Looks like Christmas came a little early for HoC. We finally bit the bullet and dropped way too much money to buy Wacom Cintiq tablet monitors. Hopefully the expense will be justified especially since we are an almost completely digital studio.
We also bought a wack load of ToonBoom Solo licenses for an upcoming project. For those who don't know, Solo is a vector based software package that is a lot like Flash except that it is specifically made for studio production animation and it costs about five times more. We are betting that the combination of the new hardware and software with our digital pipeline will allow us to create work that exceeds the normal capability of a small studio like ours.
Well, here I am in the HoC. First off, I wanna thank Ric and Wes for having me, I really appreciate the opportunity. I'm happy to be drawing all the time again, not just doodling to entertain the kids. And now I'm getting paid to do it. HoC is the perfect place for me right now. I'm able to get back into my groove in an upbeat environment, I'm surrounded by inspiration in the form of some good friends and people I admire--Cal, Mike, Normand and Robin--all great guys who are great at what they do. I've already learned a lot in the short time that I've been here and the studios really giving me room to grow as an artist and a professional. Anyway......enough of the brown-nosing and political niceness. The name's Sahle (pronounced 'Saw-law') and I came to set this Cool House on fire. 2007 will be my year to strike fear and tear a new one into those that doubted this young gun, son/ my artistic skill will kill those that chose to appose my will/ I'll fulfill my destiny/ flawless drawing's my weaponry/ HoC's my new family/ taking over the industry/ we'll have the last laugh as we entertain the masses/ blast past the norm with Cyclops' optic glasses!------ HEY! When do I get my platinum chain with the spinning House of Cool medallion? What!?! No medallions!?! AWWW!!!
Ok, here it is. House of Cool is growing and we need more talent. Everyone who has been asking me how to be a part of HoC, well now is your chance. We are looking for: -Story Artists -Layout Artists -Designers
Send the good stuff to firstname.lastname@example.org or send your portfolio to the studio.
A special congratulations to our Robin Joseph and his first published work, Seal Boy. It's always a milestone when an artist gets their first published work. In classic Robin style he was embarrassed to show his work, but I'm not so here it is.
House of Cool has a show that has Royal Canadian Mounted Police in it. As it turns out, the RCMP or Mounties own the rights to their image. We observed this right, so we sent them a script and designs for them to review. In classic Canadian style our request was denied but very politely.
As this denial sunk in I became very angry. The idea that a Canadian company could not use an iconic symbol of Canada but any number of productions outside Canada use the Mounties with impunity is unfair and completely ridiculous. It would be like the Americans clamping down on Uncle Sam or the Statue of Liberty to other Americans. What's next? The Canadian government should limit the use of the maple leaf because it appears on the flag. They might as well copyright the colour red while they're at it.
One thing the world is never short of: A good expensive lawyer. Everyone knows the, “this guy will charge you an arm and a leg, but he’s really good” lawyer. Every lawyer is really good if you don’t know any better.
So it was refreshing when we met Suzie from SDW Venture Law (which incidentally also boasts her initials on the firm’s name – only good lawyers can get away with that). She is one of those invaluable lawyers who understand the constraints of start up business and doesn’t have the punch clock ticking the minute you walk in the door. A good lawyer can help a company in business development, financing options and the always dreaded, contractual agreement negotiations. A good lawyer understands helping a company grow will only lead to more legal work for the law firm. Sometimes an investment of time is worth more then sending a huge bill for each email sent to and from your lawyer.
If anyone is ever looking for a good lawyer check out: www.venturelaw.blogspot.com. SDW Venture law has an excellent program for start up business’ to access a number of top lawyers on a variety of business related topics. It’s called the Venture Law Line; really cool concept to help business' of all sizes.
House of Cool is looking for development artists as well as story artists. Please send your portfolios to us here or email email@example.com .
I was at the Ottawa International Animation Festival last weekend. I usually go to see the short films because festivals are the best place to see a wide variety of animation styles. I felt that this year's selection was poor over all. There are always so many stand out shorts that impress, but there were only a few. There were way too many abstract and experimental films. I also noticed that there were no films in classical Disney style or much 3D. My tastes for animation is wide and I was disapointed that I didn't get the whole shebang.
For those of you going to the Ottawa International Animation Festival this week, be on the look out for a film called 'Umbrella Boy' that House of Cool helped produce. We had a number of very motivated students from Sheridan College intern with us last summer and decided that they would make a short film. Well, they completed it and it is now in competition. Congrats!
