Michelle Lin Thesis


We are SOUND LOCKED!  Next week we mix, and poor Bill who has done my foley sounds, done my sound design, and recorded my score, will also have to put up with me again as he is doing the final mix!   I have to give Bill many props for his excellent attitude and work ethic.  Despite his crazy schedule, he worked super hard to finish the sound and committed to waking up early to address ALL of the changes I requested hours before sound lock.

I’ve continually been impressed by everyone’s who worked with me on my film.   My composer Andrew, after pulling a ridiculous amount of late nights to finish the score and without me even asking him to, still took the time to improve it the week after.  We’d casually talked about adding a penny whistle, and I’d totally forgotten about it until he told me a week later that he had gotten a musician in Iowa to record one for my score!  I feel really lucky to be collaborating with such dedicated people who I’ve managed to bamboozle into working for me…

Kinda weird to know that sound and music will be locked before my picture is totally finished.  It feels like we’re making a film backwards, now that I’ve edited edited everything together and sound locked–all before final color’s been put down.

I’ve been doing a lot of prep work on color:

Since I want my colors to reflect the passing of time as well as a the narrative, I’ve been taking all the reference images I’ve gathered over the past year and compiling them into my clunky version of a reference color script.  I’ve then been pinpointing images that most closely represent the color scheme I am looking for and use those as references for my color keys and backgrounds.  The changing color is especially important for the last sequence so I took screengrabs of key moments and lined them up for color scripting.  I’m hoping this approach will tie my film together colorwise as well as help me narrow down my color choices.  I find color scripting to be fascinating, but I wish I had more time to do it properly.

In perfect timing, Ralph Eggleston, Oscar-award winning art director came to speak yesterday, and man, his color scripts are incredible!  Trying to figure out color for my little short is frustrating already.  I can’t imagine what it’s like to script out the color scheme for an entire feature.

PS.  I realize I need to correct my sleep schedule despite becoming nocturnal/a vampire.  I’ve missed one too many classes and meetings from oversleeping.  Thankfully most of my classes are pass/fail, but falling behind during these times is going to give me a lot of trouble in the final stretch… JDAKSJKSLKDALDKKLD


We’re almost there we’re almost there! Are we?

Recording session was AWESOME!  So cool to see the music recorded live, especially after a very intense week of writing and revisions from my composer.  I know we were both really stressed over getting the score done in time and had to work through many sleepness nights.  But in the end, everything came together.  Andrew’s still working on adding some things to make the music tighter, so I’m looking forward to hearing the final version soon!

This thesis film has taught me a lot on how to give direction and give feedback.  I remember having trepidations on how to communicate my ideas for something as abstract as music, but I was advised to give direction by explaining the key emotions and tones I wanted to come through.  I also had to learn to trust my composer to know how the actual score will sound.  I was worried certain instruments sounded way too loud, but the synth music doesn’t always do justice to a live recording, which feels more natural and organic, and overall, just better.   Just as awesome was watching the sound engineer Bill (who is also my sound designer) work his magic in mixing it all together.  The process is very much like shooting a film.  You rehearse a bit, you record many takes, and then you edit it into a final mix.  I was extremely impressed by how well Andrew and Bill worked together to bounce ideas on mixing the score to sound better and match my film.

We recorded ADR on Monday!  My actress (and also Wyatt’s!) Ryan was wonderful and so great to work with.  I felt I thought I would just have a few effort sounds to record, but I ended up needing to take the entire hour.  I made sure to have multiple takes, even of something as simple as a sigh.  I found myself struggling to describe these effort noises and had to make up some words like “breathy-er.”

I can’t wait to see how the sound design comes together!  Bill’s already put together some general sounds, and now I’ve given him the ADR files.  I had worked with my composer to make sure he was aware of moments where sound design would be important and wrote the music accordingly.  I hope to get more feedback from Bethany tomorrow on the sound design.

Oh man, gotta get moving on the backgrounds and color stuff.  There’s still so much to do!  Hopefully it’ll all look as good as it sounds.


Picture locked!  And what a relief that is…  this might be the first time in my life I’ve finished something early!  (Though, I still have a looooot more to do.  So much.  Ahhh!) Some scenes could use some more inbetweening, and secondary motion, but at least everything is timed out and in good condition for my composer and sound designer!

