best of all, now that I have a high-quality first act complete, I can start thinking about sound/music that should set the tone for the entire film. Also, because the entire film takes place in this "scene" (but during different times of day with different characters) the bulk of the world-creation is done.Finishing the first act also answers a lot of questions for me, which I'll be commenting on in the coming days. Stay tuned.

Sorry for the lack of consistent updates lately, I've really been working hard to get this first act done and when I've had time to work on TMP, I've been focusing on the work itself and less on keeping you guys informed. I promise to do better! :)
12. 20. 03
I've had a number of people request to see more clips of the film's progress. I'll be honest, while I'm dying for people to see it, it is - in fact - a short film, and the more clips I show from the actual film, the less of the film you haven't seen! (make sense?). I'm going to continue to do my best in providing behind the scenes work, making-of clips, sound-bites, etc. but I'm very cautious about giving too much away. I hope you can all understand. :)

HOWEVER, in honor of Christmas and being in the giving spirit, I submit 10 seconds of the first pass of the film (sans sound). Enjoy! As always, this clip is compressed with Sorenson 3 compression so you'll need to have a fairly current version of Quicktime to view it. :)
12. 19. 03
Well, obviously, Return of the King was outstanding. Kudos to Peter Jackson and WETA for accomplishing such an amazing trilogy of work!
12. 17. 03
Over 1500 frames of animation now. Hoping to put up a new Making Of Mantis soon. Stay tuned.
BTW, could I be more excited about seeing Return of the King today? Woohoo!
12. 13. 03
Long time since my last update! I've continued to make slow but steady progress on the first pass of the film - up to 1:17 now. In other news...

I would like to give a big thanks to Sorenson Media who have graciously decided to help sponsor The Mantis Parable by providing a copy of Sorenson Squeeze Compression Suite 3.5 for my use. I've been able to use Sorenson 3 compression via other applications such as Discreet Cleaner and Adobe After Effects (see my post from Dec. 1st below) but now I have the best tool for delivering the highest-quality small-download-sized movies available. Thanks Sorenson!
12. 03. 03
Interview with your's truly on the Making Of URU: Ages Beyond Myst. Check it out HERE.

12. 01. 03
Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

I discovered something last week about compressing movies with Sorenson 3 I'd like to share. For you movie trailer junkies out there (I'm one) you may have noticed that most really nicely compressed quicktime movies you see on the internet (like at Apple's Quicktime Movie Site) use Sorenson compression, or specifically Sorenson 3 compression. I've used Sorenson for a while now, and haven't gotten nearly the quality results from my movies (ie. ones that look great and are reasonably sized for downloading) until now. For those with similar Sorenson compression problems, you might give these settings a try -

(1) Aim for a "Total MB size" instead of compressing to a Kb/sec target. Not sure why, but in my testing I've discovered that 2 movies
(2) Turn the quality slider to "highest" quality. This may sound obvious, but the key is setting this and then doing (3)
(3) Allow Sorenson to drop frames. I was always afraid of setting this, but it turns out that Sorenson is pretty smart about dropping frames, and additionally, the frame-rate doesn't perceptively suffer at all. Can you tell the difference between 30fps and 29.3fps? Me neither.

For some reason, these 3 settings had evaded me for years, and now that I've stumbled upon them, there's no going back! :) Hope they're helpful.

11. 24. 03
Ever seen a caterpillar run and jump? Me neither. Anyway, I've completed a section of the first ACT where the caterpillar runs and jumps, and I think it's working pretty well. I have a few little odds and ends that should get me to the end of the first act. Hopefully this week (but no promises :)
11. 18. 03
AnimWatch has done it again. This month's feature is on The Triplets of Belleville, an incredibly unique short film that brings back memories of the ol' Disney Days of 101 Dalmations and the Aristocats. AnimWatch spent some time discussing the intricacies of the project with the Triplets Art Director Evgeni Tomov. Very cool!
11. 14. 03
Well, at long last URU: Ages Beyond Myst is out in stores! What are you waiting for, go get your copy today! See you down in D'ni! :)
11. 10. 03
Is Finding Nemo beautiful or what? Watching it leaves me feeling inspired and depressed at the same time. Anyway, it's great because whlie my kids are enamored by the characters ("Meemo!" my 18 month old boy screams incessantly throughout) I'm equally intrigued by the lighting, color, materials and textures, and of course - the water technology. It really is superb. Kudos to PIXAR.

