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Comic Developments: DC Destroys Universe, Goes Digital; Marvel’s Thor Hammers Box Office

These days there are plenty of people who can tell you with certainty when the world will end. DC Comics is going one better: It’s telling residents of the comics world who ask the question, “When will the DC Universe end?” exactly when to expect it – Wednesday, August 31st. Not only that, but DC has also revealed that the DC Universe will effectively re-set all its comic lines and begin anew the very next day – Thursday, September 1st.


There will be Justice for all…of the DC Universe, when the upcoming historic relaunch of its entire catalog takes place. Marvel? Been there. Done that.

DC Destroys Universe, Restarts Universe
When that happens, DC’s entire line of 52 superhero-themed comic books will all start over. Comic book characters like Superman and Batman will suddenly find themselves in new first issues, after more than seven decades of appearing in sequentially numbered issues. Each title will begin again from Issue #1 forward. All of your DC favorites will remain in place (no layoffs are expected at this time), although its been rumored the superheroes will be outfitted in different costumes and gear. Fans are lukewarm about the announcement. Marvel Comics did the same thing a few years back and then went back to pick up where they left off. Will DC’s decision to reboot the franchises pay off? The jury’s still out.

Another huge new DC development involves the way the comic books are distributed. Coinciding with the August/September reboot, DC’s entire comic book line will be available digitally on the day of each issue’s retail launch. In other DC-related news, filming is moving forward on the next installment of director Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” series, “The Dark Knight Rises,” with Christian Bale again reprising his role as the caped crusader.


Meanwhile, “Thor” puts the hammer down…at the box office.

Box Office God of Thunder
Superheroes are presently ruling pop culture. Hot off the success of “Iron Man 2,” over at Marvel Comics, movies are also the order of the day. “Thor,” directed by versatile actor/director, Kenneth Branagh, brought down the hammer on the box office, earning an estimated $163 million domestically (and a whopping $254 million internationally) – in just 26 days of release. Next up, Marvel Studios “X-Men: First Class.” Expectations are already running high for “First Class.” Many who have attended advance screenings have called it the best film in the entire X-Men series.

Fans are extremely excited about this next X-Men film, calling it a return to classic comic book storytelling. But by doing a prequel story, it also helps to refresh characters that have been overexposed. The new take on X-Men is a surprisingly successful movie sequel formula and one that will be repeated when Sony reboots the Spider-Man franchise next year.


The Muppet Mutants. Fan art like this has helped propel “X-Men: First Class” to the head of the class.

“Captain America: The First Avenger” will follow “X-Men: First Class” and introduce the leader of “The Avengers,” a Marvel Studios film releasing in 2012 starring “Thor’”s Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr. (as Iron Man), Samuel Jackson (as Nick Fury) and Mark Ruffalo (as Dr. Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk).

Comic books have been intersecting with pop culture for years, more recently dominating TV, music, and specifically, movies. Today’s most cutting-edge blockbuster films and TV shows (“The Green Lantern,” “Smallville,” “The Walking Dead”) had their start in comic books, or graphic novels. Even video games are often based on comic book characters and their exploits.

Creating Your Own Comics
Today comics earn real respect and are a thriving part of the world of visual arts. If you want to work in the exciting world of comics, why not spend a week this summer and learn how to make comic books? Summer camps like Digital Media Academy offer an interactive summer camp experience for creative 6 to 12-year-old youngsters who love comic books and cartoons.

Adventures in Comic Creation is one of Digital Media Academy’s most popular programs. The week-long camp lets students create the comic book of their dreams, and the companion course, Adventures in Cartoon Creation lets students create their own drawings and then bring them to life as animated cartoons on the computer. Both programs foster creativity and can lead students on a path of discovery that ends in a career in the digital arts industry. Let your imagination run wild this summer at DMA.

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posted by DMA Jordan in Comic and Cartoon Creation,News Blog and have No Comments

Music-Making with Logic Pro

Hi, I’m Ben Jaffe, one of DMA’s instructors. In our Music & Video Production course, we’ll be composing and recording an original song, mixing and mastering it, and creating a music video and dvd to accompany the music. We’ll be using the best software tools for the job. I’d like to talk a bit about mixing music in “Logic Studio,” the audio software we’ll be using.

logic-interface

Logic Studio is one of the industry standard audio software packages used in recording studios. I believe Logic is easier to learn than many of the others, but it is just as versatile and powerful.

