Thursday, June 17, 2010

Caravan Archives on Twitter

As I get asked daily, multiple times a day, as to the status of Caravan despite all of said golden answers existing entirely on this hand-dandy blog, I've also now created a twitter feed dedicated specifically to Caravan's production, so you can get real-time updates on the film's status. Check out/follow the Twitter Feed at Its updates will appear in the side-bar of this blog from here on out for further easy-access updates.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Stratton Podcast Interview

Mr. Doug Stratton, with his recently purchased original and print of "Roadside Rest" from the CCS 2010 SEO.

As many of you may recall, I was recently awarded the first place 2010 scholarship from The Stratton Foundation in support of Caravan. In an act of further support and tremendous generosity, the head of the foundation, Mr. Doug Stratton, was kind enough to also purchase one of my pieces - my favorite, in fact - from the 2010 College for Creative Studies Student Exhibition Opening. I was recently interviewed by Mr. Stratton for the Foundation's podcast program, and as of this week, that interview is online to share. You can listen to it here.

As always, my deepest gratitude to Doug and his associates at the Stratton foundation. Their support and generosity have been both a tremendous inspiration, and a much-needed helping hand.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Shot 001 Clean-Up & Webcam Conquests

Caravan Shot 001 Clean-Up from Mel Miller on Vimeo.

Back on track! Above is the clean-up for shot 1 of Caravan - Mia leaving her home for school in the early AM, hoisting on her backpack as she goes. Please excuse the somewhat poor image quality of the clip - as I'm working from home now, I'm having to upgrade equipment here and there to bring things up to standard. I'll be getting a better quality webcam soon!

Below is the background said shot will be composited onto upon completion - It's actually on 3 layers, so we're going to attempt a bit of a multi-plane effect with it as it pans out and up from the bird's nest. Should be interesting!



ReFueling Inspiration

As always, and especially with personal non-profit projects like Caravan, I think keeping one's self inspired and perpetuating the feeling of continued growth and creativity through a project is key to keeping on track and maintaining a love for the work beyond simple determination and elbow grease. In the spirit of continuing to fuel my inspiration with Caravan, yet another portion of my time in recent weeks has been spent taking another dive into discovering and collecting new nuggets of inspiration. I've been photo-taking, camping, browsing the net, and low and behold, the exercises in sparking little bits of intrigue here and there are paying off, and helping me maintain - and oftentimes refuel - my ambitions.

The current view, shotgun, from the family RV.

Campfire and wind-chimes at the current campsite.

The above photos were both captured at whim fairly recently from my parents' current campsite. Staying with them at any length is a perpetual, peaceful, very wonderful way to re-ignite my love for this project. I'll undoubtedly be hopping on over to visit them frequently throughout the summer - always a wonderful prospect.

Music, as always, and as I think is pretty readily apparent throughout this blog so far, is another huge source of inspiration for me artistically. My buddy Kate recently introduced me to the Black Rebel Motorcycle Gang. Apart from being rather entertaining tunes in general, a number of their songs have now ended up on my Caravan-inspiration playlist on itunes. Here's one of said songs:

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Ain't No Easy Way .mp3

Found at bee mp3 search engine

Just today, actually, I found the footage below on YouTube, and I absolutely love it; European-based Romany travelers, filmed in the early 1960's. Now granted, my little fictional group of travelers in Caravan are both American-based and geared more towards the late 60's, early 70's, but I couldn't help but be struck by the beauty of this little film and its relevancy visually to my own inspiration - people persevering through an undoubtedly difficult lifestyle.

More again soon,

Working From Home

I've begun the slow but steady process of getting past copious degrees of burn-out and picking back up where I last left off, working on Caravan. From here on out I'm taking its production, I've decided, entirely at my own pace. The speed at which I was working on the film this past year was, to be completely honest, to the point of being a little inhumane even by my nutcase-workaholic-and-loving-it standards, and I'm thrilled to be able to work on this thing now at a steady stride that is healthy for myself both physically and emotionally. And I mean, really, this film has been a dear friend for a year and a half now - it deserves calm, healthy attentiveness over frazzled anxiety attacks any day. So, Caravan'll "get there" when it gets there, and I'll be keeping you all updated every step of the way! :D

As I'd mentioned beforehand, I'll be working on the film almost entirely from home how, so a fair chunk of my time recently has been spent getting everything installed, organized, set up and switched about at the house to make for a solid little film-producing environment... I do believe I'm officially "there" in this set-up process, too. I finished seven seconds of clean-up this past week, and the work flow went very smoothly with the new at-home space as it stands: Awesome news indeed. Thought I'd share those work spaces with you here:

Animation work desk

The above is where most of my time will be spend from here on out, doing tie-down and clean-up. To the right of the desk is the film itself on an IKEA shelf kindly donated by my roommate, and upon the desk my light table, copious supplies, a mirror for acting, etc. As with any work space of mine, I try to decorate it to the best of my ability simply to feel comfortable and inspired. Alot of my decorations from Senior Studio are up here as well, combined with many things from home - including concept art from a long-running personal project of mine, which has been sharing equal parts of my passion again since graduation. I've also got my TV nearby for entertainment's sake... Law & Order SVU marathons on Tuesdays are a must after all, not that I'm actually around to watch them! :D And yes, those are kitty food and water bowls beside me, so I get routine visits from the FurKids... when they're not trying to crawl all over me or my animation paper, of course!