On a somewhat relate note, one of the things I've been trying to achieve in The Mantis Parable is a healthy amount of good ol' fashion rim-lighting. Generally I do this by pounding the character with a super bright light against his backside allowing just a rim of outline on the edge of the character. This is an age old technique used to help define and put focus on the character (or anything else for that matter), and it works great...except that it's a pain. Every camera sort of needs it's own rim-light setup, and if I forget to turn off the rimlight when I change to a different camera angle, things get, well, ugly. In addition, occasionally I catch a reflection of the character's backside in the glass which reveals that his backside is brighter than the summer sun on a clear day - also not pretty to look at. It's easy enough to paint hilites in Photoshop on a still image, but it's a different thing entirely to achieve this in an animation, much less an entire short film. There has to be another way! AND (drumroll please) there is! Not being fully up to speed on 3D Studio Max' versatile material possibilities I stumbled upon the falloff material. For those of you who've been using Max forever, I'm sure this sounds like an incredibly basic feature, but considering I've only been using Max for URU: Ages Beyond Myst (where we use our own proprietary materials), falloff materials are new to me. Anyway, they're very convenient, surprisingly intuitive, and will allow me to get rid of all my special "rim-lights" which have been can cause various production snafus. Woohoo! By the way, don't forget to pick up your copy of URU: Ages Beyond Myst this Friday! You won't be disappointed. :)

11. 03. 03
Slowly but surely still making progress. I'm over 1,000 frames of caterpillar animation at this point, which when added to the other odds and ends (shots without the caterpillar) has gotten me over the 1 minute mark. I hope to get through a particular animation snag tonight and over the next week or so I should be able to finish up the first pass of ACT 1. Stay tuned.

Also, don't forget, Finding Nemo comes out tomorrow on DVD!

10. 27. 03
Received my Rustboy Book last week, and it's fantastic. Brian Taylor - creator of the short-film Rustboy - wrote the book to give a behind the scenes look at the creation of Rustboy. Aside from the great pre-production work displayed in the high-quality book, there's a lot of history as well - a look at Brian's past, what sparked him to create Rustboy, and how the whole process has evolved from a "spare-time" hobby to a "full-time venture". It's all very fascinating, and quite familiar at the same time. :) Perhaps my favorite part of the book is the very end, where Brian unveils some of his images in 3D - visible by using the 3D Glasses that come with the book (you remember those red / blue paper glasses from the good ol' days). In any case, I found the images mesmorizing and incredibly charming. So charming in fact, that I rendered and created a shot from The Mantis Parable to similar effect. If you don't have a pair of the glasses, you can get them for free all over the place on the internet. I "google'd" the term "3D Glasses" and found a bunch of links that promised to send you a pair for free without catch. If you've already got your glasses, put'em on and take a look HERE to see the 3D Mantis Parable sunset shot. You can see a bigger version HERE, and a huge version HERE.
10. 24. 03
Haven't gotten much time to work on tmp lately, but I have come to a resolution on how to do the "secondary animation" system for the caterpillar's antennae. As I mentioned before in my previous journal entry, I'm using the SpringJoint 1.1 MaxScript written by Anders Egleus. It's very easy to setup, and is far more predictable than using the spring controller stuff that comes native within Max (at least for me). HERE is a simple test for your enjoyment. All of the antennae movement / bounce is created by the system (through some tweakage of the caterpillar rig and various parameters within the maxscript). Again, you can download the script for free at www.scriptspot.com (just do a search for "springjoint").
10. 20. 03
Finally added some "spring" to the caterpillar's antennae. I've been thinking about it for quite some time now, and having used Max's built-in spring controller for the mantis antennae test animations,...well, let's just say I was eager to find a different way of handling the "secondary animation" that the antennae demand. I'm still playing with parameters, but I've decided to use (until further notice) the SpringJoint 1.1 MaxScript written by Anders Egleus. You can find it free (alongside countless other great scripts) at www.scriptspot.com (just do a search for "springjoint"). After about 1/2 hour of playing around with the settings I'm just about happy with the look of it. Once I'm truly happy with it, I might just post a tiny animation. Stay tuned.
10. 15. 03
Well, the crunch at work has taken its toll on me. I've felt crummy since last friday (the 10th) so I went to the doctor yesterday and he made it official - bronchitis. I was planning on taking the week off anyway, but now I get to do it from my couch instead of out in the wild blue yonder. Anyway, I haven't had much energy to work on mantis but my machine is still rendering away. Here are a couple of shots of the caterpillar climbing the branch inside of the jar - CLIMB01 and CLIMB02
10. 09. 03
Added Texturing the Mantis Parable to the Making Of Mantis section.

BTW, as I was adding the above Making Of Mantis feature I realized that some of the other Making Of Mantis features may not have been working properly (perhaps they were working fine and somehow tonight I broke them and fixed them again?). Anyway, my apologies to anyone who ran into any trouble with the sizes of the windows being too small! Please let me know if you ever have problems with the site and its workings...Enjoy!
10. 04. 03
Phew. This week we put the finishing touches on URU:Ages Beyond Myst and aside from a few tiny tweaks it's ready to go (really tiny, not like the tiny tweaks we've been doing for several weeks now, but tiny tiny tweaks). It's been 6 years since we released a large scale project and I'm very proud of what we've been able to accomplish - it's a good feeling. Most importantly, I'm looking forward to spending time with my family, and making progress on The Mantis Parable. Stay tuned for updates. :)
9. 30. 03
Long time since my last update - and for good reason. We are seriously in the home stretch on the release of URU:Ages Beyond Myst, and virtually all of my waking hours (and many of my normally "non-waking" hours) are spent helping to polish things up. My machine(s) at home are still rendering away at The Mantis Parable (mostly test renderings) but I haven't been able to make much progress on the animation lately. Fortunately, while I'm not actually working on mantis, a colleague here at work discovered a live mantis hanging out in front of our building (probably trying to get in and see me), and was nice enough to bring one in to my office. He currently sits atop my desk inside of an empty plastic Costco container that formerly held Red Vines. He (or she?) has kept me company tonight as I work. On a related note, the "bug database" we use to store and track bugs for URU happens to be called Mantis. Is it just me, or is my life being taken over by Mantises?!
9. 24. 03
Received an email this morning that The Mantis Parable has been picked up by the ultra-popular digital artist website vocanson.com. If you're coming here for the first time via that link - Bonjour! Enjoy your stay and come back often! :)