I’m also relieved that  I’m past much of the really hard part, (aaaaanimatttionn), though with my luck, I’ll most likely come across some terrible issues that will make me wish I was back at the animating phase…  However, it does feel nice to be a stage where I can start handing off my work to others, and let them contribute their creative expertise to my “baby.”  Dom made some crude analogy about going into labor with this thesis, which I don’t want to go into right now.

I wish we could do more collaborative projects.  I would like more people to suffer with me.  😀

Wyatt and I have our ADR sessions booked for next Monday…  looking forward to getting some good grunts, sighs, gasps, and HYAHHHH!

I’ve been working with my composer to finalize the score. We both stay up late, so we were discussing music at 3 in the morning!

I’ve recruited some people to help me color, which will hopefully save me a lot of time.  Deciding on some color palettes will probably be my next big task, but thankfully, Toon Boom has the snazzy feature to adjust colors instantly, which suits my terrible habit to  constantly adjust, nitpick in order to pinpoint the very best.

Thesis has turned me nocturnal, though, I’m not really sleeping much in the day either.  Correction, thesis has turned me into an almost insomniac.  I can only imagine the extreme withdrawal I will experience once I realize I don’t have to come work at my cubicle after May 11…

Wait, where did Spring Break go?

I ended up getting sick during Spring Break and spending a lot of time in bed…  Naturally, I didn’t feel better until Sunday, the last day of break, which was coincidentally my most productive day.  HA!

This week has been productive in terms of music/sound stuff.  Sunday I met with my composer Andrew and gave him more feedback on the latest draft of the score.  Our recording session is in two weeks yeahhh!  I ran into some issues in regard to paying my composer out of my budget.  You’d think it should be easier to work with fellow USC/SMPTV students, but for some reason, our department has all these rules making it complicated to get them paid!  I’m getting that sorted out, hopefully soon.

Wyatt held auditions today, and I came to sit in and help out.  Only two people showed up, and I could only stay for one of them.  I was a bit apprehensive about finding an actor with a convincing little boy’s voice, but I ended up being REALLY impressed.  If everything works out, Wyatt and I may both may end up using the same voice actor!  This will simply confirm a theory Arliss, Kaitlyn, and I have formulated– many of the senior thesis films are really about the same character just in different locations and stages of his life.  Yup, go BA class of 2011 and the prevalence of male main characters.

After auditions I had my foley session, which went GREAT!  My poor sound designer Bill did all the dirty work of jumping around in dirt, twirling and flapping fabric, and swishing sticks, while I was in the control room telling him to do everything over again… hehehe!  But he did an awesome job, and we got a lot of material to work with for sound.  I must also thank Bethany and new friend Jacob for all the help at a very entertaining foley session.

My animation timing is pretty much around 90% there and should be good to go for picture lock very soon.  This tedious process of animating can be just SO frustrating and draining.  Getting myself to work and work efficiently with decent quality is extremely difficult.  Hopefully I can survive this…

Can Spring Break come any faster?

I was advised to consolidate a few of my shots, in particular the kite coming to life scene.  I want to change it so the kite comes to life while the boy is running around the room/playing with his sword.  This scene has given me so much trouble though, as I’m trying to figure out how to restage and edit it so it maintains the right screen direction… arghh, confusing!  But, I’ hope that, if I pull it off, it’ll get rid of some unnecessary shots while making the scene more interesting in general.

Life’s been pretty stressful.  I work all day till 4-5 am, go home to sleep for a bit, and I’m back around noonish.   I’m trying to get as much as I can done before Spring Break starts, but we’ll see how that goes.  I’ll be out of town for the weekend, but I’ll be back on Monday and thesisin’ FOREVER!

I’ve also deactivated my Facebook in hopes of maximizing my productivity!!  Surprisingly, the temptation to sign back into Facebook is not that strong…. I’ll probably reactivate it once we get closer to our screening date to do my part in getting the word out.


Still working on tweening and clean up.  Wish I was faster, going to have to pick up the pace!  I’ve been trying to tackle my most important shots, but have found myself getting caught up with them.  Making myself move on has been extremely hard, especially since I have perfectionist tendencies.  Also, being cooped up in here for long periods of time gets exhausting… and me a little loopy.  Okay, very loopy.  I should try to schedule more outdoors and sunshine.

My Saturdays should be more free now that I’ve had my last drawing class!  So more time for thesis–yay?

I can’t believe we’re about at the halfway point now of the Spring semester!  This is very nice and very bad news!


Our lab has become rampant with strange shenanigans late at night…

Had to reschedule our recording session so aiming for April 3rd.