House of Cool is looking for talent! If you're good, I mean really good, we want to see your work.
Thanks to readers and artists like you spreading the good word of our studio services, House of Cool is starting to gain some momentum. It is with the help of our clients and referrals that we are able to build and deliver a high level of service to all we work with.
With this being said, House of Cool is accepting portfolios for Storyboard Artists. We want to work with the best and brightest on our clients' projects and House of Cool properties. We love creative people who strive for innovation and change. The Story Artist must be able to work on all digital formats.
Please send resumes and sample boards to: ATTN: Wes Lui House of Cool Inc. 125 John St. Toronto, ON M5V 2E2
Here is the second image that Fox released for the film. House of Cool did some early development art for Blue Sky on this project and we are very happy to see that the look is similar to the work we initially envisioned.
As well as running House of Cool, I am also the head of story of Horton Hears A Who at Blue Sky. I am happy that Fox has finally announced that Jim Carey and Steve Carell are the lead voices on the film. I am very happy with both these choices because they are the type of talent that really enhance animation versus having a big star with a flat voice but a pretty face.
As a superviser at animation studios and as an owner of my own studio, team building is a skill that you have to learn. If you don't know how to put together a good team you run the risk of imploding your projects. Hiring the best talent you can find is an obvious way to build a good team but this alone is not enough. If you have deep pockets and you hired the absolute best talent money could buy for your animation department, this does not guarantee a good film. In fact I would waiger that the opposite would happen. It would be like starting a company and hiring Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos to run it. A disaster waiting to happen.
At Pixar, we would have lunch with prospective team hiresto makes sure that they weren't a**holes. I really liked this practice because it made sure that everyone got along. The one weakness of this idea is that it tends to promote the hiring of similar types of people. Not that great for diversity.
When I build a team, I like as many different personalities as posible. I really like the way the personalities play off each other. I would hate it if everyone were to agree all the time. There are only three things that I require from every team member.
Passion for animation. Passion for the studio or project. Respect for other artists.
I'll give specific examples of my ideal team in future posts.
I got into animation because I'm a cartoon geek. Not the Disney Nine Old Men sort of geek but a Voltron, Glow Friends, Robotech, Ant and the Aadvark, Denver the Last Dinosaur, Mr. T and the T Force, Rocket Robin Hood, Barbapapa, Dr. Snuggles, Simon's Underground Railroad, The Littles, Force Five, Visionairies, Tiger Sharks, Belle and Sabiastian, G-Force, Puff the Magic Dragon, Bionic Six, Wizar of Oz, Hercules, Foofur, Getalong Gang, My Pet Monster, The Shmoo, Inhumaniods, Blue Falcon, Rubik the Amazing Cube, Simon in the Land of the Chalk Drawings, The Little Prince kind of geek. Only later did I figure out the finer points of the industry especially in feature animation. Still, I have a soft spot for crappy tv stuff.
Another image from Robin. I would love to show everyone some of the more recent stuff we are working on but they are top secret, so you will have to satisfy with our old crap.
I've been talking to a number of artists recently about choices to make in their careers. Do I go to a big studio and learn or to a smaller studio and hopefully to get the opportunity to supervise? Do I sign a long contract for security and more money or move to where the best projects are. I always advise to search yourself and find out what your ultimate goal is.
If your answer is "I want to be the best animator in the industry" or "I want to develop the most beautiful show on the planet", I suggest finding a very secure company like DreamWorks or Nelvana and hone your craft beside the most talented people you can find.
If what you want is "my own studio" or "to direct my script", you must be willing to make sacrifices. It is unlikely that you'll be able to do any of these things within a studio. "But Ricardo, I understand that I can't run my own studio working at another, but I surely have to be in a studio to direct". Well, the reality is that most studios do not promote their own artists to director and the few that do have long lines of very creative people ahead of you to fill the few spots available. Even if you do happen to fight your way into a director's position, it is very likely that you will be developing your project for years waiting for the much wanted 'green light'. My advice to anyone looking to own a studio or direct is save lots of money, make friends with influential people, get a good agent and quit your job.
At HoC I have been looking for ways to use flash to emulate our prefered organic style of designs. I find that most usages of flash is very slick. Not that I have anything against the slick look. Ghostbot does great work in a very clean style. Nelvana has a show called Grossology that we are boarding on that also has a good looking clean style using Toon Boom's Harmony. I'm just hoping to find ways of using flash's power to make organic design and animation easier. I'm also not willing to compromize the quality of animation for speed of production.