9. 23. 03
Re-worked some bits of the caterpillar animation after a couple of discussions with an animator buddy of mine - Jason Baskett. Jason has far more experience animating characters and had some good advice as to how I could go about adding some fluidity to the caterpillar motion. Some of his suggestions basically encouraged me to do some things I'd considered doing but was too unsure about doing to actually DO them (does that make sense?). One of the things I've realized working on a project like this in my spare time: If I have a theory about how best to do something, but I'm not sure it will work, I tend to not do it, or I'll let it stew for a while, pondering, questioning, etc. until I'm pretty sure it will work. It's a time consideration. In order to be most efficient with the little time I have I try not to spend my precious time solving problems but rather doing the work I'm confident will contribute to progress. Jason was kind enough to actually create a couple of simple examples for me of what he was suggesting, and these samples were more than enough to prove to me that a little time and effort incorporating the suggestions into the caterpillar's movements would be worth it. In a couple of hours the "upgrade" was complete and I'm thankful for having spent the time doing it. In addition to smoother caterpillar movement I've been able to simplify and better define how I'll make the caterpillar move from here on out, and that alone has been worth the effort. Thanks again Jase! :)

9. 19. 03
Two nights ago I was able to put together a little musical piece with a bit of orchestration that I think is approaching the right mood for the first act. It's sort of somber and moody, but it's also hopeful (at least that's what I hear in it). At some point I'll create a specific music section for the Making Of Mantis page, but for now, HERE is a sneak peak. As always, any feedback you have is much appreciated. :)
9. 16. 03
Haven't had a whole lot of time to work on Mantis recently, but I did get a few moments last night (well, ok, and this morning until 3:30am). I discovered to my delight that I can actually render test renderings and record music on the same machine at the same time. That might not sound like a big deal, but when time is limited, music tends to take a back seat to modeling, texturing and animation - now I have an excuse to get music done as well. Because of this, last night I actually did get a first pass at some music for the first act that I think has potential. It's all about multi-tasking folks. If I'm not too embarassed by it after a couple of days perhaps I'll post a clip of it for you. Stay tuned. :)

9. 12. 03
ANIMWATCH, the monthly short-film magazine (spotlighting The Mantis Parable among others) has been updated with a must-read feature on Christopher Mullins - creator of the short-film BLUE. In addition, ANIMWATCH has added a new short-films list with several other already released films available for viewing, and updates it's news section frequently. What are you waiting for!?

9. 10. 03
At this point in the process most of what I'm working on is animating and setting up camera positions and movements. In these instances, I want instant feedback so I generally render out un-textured images with shadows turned off using the Max Scanline renderer. While a final quality image can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes per frame to render w/VRAY, a Scanline version w/o textures and shadows takes about 5 seconds. For an average test clip of 100 frames, well, you do the math. Once I'm fairly happy with the timing of the clip, I'll throw it into After Effects to check the pace and how it fits with the rest of the film. HERE is an example of what those images look like. I'll see if I can't put up a little example clip of this soon. Stay tuned.
9. 07. 03
My reputation as the Mantis Man must be growing in the insect world. This morning while I was relaxing with my family at an outdoor table at Starbucks, we discovered a mantis on the wall next to me. This very friendly brownish-colored mantis stayed perched on my arm, shoulder, or hand for about twenty minutes (I finally had to place him in a nearby bush when it was time to leave). :)
9. 05. 03
Still working on the same frantically galloping caterpillar section, but I think the timing is just about right. I tend to render pieces of animation every night while I sleep, but the last few nights I've only really been rendering animatics, which are un-textured and render very quickly. I've made so many changes to the timing of this scene, it feels almost pointless to render out nice textured versions of each test. I'll try to snag a couple animatic stills to give you a sense of what it looks like in this simple workable form. Stay tuned.
9. 02. 03
In case you were wondering, animating a caterpillar is HARD. Animating a caterpillar frantically galloping and frolicking inside of a jar is particularly hard. At least it is for me. Lots of arms and legs - if you can call them that - makes for a lot of animation tedium even for simple movements. I've been working on a single critical section for about a week now (I was up until 2:30 last night), and what I've got so far feels like a jumbled mess. In addition to the animation itself being extremely grueling, getting the camera to work for me instead of against me is a challenge all its own. It will be a relief to get through this section, but unfortunately the next couple sections are no easier. Aargh. To give you an idea of how difficult this section has been you can simply look at the number of revisions I've made to the max file. This particular scene called "cpJar 1.5" (its basically the 5th shot of the 1st ACT) has gone from cpJar1.5.max to cpJar1.5r.max. I add a letter of the alphabet to the end of the scene number as I make major revisions. Most of the shots so far have gotten no further than "d" or "e". :)
8. 30. 03
URU: Ages Beyond Myst is in the fine-tuning stage now, just a few weeks left before it gets boxed and put on the shelf - speaking of which - this is the time of the project where not only does it mean working long hours on fixes and additions to the project, but things like - BOX Design/Art, Advertisements, Trailers, etc. end up taking a lot of my time. Oh well, it's a thrill to have the project so close to completion so I can't complain. I think people are really going to love it. Even though the days are draining, I'm going to do my best to make progress on The Mantis Parable. In a related note, a friend of ours brought over a few bottles of Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino's. They will certainly get put to good use during the late nights. :)

