Friday, June 26, 2009

Neda: When Dirty Freedom becomes Bloody Freedom



by Aaron Mystery

[Update 6-27: Apparently, there is some confusion in the world at large whether the original pic - bottom - is indeed Neda Agah-Sultan, a young Iranian woman who was martyred; in deference to her memory, I have created an alternate image using a pic of Neda that has been better verified.]

Dear Neda, there is little I can say that hasn't been said. As the world has had to sit on its hands and watch your people suffer and die, I have felt great guilt and agony not being able to do anything about the situation.

The image of you, smiling and alive - as opposed to bleeding and dying - has floated in my mind's eye like a ghost. As I thought about you, about your people and their cause, the image of the Statue of Liberty started to creep into my periphery.

It was yesterday that it dawned on me how to give you the most fitting tribute I could - a strong, vibrant, defiant portrayal of Neda, Iran's Lady Liberty.

I teared up when I finished this image, but my tears are for your blood and your sacrifice.

People of Iran, I hope such images as the one I have created above continue to inspire you to fight for the freedom you deserve.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Transformation Fantasy Force - Bang! Bang! Bang!

by Aaron Mystery

Lots of big news (says me) to report from the live Grizlore and Wheeler show to Ace the Zombie's interview show with real honest-to-goodness entertainers, but I'm going to focus on Transformation Fantasy Force for another blog.

Well, focus may not be the right word. I'm just showing a new clip only found here:


video

Friday, June 19, 2009

Transformation Fantasy Force - Minx is Captured!

by Aaron Mystery

I went back to working on the new Transformation Fantasy Force episode yesterday, surely to the delight of many. Priscilla Minx will indeed be the focus, but the giantess from "The Shrink Must Die" will also make an appearance in this story.

For the design of the villains, I shamelessly let myself be inspired by the grungy sci-fi (but not quite steampunk) look of Heavy Metal and Star Wars. They will likely die amazingly cool deaths.

Today I'm doing a sort of teaser with the set up from the new TFF episode, and a cool new take on the popular Attack of the 50 Foot Bimbo series.

See the work-in-progress pics of villains and Priscilla here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Hard Blog to Write: In Memory of Katie

by Aaron Mystery

Living in my head isn't as difficult as it used to be. I'm content with some things I've done, eager to do and learn more, and willing to admit my shortcomings. I want to enrich your life by entertaining you; I'm only at the beginning of that journey. Right now, it's a very focused and localized few that truly get something out of my work, but one day I will change that without leaving them behind. Never again will I leave a friend - or a fan - behind.

When I first started doing animation, just as the B.E. thing started to take off, I knew a 19-year-old named "Katie" via MySpace and a mutual friend. Back when I still thought Brethren and the Evil Empire was going to make me famous, I made all kinds of retarded cartoons that made little sense (they often featured Mr. Romance-Oh, for example).

But Katie LOVED my cartoons, even continuing to praise them when I was doing little more than catering to a specific male audience. Before I became a bit of an Ace the Zombie myself, she was giving me silly poems to adapt into cartoons - we both had so much fun! If only we lived in the same city...

Katie came to Vegas one day and spent the night, but I was very sick so it wasn't much of a visit - she was only here because she had other business in town anyway. Still, as she left, I knew I'd lost an opportunity, and when I wasn't able to take advantage of our time together in any meaningful way, I drifted away from her. I don't think I answered her messages as much, or as lovingly, or whatever it was. Part of it is that - as Suckermouth took off - my paying subscribers had a right to what they pay for (B.E.), and I honestly find it quite uncomfortable showing most my work to women, and for good reason.

Then I got into a big fight with my then-roommate over the fact that he wasn't doing the Brethren and the Evil Empire MySpace page the way the band wanted (who fucking cares?), and I canceled all my MySpace accounts. Goodbye, Katie, it's good to see you are the first subscriber I have on YouTube, so we're not completely out of touch.

This long, monotonous explanation leads us to a very tragic end. I found out through my roommate, months after my last contact with Katie, that she killed herself. My dear, pretty little Katie who believed in me and shared her creativity with me was gone. I had to stare at her icon on my YouTube channel for months, like a ghost reminding me that I had abandoned her to... what? I feel trapped to this day by the inexplicable reality of this.