Got feedback on my most recent cut from Tom and my friend Ben last week.  They both had really good suggestions, but some required adding more shots that I just can’t afford to do right now, but I think I can still rework the layout of certain shots that I haven’t heavily animated/cleaned up yet.  This was probably the most fun part, because both of them last saw the film in its animatic stages, and now that I’m showing things that actually move, the night I show my (hopefully) finished film seems more of a reality.

Jackie made a KICKASS poster for our screening.  Now if only my film could be as good as her poster…

I had some issues with saving on Toon Boom, which freaked me out for a bit.  Hopefully it won’t come up again, but I’ll try to document them if they do.

Still inbetweening and cleaning up… I find myself getting caught up in certain shots, and spending way more time on them than I should.  It’s very hard to pull myself away when I keep telling myself I can make things better. This is probably what I anticipated to be the hardest part of animating.


I met with my composer and sound designer!  Surprisingly, my musical ideas haven’t changed too drastically since my animatic stage.  But, that all could change as I continue to animate…  (Hopefully not!)  I really lucked out, since Andrew and Bill already know each other and seem very open to collaborating together. We figured out dates and deadlines for the rest of the semester, and I’ve submitted a request to book a scoring session on April 2nd.  I can’t wait to attend my first scoring session for my own film!

Sunday, Rusty Mills came for another Toon Boom workshop.  This time, I was more prepared and had a looooot more questions since I’ve been able to use (or struggle through) the program for a few months already.  Eventually, the session turned out to be just me bombarding Rusty with questions.  Even Toon Boom seemed to get tired at the end as it was getting buggy and slow to respond… Though Toon Boom has a lot more features for compositing and camera moves than Flash does, I’m thinking I’ll still have to rely on After Effects to take care of some of that, as Toon Boom doesn’t seem that user friendly in that aspect.  Plus, there are  a lot more people who can help me with After Effects than Toon Boom.

We had another great Disney animator come to speak at seminar tonight –Bruce Smith!  I’ve heard him speak before, and as always, he is extremely inspiring and a great storyteller.  He recommended looking at good acting/character references when animating, which is something, I admit, I haven’t done a lot of.   Just from hearing him speak, I get a great sense on how passionate he is about his characters and their performance.

The boy’s sword playing scene in his bedroom, and the first meeting between boy and kite have been giving me some trouble, but they are also some of the most important scenes in the film, so it’s essential I get them right.  I’m hoping to get some feedback from Tom about them tomorrow.

February already?

So it’s February now!  I’m planning on having all animation timing locked by the beginning of March.  Oh man, do I have a lot to do…

In bringing my roughs to a tighter and cleaner stage, I really start to notice how off model my lines can get when buried under a ton of strokes. I guess that leads me to my hardest challenge of the week, which is turning the character in space–especially 3D space!

My best part has been seeing my animation get less choppy and start to head into a more fluid, life-like direction.  I can’t wait to get to color.  I’m hoping that will run smoothly as I specifically designed my boy and kite to have limited and simple color palettes.

I also realized that having giant stretches of time during the day to work isn’t necessarily conducive to productivity.  I either take too many “breaks” or forget to take breaks at all.  Jackie, Dom, I think we need to resurrect our Asian support gang of productivity…


Andreas Deja came to speak for Wednesday seminar.  He’s amazing!  Watching clips of his animation and seeing him draw was really inspiring.  The talk also reminded me how I needed to focus on my character’s  “thinking” and not simply his actions.  In my haste(panic…) to bang out as many roughs as I could for midyear faculty review, I compromised on the acting and character animation.  Andreas definitely came at a good time to get me excited again about animating.

I was too hasty in thinking I could go straight to clean-up this month.  Some of my roughs need another pass or two, so I’ve pushed back doing clean up till next week.  I don’t have time to finesse every shot, but I’ve singled out a few key ones that are important to my story for me to focus on this week such as the first time the boy sees the kite come to life and when the kite saves the boy’s life.   I’m glad I’ve been able to keep my entire film to a more manageable 3 min 15 seconds so far.

Once again, I am very frustrated by the lack of user friendly Toon Boom tutorials.  Especially the ones that tell you what tools to use but not where to find them nor what they look like.  Written tutorials are vastly less helpful than visual ones, people!  Trixy arranged another Toon Boom workshop day with Rusty Mills.  I need to record all my questions, so much stuff I need to know!

Also, new discovery –I really like listening to classical music as I animate!