Friday, October 30, 2009


Updates of one of the characters we're developing for the BetterKidsTV project.

Though we're still in the script development stage, we're close enough to start finalizing the designs on most of our characters, so these assets are not only designed, but prepped for animation!

She's a cute kid, and I think she'll be a fun character once voiced and animated.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stainboy in HD

Flinch Studio just finished remastering the Stainboy series we created for Tim Burton back in 2000 and 2001 for a Museum of Modern Art exhibit honoring the director's work.

Because this series was created entirely with Flash vector art, it is Resolution Independent, so none of the design assets had to be recreated at higher resolutions... but we faced huge challenges and spent a great deal of time converting the compositions from their original 4:3 screen ratio to 16:9 for HD.

Episode 1

The first challenge was updating these assets to the latest versions of Flash. For some reason, many of these old Flash 3 & 4 files were opening up and we simply weren't seeing the animation as we created it... heads, eyes and arms were just not there anymore. The original SWFs we output in 2001 still look okay, but the newly-reopened FLAs and their subsequent outputs were a monstrosity. This strange compatibility contradiction occurred somewhere between Flash 4 and 7... so we've been looking at it and scratching our heads for years.

Episode 2

To fix the issue, we would have to drill down into every single problem symbol to simply reveal each element - pupils, fingers, etc... and then it would show up on the stage, like "look Flash! See? there it is"... "oh yes, thanks, I got it." This was the case for dozens of deeply nested symbols in each file.

So you save as a new file... but the next time you open it - poof! All the changes were gone! So it was fix fix fix, output, pray. We had to figure out how to make our fixes more permanent for these files, so we could make changes after post if necessary.

Part of the problem may have been the odd way we chose to execute the animation. Because of limited bandwidth back in "those days" our file sizes had to be ridiculously small - we're talking under 1MB or no approvals from Shockwave, who hosted the movies. So every 40 or 50 K we could shave off mattered... hence, we kicked into R&D mode.

Episode 3

We did a fair amount of R&D in 2000 while working with Shockwave on this gig, including finding a practical way to portray Burton's watercolor stain FX with vectors. Shockwave had a team of coders working on it (this was a very prestigious project for them), and we figured out a solution in 2 days using the tools at hand.

We also discovered that executing the animation segments as movie clips and controlling their frame designations with commands would save us hundreds of KB (rather than using animated graphics clips), so entire files were rebuilt that way like some kind of animation/code hybrid. We were outputting SWFs, so the final product looked fine... but trying to decipher the animation in the FLA (or any non SWF output) was pointless. So for this project, we had to reconvert the movies entirely back to a linear playback so they would output into post-production-friendly frame sequences correctly.

Episode 4

And of course, there were the stains. All of the animated stains were created using multi-layered shape tweens of raw gradients of varying transparencies. They worked fine when we originally created them, but... well, shape tweens are finicky enough, but 8-year old shape tweens from 5 releases ago are nothing short of a nightmare. Much time went into repairing the tweens and making those stains work again. Permanently!

Episode 5

Finally, there was the challenge of Post Production, including our first foray into Blu Ray DVD production & authoring. After much learning & testing (our biggest problem turned out to be audio synch), we had a product that looked and sounded amazing on a Blu Ray / HD screen setup. It even looks pretty good on YouTube!

Episode 6

It was kind of amazing seeing Stainboy at this size, this resolution.... like we've never seen it before. It's not often I get the chance to be thankful I chose Flash as my medium of choice - this was definitely one of those times!

I hope you enjoy these shorts equal to or greater than the amount of hair we pulled out bringing them to HD!