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2017-11-18 19:56:20 by BenjaminTibbetts
Hello, Newgrounds! How are you? Just a quick announcement regarding the podcast I launched yesterday:
The last few years, I've started listening to podcasts and audiobooks while driving and doing chores. This habit has been immensely enjoyable. Absorbing good books and discussions during my downtime has added a lot to my life.
I've always had a bit of a compulsion to make things like the things I enjoy. I read a great book and I immediately feel like writing; I watch a great movie and immediately feel like filming or photographing something; etc. So when I started listening to podcasts on a daily basis, it wasn't a surprise when I started feeling the itch to get out a microphone.
Yesterday, I had some rare free time and finally caved, spending a few lovely hours recording and editing the first episode of what I'm calling "The Ben Tibbetts Podcast". Not the most imaginative title, I know...
This first episode covers the physics of sound as explained in an article by TIm Urban (WaitButWhy.com).
Making this was incredibly fun for me, like indulging in a guilty pleasure. I plan on doing more of these and already have a long mental list of topics I'd love to cover. My idea at this point is to use each episode as an excuse to talk about subjects that interest me. Since my background is in music, I might explore topics through the lens of music and musicianship. Regardless, I would like to improve at doing this sort of thing and would really appreciate feedback.
As always, if you enjoy my work you can follow me to be notified when I post new content; finally, you can also check out my website for full access to dozens of interviews, articles, music, and more.
I would like to promote an interview I did a few days ago with Aaron Long. Aaron is the animator behind Sublo & Tangy Mustard, a series featuring two street mascots for a sub sandwich shop. For more information about Aaron, visit AaronLongCartoons.com.
This interview was originally posted on my website, and includes some of Aaron's delightful sketches; I have reproduced the text of the interview here.
How long have you been animating?
As a kid I was always making flipbooks and comics, and later I made stop-motion shorts and tried to scan my drawings to play them back as animation, but it wasn’t until I got a drawing tablet and started using Flash in 2006 that I really got going.
What got you into animation and art in general?
Looney Tunes was always the #1 cartoon for me as a kid–my dad was a big Bugs Bunny fan, so he got me into that stuff pretty early. I also loved Ren & Stimpy, Sonic the Hedgehog, The Simpsons, Peanuts and too many others to list. I had this documentary from the 70’s called Bugs Bunny Superstar which showed a bit of how the old cartoons were made, and by the time I was about seven years old I knew that was what I wanted to do. Then as I got older I was really inspired by some of the weirder anime directors like Masaaki Yuasa, Rin Taro and Mamoru Oshii.
What was the inspiration for Sublo and Tangy Mustard?
When I did my previous cartoon Fester Fish, each episode took me a long time to make, and it was kind of hard to write because there wasn’t a consistent setting or story. Each episode felt like starting from scratch. I wanted my next project to have a more consistent, deliberate setup to make it easier to generate story ideas and produce episodes faster. Sublo and Tangy Mustard was meant to be something simple I could crank out quickly, although I’ve gotten more ambitious with it since the beginning. I’d also read some interesting analyses of Cowboy Bebop about how that show builds up a rich narrative through mundane repetition, which seemed like an interesting approach to try.
I’m from Toronto, but I moved to Los Angeles for work in 2013 and immediately felt homesick. I wanted to make a cartoon that was a love letter to Toronto, to keep me connected to home. You probably couldn’t tell that from the show so far, but upcoming episodes I’m working on are more Toronto-specific.
And the mascot costume idea probably comes from living near Hollywood & Highland, where you always see people in ratty-looking full-body costumes of cartoon characters for tourists to take pictures with. Occasionally I’ll be walking down a quiet residential street and pass a guy dressed as Thor or Spider-Man all alone on their way to work, and they look so ridiculous and awkward in that context. So I thought that might be a funny occupation. And I used to eat Mr. Sub and Subway all the time, so a sub shop was a location I was familiar with.
How do you evaluate the quality of the work you put out?
I’m pretty self-critical during the script-writing phase. I try to weed out weak ideas at that stage, since animation is so labour-intensive and it’s hard to spend a long time on a story I’m not really excited about. In general I’m proud of the show, although the first two episodes are pretty clumsy.
What’s your working environment like?
I do the show at home with a typical animator setup– a desk with a Cintiq (and a second monitor I rarely use), a few books and a cup of tea.