Caravan's new home!

The film itself, rather meticulously organized on shelves - what an upgrade, let me tell you! This is SUCH an improvement from my work space at school for the fact that I can have everything out and at my disposal and organized now - there was only so much organization I could manage on campus, as I had to keep everything packed safely into my locker - a bit of a pain in the butt. Now, with proper shelving, it's smooth sailing in terms of finding what I need when I need it, thank goodness! At current, the top shelf is fully animated shots waiting for clean-up, second shelf down are shots still in need of some level of in-betweening, third down are shots immediately in-line for clean up in the order that I plan on working on them, fourth down is blank cut and hole-punched paper, and the bottom shelf, spanning nearly to the floor (though you can hardly see it here) is completed film: shots I'll never have to address again, thank goodness, and a stack of which is, blessedly, already quite huge.

Compie! ♥

My home computer will now, of course, be the main hub for my portions of the remaining digital aspects of the film's production. Not to mention the copious iTunes playlists I have to keep my mind sharp while I work - one of which is specifically geared towards Caravan inspirational tunes.

The downshooter!

Last but not least (Though I'm pretty sure I've shared this one before) is our home-made downshooter set-up for pencil tests.

And there you have it - Caravan's new production home for the immediate future. Onward and upward, with more updates to come! Cheers.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Scene 2 Storyboards and Update

Caravan: Scene 2 Forest EXT

To think Caravan, at one point, was just a fleeting idea in my head, let alone a couple of pages worth of storyboards in my sketchbook. Now, it's a fully rough-animated film, halfway on its way towards life in technicolor. I was thoroughly entertained to find this scan of one of my pages of boards filed away in a very random location on my computer, and thought I'd share. Mia meets Kelsey, from scene 2 of the film.

At the moment, I'm one week into the two week break I have has scheduled for rest and re-compiling of thoughts/sanity/personal health, fresh after Graduation from CCS. At the end of those two weeks, I'll pick right back where I left off with the film, smack in the middle of clean-up and coloring process. I look forward to that. Until then, I'll stick with my gardening, camping, freelance and personal art projects, a couple of which you can follow over at my art blog, if you'd like.

Also, because I love it so, here's one of the latest tunes fueling my Caravan inspiration: "White Summer/Black Mountain Side" by Led Zeppelin. I can just imagine the entire convoy trekking up a country back-road to this somewhere, pitching camp one late summer evening... little miss Mia in tow, of course. Love it.

Led Zeppelin - White Summer/Black Mountain Side .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine

See you in a week, Caravan!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Roadside Rest - Final

After the Tale: Roadside Rest

I'm absolutely thrilled with how this image came out! It was a blast to work on, and I'm looking forward to creating more Caravan-themed artwork along this vein soon. A lovely print of "Roadside Rest" along with the original line artwork from my sketchbook have been framed and matted in a lovely composition, and will be available for sale at the 2010 Student Exhibition at the College for Creative Studies on May 14th.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Roadside Rest (Flat Colors)

I've gotten a little attached to the lineless vector-like flat colors for this image (Which I've given the impromptu title of 'Roadside Rest') So I thought I'd share. I'm really enjoying the pallet to the image so far - it continues the fall colors at the end of the Caravan short, as it's within probably two weeks of that point in the story, but the tones will be slightly cooler and slightly calmer than the intense tones seen in those mid-day scenes - this scene will take place at dusk.

On to textures! :D


"Mel-Style" Caravan

Kelsey, Mia and the fuzzies (Hoobler the mutt and Icklefitz the cat) resting beneath the shade of a young oak in one of the first campsites the Travelers inhabit after the events taking place in the film.

One of the more interesting aspects of working on Caravan has been the fact that I, from the start, chose to design the characters in a far more graphical, simplified, "cartoony" manner then I typically draw when designing characters of a more illustrative basis. Keeping the characters more graphical in appearance certainly has aided in allowing me to animate faster, in the end (especially where clean up is concerned!) so the decision ended up being a smart move. However, it has also very frequently left me craving drawing the cast more in my regular day-to-day style of drawing - after all, my usual style is how I actually see the characters in my head, not the simplified style you see in the final film. Strange, perhaps, I know, but that's just the long and short of it.

For fun, here and there when I find the time and am able, I thought I'd start drawing the whole film's cast in my usual more comic-style of drawing. There are hints of the film's graphic 'toon style throughout the character designs, but at the same time, I think the differences are evident, and both fun and interesting to see (Check my original character line-up sheets for easy comparison.)

I'll be coloring the image above throughout the night, and if I get the chance, will throw up some process work from it here and there. :)


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Caravan Official Trailer (Updated!)

Caravan Official Trailer (Updated!) from Mel Miller on Vimeo.

Caravan's first official trailer, (Now with two new shots!) compiled both for the CCS 2010 Senior Show, and for use by the Stratton Foundation, who was recently kind enough to award the film and myself a generous scholarship. A film (Concept, Animation, Backgrounds and Color) by Mel Miller. Compositing by Niles Bontrager. Music by Larry Larson.

New shots include Mia and Kelsey dancing by the campfire and Charlie debating whether or not to cold clock Ethan... a hard decision indeed.


