Herbert isn't in The Boxtrolls for a long amount of time, but sometimes that means you can have more fun with that character. He's definitely one of the more extreme cases of a character in a Laika film. At one point we were debating whether or not he'd have animatable hair. We finally figured that all the oil in his hair would just make it hold it shape after all the years he spent upside down.
We were also careful to use the same color scheme for Eggs and Herbert. Color harmony between characters is pretty important stuff.
Monday, November 24, 2014
Monday, November 17, 2014
Mr. Gristle was a pretty important character. He was the first character to get approved through all the steps (design, sculpt, puppet, maquette, etc). We learned a lot about how to capture the looseness of the style in a human forum. In the end though, he was cut from the film as his personality became redundant with Crabs, the old name of what is now Mr. Gristle in the film. To add to the confusion, we more or less used his face for Sir Broderick the White Hat in the film. A lot can happen to the life of a character in a short amount of time.
The process for creating these images was a lot of fun. Head of Costume Deb Cook (no relation) asked me to help her with designing the costumes on the film. We constructed them as paper collages and touched them up with color digitally. Ripping and cutting paper really gave us interesting edges and made the costumes loose and expressive. Debs taught me a lot about the actual construction of a costume - not only does it need to look like it was constructed like a costume would in real life, it needs things like animator access and to be able to hold its shape. She could tell me if something I designed was too difficult to make or animate and we could go from there.
Monday, November 10, 2014
Main characters are always tough to pin down. They need to be the 'straight man' (or woman), but still be distinct and interesting. They also get the most scrutiny, both from a design and technical standpoint. Eggs went through a lot of iterations, with a bunch of designers throwing in their version (many can be seen in the great Art Of Boxtrolls if you haven't already taken a look). Mike Smith, Kent Melton and I helped contribute a lot to the final character you see on screen. I did these sketches while working with Kent on the maquette sculpture. After a certain point in the process though, the sketches only can take the character so far. A stop-motion puppet need to exist in a real space, and Kent is a master at designing characters in 3 dimensional space.
The one question I have is, is his name "Huevos" in the spanish version?
Monday, November 03, 2014
So I had the great opportunity to help design on Laika's latest film, "The Boxtrolls" directed by Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable. Initially I helped out with nailing down the look of the characters. Designer Michel Breton did a great job establishing the look and feel of the world and I did my best to emulate the way he drew.
Since Eggs had been living as a Boxtroll for most of his life we wanted to make it seem as though Eggs was trying everything he could to look like a boxtroll. The idea of his goggles were something that were around for a long time (Notably designer Tom McClure had done a bunch of great designs, many of which you can see in the "Art of Boxtrolls" book). We also needed to make sure it looked as though it was hobbled together with disparate elements (his right eye is made of a mason jar with the bottom of a glass bottle inserted inside, the left was a hose clamp).
I tried to make it so his silhouette was similar to that of a boxtroll, but on second glance, you could could tell something was up.
Monday, September 22, 2014
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Out Sept 26!!
Monday, May 26, 2014
So here's my final thoughts on the Cintiq Companion (Windows 8 model)
- Battery Life seems decent but definitely could be better. 5 hours seems to be the average. Would have preferred a swappable battery as only time will tell how well the battery will hold a charge. More battery life is something that is always useful.
- Weight, especially with the stand attached, is quite heavy (compared to what you're used to with a regular tablet).
- Pressure sensitivity is as good as a full sized cintiq.
- I do notice some cursor lag from time to time.
- Integrated fan does spin up often.
- Tried throwing a 10GB .psb mega photoshop file at it and it did quite well. I imagine this is because of the SSD kicking in after the RAM ran out. Would be interested to see if performance degrades over time on the SSD itself. I'd recommend backing up all your files on it to the microSD card and formatting the entire main drive every so often. 64GB MicroSD cards are cheap and relatively fast, though I'd have preferred the unit supported a full size SD card instead.
- ZBrush does work on the unit as well! Definitely a surprise.
- Screen is quite bright and nice overall.
- Cameras are OK at best, kind of an afterthought. Nice to have so that you can skype, but I doubt you'd use them for anything else. It's sad to see cellphone cameras that are better than cameras inside full size laptops and tablets.
- Updated to the latest firmware, the touch pad palettes work much better now. I would still love to be able to resize them, as well as change the background opacity, and improve how they work with a pen (so that touch can be turned off entirely). The UI size of many of these elements could be cut in half, easily, especially if a pen could activate them.
