Updates: The Last Three Months

This is a severely long overdue account of updates for Body and Soul. Here is an excerpt of our film that we have completed for our Senior class BFA gallery, which is now opened to the public:


In addition to the teaser, Elizabeth and I put together posters that give a glimpse of the amazing work our pre-production artists (Grace Chen and Jessica Tang) have done.


Production for “Body and Soul” has gone through a couple of rough patches during the past couple of months. Elizabeth and I had to take on most of the work to get the excerpt completed due to the strict deadlines of the BFA gallery. Unfortunately, the film will not be completed by the end of this semester which means production will continue to run during the summer and possibly fall. I am determined to see this film all the way through to completion. We may have missed our intended deadline, but Elizabeth and I are committed to completing “Body and Soul” and have it unleashed to the public.

We will keep going and keep firing it up!


Full Steam Ahead!

My apologies for the lack of updates, but a lot has happened in these past two weeks. Get comfortable, this post is jam packed with updates!

For the last guest speaker the semester, we had the great and amazing Steve Hicker, known for his work in the Prince of Egypt, Bee Movie and many DreamWorks Studios films. Steve is a master storyteller and shares his extensive knowledge of cinematography with our program every year. We had the added bonus of the having Steve look over some student work, mostly from the graduating senior class. Our “Body and Soul” project was among the twelve projects that was presented.

Elizabeth and I showed Steve our latest animatic and followed up with our animatic with the dance reference we recorded.

A big thanks and shout out to our dancers: Hilary Barron (solo), Martin Nobida and Atsuko (tango). They are all a pleasure to work with and very  excited for this film.

We also included our beauty frame (by artist: Jasmine Wong) and character comparison sheet to show Steve the intended look of our film.


We informed him that our film will be incorporating smoke effects, especially for our male character who is mainly smoke. Steve went on to say that our film is a tone piece and was glad that we condensed it into a minute and a half. He stressed that the success of our thesis will be in the execution and that what we are doing is “going to be hard.” Steve also added that, if done well, our film will “look really cool.” The pressure is on!

When the event came to a close, John Clapp, AI instructor and illustrator, had a few design notes for our film. He suggested we be consistent with the 40/60 proportions especially in Anne’s dress (bottom folds). He also encouraged us to go all out with the art deco theme since our current product seems to be “Disney animation with some art deco thrown in.” This was great to hear and gave Elizabeth and I a direction one what could be done to improve our film’s aesthetic.

Our next BFA class meeting, my partner and I informed our instructor, Raquel Coelho, what had transpired during our presentation to Steve Hickner. We told her we are looking into animation styles since we wanted a simpler style than the polished animation of Disney. Raquel then suggested we look at “The Secret of Kells”. I am quite mad at myself for not thinking of this film earlier, but extremely thankful to Raquel for reminding me of this beautiful film.

This also gives us a new way to approach the smoke to making it a bit more simple. I love how they animated Aisling’s smoke tendrils like a line being drawn or as a brushstroke being made.

Speaking of smoke, we have a new effects animator, Ben Ravid. He is a student in the SJSU Animation/Illustration program, and 2D effects are pretty much his jam. Ben and I have been discussing the overall look and movement of the smoke. He will be working with our other effects animator and student, Brandon Louie.

BREAKING NEWS: “Body and Soul” is going into production!

Elizabeth and I are at work getting the 2D layouts and a 3D layout with the basic path of action for our animators. Elizabeth made 3D mannequins of our characters so she and I can do a crude motion guide for our animators to aid them in their shots.


Some of the shots have been assigned and we are waiting for the rest of our animators to pick shots.

I am really happy with the progress Elizabeth and I have made this semester. We are extremely thankful for our amazing VisDev crew: Grace Chen, Tara Mueller, Jessica “Icy” Tang, Jasmine Wong, and Pamela Yeung, for giving us a solid design foundation for our film.

With that said, it’s time to buckle down and churn out this animation. Calling all animators, calling all animators, it is time! Fire it up!