Thursday, May 6, 2010


So, I spent the better part of my day deconstructing my work space in Senior Studio, cutting and hole-punching three reams of paper and loading the entire lot of into my car. Tomorrow, I'll be clearing my locker out of all of my Caravan animation and hauling it home as well. Somehow, I think I should be more tore up about having to vacate the work place I've been holed up in for so many months - that would be the typical reaction, I guess - but as with so many transitions in my life (and there have been a plethora) I find myself looking at it quite evenly as just another step, and focusing more on how I'm going to make the next phase of things work - How I'll be able to produce the rest of this film from home, store and sort the metric ton of animation and paper, and have a feasible work space in general back at the house (though granted, I'm blessed to live with three other animators, so I'm certain we'll make it work) - as opposed to how things are changing - i.e., the sudden lack of Senior Studio and the lovely people in it.

I guess I relate rather well to the Travelers in Caravan in that manner. I've gotten almost too used to being able to drop things and places at the drop of a hat, and look immediately look upon the next place as home instead - little to no emotional transition between them, because the constant change is just the way things are. Life's a trip like that.

Though at least this time around I can say I will genuinely miss the people involved - classmates and professors alike. I adore every one of them, and there isn't a single person involved who hasn't left an indelible impact on me in one fashion or another. I owe them a lot for that.

I'll update more again soon - the Senior Show and graduation are next week and I, blessedly, have been given honored with the spot of runner-up to Senior Select this year, which is completely and totally awesome. (Means a huge show space! Whoohoo! Thank you, Professors!) For now, here's a few of the last work photos I took in Senior Studio, on the tail end of Finals all-nighters.


Monday, May 3, 2010

I kill trees for fun.

Caravan, so far.
More again, after I've slept ;)


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

First Official Trailer (And To Do's!)

Caravan Official Trailer from Mel Miller on Vimeo.

Caravan's first official trailer, compiled both for the CCS 2010 Senior Show, and for use by the Stratton Foundation, who was recently kind enough to award the film and myself a generous scholarship. Music by Larry Larson.

So, I'm in my last week of classes at CCS. While Caravan's production will span well into the next couple of months I'm wrapping up my classes as efficiently as I can manage. Helping to do so, I've chalked up a hefty to-do list to follow where Caravan is concerned. I'll continue to update it here as I get things completed.

  • Finish clean-up on S070
  • Finish Rough on everyone walking out of the house
  • Reserve sound recording equipment for Friday
  • Get feedback on Demo Reel, Resume, and what to work on next for final review reel.


  • Make edits to Resume as suggested by Steve
  • Work on final leica reel for presentation at home
  • Make a trailer, both for presentation and for Stratton youtube posting
  • Tie down and clean up girls dancing loop from home and at work.


  • Rough animate girls walking up path.
  • Tie down Ethan rearing to strike Mia (so Mia actually exists)
  • Work on girls dancing loop clean-up.
  • Update Leica Reel again

  • Update Leica Reel again
  • Work on girls dancing loop clean-up.

  • Rent Sound recording equipment.
  • Shoot whatever clean-up is available.
  • Nab one of the editing suites or sound recording studio to record additional sound FX

  • Save JPEGs of all 64 backgrounds for final presentation.
  • Batch and Color shot animation
  • Niles composites whatever new color shots are available

  • Compile final Leica Reel for presentation
  • Last-Minute Updates for Demo Reel
  • Last-Minute Updates of Trailer
  • Type up Reel Break-Down List
  • Render out final Leica, Demo Reel, Trailer


Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Traveler's Camp (Soundtrack)

This past Tuesday, despite us both being quite exhausted from crazy schedules, Larry was gracious (as always) enough to to sit down and record Caravan's music soundtrack with me. I absolutely love the results - they're every bit as much of the "bluegrass jam session beside the campfire" I had hoped for for the film, and I wanted to share some of the results with you here.

Tremendous thanks to Larry Larson for lending his talent to this film. You sir, are a continual inspiration.

Caravan "The Traveler's Camp"
by Larry Larson


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thank You, Stratton Foundation!

I am absolutely thrilled and honored to announce that the The Stratton Foundation has awarded their 1st place scholarship for the 2010 school year to myself in support of Caravan. To the Stratton family - I cannot thank you enough. This scholarship will ensure my ability to continue to work on and ultimately finish the film in the months to come. Thank you for supporting my work, and believing in my humble little film's message. I am tremendously grateful!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Cornucopia of Happenings

As you could imagine, the title of this entry exists purely for the ability to use the work Cornucopia. because everybody should, every once in a while. It's that awesome.

Despite being exhausted to the point of delirium, I'm chipping away at caravan as the semester ever-so-rapidly nears a close. As of yesterday, I re-edited the film's leica reel purely on timing and how it felt visually, finally scrapping my old scratch soundtrack in preparation for editing final sound. I managed to shave 6 seconds off of the film as a result, and I feel like the whole thing flows much more smoothly. Today, I'm meeting with Larry, hopefully producing the film's score as a result - step one (and I feel, as someone who is very creatively prone towards musical influences, the most important aspect) of getting the final sound down for Caravan.

