Chad’s Blog

Animation is not the art of drawings that move but the art of movements that are drawn.

Norman McLaren

Here’s last months animation from my Presence mailing list. Next issue comes out Sunday 4/4 and includes another animated guide to a mindfulness exercise.

Direct link: Three Calming Breaths

IPad as animation studio:

  • Record audio in voice memos.
  • Import into Keynote.
  • Animate in Procreate.
  • Finish (titles, images, etc) and render movie out of Keynote.

I’m still experimenting but this is promising as a good DIY setup

I didn’t realize you can animate in procreate on the iPad. This is a bit out of context with the items on screen right but it was a test to show a friend. Procreate is a pretty powerful animation app as well! It’s been a long while since I animated anything …

Sprint 001 Review

I’ve decided to formalize my Agile/Scrum process for how I handle the side hustles, and my personal to-dos.

Huh? OK, first some terminology. Agile development or mindset is a software development mindset. It started as a manifesto and set of principles as a reaction to the traditional software development models back in 2001 or so.

Lots of larger companies and Startups are adopting Agile, or a version of it. For software development, and other efforts as well.

I’ve been using Agile on the job since 2002 or so. The benefits for teams is that it allows a focus on what’s truly important. Agile requires and promotes a growth mindset.

Scrum is a framework for Agile. There are several others, but Scrum is the most popular, I think. Scrum’s key components is the Timebox (traditionally two weeks) called the Sprint. You plan the Sprint, do the work, Review the work with the people that care about it, and then the team, in private, reflects on the Sprint in an effort to continuously improve (Growth Mindset, fits).

So, I’ll just leave all that there, happy to talk more about Agile if you want to send me an email.

Personal Agile

So recently I’ve been acting more on the side hustles in my life. Trying to focus on some of my ideas to get them shipped. Lot’s of reasons why, which maybe other blog posts will explain. I don’t dislike my day job, but why have all your eggs in one basket? Plus there’s so much to learn and ways to help others with small projects. See Anything You Want by Derek Sivers for The Money Tree by Chris Guillebeau for more.

So I started a Sprint on June second. I took stock of all the things in flight, or on todo lists, and moved them into the Mac and iOS app Things. Things is a powerful task management / todo app. I’m purposefully not using many of it’s features for this (long story). But I went with it as I like the interaction models and ux. It looks like this:

The Sprint Review

After I pulled in the “stories” aka todo’s for the Sprint. I put some time into figuring out what the goal of the Sprint should be. The Sprint Goal is traditionally the one thing that must get done in the Sprint.

My goals were:

Soft launch of Small Agile, New Website for Rigging Dojo

Small Agile is a new service I’m tinkering with (happy to take your feedback!) and Rigging Dojo is an online school I confounded ten years ago. We teach the technical aspects of computer animation. I used to work in the animation and video game business.

Here’s the review… I did manage to “soft launch” Small Agile. I was uncomfortable doing so as it’s not perfect in terms of copy on the website. Is it clear enough? And I didn’t create the supporting content (microcasts and newsletter) yet. But why do that work if it’s not clear? I thought I should work on that first, before doing the lengthy recording and writing tasks. I did manage to setup the accounts and infrastructure. So once the clarity is there, I can jump in and get the content going, as and if needed.

For Rigging Dojo, we use wordpress to manage our main, public facing site. I really want to move away from it, but we’re so entrenched after ten years, it’ll be hard to do so.

Anyway, we wanted a better theme - for readability and to do some better surfacing of our content to serve specific peoples needs. I was able to get the first part done in this Sprint. The site is much better from a readability / design point of view, and the groundwork is there for the surfacing of our content to our types of users.

In Sprint reviews teams traditionally go over the successes they had, and talk about where they fell short of meeting the sprint goal.

Success:
- Soft launch of Small Agile
- New theme for Rigging Dojo
- Infrastructure for Small Agile content in place
- Rigging Dojo website experience design is well defined

Misses:
- Small Agile content is not created as it would have been unwise to do that if the service isn’t clear, and this would have sacrificed time spent on the Rigging Dojo site
- The Rigging Dojo site redesign didn’t happen as I just ran out of time and energy

Retrospecitve

Here’s a look at my self reflection for this Sprint.