Until next time…Happy Holidays!

Beauty Frame

Our instructor, Raquel Coelho, requested a “Beauty Frame” from each of our projects. A “Beauty Frame” is a fully rendered still of what our final product will look like. We had Jasmine Wong paint over a still from our animatic and input effects as well. This image below is her first paint over. Anne is a bit off model, Anne’s turnaround was updated after Jasmine had given this to us. Overall, the colors are there, the light beams have a nice graphic quality to them, and the background is beautifully simple.


I took Jasmine’s Photoshop file and redrew Anne to make her more on model. I replicated Jasmine’s color script and added the dress detail.


Raquel loved the background and the light beam shapes; however, she felt the spotlight circle edge was a bit sharp. We gave Jasmine the notes and addressed them accordingly.


Ta-dah! Our “Beauty Frame” is nearly complete. We only need to simplify the lines on the dress that correlate with the updated turnaround.

Stay tuned!

Model Sheets

Elizabeth and I have been chugging away at getting the model sheets ready for our animators. We wanted to be sure that our animators can comprehend the guides and breakdowns of both of our characters.

Our main character, Anne has a full body turnaround, breakdown sheets for her dress and face and hands, and an expression sheet.The original turnaround and design are done by Grace Chen. Elizabeth and I simplified Grace’s original design. I made the Face and Hair Guide, Dress Guide, and Face and Cigarette Guide. Elizabeth drew the Expression Sheet and Hand Guide.

Dean has a full body turnaround, head turnaround, face guide, and hand sheet. Original design was done by Grace Chen with adjustments made by Elizabeth and me. Elizabeth did the Face and Hair Guide, Hand Guide, and the Head Turnaround. It is important to note that these model sheets of Dean are of his solid human form. He will have more of a smokey texture to him which means that details may be obscured in the final product.

I also made the size comparison sheet.


Elizabeth and I are well aware of how detailed our characters are. We will be implementing a layering procedure for the animating process. For the start, they will be given a plain Anne model to use for key posing and inbetweens. Then they will layer in details with every pass. This will apply for Dean as well, but his features and details will need a smoke passes instead of detail passes.

Stay tuned!

Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing

Thanks to our friend and peer, Paul Barron, we were able to record solo reference with his wife, Hilary Barron. She was a lot of fun to work with and delivered the movements with the grace and flourish that we needed for our character, Anne.

I took all the videos of Hilary and consolidated them to cohesive sequences alongside our animatic.

We are also meeting up with our tango dancers tonight to film the duet portions of our film. Martin Nobida and his partner, Atsuko, will be dancing and consulting us through the routine.

Another exciting update, Elizabeth and I will be presenting “Body and Soul” to film director/story guru/overall professional: Steve Hickner. This will be happening tomorrow afternoon so there will be a lot of editing to do tonight with our newly recorded dance. We are advised to show him our animatic and animatic with reference so that he gets a solid idea of what we want for our film. This is really exciting, and I cannot wait to hear Steve’s thoughts, critiques, and advice to strengthen this project.

Wish us luck!

More Updates and More Inspiration

We have dancers now! Professor Maria Basile found us a dancer and instructor named Martin Nobida. He contacted and sent me a few videos of his dancing the Argentine Tango. I have sent him our latest animatic and informed him of what we are looking for in the partner dance. In terms of his dancing, Martin told me that he does a lot of improvising to which I assured him that it is perfectly fine. Some specifics I gave him for the dance are incorporating the puppeteer aspect, time length(3o seconds), and keeping to the staging that Elizabeth and I have decided on.

During this past weekend, we had the honor of having Jan Pinkava, the director and writer of Pixar’s short “Geri’s Game” and co-director of “Ratatouille” to host three events for our animation program. The first of the three events was on Friday which was a collection of film shorts of Jan’s choice. I must confess that I did not attend(shame on me) because I had a deadline for another project to complete. Lucky for me, my friend, Kasey Mullen, gave me the list of shorts so that I could search for them on my own.