This week's immediate to-do list:
  • Edit Leica Reel for tightest timing possible. (DONE)
  • Tie-down shots where Mia is getting yanked around so that they read as clearly as possible. (DONE)
  • 1st Angry Ethan shot: tie down last few frames to force pose. (DONE)
  • 2nd Angry Ethan shot: tie down last few frames to force pose. (DONE)
  • Rough animate the girls dancing about the campfire (shoot reference on Wednesday!) (DONE)
I also entered Caravan's progress reel to compete for this year's Stratton Foundation scholarship, as they routinely, generously and quite enthusiastically, support CCS and its students. Here's hoping! :) Entry for the application required students to write two statement paragraphs, one for the artist, and one for the film itself. I thought I'd share those here.


Caravan tells the tale of eight year old Mia Talbert's discovery of a band of eclectic Gypsy Travelers in the woods near her home. The Travelers' warm companionship and colorful lifestyle draw her back to their campsite from one season to the next, while, each night, she tepidly returns home to her rural, derelict farmhouse. When Mia's young Gypsy friend, Kelsey Kavenaugh, follows her home one day, the truth about her home life is revealed to a frightening degree of clarity, and Kelsey flees back to the campground for help. Mia, the victim of an abusive father, he addled with alcoholism that has consumed their family for generations, is spirited away by the Gypsies, and with them, she finds peace. This film, at is core, strives to show that one in no way has to be of means to make a tremendous impact on the life of a child in need. They simply have to take the step needed to do the right thing. Caravan is the senior thesis film project of Entertainment Arts major Mel Miller, currently in production, and scheduled for completion as of September 2010. The film strives to artfully combine hand-drawn and digital film making techniques, as a fully traditionally animated film, digitally colored in Adobe Photoshop, its special effects and final composite compiled in Adobe After Effects.

Mel Miller on the Creation of Caravan

Caravan is a short film rich in personal symbolism and experience for myself, as well as a reflection back on aspects of my family’s history, both positive and negative alike. Its creation has greatly become a form of art therapy for me. It has allowed me to reflect back on my own family’s generations-long struggle with alcoholism as a disease, giving me the opportunity to approach my and my mother’s childhood memories both objectively and on a very personal level, excising many long-buried understandings and misconceptions about that history, and coming to better understand my own roll in such a complex family disease. The film also, very ironically and unexpectedly, has allowed me to better and more positively face the homelessness both I and my parents have faced during months of its production, grasping all too clearly, much like the Gypsy Traveler characters within Caravan, the tremendous importance of the warmth, closeness and network of support provided by family; in times of prosperity of course, but all the more so when the material things in life fail us completely. This film has been a guide, a mentor, and a constant companion for the past year, and I look forward to continuing to grow through its creation in the coming months.

Thank you, Stratton Foundation, for your consideration.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Score Recording Scheduled!

This is the part where I flail about in giddy excitement. I just got off of the phone with Larry Larson, and he's been kind enough to schedule a recording session with me this Tuesday to begin work on Caravan's official music track.

For anyone interested, I though I'd post my notes and thoughts on a section-by-section breakdown of what I've been considering for the film's music so far, including tracks to reference in terms of tempo and feel. Here's all that:

Here are links to the songs I have mentioned in the list below, so you can check them out:
Note: The sections of the list below with "***" in front of them are parts I'd like to record music for.
  • *** The first 40 seconds of the film, where Mia stomps out of the house angrily, heads off on her walk to school, and is startled by the Gypsy in the woods, before going into the woods after her. I love the simple, building opening to "Dueling Guitars" by Kaki King, and think that that simple, slowly elevating sound would be a nice sort of vibe to have for this section.
  • I'll probably use the very opening of Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald - the harmonica bit - for the title card, unless Larry'd like to re-record it for the film.
  • 0:50-1:20 I plan on using the same sort of creepy echoed humming you hear in the leica reel. That little tune (and the humming) are both created by myself... a tune that's been stuck in my head since I started working on the film. I've just dubbed it "Mia's Song." So, that part is taken care of.
  • *** 1:28-2:50 takes us through the entire campground montage where Mia meets the Travelers. I've used Nickel Creek's "Smoothie Song" for this section, because I absolutely love the sound, and its vibe is excitably happy, yet fun in its slightly bluesy feel. I'd love to do something similar for the "official" caravan music.
  • 2:50-3:05 will be silent, focusing on environmental sound effects.
  • *** 3:05-3:26 I've been using the slow, weighty guitar parts from Robert Plant and Allison Krauss' "Polly Come Home" for the scenes in the film where Mia has to run home and stand in front of the farm house. This is the first of those two sections, and it may be nice to have a similar bluesy, slow paced sound for those sections.
  • *** 3:27-3:49 more of the same from "The Smoothie Song" by Nickel Creek, as Mia runs back to the campground. This part is a little more aggressive then the part of the song used to introduce the Travelers.
  • *** 3:49-4:09 More of the slow, heavy guitar strumming from "Polly Come Home" as Mia finally pushes her way back into the farmhouse.
  • 4:09-4:20 Another silent section that would focus on environmental sound effects as opposed to music.
  • *** 4:21-5:10 In this section, Mia is hauled into the house by her father, and Kelsey runs off to get help, before returning withe her father and his friends to put Ethan in his place. Of all sections, I am least sure st to what I would like for this part of the film in terms of music. It should be something, like the rest of the soundtrack, with a sort of bluegrass-country feel, and should start out being quite foreboding in seeing Ethan on the porch, accelerating in fright as things become violent, and become energetic as Kelsey runs for help.
  • The rest of the film, I've basically gotten taken care of already. The flashback scene as well as the following scene where Charlie decides not to give into Ethan's violence will be more of that eerily hummed "Mia's Song," and the closing scene utilizes Larry's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."
So, in total, I'll need about 4 minutes of music (3 minutes and 52 seconds, give or take.)

