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Genesis Art Teacher Training

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I've been enjoying Liane Wakabayashi's intuitive art classes for several years and when she invited me to join the first Genesis Art Teacher Training, I jumped at the chance to learn how I might be able to use this as a quiet creative activity with my social circus work. 

Genesis Art uses a beautiful deck of cards with paintings and titles created by Liane. During a session, students work on one of many exercises to produce a drawing, painting, or collage. During the creation process,  if the student feels "stuck" or at a comfortable stopping place, it is time to compare the work to a card drawn at random. What are the connections and similarities? Where are there differences? Does the card's colors, composition, figures, symbolism, or title give inspiration to adjust the drawing? At the end of the session, students gather with their drawings and cards to talk about the experience. The cards and artwork are a gateway for discussion of topics that we often slide past without much depth.

It was a great two days. Seeing the tools and techniques from the teachers point of view was eye opening. I think my own use of the cards and the exercises will change as a result. There are many ways I can apply these ideas in my work and I'm excited to explore more with Liane's techniques.

Do It All Now

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At the moment, I am full of ideas for my life. Business ventures. Partnerships. Renewal of old projects. Some of them are already in motion, others are just getting underway. Some are short term, others are long term. Many of them depend on one thing or another that is out of my control. 

It's a lot all at once, even though it won't all happen at exactly the same time. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed about what's happening in the next six months and beyond. I tried to put everything in a diary, but it didn't show me that I'd covered all the topics. I made a list of all the projects and plans but that wasn't quite enough. So then I made a sort-of Gannt chart.

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It showed me the projects and something important. Don't wait. Do it all now. I could put some of my ideas on hold until one project is finished, or until life is in a stable configuration, or until the next milestone is reached, or choose the reason...that is stupid

If I don't start on these things now - on a limited scale or jumping right in - when I get an open slot to implement them, it's going to be too late. I won't have built the right connections or discovered setbacks or been able to get any experience. So instead of a month-long event ten months from now, why not do a week trial in six weeks? Why not start gathering information or making connections or whatever the first step is?

Unfortunately, this is pretty much the complete opposite of Tod's view. He likes to finish one things before he begins another. Steady wins his race. And he cringes at plans, so trying to get dates or schedules or a time commitment is futile or leads to arguments. So I move ahead without him and if he wants to play along later, great. I'll be ready for him. 

Because I am going to do all the things. Now.

Processors Are Stealing My Breaks

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My video editing work is usually done on a very tight schedule which means that sometimes I sit at my computer and work around the clock for days on end. Clients are masters of complex revisions, changed direction, and last minute changes so we use all the available hours and minutes before a deadline to polish a project. There is always something to make better, prettier, smoother, or sexier even on projects that have been signed off by the client. Tweaking is endless and complete only when the project is delivered to the client. On the world stage these projects are utterly inconsequential, but in that editing suite they assume epic proportions.

Even working at full tilt 24/7, we used to get breaks - sometimes even a few hours for napping - while video and effects files rendered. During renders the computer is locked into using all its processing power to crunch bits so there is no option to multitask. Render-enforced breaks are critical because if the computer isn't making you stop, you just keep editing until you fall over. The deadlines loom, other projects are waiting in the wings, and there is always something more to do.

So it may be that new technology is killing me. Our massively multiprocessor machines have reduced renders from hours to minutes. "Ah, it's too quick," Rob lamented as an After Effects projected finished before he had fully stretched his back. And forget about working all night, starting a render at 5 am and catching 40 winks until computer finishes and the new business day begins. Our computers are just too darn efficient.

Fast processors should be a blessing but if a 1 hour break is cut to 20 minutes that means no real rest for the brain or body. I can enjoy a cup of tea in 20 minutes, but I can't take my mind off work. And when the mind wanders, that is when creative ideas percolate. I must to try to find a new working pace that combines endurance, speed and time to refresh, too.

Should you stay?

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Rob & I have had many late night discussions about the merits of going home and sleeping in bed vs crashing out on the floor of the office. We have come up with the following points:

  • Sleeping in your own bed is more restful than the floor.
  • An ideal night is 7 hours or more; an acceptable night is 5 hours. Less than 3 hours is bad news.
  • Commuting cuts about 120 minutes out of the sleep window, including ablutions and breakfast.

So if work begins at 10 am, you must leave the office by 1 am to get 7 hours sleep. 3 am is the cusp. Leaving much after 3 am is generally not wise, unless you have run out of underwear and socks at the office. If the sun is coming up, brew coffee.

I can survive a week of five hour nights, and a few days on less than three hours of sleep, but if the short nights add up, I go crazy. So the nearer a project is to deadline, the more likely I am to sleep at the office. Like tonight. When my render finishes in 10 minutes, I am going to have a kip in my sleeping bag.

