lynda course: toonboom animate / harmony essential training

My fifth course for Lynda has gone online – and it was a great deal of hard work! I made a special effort to make the steep learning curve as shallow as possible. We all know that most people can pick up Flash and start animating scenes quite quickly, but Toonboom Animate/Harmony takes a little longer to come to terms with – to be expected, because the program has so many more features, and a different workflow.

lynda flash animation thumbnails

I’d recommend this course for anyone interested in moving past Flash, as I get the distinct impression that a major switch is under way in the animation world, from Adobe Flash to Toonboom Harmony.

Here are the rest of my Lynda courses.

10-day free trial

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grosseteste: bishop of the century!

Another character from my huge ‘Continuum’ walking page: Grosseteste (ca. 1168–1253), one of the great intellects of medieval Europe (click for large version).

A couple of words about this ‘Continuum’ project of mine: the overall theme is an attack on binary thinking or the simplistic narratives that are common in the modern world. Examples of this simplistic thinking have lead us such beliefs as “science = good, religion = bad” (or the reverse), or “West= good, Islam= bad” (or the reverse). ‘Continuum’ illustrates that the actual course of history isn’t so clear cut – and is best thought of as an ‘infuriating dialectic’, and when you hammer dead people into modern categories you abuse history, and create a myth that is false to facts.

Stanford entry:

Robert Grosseteste (ca. 1168–1253), Bishop of Lincoln from 1235 to 1253, was one of the most prominent and remarkable figures in thirteenth-century English intellectual life. He was a man of many talents: commentator and translator of Aristotle and Greek patristic thinkers, philosopher, theologian, and student of nature. He was heavily influenced by Augustine, whose thought permeates his writings and from whom he drew a Neoplatonic outlook, but he was also one of the first to make extensive use of the thought of Aristotle, Avicenna and Averroes. He developed a highly original and imaginative account of the generation and fundamental nature of the physical world in terms of the action of light, and composed a number of short works regarding optics and other natural phenomena, as well as works of philosophy and theology … He made a powerful impression on his contemporaries and subsequent thinkers at Oxford, and has been hailed as an inspiration to scientific developments in fourteenth-century Oxford.

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avicenna: philosopher, scientist, genius!

Another character from my huge ‘Continuum’ walking page: Avicenna (980-1037), one of the greatest influences on medieval Europe: Brittania entry:

Avicenna’s most important work of philosophy and science is Kitāb al-shifāʾ, which is a four-part encyclopaedia covering logic, physics, mathematics, and metaphysics. Since science was equated with wisdom, Avicenna attempted a broad unified classification of knowledge… Logic was viewed by Avicenna as instrumental to philosophy, an art and a science to be concerned with second-order concepts … his theology—the First Cause and the 10 intelligences—allowed his philosophy, with its devotion to God as Creator and the celestial hierarchy, to be imported easily into medieval European Scholastic thought. In addition to Avicenna’s philosophy having been readily incorporated into medieval European Scholastic thought, his synthesis of Neoplatonic and Aristotelian thought and his encompassing of all human knowledge of the time into well-organized, accessible texts make him one of the greatest intellects since Aristotle…

Taken in his entirety, Avicenna must be seen in context with his Islamic colleagues—al-Rāzī, Ibn Rushd (Averroës), ʿAlī ibn al-ʿAbbās (Haly Abbas), Abū al-Qāsim (Albucasis), Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar), and others—who, during the Islamic golden age, served as invaluable conduits of textual transmission and interpretation of Hellenistic learning for an amnesic Europe. First through Sicily and Spain and then via the Crusades, the rich cultural enlightenment of the Islamic world awakened a benighted Europe from its intellectual slumber, and Avicenna was perhaps the movement’s greatest ambassador.

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flash palette: a custom improvement!

