Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Year of Plug-ins

I have to start out by saying that I was never a huge fan of plug-ins when I was first learning After Effects and animation. I mainly didn't like plug-ins because they cost money, and any animator starting out knows that that is something hard to come by. It also frustrated me to watch a tutorial on something cool, only to have the person in the video tell me to go and buy a plug-in to achieve the effect. It always seemed like such a copout. I wanted to learn how to make these things with the program itself, so that is what I did. The downside to that path is that it takes much more time and work to get the effect; however, the upside is that you gain a better understanding in how the effects are achieved. In the long run I would suggest that anyone starting out in After Effects at least try to make an effect yourself before going and buying a plug-in. Plug-ins are great, but they can really become a crutch if you don't know how to make them yourself.

Regardless, over the past year I have found myself buying more plug-ins and I have to say I've found some really great ones.


Duik has been the one plug-in that I've always had for character rigging. The reason for that is because it was free! Not only is it free, but it's actually an extremely robust interface for creating character rigs. This is what I learned on and would truly recommend it for anyone out there trying to get into character animation. I don't think there is anything as customizable or robust when you know how to use it. That being said, Duik can be quite intimidating to start out with.


This is where RubberHose comes in. I had been hearing a lot about RubberHose over the past few years but was always hesitant to try it. For one, I already had Duik, so I felt I really didn't need something that did essentially the same thing. The other reason was that unlike Duik, RubberHose cost money. Regardless, I finally took the plunge this year and I have to say that I am finding uses for RubberHose. When it comes to rigging legs, RubberHose just seems to have a smoother look to the animation, where Duik can sometimes have issues with leg locking. That being said, RubberHose is still a more basic program. It's definitely what I would recommend for someone just starting out with character animation because the interface and set-up are a little more user friendly than Duik. But, as I said Duik can be more customizable in the end.

Joysticks 'n Sliders

Ok. This is my favorite plug-in this year. Joysticks 'n Sliders is an awesome tool that allows you to do what the name implies - make joysticks and sliders. That being said, it's an extremely powerful tool for tweening character animations and making an overall more robust and professional rig. This is especially evident when it comes to face rigs. Duik and RubberHose work great for rigging bodies, but any good animator knows that the face can hold so much expression and emotion. Thus the need to easily animate things like eyebrows, blinks, and mouths. Up until recently, I would always animate these layers individually, which was honestly a time consuming chore. With Joysticks 'n Sliders I can now animate all the facial assets easily in one simple location. The possibilities are endless with this one.

Honorable Mentions

Butt Capper - Easily add caps to strokes in After Effects. Seems simple, but it's seriously so helpful.
Dojo Shifter - Easily sequence layers in After Effects. Another simple but effective one.
Motion - A robust plug-in for adding different motion to your elements using only a simple interface. Good for making complex motions easily.
Pixellate It - Simple for giving a pixel look in After Effects
Boil It - Simple for giving a wiggle look in After Effects

Feline Friends

One of the things I've been working on this past year is creating characters. I've created over 200 characters in the past year and that has really helped me grow as both a creator and an artist.  Making something new everyday pushed me to start drawing every day.  Honestly since becoming an animator I was beginning to spend most of my time in Illustrator and After Effects.  I hadn't realize how much I missed the simple idea of sketching something out.

Long story short, this has lead to a small ongoing series I'm calling, Feline Friends.  Basically this is a collection of characters from all walks of like that just happen to have cat companions (as you can see I love alliteration).

You can see what I've made so far below and also follow me on Instagram and search my hashtag #felinefriends for more.

Soldier Kitties

Ninja Kitty

Space Mechanic

Day 224: High Noon Kitty

Day 223: Feline Meditation

Meet the Engineer Preserving The Last Analog Motion Graphics Machine

History lesson for all you animators out there. Do you know where the term "plug-in" came from? I'll be honest that I had never really thought about it until I watched this video. I'm also posting this video because I believe the work this man is making is pretty prevalent today even though the tools he is using are decades old. It makes me think of shows like Stranger Things. That intro is so iconic today yet it obviously takes all of it's cues from analogue motion graphics of the past. I'm just always surprised at how styles seems to go in a loop and how certain things can really never be replaced.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Lastman - Episode 1

Check out this awesome cartoon from Mondo Media. This is definitely satiating my need for cartoon violence since I finished One Punch and Attack on Titan.

