Scott McCloud has a lot of great books on art theories and deconstruction and shit, but one of my favorite works by him is his pre-webcomics web-comic about the role of chess in his life: http://scottmccloud.com/1-webcomics/chess/chess.html
It hits me real deep because I totally know what it's like to spend years and years at something just to come to the conclusion that you really know very little about the thing you've spent forever thinking about. But it also hits hard because I know what it's like to love more than one thing.
Some context - I've spent about 11 years of my life making animated cartoons. I'm currently going to college for game design, where I discovered that I actually really like programming, as well as the asset production and deep exploratory-design thinking, which is what I initially signed up for. I also have a bit of a thing for writing, which I guess is why I do so many of these posts, but is also why I care so much about stuff like comedy. Fortunately a lot of these things are tangential to eachother, but each individual path goes so infinitely deep that I really could just do one thing my whole life and never stop learning new stuff about it.
When I was a little younger I was worried that chasing many rabbits would leave me without a job, okay at a whole bunch of stuff without being industry-level good at anything and I would end up homeless or something, but I'm doing pretty okay for myself so I don't really worry about that anymore. What I do worry about, though, is how satisfied I'll be when I'm 74 and I still don't know as much about animation as I COULD if I had just had the foreseight to focus exclusively on that. It's a really weird fear, but I feel like if I have any potential to make an impact on the world, every day I spend playing chess is a little step backward from the full potential of something else.
It doesn't help that most of the guys in the art programs here are of the mentality that if you aren't drawing 15 hours a day you're FUCKED because everyone else is working twice as hard and were twice as talented to begin with. I think those guys are a little lost too though (I like to call it the "asian work addiction") - the real fallacy there is that if you spend 24 hours a day thinking about drawing, sure you'll have immense technical skill, but you won't have a single interesting thing to say, unless it's ABOUT drawing or is somehow challenging to the form, which won't really connect with anyone other than other artists. I got similarly lost when pursuing comedy - there's a point where you're so deep in technicalities and weird artsy shit that you really can't connect with regular people anymore. It's a little fucked up - the whole point of getting good at art is to get better at communicating the stuff in your head, but a lot of the "best" artists can't actually connect to anyone who hasn't also had 20 years of training.
This is gonna sound totally out of left field, but I actually spent a couple months writing a BOOK on art theories and stuff that helped me learn better. One of my odder ideas was that spending time in multiple disciplines can actually make you a better artist at all of them. The thinking was that concepts you learn from one art form will better inform your understanding of art as a whole - much like how great painters don't just paint the same sunset over and over, they paint a whole bunch of different subjects because the variety teaches you more about fundamental concepts, and not just specific insight into rendering pretty clouds. I'm not 100% sure if I believe it's the best course of action to pick up 20 different crafts, but I could still make a pretty good argument for it. (fyi, I gave up on the book, but I still really like a lot of the ideas. I can upload what I finished of it if anyone's interested.)
So the case for multiple career goals actually isn't so bad, but the prospect that I'm wasting my life still bothers me from time to time. To recap, doing only one thing your whole life might ensure you reach your full potential in that one thing, but your work might be totally devoid of content, impossibly inacessible (and therefore not actually successful as self-expression), or if my rationalizations are right, you actually won't even be as good as you could have been had you spent more time doing lots of stuff, triangulating the possibilities of ALL art. On that third point I'd like to hear what some of you guys have to say - do you guys see a lot of overlap in your different interests? Have you ever learned something about painting by playing guitar?
Then there's also the angle of "holy shit marty why do you care about ANY of this" to which I can only say jeez I don't know. I spend a lot of time thinking about stuff that doesn't really matter, except in the "big picture" which is usually just all in my head anyway. Come on give me a break! at least I don't go to church.
Some other updates:
I'm living on freelance work right now, so personal stuff is going slow. Peck 3 in the works. Also a game. Currently finishing my 3rd year of game school, which I made a really cool project for in the last week. Maybe we'll work out the bugs and upload it somewhere! Sorry my main output is PARAGRAPHS right now but I'm very busy okay!
I was just reading some of my old news posts and HOLY S was I a little dweeb!
You know what Plato's Cave is? look that up. You kinda gotta know what that is for this to make sense but the short verison is if you spent your whole life chained up looking at shadows on a wall, you would believe that that wall IS reality, and the second they take the chains off your fuckin head would explode when you realize there's even a third dimension.
It's a kooky hypothetical situation, but with all these advances in VR, maybe some shit like that could actually happen. People have done more fucked up stuff like human trafficking, so it's not too far-fetched that someone would subject a baby to a Matrix-style virtual reality as opposed to raising them in regular society. And when you think about it, you could probably do some really crazy shit raising a kid on VR. What if someone's whole reality was based on solving complex math problems for food? Or like those puzzles that computers can't do but humans can? I'm sure if you thought about it long enough you could find a way to make BANK on your VR slave kid. They would literally eat sleep and breathe whatever fuckin complex problem you gave them to solve.
