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Not too long after the release of “The Secret Number,” I was turned on to an interesting web enterprise called Tongal, which basically is in the business of crowd-sourcing video advertisements for major brands.
I thought it was a cool concept, and I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring for an advertisement for NASA’s Zero Robotics Challenge. I teamed up with a few colleagues from work, and this is what we came up with in 30 days:
We won second place in the contest. So consider this experiment a success!
Let me update you on what’s going on in my life! Because there’s a lot that’s transpired since last December! We’re going to talk about three things.
Work on “The Secret Number” continues.
My short film “En Route” has been released online.
I’m going to Pixar!
1. The Secret Number is coming along! It’s been a tiresome production and post-production has been grueling, but we’re really in the home stretch now. Although I’m making last-minute editing tweaks, that’s the most complete part of the puzzle. Right now we’ve just got tons of music, sound design, color grading, and visual effects work still to do!
Thus far unreported: Last month we showcased a work-in-progress version of the film for my school, and it got a great reaction! We ended up winning several school awards:
Best Undergraduate Narrative
Best Visual Effects
Best Sound Design
Best Original Score
Crazy, huh? It’s funny because so little is actually finished.
2. Yesterday, I finally released my short film “En Route” online! Check it out:
This has been a long time coming, but I’m very proud to finally be able to show it off.
Also, check out the revamped site! We’ve got the full film available for download, a VFX breakdown, as well as stills and set photography. The comments are starting to stream in on YouTube, and so far the reactions are positive!
3. I’m going to Pixar! Yup, I can barely believe it. I was lucky enough to have been offered a 12-month residency position in the Camera & Staging Department at my favorite animation studio in the world.
This news got a pretty huge response from the Blender community. When a blurb was posted on BlenderNation, over 130 people commented on the story! I’m pretty blown away, honestly.
I clearly owe this opportunity in large part to Blender and “Sintel”.
So, I’m excited to be moving to Emeryville in early September. I don’t know quite what to expect but I’m of course super super psyched! But I have a lot to accomplish before then…
Okay, so two days ago we finally released “Sintel” to the world. We put it up on YouTube and held our breath as the comments streamed in.
I could not be happier with the response it’s gotten. It took me completely by surprise. Seriously, before this weekend I would never have predicted it would spread the way it has. I mean, what’s going on? The film has so many flaws!
People have been tweeting about it– including the incredible Felicia Day… and a post I made on reddit.com even made the front page!
And now there’s over a quarter million views on YouTube. I’m overwhelmed! I feel like I’m personally getting too much credit for the film. It was really a team effort from beginning to end, and I was fortunate to be working with an incredibly diverse and talented team. Thanks guys!
I especially want to thank Ton Roosendaal, the producer of the film and the lead developer of Blender, for giving me the opportunity, putting the project together, weighing in creatively and pushing us all to do our best work.
So I’ve been back in the States for a few weeks now. Project Durian is coming rapidly to a close. Though a bit of work still continues, the film is pretty much as complete as it’s going to get. The credits are materializing, the final work on the mix is right on schedule.
It’s been a weird but easy experience coming back. It’s almost as if I never left– like I’m picking up right where I left off. It’s interesting how so much of your experience is connected to the physical reality of space. My desk is the same, my room is the same, my family still stresses me out. When I was in the thick of work on Sintel I felt like the project would never end. But looking back on it… it doesn’t seem like such a long time.
It’s incredibly hard to look at the film now with any real perspective. I try to imagine what it’d be like if I was never involved in the production, and instead randomly stumbled across the finished movie online. Would I be impressed? Would I be disappointed? What would annoy me?
Hard to say. There are some films that really blow my mind. But in my imaginings, I don’t think this short would’ve totally rocked my world. This doesn’t mean I don’t feel great about how it’s come out. I’m extremely proud of the work I’ve done on the film, and I’m proud of everyone who’s worked on it. We struggled against a lot of things and won. But “Sintel” is surely not the best short animation ever made. From a technical and philosophical standpoint, however– as a movie made entirely with open source software, released creative commons to the world– it’s kinda groundbreaking. I’m honored to have been involved in probably the biggest Open Movie project the world has ever seen.*
I wouldn’t trade anything for the chance to be a part of this project. I appreciate every moment of it– even the painful parts. I made a lot of friends, worked with a lot of talented artists, learned a lot about myself and the process of directing. I’m sure my view of the film will shift a lot as I gain more distance from the film. It’s not even released yet– the jury’s still out. I look forward to attending the premiere in Utrecht in just a few weeks! And even more than that, I look forward to the moment it’s out in the world and I have thousands of YouTube comments to read.
Sorry, don’t mean to repost again from the Durian blog, but I felt this little video was worth it. Gives a nice sense of the space I’ve been working in the past year, the size of the team and some of our rituals.
Basically, we’ve only got two more weeks till our “pre-premiere”, so we’re going a little nuts to finish things up before the team leaves. I’ll be staying longer for a bit less than a month to take care of odds and ends… but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! We’re allmmoosttt there….
Shot and edited by animator Beorn Leonard. Music is “Perambulator” by his brother, Simon Leonard.