Day 234/235: Devin

Recently had the pleasure of doing a commission for someone who reached out to me.  It's not very often I do these sort of things, but I was excited to give it a try none the less.

Basically Devin reached out to me looking for a new avatar to use for his social media.  He also wanted a short animation featuring the character.  He sent me some references of my work he liked and some other personality notes.  From there I got to work in Illustrator.

I didn't sketch this one out, just went straight into illustrator working with shapes. I first created the portrait, seeing as how that was the most detailed and important aspect, and then moved on to creating a body for the animation.

Once I had all the art created I went into After Effects, rigged him up with Duik, and began concepting what I wanted the animation to be.  Devin had mentioned wanting it to be basketball related, so I went with that.  My initial idea was to have him running and dribbling, but since I always do run/walk cycles, I challenged myself to think a little harder on it. I then came up with the idea of playing with the basketball a little. There's so many different things you can do with the basketball that are fun to animate.  Below is the result.

The client was happy with everything but the color palette...but I like the original better ;)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Day 225: Space Knight

I haven't done an in depth process video in quite a while, so I thought it would be fun to do a little timelapse of Day 225: Space Knight.

As usual, this one started with a simple sketch.  I had like 6 different ideas going into this sketch and was struggling bringing them all together. Basically I wanted to take the idea of a knight and bring it into the future.  I feel like knight armor and space suits share some similar attributes. That and I'm a sucker for both space and knights.

After the sketch was scanned in I brought the art into illustrator and just went at it.  Not a whole lot to say about it.  I am enjoying getting back into illustrator lately. I've been playing in Photoshop so much that it's a nice break to just play with vector shapes.  That and I'm much quicker in Illustrator so it's a little less stressful for me.

I was pleasently surprised with how it turned out given that I was struggling so much with the initial design. Just shows that sometimes you have to keep working at something even if you're unsure how it will turn out.

Day 225: Space Knight

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Day 223/224: International Cat Day

Normally I don't feed into these "holidays" that seem to be every single day for every different kind of thing you can imagine. But a holiday that celebrates cats I just can't resist.  Here are two dailies I created inspired by the theme.

I sketched them both out and created them in Illustrator. Normally I don't use the blob brush in Illustrator that much but since I've been drawing with the Wacom more I am a little more into the idea.  The base of these characters are just vector shapes and then I drew on all the black lines.  I actually really liked the balance of clean lines and hand drawn that this process produced.

Day 223: Feline Meditation

Day 224: High Noon Kitty

Friday, August 4, 2017

Day 219/220: This 'n That

Oh look, another 2 for 1! Yes, I've been busy with catching up on some real work and also a little lazy as well. So for that, you get two characters in one post again.

These two were actually spun from an idea I wanted to pursue with my Vimeo profile. Every profile has a banner video now and I thought it would be fun to animate a specific video just for my Vimeo banner. I knew I wanted some characters and then I thought "Hey, it would be cool to brand this somehow!" With that in mind I created some very simple characters to represent "This" and "That". I wanted to make them simple to match my brand, but I also thought that would help me focus more on the actual character animation and less on how they looked. Sometimes the simplest characters can be the most expressive. I also thought it fit the theme to make them opposites in a way (not to mention that usually plays better with comedy.)

I haven't started animating them yet. Not quite sure how I want to go about them and it will take some tinkering. Also I'm heading back to Toledo for the weekend and just don't have the time right now to mess with it. That being said, keep your eyes peeled in the futue for an update on these two.

Day 219/220: This 'n That

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Day 218: Apple Jacker

This daily is an example of work overlapping with this project. Occasionally I will get a new job that requires some fresh characters. No pun intended. As you can see from the mock up below, this piece has a photoshopped type of style. The apple is a photograph and the rest of the elements are just hand drawn in Photoshop. This piece calls for a lot of apple and pear characters so I made a mockup of what one might look like to test it in After Effects. If project timelines allow it, which they rarely do, it's always good to practice with an animation rig beforehand so you can spot any pain points and redesign later.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Day 217: EMP Grenade

Pixel art is something that I'm fascinated by. As an avid gamer I've grown up with this art, and with indie games at an all time popularity, there is no shortage of amazing pixel art and animation out there to look at. I've been trying to up my game a little bit just for fun. It's a serious challenge to work with, well, pixels. It takes a lot of design know-how to use just enough color and pixels to help the viewer understand what they're looking at.