Other songs that has a similar feel to the style of music I'd like for Caravan:

And for the fun of it, what I've been considering Caravan's "theme song" lately, "Not Fade Away" by the Rolling Stones

I'm quite excited for this ^_^

Shot 80 Completed

Caravan Shot 80 Complete from Mel Miller on Vimeo.

I do love how this shot turned out - it was nice to animate Mia truly happy and at peace (albeit wearily so) for once! Animation, background and color by myself, Mel Miller. Composite and camera FX by my wonderful beau, Niles Bontrager.


Random Roughs

Some First-Pass Caravan Roughs from Mel Miller on Vimeo.

Here are a couple of shots worth of early-stage first-pass rough animation for Caravan that I'm fond of; just added the lot to the latest version of the film's leica reel, after getting them shot on a decent down-shooter on campus. I'll be diving back into these shots soon, fully in-betweening them and tying them down for clean-up.

I have no idea why the pan out has any pixelation to it, by the way, my apologies - the source file is just fine, and Vimeo usually has great quality. Odd indeed.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Re-Organization and Numbers

My roommate Pat, and a little love for the white board.

Yes, ladies and germs, it's that time of the semester. As is part of the game, I'm burnt out, exhausted, having moments of epic flailing and fatigue, and finding it time for re-evaluating the scope of Caravan's production.

Things are going well. I've gotten a ridiculous amount done. What was going to be a film chocked full of limited animation has turned into a film that is flooded instead with full animation. All 82 scenes of my rough animation are complete save for, I believe, two, which will be done before the semester's done. Over half of the film's 6 and a half minutes will be fully completed to final color and composite, and all of its 64 fully colored backgrounds are complete. For what, for the most part, has been a one-woman show, I'm pretty pleased with what I've managed to accomplish in a school year, on top classes, 1-2 jobs, and the ridiculous hamster wheel that is life in general.

Sufficient to say, however, there is no way Caravan will be completed by graduation in about 2 weeks. I still have a tremendous mound of clean-up, shooting and color to do. ;)

That said, for my own well-being, and the quality assurance of this project, I've, as of the past week, pushed the projected completion date of the film to early September 2010, giving myself the summer months to come to wrap it up and give it the time it deserves, and myself the time needed to account for proper health, hygiene, and re-acquainting myself with rarities on the CCS campus like the presence of loved ones, a decent diet, and more then 2 and a half hours of sleep a night. This will be done, of course, amidst the beginnings of unleashing a massive wave of resume and demo reels to the working world, and planning for relocation that will inevitably land my other half and I in Southern California.

Caravan's entire of load of animation so far. The beginning of my "re-organization day" on Wednesday, sorted (L-R): "Re-Shoot," "Inbetween," "For Clean-Up," and "DONE M#$%@rF#?@#r!"

The same organization piles by the end of the day, with a substantial portion of the "Inbetween" work done and moved into the "Re-Shoot" or "For Clean-Up" piles. Also added a pile for background assets at the end there for posterity... actually, they just looked lonely sitting in my locker all by themselves.

This past week, I began re-organizing my work into various piles, as seen above. My main goals between now and Final Presentations on May 3rd are to color and fully composite one last 5-second shot (shot 70, to be exact) finish up addressing whatever I can and should with the existing rough animation, reshoot at least half of said rough animation in better-quality resolution then the webcam down-shooter I have at home, and compiling all of these things into a finalized leica reel, with more "official" sound. If, on top of everything else, I manage to get back to clean up again, I'll take it from there.

Cold, hard facts... and a pretty genuine reaction to them, care of Mr. McFace.

So, today, I did the math. By the time Caravan is finished, I'll have done 13,024+ drawings. This was an oddly mixed moment for me. On one hand, it established that I am, in fact, completely nuts for having a go at this film. This is in no way a bad thing - it's nice to have the validation, really. It also, however, made me, finally, see just HOW much work I've placed on my plate, making me, on one hand, a bit irritated that I've been so hard on myself for not getting "FARTHER, FASTER, STRONGER!" (I do this all of the time. What artist can resist being their worst critic?) On the other, it, in all honesty, makes me pretty damn pleased with how far I've gotten so far. This was a nice point to hit, finally, even if it took me nearly 30 weeks and a terrific amount of artistic angst to get there.

Last but not least, I thought I'd note one thing I will certainly miss about CCS... The collaborative spirit of classmates, even to the most awesomely silly degrees. By this morning, the sketch I initially did of ANGRY MIA (see the first image up there) was met with a slew of fun additional doodles... it made my day awesome. Thanks guys!

Doodles by (Clockwise from above Mia's head): Josiah Sarr, Christina Harper, Kerry Newill, Kate Burk, and Patrick Stannard.


Monday, March 29, 2010

More New, Completed Shots!

