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34. Meditate

How we animate to quiet the noise.

Hey, hey.

Another issue, another video! Enjoy “3 weeks in 3 minutes”1 above, where I share recent goings-on plus highlights from the Aug 6th BAM screening of Chamoe in NYC.

“Provisions” (books, films, NYC gems, other creative inspiration), will come to you in a separate post, under a new newsletter section called Ruminations 🙀

Everything is free this week as I continue to play with format and things! I’m excited about how the TLB experience is evolving; deepest gratitude to paying subscribers for making these experiments possible ❤️

As mentioned last time, my animated short Chamoe is going to its third festival! They’re only able to do in-person screenings for a subset of official selections, and it’s an honor to be one of ‘em. Can you spot us in their trailer?

When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.
Ellison, Invisible Man

I guess it’s not such a secret but: I'm an overthinker, y’all. In my head unendingly loops a litany of previous conversations, future conversations, fears whispering 50 years ahead. As the day wears on, they layer over the grocery list, what last night’s dreams might portend, etc., into a progressively discordant and voluminous opera. I’ve gotten so used to the noise that it feels normal—something one simply lives with, like a mole on the face or a sticking door. But I know that it obscures what I might otherwise be able to dedicate full attention to; a clear note, trying to be heard.

What animating does is quiet that noise, 

requiring me to be fully and fixedly present. I tend to have a hard time single-tasking, or being still, so this is kind of a wonder.

I usually can’t even listen to music or podcasts, or have background tv on, while I work! Even if I’m doing something as ostensibly rote as in-betweening (1:19 in the video above). I’ve seen other artists do this just fine, but when I myself have tried, bad things of varying degrees have occurred: brushwork developing unintended unevenness, shapes becoming stilted, hundreds of frames ultimately needing to be repainted. 

Now I’m near-superstitious and no longer dare.

A huge part of the last two weeks went into thinking about the TLB experience, reframing things, setting up experiments. But I did manage to finish lines for my latest vignette, as I explore ideas for my next film.

It’s basically just 15 seconds of a moving hand; long, slow, punctuated transitions inspired by salpuri. Hands are hard to draw, much less animate (for me), but after establishing key poses, breaking ‘em down, and taking a pass at timing, I fell into a meditative flow. 

Key poses

Because the speed of movement is mostly constant throughout the entire sequence, I was able to take a segment, draw a breakdown smack dab in the middle, then halve a child segment to draw the next, and so on—until there was no segment remaining to halve, and no midpoints left to draw:

Frame 204 to 291, almost 4 seconds

I added camera movement on top of the animation; thought it’d be fun to show you what that looks like as a speed graph. Peaks and valleys indicate how fast the camera’s moving:

The camera ends up making this largely an animation in ones instead of twos (a different image every frame instead of every 2 frames).

That’s over 350 images! A close-up of them stacked on top of each other:

Doesn’t this look like a pile of fine, impossibly long graphite shavings? Or hair cuttings on the floor of a long ago barber shop? I know I say this every time I share a composite, but I’m mesmerized by the unexpected stories they tell. They bring me a lot of pleasure.

Speaking of pleasure, my partner calls the part where the fingers fold into the palm, “the dopamine hit:”

It’s pleasurable for me too—watching the thumb move at a different velocity, coming to a near-stop (35) well after the rest of the fingers (15):

Basic animation principles at play: follow through and overlapping action

It’s the satisfaction I might feel when, say, an orange peel comes off easily in the hand, or when I witness water closing soundlessly over a diver.

After hours of being mired in minutiae, I look up to see what’s come together:

I guess this is a longwinded way of saying that I see parallels between animating, and how I’d like to navigate life (especially when overwhelmed): one picture at a time, in a meditative state.

Next, I explore style.

I’ve been doing a lot of framing and vision work for TLB 😵

A newsletter is an experience and a system that needs to be designed, maintained, and iterated upon. This latest review-and-recalibration has been hard but very productive, and it’s shifting how I approach my animation work too.

The biggest takeaway from stepping back and taking stock is that I want to prioritize fun more (for both you and me). We’re gonna start digging into this immediately with the new TLB space I mentioned earlier. I’d love to increase knowledge-sharing, too.

Quick check-in before we wrap:


Let me know if you’ve other ideas for TLB! Always open to feedback.

Until next time ❤️


Song: “Aquarium,” by Nosaj Thing

The Line Between
The Line Between
Coleen Baik