Well, not actually half-way. I leave on Monday. But close enough.

It’s been a nice trip. Mostly I’ve been rampantly narcoleptic; two days ago I fell asleep at around 9pm and managed to stay asleep for twelve hours. That’s an impressive feat for a chronic insomniac.

My mother loved her gift, and my sister is slowly using hers (she was promised a shopping spree up to an unspecified dollar amount; she’s planning on spending the rest at Eaton Center when we get to Toronto). Me, I got this really lovely hand-bound, calf-skin journal filled with blank pages. It’s the kind of book you’d open, expecting to find an Age of Myst. It’s lovely and I as yet have no idea what’s going in it. That’s the problem with really nice blank paper — you want to fill it with really nice words and sketches.

My sister and I saw Desperaux on Christmas day, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. The plotting was well-paced, the animation was mostly nice (some lip sync and the motion of secondary characters notwithstanding), the rendering was top notch (with depth of field used sparingly, but to good effect), and while the story did feel cut a bit short I thought the overall piece came off quite well. It’s not the kind of fairytale to which you’d take a Disney-loving crowd– for one, it begins with the death of a Queen. And technically it’s a death due to idiocy; since I doubt the rat gave her a heart attack, then I have to assume she drowned after fainting into her bowl of soup. Anyway, it’s a very nice film that I almost skipped and am glad I didn’t. Sigourney Weaver’s narration is icing on the cake.

The weather’s been nice (nice being a relative term, as I don’t consider 31 and humid nice), and there will be many pictures uploaded to Flickr once I’ve returned and have had a chance to sort through them. Bringing my camera but leaving my laptop turned out to be a good idea. Aside from photos, I’ve gotten some design work done on two projects I’m looking forward to starting on come January, and worked out a few other things on paper that I’ll be needing for projects already in progress.

Speaking of which, my current project at Red Rover will be winding up soon(ish) after I get back, but Class 5 will begin at Animation Mentor, so time’s still going to be at a premium for me for a while. Lots of research to do for my short film. I feel like Maya may be the only software that can accomplish everything I want to do in the timeframe I have (since I’m modeling and rigging both characters in my short on my own and will also be doing a bridge collapse), but at the same time there’s this one thing I learned about myself over the past few months that keeps nagging at me:

The less time I spend in Maya, the happier I am.

Naturally I’m torn. I’m also torn on the rendering, although that’s a problem that won’t really need tackling until after animation is finished. Still, I’d like to have a least an idea of how the final stills are going to look before I start animating, because the look may limit the kinds of motion I can use. Dimos said something that I took to heart a few weeks ago: a strong silhouette isn’t just about the outline of the character, but can also incorporate the color of the character’s skin. For example, if a character has light arms but is wearing a dark t-shirt, you can get away with the arm passing in front of the chest more easily because the coloring will make it stand out. I’ve been mulling that over in my mind as I start planning out my film, as well as a host of other tidbits he’s passed along over the past few years.

On the animation side of things, it’s down to a race between Blender (possibly 2.5, if the release hits in time), Maya 2008, Lightwave 9.6, or Cinema 4D R11. I’ve had this dream of doing the final renders using a Renderman-compliant renderer like 3Delight, but since I already own C4D and Lightwave and both have decent renderers, I may end up importing the animation into one of them and using one of their renderers. Of the two I’d lean towards Lightwave because C4D’s subsurface scattering leaves a lot to be desired (or requires more tricks than it should before becoming useful, tricks I don’t really have the time to learn at the moment). When I get home one of the first things I want to do is a few render tests out of Lightwave to see how easy its node-based system is for getting some of the looks I want.

So much to think through, so little time!