Vol. 5 No. 12

JULY, 2006



iToon on Morning Drivers


iToon on the Urge


iToon on Baby Cells



Therefore, iAm


A college survey claims that iPods are more popular than beer!?!



Therefore, iAm








The cell phone companies have weeded their way into the mainstream sports marketing promotion business like a zebra mussel to a Lake Michigan drain pipe. Sporting events on television are now crammed with telephony graphics, tie ins, star this or that, dial in, plug up, look at cell-video shorts and toothache nagging ringtones that a viewer can no longer see the actual game through the graphic jungle.

The teams are bending over backwards like a new prisoner in a shower to accept these intrusions into their regular broadcasts. The partnership to promote the growing cell phone addiction is an unstoppable ship heading toward an iceberg. Is it not enough for a sponsor to slap its logo on the sidelines, uniforms, scoreboards, microphones, headsets, batting circles, walls and cheap giveaway magnetic schedules?

A minor league baseball team is experimenting with the notion of “managing” the team in real time. During the game, your cell will pop up with situation decision which you vote upon to tell the manager what the consensus “right” move is; for example, a runner at first base with one out--- do you (a) bunt the runner over; (b) hit and run, or (c) let the batter swing away? The fans in the stands would log in and vote their choice, and after a quick ballot count, the decision would flash in the manager's dugout phone. Now, the reason for this mind baffling technology overdose is clear: everytime you use your cellphone, the telephone operator is making money. It is money making scam on the fans to make them believe that they are more “involved” in the game. Baseball is a “spectator” sport; the fans are not active players in the game's outcome (or should not be). But the sponsors are attempting to tap in the video-game mentality sweeping the real sports world. Coaches think that the players can be controlled on the real field like with the locker room joystick in a simulated game. The coaches call all the plays (especially in football) so the players on the field are running around with their heads hazed from instructions instead of playing the game on instinct. Now, with the baseball example, the manager should be watching the field of play and not his cell phone. He is being paid to manage the team to victory, but to shuck in-game oysters for a sponsor. And the fans, who paid good money for their seats, are concentrating on punching alphanumeric digits into their cell phones while the game is being played; that takes away from the entire ballgame experience. You might as well stay at home and watch the game on a television set if you are that addicted to pixel representations. And what manager worth his grain of salt will follow the advice of the fans during the heat of a ball game at such a critical time like the 9th inning (when things get really tense)?

Most major sporting events ask the viewer the question, vote for the player of the game by texting a number to the wireless provider. Like that really matters in the long run. Especially, when they ask for you votes when the game is only half over. Oh, and vote as often as you like. The sponsor doesn't mind. It is unscientifically profitable. It will evolve into in-game hand-held replays (for a fee), in-game manager video discussions (for a fee), in-game player highlights (for a fee), in-seat food and beverage ordering system to the concession stands (for a fee).

What will happen when one of these cell nuts has his head down in his lap texting the latest message when the batter lines a sharp foul ball off the fan's temple?

It is distracting enough with people talking on their cells during a game, and having the caller outside the park tell the person he or she is on television which turns that person into a mentally deranged zoo ape.




The newspaper business is in the midst of a free fall. Paper circulation is falling faster than Skylab debris into the atmosphere. Magazines are getting so thin that content is now secondary to the remaining loyal advertisers space demands. Magazines are trying to stave off bankruptcy by pumping up “unpaid” circulation so their ad rate cards do not fall to that of a carrier current college radio station. Advertisers prefer paid circulation numbers because it means the magazine's core demographic is what the advertiser is attempting to hit. Unpaid circulation means a random, uninterested and quick toss in the trash can readership which in the short run does not help any advertiser. Local television stations used to pull in one-third or more of their total revenue from their local news casts. However, television advertising is also dipping because the ratings have been shaved to minute shares due to the internet and hundreds of alternative cable-sat channels. It is not a good time to be in the mass media business.

Now the financial pundits claim that the Internet is taking away most of the advertising dollars. Well, it is probably the hidden search engine kind. Have you noticed that more and more search engine result pages are tied solely to “pay” advice sites or that the keywords do not correspond to the information you are researching but to ancillary service company pages? This type of grab bag search engine advertising method is like an unpaid subscription to a magazine advertiser; hit or miss. The paid rankings in the search engine will drive people away from them if they are solely looking for real information.