I dabbled making art in the past but I always used Illustrator or Photoshop. It wasn't until I got a serious interest in making pixel art that I found out about Aseprite. After following a bunch of pixel artists on Twitter I discovered this little gem of a program. It makes it very easy to create pixel art and animation, as well as export in a variety of ways.

For this daily I created Thatcher, a character from the video game Rainbow Six: Siege. I've made Thatcher 3 times in my dailies thus far. I'm not quite sure what my obsession is with revisiting him. I really just like the design of the Siege characters. It's also fun taking something so detailed and breaking it down into its simplest form. I hope to keep making more pixel animations. It seriously is hard and takes a lot of time, but I can see myself slowly but surely getting a little better at it...I think.

Day 214/215/216: Usual Suspects

Well it's been a long time since I have written a post. Seems I didn't get better at blogging. The last time I posted was for day 38, which honestly feels like a lifetime ago. I know my history doesn't speak well for me, but I am going to try and make a post for every daily now. You can come here and read a little bit more about my process for each day. My struggles. My successes. With that being said, let's get to it.

As you can see, this daily is an example of me sort of "cheating" and doing 3 characters in one scene. For those that don't know, these dailies from from a project in which I'm trying to create a new illustrated or animated character every day for an entire year. As of today I have created 216 of 365. On rare occasions I will put a few days into one daily, but this is usually only when I get far behind. I've actually only ever done it one other time and it was when I was on vacation.

I will say that making the time is the hardest thing I deal with on this project. Some days fitting a drawing in is very easy, sometimes it comes out of work. Then there are days when I'm out with friends, busy with actual work, or just feeling burnt out. But, regardless of the pain, what I make every day generally comes out successful. And even if I don't love every piece as much as the next, I definitely learn something with each new attempt.

So, knowing I was going to put 3 characters together for this one, I thought it would be fun to put some fantasy characters all together at the bar. I started by sketching out my idea. I honestly didn't have a plan for composition when I began. I just started drawing the viking and built out from there. When I finished I noticed the archer was WAY too big in the sketch. Being lazy as I am I resigned to fixing it in Illustrator. I honestly wasn't sure if I wanted to use Illustrator or Photoshop for this particular piece, but in the end I felt the crisp shapes and lines in Illustrator would lend better to the idea I was going for.

To compliment the clean and somewhat simple shapes of the piece I decided to keep the color palette simple as well.

In the end I really enjoyed this making this one. Sometimes fitting all these characters into one scene is more fun because I can have more interaction and play around with details more. On the normal dailies it can be a little harder to do that.

Day 214/215/216: Usual Suspects

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Day 38: Meet the Artist

So Instagram is doing this Meet the Artist thing and it seemed like a fun way to get my daily done. Here's me.

Day 38: Meet the Artist

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Day 2: Grizz 'n Grind

Well it's Day 2 and I'm still going strong.  Decided it would be fun to do a timelapse with this one. I haven't done that in a little while and it seemed appropriate.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

365 Project: Character a Day

In an effort to do a lot of things more, I am attempting a 365 Project of my own starting right this very second. I was going to wait until the year started and do it all perfect-like, but I got bored and thought why wait. As the title of this post explains, I will be trying to specifically draw a character every day. Media will change, time spent will surely change, and even delivery may change. If I have a particularly light day I may even do a little animation. Regardless, I will do my very best to put forth a new character every day. As I said earlier, this is to get me doing things more. Things like sketching, blogging, posting to Instagram. It's very easy when you have consistent work to just do something else at the end of the day; but I want to keep my personal work thriving. I also want to grow more as an artist. I'm also at the point in my career where I could easily let myself slip, and I don't want to. There are a few outcomes I'm looking for with this project. For one, I'd like to see my Instagram get some more love. I believe, posting every single day will be a nice experiment to see how it effects my followers. I also think it's just cool to see how far you've come in a year when you do something every single day.