How Busy is Work?

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Yesterday, Rob asked me how many videos I was working on. I was a little bit surprised to answer nine. Eight of them have to be shown to the client on Friday. One was completed yesterday. I completed a tenth one the day before yesterday, and the numbers add up the further back I go.

Here is a description of the projects I am currently working on:

  • 1 awards ceremony video featuring footage of the award winner
  • 4 photo montages set to music - the other award winners at the ceremony above
  • 1 high-energy, yet inspiring and aspirational, sports-themed video to open a conference
  • 1 consumer style video to define a target market for summer sales
  • 1 product launch video to be shown in supermarkets

The one I finished yesterday was subtitling some Japanese news clips; the day before I completed a converting a 7 minute video to English using reworked telops and a new script and narrators.

Work is fun but frantic. Most of these videos are for a conference on the 18th; I hope things will slow down after that.

Office into home

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For three of the past four nights I've napped on the floor under a desk in the editing suite. With deadlines tomorrow morning at 7 and later in the day, tonight promises to be another long one.

Since I never seem to leave, I'm slowly transforming the office space, which is a converted apartment, into a temporary home. I have my sleeping bag, camping mat and pajamas for after hours kips. I've scoped out the nearest sento so we can bathe from time to time. Rob & I ordered clothes from Uniqlo to be delivered later this week so we will have something clean to wear.

And today I bought a nabe to cook in. This crosses the line into "probably not ok with my boss" (as would clearing out the boxes in the bathroom to have a shower) but honestly, I cannot stomach another restaurant or delivery meal. Having a covered ceramic dish means I can bake casseroles in our oven or simmer soups and stews on the range. Tonight we're having kimchi nabe. Healthy food!

The shop where I bought the casserole dish is just around the corner from here on the forgotten stretch of Roppongi Dori where the highway blocks out the light. It's an old place chockablock with dusty kitchenware, vinyl slippers, and coils of rope, garnished with a scattered assortment of tools, bath supplies and other household necessities.

I was digging through the pots looking for one the right size when I heard a creaky voice calling from the corner, "Customer! Customer!" It wasn't directed at me, but about me. An extremely old woman bundled up in a purple wool shawl and quilted pants was sitting with her feet at an electric hearth calling her son to come attend me. He scampered over and helped me find the nabe and was impressed that I could cook Japanese food from scratch. I was shown off to Grandmother as a foreigner who could cook. She nodded at me and went back to her heater.

And I went back "home" looking forward to good food cooked from scratch.

Office Birthdays

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I celebrated last year's birthday by working all night, and enjoying a surprise cake and gift from Rob in one of our less frantic moments. Today, I am returning the favor. Rob's been so busy that until a friend reminded him, he didn't even remember it was his birthday.

Sometimes work takes over too much of our lives. Good thing we like our work.

Tod's New Role

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A snippet from the new org chart at Tod's office

When Tod's boss unexpectedly left the company last week, the Prism team were left adrift in the midst of a lot of work. Tod took charge to make sure everything continued smoothly, and now it's been made official - he's a manager with two people reporting to him.

Tod always swore he didn't want to move into management, preferring his purely technical role, but he is truly excited about this. Managing the Prism team means he gets to set the direction for the project, something he is eager to do as he sees more potential for it than his recent managers have done.

He must quickly learn the ins and outs of all the people management tasks, too. By the end of the month he's got to come up with annual objectives and a review plan for his two engineers. I know he'll manage.

Congratulations, Tod!

Araku Photo Shoot

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The studio setup glows with light in the otherwise dim room

Yesterday I went to Araku to take photographs for their new menu and signage. Ashley poured drinks and styled the food while I "pressed the button." It's been a long time since I've done any real studio shooting, so I was nervous about the results, but I think I managed pretty well.

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Tequila with lemon; Campari soda

Next time, I want even more light and a proper lightbox, rather than the on-the-fly one I made with Jim's big light table, a portable light table, and some translucent plastic. The light wasn't even enough in my setup. The grey background I acheived is OK, but I'd have preferred pure white.

Animating

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My first attempt at lip synch animation

An ongoing project of mine is a little documentary film about world population. I started it more than a year ago, then dropped it when I couldn't figure out how to illustrate some of the points. Well, I'm back at it now, having rewritten the script with renewed ideas about what needs to go into the film, and I will be illustrating the points by actually illustrating the points.

I've been testing out this tool called ToonBoom Studio. Based on the sample above, I need a lot more work on my illustration skills, but the tool itself does everything I need. It's going to take me weeks to really learn it and to get into the groove of animating, but I enjoyed what I did today and it's been a long time since I've challenged myself with new software.

So I think I've finally found the right way to go with the the population film: part animation, part archival footage, part maps and charts. Look for a completed project in...oh, another year or so.

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