So far I've only found a ripping good illustrator/animator, Pascal Campion.If anyone knows of other good examples of flash used more like rougher classical animation, I would love to hear about it.
At HoC, anyone can present ideas to be developed for film, television or a short. We want to stockpile as many properties as possible so that we are always ready to pitch when we see an opportunity. The process always starts with a seed idea. This idea is often accompanied by a phrase like "it would be cool if" or "that's ridiculous, nobody will buy that". Next is a treatment. A treatment is basically a script without the dialogue. If the idea is still interesting at this point, we will start producing artwork. I'm a big fan of artwork that is as new and original as possible. If the idea is still compelling, we produce a bible and write a script. At this point it is time to call the agent and prepare to pitch to studios.
For those of you who have access to the Disney Channel, stick around after "That's So Raven" on Friday, July 28 at 7:55pm for a five minute short film. You will see the Shorty McShorts' Shorts show. This is a showcase of new original animated shorts by some very talented creators. Disney will be airing a new short every week and you will get to vote online for the ones that you like.
The Disney shorts program has been aggressively searching for creators who truly have cool new projects and a certain Canadian studio who's name starts with 'house' and ends with 'cool' just might, maybe, kind of have something cooking that possibly, perhaps may appear on said channel. Shhhhh, it's on the down low. We'll update soon.
Thanks to Ghostbot for the cool Shorty McShort design.
Another Robin Joseph illustration of The Dreaming.
Here is a comment from DanO that I thought I would share with everyone.
"well... I would invite you to move to Los Angeles and witness yourself the multitudes of disgusting opportunists who routinely prey upon more creative people for ideas they can steal.
if it happened to you once, you could shake it off, but the second time you'd set aside the one "thousand more ideas" credo. its easy to say we all have many ideas because we do, but when you spend your money, sweat, time, and blood devloping an idea, you'll undertsand the sting of having it appropriated to someone else's project."
well...DanO I've spent many years in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, Ottawa and New York working at many of the feature and television studios that harbor the multitudes of disgusting opportunists you are talking about. For my entire career I've freely let anyone listen to any concept I had. I have also spent innumerable hours and tens of thousands of dollars developing properties so I can confidently say that I practice what I preach.
Evidently you have had poor experiences when it comes to intellectual properties but I stay true to my credo. No matter how many vultures there are out there it does not out weight the benefits of a disciplined development program and positive exposure.
I've been tardy with the blog lately. I apologize but my life has been incredibly busy as of late. To make it up, here are two blogs in a row.
HoC is a preproduction studio. We have made a couple of short films but most of our work is in storyboarding and design. However, this work does not define who we are as a studio. It is the original ideas that we develop in-house that most represents what HoC is all about. Unfortunately, original ideas by themselves do not pay the bills. But if we are smart and take a long term view on the projects we develop, I believe that we will come out on top in the end.
We don't develop ideas based on what is popular or hip at the moment (that's lame), but I do spend a lot of time observing what is popular and hip. I do this so that I don't miss an opportunity to pitch one of our projects that we developed earlier if it happens to fit the mold.
One of the problems that I have with people who want to produce their own properties is that they fall in love with every idea. I'm not saying that you shouldn't really like the ideas you come up with, but when you become so attached to your ideas you fail to grow as an artist. An example of this are people who sue major studios like Pixar and Blue Sky for stealing their ideas. I'm sure you've seen these cases before. "I'm going to sue because I came up with a story about a clown fish and no one else could be as creative as me". Or "I invented a one eyed green monster, and there is no possible way that an entire studio full of creative artists doing a film about monsters, could come up with a similar idea". Or "If I mix two rodents (a squirrel and a rat) and call it a 'Scrat', I own that idea forever". This type of thinking says to me that you are not a creative person at all. You are just a person with a single good idea, and are so diluted by your perception of your own creativity, that you cannot believe that anyone in this world of six billion people could have an idea similar to your own.
I believe that if you steal an idea from me you could not possibly do as good of a job with it as I could. Furthermore, you know that place where that idea came from? Well, there are a thousand more where that one came from. So I will never cry over a lost idea. I my opinion, the more you are willing to throw away good ideas, the more you are exercising your ability to create new and better ones. With that said, if you do steal an idea from us, we will hunt you down!