There are several steps to recording a song. First, you write the song, and decide what instruments play which parts. Then, you record the parts, and input the parts for the software instruments. After that, you mix and master the song. I’ll be talking about those last steps in this blog entry.

Mixing is mainly just setting the volume levels of different instruments so they sound good together. When you go to a concert, the engineer standing in front of that huge board somewhere in the back-center of the audience is the sound mixer. In that case, the mixer only gets one shot at mixing it right, since they are mixing a live show. Recording studios are great because we have plenty of time to get the song to sound exactly the way we want it to sound. And if something sounds entirely wrong, we can just re-record it!

mixer

We can also use automation to simulate live mixing. If we have a guitar solo, we can push the guitar’s volume slider up to make it louder, and pull it back down after the solo is over. Automation lets us do this automatically exactly the same every time we play our song.

There are other tricks we can use. When we record an artist playing or singing a part, we call that a take. We usually record several takes so we can get the best one. If none of them are perfect, we can actually stitch multiple takes together and use the best parts from each take. For example, if the guitarist botched one chord, but the rest of the take was perfect, we can substitute in a chord from another take to fix it. Logic makes splicing clips together very easy. In the project pictured below, I had two substandard takes, so I used different parts of each take to create a better one. (You can hear the song at the bottom of this post).

logic-multiple-take-edit

We can also add “Equalization” to a track. “EQ” lets us change the volume of specific ranges of frequencies. In other words, if the vocalist’s track sounds muddy, we can boost the higher frequencies and take down the lower ones to increase the clarity of their voice. If we have a high-pitched whine in the background, we can take out just the offending frequency.

Here are some examples of the kinds of problems we can fix by mixing the song. I recorded this song with my friend Misha Byrne a few months ago. For all three examples, I’ll play the unmixed version before the mixed version, so you can compare them.

In the first clip, listen to the volume levels. The vocals get a bit quiet on “Maybe I’ll never see…”
In the second clip, you may notice the high pitched noise in the background. Also, the ‘t’ in “heart” gets lost in the unmixed clip.
In the third clip, notice the error in the guitar on the last chord. In the mixed version, I spliced in another recording of Misha playing that chord correctly to make it sound better.

I’ve only mentioned a few of the tools recording engineers and mixers use to arrange and mix songs. We cover them all in our Music and Video Production Class, plus we cover the video side of things as well. We’re all very excited for this class. There is so much to learn, and this class will give every student the knowledge they need to get started in both audio and video.

Here’s the full song. Misha Byrne is a singer, guitarist, and songwriter in Queensland, Australia.

I hope to see you all this summer. This course will be a blast!

-Ben

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments

Cartoon Creation with Toon Boom Studio

At the core of all types animations – cartoons, videogames, movies – are “keyframes.” Keyframes are what allow animators to move characters to different positions, essentially, it’s a “keyframe” that animates Bart Simpson, a Lego videogame character or computer generated monster in a Harry Potter movie.


Lego video game cut scenes are animated using keyframes. 

Keyframes: Bringing Art & Imagination to Life To bring a character to life, you need the same ingredients as real life. Motion. Keyframes change the still images – for computer rendered characters, keyframes simplify animation by allowing animators to modify a character or object quickly over an animation cycle. Instead of manually drawing a new pose every single frame individually, keyframes get rendered characters from one point of action to another. The alternative is frame-by-frame animation; think making a flip-book, and redrawing the character on every page.

Draw to Life: Frame By Frame In Adventures in Cartoon Creation, young animators learn how to make cartoons  and are taught frame-by-frame animation – the same methods used to create the classic Disney cartoons using Toon Boom Studio. Toon Boom Studio has an copy feature built in to help with this kind of animation. It outlines the drawing from the previous frame, and gives you a reference of the position of the next frame’s drawing. Animators certainly didn’t have it this easy back in the ’70s!

Lighting: In the Shadows Shading characters is easy too. In the picture below, the darker shading on the left side of her face was created with the shading tool. Adding shadows for characters is as easy as dragging and dropping a shadow in. The shadows even automatically update. Once we put the shadows in, we don’t have to worry about them anymore. We can even draw with gradients, instead of plain colors. Check out the star in her hair. It’s a smooth ramp from orange to yellow, and gives the character a subtle touch of realism.

toonboom-drawing

Toon Boom Studio has an animation studio-full set of features, like shading and lip-syncing.

