This week I had a crash course in creating DCP files for digital cinema projection when I had the pleasure of controlling the visuals for the Kernow King’s hilarious show for a Cornish Festival in Kadina, South Australia.

The day before the show I arrived at the venue and met the Kernow King and his dad Alan who was traveling with him–both great guys. I got the images and videos from the Kernow King, and hooked my laptop up to a supplied data projector. The data projector didn’t have a short throw lens and we couldn’t get it far enough from the stage for the projected image to be big enough. As luck would have it, the venue is also a movie theatre with a big fancy digital cinema projector, and we managed to trick persuade the owners to let us use it.

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Payoneer vs Wire Transfer

Payoneer vs Amazon
I recently published an illustrated chapter book for 6-9 year old readers called Fairy Tails: Little Red. Get the ebook free when you buy the paperback at Amazon.

I’ll be writing more about my publishing journey, but today I want to share something I created to help me make an important decision – how to get paid.

My ebook was exclusive to Amazon, but the paperback is available through Ingram, and the ebook is now available from Google Play Books, iBooks, B&N, Kobo and more. That potentially leads lots of small payments, which could quickly end up being eaten by fees. Luckily Ingram, Google, Apple all pay one amount in $AUD by EFT into my account – quick and easy. Unfortunately Amazon, KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and Createspace, don’t make it quite so easy.

Being in Australia I have three options for being paid by Amazon: Check, Wire transfer, or a service like Payoneer, and two options for being paid by Createspace: Check or Payoneer. At my bank, overseas checks cost $15 for under $2,000, $50 for over $2,000, and can take up to 6 weeks to clear. That immediately puts checks at the bottom of the list. Wire transfer costs $15, regardless of amount, and takes up to 2 days to clear.

Payoneer has different charges depending on whether you sign up as an individual or company. An individual with a Master Card will pay $30/yr plus 1% of each deposit, and 2-2.75% to transfer into your bank account. A company doesn’t have a Master Card, and pays 1% of each deposit and 2-2.75% to transfer to your bank account. The added benefit to both is that you can wait until the exchange rate is favorable before transferring it to your bank account.

Since Payoneer works on a percentage, and wire transfers are a fixed price per deposit, I figured that Payoneer would be the best choice for smaller amounts, and wire transfers would be the best choice for larger amounts. To avoid checks altogether I’ll need a Payoneer account regardless, but for Amazon I wondered what was the tipping point? I wanted to know how much would I need to be earning for wire transfers to be the better option.

There isn’t a simple answer since there are so many variables. How much you’re being paid, from how many territories (each territory is a separate deposit or transfer), and the amount your bank charges can all vary.

I setup a spreadsheet to calculate roughly when wire transfers become a better option than Payoneer, and I found it so interesting and useful that I thought I’d include it here for you to test for your own circumstances.

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The Importance of Plot Part 3


An Analysis of Looper

Read part 1: The Importance of Plot – Part 1
Read part 2: The Importance of Plot – Part 2

In part 1 I talked about the logic problem of loopers having to kill their future selves. Part 2 dealt with the massive plot hole that derails the whole movie. Now I’m going to address some of the sub-plots, and ways they could come together at the end to increase the drama and catharsis of the ending. We’ll also look at some of the minor logic problems and some things that could have been fixed in the editing room.


There’s been a lot said about what a strong character Sara is, and on the surface I’d agree. However as we’ve discussed, there isn’t much depth to her. We don’t care for her anywhere near as much as Cid or old Joe because her story is relegated to the past, as exposition. Even in that final climax, Joe’s dilemma comes down to whether he thinks Cid’s life will be ruined or not, rather than whether Sara lives or dies. If Sara’s character had been stronger, maybe we could have also seen a glimmer of hope of a relationship between Sara and Joe. We could have had a real emotional conflict between young Joe and old Joe, together with a very healthy dose of dramatic irony. Picture that final stand-off between Sara, old Joe and young Joe and imagine if young Joe and Sara had a deeper connection.

While trying to save the relationship he knows, old Joe is about to kill Sara, unaware that she is becoming an equally soul restoring partner for young Joe, and possibly ruining any chance of young Joe finding love in the future. Young Joe faces a dilemma to save himself and live with the loss of Sara, or kill himself to save Sara, saving the life of old Joe’s wife in the process.

That’s really powerful stuff, a true emotional dilemma. But we miss out on it because Joe is too cynical to feel anything for Sara, and Sara’s only real concern is for Cid. As Johnson explains in the commentary, he didn’t want any romance between Joe and Sara so he could focus the story on Cid. What a shame that we missed out on that dramatic and emotional complexity.