People are not reading the newspapers, magazines or watching the news on television. It is an alarming social trend with significant political ramifications (an uninformed public is a politically sheepishly dumb electorate). It is claimed that the Internet is now the choice of choice for news and information to the average Joe and Josephine. Which is also a scary thought. Most news sites on the net are personal blogs spouting spin, opinion and commentary wrapped up as a news portal. Most traditional news media outlets have ported their content to their web sites, but usually under the paid or registration mandate which many surfers refuse to honor. Most surfers are independent, “free” thinking clickheads who don't want to log in, get another password to memorize, or pay for news articles they can get someplace else at no cost. Reliability of net news content and accountability for it are still open questions in the journalism community. The cultural change is the question that people do not have the time to sit down and read newspapers or watch a full news hour. Most people point and click at their computer screens at work when a report is being printed at the print station down the cubical. It is easier to fish through some news portals or the local webpaper then sitting down at a table and unfolding an eight section paper to digest with the morning coffee.

Democracy is based upon a well informed public. The First Amendment was designed to safeguard the general public from a power broker elitist government. Most Internet sites do not have the resources to have full time reporters professionally gathering news stories or investigative pieces under the gate keeping functions of professional journalism. Many just run with the party's faxed speaking points as legitimate news without calling to confirm the accuracy of the allegations or getting the other side's quotes on the allegations.

In order to win back viewers or readers, the media is getting more and more into feature stories over hard news content. The theory is that the general public finds it more appealing to learn about celebrity hang-ups or the latest patent medicine cure than corrupt politicians or failing school administration. When cities had a half dozen daily newspapers competing for readers, the era of tabloid journalism with huge GRAPHIC headlines was the rage. Tabloid television is taking root in all news casts, with an in-your-face political bias, which continues to leave viewers grasping for the channel changer.




As our reader(s) know, we have been experimenting with basic animation principles for the past few months. The CGI-animation industry has to be the fastest growing segment in the economy. Look at any commercial, there is some form of video “enhancement” or cartoon character feature. DisneyTV, CartoonNetwork and Nick are all heavily into programming animation, with a growing segment towards adults.

Animation is no longer the things of kids' stuff. Major motion picture studios are spending tens of millions of dollars and years of preparation time to launch full length features. Animation studios are popping up all over the world; many are being founded by the multi-millionaire technology or tycoons, like Nike's Phil Knight. It appears that everyone with a notion, an idea or some capital, wants to be the next Walt Disney.

But as one begins learning the process, one will find that this animation business is a vastly complex layered and technology demanding enterprise. There are companies with hundreds of highly skilled artists who sole job is to create “tweens,” the individual time consuming single frames of action between the projects key frames. Getting anything into a final product can take months, years or decades to complete, depending on the nature, length and complexity of the story and its art.

Being a self taught cartoonist, the mindset has always been to try things on your own. Animation looks easy, right? It is like a person who likes food but can't cook a damn thinks he can open a restaurant. There is a logical disconnect in this reasoning. But there was some hope. In researching the anime world, I found it especially interesting that the new crop of illustrators, artists and animators are heavily influenced by the Japanese manga pioneers more than Americanized Disney legends. The graphic style of the background muted pastels, to the character's main traits, are mostly Japanese inspirations. The bulk of the CartoonNetwork's growing popular shows are imported (and redubbed) Japanese anime. Even the virtual band, Gorillaz, takes tribute to the whimsical artistic spiritual images of these Asian anime masters.

Then there was the story that a single person could produce a critically acclaimed animation short, using just a Mac G4 computer and off-the-shelf software. His name is Makato Shinkai. His project, Voices of Distant Star, appears to the the watershed moment or inspiration for the hobbyist animation circle. The story goes that after real job in a computer graphics firm, he would go home and spend his nights creating his own story project. After many months of working long hours, the project begins to stall. It is not that the story changes, but his attitude has to; he finds he has captured some great sequences, but can't seem to tie the work together as quick as he would like. So he quits his real job, and spends the next seven months totally focused on completing the project. The completion was the sole goal in the end; otherwise, he said, no one would see any of his good work. And his work as been praised as being the next Miyazaki, Japan's modern Walt Disney.