I held back confronting certain things out of respect for Katie for a long time. She had big problems that were completely removed from me, and it was nothing short of egotistical to think that any cartoon I could have created could have saved her. But that wasn't the point either, as I would come to realize. I could have done something. Been a friend. Some bizarre version of shame kept me from being that.

I miss Katie. She made an incredible impression on me in a short time. A friend and a fan, in equal parts. I didn't abandon her to serve a different community, I abandoned her because I became a prisoner of my own guilt.

I've come to terms with the need to serve up a regular helping of sexy, crass, or just plain offensive cartoons on a regular basis. I get rewarded with money, views, and deliver a product my audience is looking for. Oh, and I kind of like it, or why would I have been doing it in the first place?

There's no point in pretension: I like creating shit a lot. Videos, music, novels, stories. I just happen to be slightly successful at one little tiny aspect of it. This tiny aspect takes up most my time because animation of any kind is a time-consuming process, and maintaining Suckermouth is a full-time task.

The point is, I don't want to see another friend or fan to go through what Katie did. I hope you see me as a friend when you need one, because an artist is nothing without his fans, and if he doesn't see his fans as friends, he doesn't deserve them in the first place.


[The best place to reach me is Twitter.com/Suckermouth]

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Chamber of the Zombies Recap (Clip 3 of 3)

by Aaron Mystery

I'm pleased to say I wrapped up and uploaded the aforementioned short CG vid "Chamber of the Zombies" today. It was a labor of love, in that I have wanted to do a pure zombie vid for years (Ace the Zombie aside, since he's actually a demon and doesn't eat brains). Yes, it's done with the ubiquitous transformation fantasy element in mind, but I pushed that out of the equation and pretended I was just making a decent CG zombie flick.

While I won't apologize for being successful and therefore supporting my other projects with B.E., I am intent on making the first half of Bimbo Vampires vs. Zombies (minus the possible prologue), a module of sorts that can be consumed and enjoyed by the pure zombie enthusiast. The second half - where the Bimbo Vampires come in - won't be a mindless series of B.E. morphs, but will tend to appeal to my usual audience more than the first half.

It's important that I stay true to those who have built this house that is Suckermouth with their love of everything B.E. and generously paid subscriptions, but to grow as an artist, I must become more clever in the way I deliver the usual and more adventurous in how often I pursue the unusual.

I can't thank Jennifer Hudock enough, who understood and believed in this project enough to donate her talents to the voice of Dr. Holder. I also want to thank my father and brother, who - as they did here - occasionally lend their voices to my vids when I grow sick of my own lispy mumbling.

By believing in a guy like me that basically built his brand with morphs, you help him grow into a filmmaker that's worthy of a larger audience (I hope). My ultimate goal - and an unabashedly unoriginal one - is to make beautiful emotional films.

You can watch the finished short here. Below the vid are some things I knew from the outset I wanted to do or add but just didn't have time for. That stuff will get added in for the feature length film.



First, what I did focus on: I wanted a couple of all-star zombies, though out of the six I made (not counting Steve the Infected Worker), the ones I planned as the stars didn't come out as cool as the ones planned as background zombies. Consequently, the far-too-scary fat lady zombie was moved to a central location (I wasn't initially thrilled with the buff male zombie Mr. Sterling's checking out, but he's grown on me).

I also modelled the facility and containment units myself, and put a lot of thought and discussion (with others) into the form and function of the location. This allowed me to create exactly what I wanted, as well as change things I didn't like on the spot.

The last thing I took care of an a filmmaker was trying to pull together a composition that held a false and strange beauty for the location of a zombie movie, while remaining sterile and dead.

Here's what I left out:

1) Other scientists, technicians, extras. I wanted the place to be a little more buzzing than it is, but adding all those extras would have slowed down every aspect of production and taken too much focus off the primary action and characters.

2) A transport system. I figure this place is so big it needs a transport system for both the living and the dead. I have a clever design sketched up that I think you will love (but you will have to wait until the feature for this). Like the extras, transports moving along the hallways would add life and realism to the scene.