Walk me through a typical day for you.
I usually get up around 7am and work for a couple of hours. I try to do the more challenging or creative tasks in the morning before going to my day job. I get home around 7:30 or 8 in the evening, eat a quick dinner and try to keep working for as long as I can. By that point in the day I’m mentally and physically tired of drawing at the computer, so that’s when I do the more mechanical, simple stuff like in-betweening, cleanup or colouring. And on my days off I usually get about 4-5 hours of work in.
Do you ever throw away material?
I’ve scrapped two Sublo & Tangy Mustard episodes that were written and recorded before I decided they weren’t working, and a few others didn’t make it beyond the script stage. I’ve also started animating past projects before abandoning them.
What are your dream projects, the sort of things you would take on if you had infinite time and resources?
Sublo and Tangy Mustard is my current dream project! Once I have an idea for a different project I want to do more, I’ll probably focus on that but for now this is it. Obviously I’d love to have a full crew and get paid to make the show– but doing it all myself this way without restrictions is fun too, and way faster than pitching it in the industry and waiting years before it might or might not get made… I’m very impatient.
What are some things you’ve learned from working in this medium?
With my shorts, I’ve learned that people respond more to visual humour, but I find it harder to write than jokes that are dialogue- or idea-based.
There’s this idea in classical Disney-style animation that you’re not supposed to let the audience see “the animator’s hand.” That means they shouldn’t see any inconsistencies or be aware that somebody actually drew this thing they’re watching. It’s crazy to me, because the stuff I like best is always the stuff where you can see the humanity and imperfections, and that makes it richer and more enjoyable– where you can tell one animator’s style apart from another, and the lines aren’t perfectly clean and smooth because a human actually drew them. You never hear anybody argue that being able to see brush-strokes in a painting makes it a bad painting! And obviously you can work faster if you’re not trying to make every frame perfect. So basically I’ve learned not to be a perfectionist, for creative and practical reasons.
To me, a lot of the animation industry seems like style over substance. With other art forms like music, you learn the technique so that eventually you can just play a melody without consciously moving your fingers to hit the right notes – so the ideas can just flow directly from your brain. But the process of animated film-making is so complicated that often people don’t get past the craft/technique. There are lots of animated films with nice visuals, but too often they just tell the same stories in the same ways over and over. The best work is where people combine solid storytelling/animation ability with a specific point of view. Masaaki Yuasa is my hero in that respect– he’s brilliant at the craft of animation, but also has such a powerful, unique voice. And maybe a more commercial example would be Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who are really successful but always bring a distinct tone and energy to their work.
On a related note, it’s important for people to look beyond the most obvious influences. It feels like most people who make cartoons only ever look at other cartoons for inspiration, and even then they’re mostly just watching recent American stuff. Animation is very creatively inbred… But maybe every art form feels like that from the inside? I like looking at other mediums because they’re all dominated by different values and philosophies, which can apply to each other. Recently I read a book of interviews with an orchestra conductor, and a book on wabi-sabi and found a lot of ideas in them that also totally apply to animation.
What advice would you have for an aspiring animator, particularly a kid?
You learn and improve by doing. Don’t wait for somebody to give you the opportunity to make your own stuff, just start doing it yourself. It doesn’t have to be good in the beginning (it almost definitely won’t be) but you’ll learn more by making a cartoon than by dreaming about it. And animation takes a long time, so get started as soon as possible!
from Leo Lumpkins, directed by Kahlil Maskati
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Hello, Newgrounds! I have enjoyed getting back into this site recently, following my favorite creators and uploading some new original audio:
- Prius Envy - a short chiptune, one of a number of MIDI files composed recently (listen to more at the MIDI Cave)
- Leo's Blues - a cue from the score for Leo Lumpkins
Thanks as always for listening. If you enjoy my work, please consider subscribing.
This image of the solar eclipse earlier today was taken from Wikimedia.
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Hello, Newgrounds! Just a brief update on my recent output:
- Magical Realism, an orchestral loop featuring woodwinds, brass, a harpsichord, a celeste, and light percussion.
- Wave!, a recent attempt at abstract art using the Bryce 3D modeling and rendering software.
Thank you as always for listening/viewing. If you enjoy my work, please consider subscribing to my account.
Hello, Newgrounds! Just a brief update on my output this month:
- I have updated my Newgrounds playlists, which can be found at benjamintibbetts.newgrounds.com/playlists. These organize my audio and visual art on this site into categories.