Someone broke into the golf proshop I own

In Monday’s Improv 201 class, I had what is likely my best improv performance to date.

The scene setup was a “silent scene”. Jen, our teacher gave us instructions and provided the location. Which was a golf pro-shop. With a silent scene, each performer focuses on “space work” (pantomiming and interacting with physical objects within a space).

Each performer would enter, one at a time, interact with an object they create, and leave the space. Each successive performer would interact with an established object, and “build” one of their own. Repeat until all performers have a go.

It turns out that I entered last, and had to build off a robbery executed by Sarah, a Stranger than Fiction cast member who’s sitting in on our class. She’s absolutely fearless. Then Matt, my former partner from the 101 course, came in and did the detective work. He nailed taking the fingerprints and putting up the police tape over one of the doorways.

I was last in the rotation, just by chance. I chose the role of Shop Owner. I figured that the audience hadn’t seen the results of the previous actors actions. Since most of the objects weren’t the space anymore (Sara stole them). I couldn’t really interact with them. But I knew where everything was, as the shop owner.

So I entered frantically through one of the doors that Matt didn’t put police tape on (again, that was a very nice touch by him) and ran around checking to see if anything was left.

I remembered the cash register and found it empty, as well. I shrank in dejection, walked out and slammed the door.

This was my best performance in improv yet. I think I like this acting thing.

I’m still seeing the parallels to animation and improv. In both mediums one has to exaggerate so that the audience can read the action clearly. Evan, one of my 201 classmates gave some really great examples of this in our class discussions, and it shows in his performances. He always seems to be clearly in character and so effortless.

It’s one of those funny things, on stage you need to push too far, but in the audience it seems totally natural.

Improv 201, Class 01

The focus of 101 was an overall introduction and the laying of the groundwork of the three rules of Improv via game play.

  1. Yes and” - no matter what your partner(s) say, you have to take it as truth (yes) and also build upon it (and).
  2. Make your partner look good” - this really is about giving them something to work with. Don’t put them in a theoretical corner.
  3. Don’t ask questions” - asking your partner a question puts a limit on what they can say, in the moment. It isn’t giving them much to work with and can devolve into yes and no. I suppose this is a subset of #2. But I need to give this its own line item to help clarify it in my head. I ask too many questions in scene.

The games of short form Improv have a structure, focus on being in the moment of the scene, and have humor.

The focus of 201 is on the performance. We learned a handy device, the CROWE:

  • Character (naming people, accents, other idiosyncrasies help define the characters)
  • Relationship (Who/what are these Characters to each other)
  • Objective (What does each Character want?)
  • Where (What’s the setting (Time, and/or place))
  • Emotion (How are the Characters feeling?)

Remembering to do all this in the moment of the scene is difficult and challenging. It’s fun, but hard work.

It’s just day one, but I can relate the Relationship and Objective, and Emotion aspects of the CROWE to my previous work as an animator. Using the character’s poses, motion, position on screen, and other techniques can inform the audience of each characters status in relation to each other. Same is true for Improv, as far as I can tell.

Transferring status in scene is where the narrative really takes shape, both in Animation and Improv. I’m looking forward to getting better at that.

A suspicion I have about going deeper into the performance of scenes is something I’ve heard Improv actors call “finding the game” in a scene. This is, as far as I can tell, a callback to something that happened earlier in the scene. A hand gesture, a spoken line, an action, etc. Usually funniest if able to be done seamlessly and three times. I think the short games of 101 and Short form in general will add to this.

I’m just learning the 201 performance aspects, but can make the connection to the callbacks in standup and sketch comedy I’ve seen so often. Maybe all that is what 301 is all about. I’ll let you know when I get there.

The Other Direction

The newest episode of CoreInt brought up two interesting points in terms of Software Development. I’m paraphrasing a lot below:

Smaller feature set, but higher quality. Even if it means leaving some users out. A small operation can’t and shouldn’t compete with a larger one, so they need to focus on less but make it super high quality.

Daniel and Manton discussed the direction WordPress is moving, and what it might mean for their businesses and work. Seems wise to do the opposite of what Wordpress is doing.

I have heard the phrase “See what the others are doing and then do the opposite”. Or “See which way everyone in pointing and then go in the other direction”. As well as many variants of that advice.