Lip-Service
Toon Boom Studio has a lip-syncing engine built in too. This lets you record an audio track and sync the lips of our characters to fit our recorded dialog. This helps take the monotony out of lip-syncing. Animators get pretty excited when they make a character speak, and the software does the hard part for you.

File Compatibility
Toon Boom Studio works with file formats that animators already use – import to Adobe Illustrator vector files, Flash .swf’s, all kinds of raster image formats, video formats, and sound formats. This means that animators or cartoonist can use almost any source material that they want to animate. Artists who use Adobe Illustrator can even bring their work right into Toon Boom Studio, with no loss in quality, and no conversions!

If you’re ready to learn how to make cartoons then Toon Boom Studio is for you.

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posted by DMA Jordan in Art & Animation,News Blog and have Comments (2)

Adventures: Kids Learn Web Design and Flash

I’m Ben Jaffe, one of the instructors for Digital Media Academy’s Adventures Program. I teach Game Design and Web Design.

I love teaching Web Design to 9-13 year olds. One of the best parts about DMA’s Adventures Web Course is the software we use. We teach the kids how to use Adobe Photoshop, Flash and Dreamweaver. We use Photoshop to create and modify graphics, and we take some of these graphics into Adobe Flash to add movement to them. Finally, we use Dreamweaver to build a full website and upload it so they can share it with friends and family.

We see Flash files everywhere on the web. YouTube uses a flash player, and most web banners and online games are created with Flash. Dreamweaver is used to build and manage websites of almost any scale. Photoshop is used for image modification and preparation. Virtually every image in every print publication has been modified with Photoshop. It is even used to prepare graphics for videos!

Our students learn how to use the same tools that the pros use. Photoshop, Flash, and Dreamweaver are the industry standards for graphics, animation, and site design. After taking our course, many students continue using the software to create websites and media. Middle schools and high schools often have a few licenses of the software. Knowing these applications gives anyone a distinct advantage in the job market.

When I first learned about Photoshop, I was in 9th grade. I took a multimedia class, and we covered Photoshop in moderate detail. There suddenly were so many possibilities open to me, and so many fun projects to work on. I impressed my family by creating realistic-looking photo compositions, and eventually made my way into video. Now, I do graphics, animation, video and audio work as a profession. It only took that brief introduction to pique my interest. The seed was planted. But the job I enjoy most is teaching, because in every class, there is a chance that one kid might latch onto what I teach them, and blossom.

I hope to see you this summer at DMA!

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments

Adventures: Kids Learn Video Game Creation

I’m Ben Jaffe, one of the instructors for Digital Media Academy’s Adventures Program. I teach Game Design and Web Design.

On the surface, the Game Design class may look somewhat straightforward. But it’s much more than simply creating fun games with our students. In our classes, we also teach important programming concepts, which can be the foundation for a future programming career.

Game Building can be frustrating for somebody who has never done it before. As games become more and more complex, the instructors are there to help them understand how to build their games well. Programmers call it “extensibility.” Here’s an example of how students encounter this in DMA’s Adventures Game Design class:

A few days into the week, we usually start working on an RPG game. The player controls a character who interacts with bystanders in the game to get information or collect items. The students quickly discover how frustrating it is to program actions for every single bystander in the game individually. The same goes for other objects in the game, such as allies, enemies, keys, coins, and projectiles. It’s much easier to group them together, and make a rule saying, “Whenever the character talks to any bystander, run this action.”

3d Game Design Making Video Games at DMA

Extensibility is not the only programming concept that we teach to the kids. They learn the importance of game planning, bug testing, and proper pacing to effectively meet deadlines. They also develop an understanding of variables, and an introductory understanding of object-oriented programming. Instead of lecturing to the students, we let them discover and understand the concepts by themselves, with guidance.

Most importantly, we teach the kids programming concepts without them even realizing it! If they pursue a career in computer science or game design, they will already understand the importance of extensibility, testing, planning, and pacing. Though it may seem like just another fun summer course, every student gets much more out of it – skills they can use for the rest of their lives.

See you in the Summer!

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have Comments (3)