More New Caravan Shots 3-30 from Mel Miller on Vimeo.

A couple new favorites from the 35 completed to color & final composite shots from Caravan so far. Music by the tremendously awesome Larry Larson. Onward!


Pat's Mia and Hoobler

Another adorable doodle by Pat; Mia hugglin' a dribbly, derpy ol' Hoobler. I absolutely adore this sketch - to the point that I've gotten permission from Patrick to digitally paint it when I've got the time. Looking forward to it!


Shot 26 Progression

Shot 26 Progression from Mel Miller on Vimeo.

Rough animation, clean-up, and final color for shot 26 of Caravan.


Peaceful Mia (Rough Test)

Peaceful Miss Mia from Mel Miller on Vimeo.

Rough animation for shot 80 of Caravan, which I will be starting tie down and clean up for tomorrow. Mia, albeit wearily, smiles with a much-needed measure of peace.


Patrick's HoobleDoodles

Hi everyone! I must apologize for the scant posting this month. Production on Caravan, my 27th birthday, my 2-year anniversary with Niles - so many wonderful things have been keeping me busy. With a bit of encouragement from my professor, however, I have a slew of blog updates to post, and I thought I'd start with a hefty dose of EPIC CUTE care of my awesome buddy, classmate and roomie, Patrick. He recently brightened my day with some of the cutest doodles of Caravan's resident barkin' carpet-dog, Hoobler, in existence.
More to come,

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Quirk's New Cover

This past week I bought a sketchbook to commit to for the first time in far too many months. I've named hime Quirk.

Up to this point, I simply haven't had spare time to even try to draw routinely outside of Caravan, but it's becoming a necessity now, so late into the production, to help me maintain my focus. Sometimes, a gal just needs to draw something other than angsty pre-teens.

I do find it incredibly silly however that the first thing I think to drawn on the cover of a book that is meant to be filled with everything BUT Caravan artwork ends up with little miss Mia on the cover.

Seriously, kid. Personal space.

Here's the first batch of sketches from the book.

On the caravan front: I now have a very in-depth leica reel for the film, and I'm working on completing the remainder of its rough animation this next week and a half or so. Then, it's right back to clean-up, color and composite.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Everybody Likes ol' Charlie

Mia Likes Charlie - Rough Test from Mel Miller on Vimeo.

I'll be spending the next week and a half, possibly two, after midterms completing what rough animation is left to be done for Caravan before going back into clean-up. This shot was the beginning of those efforts, and I'm fond of it, simply because I think it's cute ;)

This shot is in its beginning super-rough, relatively blocked-out stage of animation - a close-up of Mia, just after Charlie ducks down before her to her level to introduce himself. She's spooked by him at first, and looks back to Kelsey, whom she at least feels a little more trustworthy. Realizing Kelsey s quite fond of the fellow before her, Mia decides to give ol' Charlie a chance.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Half Way There :)

Mia: ORLY? from Mel Miller on Vimeo.

I thought I'd share another animated clip of Mia, wherein she realizes that, in fact, Kelsey doesn't bite after all.

I do apologize for the scant updates over the past few days, but there's really nothing new to report - I'm still working tremendously hard on the film, almost to a fault at times - proper rest is a scarce commodity. It's nearly halfway complete however, which is fantastic. I also plan on compiling an up-to-date leica reel of the film this upcoming weekend, and I'm quite excited for that. All the while, oddly, I've gotten completely and unabashedly hooked on Lost (started from season 1 this past weekend and am already halfway through season 2!) It's proven consummate, albeit rather strange company while I animate.

Also for he fun of it, my new favorite tee, which gets worn to Senior Studio quite often:

Onward and upward!


Monday, February 1, 2010

Another Glimpse of Caravan

A Glimpse of Caravan from Mel Miller on Vimeo.

Another set of completed shots for Caravan. We're still tweaking these here and there with timing in terms of the SFX, but they're definitely coming along! The music included is bay the wonderful mister Larry Larson, whom I am privileged to know - used with permission.

Work on the film remains steady, and entertaining as ever, and while I rest little, I'm maintaining confidence and excitement in the project as a whole. Having great friends to work alongside while they chip away at their own films is also a plus. Good company most certainly makes the more stressful times much more pleasant to deal with.

... Even if your buddy in question is a total creeper.
Oh, silly Patar.

Last but not least, the latest tune to receive chronic airplay amidst Caravan's production? "Caravan" by Van Morrison. Sadly, I cannot seem to find a video copy of the original recording anywhere online to share with you here, but this will certainly do for now:

"Caravan" by Van Morrison


2 Down, 4 to go! and Wacky Fanart

Thought this was definitely worth posting about: I'm now a quarter of the way into my semester, and a quarter of the way completed with Caravan - we're right on schedule with over 2 minutes of the film now complete! I'll post more composted shots here later.

For the moment, have this bizarrely entertaining piece of fanart from my roommate/classmate/buddy Patrick: His thesis films' main characters and mine as.... penguins. This thing made me giggle to no end - had to share it:

Adorable doodle by Patrick Stannard. His character Brianeli, My Kelsey and Mia, and his Emilio.... Penguinified.

More again soon,

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Caravan Girl

Curious Miss Mia from Mel Miller on Vimeo.