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The Importance of Plot Part 2


An Analysis of Looper

Read part 1 of this article: The Importance of Plot – Part 1

In part 1 I talked about the logic problem of loopers having to kill their future selves. This time we’re going to look at the massive plot hole that derails the whole movie. Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about, but some may be asking “What plot hole? Looper was great”. It’s difficult to know where to start talking about this plot hole because it affects, and attempts to bring meaning to, so many aspects of the movie. So I’ll just come out and say it:

The Rainmaker

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great concept. A bad guy tears up the future, so a good guy goes back to the past to kill the bad guy before he can become the bad guy. Embedded within is the excellent ethical dilemma of whether it’s right to punish or kill someone before they’ve done bad things, compounded by the fact that the bad guy is probably a child at that point. When you add that the good guys past self becomes attached to the future bad guy child, you’ve got a recipe for some great external conflict and internal conflict as both versions of the good guy fight each other. That sounds like the makings of an awesome movie right there.

The question could be asked at this point, if it even needs the addition of assassins doing hits on people sent back from the future. It’s almost seems as if Looper is two different movies that have been shoehorned together, and we haven’t even mentioned telekinesis yet. I’m reminded of Good Will Hunting where apparently Weinstein looked at an early draft and realised there were two different stories competing. His advice was to focus on one story or the other. Damon and Affleck did, and ended up with a great movie.

Although the Rainmaker elements of the story could work by themselves, remember the idea of a looper was the initial inspiration. I wonder if that idea could sustain a movie without the Rainmaker? We have a looper who fails to assassinate his future self. If we remove the Rainmaker as motivation, surely old Joe would still be pissed at the crime syndicate that sent him back, or maybe his misplaced anger is directed to the authorities that took down the crime syndicate. His wife being killed could even remain as fuel on the fire. Old Joe then has two objectives. To take down the crime syndicate before it exists, or whoever took them down, and to save his wife. Young Joe has to decide whether to help old Joe or help himself. Young Joe could be given some connection to either the syndicate or the wife to add conflict. There seems to be plenty of scope to create a dramatic and intriguing story out of that alone.

It could even be set up so that events that occur in the looper movie end up creating the Rainmaker. Sara could be a minor character in the looper movie, still a junkie partying with Joe and his friends, who gets killed. Without Sara’s influence Cid becomes the Rainmaker, creating havok in the future and ruining Joe’s life. Joe decides to come back (again), this time to find out who the Rainmaker is and stop him, either by killing him or preventing Sara’s death.

So these ideas could work for two separate movies, or a movie and a sequel. Surely there’s a way to include them in the same movie. How did it all go so wrong?

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Buzz Lightyear Cake

For the last year Seb has been obsessed by Buzz Lightyear, but not just any Buzz Lightyear – Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story 2, with the anti-gravity belt (or the rocket button as Seb calls it). So I’ve known for a long time that this years birthday cake would be Buzz Lightyear.

It was a busy time of year, so I wasn’t able to dedicate all of my time to it as I like to do. It turned out that we also had to be away the night before the party, usually the time when I’m doing all the last minute decorating. Rushing a cake like this tends to lead to poor decisions and mistakes, and this one was no exception. The biggest mistake I made though, was in the planning. I totally underestimated the weight of, well, the whole thing really. Having two 38 degree days right in the middle of the week didn’t help either – far from ideal weather for cake making. We have air conditioning, but the main aircon is evaporative which cakes don’t like. But enough excuses, let’s get to the cake.

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The Importance of Plot – Part 1


An Analysis of Looper

When I heard that the the maker of The Brothers Bloom was making a movie about time travel, with Bruce Willis in it no less, I was expecting great things. I really enjoyed The Brothers Bloom. It was clever, and funny, and charming and meaningful, and did I say clever? I mean, it really surprised me, which is what you want from a caper movie. I just love it when there’s a twist in a movie that manages to change the meaning of everything you’ve seen. I also love time travel movies, the best of which have that same kind of clever twist at the end. 12 Monkeys, Back to the Future and Terminator are among my favorite movies ever. So I was really looking forward to a clever movie that surprised me and made me think of time travel in a different way and had depth and meaning. But Looper wasn’t that movie.

I noticed minor problems in the first two acts of Looper, but nothing that couldn’t be excused if the ending nailed it. There were many things to like, including the fluid and messy way of how the future changes. Unfortunately when it came to the final conflict, not only did it introduce a massive plot hole, but the plot hole obliterated everything that had come before it, as well as any meaning the movie might have had. Suddenly all of those earlier problems seemed much more pertinent, like warning bells that I’d ignored at my own peril. It was so close though. It almost worked, which somehow made it even worse. I could feel its potential like when a word is on the tip of your tongue and well, it bugged me.

