Hello! I hope you all have been good. I haven’t been able to push out many blogs recently for a variety of reasons, but today is a brand new day. Any who, as the title states, this blog is going to be a reflection of my Frame of Mind content. A lot has happened since I started this series last year, and I haven’t talked about it in an objective fashion yet. I want to set up a standard for looking back at my work and reflecting on it, so this will be an annual or semi-annual kind of posting series.
I want these posts to give a different perspective on the series, one that’s not so much based on creativity (though I will talk about that), but a more performative, and business oriented view of the series. When I say business, I don’t mean in the sense of Frame of Mind earning me money, or monetizing it (though eventually that’s something I will be more concerned with). By business, I mean in the sense of if my stories are providing value to my audience. My audience gives me their time, and I think it’s only fair to look at if I am respecting that time with the best content that I can make.
All that said, this first edition of the blog series will go over year 1 of Frame of Mind. I’m going to talk about the shorts that came out, the updates that went on in between the shorts, the performance of the content that was posted and divulge a little on the plans for year 2 of Frame of Mind. I’m hoping this post will be illuminating and give another perspective on the content I’ve been creating. Let’s get started!
Year 1 is a bit more expansive in time than 365 days. I actually started producing the shorts in December of 2017. Creating the assets, building rigs, setting goals and animating shorts were well underway before my announcement bumper for Frame of Mind was posted in February 2018. It was a nightmare when I reflect back on the start of the series. The issue was that I had great ambitions for the start of Frame of Mind, but I was also using it as a tool to learn and get acclimated with animating in Toonboom. While I wouldn’t call it a mistake, it did set me up for a difficult road that I still haven’t quite recovered from. Let me explain. The production methodology for Frame of Mind is centered around my “KSP” or Kyle Samuels Puppet. The whole artistic direction revolves around that puppet. Unfortunately, as I was building it, I wasn’t as good at putting together a puppet rig as I am now, so there are a lot of legacy complications in the main puppet, and because all puppets are derived from the KSP, they all have those legacy complications. I’ve mostly ironed out a lot of the major issues, but I will eventually rebuild/remake the puppets from scratch to streamline them even further.
There were other complications as well. The original format of the shorts were not flexible at all. They were based under the assumption that I would use the carousel format for instagram. This was a bad move on my part because it restricted how and where else I could upload the shorts. Because of that, the first 4 shorts or so had to be re-composited into a singular video, but the way they were designed was antithetical to a single video format so the quality of the re-mastered videos are not as good as the originals.
So for year 1, these are the shorts that premiered (in order):
Who am I (March 21, 2018)
Cooking! (April 4, 2018)
Singing (April 25, 2018)
House N***** Part 1 (July 7, 2018)
House N***** Part 2 (August 8, 2018)
The Importance of Gratefulness (November 19, 2018)
Bravely Default on the phone (December 12, 2018)
The Weird Way I Sleep (January 13, 2019)
Bathroom Horror Show 1 (February 10, 2019)
God’s Plan (March 17, 2019)
People Sound Live Video Games (April 18, 2019)
My Little Shadow Part 1 (May 16, 2019)
My Little Shadow Part 2 (May 23, 2019)
Mini Cruiser Faceplant (June 23, 2019)
That’s about 14 shorts over the course of a little more than a year! That’s 14 minutes of animation. More than half the time of a serialized show on television. The past year of content has definitely been my most prolific period of creation in my life thus far. The interesting thing when looking back, is how my scheduling of the shorts began to formalize. The first 4 shorts were released during a crazy time. I was preparing to move out, my cat died, work was getting intense, and I began working 2 jobs (briefly) for that July. I also took another hiatus from September - October. Since November, I was able to release a short every month until June. With all that said, I am very proud of how I was able to bring these shorts to life.
The story behind the content
So I was able to animate 14 shorts. This was not an easy task, and in order to get that done, I had to keep to a very fluid updating schedule. The short of it is that after every 3 shorts I produced, I would spend some time updating all of my assets, creating new ones, compiling and archiving old ones, and so on. That is a general outline of my updating schedule. In reality, I went about updating a lot of things during at every step of production. That means in the planning stages, production, post and so on. Frame of Mind is a very, very large project with a lot of moving pieces, so before I formalized my updating process, I was caught in updating things as I was making shorts, which is a nightmare.
After I produced the short “Singing”, I thought it was a good time to begin the process of adding secondary characters. So I planned to animate “House N*****” parts 1 and 2 after I created a secondary puppet. This was an interesting update because that puppet was not only created specifically for this short, but was also never used in forming future secondary puppets. It’s actually a mess of an asset, and made animating those 2 shorts a massive pain. The things I learned from making it were essential though and it allowed me to update the KSP to the point where I can transition that puppet into the master puppet for secondary characters.
The gap between “House N***** Part 2” and “The importance of Gratefulness” consisted of large quality of life updates for my assets. Around this time, I began getting frustrated with Toonboom’s limitations with cutout puppet animation, so I began to look for a way to incorporate Toonboom’s deformer tools so I could future proof the puppets. Currently all of the puppets have the ability to be animated in 4 styles which are: Cut out animation, curve deformer animation, bone deformer animation, and hand animation (this is used sparingly for time and relegated to flourishes). I finished this update around December of 2018, but there were major issues with this version of the puppets.