Shot 009, rough & clean animation

Clean up from today. I still have a few alterations I want to make to the final line here before I shoot it for color on Friday, but, it's well on its way, at least! :) Mia is so terribly cute when curious. Also, just for the fun of it, here's the tune I was blasting on repeat in Senior Studio today: Goldfrapp's aptly titled Caravan Girl.

And so it goes,
- Mel

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Production Photos (Pt 2)

Still a shutter-bug as always, here are a couple of recent snapshots of the digital side of Caravan's work space: Both fro Senior Studio at CCS. More to come!

My usual Friday Takeover o the Senior Studio Scanner computer.

7 hours of each of my Fridays are spent like what you see above: Clean up animation, scanning & awesome entertainment. The little light table is a home-made contraption created by my other half, Niles, last year while we were working on his thesis film, Code Monkey. As an aside, to give you an idea of how much of my time has been spent working at computers lately, I started watching Supernatural last week for the first time. As of yesterday, I'm already on Season 4! Another shot of the same work space is below:

Caravan in progress: Great tunes, Drawn background, rough animation & a stack of clean lineart!


Kelsey Clean-Up

Kelsey Crosses Mia's Path from Mel Miller on Vimeo.

One of the pencil tests I did tie down and clean up on yesterday - Kelsey unexpectedly crosses Mia's path to school. The tie down on this shot was pretty loose, but I'm pleased with the clean-up results regardless. The whole motion of this shot amuses me :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Composited Caravan Clips

Composited Caravan Clips from Mel Miller on Vimeo.

As I mentioned previously, I've come far along enough in Caravan's production that Niles has been able to begin compositing a couple of shots from the film together - very exciting! We've got just over a minute of the film put together so far, an will be compiling ore this weekend. Through all of these shots, Niles is beginning to address a number of visual effects that he is interested in adding to the film - smoke, fire, water, film effects, among other things. For anyone interested, the character animation and backgrounds are entirely hand-drawn, and colored digitally. Hooray for quality Vimeo video! :D


Caravan: Mia Runs Into Camp

Caravan: Mia Runs Into Camp from Mel Miller on Vimeo.

I've finally begun uploading Caravan related clips to Vimeo and will embed those here, with hopes of being ale to bring you guys better quality video than Blogger otherwise has to offer. Here's the first clip I've uploaded - a shot I cleaned up yesterday - shot 39, I believe. As the word around her transforms from summer to fall, little Mia Talbert skitters back to the Gypsy's camp in the woods.

More soon,

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Clean Up Process

A cleaned-up still of Nana Besnik from Shot 079

It's been an interesting feat, trying to figure out exactly what the proper way to go about this film's production might be - particularly when it comes to what order to do everything. I've been told many times that the standard means of production for students would be to do rough layout first, rough animation next, clean up after that, complete the backgrounds, and then composite the whole mess together in the end. This timeline, to me, just seems... awkward. Doing things sectionally - all rough animation at once, for example - is for me, at least, too wrought with the risk of burn out, and with burn out, of course, comes a drastic slow-down in production. I, personally, have been skipping all over the realm of production: For a while I was rough animating and doing backgrounds at the same time, and now, I'm rough animating and doing the clean up at the same time. If I get sick of one, I move immediately to the other, and vise versa - and things continue to get done. I also questioned the logic of doing backgrounds last - why on earth, if one has finished animation available, should compositing have to wait on the completion of finished backgrounds at the last minutes of a film's production? As such, I completed all of my backgrounds before the semester even started, and, throughout the rest of the semester, while I continue to rough animate and clean up, Niles will be able to take animation as soon as I complete it and get it composited - weeks, even months ahead of time. This gives infinite amount of time for feedback and critique on the film we're compiling to give way to improvement, as opposed to hurriedly cobbling everything into its rightful lump the week before graduation.

Not that I believe this is the full on right way to be going about a student film production. Frankly, I don't now - I've never done this prior to now. What I do know, however, is that the vast majority of projects prior to this who have adhered to more of a "sectional" strategy in production have, at least where CCS is concerned, frequently failed to reach a polished level of completion. Then again, I may fail utterly as well - I'm certainly as open to it as anyone! I'm just trying to avoid the like... hopefully I can manage, in the end!

Anyway, sleep deprived rambling aside, I am indeed doing clean up animation as of this week. I thought I'd post the stages I'm going through to get my intensely scribbley roughs into some semblance of coherency. Nothing I'm doing here is in any way out of the ordinary, but for those of you viewing who are less familiar with the animation process, the stages are rough animation, tie-down animation, and the final clean-up stage.

Mia, Kelsey and Hoobler at rest from Shot 079 - Rough, Tie Down and Clean Up stages

I'm hoping to get a couple of shots fully composited this weekend, including the one this entry's artwork is from, so keep an eye out for those. :)

More again soon, as always!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Shot 030 WIP

This is Niles' first-pass at compositing for Shot 030 - Anya, Kelsey and Mia rest by a dwindling campfire, after an exciting day of introductions between Mia and the Gypsies. As always, I apologize for the lack of definition in this clip - Bloggers' compression rate is absurd. When we start to get final versions of these shots, I'll post them to Vimeo, and link to them here, which should provide HD video clips for everyone to view!


A Juxtaposition of Homes

The Talberts'
Inside the Talbert home. Shot 075.