At HoC I don't hire only based on talent. I want people who believe in the company as much as they love doing the work. Of course there is a certain level of talent required to work here, but I also want artists who have personalities which are compatible with me and the other artists at the studio. It only takes one bad artist to sour the pot. In general I prefer young talent because they are not yet jaded by the animation industry. I like the fresh ideas they bring to the studio. In return (other than a pay cheque) I try to provide the artist the best working conditions in the industry. I want my people to look forward to working every day as well as feel that their efforts are building something greater than just a business venture. So far my hiring practices have worked. As the studio grows I hope to continue using this technique to build apon the team that I have.
This is a piece we did for a Schoolhouse Rock type project.
HoC has an agent. We have used other types of representation before that have not been very successful and expensive. Because HoC is located in Toronto we need proper representation in Hollywood, since much of the type of work that we do is located there. This is what a good agent will do for you.
Meetings with potential clients: This might seem obvious, but some agents may only get you in the doors of the places you don't want to get to.
Close the deal: They will negotiate the best deal for you. If they don't, you need another agent.
Give you advice: A good agent should have the pulse of the industry. If they see an opportunity they will let you know immediately.
Network: An agent will have other clients that may be complementary to your needs.
Things to look out for in an agent is anyone who charges a retainer. This is basically a fee for the privilege of having them represent you. You should find an agent who charges commission without a retainer. This means that they only get paid if they make you money. Make sure that you get along with your agent, because if you get into a dispute with them, they are much better at screwing you than you would be at hurting them.
Lately HoC has been getting a lot of interest in the way we do digital storyboards. There are a number of studios that I know about who are dabbling in digital boards. I first tried it out at Pixar and now I'm implementing it at Blue Sky. I have heard that Dreamworks is trying it out. I don't know of any studios other than HoC who are doing it only digitally. Most studios use Photoshop, though in my opinion it is too slow to have a natural feel. I have heard of one person who does it profesionally in Flash because he can easily flip from one frame to the next. At HoC we like Sketchbook Pro because it's really fast. If you don't want to drop the $650 for Photoshop or the $200 for Sketchbook Pro then you might want to try Art Rage 2 for the measley price of $19.99. Art Rage is a solid program mainly used for painting but still good for doing boards on(thanks Turtle).
After you buy the necessary software you must choose your hardware. Most of the artists at HoC use Wacom tablets (Graphire work just fine). This is the reason we need fast software. If you can spare that cash and buy a Wacom Cintiq you can use pretty much any software for decent results. I use a Cintiq but I have be testing a number a tablet pc's lately and I have found that they work very well. A 21" Cintiqwill set you back about $2500. An average tablet pc will be under $2000. That's an entire computer for less than the price of just a tablet monitor. These numbers are very appealing especially considering when we are boarding we typically only use a small area of the screen to actually board on.
Lastly is the actual process on drawing on the computer. You can't get around practice on this point. To get truly confortable doing this you have to adapt your drawing style. A sketchy style does not work very well digitally. A more acurate, efficient style seems to work much better. It will take about two months of solid practice to get comfortable. If anyone has any tips on making digital storyboards easier, I would love to hear it.
This image by Robin is from one our television projects called Dog Tags Urban.
Before I started a company I would see oportunities to do work and I would think that, if I had a studio, I would be able to do this or that project and it would be cool. I always thought about the missed opportunities that wouldn't happen because I had the facilities to do the work. I would talk to my wife and friends and they would encourage me to start a studio and make it happen. I felt I was prepared to do the job and I was confident that I could find or train the talent I would need. For the most part this would turn out to be true. I was mostly prepared to build my studio and I did find and train some good talent. Unfortunately, there are numerous thing that happen that you can't predict unless you do it. The thing that I was most unprepared for was the rate of disappointment when it comes to securing projects. Just because someone tells you that they want to give you a project, doesn't mean that you are actually going to get it. There are a myriad of reasons for projects to fall apart and most of the time it has nothing to do with the studio, but they fall apart regardless. We are currently at about a 20% success rate at securing projects. That means four of every five potential projects are lost. My goal is to raise this rate to 33%. One in three may not seem that great but it's actually a really good success rate. I might of reconsidered this studio thing if I had known that it would have required this much rejection. Luckily the times when you actually get the project, like we did today, more than make up for all the others you miss.
This is a version of a sketch I did of Norm the other day, but he said I made him too fat. So this is the Jenny Craig Norm. But in real life hes probably a bit more hairy. (us Canadians have to adapt to the winter somehow.)You should see some of the women up here!