Of course that's all inhumane as SHeeeeeeeeeit so you can't do any of this (legally), but you know who we could do this to? Animals. You see the shit we do to livestock? And all those lab rats? Well it's not stopping me from enjoying meat or modern medicine, so maybe we can start gettin apes and mice working on the great problems that plague our nation. I should patent VR headsets for every nonhuman species so that when some other corporation takes my idea I at least get a slice. Speaking of, I went to SCHOOL for game design so if you want me to help build a fuckin virtual world for apes let me know and we'll make millions. @google @tesla (hope those guys have ng accounts)
A couple weeks ago I stopped running ads on my youtube videos. I've never been one of those anti-ad guys - I've always felt that the people who are offended by advertising are using adblock anyway. And that's where I'd draw the line - if you could block or skip an ad, it was cool. I've always hated when people put a fucking audible read at the end of their videos fully knowing the promo code wouldn't work in a year and would permanently scar the content. Anyway my boy patty eventually sold me on full out ad-atheism, I think his main points were that people don't like them, they get in the way of the content, and they don't bring in much $$$ anyhow.
But now that I've been thinking about it I've started to realize the problem with ads goes a lot deeper. Ads as an income source are inherently unstable because people don't want to see them. The second someone is offered the choice not to see ads, they'll take it. Remember Tivo? People were effectively paying not to see commercials!
Adblock doesn't effect me much because I don't live off ad money, but when ad-circumventing affects big businesses, you get to see a lot of weird 4th-wall shit where companies desperately plead for you to turn off your blockers!
aw man! not my favorite website!
I've never understood these. If I'm blocking ads, wouldn't you presume I'm not going to click on one anyway? If I were an advertiser, I certainly wouldn't want someone to see my brand with that kind of reluctance!
I assume the reason corporations want you to disable adblocker even if you never click on ads is because they still get paid for impressions - it doesn't matter whether or not the ads actually work. But doesn't that remind you of a little something called...
Again, if you're an advertiser, this fucks you out of money. But this little bit of shadiness is really just a side-effect of a bigger issue: when you run ads, you're signing into a system that's bound to change. Unfortunately, some people get pretty comfortable tailoring many years of work to something that's fundamentally volatile.
Remember when youtube changed how their ad money was distributed and all the animators got fucked over? Nowadays there are hundreds of videos of people complaining about every little change in youtube's "algorithms" because some little change in a variable made half their content obsolete. Creators always make the execs out to be bad guys, but whether they know it or not, they're getting fucked because they've tailored their work for success on the platform. Of course, the platform doesn't "owe" the artists anything, so if a small change means more money for the big guys overall, you'll just be another casualty of progress.
What's the moral? Don't sign into someone else's thousand-foot formula.
(You know, like advertising)
Forty years from now the 10-minute video standard will be arbitrary and all those "subscribe/next video" screens will be nonsense. Your watermark will be a dead link, and your promo codes will be meaningless. If you have any sort of relevance, your videos will probably be preserved in some other format, and until you know what that is, it's probably a better idea just to make things that YOU want to make that aren't tailored for anything.
So how do we make money for our art? I can't say if this is realistic at all, but I really think we've got the right idea with supporter upgrades and patreon funds. Merch is pretty cool if you can swing it, though I haven't dipped my dick in that world just yet. If you've ever heard of Red Bar the guy who does that is pretty adamant about the no ads stuff, and honestly I think it's some of the only great internet content that isn't bending one way or another to please advertisers or rake in clicks. His whole theory is that if the content is good enough, people will pay for bonus content and merch, and he won't have to resort to any shady tactics to scam people for ad impressions.
If you didn't read the other posts, my new model is pretty similar - I'm selling source files for every new cartoon I make. This means I can actually put more time and effort into my cartoons, and they'll probably sell better if I do! Now I have to make things that are actually interesting and worth paying for, which will still have value long after the store is taken down. See? There's a silver lining.
EDIT: Here's the download link right here if you don't like to read: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B4NqAkIMZ2ZARWtjV1o5S0cyM1E
Hey hi happy new year!
Remember when there used to be "fbf guys" and "tween guys?" What happened to all the tween guys? Nowadays all the new kids are learning to animate the richard williams way, one frame at a time. But there used to be a pretty big faction of web-animators who worked exclusively in symbols and tweens!
You probably don't remember this, but I used to be a tweener! Actually, most of the stuff I did up until 2013 was pretty tweeny. I think when I started animating (in 2005! holy s*hit!) I didn't know what cel animation was so I just assumed everything on TV was made out of motion and shape tweens. Out of this naivite and my hundreds of spare hours, I think I invented at least a few new techniques for making tweens look like "real" animation (like putting animated movieclips on your lip-sync frames. I swear I did that before anyone else!) Looking back, I think this was the pinaccle of that era. For me, I mean. There were plenty of better tween guys (My favs :o :o :o :o :o :o :o)
Sometime around 2010 or 11 I started doing little tests in traditional frame-by-frame animation, and I eventually fully adopted fbf stuff 'cause it's actually easier in a lot of ways (it was a huge deal to make anything rotate in 3D!) but I kept doing little test animations for fun for a long time. I don't have anything from before 2012 when my last computer died, but I was looking back at all my tests and I decided hey maybe some people would like to see this stuff!
