Category Archives: Job Search

A Few Random Things

What’s Next?

After finishing up my most recent freelance project (watch for an announcement about the launch) I’m once again on the job hunt. I’d really like to get back to full time positions with benefits and tax withholding and all that good stuff. While I seem to have been doing okay as a freelancer for the last year and a half or so, it’s inherently a more stressful way to lead my life. It’s time for a little stability.

Da Blog

I’ve been thinking for a long time that I wanted to post more stuff in this blog. A lot of stuff goes on in my head and I’d definitely like to share it with people. Plus, my impression is that the more a person updates a web site, the higher it’ll rise in the Google results. You can’t argue with that kind of exposure for someone who produces work like I do – animation and small software tools.

Flash Tools

I’ve made a few new Flash tools recently and I hope to post a few of those in the near(ish) future. In particular I’ve been using one I created to delete empty layers (really simple function, but it’s wonderful for cleaning up a timeline), and another to select the current symbol instance’s library item (works fantastically with multiswap).

I’m on the Flash CS7 beta!

I finally got on Adobe’s Flash closed beta program. Actually, I got into it a couple months ago but I didn’t have the time to download and check it out until a couple days ago. It looks good so far, though as always I wish they would address more of the features on my wish list. But they seem to have done a lot of optimization on the Javascript (JSFL) execution. My art brush plugin is blazingly fast! Anyway, hopefully I’ll have some more time to really check out the program. Maybe a small project to put it through its paces?

Demo Reel!

After much travail I finally got my demo reel together.  Unfortunately it doesn’t include any of the stuff from my last job (they won’t let me post anything online) but it still shows my recent work by including clips from Don’t Fear the Sitter.

Here it is:

Dynamic Mask Symbol

If you’ve done any significant amount of animation in Flash then you’ve probably run into this problem. You want to give a symbol partial alpha, but that ends up giving you a big mess where each individual sub-symbol is alpha’d down, rather than just the symbol you’re actually working with. Blech!


No Es Bueno

I ran into this problem once again yesterday while working on my demo reel and I decided I’d had enough.  I pulled out a trick I learned from Mike Bambino while I was working at Trilogy Studios.  It turns out that if you do it dynamically (using Actionscript) then you can make a mask that supports semi-transparency.  It lets you do awesome neato stuff like smooth gradient masks:



Awesome and Neato

What I wanted to do this time is to fade single characters in and out without affecting the other characters around them.  Normally I’d do something with solid overlays to give the impression of a clean dissolve, but it wasn’t working this time.  The characters were overlapping a bit, so the overlay would end up affecting both of them in an undesirable way.

To solve the problem I simply made a solid rectangular symbol with the relevant Actionscript in it.  At run-time it gloms itself onto whatever movie clip is directly below it on the display list and says “hey you!  I’m gonna be your mask now!”  Then I simply fade the mask symbol on the timeline however I please in order to fade its maskee in and out.

Easy, huh?

Here’s the source code in case you’d like to apply it to your own stuff.  Just put this on the first frame of your mask movie clip, then put the mask symbol directly above the thing you want to mask:

var maskee:DisplayObject;

// Call the enter_frame function for the first frame

function enter_frame(evt:Event)
	//trace("enter frame");

	var my_index:int = parent.getChildIndex(this);
	// Find the symbols just below this one
	maskee = parent.getChildAt(my_index - 1);
	// If there's something there, mask it.
		// Cache as Bitmap must be turned on for both the mask and the maskee
		cacheAsBitmap = true;
		maskee.cacheAsBitmap = true;
		//trace("masking " +;
		maskee.mask = this;

// Remove the reference to the mask if it gets removed from the stage
function removed_from_stage(evt:Event)
	maskee.mask = null;
	removeEventListener(Event.ENTER_FRAME, enter_frame)
	//trace("removed mask");

addEventListener(Event.REMOVED_FROM_STAGE, removed_from_stage);
addEventListener(Event.ENTER_FRAME, enter_frame)

And here’s a Flash file with it all set up and working, just to make it totally easy to see how it works:

Dynamic mask.fla (57KB)

The Great Job Search

I was laid off from my job at Trilogy Studios a few weeks ago.  For people who know me, this isn’t news.  Still, I thought it might be nice to share some of my thoughts on the whole Animation Industry / Getting-Laid-Off paradigm / Looking-For-Work cycle.

Being out of work is this weird combination of stress and freedom.  Ostensibly I have tons of free time.  I wake up in the morning and I have very few deadlines I have to worry about.  I often think to myself, “Self,” I think, “You should take this time to do something creative.  What about starting that web comic and/or animated series you’ve been thinking about?  How about writing on your blog?”  Fantastic ideas!

But then there’s the whole money/work thing.  I currently have an income of zero, relying on unemployment insurance, my wife’s income, and savings.  Definitely not a sustainable lifestyle.  It’s vitally important, therefore, that I find a new job.  Well, that severely diminishes my available time, and reduces the percentage of my thoughts that can be put toward creative endeavors.

As an example, one of the things I need to do is update my demo reel.  Updating the resume was easy – just a new “work experience” entry, a few edits and adjustments, and it’s done.  The reel is huge, though.

A demo reel should only be about a minute long.  This is the advice I’ve always heard, and I absolutely believe in it. Having been “on the inside”, looking at applicants’ reels, I can attest that I know within seconds whether someone is a promising applicant when looking at their reel.  If there’s mediocre stuff in the first few seconds it’s a big problem.  The reel needs to show right off the bat what you’re capable of.  Timing, weight, easing, acting, subtlety, expression, variety of style of movement – you pretty much want to show them that you understand and can apply the twelve principles for their characters.  Remember that the employer doesn’t care about you – they care about what you can do for them!

To fulfill this requirement of a reel – that it shows the best that I have to offer – I pretty much have to go through all the animation I did in my recently lost job, as well as all that I did for my recently completed film, and find the best examples of my work,  Then I have to take only the best few of those to actually add into the pool of clips I currently use in my reel.  For the most part I’m going to trust my past decisions on what was worth including, since I really don’t want to have to go through all my old work again to figure out what was the best stuff.  Actually, if I did that I might end up with a slightly better product, since time lends distance in judging one’s own work, but I really can’t face the tedium that that would entail.

So now I have a set of clips of animation that I created within the last few years, as well as older ones that I included in previous reel iterations.  Now I have to decide what, among this combined collection of animated clips, is worth including in my finished reel.  I’ll have to make some tough decisions to throw out some animation that I’m quite proud of, but that perhaps isn’t quite as good as some other clips.

Then comes the question of editing.  Am I going to stick with the basic structure I had in my previous version or should I make a whole new edit?  It’s kind of daunting to think about throwing all the clips together in a new and interesting way, but also refreshing.  I’ve been looking at this demo reel (or variations of it) for four or five years now, and it would probably be nice to get something different going.  I’m not sure yet what I’ll decide, but in theory you, the viewing public, will see the results soon enough.

If you’re interested, you can see my old demo reel on my main web site: (Warning: that’ll probably soon be replaced with my updated demo reel after not-too-long)