Welcome back! I hope you all are enjoying your summer. As I type this I am taking what is sure to be a brief but well earned vacation (and the first in maybe 10 years!). I’m going to Washington D.C., this trip with family, but as I have some free time, I think this would be a good opportunity to go over how my summer updates have been going. Let’s get to it!
The roadmap For this summer’s updates were supposed to be simple. I wanted to do some housecleaning, re-organize some assets, and update the puppets a bit. I was able to do that in record time. I started updating everything mid June, and was finished within a week and a half or so. Things were looking great, and for a brief moment I thought to myself “Maybe I can have a chill summer after all?”. Turns out, there’s a part of me that’s a perfectionist that doesn’t want to die.
Maybe that’s a little dramatic, so I’ll walk it back. So I got everything I wanted done regarding my original updates. The puppets are a bit better, I have more poses to pull from- they’re great…but they could be better.
A broken Foundation
So, how could these puppets be better? There’s a lot of issue with the groundwork I made for the original puppets. When I made the first generation of puppets, I didn’t know a lot about Toonboom. Really, the first generation of puppets were about just getting something done. That same base of puppet was iterated upon until the 4th generation of puppets. Sometimes, no matter how much you iterate, you’re working with a bad base. The groundwork of the current puppets are sloppy, very difficult to upgrade, and add elements to them. They’re also a nightmare to customize into secondary characters. They’re needlessly complex and heavy. They don’t play well together either (this means elements made with one puppet will generally only work with that puppet). They were also not friendly in regards to changing their color palettes and styles.
If I want this series to be the best that it could be, I had to take a step back and fix the broken ground that I was working from.
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
You can probably surmise from the previous section what’s on the agenda to be fixed with this new generation of puppets. For the sake of brevity, there are three goals with this generation of puppets: universal feature set, modularity and future- proofing. Let’s about each goal a little bit before moving forward.
When I say universal feature set, I’m speaking across several spectrums. Those spectrums are: palettes, animation, base assets and values. What this means is that I want a “Design Language” for the puppets and rules that they all abide by. I want palettes to work across puppets, any animation that’s done for 1 puppet can be used for another and that they’re all pulling from the same source. Having these universal attributes also paves the way for modularity.
One of the biggest issues with the previous generation of puppets is that it was a nightmare to swap assets, or upgrade specific parts. Having the puppets be modular means that I can take a specific asset made for another puppet and plug that into something else and have it work with little manual adjusting on my end. This is incredibly powerful for the type of series “Frame of Mind” is. Imagine only having to animate or design one asset, and re-using it whenever you see fit to fill a scene, or to use it as a base for other assets. That was a dream before, but now I’m turning that into a reality. Mods are the future of my production and it’s super exciting. Mods also feed into the last goal: future-proofing.
I’ll be honest, while I can work hard, I would rather not to. A big reason I’m spending time on overhauling this puppet now, is so that I don’t have to do a major update like this for years. Having mods is one way to alleviate regular updates, because I only need to update problematic areas and swap them out in each puppet, instead of update an entire puppet (or puppets). I also want to take the time to update other aspects of production that Frame of Mind is lacking in. The puppets are the most time consuming thing to manage for this series, so streamlining and future proofing the puppets will ultimately raise the quality of production for shorts, as well as my quality of life (after all, if I don’t have fun making these, they’re less likely to come out and be good if they do).
A Double-Edged Sword
These goals together will hopefully create a new working order for my projects. Built on a new, and more functional ground, these updates are ultimately my commitment to make this series the best it can be. I’m in it for the long run, so I want every time that I work with these puppets to be fun and to give me the same sense of excitement that I had when I first started this series.
That said, these updates will come at a cost. I wanted to spend a large part of my summer getting a chance to relax and take up new hobbies, while also opening myself up for freelance in the fall. Unfortunately, the redesigning of these puppets will push all of this back. I try to tell myself that the hit to my quality of life now will ultimately payoff in the future, butI’m not always so sure that’s the case. Ideally it will, but the future is always full of uncertainty, and I have no idea if the investment of time I’m making now, will payoff later. Time is a commodity we will never get back, and I’ve invested so much time into this project and there are times where I think I’ve made a critical error. Perhaps I’m just musing at this point, but I do think it’s important to face these thoughts head on as they come to you.
I guess this series of updates are both a gift and a curse. I’m hopeful that the effort I am putting in now will payoff in the future, even though I have no idea if it will. I can only just keep moving forward with the same sense of passion and purpose that stated this project. Who knows where I’ll be in the future, but I’ll try to enjoy the ride while I can.