Posts from the “Animation” Category

Drawing Note from Dear Basketball

  • Don’t animate what the character is doing; animate what the character is thinking.
  • Classical drawing: muscle, bone, etc. (physically-based animation!)
  • Drawing: to the point that I feel I’m doing it.
  • Animation is the ultimate art form. It has acting, it has drawing, it has filmmaking, design and music, dance and everything together. It’s an incredibly humbling art form.
  • Draw the moment and experience.

Thoughts on Short Production and Research

While I’ve been struggling and deciding whether to reinvent the wheel for the production of the short film, or to use existing techniques, Christmas and New Year break helped me clear my mind, realizing that re-inventing the wheel would be time-consuming, even it’s what I really want to do. I have the responsibility to deliver the film one time 😉

I could do the two things simultaneously, by focusing on important things and delegating unnecessary works. Luckily the important things are what I love – research! Yay!

The “Something is Missing” Methodology for Solving Complicated Problem

Over the three-month brainstorming on story development with client, with laughs and frustrations, we eventually approached the expected feeling in an important morning in June, 2018 – “yep, that’s what we want J”.

Looking back, I feel two of the important things we did right are:

  1. Acknowledge that “Something is Missing” when we don’t feel right on the ongoing story
  2. Persistent on the above item to progress

For the first item, it accepts the imperfection of the state of the story, which opens the door for inviting any possible ideas to fix the story. The second item, chains the first item as a series of actions to arrive the destination.

Although the methodology was effective for story development, it may be a good methodology for any complicated problem that is similar to story development. Because story development is a process whose result is difficult to foresee. During this process, a lot new ideas come in, which is unlikely to know in the beginning.


For the first film, I am not going to make it perfect. Instead, focus on deliverables, and fast iteration.

Do research on each stage of animation.

I’m excited on the final stage – production. Because I can do research on rendering!

Empower Hires

For a small animation studio, one efficient way of empowering hires to create the best work is being able to challenge and analyze the kind of work done by hires. This could be approached by doing research on the area, understanding pros and cons. Like a CTO.

Medium in Movies: Alike, Paperman, Forrest Gump


Story is about father discovers his love for his son. Father’s love for his son is demonstrated in the beginning by his color recovered by hugs with his son after work. The son learning writing is the medium on which the diminishment and recovery of love play. Learning writing comes from a common sense of school. Engagement of audience is enhanced by eye touches of father and son, and father’s poses at the end.

It’s very smart that the movie takes advantage of the power of poses to intuitively connect and engage the audience. If the son is able to draw for learning writing at the end, instead of the father do the poses of playing violin, audience would feel less engaged and fulfilled.


Paper is the medium for starting the story. It comes from the guy holding the paper in the begging.

Forrest Gump

Feather has been throughout the story as the medium for untold purpose – it comes from heaven and it follows common sense.

Keep Moving: Storyboard to Animatic

Hit the first issue developing the film: reconcile critics of the storyboard. Exciting!

Problem: my friend, Henry, a professional animator, pointed out that the storyboard is wrong in a lot ways, which my client and I weren’t aware of. Specifically, the order of which the characters appear is wrong – they should all appear in the first place, and go through the entire storyboard. Whereas in the current storyboard, the characters appear at different times.

Discussion: Henry’s criticism makes sense to me, but I don’t understand why all characters should appear in the first place and go through the entire storyboard. For the story we’re developing, is Henry’s opinion better than what we have now?

Solution: answer the following questions:

  • Why should all characters appear in the first place for all types of story?
  • If yes, figure out what’s wrong in the current storyboard, and adjust the storyboard for all characters to appear in the first place
  • If no, stick with the current storyboard, then keep moving to animatic by researching art direction

Edited Solution: it’s reconciled by adding voice on each scene to convey the key message. In the current storyboard, the main characters indeed go across the entire storyboard, but they don’t look obvious to the audience without knowing the key message. Because key message help the audience understand which are the main characters, and which are characters for assisting the story. Example of multi-characters in one story with narratives: It’s So Brill by Animade [1].

Thought: it feels challenged and frustrated and lost when Henry told me that the story is wrong. Because my client and me worked deliberately on every bit of the development of story and storyboard for a month. However, that’s good challenge. The point is to stay calm to figure out the real issue. Henry essentially got lost of the story in front of all the characters, so we need to convey the story to the audience. That way, the audience understand which are the main characters, and which are for assisting the story. The solution is to use voice-over to narrate the key message of each scene, because we do have concrete key messages to back the story.


[1] London animation studio | Animade. It’s So Brill.

The Beauty of Developing Animated Film with Client Not Knowing Animation Techniques

Everyone has the sense of aesthetics, which is enough to guide animated films. That’s beautiful.

Focusing on the technical side of developing animated films when working with the first client, it could easily forget my belief of founding Dopamine Animatic: animation could be purely guided by aesthetics, which exists in everyone. Dopamine Animatic is here to address technical difficulties, and facilitate the aesthetic in client’s mind. Here comes the question: how to avoid forgetting to ask client about aesthetic opinions, such as art directions of character style, color palette, dimension, and music?

In Dopamine Animatic, we work with client to develop the story, during which both the client and Dopamine Animatic obtain a deeper understanding of the story, as well as facilitate the sense of aesthetics for the film. It was not until a quiet evening that the client’s imagination of the art direction of the film as we discussed in the previous meeting came to my mind, and I found it is exactly the goal of Dopamine Animatic – take client’s sense of aesthetics to guide the art style of the film.

Thank to the quiet evening to pure the inspiration to my mind to answer the question: during each meeting, no matter how technical it is, always ask client’s opinion of anything related to the style, aesthetic of the film. That should be the default habit of Dopamine Animatic.

Storyboarding Comparison: Boords vs Storyboarder

Storyboarding could be challenging for those who can’t draw, someone like me. It’d be critical if a storyboarding tool addresses this problem. In addition, to enhance the logistics of creating animated films, efficiently adding / deleting / editing / rearranging frames of storyboards, and syncing / tuning / editing backing track in the finest granularity level (i.e. per frame) would save a lot time for pre-production. Because these feature would allow for quick iteration cycle for developing animatic, which includes storyboards, music, and actions.

In a nutshell, two features required for storyboarding for those who can’t draw:

  • Aid storyboarding for those who can describe a storyboard but can’t draw
  • Augment logistics for creating animatic

Boords by Animade, and Storyboarder by Wonder Unit, two storyboarding tools I’ve been exploring for, seems promising to meet the above requirements. Here’s a comparison of Boords and Storyboarder in price-wise, feature-wise, and robust-wise:


  • Price: subscription-based
  • Features
    • Aid storyboarding for those who can’t draw? NO
    • Augment logistics of creating animatic? YES
      • Drawing Tool: pen. Insufficient for basic storyboarding styles
  • Robust: augmenting the process of creating animatic is very robust


  • Price: free
  • Features
    • Aid storyboarding for those who can’t draw? YES. This is a killer feature – it automatically generates storyboarding shot from script
    • Augment logistics of creating animatics? YES. An example can be found from Matt’s YouTube tutorial [1]
      • Drawing Tool: light pencil, pencil, pen, brush, note pen. Sufficient for basic storyboarding styles
  • Robust:
    • Aid storyboarding for those who can’t draw: It’s unclear of the efficiency of storyboarding from script. How long does it take to find the proper scene, what’s the efficient way to best describe a scene in order to generate the proper layout? But since it supports tuning details of a storyboard shot to approach accuracy, it really worth a try to at least get ideas of the scene
    • Augment logistics of creating animatics: Not clear either. Because it’s an new tool, and I haven’t spent time to test the feature. However if it turns out to be inefficient, can always resort to Boords


[1] Matt Workman. 2017. “Storyboarder – Best Free Storyboard Program 2017”. Cinematography Database.

Path to Automatic Animation

Since there’re massive factors involved in animation development, automate the process may not be possible via a single animation engine (need to do a thorough review :P). Instead, automatically puzzle existing tools together may be more practical. Because we could get out the most of each tool. For example, if tool x is the best in painterly style, tool y is the best for animating, they are golden combination to produce film z, then it’d be nice to efficiently transfer the result between each other.