Adam Phillips, part 2

Welcome to part 2 of the three-part interview with Adam Phillips, Mayor of Brackenwood. In this section, we learn about Adam’s most coveted trophy, his experiments incorporating action scripting into his animation, and his experience working on a Ween music video.

AARON SIMPSON: Over the past several years, you’ve been nominated for and won many animation awards. Is there an award you’re most proud of?
ADAM PHILLIPS: The most recent one – TGSNT II (March 2005). I was a runner-up in the first TGSNT with ‘Bitey of Brackenwood,’ and all the time I had my eye on that #1 prize. When I got runner-up, I decided that I was going to make something so amazing and so impressive that it’ll blow the judges away next year, and that’s when I started work on ‘Prowlies at the River.’

It turned out that they were blown away and I took the Grand Prize. That’s probably the most my face has ever moved upon hearing I’d won something.

AARON: Do you have a gauge of how big the Flash animation community is in Sydney?
ADAM: Not really. Being at Disney kinda kept me busy, but now that I’m freelance, I’m discovering little animation studios all over the place. There’s quite a few good ones, and currently I’m doing a little job for one of the studios that worked on the the Gorillaz music videos, but otherwise, I’m designing 2D and 3D special effects for an animated series being produced in Germany.

AARON: You’ve mentioned before that you’re hoping to pull back on the amount of animation you personally produce, focusing more on story and the bigger picture. Have you considered adding other artists to your current ‘Brackenwood’ projects?
ADAM: I have considered that, especially when I see so much talent on my forum. I know that a good percentage of them would leap at the chance to work on a ‘Brackenwood’ movie with me, but to be honest I’m kinda the guy who wants to do everything himself. It’s a weakness I’ll eventually need to overcome, but I always think that in the time it takes me to explain it and for the other guy to get it right, I could have done it. Each new ‘Brackenwood’ movie is a labour of love, so I enjoy looking back on it knowing that I did the whole thing in this space of time.

AARON: What type of action scripting did Sham Bhangal add to ‘Prowlies at the River?’
ADAM: Sham created a camera component for me that acts as a kind of viewfinder when played through the Flash Player. The component is just an empty square and you use it in the same way that an artist might frame a landscape with his thumbs and forefingers. So I can make a huge background (like the opening shot of Bitey’s tree at night) then simply drag this square from the library. When the movie is compiled, everything within that square is programmed to fill the screen. This completely eliminates the pain of ‘simulating’ camera work by tweening background elements around the place.

The other component Sham made for me to use in that movie was a gnat component. Just like the camera, it is a simple square, which you resize and place on the stage wherever you like. This square is programmed to contain gnats, flies, butterflies, etc (which you create as separate clips). The component allows you to specify how many gnats, how fast they fly, how far they deviate from their path, and so forth. You can see this in action at brackenwood.net.

AARON: Have you imagined other ways in which you’d like to use action scripting in future projects?
ADAM: Sham and I are always talking about new things that could make daunting tasks easier for animators. I’ll be working on something, then realise that it could probably be easier with scripting, so I’ll hit Sham with the idea and he’ll mess around a bit with some code. He’ll show me a few different versions along the way and I’ll say ‘now make it do this’ and ‘wouldn’t it be cool if….’. Sometimes he says, ‘you’re full of it,’ but most of the time he comes up with exactly what I had envisioned, like the camera component and the scripted gnat-field.

A couple of other ideas we have in the works are wind and grass engine, which simulates that effect when waves of wind travel across grasslands… and a twinkle engine (for want of a better word) which creates sparkles on water surfaces. These are all tasks that take a long time (or are just a pain) with ordinary animation, but scripting not only makes it easier, but can also look a lot better.

AARON: Do you think action scripting will become more and more important in the evolution of Flash animation?
ADAM: Yes, I think so. Just like software and technology has made various 2D animation tasks easier, the same will probably happen in Flash. The jsfl (javascript flash) side of Flash is for Flash users who want to create custom tools, panels, and functions that you can use in the authoring environment. This is a step further along from creating your own run-time components which Sham and I have explored. Jsfl opens up an unbelievably huge doorway for Flash users and audiences.

AARON: How did you wind up working with Ween on their ‘Transdermal Celebration’ video?
ADAM: I had just bought their new album and decided to check out their site. There I saw a forum on which the band was asking the fans for ideas for their upcoming music video. I immediately emailed their manager who told me to get a proposal thing to them ASAP (‘cos the deadline was drawing closer). I did, but as they were about to go on tour, they decided to shoot a live video for the single instead. I was pretty disappointed so I offered to make the video for free if they could guarantee they’d use it.

They guaranteed me they’d use it, but there was no commitment from them that it’d be “THE” ‘Transdermal’ video, so I knew I had to do something extra amazing that would blow them away. I took two weeks off work from Disney and animated two lines of the song each day.

I finished just as Ween were getting on a plane to Stockholm and they loved it. Aaron Freeman (Gene Ween) emailed me and told me that he loved it and it would be the official video. They also needed to own the rights to it, so they made that official by paying me nicely. :)

AARON: Did the band members give you any story direction before you wrote the script for the video?
ADAM: I had already come up with the story based on the lyrics, and was about to start work when I got an email from Gene Ween telling me the whole meaning behind the lyrics and what the song was really about.

This fit perfectly into what I had already come up with, but I added the little kid to the story after reading Gener’s email.

That’s the end of part 2 of a three-part interview with Adam Phillips, Mayor of Brackenwood. Check back soon for the finale!

2 Comments

  1. Anyway to get to see the letter recieved from Gene Ween?

  2. Anonymous May 8, 2006

    id be very interested in seeing that too. I’m finding it hard to find a detailed write up about the meaning of the transdermal celebration song on the net.

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