Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanks for the Acknowledgement

When you work in movie post production and visual effects, sometimes you feel very little appreciation... and in recent years, a lot of that appreciation has to be fought for.  In recent weeks, I personally felt the sting of lacking acknowledgement when, along with several of my colleagues, I was omitted from the screen credits of the Marvel film Thor: The Dark World
Now to be clear, this was far from the first time I felt this particular sting. No matter how long the credits are, it seems some/several VFX artists always get omitted, and this wasn't the first time for me. However, the first Thor film was the first really big blockbuster I worked on, and my name is in those end credits, as well as the end credits of The Avengers. That being said, the on-screen version of Thor's little section of the Marvel Universe has a rather special place in my heart. After several frustration-filled, hard-fought 40 to 85 hour work weeks of making the Dark World look cool, I honestly don't know for certain why this omission was made in the Thor 2 credits.

...and this blog is probably not the best place to speculate on the matter. 
Besides, tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and rather than ever beat myself in the head with Mjolnir, it's better to stay grateful and positive. Now, most people say what I should be grateful for is to have a job these days, professional acknowledgement or not... but instead I'll take peace and rest of this long weekend to be thankful for two other things: 

1) I'm thankful for the people who sent messages congratulating me and my colleagues on the great work we did on Thor 2, even if our names aren't on the big screen... and more importantly...

2) I'm thankful that most of those people are not only in good health, but by simple coincidence, the most important of them made it known to me earlier this year just how important I am in their lives... and I assure that the feeling is mutual.

Sure it does suck when you work hard on something and from time to time without being properly and respectfully acknowledged... but like I just said, on this holiday weekend, I'm going to focus on the positive, and probably hope things will improve for the better along with endeavors to come.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Neglected Piece of Me

Not many people know this about me, but one of my favorite books is 'The Art of War' by the ancient Chinese General Sun Tzu.  Every once and a while, I listen to this classic on audio while doing work, and sometimes, it causes me to ponder different things about my life. Tonight, what I take to ponder from The Art of War is a commonly added side note from the philosopher Tu Mu that implies there are five types of men in this world:

The employer, the brave man, the wise man, the stupid man and the covetous man.

These five types of men are very simply defined in that the wise man delights in establishing his merit, the brave man loves to show his courage in action, the covetous man is relatively quick at seizing advantages, the stupid man fears nothing, and the skillful employer knows how to utilize all of these men effectively.

At different points in my life, I believe I have taken on the roles of each of these men.  I have been brave, I have been wise, I have been stupid, and I have even been an employer. However, tonight I wonder about the covetous man. Knowing I have a birthday with a zero in it next year, I look back on my life and I look at my present lifestyle. I look at where my bank account and investments are and where I really want them to be.  I look at my successes, failures and foreseeable prospects. I also look at (for better or worse) the lives, lifestyles and prospects of the people I regularly see and deal with; and I wonder...

Should I be doing more to nurture the covetous man in me?

I know, covetous is such a dirty word in the Western world. However, when having conversations with some of my Chinese friends on the topic of growing up, I am occasionally struck as to how little emphasis was put on monetary success and seizing advantages in my upbringing by comparison. It's as if there was one set of tools in my my mind that was neglected and left unsharpened until noticed in adulthood. Of course, anything along the lines of behaving selfish or covetous is considered a sin in a white middle-class Judeo-Christian environment... but those teachings also profess that no man is without sin and to deny a part of ones self is to effectively deny the whole.

Is either perspective really so black and white?

What do you think?
Does someone need to be really "covetous" sometimes to excel in this world?

...and how does one go about honing their "covetousness"?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Goodbye Old Friend

I was just informed of the passing of my dear little friend Merl.  Although frequently referred to as "my cat", Merlin O'Connell was a Maine-coon feline that lived with my parents and he was a quirky little puzzle piece in the eccentric eclectic Massachusetts collective that I call my family.  We adopted him as an abandoned kitten in the summer of 1999; shortly after he was rescued from kids a few blocks away who would chase him around throwing fireworks at him. Everyone in our house took to Merl right away (more or less) and he quickly made himself at home. Merl was a kind and silly little creature, and while anyone who reads this may question the sensibility of referring to a member of the Main-coon breed as "little", I continue to refer to him as such, just as I will always insist that my teenage niece is cute little girl. 