After watching the movie, I wanted to find some meaning in what I just saw. My first thought was to see if Johnson answered any of my questions in his interviews. I was hoping that Johnson would have a simple explanation to the plot hole, that just didn’t happen to make it into the film. If that was the case I would have walked away happily, my curiosity sated, and I wouldn’t be writing this article. Instead I found this interview where Johnson was asked about it point blank, and was gutted by his answer.

“That’s the Terminator question… you can shoehorn it into making sense… but it’s magic logic”.

Really? Magic?

Saying it’s magic is the equivalent of “he woke up and it was all a dream”? It’s just plain cheating. I mean, he offers legitimate and logical answers for some of the other questions, just not that most important one – the one that justifies everything that occurs in the movie. A switch inside my head was triggered and I heard my inner voice say “Challenge accepted”.

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Cinderella Cake

We’ve felt a bit guilty about Serenity’s birthdays for the last couple of years. Although her first birthday cake was my first 3d character cake Dorothy, her 2nd birthday was overshadowed by Seb’s heart condition and a rushed visit to the vet for the cat. Her 3rd birthday was soon after we arrived in China where I was hellishly busy and we had no oven or baking powder (although Marie still managed to make an awesome cake).

This past weekend was Serenity’s 4th birthday party, and we decided to try and make up for the past few years with a very blue Princess party.

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It seems with the ability to create animation on computer more easily than in the past, and the advent of 3D animation, that an important working relationship has been lost, that of the master and the apprentice.

The way most animation is created these days is that each animator is assigned an entire scene. They animate all the characters in that scene from layout to completion. In this environment one of the biggest battles is dealing with different levels of skill and experience amongst animators. Scenes can be allocated to different animators based on their strengths, but a noticeable difference in the animation quality between scenes is almost inevitable. As animation supervisor I’ve struggled with this in the shows I’ve worked on, and I see it in almost all 3D animated tv and all but the best feature films.

So what can be done to address this problem?

One solution is to re-introduce the traditional master and apprentice relationship. Not only used for animation, the master and apprentice relationship has existed for thousands of years in almost every craft and trade. So why has it recently fallen out of favor for animation? To answer that we must first look at the roles of master and apprentice for animation before computers, when every frame was drawn by hand.

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I wrote a couple of books a few years ago: Cartoon Character Creation – Volumes 1 & 2.
I always planned to post some excerpts here, but never got around to it. Last year, working on Chuggington with the fantastic animators at Motion Magic in China, I realized that while I have changed some of the ways I work since writing the books, the core information and methodologies remain the same, and is still very useful information that many animators aren’t aware of.

Since Chuggington is animated using Maya, and those animators were benefiting from this knowledge, it further impressed upon me how universal the information is. I was always disappointed that the books were tied to LightWave 3D 8 since so much of the information applied to 3D characters and animation in general, regardless of which software was being used. I guess this is also my chance to share that information with a wider audience.

Continuing from part 1, I’ll discuss each of the eye morphs.

Note: In LightWave, morph targets are called ‘Endomorphs’, in Maya they’re called ‘Blend Shapes’ and in Blender they’re known as ‘Shape keys’. For simplicity here I’ll just refer to them as ‘Morphs’.





Eye Morphs

The eye morphs include the motion and expression of the eyelids and eyebrows.

Before we move on to the morphs, let’s take a look at the base models for the characters used in the following examples.

I’ve included a range of characters for the examples. Each character has slightly different requirements, so you can see the differences for each morph. For the eye morphs I’ve included Taylor (top-right, Taylor appears courtesy of Live Bait Productions) to show examples of the eye morphs for a character without any eyebrows.

When you’re creating your base character, try to make its expression as neutral as possible. Often the concept sketches for a character show it smiling or showing some sort of emotion. If you model emotion into the base character it makes creating and animating the facial features much more difficult, so remember to model it in a neutral expression, allowing the morphs and animation to do the job of expressing emotion.

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In an interview with the West Australian, Keith Chapman (Bob the Builder, Fifi and the Flowertots, Roary the Racing Car) says of Little Charley Bear:

“this pilot came in which was one of the most impressive things I’d ever seen and I just fell in love with Charley”.

I’d assumed Chapman Entertainment liked the pilot, as they picked it up to produce the show, but for Chapman to specifically say that about the pilot that I designed and animated is a great compliment.

The first 26 episodes have now aired here in Australia on ABC2. Charley was the only character in the pilot so it’s nice to see he’s got some new friends. I have noticed there are a few problems that I resolved when working on the pilot that have managed to slip back into the episodes, such as Charley being very washed out, posing/motion problems, and some other issues. Making the transitions between Charley’s real world and imaginary world seamless would also do wonders. If anyone from the production is reading this and wants to know how I was able to solve those problems, please send me an email. I’d love to help.


In Australia you can see repeats of Little Charley Bear on ABC2 at 1:20 and 6:15 every day.

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