It’s not news that the default palette for Flash is dreadful. There’s not much that you can do with this, other than pretend it’s not there:

I made my own early in the 2000s; it’s much more subdued (maybe a bit too subdued) but you’ll find it much more useful than the default. Here’s an empty Flash file containing my personalised flash palette. It was created in Macromedia Flash MX, so it’ll work with very old versions, and will open with all the later ones. Macromedia MX Screenshot:

All you need to do is download the .fla file, open it, then in the color swatch window, do this (note that this screenshot is Flash CS 5.5, all versions are much the same):

Once you save this palette as the default, any future .fla files that you open will have that new palette. If you ever want the old, ugly palette back, open that same swatch panel and select ‘Web 216′, and party like it’s 1999.

Notice that there’s a top row of green, blue, tan, turquoise, etc. I reserve these for layer colours, as you can see layers in outline mode very clearly when these colours are applied.

This is also the palette that I use in all my Lynda courses…so if you want to follow along with those, it’s a very handy thing to have.

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al ma’arri, the great poet of 11th century Syria.

A favourite character from my huge ‘Continuum’ walking page, al ma’arri (973-1057):

From Brittanica:

al-Maʿarrī, (born December 973, near Aleppo, Syria—died May 1057), great Arab poet, known for his virtuosity and for the originality and pessimism of his vision.

…  A childhood disease left him virtually blind. He studied at the Syrian cities of Aleppo, Antioch, and Tripoli and soon began his literary career, supported by a small private income. His early poems were collected in Saqṭ al-zand (“The Tinder Spark”), which gained great popularity; it includes a series of poems on armour.

… In Baghdad he had been well received at first in prestigious literary salons; but when he refused to sell his panegyrics, he was unable to find a dependable patron. He renounced material wealth and retired to a secluded dwelling, living there on a restrictive diet. Al-Maʿarrī enjoyed respect and authority locally, and many students came to study with him. He also maintained an active correspondence.

… Although an advocate of social justice and action, al-Maʿarrī suggested that children should not be begotten, in order to spare future generations the pains of life. His writings are also marked by an obsession with philology.

A 1920s translation of his great poem ‘The Luzumiyat’ (posted on my personal blog, idleworm). Some sample verses – though you won’t regret reading the entire poem:

The Sultan, too, relinquishing his throne
Must wayfare through the darkening dust alone
Where neither crown nor kingdom be, and he,
Part of the Secret, here and there is blown.

To clay the mighty Sultan must return
And, chancing, help a praying slave to burn
His midnight oil before the face of Him,
Who of the Sultan makes an incense urn.

Turned to a cup, who once the sword of state
Held o’er the head of slave and potentate,
Is now held in the tippler’s trembling hand,
Or smashed upon the tavern-floor of Fate.

For this I say, Be watchful of the Cage
Of chance; it opes alike to fool and sage;
Spy on the moment, for to-morrow’ll be,
Like yesterday, an obliterated page.

Isn’t this beautiful?

“For this I say, Be watchful of the Cage
Of chance; it opes alike to fool and sage;
Spy on the moment, for to-morrow’ll be,
Like yesterday, an obliterated page.”

Sure is more impressive than grunting “YOLO”.

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continuum: philosophers

Some details from the enormous ‘Continuum’ walking page:

The philosopher Plotinus:

And al Farabi:

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why do movie posters suck?

I’ve written a long post about the awfulness of movie posters, book covers, and magazines.
It’s posted on idleworm, as I like to keep the posts here focused more on personal work & animation.

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krita (free photoshop alternative)

I’ve been playing with this a little, and so far it seems like a very useful program – much more intuitive than GIMP, which is a real horror to use, in my opinion. Krita has some very nice brushes. I’ve only had a short time to play with it, but so far, it looks great – especially for students who want a quick photoshop alternative. Krita saves in .psd format also.