That's it for now. I'f you'd like to follow my progress, you can click on the '365 Project' tab at the top of my blog. Or you can follow me on Instagram at chriskolsh.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Photoshop Animation: A New Journey

It's been quite a while since I've posted on this blog. My Instagram feed on the side is always updating, you can always follow me there for quick hits. Also my Illustration and Photography page auto update when I add to my Flickr, so there is always new work to be seen.  Still, my day to day blogging has been lacking as of late.  Like most blogs it comes in waves. I commend anyone who can blog every day all day. It really becomes like a second job when you do that. Plus, I've been quite busy freelancing as of late, and most of that stuff I'm not aloud to just openly share my process on. However, I have been dabbling more into some personal things and it's time I got off my lazy ass and posted more.

Recently I've been trying to develop a new skill-set in Photoshop animation. I've always thought the Timeline option in Photoshop was really cool, but I've always been weary to dive into it. Doing frame by frame animation takes a lot more patience and time to get to that final product. I've grown pretty quick in my abilities to use Illustrator and After Effects to animate, so that excuse wasn't cutting it anymore. The bottom line is, if I want to make this part of my process, I need to practice to get quick at it. Just like I did with Illustrator. I've approached this in 2 forms so far: Pixel and Hand Drawn. 


As an avid gamer this only felt like an obvious first step into the ream of the Photoshop Timeline.  For one, making pixel art in Photoshop is quite easy in principle.  You make a tiny canvas (300x300px), and then you color in each pixel until you make something cool.  The process of making a still image is actually quite fun because there isn't much you can do to totally ruin anything.  I started by making a couple character images. One of a favorite video game character of mine, ICO.  The other was a self portrait of myself with my cat.

This much was fairly easy, but I wanted to take it the next step.  So, I began working with my character to try and make a jump animation.  It seems simple enough to start, but when you have to begin bending pixel legs and making 12 or so copies, it gets a little more daunting.  To save some time, instead of drawing the character from scratch each and every time, I would copy and paste bits that didn't change much.  For instance, the torso remains fairly straight for a majority of the animation. Also the head stays the same almost throughout.  Doing this saved me lots of time while only having to focus on arms and legs and any other secondary motion such as the shirt and hair. 20-so frames later I had the jump that I was happy with.

I forgot to mention that I created the animation in a 30fps timeline.  I tried looking up the standard but couldn't really find one.  I wasn't going for the completely old school look, and I know that most modern games today run somewhere between 30fps and 60fps, so I just went with 30.  I also wanted it to look really smooth so I thought this would be better than a typical low animation frame rate. Below is the result in motion.

As you can see those 20 frames zip right by, and about 5 of them are just the hair bounce at the end. But that secondary motion of hair, the shirt, the smoke puff, all really add to the effect of the motion.

Hand Drawn

Now that I had my feet wet in the Photoshop Timeline, I felt I was ready to explore some more hand drawn type animations.  Once again, I thought it best to start off with something I was familiar with.  About a year ago I had sketched a character in my notebook.

I had always really loved this guy and planned to do some animation with him, but just never got around to it.  Creating him in Illustrator just felt like I was cheapening his look.  He was meant to have a hand drawn feel to him.  So, with the same principles in mind from the Pixel animation, I began drawing this guy.  However, starting out was much different.  I had to make a stick figure rendition first to make sure the timing was right.

Once I had this locked down I could begin my shortened process as before.  I made a sketch of the character first. Then, instead of drawing him new everytime, I simply copied and pasted him and used the lasso tool to rotate the limbs and such.  This was the result:

As you can see,  there are some breaks in the lines near his arm. This was the result of me using the lasso tool and moving bits around.  However, it worked to speed up the process. Now I could go through and draw over everything very nicely without worrying about timing or placement.  I did that, and added some color to get the final image:
This process really taught me a lot, and I took it to the next level on my next project. Someone had reached out to me on Instagram asking if I could animate their character removing a sword from a stone, like in Zelda. Being a huge fan of that entire sentence I couldn't possible refuse. So, I began by going through the same set of steps to achieve the animation:
From there I decided to take it a step further. I brought the character and background into After Effects separately so I could do further compositing on the animation as well as give it some slight camera motion. After tweaking the colors, adding some flares and dust, I was pretty pleased with the final result:
I have to say all in all this has been a really fun endeavor and a nice break from business as usual. While I still love making characters in Illustrator, using Duik to rig and animating in After Effects, it's still nice to hone a new skill. That's it for now. I will hopefully be blogging a little more often now. Probably not every day, but at least more than once every 6 months. Also I created a Facebook page specifically for my blog and art. So if you want to support me go over there and like the page. Otherwise check out all my social links on the right side of my blog. You can follow me just about anywhere.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Glenn Davis - Be Honest - UNOFFICIAL Music Video