BTW, for all you Lord of the Rings fans who've watched the DVD again - Gollum was even better than I remembered. I know it sounds silly, but what if CG characters could actually win a best-performance Academy Award? Who gets the award? The animator(s)? Hmmm.
8. 28. 03
The first addition of the online magazine 3Dnspiration is available and it includes a couple of images by yours truly. The magazine requested a hi-rez renderings, so I rendered out a shot from The Mantis Parable at 1600X1200. If you'd like a copy of it, right-click and "save as" HERE. The wireframe is also available HERE. Enjoy!

8. 26. 03
I've had a particular jar on my desk for the last few months as I've worked on The Mantis Parable. During the construction of my CG jar I spent quite a bit of time examining how light refracts/reflects off of the jar, how the top is constructed, etc. Well, the other night before filiming the Frolicking Mantises video I collected some dirt and a branch from my backyard and stuck it inside of the Jar. Here's a side-by-side comparison of the 2 jars.

Looking forward to picking up my copy of Lord of the Rings: Two Towers today. Woohoo!

8. 25. 03
URU: Ages Beyond Myst is in the final stages. Still, I'm doing my best to keep The Mantis Parable ball rolling. If there's one bit of advice I would give to anyone attempting to make a short film or involved in any other sort of independent ambitious CG endeavor, it is this - Make sure you accomplsih something (even if it's small) every single day. For those of you that work during the day (as I do) I have a simple question for you - What is your computer doing while you're at work? RENDER something for goodness sake! It's amazing what you can accomplish by the end of a week even when you've only had scattered moments at your computer.

Don't forget - tomorrow is the release of the Lord of the Rings: Two Towers DVD. Ooohh, Gollum...
8. 23. 03
Added Frolicking Mantises to the Making Of Mantis section.

Didn't get any new animation done this week, still putting all of the pieces together for the first rough 33 seconds. I hope to start working on the next 10 seconds or so of the film this week - I expect it to be a very difficult section of the film to animate. Stay tuned!
8. 21. 03
Didn't do any new animation last night, but I was up later than I have been in a couple of weeks (2 am). I've put together a series of clips from the 20 minutes of footage I recorded of the mantises on my breakfast room table. In addition, I've been playing with a little musical theme for the film, and I recorded a variation of it last night that I think goes well with the mantis reference montage. I call it "Frolicking Mantises". Enjoy! :)
8. 19. 03
You've probably heard that "Life imitates Art". Well, tonight was a rather remarkable example of that. While playing tennis tonight with a buddy of mine a praying mantis landed on our court. I grabbed the empty tennis ball can and scooped him up. By the end of our match, I had snagged 2 of them, and half a dozen others were littered about. Arriving home, I put them in the very jar I use for reference in the film, filled it with dirt and a branch, and took some rather pathetic pictures. When my wife came home, we got our daughter out of bed and showed her the jar (actually, we took her outside to show her MARS first - as I had promised - then showed her the jar). Bonus points go to her for spotting the mantis in the jar and saying "Hey Daddy, that's the same thing that you made in your Bug Movie!" After putting her back to bed, my wife and I let them loose on our breakfast room table and video-taped them walking about for 20 minutes. Talk about great reference material! One moment I didn't get on tape was when one mantis flew down and almost grabbed a fly out of thin air, but I did get a shot of one of them attacking the camera with ME behind the lense. Fantastic! Noteworthy is the fact that all the flies in the house ended up cowering on the ceiling together in a bunch, petrified. Classic. I'll see if I can't grab a clip or two and post it in the Making Of Mantis section soon. Stay tuned!
8. 18. 03
Great week for the site. TheMantisParable.com attracted a ton of traffic thanks in part to several high-profile websites taking an interest in AnimWatch sending many venturing on to this little corner of cyberspace. It's humbling to know that people all around the world are just a click away, evidenced by the fact that in the last week alone folks from 18 European countries, 13 Asian countries, and scores from South America, Australia, and Africa caught a glimpse The Mantis Parable. Thanks for your interest.