Merl had a sense of affection and simplicity of nature made him more worthy of love and loyalty than so many of the human beings in my life. Seeing him was my favorite part of visiting my parents' home and he will be missed beyond reason. Over the past few years, I've let my over-consuming job corner me into a lifestyle where it frequently feels as if the world quickly moves past and decays around me whenever I spend more than an hour to poke my head outside the office to take a breath. This loss of a dear friend has served as a harsh sad reminder to appreciate anyone or anything that brings genuine happiness in this life, be it a human friend, a beloved parent or a little gray cat.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

What's Been Keeping Me Busy...

This post is sort of an I'm sorry to most of the people (especially relatives) who have been trying to get a hold of my by means other than Facebook or text messaging, since I've returned from my recent trip to Asia.  Since I've been back in the US, I've been working very long days helping my colleagues make this movie look extra awesome...

As soon as I can, I will try to return all phone calls and long emails and such, but until then, bear with me... oh, and tell people to see this in 3D!  ;)

Yo Joe.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Another Brief Return to Asia

Once again, I amazingly found a way to briefly escape my life in Southern California take a nice trip overseas.  This time, I spent a week in my former home of sunny Singapore; where I reconnected with dear old friends, attended a really nice semi-traditional Chinese wedding and made concerted (but possibly futile) attempts at professional networking.  

Whenever returning to some place that you once lived, it's always so surreal. Lots of things are still the same, and barring the occasional minor memory lapse, you have no problem finding your way around. Also, it's not uncommon to feel a wonderfully strange comfort from hearing certain slang or accents, or detecting a random familiar scent in the air. However, when things are different, be them places, attitudes or people, it can be surprisingly mentally jarring, while adding just enough of an alien element to make an old stomping ground unfamiliar and possibly even a little adventurous once again. 

To add to the adventure aspect of this trip, I made the mistake of flying mostly on US air carriers. Anyone who knows me, knows that I sadly have a very low opinion of my own country's airlines; but in spite of that, there was a silver lining to my horrid choice of international airplane travel. Going each way, I made a friend on at least one of the flights.

Going one way, I met an very interesting salesman who was on his own adventure, which took him from a funeral in Japan to his next big steps in a future life of love and professional growth. Hearing even just the gist of his personal story was a great (almost spiritual) metaphor for growth and rebirth. Going the other way, I met a pretty young lady who (along with the help of Facebook conversations with another friend) has totally convinced me that my next big adventurous trip should be Hong Kong, which was already totally on my bucket list anyway.  ;)
...but sadly, Hong Kong or not, I don't know how and when my next Asian adventure is going to happen. So, until I figure that one out, here are some photos of Singapore:


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Adapting with Animation

Adapt and overcome is the mantra of perseverance and survival. For a long time now, I've been putting off the task of learning how to use the 3D software package known as Maya. Sure, I've taken frustrating little cracks at it here and there over the years, but never the solid effort it deserves, given that Maya has become pretty much the global industry standard for many of the creative jobs I would like to try at some point in my life. The following video represents my first 3 or so days of really dedicating concerted effort to understanding Maya 2012.

This video is basically a work-in-progress animation exercise that shows some of the results of teaching myself how to use the animation, rendering and IK rigging features in Maya. The first 4 seconds of the Ninja Turtle's animation are performance capture, recorded with a dual Microsoft Kinect setup. All of the rest of the animation seen here is hand keyed.
Disclaimer: I did NOT model either of these characters. The Spider-Man and Raphael models used in this animation are modified versions of models created by Ice-boy and Joequick (respectively) from the Daz/Poser community. Both characters are owned/copyright/trademark by their respective media corperations, no copyright infringement is intended.