- Would love to find a way to use the orientation switch to turn touch on and off instead. I don't think I'll use the orientation sensor (portrait orientation seems useless to me because of the aspect ratio of the screen) but I do want to toggle touch on and off, and taking up a hardware button for this function doesn't seem like its best possible use.
- The onscreen keyboard is quite hard to use to type long emails. More and more I think the device really ought to be paired with a good keyboard.
- It would be nice if there was a native way to scale up interface elements to offset the high resolution of the screen. Some things, like grabbing the titlebars of palettes to drag them around, are ridiculously small at this resolution. Apple found a good way to scale up to retina resolution, would be nice for Microsoft/Adobe to follow suit, and quickly.
- Is a great self contained unit for people who want to make stuff with a computer and can't or don't want to do it in an office.
- Is actually pretty powerful, can get "real work" done on the machine, other than the issue of the size of the screen itself.
- Behaves just like a scaled down Cintiq in every way.
- Expensive. Though recently they did drop the price by $200 and include the $99 "Art Pen" which can read rotation. This gives the unit less of a sticker shock.
- Not really practical for most people - a full sized cintiq is probably a much more sensible buy, especially since the 22HD is the same price as the cheaper Cintiq Companion. A much more usable setup is a Cintiq or Intuos hooked up to a full sized, full specced laptop.
- Too small and not powerful enough to use as your primary computer (in my opinion).
- Cannot be used as a Cintiq hooked up to a more powerful computer.
- Units hardware will be obsolete quite fast, and there is no upgrade path whatsoever.
- Software integration with Windows 8 feels very first generation. Adobe and microsoft will need to work together to improve the user experience here.
- Stand design is awkward, should be integrated into the unit itself
- Really needs a portable keyboard if you want to use Photoshop - Microsoft's solution with a slim keyboard built into a case seems appropriate here.
The Cintiq Companion is an incredibly appealing device, but it's got major caveats. It seems like a great unit that I would use a fair bit. The current form factor does seem to run on this in between place however - it's neither large or powerful enough to feel like you can do everything you would need to do on a your main computer, but it's not really small enough to carry around with you all the time like an iPad or similar tablet. Microsoft themselves have a good solution for an ultraportable tablet with the Surface Pro - the Cintiq should be a unit that can do much more than the Surface Pro but doesn't get there all the way for me. Personally I would love to see a "Cintiq Companion Pro": a 15" model with a replaceable battery, ssd, discrete graphics, and upgradeable memory (so you could get higher than 8GB of ram). Something someone could use as a portable desktop replacement. But as of right now, I think the Cintiq Companion is the best pen enabled computer that anyone has released, even better than the old tabletPCs.
Of course, one has to figure out what they really need from a portable device with pen input. The Cintiq Companion seems best suited to be set up to be a portable workstation with which you would eventually transfer over to a full desktop machine to 'work up' - something that can be done on much simpler and less expensive setups. It's on the cusp of being fully functional, but feels just shy of this. The Microsoft Surface Pro 2 seems like a great alternative if portability is your first concern - its pretty much got almost the same hardware specs other than screen size - and has great options like a keyboard case. It's main drawback is it's smaller screen size (10.6" vs 13.3"), but has the same resolution as the Cintiq Companion. The Cintiq Companion Hybrid seems like the best option if you want to be able to use a portable tablet in conjunction with a desktop, because it's only slightly higher in price than a Cintiq 13HD and you get a full fledged android tablet with it. All in all however, these all feel like first gen products - Adobe and other important third parties haven't quite caught up with the pixel density of these screens, so their usability is not the greatest right now. I would expect as their products mature, Microsoft and Adobe will make them incredibly useful tools. But they definitely don't feel there yet. The best comparison I can figure is the Microsoft Surface Pro is like an 11" macbook air in a tablet form factor, and the Cintiq Companion is a 13" macbook air. This comparison follows through both on their specs and screen size. For the price of these devices they should perform closer to fully powered laptops.