Speaking of space, about an hour ago I walked into my front yard and was greeted by a completely clear view of MARS, which is closer to earth than it has been in a very long time. It's not only a small world, it's a seemingly small UNIVERSE tonight.
8. 17. 03
Recently, I have been contemplating the idea of having some Mantis Parable items (T-Shirts, Mousepads, etc,) available for purchase online for people that would be interested in that sort of thing. I can go the
CafePress route, but I've noticed that the price on those items can get pretty steep and I would like to keep costs down as much as possible. I have a few outlets available to me that could be worth investigating if anyone would be interested. So, a question - Would you (yes, you) be interested in purchasing hi-quality The Mantis Parable paraphernalia if the price was reasonable? Please e-mail me if this is something you would be interested in. There's no obligation! Just curious. As always, I'd love to hear any comments or questions you might have about the site and/or The Mantis Parable project.
8. 16. 03
Added Caterpillar Model and Rig to the Making Of Mantis section. It breaks down the model, skinning, and underlying skeletal structure of the caterpillar (basically, what I was working on during the week of 7/14). Enjoy!
8. 15. 03
Last night had it's share of ups and downs. My goal entering "the studio" (which is really the "bonus room" above our garage) was to bridge the gap between 2 pieces of animation that were complete (not final rendered, but animation was close to done). Well, midnight rolled around and I found myself bogged down attempting to fix a completely unrelated tiny nit-picky problem with another part of the film (which is probably not a problem at all) - a problem with no easy solution. Finally, incredibly tired, I decided to quit nit-picking and give a quick whack at the "bridge" animation part. 10 minutes later the animation bridge was complete and I stitched it together in After Effects. Ha! I actually chuckled after watching the end of the cut. That's a weird experience - watching your own film and laughing at it because you actually think it's funny. Up to 33 seconds of rough-cut material now. :)
8. 14. 03
If all goes well, I expect to be done with a rough cut of the first 30 seconds of the film by the end of the weekend. The following 30 seconds I expect to be more difficult than this one as some of the more intense caterpillar movement takes place during that part. Still, I feel I'm moving at a pretty good pace now. For those that missed it, Here is an early shot (taken several days ago) from the part I'm working on.

While my main computer renders away at some test animations, I found a bit of time tonight to collect some "Making Of" stuff for a soon to be released update. I'm planning on revealing the model and rig of the caterpillar (with wireframes) to show how he's constructed. Here's a sneak preview.
8. 13. 03
Last couple of nights I've thought a lot more about the musical side of TMP. Obviously, music dramatically effects the feel of a film and I imagine that it's especially important in a short film because the story and character development must happen very quickly as there's very little time to suck the audience in emotionally. I'm still unsure whether I'm going write and perform the music myself (I'm a classically trained pianist and self-taught guitarist) but luckily if I decide NOT to do it I've get a few friends (professionals) who would probably be willing to help out. In any case, I plunked around on my digital piano last night as I watched the first 20 seconds of the film go through its compression process in After Effects (it takes about 4 minutes to compress the first 20 seconds of the film) to see if a musical masterpiece was ready to emerge from my fingertips. Apparently it wasn't. :) Over the next few nights I'll try to spend a bit of time working on something. Stay tuned.

A few other prominent websites picked up AnimWatch which has created a constant flood of viewers to the site. Thanks for the support!

8. 12. 03
Big opening day for AnimWatch. CG Channel picked it up which brought a lot of added traffic to the site - over 13,000 hits today with over 300 unique sessions recorded. Hope people enjoy what they see so far! As always, comments and questions are encouraged and greatly appreciated! :)

In production news, I was up last night until 1:30 (ok, this morning) working on more caterpililar animation. I'm up to 22 seconds now in the film and it's flowing nicely. Still a lot to tweak and refine, but it's coming along. Hope to get a Making Of Mantis piece together in the next few days.

8. 11. 03
ANIMWATCH is live! Thanks to a lot of hard work by my good friend Steve Ogden (the director of the short film Down In Front), the long awaited site dedicated to the best independent CG short films on the net is online. AnimWatch is a home for the cream-of-the-crop CG short films under production, and is complete with exclusive insights from the directors themselves (including your's truly), an exclusive feature interview with a director each month (this month's interview is with the heralded Brian Taylor, director of Rustboy), links to dedicated sites that follow the production of the films, as well as invaluable links to the best CG and short film sites on the web. What are you waiting for? Go there NOW! :)
8. 08. 03
2 renderings (one from The Mantis Parable and one called Choo Choo from my portfolio site - www.joshstaub.com) have been picked up by the soon to be released online 3D art magazine 3dnspiration. Keep your eyes on that site as The Mantis Parable makes another appearance on the web!