3) Zombies reacting. I conceived a closeup of one of the zombie's opening her eyes when Steve hits the floor. I simply ran out of time, and will likely add some more ominous zombie movement to this scene in the final film.

4) Background sounds and music. Other than the BVvZ theme during the credits, the vid is noticeably without music or sound effects. It seemed silly at this stage to add these elements since the driving visuals (other workers, vehicles) for these sounds are not yet present. The music will likely be added after I see how the sound effects come together.

5) Elaborate key-framing of character movement. Sometimes, I take it on myself to actually be a good "animator" and spend hours and hours key-framing each body part down to the individual digits, running preview animations and redoing my work until I'm satisfied that realistic movement has been achieved. This kind of work is necessary and valuable, but a process unto itself, and here I had to make the sacrifice. Admittedly, while the movement is stiff and action-figure like at times, some things I thought I would hate came out well enough they shouldn't require much tweaking (Steve collapsing, for example).

6) More lights. Lights increase render time exponentially, so - to avoid thirty-hour renders - less had to be more. By the time I re-cut this in a year or two, it'll be that much quicker with advances in software and hardware (and other tricks I might learn by then).

Well, that's it. It's important to understand when you make your own CG vids in a week, perfection is rarely the immediate goal. I hope you enjoy these results nonetheless, and thanks again to Jenny, Jon, and Dad!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Chamber of the Zombies Day 4 (Clip 2 of 3)

by Aaron Mystery

The short animation tentatively titled "Chamber of the Zombies" (ugh!) is nearing completion. I have posted a clip of ALL NEW footage below. The next time you see a clip it will be the finished video!

Voice actor credits for this scene (all were volunteers who graciously donated their time and effort):

Dr. Holder......Jennifer Hudock
Worker #1.....Jon from Brethren and the Evil Empire
Mr. Sterling...Aaron Mystery (me)

I hope you enjoy this new sneak preview:

video

Friday, June 12, 2009

Chamber of the Zombies Day 2 (Clip 1 of 3)

by Aaron Mystery

I'm very excited to present you the first third of the new Chamber of the Zombies animation (mercifully, that's a working title). Continued thanks to Jennifer Hudock, whose excellent voice acting makes up for my own subpar delivery.

Video is below. After a short break, I start working on the next scene, which requires a trio of zombies. I will post pics as I conjure these beasties up. Stay tuned and thanks for watching!


video

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Chamber of the Zombies Day 1

by Aaron Mystery

[Special thanks to Jennifer Hudock (http://jenniferhudock.com) for volunteering her time and effort to the voice of Dr. Holder.]

(Please go to my TwitPic gallery at http://twitpic.com/photos/suckermouth to see still images of the zombie facility and zombies themselves as they were developed.)

Long before I got into animation in late 2004, I've wanted to make a zombie movie. Unfortunately, as popular as zombies are, they're not as popular as "other things", and so I have been restricted in what I could do, both in the time I could dedicate to it, as well as my technical limitations over the years.

By developing a concept that nests a legitimate zombie movie between two Bimbo Vampire episodes, I hope to please both my usual fans and zombie lovers alike.

So you won't see anything sexy in this animated short when it's finished, just some non-gratuitous male zombie ass, but I think the beauty of the scene speaks wonders for why an artist needs to get outside his normal workspace once in a while.

It's going to take the better part of a week to finish this entire animated short, but I'll keep posting new clips for your viewing pleasure. Next clip should be this evening.

Without further ado, here is the first clip of my new animated zombie short:


video

Monday, June 8, 2009

TFF Origins Episode 3 - Buildings Day 1

by Aaron Mystery

Tried my hand at basic modeling today and did a mock up for the main location of the upcoming Transformation Fantasy Force episode. Started with a series of meatball objects and capped it off with a couple vertex models (the globes at the top of the towers). The building in the very back is also a vertex mesh.

The first three pics above obviously show the evolution of the texturing (which I'm actually not satisfied with considering my original vision and how slow these textures take to render). The last shot is an alternate angle of the towers with the globes on top.