If I were in the market for a portable tablet workstation, I'd compare the following products:
Fujitsu's T902 13.3" Tablet PC. It's a more standard form factor with a more reasonable screen resolution, swappable batteries, faster overall specs, and can even put in a second battery, hard drive, or DVD/Blu Ray drive. Fujitsu has an ebay store where they sell refurbished units for very reasonable prices. I've seen units go for just over $1100 with very good specs (specs much better than Wacom's). Of course, the pressure sensitivity on these units is lower, but the computer attached is better.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 2 is even more portable than the Cintiq Companion while still maintaining similar specs. The $1299 model seems to be the best value overall, but it's screen pixel density as well as smaller screen size makes it hard to imagine programs like Adobe Photoshop not being cramped. Microsoft has just released the follow-up, the Surface Pro 3, however they've switched the digitizer to an N-Trig and it's likely that the Pro 2 model will be much more universally supported by drawing and painting applications (Wacom's tech has always been more widely used than N-Trig's). I can see microsoft dropping the price on the Surface Pro 2 now that the 3 has been announced.
Also not to be forgotten is the $2399 Axiotron Modbook. Still the only Mac OS X option, the computer is basically a modified 13" macbook pro. Personally I'd wait until Axiotron updates their current model to be based on the current Macbook Pros, as currently they're a generation behind. The Modbook does have impressive specs though, the main thing I'd hold out for is the much higher resolution Retina Screen (which I would hope they would adopt in the new model).
Friday, May 16, 2014
Can't wait to see this one.
Monday, April 28, 2014
Check out all of the films posted online so far here.
Some of my favorites:
"Touch" by David Davis
"There's a Man in the Woods" by Jacob Streilein
"Acorn" by Madeline Sharafian
"The Usual" by Nicole Stafford
"Sleep" by Tony Unser (NSFW)
"Corridors" by Ricky Cometa
"Hoof It" by Seth Boyden
"Caught Red Handed" by Portlynn Tagavi
"Nada Doctor" by Matthew Yang
"Deep Squeeze" by Ingo Raschka
Sorry, I couldn't include everyone! I'm so, So, SO glad to see so many films end up online. The internet is the world's best animation festival!
Monday, March 24, 2014
So I've spent a few years helping with design on Laika's next film, The Boxtrolls. I've been behind on showing you guys some stuff!
There's been 3 trailers released so far!
Not to mention the awesome stuff going on the Boxtrolls Instagram Page.
Go see it September 26!!!
Posted by Alan Cook at 8:26 AM
Friday, March 21, 2014
If you haven't seen it already, run, don't walk to check it out!
Posted by Alan Cook at 11:55 AM
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Motorola and Google have put together an awesome interactive short for users of the Motorola X, called "Windy Day." Director Jan Pinkava, as well as Doug Sweetland, Jon Klassen, and Tadahiro Uesegi all contributed.
There's a great wired article on the short here.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
I hadn't seen a lot of these before... enjoy!
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Thursday, October 17, 2013
- The Build quality feels really sturdy. They took a lot of design cues from Apple's iPad. In many ways it's the unit that Apple should have made for us artists, but couldn't care less.
- Overall finish of the device feels really well made.
- It's a hefty feeling unit weight-wise but it feels appropriate for its size. It's definitely heavier and less portable than an iPad or Surface Tablet but it's much more functional.
- Apparently the Windows 8 Cintiq Companion can't be hooked into another host computer to use as a Cintiq.. this to me is a big letdown (as the cintiq would still be usable long after the computer's hardware is obsolete). For people wanting to do this the Cintiq 13HD or the Cintiq Companion Hybrid are the only ways to go. This is a letdown also because the unit itself isn't upgradable at all.
- The 13" screen size with 1920x1080 resolution is less of an issue than I would have figured. It currently has the same resolution as a 22" cintiq, so I figured it would be cramped. The resolution makes working on a small 13" screen more manageable, but it does cross over a certain threshold, making some interface elements, like closing windows, a little on the small side.
- Screen is quite bright and doesn't get hot. Wasn't thrilled about Wacom still shipping Cintiqs with only 75% of the Adobe RGB gamut displayable (meaning they can't be color calibrated as well as many good monitors), but it seems good enough. It has the same semi-matte finish as most other cintiqs.
- As usual I find the bezels too large on all Wacoms and would have personally loved to have seen a 15" active size with the same resolution, even if it was a slightly bigger unit. Currently it matches the dimensions of a 15" macbook pro, which means there are pretty large bezels on each dimension. That being said the buttons on this unit are definitely more useful than on a full sized cintiq, which I've almost never used because the placement of them keep changing.. and keyboards are always the same.
The Cintiq Companion is really close in size to both the Intuos 5 Medium as well. Which begs to question.. would you rather have a fast computer with less accurate pen input (via an intuos), or a slower computer with very accurate input (via a Cintiq Companion)?
Wacom is definitely betting on their Cintiq tech as being capable of competing with a full fledged laptop, especially considering it's pricing ($1999 for a 256GB model, $2499 for the 512GB).
- The charger is really compact. I would have loved to see them include a two-stage adapter similar to apple's models where you can decide either plug the adapter brick right into the wall, or plug in a cord if you need more length. The plug is a hefty three prong adapter. Here it is with a wacom pen for size reference:
- Touch is a nifty feature that is easily toggled on and off. Unfortunately gestures don't work as well or consistently as I'd like (pinch to zoom, etc). I can't see using touch very much unless it was seamless. Probably only really for the software touch keyboard itself when inputting text into a browser, for instance.
- There isn't a slider or touch ring at all on the unit.. the circle on the left is a four way button. This means there is no hardware sliders for zoom or brush control. Instead this is handled in software (see below).
- Speakers aren't the best in the world, but work better than most tablets I've seen (closer to a laptop speaker). It can get fairly loud which is great.
- The included case seems just about perfect for what it needs to be.. a neoprene sleeve type thing with a magnetic cover as well as a zip. Glad they included it in the unit. It does indeed hold both the tablet itself and the the tablet attached the stand folded flat. The case itself has a hole to slide the pen case into, as well as a separate larger hole to slide the power adapter into. Personally I would have loved for them to find a way to put the pen inside or attach it to the unit itself, but putting it inside the case works well enough.
Case fully loaded with the power adapter, pen case, Cintiq Companion, and the Stand. In this configuration it weighs a lot more but it's still pretty compact. All that's missing from this setup is a portable keyboard, I'd say.
Slot for accessories, such as the Power Adapter, or portable keyboard.
Slot for Pen Case
It also has an elastic loop underneath the flap for the pen to slot into.
The overall setup can get quite svelte when it's just the Cintiq Companion and the pen.
The inner material for case is a nice soft faux fur like material.
- The included pen case is nice but I doubt I'd need 12 spare nibs with me all the time.. would be nice to include the standard wacom pen nib holder/pen carrier and make the case you bring with you everywhere smaller.
- The stand is neat, works well, but is kind of clunky. Probably would have preferred it built into a case or into the unit itself. Attaching and detaching the stand itself seems more difficult than I'd like.
- Haven't been able to push the unit in terms of performance or battery life, hope to be able to do that before I have to pass the unit on. Photoshop and Painter seem quite responsive.. cursor lag can occasionally occur but I don't think it's anything to worry about personally (though I'm not particularly sensitive to this). As usual for a tablet computer it's fairly underpowered (particularly in the graphics card department), and this unit is not really upgradable.
- The MicroSD card slot is a great idea.. I would have preferred a full SD card but at least they provided a method of expanding the storage. 64GB MicroSDXC cards are relatively inexpensive and seem like a decent enough backup for local files.
-Haven't tested either camera. Will try it though. The placement of the front facing camera seems odd to me though (It's probably a compromise for left handed users)
- I quickly tried out their bluetooth keyboard unit, seems well made and similar enough to apple's wireless keyboard. Would have loved a way to attach it to the cintiq itself but for it's price it seems like a decent accessory.
- Boot time is fast, thanks to the SSD no doubt.
- Seems possible to use quite well with Photoshop without needing a full keyboard, they have built in on screen configurable touch pallettes that can access any function you really want. Unfortunately some of these seemed buggy at the moment, especially after waking the computer from sleep. I would also hope to be able to resize these since I can imagine using them as much with the pen as I would with touch events, and they seem really quite large compared to all the rest of the interface.
- Touch keyboard works as well as an iPad's, though sometimes it forgets to pop up and you have to manually toggle it up.
- Windows 8 will definitely take some getting used to, and I'm pretty comfortable with Windows 7.
- The autorotation feature crashed photoshop more than once, so I set the hardware switch toggle to turn it off. I don't particularly think the unit works very well in portrait orientation anyways, since it's aspect ratio is really wide (16:9). I think a 4:3 aspect ratio would actually personally be more appropriate.
As of right now I'd recommend the unit with the above caveats. I tried the unit with 512GB and Windows 8 Pro. Personally I would recommend the 256GB unit since it's a full $500 cheaper with all other hardware being the same. Also I stayed away from the android based ones because of the general lack of sophistication of apps on android vs the full windows experience.
Please ask me any questions you have about the device!