In addition, Steve Ogden's AnimWatch site will be unveiled very soon and it's looking spectactular. Stay tuned as this one's just about ready for prime-time.
8. 05. 03
Tweak, tweak, tweak. I feel like I understand what the rest of the project is going to be like (not a bad thing, just a realization). Animate, render a quick pass, plug it in to the After Effects project, check pace and timing (flow), tweak the animation, render, plug it in, check pace, tweak animation...Definitely starting to feel like a film production now. Rendering 2 separate animations on my 2 computers is working like a charm as well. Woohoo!
8. 04. 03
Spent my time tonight roughing in some elements for the first few seconds of the film in After Effects (13 seconds!) to get a feel for the pace and timing of the opening sequence. Even though it's very rough, it's quite exhilirating. I finally feel as though I'm "making a movie" instead of just rendering out test image after test image. None of the elements are final, but several of them are pretty close to what I expect them to look like in the final film. With a little effort, I was able to throw in an ambient audio track as well. Woohoo! I've learned a lot tonight. Most of all, I have yet again come to the shocking conclusion that making a film on one's own is really, really fun, and really, really HARD. Of course, I knew that already. :)
8. 02. 03
Today was the annual Mysterium (this time it was held here at Cyan Worlds). Fans from all over the country (and the world) flocked to Cyan to get a sneak preview of Uru: Ages Beyond Myst and to hang out with a bunch of us "Cyantists". I was able to get over there for lunch to meet and chat with many of the Mysterium folks. A good time was had by all.

I have begun animating the caterpillar inside of the jar for the first shot of the film. It would be great to have a good chunk of the first sequence done by the end of the week. Stay tuned.

8. 01. 03
We had planned on taking a family vacation to Glacier National Park in Montana, but 2 days before we were to leave, well, it burned down. Not all of it, but 50,000 acres of it by last count and so the park has been temporarily closed. Instead, we traveled westward to Seattle, WA and stayed there for a few days. Seattle is incredibly beautiful in its own right, but we also got the chance to travel to Hurricane Ridge (aka. the top of the world), and visit the Seattle Aquarium. All the kids (including my daughter) just freak out and run around pointing at the fish yelling "Nemo!" or "Dory!" or "Gill!". It was all very refreshing and relaxing, but I'm back home now and ready to continue work on TMP. While I was gone I rendered out a part of a long section of TMP I call the "panic-cam", but it will require some tweaking to get the timing right and will either need to be partially re-rendered and composited, or tweaked and re-rendered again completely. Oh well. It looks as though the sequence actually rendered much more quickly than I expected, so I'm not concerned.

In any case, I've decided to post a picture of the inside of the jar shot I was working on just before I left. HERE it is.

7. 28. 03
Added Wireframe Views to the Making Of Mantis section. It's a brief look at what The Mantis Parable looks like while I'm actually working on it.

If you're reading this section and it's actually July 25th, 26th, or 27th, you've caught me cheating. I'm posting a little bonus entry early as I won't be able to post for a day or two. Enjoy :)
7. 25. 03
Some of you may recognize the recent guestbook contributor Keith Lango. He is a former Big Idea animator (Veggie Tales, Jonah Movie) and he's working on a short film called The Secret Joys of Myopia which looks to be great. Keith comments in my guestbook that my "steady stream of journal entries and updates shames" him, but I find that particularly ironic considering that it was his production journal that inspired me to do this one in the first place! Keith Lango is now at Blur in California (along with some ex-Cyan friends of mine). In addition to the section dedicated to The Secret Joys of Myopia, Keith has some other great animations on his site - my favorite being "10 - Pin". I find it hilarious.

Speaking of the guestbook, while you're here why don't you stop by and sign it (it's remarkably painless). Or better yet, send me an email (or both). Your questions and comments are welcome and encouraged. :)
7. 23. 03
More tweaking of the "caterpillar in the jar" shot last night with the little time I had. It's very close to being ready for animation (and final rendering) and having shown a still of it in its current state to Og (aka. Steve Ogden, director of Down In Front) chances are I'll post a still image of it soon. He seems to think it's "site-worthy". :) Speaking of Og, he continues to update me on the progress of his AnimWatch site (not yet released) and it's really looking phenomenal. The "August" feature is on Rustboy and he's got a great interview (and some exclusive images) with Brian Taylor. Can't wait till that site goes live! Stay tuned.
7. 22. 03
Last couple of nights I've been setting up the first shot of the film for rendering. I have come to realize that no matter how much lighting and texturing I do, once I've actually setup the final camera for a shot, there's more I want to tweak. Specifically, I've been working on remapping the branch and rocks inside of the jar, moving leaves around to better frame the shot, and adding specific lights to hilite the caterpillar in order to make the shot "read" as it should. I'm debating whether or not to upload an image of my progress....hmmm.
7. 20. 03
My friend and fellow short-film director Steve Ogden (Down In Front) is working on a website that will showcase several short-films currently in production with links and updates, exclusive screenshots and interviews with the directors, etc. I've seen the rough layout of it and it's going to be fantastic. For those that love short-films (and the labor of love behind-the- scenes work) it's exactly the kind of site you'll be sure to bookmark and visit often. Down In Front, The Mantis Parable, as well as Rustboy and many other films will be featured on the site. It's the kind of thing you look at and wonder "why hasn't anyone done this already?"
7. 18. 03
I've made some major breakthroughs in rendering speed lately. For whatever reason, when I switched from the full-demo version of VRay (the renderer I'm using) to the free VRay (and less featured version) my rendering speeds were cut in half! Not sure why this is, but I'm happy about it. :) In any case, now I am able to render at a higher resolution (1024 X 554) with depth-of-field at around 10 minutes per frame. I think I've finally slayed the resolution/render-speed dragon. To celebrate, I'm offering some desktop wallpaper renderings of the establishing shot at no charge. :) Enjoy!

