Friday, November 23, 2007

Ang Himig Natin (Juan Peso)

It's been a week of coincidences as I was about to finish a "nationalist" and nostalgic digital video (above; video multi-launched today, Bonifacio Day, November 30, 2007 in's Global Nation, YouTube, PinoyCentric, Global Filipino Nation and this blog).

Some weeks ago I was rummaging thru old photos and old comics literature when I chanced upon Bukol Magazine. I was ecstatic, it was first issue, 1978, acid-yellow newsprint nervously turning sepia along tattered edges. Something has got to be done. It's papyrus into pixels yet again. I'd prefer latter to fibrous dust clinging to staple wires. So keen was I to preserve mementos I could be charged of scanner-abuse:) All are then saved in my external hard drive.

Inside Bukol Magazine was a comic character I've created - Juan, a young man who lived in Manila in the 70's under Martial Law and felt hopelessness with state of affairs wherein most of his creative efforts were stifled by depravity of money as symbolised by peso coin.

Ironically he lost last coin in his pocket, into the gutter; but yearned to retrieve coin. It was a thin line between determination and desperation.

Incidentally I was just polishing an old silver Philippine peso coin issued in 1907 (gifted me by a Michinburian Filipino) and is among prized collection of rare coins. Last year I toyed with macrophotography and took some real close-up shots of it. Silver is awesome, it has a blue-greenish sheen even unpolished; and clinked on the table with a sharp and crystalline quality. I've included images in the video.

Still excited with ©Vista Windows MovieMaker I thought I'd drop each comic frame in storyboard which then was start of a tedious process of animation and editing.

I usually work with music on, just like Nonoy Marcelo in his studio in Ermita where I worked amidst his various and synchronous projects (there's daily editorial drawing on his board, next to where his animation storyboard sits side by side a printmaking plate pressed down hard on a pile of documents precariously leaning on neatly-shelved vinyl records of Bob Dylan, The RollingStones and The Who).

Working in Ninong Nonoy’s animation studio in Scout Limbaga in QC back in ’78 gave me rudimentary animation skills using hand-drawn images. Also during this time Nonoy published Bukol Magazine where I was one of his editors. It was Pinoy version of Mad Magazine and involved cartoonists, writers and serious Filipino painters who willingly tried their hand on comics genre.

I’ve rebirthed Juan to Juan Peso in this video, which is kind of a visual narrative using ©WMM effects and metamorphosing digital still images ( I’d like to think of it as a short film with an analogue attitude and a digital rush;-)

In WMM, each 50 x 38 cm size photo at 72 res. will normally run for 2.5 seconds. For it to just flash briefly in finished video, one has to drastically clip 90% of photo span (in timeline mode). Then add 23 more of these thin slices of different images and make it run within a second and it will give you idea of number of images required to complete, let's say, a purely animation 3-minute film.

Back then editing alone was so time-consuming and delicately dangerous (imagine if one actually handled celluloid film rolls just after eating sticky rice-pudding;-).

There's splicing and tweening film over lightbox for days, cels everywhere (pieces of celluloid where drawings and colors are painted on). A prosaic mosaic of images frozen in time, almost Godly process, as they can only come alive through the Light. Darkened rooms proffered anxiety as camera on rostrum panned laboriously.

No easy task “synching” images with soundtrack that seemed to squeak fast-forward-rewind forever as the lever was cranked to move the film roll under the tapehead.

Amazingly patient and tenacious artists, these animators, I take a bow.

Back to us this time frame.. I was then listening to Noel Cabangon's beautiful and emotional adaptation of Ang Himig Natin by Juan dela Cruz (originally sung by Jose "Pepe" Smith). Eureka! I thought, this would be most appropriate soundtrack for video of Juan Peso. But there was apprehension, I need to ask permission from concerned.

With glint in eye, I was raring to do an experimental ©WMM digital video using scanned images of Juan Peso comics and mix it up with my ultra-violet paintings plus a bit of digital animation and liquify tricks in Photoshop and moviemaker.

I then asked around for Noel's contact email and hoped to get permission. Ben Razon offered some email bridges but it was Sylvia Mayuga who quickly homed in Mr. Cabangon's email. She passed it on to me, wrote Mr. Cabangon and promptly got a positive reply. I was rhapsodic about whole thing especially when Ms. Mayuga offered to multi-launch video in time for Bonifacio Day, November 30. Yes! What a swell idea...and so I worked on to include images of Filipino proletarian hero aside from one I did of him in ultra-violet reactive paint; and did some more quick animation of flags and birds made easier by the watery effects of WMM.