Anyway, Norm always has something new to show me in his big bag 'o' tricks, and this is him calling me over to see what else he has discovered.
Hello all...i know it is a bit late to do a write up about myself. My name is robin joseph, and i've been with houseofcool since June 2005 as a characterdesigner/vis-dev artist. I've been very fortunate to have worked on some great projects in the short span of time i was here. I get to work on Hoc's inhouse content for both feature and tv shows. Ocassionally the lovely folks at the studio call me Tigerjeet or 'tiger' or plainly just 'Jeet'. Just to clarify, even though the name suggests a mean, violent and potentinally threatening fighting machine..i have to reassure one and all that i am extremely passive and slow. i still hold on to fond memories of getting beaten up by kids half my size back in school. AHHHH
..But i have been managing to get some kills recently on CallOfDuty..mebbe some day i'll hold up to the name of Tigerjeet..SOMEDAY..Cheers all
I've spent a lot of time on this blog talking about our designs and original concepts but here are some examples of what what we actually spend most of our time doing. Doing service storyboards is what butters our bread. This type of work is not the most creative thing we do but it is very good training. It forces you to be very fast and efficent. At HoC we are not satisfied with normal way storyboards are done. Our boards are all digital. We work with a Wacom tablet and Alias's Sketchbook Pro. It takes quite a bit of effort to get used to working this way but once your used to it there is no going back. We a confident that this is the future for storyboarding.
Some good news. While building a business you make friends with your clients and hopefully they will come back because of the quality of your work. One of our clients that continue to support us is Nelvana. We are storyboarding on a new show called Grossology. Thanks to Judy Leung and Matt Ferguson. While I'm on the topic I like to thank Brad Booker from Reel FX and Andy Knight from Red Rover. We have also just completed the boards for a music video for Billie Mintz.
This is a question from a visitor, Stefano Di Lollo, that is worth sharing.
Dear HoC,I've been following your blog for quite some time now.From what I can see from your website, it looks like you have a great team of talent, and a great work environment to inspire creativity.Your list of clients and portfolio is impressive.I've read about the hard times that your studio is experiencing at the moment on your blog.Now, I know you have plenty on your mind right now, and the last thing you probably need or have time to read is someone giving you their 2 cents.But, since I can't ever keep my opinion to myself---I'll type the rest anyways.>>> I was just wondering the following: Is it a good idea to publicly report your studio's current problems on your blog? Clients (existing ones and potential ones) have easy access to this info, and may get scared off by the studio's instability.Just some food for thought.Good luck, I wish you guys all the best.I'd love to work with a team such as yours. And my answer.Hi Stefano,
I'm glad that you like our work. We try hard to define ourselves in an industry full of mediocrity.
Your question is a very good one and I have put much thought into it. A similar question that I often get asked is 'am I not afraid of people stealing your development ideas'? My answer to these questions may be irrational but it is a the core of how I run my studio. We are always willing to let our pants down. We feel that the transparency of our studio endears people to want to work with us as clients and employees. Sometimes that openness is positive and sometime negative but what is important is that the creative spirit does not flourish well under secrecy. This may be the downfall of HoC but if I want the studio to reflect my values instead of being a money making entity It has to be this way.
The only good thing about hard times is that it can't last forever. Over the last couple of weeks the studio has hit rock bottom. We lost most of our contracts, had to layoff most of our talent, the bank account is almost completely drained and the tax man is knocking. I had to question myself on the viability of this studio. Fortunately my cousin, a successful businessman, assured me that if people are calling you to do work then you ARE a viable business. I re-examined the business and though there is some restucturing that must be done I can see a clearer direction for us. With a little luck and no more major hickups we should be fine.
In The Dreaming the preferred means of transportation is scarab beetle.
In running a small studio the bills have to be paid. This is done by taking on service work which means doing work for other studios. Sometimes the work is fun but it is often tedious. If you do enough service work, a studio can make a lot of money especially if it is a large feature project. It is also lucrative to do commercials if your studio can handle the hectic pace of advertising. The problem is that if a studio is to grow over the long term they need to own their ideas. But how do you develop properties while your busy trying to make money to keep the studio a float? It's tough but if you keep in mind what the goal is, spending the extra time and cash to produce original content doesn't seem to hurt as much.
WEBSITE Update: here is a sample of two pages from the first comic book issue "The Incredibles", drawn by Ricardo, "Man of the House". There are a couple pgs per issue displayed on our website (totaling 4 pairs). Please check them out at the studio's website: www.coolhouse.ca