I recently had the pleasure to work on one of my first full fledged music videos. The musician in question is Glenn Davis of the band Way Yes.  At the end of this month he will be releasing his very first solo album titled Waves & Webs.  Glenn recently helped me create the music for my 2016 reel and as a fellow Ohio native I felt extremely connected to helping him create a video for his single, Be Honest.  His entire album centers around the turmoil that followed a failed marriage, so all of his songs have a shared meaning in love and loss.  Be Honest is unique in that it has a very driving beat and higher energy than his other singles.  When we discussed ideas for the music video we tossed around all things relating to what honesty is and what it means in different forms.  We landed on the idea of chameleons and their ability to shift their colors.  How this effects their ability to be honest or dishonest with their surroundings and who they are.  We took the idea a step further by having a central character who did not want to conform with the ever changing colors he is being bombarded with on a daily basis. With this in mind I took off to sketching out and developing more ideas, characters, and storyboards.

As you can see my sketchbook is very stream of conscious and rough.  I like to spend the majority of my time actually developing the art and animation.  I use my sketches as a quick way to just put my ideas on paper.  I did everything from research about chameleons to looking at all shapes and sizes of the species. Once I had these things locked down I went into creating my characters and assets.  I knew I wanted the look to be vibrant and alive to match the emotion of the song, so instead of using a clean vector look in Illustrator, I decided to use hand drawn elements in Photoshop to give everything a much more textural feeling.

Now that my assets were created, I was free to bring everything into After Effects and just get down to the nitty gritty of rigging and animating.  When rigging characters I use a program called Duik.  This is a free program that works great with setting up character rigs within After Effects.  All you have to do is label and parent your elements properly and you have a working character rig within minutes.

It's a little challenging showing all the layers in one shot, but this is what the set up looks like after the rigging is done and Duik has performed it's magic.  Basically I get a set of about 8 controls that let me easily manipulate the character in a way that makes sense.  Once this is complete with all the various characters I do all my animating.  After many hours and hundreds of keyframes you end up with the music video you see below.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did making it!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Blacksmith Andre Illustration and Rigging

I recently played through Dark Souls 3 and loved it. I enjoyed it so much I had to create my own animation of one of my favorite NPCs, Blacksmith Andre. I created the illustration in Photoshop and did the animation and rigging in After Effects using Duik.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Sun Maker

A little late to the show, but I'm finally getting around to sharing the film I created with my friends for Sylvania's 2016 Tree City Film Festival. This film was a part of the 50-hour challenge during the festival. This basically means we had 50 hours to write, shoot, and edit a film (not a lot of time for those of you who don't know!) Before the teams break out and begin they are each given a genre (ours was western), a prop (lightbulb), a character name (Robin Chandler), and a line of dialogue ("it's in the trunk."). All of these elements must be incorporated somehow into your film for you to be accepted. So, we got our elements on Friday night and set off into the weekend of work and filming. We honestly used EVERY bit of time we had to make this film come to life, but I've honestly never been more proud of something that I filmed. We shot the whole thing on just my iPhone using the Filmic Pro app and a Moondog Anamorphic lens. After all was said and done I'm happy to say that this year, our 3rd time entering the festival, we won best picture! Ok, enough suspense, please enjoy both the film and the behind-the-scenes below.

Cats - The CATastrophe

I had the privilege of once again mentoring for Sylvania's Shorties U program.  Shorties U is a program in which kids (5th-8th) come together over 4 Saturdays to write, direct, shoot, and edit their very own films.  As a mentor I'm in charge of facilitating the whole production and just trying to keep the kids on rails.  This year our only prompt was to be in the Theatre of the school.  Naturally, we decided to write a film based on auditioning for a play.  Without spoiling anything else, please enjoy our film.