- I uploaded a new track, a live performance of my Piano Sonatina. If you are a pianist and you would like the sheet music, please feel free to get in touch.
Thank you for listening. If you enjoy my work, please consider subscribing to my account.
Hello, Newgrounds! It is good to be back. I hope you are well. This past year, I spent most of my time teaching and making music. I didn't spend time uploading music to my Newgrounds account. I intend to change that and be more regular with my updates.
Here is a brief description of the music uploaded since my last news post:
- Night Music #4: Baby Mine - "Night Music" is a series of piano improvisations. I am very proud of this music. This fourth episode features music from Dumbo and an obscure Disney SingAlong cartoon called "A Cowboy Needs A Horse".
- Mongols and Magicians - This is a dark, mysterious orchestral piece commissioned for a video game.
- Baal in the Big Apple - I wrote this track for fun. I am not sure how to categorize it. It mixes 16-bit and modern sounds in a way that I hope is seamless and compelling.
- Adventures of Guinevere, Rat Race, Ax Men, Sage in the Desert, and In The Nothing - I wrote these for fun as well. They are intended to realistically emulate and imitate classic sounds on the SNES.
- Benevolent Tycoon - This was a commission. Like the tracks listed above, "Benevolent Tycoon" is intended to evoke memories of the SNES.
- The Winners of the Game - This is a short orchestral loop commissioned for a college TV station.
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoy my work, please consider subscribing to my account.
This past month, I released a new episode of Night Music, a series of recorded solo piano music which features wild improvisations upon familiar melodies. The original tracks were performed on a digital keyboard, and then the music was changed in all sorts of ways; some bits were added, other bits were removed, and much of the original material was altered in some way. The final products are half-improvised, half-composed. Night Music #1 featured the main theme from PIXAR's Inside Out and Night Music #2 featured "Westminster Chimes", a tune commonly played by clocks around the world. This past month I completed the third Night Music, a very angry rendition of the Christian hymn "Jesus Loves Me". I am working on a fourth episode right now.
If you enjoy my work, please consider subscribing to this Newgrounds account. And even if you don't enjoy my work, please consider leaving a comment; I welcome and appreciate constructive criticism. Thank you!
Concept art for Inside Out (source)
Last month, I organized my music and digital art on Newgrounds into playlists. This month I updated my website with much of that content. Although it's not totally done, it's getting there, especially the page showcasing music for video games. Many of the games mentioned on that page were featured mainly on Game Maker forums, but a few were on Newgrounds, including Solar Strike and my own Evasion Game. There's also a page featuring my film music. Both pages include old projects--music I wrote in middle school, high school, and college.
There is a tendency among some creative professionals to hide early works, which the creators feel are lower quality than their current output. I understand that. I don't think my early music is as good as my recent music, for example. However, in my case, I've come to feel that it's not worth pretending those older projects didn't happen. I won't necessarily go out of my way to promote my early materials, but I am still listing them on my website as part of my overall output, marked as "juvenilia" so people who want to commission me know those projects aren't representative.
In other news, I am working extremely hard on a new solo piano audio series called "Night Music". Each episode of Night Music features an improvisation on a familiar theme. I am very proud of this series so far. Check it out here on Newgrounds or on my website.
As always, thanks for your support!
Hi, Newgrounders! I've been busy the past week or so making playlists for my digital content on Newgrounds. These include original soundtracks for movies and games, visual art series, and collections organized by genre. For a full list of these playlists, go to benjamintibbetts.newgrounds.com/playlists. Here are a few of the most notable:
- Original soundtracks for Chaos Weapon, The Board, Survivor Reborn, and episodes of the Guinea Something Good web series
- Unaffiliated orchestral, 16-bit, 8-bit, and other video game music
- Silly/comedic visual art
- Daydreams: a new abstract visual art series I've started
- Otherworlds: a short series of digital landscapes
- Arrangements and remixes
- Performances and recordings
My website still needs to be updated with all of this content (and then some)...I'm working on it!
Hi, Newgrounders! It has been a while. Here are some of the things I've been up to:
- Writing and sequencing music, including stuff for the audio portal (Struggle Mountain and Moonbound) and original cues for Guinea Something Good
- Rendering computer-generated art, including Strata, Magma, and the one below (made for this news post)
- Teaching piano lessons