It’s available in 32 and 64 bit versions. To date, there is no mac version.

krita studio

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continuum (animated)

In the previous post, I showed page 100 of ‘Continuum’, a work in progress. It’s a comic book in which “Albert Einstein takes a young George W. Bush on a journey through space-time and philosophy.” The page illustrates 60 of the key figures in the history of philosophy, science and mysticism, with several key figures from the hard sciences included (those whose breakthroughs changed the perception of reality). I drew the figures so that each seemed to walk into the one following, using the classic ‘contact/recoil/passing/high-point’ method in traditional animation. Although they were never meant to be animated, I was curious to see what they would look like, if superimposed upon each other:

Drawing these 60 figures took between 2 and 3 months.

The figures in the list are:

Indus Valley; Sumeria and China (all ~3300 BC); Pythagoras (570–495 BC); Socrates (469–399 BC); Plato (423–348 BC); Aristotle (384–322 BC); Ptolemy (90–168 AD); Plotinus (204–270); Augustine (354–430); Aryabhata (476–550); Al Farabi (872-951); Al Hazen (965-1040); Al Ma’arri (973-1058); Avicenna (980-1037) ;Al Ghazali (1058–1111); Averroes (1126–1198); Maimonides (1135-1204); Grosseteste (1175–1253); Roger Bacon (1214–1294); Aquinas (1225–1274); Ockham (1288–1348); Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406); Copernicus (1473–1543); Francis Bacon (1561-1626); Galileo (1564–1642); Kepler (1571-1630); Descartes (1596–1650); Locke (1632–1704); Spinoza (1632–1677); Newton (1642–1727); Leibniz (1646–1716); Berkeley (1685–1753); Voltaire (1694–1778); Hume (1711–1776); Kant (1724–1804); Hegel (1770–1831); Mill (1806–1873); Darwin (1809–1882); Nietzsche (1844–1900); Freud (1856–1939); Husserl (1859–1938); Whitehead (1861–1947); Curie (1867–1934); Russell (1872–1970); Jung (1875–1961); Einstein (1879–1955); Korzybski (1879–1950); Eddington (1882–1944); Eddington (1882–1944); Bohr (1885–1962); Schrodinger (1887–1961); Wittgenstein (1889–1951); Heisenberg (1901–1976); Karl Popper (1902–1994); Von Neumann (1903–1957); Godel (1906-1978); Franklin (1920-1958); Mandelbrot (1924-2010); Sheldrake(1942-).

A quick note: several people have commented that there are only 2 women in the list – implying a bias (conscious or unconscious) on my part. I actively tried to find female figures who were not examples of mere tokenism. Please remember that I am not responsible for the condition of women’s rights in Periclean Athens, Late Antiquity, Medieval Europe – or 20th century Europe/America for that matter. I removed Watson and Crick from the lineup, replacing them with Rosalind Franklin. I’d have added Jocelyn Bell (for the discovery of the pulsar), had the line been more relevant to astronomical discoveries.

Secondly, the list specifically deals with the “infuriating dialectic” between science, religion and mysticism – there are very specific figures in this story (for example: Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Avicenna, Averroes, Al Hazen, Al Ma’arri and Al Ghazali). I’m not discriminating against women, neither am I discriminating in favour of people whose names begin with the letter “A”. This historical record is what it is, and I don’t currently possess a history reset button. But when I get that button, y’all better watch out, because where we’re going, we won’t need roads.

All that said, hope you find the animation interesting. If I had enough time, I could properly animate this, adding the inbetween poses, and smoothing out the walk poses (remember, they were never meant to be seen like this!) Sadly, time is short, so barring a viral kickstart campaign, it’s not going to happen.

My personal favourite in the list is Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri (973-1058), a Syrian agnostic/atheist. Here is a lovely translation of his poem ‘The Luzumiyat’.

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a continuum of thought

For the past two years I’ve been working on a comic book called ‘Continuum’.

In ‘Continuum’, Albert Einstein takes a young George W. Bush on a journey through space-time and philosophy. Some of the pages were relatively straightforward, until this one – page 100. Page 100 shows many of the key figures who shaped different aspects of the modern worldview. This page has to date taken about 2 months. Each pose animates into the one following. Hefty research was required to select the characters – and when a new figure was added, this occasionally necessitated altering the poses of the figures before and after (one reason why this page took so long to complete).

Be sure to click on the image to see the full size version. Your browser may show you a magnifying glass. Again, be sure to click on the magnifying glass to zoom in to 100%.

a continuum of thought

Some close ups of the different sections of the continuum. Again, click to see the image full size, or you’re going to miss the details.

Row 1:

a continuum of thought - row 1

The figures above represent: Indus Valley; Sumeria and China (all ~3300 BC); Pythagoras (570–495 BC); Socrates (469–399 BC); Plato (423–348 BC); Aristotle (384–322 BC); Ptolemy (90–168 AD); Plotinus (204–270); Augustine (354–430); Aryabhata (476–550); Al Farabi (872-951); Al Hazen (965-1040); Al Ma’arri (973-1058); Avicenna (980-1037).

Row 2:

a continuum of thought - row 2

The figures above represent Avicenna (980-1037); Al Ghazali (1058–1111); Averroes (1126–1198); Maimonides (1135-1204); Grosseteste (1175–1253); Roger Bacon (1214–1294); Aquinas (1225–1274); Ockham (1288–1348); Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406); Copernicus (1473–1543); Francis Bacon (1561-1626); Galileo (1564–1642); Kepler (1571-1630); Descartes (1596–1650).

Row 3:

a continuum of thought - row 3

The figures above represent Descartes (1596–1650); Locke (1632–1704); Spinoza (1632–1677); Newton (1642–1727); Leibniz (1646–1716); Berkeley (1685–1753); Voltaire (1694–1778); Hume (1711–1776); Kant (1724–1804); Hegel (1770–1831); Mill (1806–1873); Darwin (1809–1882).

a continuum of thought - row 4

The figures above represent Darwin (1809–1882); Nietzsche (1844–1900); Freud (1856–1939); Husserl (1859–1938); Whitehead (1861–1947); Curie (1867–1934); Russell (1872–1970); Jung (1875–1961); Einstein (1879–1955); Korzybski (1879–1950); Eddington (1882–1944).

a continuum of thought - row 5

The figures above represent Eddington (1882–1944); Eddington (1882–1944); Bohr (1885–1962); Schrodinger (1887–1961); Wittgenstein (1889–1951); Heisenberg (1901–1976); Karl Popper (1902–1994); Von Neumann (1903–1957);
Godel (1906-1978); Franklin (1920-1958); Mandelbrot (1924-2010); Sheldrake(1942-).

I’m very happy with about 1/4 of the figures (design and pose), there are a couple that have given me nothing but trouble. But 2-3 months on this one page is more than enough, so I’m calling this one done, and moving on to page 101.

Here’s a preview sketch for page 101. The previous figures are now seen, marching up a spiral tower, a patchwork of architecture and technology from the source cultures:

continuum tower

I expect page 101 to take approximately another 2 months of solid work.

Continuum is inspired by Chapter 4 of Carroll Quigley’s book ‘Evolution of Civilisations’, in which he describes the principle of a continuum, and how it applies to history, not just the electromagnetic spectrum. The implications of ‘Continuum’ will take the reader into areas often covered by General Semantics and Semiotics…how humans create arbitrary labels for an irrational reality, then confuse those labels with reality itself.

The potential audience for ‘Continuum’ is in the low hundreds; it’s painful to know that so much work is sunk into a project that will never find an audience of any real size. We live in a world where Kony2012, Solar roads, and other patent nonsense grabs hold of peoples’ attention; material like this won’t. Nevertheless, if you like what you see on this site, this is me asking you to share it with anyone who may be interested.

I’ll post more images from ‘Continuum’ over the next few weeks.

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