So the gauntlet had been laid down. Animation can be a quality home brew product.

But one of the problems with running headlong into a project such as this is that one quickly learns that you are running head long into a Wall. Here are some emails sent to Tech Guru Rocky:

PAP test number one has been completed. After a 42+ hour “render”, the subject matter came back with numerous mistakes, issues, and adding a ton of mental homework to find means of correction. I may have rushed to the End level too quick. (“Dammit Jim, I am a plain country doctor, not a quantum physics hydrobiobotanist nuclear scientist!”) No immediate plans for a second test launch until further understanding of programs, sequences, files, ect. (“Capt'n!!! I don't think the engines can handle much mooooore!!!”) PAN THROUGH IMAGES OF GALAXY SPACE “Space. Between my Ears. These are the voyages of the tramp steamer, pindermedia. As it attempts to boldly go where few cartoonists have ever gone before !!!”

“Render.” A quick search finds that rendering is the bane of the animation community, novice to expert. Apparently, I will have to get a handle on mattes, layers, compressions, multipasses, channels, to see if render times can be dramatically reduced in a final project. Mumblings about 20 hour renders for 5 seconds of animation as being “normal” issue is creating a migraine.

Last night I spent in “character development.” I felt I got the rudimentary background art thing down to beginner level, so on to the next major skill task. It is a tedious and time consuming process which hopefully will cut down time requirements down the road. I project that it will probably take three nights (9 hours) or more to complete one character study. Now I see why that writer used the term “years” in developing animation.

This is what I found today: Decisions: Limited Animation: If you have only a few years to complete your animated motion picture then you should use limited animation. Limited animation is where you draw each character from 8 different angles without a mouth or limbs. (All you needs Photoshop or Illustrator and a Wacom Graphire tablet but if you prefer, you can use any of the dozen or so excellent 2D animation programs which make the drawing easier and faster.) You simply move the character to the correct position in the scene and you animated the mouth and limbs in either Photoshop, Illustrator, AfterEffects or a 2D animation program. “South Park” is an example of very limited animation. A more sophisticated version of limited animation is Hanna Barbara's “Scooby Doo” cartoons. Digital Actors: If you have about 7 years to complete your movie, then you can use 2 1/2 D animation using digital puppets from Zygote. This is what I teach in Digital Puppet magazine. With this method, you create the movie sets as still images in Bryce which are animated in Adobe Aftereffects Then you combine the movie sets with digital actors from Zygote inside of Curious Lab's Poser and/or Adobe Aftereffects A 90-minute feature will take one person about 4 to 7 years to complete using this method. Hand Drawn Animation: If you lots of talent, you can draw every frame of the motion picture. It normally takes a team of twenty artists about 5 years to draw a feature film.

So the first lesson in Animation has been learned: pull back! Don't try to do a large project first; build up you tech-animation common sense. As noted above, you have to have to pull together several different skill sets, including complex graphic and animation programs, in order to complete any project. The methods from hand cel drawn characters, to multi-layered 3D composites, are similar. It is a question of wandering the jungle, swinging from tree to tree until you find a strong enough rope to hang yourself.

The first aspect of this bunge jump into the animation canyon is that one gets an new appreciation for the television animation series. Second, you begin to watch those shows on a secondary level (“I see how they are doing this segment,” or “how did they do THAT?”) Third, you become inspired and frustrated at the same time. But that is all part of the learning process; learning is never easy.

( presents


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The global on-line gaming experience has quietly exploded into a a bandwidth python of multi-hour, multi-kingdom game spheres. Whether it is the team combat arena, or the total simulated fantasy genre, more and more men and women are using their free time to escape to a virtual world. As a result of our tech guru's prodding suggestion, has created Sultanate of Clintonia-Rogstaden. Readers will have a running update of the status of this virtual country; you can peek at the real game pages, or get the backstories outside the game's program. For example, check out the images of the national currency. There will be inside jokes, satire, humor and pulse of a real bizarre country. New features will be added on a regular basis. So check out the cyber-soap opera of nation building here at


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