There was one short in particular that really grabbed me and gave me ideas for our Thesis. The short is called “Pas de Deux” by Norman McLaren.

The dancing, lighting, and technique that were used for this film gave me a better idea on how to approach the effects on our characters. The way the motion was tracked gave an amazing abstract effect that can be used to help with animating Anne and Dean disappearing and reappearing. The beauty of the lines in the body through the dance is definitely important to preserve when we start our production phase.

Stay tuned for more!

Small Updates

We had a small freak out when my co-director, Elizabeth, was having exporting issues with her Premiere Pro file. She was able to give me her files to which I assembled them and exported them. With the moment of panic over, we now have a latest version of our animatic!

From last we mentioned, Heather Cooper, an associate professor for the San Jose State University Dance Department, was interested with helping us out with the dancing aspect. Unfortunately, we were unable to set a meeting time with her and have decided to plan a trip to the Dance Department this week to find a dance instructor or advance students to help us with our choreography and record reference.

Jasmine Wong has posted new color thumbs for the dance the background.


Elizabeth and I are both enjoying the reminiscent vibe from the sepia tones(particularly the bottom left thumb) and are enjoying the purple toned background with the red tone in the characters(bottom center thumb). We have asked Jasmine to paint more thumbs with variations of the sepia background with the warm red tone of the characters from the center thumbs. We’re hoping to confirm the color scheme for this Act II sequence soon.

Stay tuned!

Back to the Boards

This past week was dedicated to revising our story boards. Raquel wanted us to make sure our story points were well defined and be the best that they can be.

Here are the “Body and Soul” boards, minus the dance sequence, that Elizabeth and I drew out this past Friday(October 23rd).


In my last post, faculty members mentioned we needed to use the Z-axis more. Well, looking at our boards, we completely agree. Our singer seems to be stuck in the foreground and the midground.

Raquel gave us some feedback and ideas to implement into our boards. Here is a summary of story points to incorporate and/or change:

  • Intro: instead of having Anne’s face appear, maybe using the darker tone of the smoke for her hair and have it form and reveal her face by the end of the line “I’m lost in the dark.”
  • Line: “The Heavens are opened and closed”, put in more gestures(singing moment) before she hits the big pose when the light shines out.
  • After Dean forms, keep his back turned toward Anne until she moves back.
  • Line: “So far removed from all that I had planned on”, end of the line have Anne and Dean sway to the song (as an anticipation for the dance), then fade to dance sequence
  • Line: “For I have lost my one and only”, Dean could disappear after twirling Anne. Anne is dancing by herself and looks for Dean.
  • Line: “But I am his…”, Dean returns fully and is dancing in the cuddle position with Anne.
  • End Note: When Anne blows away in her smoke(Dark and Light), incorporate a small tendril/wisp of Dean’s smoke into hers(signify that he is still a part of her).

Elizabeth and I emailed assistant professor, Heather Cooper, of San Jose State University’s Dance Department. Heather first showed interest in our project through emails exchanged between her and Raquel. She has contacted us back and was very enthusiastic about helping us with choreography for our project.  As of right now, a meeting time is still being discussed. We hope that she can help us to incorporate more Z-axis movement into the dance as well as solo movements for Anne.

Update on the VisDev, Jasmine Wong posted a page of background and character colors on October 17th.


Elizabeth suggested that Jasmine try both flat lighting and dimensional lighting. I really like the dimensional lighting because it establishes and sells the mood more effectively than the flat lighting. Elizabeth and I both enjoy the top middle image. The contrast between the background the characters combined with the lighting really make the characters pop more, especially Anne.

That is all for now, stay tuned!

Operation: “Formal Pitch” is a Success

Much apologies for the late update, but I am happy to announce that the presentation went off without a hitch. Elizabeth and I received very helpful feedback and enthusiasm for the project from the selected faculty members.

As mentioned in the previous post, each thesis project was required to distribute copies of the project blurb, crew list, and production schedule to the faculty.