Likewise I got delightful permission from Wally Gonzalez of Juan dela Cruz Band who holds copyright of this classic song sung by Filipinos everywhere (even in Muntinlupa!). I could have probably sung and played guitar myself but why ruin a good video?;-) (Maraming salamat po, Sylvia Mayuga, PinoyCentric, Ka Noel, Ka Wally at Ka Pepe, sa pagpapaunlak).

Fission or fusion, under a drowning spell of “watery” movie special effects, I ‘ve considered images streaming as single hydrogen molecule and twice life-giving oxygen molecules embodied by Cabangon’s rendition and Juan dela Cruz classic compositon to complete it.

Sensitive to everyday news via the net and Filipino tv here in Sydney, I feel fluidity might save the day for a lot of Filipinos, an eddy of power to change shape and reform under various political temperatures.

Maybe, too like water nationalism is fluid, penetrating tiniest veins where Filipino blood runs warm, slowly breaching indifference thru osmosis; evaporating to join heavens and return to an ocean of hope where an almost Utopian transparency of water shall allow majority to see the beauty and watch grow a healthy coral of a democratic nation.

Thanks for watching video guys!

– edd aragon, Sydney, 2007


Monday, November 19, 2007

Digital Tubiglay

Tubiglay is Filipino for watercolour...and I love the medium despite being considered hardest one of all. In this digital age where art connoisseurs look at a James W. Turner work as if the age of watercolour painting is dead, there are "watery" elements whereby one can click on an image to give it a watercolour effect in Photoshop, using vectors for waves and ripples. My favourite is PS7's liquify tool which sweetly "melts" images like a digital Dali and without messing up pixels like what smudge tool does.

Anyway I just found out that I could recycle old editorial cartoons which I did in colour. I dig 'em up from old and sticky back-up cd's and mess 'em up in liquify tool in Photoshop, save each image as I move on, then drop them into storyboard of Windows MovieMaker (I now use upgraded Vista version, nevertheless old version is still sharp!) and presto, you get a fun video.

Do you find drawing with a mouse inaccurate and frustrating?

True, and not only that, if you're not a young person like me you'd suffer from RSI and tendons snag because of imposed unnatural movements, ironically suffered for sake of natural-like animated movements.

Thankfully I was gifted by partner a new Wacom pen and tablet. At first it felt funny but got used to it while playing in goldfields of Photoshop.

Tedious it is, animation is not for the fainthearted. Yes-sir-ree, we need 24 drawings per second to give it life-like movement. Did it once working with Nonoy Marcelo animating movies for Kabataang Barangay under Imee Marcos back in '78. Our studio at Scout Limbaga in Quezon City was often busy with animists (including Santi Bose:) and animators, in-betweeners and go-betweeners (to ease conflict between sound engineers and storyboard characters).

The fun is in the process of animation, much so, the fun is to be with people with a common create an animation film for big screen and television. Daunting! The logistics alone is unperceivable. To think that same project would have taken less time and money to produce with use of computers. Nonoy would have been in his rightful elements. Quick and efficient the computer came in too late for him.

Also did a dance feature for Annie Batumbakal which starred Nora Aunor. All one needed for this kind of analog animation was patience and lots of caffeine and to be vague..since si Mila ang utol ko ( since one of my sisters is named Mila, a great fan, I get a buzz doing animated short films! Comics alive!)

Ah age. I think it's only the Japanese vehement in preserving analog or hand-drawn anime. Good for them. It's a vanishing trade. Of course a few serious Japanese directors know that it's easier to do animation with computers and that's probably what they're trying to avoid. As animation tools are easily accessible they are likewise conveniently "abused", too. The romance of hand-drawn animation is lost. Don't we prefer old Disney animations to
3-D and flashy ones today? Somehow some things have been lost at the advent of compact discs as wax records were dumped. Oh I miss those lovely scratches and hiss and pops;-)

Most of special effects in WMM are "clip-artish" but although simple as they are, they can generate an impressive mixture of serendipitous effects.

Try saving all movie clips in your computer to lower the file size and then drop them back in WMM as one file where you can add more effects that could traverse the whole clip. Now do this over and over again and you'll get hooked with animated eyes;-)

Here are a few drawings (all over this entry) that I gave life to and also energized by reggae king uncle Bob Marley. Not as hot as his Kinky Reggae tho:) All for good, experimental fun!;-)

Check it out:

And another version I did for anniversary of Banggaan Art Group of which I'm proud member. 'ere ye are dudes: