I guess Lothar’s busy. Apparently some game came out. He might have mentioned it once or twice. So I’m just gonna ramble on for a bit. Watch as I branch and tangent subjects at random. Lothar might be along some time to comment on Halo, if he hasn’t drowned in his own fanboy drool.

So I bought a Red Dwarf DVD yesterday. Series IV, which seems to be one of the series I’ve seen repeated the least number of times on TV. I’d taken in my laptop to uni, and on the train on the way back, I thought I’d see how mobile my media capabilities were. There was only about 40% left on the batteries, and I knew better than to think that would last the whole journey. But I thought I might at least get partway into an episode. Not so. Didn’t even make it off the DVD menu screen. 40 to dead in about thirty seconds flat. Playing DVDs must be quite the power drain. And laptop batteries must suck. I hardly ever run the thing off the batteries; portable computers are only portable between one mains socket and the next. ‘Laptop’ is something of a misnomer too. You do not sit with a laptop on your lap for any period of time. They have a habit of burning the top layers of skin off your legs. Sons of bitches get hot.

Gods damn, don’t you hate it when you’ve been using one program a lot, then switch to another and keep pressing the wrong shortcuts? The 3D program I’m using, Softimage XSI, I kept trying to scroll around by holding the space bar. I finally got used to the real shortcut, which is ‘s’. So now I’m back in Photoshop for the comic, and I keep pressing s, when I want the space bar. Gah.

I’ve not done anything in 3D really worth showing yet, BTW. We had to model a low polygon car, done that, but it’s ‘eh’. It’s a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda. I didn’t have time to add the flame decals or the 80 foot robot, sadly.

Since learning more about the principles and practices of animation, I’ve started to appreciate cartoons even more than I did previously. And I’ve realised something. Y’know how anime fans always claim that their shows are better animated than western cartoons? What they actually mean is, they’re better drawn. Because what the anime fans seem to forget, is that the word ‘animation’ implies movement. And Japanese shows like to cut big ol’ corners by not actually animating a scene, but by having still images pan sideways to fake perspective, or by having somebody speak without moving except for their mouth (which even then only opens and closes in three or four different frames). Notice how western cartoons have far simpler character designs compared to anime? That’s another one anime fans like to flaunt – ‘look how simplistic and childish the designs are in the west’. But there’s a good reason for simplistic designs. Low budget TV animation is a trade off between detail and movement. The simpler a character, the easier and faster and cheaper it is to animate. Japanese shows like to blow all their budget on pretty drawings, and leave movement as an afterthought. But in western shows, movement is everything.

The show I’m currently hooked on is Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. And a fine example of western animation it is. Heavily stylised, with very simple, low detail designs, it’s the sort of show anime fans would blow off as being childish. I mean, the central character, Bloo, looks like a Pac-man ghost (a fact which was parodied in the very first episode). But I revel in the animation here, every second of it. Some of the most effective animation happens in dialogue scenes, when there’s very little actual action taking place. The sort of scene that, in anime, a character would hold a single pose while their lips flap open and closed. That’s because the usual procedure in Japan is that they animate first, and record the voices afterward. In Foster’s, as with all western animation, it’s very clear that the voices were recorded and then used as reference during animation. This allows for subtle movements that match the voice work and accentuate it. Bloo in particular has a very pronounced way of speaking. He often puts strong emphasis on certain words, when he’s being sarcastic, or smug, or overexcited (all of which happen all too often), and not only do you hear the emphasis in the voice, but you see it on the character’s lips and eyes, often his limbs, and entire body.

When people comment on the art in the comic, one of the things they always mention is the facial expressions. Well I got a tip for ya: Stop watching anime, start watching cartoons. Virus out.