The next batch of updates came during the production of “Bathroom Horror Show I”. While producing this short, I discovered a problem with the drawings of the assets for the puppets limbs. This caused the puppets to break during animation. To make matters worse, I had about 6 puppets to update at once, and whom were all based on this faulty foundation. I essentially had to remake key assets to accommodate for the new rigging systems. I also had to re-rig several parts of the characters to accommodated for how the new assets were created. All in all this was the worst update pass throughout the life of the project. I was exceptionally stressed because of how broken everything was, and it forced me to redesign large sections of half a dozen puppets from scratch. Because of this event, I decided I had to set time aside to make small updates and test them before it was time to use them in production. This experience also led me to formalizing my hiatus time. I can’t stress how much this phase of updates almost broke me. I was very close to dumping all the work I’ve done and essentially quitting creating my own shorts.
Drama aside, that update was the last major update I’ve made for assets. Since that point, back in February, I’ve made smaller updates, mostly to my templates and created some new assets, like a cat for “My Little Shadow”. I’ve also made a library of poses for the puppets, which allows me to animate shorts a lot quicker. I was also able to build a nice sized library of secondary puppets that I can dump in shorts to fill them out and little by little them, instill them with a bit more energy. These updates will really start manifesting in content that will premiere toward the end of this year, and especially in year 2 content.
So this section will talk a bit about my own personal expectations about my content. I feel I am the harshest critic about my own work, and if I am being honest, while I am happy with my output of “Frame of Mind”, I am less happy with most all aspects of the project. This may sound bad, but there’s an important key point to be addressed first. I believed I mentioned it before, but “Frame of Mind” is a lifelong project. I decided to produce the content with scant prep work because the length of time I would be dedicating to it, the pre-production phase would have lasted YEARS to get things the way I wanted. So I made a decision to throw aside my sense of perfectionism to get content out with the promise that I would use every chance I could get to build up the projects over time. Basically, the project will grow in size and complexity because of past projects.
This is a very painful experience for me, because while I do everything I can to make each project the best it can be, I have to ultimately deal with the fact that no project in this series will ever be “perfect”. Each short is a sacrifice to provide the next short the opportunity to be better. Little by little, I become a bit more happy with how a project turns out, but the sense of satisfaction I would get from finishing a short isn’t present with “Frame of Mind”. At least not yet. I do like the progress of the shorts from smaller gags with little animation to larger set pieces with multiple characters and scene complexity. I also feel that my sound designing skills have gotten better since starting the project, and I think if you were to watch my first “Frame of Mind” short and my last one, there will be a pretty noticeable difference in quality.
Now when dealing with expectations, an important aspect of this is the performance on social media. This is something I have a lot of mixed feelings about. To be blunt, I don’t like how my shorts are performing on social media. I don’t know if it is because there’s so much content out there, or if these platforms and their changing algorithms are blunting performance, or if people just aren’t resonating with the stories, but I believe there is something I’m missing. I have a hard time looking at the numbers of my content, because the amount of time and effort I put into making the shorts is not represented by equally by those who are seeing the shorts. This is not to say that people don’t like the shorts, in fact, I’ve received some of the most kind and thoughtful responses I’ve had about my work because of “Frame of Mind”, so I think when people do give it time, they really do feel something when they watch my stuff. The problem lies in the growth. I think after as much time I’ve poured in the project, it can be upsetting to see growth slow, stagnate or even decrease at times. It’s a problem that I know many people are experiencing on these platforms, so I am not suffering alone when it comes to this. While the performance won’t dissuade me from making these shorts (ultimately this is a passion project that I would have made regardless of it’s ability to grow), it does hurt when you see something that you’ve poured your heart and soul into fail.
Another thing I’m not particularly fond of is the spin-off content I’ve made from the assets I’ve created for “Frame of Mind”. This is 100% on me, as I felt the need to buff my upload rate before I was ready. I am planning to take some time in the future to really provide secondary content that is genuinely compelling and well made. So far, I think my favorite secondary content are the snippets and highlights I upload of shorts that I have released. I like giving insight into my creative process, and I think this kind of content provides a lot of value for people. I think I would like to upload a greater variety of content. Currently I only upload videos to instagram, but I would like to add photos, different animations and more, but I think a big hurdle is coming up with something that won’t tax me too much physically and provides a great deal of value to people. I haven’t quite landed on what that is, but it’s been on my mind for the past 3 months or so.
There are times when I would rather not do any spinoff content and just strictly produce “Frame of Mind” stuff, but I don’t know if that’s realistic at this point in my growth. Social media moves fast, so if you’re not present you’re toast. I’m not large enough yet to break those conventions, unfortunately. Hopefully for my sake and my body’s sake that changes soon!
I understand this is a bit of a longer blog than I usually post. there’s a lot of honest reflection here, and it’s not even everything I want to talk about! I felt the need to write this blog because a lot happened since I started working on ‘Frame of Mind’ and I’ve wanted to talk about behind the scenes stuff for a while. Now that my reflection on year 1 Is complete, it’s time to look to the future. For the next blog, I plan on talking about the rest of the shorts for this year, updates I’m making to produce better content and my goals for ‘Frame of Mind’ in 2020. Thanks for reading, and much ❤️.