7. 15. 03
Did a bit of post-processing preparation work tonight. I plan on putting the film together in Adobe After Effects and I expect to play with the look of the film a tiny bit during the post-process stage, specifically giving a softer look to the scene, accentuating the specular hilites, perhaps tweaking color, etc. Tonight I brought a few images into After Effects to play with and after some tweaking I've achieved something I'm fairly happy with. It's subtle, but I think gives it a nice feel. Perhaps if I get a moment I'll post a comparison shot (before and after the effect layers).

I'm also looking at doing Depth Of Field effects in post-process instead of during rendering. Considering that rendering without depth-of-field is taking between 1 and 2 minutes a frame, and with DOF takes 10 times as long (about 20 minutes a frame) it's probably worth thinking about. There is a great looking plugin called LensCare by Frischluft that looks promising (and best of all, it's inexpensive). Of course, when you're making a short film in your spare time for FREE, everything is expensive. :)

7. 14. 03
Finished skinning the caterpillar tonight. I'm sure I'll have tweaking to do as I attempt to walk the caterpillar around, but I'm pretty happy with the minimal detail movement I've achieved so far. It's going to be a lot of work to animate this guy, but there is a part of me looks forward to the challenge (the insane part). In the meantime I still have some rigging to do, meaning I need to work more with the hierarchy of the bones and add some dummy controls for them (sort of like puppet handles on a marionette). Here is a really simple animation test of the skinning and bone structure in it's present state.
7. 13. 03
"And now for something completely different." This one is completely off the subject, but I have to mention it anyway (as its part of an excuse why I didn't get much done on mantis yesterday). I've played a lot of baseball/softball in my life, but after winning two games yesterday afternoon, my church softball team made it to the championship game last night under the lights and I have to say, it was the most amazing game I have ever been a part of. We play 7 inning games, and had a 1 run lead going into the top of the 7th. We had a disastrous 7th giving up 4 runs requiring us to score 3 runs in the bottom of the 7th to tie, 4 to win. To make a long story short, we scored 3 to tie in the 7th, 2 to tie in the 8th, 1 to tie in the ninth, and 4 to win in the 10th! It was remarkable. My teammates and I were walking around stunned afterwards (game ended at 10:30pm). Sorry for the digression. :)
7. 12. 03
Got distributed rendering working today. Basically, distributed rendering allows my computer to automatically connect to other machines on the network (1 other machine in my case) and use its processing power to help move the rendering along faster. My tests were successful, but only moderately (a rendering that took 7 minutes now takes 6 minutes with distributed rendering on). Part of the problem is that my main computer must send the scene data to the second machine in order for the second machine to help render it. This takes a minute or so by itself. It may turn out to be faster to simply use both machines to render separate scenes on their own, even if the second machine is considerably slower than my main one. The scene transfer time wouldn't be so bad for animations if it sent the scene data only once, but I suspect it re-sends per frame. Stay tuned.
7. 10. 03
As I get closer to rendering the final film, I've continued to debate what format to render it at, and additionally what resolution. For example - for a while now I've been rendering all of my images at a 1.85:1 ratio. It is a fairly common format (for instance the CG movie Ice Age was rendered with this ratio) and a little wider than 1.77:1 more commonly referred to as 16:9 which is very standard. 1.85:1 is significantly wider screen than 4:3 (NTSC - a standard television rez) but not as wide as the really wide A Bug's Life (which is Anamorphic 2.35:1). Then comes the resolution part. I suppose a lot of this depends on what the ultimate viewing platform is. DVD resolution is 720 pixels wide, so if I use that as my standard and I choose 1.85:1 I'll need to render out the film at 720X389. If I choose to go crazy wide and render it at 2.35:1 I would then render the movie at 720X309 (which would render more quickly because it has less pixels to render). After lots of research and discussion with coworkers and friends (and a few test renders), I have decided to render it at 1.85:1 and 720X389. Here are the 2 shots for comparison.
7. 09. 03
I've had a few people ask me if anything actually moves in The Mantis Parable, so I've added The Mantis and The Fly (Animation Test) to the Making Of Mantis section. It's an animation test from back in March, but hopefully it will provide a sense of the type of character animation I'm striving to achieve in the film. One of the greatest challenges of this project for me is the animation, because I'm not a traditional character animator and I've never had any training. So what do I choose for the major characters in my first short film? A mantis (6 legs, 4 wings, 2 antennae) and a caterpillar (14 legs, 10 body sections, 2 antennae). Good thinking there, Einstein. :)
7. 08. 03
Continued the process of skinning the caterpillar. Upper body is completely skinned, but the back leg bones are still unattached. In addition, I'd like to work with some spring controllers for the antennae in order for them to bounce around a tiny bit when he moves. Also added a few subtle spots to the texture on his forehead so it's not so bare. Probably going to work with that a bit more, but it's a start.