I hope you enjoy these pics. I would love to continue to create in this way.

Digital Dance Off - An Exclusive Vid and a Brief Tutorial

by Aaron Mystery

Yesterday, in the middle of a bland uncreative spell, I challenged my brother to a digital dance-off - I would make a video of dancing characters on my computer, and he would do the same on his. One hour. May the best man win.

Not everything went exactly as planned.

First, both of us took longer than an hour. I was arrogant enough to use a software plug-in I've never touched (we'll come to that in the tutorial). Second, I went longer than the one-minute video we established in the rules by almost double. Third, when I tried to render the animation in one whole two-minute block (rendering animations over 15-30 seconds is dicey) it of course went corrupt after waiting on it for over an hour.

My brother had his own share of difficulties, but that's for him to blog about - he wouldn't let me post his video, which was live action dancing and some new audio enhanced by some visual effects and backed by the Brethren and the Evil Empire song "The Too Much Fun Club Rides Again" from our third album.

The only objective audience member gave the victory to me, but I didn't deserve it. Watch the video below, and I'll tell you how I took this challenge on like a true hack:


video


"Thirty" is technically a song (as a rough demo here) from the upcoming Brethren and the Evil Empire album, the band I'm part of. However, I didn't play at all on this track - it's all my brother. Hack points right off the bat - using my brother's own unfinished song against him.

Next, I didn't use one of the animation software programs I paid for - I used a FREE one that anyone can download. It's called DazStudio (2.3), and although I've had some form of DazStudio installed on my computer since before any other, I have always overlooked it. You can download DazStudio when you go to http://www.Daz3D.com and navigate to the software section. I only started playing with it recently because I was beta testing version 3, which promises to integrate better with my other programs. Using FREE software you hardly know: Double hack points.

The characters are part of The Heavies series by 3D Universe (whom I love) - the two bears are Bert and Bertha from Heavies #1 and the elephant is Ernie from Heavies #2. Each set costs $21.95 at Daz3D. (Suckermouth fans with note I use Bert and Bertha as the Doctor and Nurse in a Bastard Piece Theater storyline.) I didn't make any modifications to The Heavies figures for the dance-off video - just scaled Ernie up a bit since, as an elephant, he should be bigger. Definite Hack points for using the figures right "out of the box".

For the characters' dancing animations, I used pre-built ones provided in the DazStudio plug-in AniMate. I bought the AniMate bundle, which included the AniPad plug-in and the Dance animations (or AniBlocks, as they're technically called). The AniMate Bundle is available at Daz3D for $99.95. Using pre-made animations and a plug-in I've never even touched before: Double the hack points.

That's it, folks. Download free program, spend about $150 on extras, find a song your brother made, and you have yourself a digital dance-off entry worthy of the world's greatest hack.

My heroes would be shamed, but luckily I'm not in the dancing cartoon animal business.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Pain and Guilt of Making Art

by Aaron Mystery

There are two types of egocentric people in this world: Those who think they are perfect and at the center of existence, and those who are so obsessed with their own flaws and ineffectiveness that all they can think about is themselves. I am the latter, failed at more things than many will ever attempt, but it is in my most subtle of successes that I find the most guilt.

There are two areas in my life where I have had moderate success: One is a personal matter I don't share with the world as Aaron Mystery, and the other is Suckermouth, that ridiculous little cartoon website dedicated to transformation fantasy. The reward is still small compared to the time invested, but I'm grateful for it. I wonder if I deserve it?

I'm constantly tortured by what I'm not getting done, what's not rendering on my computer, what I'm not writing, or voicing, or playing. A hopeless romantic who surrendered his soul to be successful at something he never wanted to do.

To sell one's soul to the proverbial Devil is just as Hollywood portrays it: It is forever and a bum deal. Thus, where a boy once wrote love letters to a girl that said she loved him back, a man now feels his heart burn with the guilt of not getting enough adult cartoons made for his website this month. To the opposite sex (and much of the male gender, it should be said), my cartoons are filth at best, trash at worst.

