The End of 3D for Kids

In 2013, my son’s school held an “arts day.” They asked for parents who did something creative to come in and talk to students. Since I’d been working on a series of animated 3D music videos for The Simple Carnival, I thought it might be fun to bring in some projection equipment and explain how 3D works.

The reaction from the kids was beyond anything I could have predicted. They laughed, screamed, oohed, and ahhed at every moving image that popped out of the screen. In addition to showing them the animated videos I had made, I also involved them in a couple activities where they could participate in a bit of rudimentary live action 3D filmmaking. The technical presentation was pretty far from a quality cinematic experience, as I was projecting anaglyph (red/blue) videos on the teacher’s whiteboard. However, the 300 or so kids I connected with that day loved every minute of it and audibly complained when they had to move on to the next presenter. They didn’t want it to end, and neither did I. I was surprised by how fulfilled the experience made me feel.

Soon after, I decided to find — or actually, make — other opportunities where I would be able to wow kids with 3D and show them how they too could create art with stereoscopy. I gave workshops at lots of local libraries, schools, and museums, building upon the initial presentation I gave to my son’s school and making it more interactive. I also invested in better projection equipment, polarized glasses, an aluminum-backed screen, miscellaneous props, art tools, a better sound system, and 3D paraphernalia to give away.

I began by conducting these workshops for free. I called up venues, told them what I wanted to do, and insisted that I do it for free because I wanted the opportunity to improve my public speaking skills. (Over time, my public speaking skills did indeed improve. Although I have never attended a Toastmasters meeting, I can’t imagine how it could be more fun than running my own traveling multimedia extravaganza.)

After some appreciative venues insisted that I should be paid for my efforts, I realized that I could actually turn what I was now calling 3D for Kids into a source of income.

Soon after, I started generating enough bookings that it was close to becoming a part-time job. I had to decide whether I would turn 3D for Kids into a quirky sort of side career — a side career that, on its surface, appeared to align with my interests and abilities. But I wasn’t totally sure. It was one of those decisions in life where there’s no instruction manual, and the right answer can only be found by digging down and asking some difficult questions: What are my real goals? What am I ultimately looking to accomplish in life?

After doing a lot of soul searching, I realized that my real goals revolved around making things (like animated films), not teaching others how to make things, despite how satisfying that can be. Teaching others how to make things — at least, in the way that I did with 3D for Kids — took an extraordinary amount of time and kept me from achieving my real goals as quickly as I would have liked.

For example, I usually spent ten hours preparing and packing for a 3D for Kids workshop, two hours driving to the venue and setting up, two hours tearing down and driving home, and another three hours putting equipment away. So that’s seventeen hours — not including the actual workshops, which might take anywhere from one to eight hours — where I wasn’t making anything. This was in addition to having a full time job…and in addition to having a wonderful family that, naturally, required love and attention. To utilize the little bit of free time that I had left over for anything other than making things seemed…wrong.

So after taking a long hiatus, I’ve decided to end 3D for Kids. It was an enormously positive experience, one that I was so fortunate to have had. But I also need to be true to myself and my life’s goals. My focus going forward is here at Sundrift Productions — my blog where I document my various animation-related projects. I don’t post very often, but you can be notified when there’s something new by entering your e-mail address at the bottom of this post. Alternately, you can follow me on Twitter.

Since the 3D for Kids web presence is no more, here are photos and videos of some of the fun we had. If you are an educator, administrator, librarian, or child who happened to be a part of one of these workshops, THANK YOU for the absolutely wonderful experience. You taught me so much, and I hope you had as much fun as I did.

3D for Kids (2D and 3D versions)

3D for Kids Paper Throwing Montage (2D and 3D versions)

3D for Kids – Jurassic Camera

Presentation at 3D-Con 2018

A couple weeks ago, I gave a talk at 3D-Con about how I’m using Smitten 3D as a self-directed masters in filmmaking and animation. If you’re interested in low budget DIY indie animation, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes fun in this presentation.

Smitten 3D: An Animated Work in Progress

The animated segments of this presentation were originally screened in 3D. If you have red/cyan 3D glasses, you can view the animated (and live) segments of this presentation in 3D by skipping to the 55:38 mark.

Work in Progress #1: Go Away I Like You Too Much

Here’s what I’ve been working on since July 2017. I’m hoping to finish it by July 2018. (Update from 8/1/2018: Not a chance!)

Work in Progress: The Simple Carnival – Go Away I Like You Too Much (2D and 3D versions) #1

This is video #6 out of 10 intended for Smitten 3D. The Smitten 3D project is kind of like my personal Montessori school for filmmaking. There are very specific skills that I set out to learn with each video in this project. Some skills are artistic, while others are technical.

For “Go Away I Like You Too Much,” the original goals were the following:

1. Create a film that has a nonstop, kinetic energy and that is dizzying in a good way. Think Mad Max: Fury Road meets The Cat Came Back.

2. Make it look similar to a 1930s Betty Boop cartoon with rubber hose-like animations, but use Tex Avery-like exaggerations wherever possible.

3. The film should appear to be one continuous take, a la Rope, Russian Ark, and Birdman. Use a moving camera through the sets, providing a point of view that was never present in Betty Boop or Tex Avery cartoons.

4. Build the hardware and develop the software for a virtual camera (like the one used in Rango) for Blender so I can operate a “camera” in real time.

5. Learn character rigging and skinning in Blender.

6. Apply my theoretical knowledge about character animation to an actual animated piece; create real “personality animation.”

7. Model everything in the video myself; don’t utilize free CG model web sites.

8. Ditch my homegrown seven computer render farm and figure out how to render on hundreds of computers at a time using Amazon Web Services.

I hope to go into more detail about some of these topics at a later date. As of right now, I need to get back to animating!

The Simple Carnival at the Mill Valley Film Festival

The Simple Carnival’s “The Problem with Friends” is being screened as part of The 3D Sideshow this weekend (Oct 9 at 12:30 PM) and next weekend (Oct 16 at 11:15 AM) at the Mill Valley Film Festival. If you’re in the area. go! MVFF is an awesome film festival and this should be a really fun program.

poster-2016

See if you can spot some imagery from “The Problem with Friends” in this poster. It took me a moment…

The Problem with Friends wins Best Video at 3D-Con

Woke up this morning to find out that my music video “The Problem with Friends” won Best Video at the 2016 National Stereoscopic Association Convention (3D-Con). A big thanks to Heidi Engel and Chris Belin for their musical contributions on the track. Also, a big thanks to the folks at the National Stereoscopic Association for the honor.

The Simple Carnival – The Problem with Friends (2D and 3D versions)