As the smaller operation can’t compete with the larger one, it’s often wise to go the other direction.

Reduce

I do have some side projects that I’m working on. These are mostly services around education as I really thrive when I’m helping people get past their technical or otherwise imposed obstacles.

This particular project I’m focusing on has been vexing me. How am I going to make the time to create all the content? Where do I put it (which website)? How do I build an audience? And many other questions.

Part of the answer is reducing the commitments I have, and letting other projects I’m interested in go. I’m saying no to:

  • A niche t-shirt site
  • A website review/building service for animators
  • A niche job board
  • A coaching service
  • Agile consulting
  • And some others that are buried in notebooks that I can’t think of right now

So I can say yes to this project.

I was going to spin up a website, blog, social media accounts, and all the rest for this effort. But I already have these. So all this is going on this site, and my micro.blog with a cross post to my existing twitter account.

It’s not that I have a giant following or “verification” from twitter, it’s the fact that this is the path of least resistance. Less to buy/renew/design/manage. It’s simpler. Am I leaving some features off the table? Maybe. Will this be easier for me? Certainly.

Reduce the feature set, focus on quality.

Instead

Instead of installing analytics/trackers on my site, and creating a newsletter to open the door to permission marketing, and determining conversion rates, and up-selling/cross selling I’m going to make content.

Of course I’d like to make some money from all this, and I will sell products. But I’m not collecting anything until then. I’ll even try to make purchases as in-intrusive as possible. But that’s down the road.

First it’s me creating three kinds of content. Two for the what and how, and one for the why.

  • Short form, “micro-tutorials” with a duration of less than a minute. These will be video based.
  • Longer form, more in-depth written tutorials. But not too long. I’ll try for 500 words max at first.

So that’s the what and how.

Why

I’m following the micro movement and will make small bite size tutorials. The focus is on the little things that add up to saving people lots of time.

Let’s say you’re going to the menu to choose a particular option in an App on your Mac. It takes 2 seconds, and you do this 10 times a day, for example. Setting a hotkey to do that same action takes 2 minutes, up front. But then a fraction of a second each time. Let’s look at some back-of-the-napkin ROI

(wildly speculative, uses 20 work days/month and 200 work days/year. Certainly not exact science but used to express a point)

|| Up Front Costs (minutes) | Time to execute (seconds) | Number of times per day | Duration per month (minutes) | Duration per year (hours)| | :———— | :———–: | :———–: | :———–: | :———–: | :———–: | ——————-: | | Via Menu | 0 | 2 | 10 | 6.7 | 22.2| | Via Hotkey | 2 | .25 | 10 | .8 | 2.8|

This example illustrates around a twenty hour savings per year. That’s a lot more time doing something you want to do, just by taking two minutes to setup a hotkey. Multiply that over the course of a project or career, and it’s rather significant, imho.

Again, an example to illustrate the why. I worked in the animation and video game development industries for years before moving to Project Management full time. My work then was to save time and make creative people (I’m including developers here too) more efficient and effective. My PM role is similar.

That’s what my plan is here too. But I’m not going to write about the why. I’m going to talk about it. When this is ready to launch, I’ll set up a microcast. That’s where I’ll use frequent and short audio posts to discuss time savings, removing barriers and distractions, as well as efficiency and effectiveness for creative people.

Distractions are the enemy of creativity

Leadership for Animators

I gave a talk on Leadership for Animators (and other creative people too) for the AniMAtic Boston group last week. You can find them on FaceBook on thier public group page.

The premise of the talk is that there’s a lack of good leadership in animation related businesses, and I have some thoughts I wanted to share on that based on my successes and (many) mistakes as a leader in those areas.

Here’s the presentation (pdf, includes speaker notes), if anyone is interested.

Leadership for Animators (and other creative people too)

I gave a talk on Leadership for Animators (and other creative people too) for the AniMAtic Boston group last week. You can find them on FaceBook on their public group page.

The premise of the talk is that there’s a lack of good leadership in animation related businesses, and I have some thoughts I wanted to share on that based on my successes and (many) mistakes as a leader in those areas.

Here’s the presentation (pdf, includes speaker notes), if anyone is interested.