And it is true, I have never claimed to be anything but a hack. But I do have a passion for both animation and transformation fantasy. I have more of a passion for money. Good cartoons make happy customers and happy customers continue to subscribe. Sexy cartoons create new customers, and new customers account for half my revenue. Money earned this way - even a little - helps me to forget what I don't want to remember.

Once, all I cared about was making music. All I wanted was to play guitar and sing. Hours a day, year after year, album after album - I was worse than a hack. I was unsuccessful and not very good at it. My lot in life was to be rejected by others, chiefly because I had little to offer that was exceptional or worth taking note of.

There is a period in my life between the band and the website that taught me emotion is forever, that pain can never be forgotten. To this day (last night, for example), I still have terrible nightmares and dreams of false and unwanted hope spawned by my brush with "Love," a despicable tyrant more vindictive and powerful than any god or devil.

I discovered that the depths of the human condition are arrived at in the realm of dreams. I am tortured by them, yet I crave them. Being no creative genius, my dreams give me insight into the real artist that lies within me. Just glimpses of unbound creativity and wonderful stories.

Yet when I pull these phantasms out into the light of day, into the waking hours, they gain too much power, too much influence, and I must retreat to the domain of sleep and hope they come back there instead. If I were lucky, I would dream about nothing at all. Because a dream remembered is an event experienced, our emotions will never sort it out completely.

To overcome this vicious cycle that nearly destroyed my life, I had to accept that I was Ace the Zombie, that I was not human, but in fact a ghoul walking among the living that should never expect to enjoy the things humans do. I would continue to consume art and knowledge, but not love and companionship. I must become a servant. A servant to anything but Love, the tyrant that has shattered a billion hearts, and claimed the lives of almost as many.

At first, Ace was a stage prop, then he was a character in a novella, then a face on an album cover, until finally he became a cartoon icon and the Patron Saint of Breast Expansion: He is Ace the Zombie. Somewhat unwilling and resentful servant to the Devil, Ace is the embodiment of mindless and pointless entertainment, the epitome of control and cheap applause. Ace believes you cater to your followers and spite the world for rejecting you in the first place - no matter what you would have done, these people of the world would have scorned or ignored you to the very end, anyhow. Your followers deserve your dedication - and they like it pure.

But as a jester in the courts of hell, Ace believes he is in control of his emotions. He is a clown, yes, but if the cheers and coinage can simply keep raining down from the audience, he can block everything else out of his mind. He can forget his past. Forget dead pets and missed opportunities and love lost and the joy of being alive.

And since I became Ace the Zombie to survive, I can tell you he is wrong. Yes, success will temporarily forestall the pangs of remembering the past, put eventually, the past pushes back.

Ace now sits in his tomb, miserable, because he can't think of the next joke to tell the Devil. They used to roll off the tongue. Puppet shows, dances, pantomime: Ace could not help himself. However, if Ace were to try to rise above the role of court jester and talk of romance or music, the Devil would cast him out, and then who would watch Ace dance?

So as the guilt of unrealized cartoons and an idle computer eat away at me like horned worms on a tomato plant, I realize that the Devil doesn't play fair. Instead of getting rid of nightmares and regret, I've only added a suffocating layer of guilt brought on by obligations not to others, but to myself. I'm the one that needs the animations coming, the computer whirring away, the pencil scribbling the next script - I'm the Devil Ace dances for! I need the distraction, you simple little fool! Don't stop dancing!

Self-loathing was never so much at home (or so incestuous).

To Ace, I say this: Guilt will never bring you happiness, but happiness will rarely bring you guilt. You are among the walking dead, and all the dancing in the world can't change that.

To the Devil: You chose to be cast down to Hell by behaving like a monster. You are the other guy, and all the control in Hell can't change that.

To myself: Your computer has been idle since 6 this morning and the guilt is giving you a headache. Get to work!

[Update: Almost immediately after I posted this blog, my Twitter thumb - which had been a pic of yours truly - AUTOMATICALLY reverted back to the Satan thumb I used for a day months ago! One of the freakiest coincidences of my life, but this is a weekend when nothing excites or inspires me, so it was all for naught.]