ProjectBlurb CreditList ProductionSchedule

Elizabeth and I also used slides via Keynote during our pitch. Here are the stills of each slide(unfortunately, the videos will not be able to play).

01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Elizabeth did the bulk of the slide work. I was there to make minor adjustments and put finishing touches. Our class and the faculty really responded to the design of our slides, which gave both of us a confidence boost during our presentation. When we finished, there was a side comment from one of the faculty that we should teach his students how to present. That was definitely one of the highlights of this experience.

We decided to record the faculty(audio only) since we were advised by Raquel, our instructor, to not be distracted with writing feedback from the members of the panel. Elizabeth has paraphrased their suggestions and feedback:

DC: Offer your Thesis Project for independent study credit. This would give students an incentive to keep working on your film, especially at the end of a semester during crunch time.

JJ: Use Toon Boom: Harmony, instead of Adobe Flash. It is easier to inbetween with, and is a more efficient program. There are student versions available for only $9 a month.

DC: Or you can make a completely traditional short film; shade frames in with graphite, Prismacolor pencils, or pastel. Then you can use the Colorize tool to adjust each frame in AfterEffects.

AC: In the animatic, your characters are stuck to front of screen. You need to use the z-axis more, like in your example from Chicago.

RC: Cindy and Elizabeth’s previous animatic had their characters too far away on screen. They have been wrestling with the balance of characters being near and far from the camera.

CG: You need to match the visual mood and actions with the emotional content of the song. Study how people moved at that time period. How do people move to blusey songs.

RC: Cindy and Elizabeth will be getting assistance with choreography from a dancer on campus. Heather Cooper, an associate professor from the Dance Department, has expressed interest in collaborating with them.

DC: Currently, your animatic not very clear. It is difficult to tell that the guy is turning into smoke. Correct this in future versions of your animatic, as well as incorporating more of the Z-axis.

I am so grateful to all the faculty who came out to hear about our thesis projects and to give us all feedback to which we will use to our discretion. Although it was a daunting task, this formal pitch was necessary to gauge the strength and clarity of our thesis. We also want to thank Raquel Coelho, our instructor, for putting this whole panel together and giving us the opportunity to get the much needed constructive criticisms and feedback.

Stay tuned for the next update!

Prepping for our Doom-I Mean, Formal Pitch

The Formal Pitch is almost upon us! Elizabeth and I are excited and half dreading for this day to come.

For this Formal Pitch, we are to give a presentation of our Undergraduate Thesis Project to the following faculty members: Alice Carter, Courtney Granner, and David Chai.

During today’s BFA meet-up, our instructor, Raquel Coelho, gave us some guidelines and instructions to prepare for the big day. Here is what she wants us to do and consider:

Printouts (3 copies of each)

  • Project Blurb (subtitled with type of project)
  • List of Mentors and Personnel/Crew
  • Production schedule

Practice Pitch and Time It

  • 10 minutes max, longer than 4 minutes

Organize Your Presentation

  • Keep all materials in ONE DOCUMENT: PDF, PowerPoint, Keynote, etc.
  • Make sure all material included stays true to CENTER of the project, do not lose sight of what you want to do/achieve/envision

Presentation Outline

  1. Introduction: Intro Ourselves and Project
    1. What is your project? – 2D Short Film
    2. What is your project about? -One sentence description of project content.
    3. Why do you want to do this? -Explain motivation/goals/want to achieve
  2. Content:
    1. Inspiration: Show More than Tell
      1. Ryan Woodward(combining representational and abstract elements into story telling)
      2. Chicago Musical Film
      3. Art Work of Erté and Art Deco Style
    2. What have you done so far?
      1. Story/Animatic
      2. Challenges- walking fine line between “copying” and “being inspired” by Ryan Woodward’s work
      3. Character Development
      4. Visual Development
  3. Conclusion
    1. Remind audience of printed production schedule
    2. Open to questions and comments

And that, folks, is the Formal Pitch in a nutshell. Elizabeth and I will be busy preparing for this. Wish us luck!