Uploaded the "Sunset" image to both renderosity.com and gfxartist.com to get some additional feedback (and possibly some more site interest). So far the response has been unanimously positive.
7. 07. 03
Well, I'm officially calling today the "grand opening" of The Mantis Parable website, because I've made several of the www.joshstaub.com "Guestbook" signees aware of its presence here in cyberspace and as of this evening I have received several words of encouragement in both the guestbook and through personal emails. As I sit here at 11:51pm laboring through the skinning of the caterpillar (the grueling process of attaching the mesh vertices one-by-one to the skeletal structure underneath) I am comforted that people are already taking interest. Thank you for your support!

Speaking of the caterpillar, I discovered tonight to my dismay that I had left him a couple of weeks ago without his legs "skinned". His body was skinned enough for me to pose him for a couple shots to test lighting and complete his texturing, but if he's going to move, he's going to need some functional legs. For those of you not up on your caterpillar anatomy, caterpillars have several legs - 14 to be exact. To be honest, I'm still not completely sure how I'm going to get to him to move around as he needs to, but it's definitely going to be a challenge.
7. 06. 03
Added Lighting (Time of Day Variations) to the Making Of Mantis section.

On a side note, as a by-product of getting my new computer, Uru: Ages Beyond Myst runs amazingly well even at 1600X1200 resolution with anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering on. It looks and runs GORGEOUS if I do say so myself. :)
7. 05. 03
Still debating whether to have a "guestbook" or a "forum" on the site (or both). I would personally prefer to have a forum, because I am more than willing to participate in any discussions and I really want this site to be a place where people feel comfortable asking questions (as long as they are somewhat related to the creating of The Mantis Parable, or at least production of CG and/or specifically short films). Of course, people would have to ask questions or the forum would be pointless. Got questions? Heh, heh. I suppose I'll know the answer over the next few weeks as I release the site. Officially, I'm hoping to unveil it on Monday, 7.07.03. On a related note, the website that follows the progress of the film "Rustboy" has a great forum associated with it that I personally frequent for inspiration.
7. 04. 03
Big day today (aside from it being our Nation's Birthday). New machine arrived yesterday afternoon, so I spent a lot of time transfering data last night and this morning. Setting up a home network for distributed rendering was today's primary goal. Bought a router to replace my old hub so all 3 home machines (including my wife's iMac) can be networked and "interneted" at the same time (thanks Dave Smith for all the network setup help!). By this evening everything was working great, so I performed the ultimate test - a one to one showdown between my old 848MHz and my new smokin 3.0 GHz. The result? A 740X400 resolution evening shot (establishing shot) with no DOF on my 848MHz takes 4min 29sec. On the 3.0 GHz - Drumroll please? 1min 18sec. With network rendering enabled (haven't tried that yet) it should be even faster. Woohoo! Here's the shot.
7. 03. 03
Worked out nifty new bg standard for the production journal. Should be really easy to update now. Hoping to do the same for the making-of page.

In addition, I finally settled on the name "The Mantis Parable" for this thing. I had been leaning that direction anyway, but once I found out www.themantisproject.com was already taken, I realized that "parable" was the right way to go. I think it gives my simple story a certain weight that will prepare people to think at least a little bit about what they're watching - which is the whole point of the thing anyway. Thinking=Good.
7. 02. 03
Horrible headache yesterday, had to leave work early and spent all evening on the couch. No progress. Feeling better today though, so I hope to update the caterpillar color study pages tonight, as well as implement the final scheme for the production journal and making of pages. Hope my new machine comes today!
7. 01. 03
Received confirmation that my new computer has been shipped and is on its way. I've created everything up until now with a Dell 848MHz pIII w/256M RAM. A rendering of the establishing shot of the desk at sunset w/o depth of field takes around 5min on the 848MHz and about 1m50sec on my 2.4GHz 512M RAM pIII at work. En route is a 3.0GHz 512M RAM pIV. Needless to say, I'm very excited about the prospect of having a 3GHz AND my 848MHz network rendering in harmony. Woohoo!
6. 30. 03
Working mainly on the website tonight. Trying to get the "production journal" up and working properly. My "Art of Finding Nemo" book arrived today. Lots of fantastic pre-production artwork in there - pencil, pastel, acrylic, charcoal. It's all incredible, but the charcoal work by freelance artist Simon Varela is particularly amazing.

6. 29. 03
Got the index page and basic layout setup complete. Og says he's "shocked" by the white background. Heh, heh. I'm not normally a white bg type of guy I guess. :) Steve Ogden is a friend and fellow CG Artist (he used to work here at Cyan Worlds) who is working on a short film called Down In Front. Visually it's looking great, and with Og's sense of humor I'm sure it will be hilarious. Daily, we update eachother on the progress we've made on our personal projects. Sort of an accountability group for short film creation.