The Kavenaughs
Inside the Kavenaughs's RV home. Shot 079.

Animation, onward!

The Closing Shot

I'm officially (and finally!) done with all of Caravan's backgrounds. I, accordingly, completed the film's final tilt shot last, and love the results, so I thought I'd share. For those curious, the shot will pan up into a parchment paper background for credits, hence the gradient fade up top there. Hooray for completed backgrounds!


Monday, January 11, 2010

Latest Inspiration Tunes, and Updates

A couple of quick updates:
  • Shot 19 is now complete in its composited and ready to be plunked into the final film edit! Shot 30 is pretty much complete as well, though I'm going to have it passed around a couple of critique sources before I call it "fully done" just yet. When it's gotten the seal of approval, I'll post that here. So, that's two down - plenty more to go. Niles is doing a fantastic job putting these together though, they look just as I envisioned. We're both incredibly excited!
  • Next of the list of things to do for compositing - Niles is going to start working on the SFX for both seasonal transition shots in the film. I'll likely end up posting a couple of test runs for that here.
  • Meanwhile, I've only got 3 and a half backgrounds to complete out of 65. The proverbial home stretch on those. Awesome. The general thought behind getting all of the backgrounds done this soon is to allow us to get shots composited as the animation is completed, as opposed to having the massive, time-wasting lag between completing the animation and waiting on backgrounds to be completed after that, as my original schedule suggested. Completing shots entirely on an as-they-go basis leaves for more time to have them viewed, critiqued by others, and improved.
  • I'll post more completed BG's soon. ♥ There's plenty. Last I counted, I've completed 40 backgrounds since last Tuesday. Not half bad.
Just for the fun of it, I thought I'd post two of the latest tunes that are serving as on-repeat brain fuel for the Caravan project. And the lucky winners are...

"Not Fade Away" by the Rolling Stones. Niles and I were joking just this morning, actually, that if Caravan were altered into an animated series, this would be the perfect theme song... mostly because neither of us can visualize Stu Bogey jamming to it behind the wheel of his truck without completely cracking up.

"Jesus Don't Want me for a Sunbeam" by the Vaselines, as revisited by Nirvana. I enjoy its chipper derision.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Colors of Fall ♥

The peak of Caravan's story also provides its peak in color - it takes place in the fall, my favorite season visually. I've got 7 fall backgrounds completed so far - here are two of them.


Peaking Tension Through Light

Background layouts from a moment of fright for Mia and Kelsey - and my attempt to portray that through background color rendering alone, particularly through the sudden spike of intense lighting from the more saturated, darker shots prior to this. I'll post two of those in a moment as well.


Change of Seasons

There is a small change of seasons montage about 2/3rds of the way through Caravan, to show that Mia becomes a part of the Traveler family over the course of the summer. It's three shots, three layout drawings - most of the transition will be handled and animated in After Effects by Niles, including the appearance of trees "blooming" to life from spring to summer. While there are only three layout drawings, I had to digitally painting doubles of each drawing (all of which are now complete) to accompany the fade between the seasons. Above is an example of this - the encampment, from summer to fall.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Night Backgrounds Complete

I just completed the 5 remaining night backgrounds for the film! Above is my favorite of the group. Up next? The three backgrounds involved in the spring to fall seasonal transition.


OMG TREES! (Part 2)

Here's 4 of the 5 backgrounds I completed today - and the last of this section of similar tree backgrounds, thank goodness! The next lot I will be doing are all of the night-time shots, as well as the three involved in the spring-to-fall seasonal transition. Keep an eye out, they'll be done and up soon as well!

Shot 012

Shots 013 and 015

Shot 017

Shots 016 and 018


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Caravan Shot 19 WIP

Sadly, as per usual, Blogger ate this video clip alive - most of its subtle SFX are not visible here, HOWEVER, I've uploaded a crisp, high quality (and bigger!) version of this video to DeviantArt for your perusal. Please check it out!

Shot 19 of Caravan, in its latest Work In Progress stage. While we (Niles and I) are still fixing a couple of hitches with this, it does give a pretty spot-on idea of what the film will look like when it's completed. (For the record, I'm doing all of the animation and background renders, Kat Bongard has helped me with background color flats though not with this specific shot, and Niles Bontrager is doing all composeting and SFX.)

Notes on Effects:

Niles created the smoke and fire, water animation and camera effects from scratch in Adobe After Effects. I adore working on film projects with him, (I worked with him on his Senior Thesis film, Code Monkey, this past year) as our intuition towards each others' aesthetic sensibilities is so keen. He nailed the nostalgic look I was going for with this. You'll be amused to note that a little clip from Code Monkey is playing on Stu Bogey's television there at the left.

Things in line to be altered/fixed/improved.

1) We may slow this down more, even still, to allow the viewer time to take everything, as the camp ground is a bit of a clusterfuck of imagery - they are wanton to be!

2) There is some clipping present in the smoke on the right most campfire, near the Kavenaughs' camper. Must fix that.

3) We're still working on getting Charlie, the fellow fixing the pickup truck, to "pop" enough to be visible upon immediate viewing. At the moment, he entirely is not!

I'm open for suggestions! Also, I'll definitely post the completed version of this shot when we get to it. Thanks for your support, guys!