Most of this stuff is from 2013-14, after which I kinda slowed down on the animated stuff in favor of practicing regular drawing. But I still think there's a lot of value in "doodling" an animation the way you would a drawing in a sketchbook. Some of the stuff you make by accident can turn out to be your best work!
I kind of envy how little I cared about shit like "posing" and "solid drawing" back then. I only started to get into the serious-sam 'theory' stuff around 2015, so some of these old animations feel a little more creative and experimental. I think when you go to an art school and see all the people who are better than you, you start to try and improve in a really specific art-school direction instead of exploring new ideas and seeing what works for you. I think I'm a little behind some of my peers now, but I'm really happy I had 8 years to fuck around before I started really worrying about the competition. Actually, you can see a lot of those fuck-around techniques in practice in peck 2, especially on the more expressive and dynamic shots. I still can't draw as well as these Disney fucks, but I'd like to see any of them animate a scene with coach!
Speaking of which, did you guys see peck n' coach on the site skin? That rules! When I was like 12 I always hoped that I would make one of the "main guys" like in the flash portal graphic, so it was really special to see it up there like they're official newgrounds characters or something. Thanks @pennilessragamuffin !
If you liked my little collection of animation tests, you'll love some of my behind-the-scenes cartoon bundles! You know how Tom is always ending his posts with a plug for the supporter upgrade and that's like his "thing"? I'm thinkin that this is going to be my "thing" for a while. Sorry Tom I need money too!
The two peck bundles come with the FULL .FLA SOURCE FILE for your inspection, as well as an hour-long video were we talk about how we made the cartoon! We try and talk about interesting stuff too, not just stupid shit you learn about in school. PLUS they come with SECRET BONUS CONTENT, PLUS the second video has a SUPER SECRET SURPRISE ENDING. It's so secret, even I was surprised! It was actually very embarassing!
One of my favorite things I've done (2015?)
I've been meaning to make another post like this since Peck 2 dropped a month ago, but then I forgot! But no one was waiting, so who cares!
If you didn't know, I've been trying to fund my new cartoons by selling my source files. They also come with a ton of extra behind-the-scenes crap such as:
- 60 minute talk-about-making-the-cartoon type video
- Original concepts and sketches
- A "readme" text file
All this for 2$ by the way! Next time you eat a shitty six dollar frozen pizza, just remember you could have had THREE of these!
As the sole champion of non-subscription downloadable bonus content, I feel obligated to keep you all up to date on how my sales are doing! This is not to brag, (and I wouldn't about THESE numbers), but because you won't find statistics on this stuff ANYWHERE else. No one else is doing this!*
*To be fair, people are doing similar things with patreon, and subscription bonus content has been around forever, but the real "idea" here is that people can buy just the specific package they want. I'm guessing it's more profitable than subscription services in the long run, as people will have to buy everything individually instead of paying monthly for access to everything. Of course this makes more sense when you have more than two things for sale!
Anyway, here's the raw stats. You probably don't care, so I'll explain in a sec:
Above: Sales surounding peck one, April-May 2016
Above: Sales surounding peck two, Sep-Oct 2016. The pie graph shows the ratio of peck 1 sales (yellow) to peck 2 sales (blue)
It's kinda funny to see all these serious-looking diagrams next to the words "peck 2." You know, the cartoon about the kid getting his leg broken? A lot of people found that part very disturbing, but we thought it was funny!
You'll notice that the first graph (Peck 1 launch) has two large peaks, but the second graph (Peck 2 launch) only has one! Can you guess what the difference was? Believe it or not, the second peak was from me putting out this post! Will this newspost lead to another spike in sales? Up to you, I guess!
You'll also notice the ratio of 'started orders' to 'completed orders' is a lot closer to 1:1 in the second report. This is because we officially launched the store-page in between releases! There's one little spike somewhere between these two graphs where I tweeted about the new store and Lepy bought three more peck bundles!
Before the store, all are sales were done through a link that just went straight to paypal. Now you can get a little better idea of what you're buying, and add things to a "cart." Not a big fan of calling it a "cart," but now you can pay with a credit or debit card!
The other big change is that now you can pay what you want instead of just a flat two dollars - so if you're into donations, you can chip in a little extra! Big thanks to the two guys who dropped me a ten! That rules! You can see the difference in the Average Order Value - $3.19 instead of $2.00. Even though we sold a little less, we still made more money.
Originally I wasn't going to launch the "store" just yet. One of my fears was that after buying the first bundle, the 'novelty' of paying for the source file would wear off, and the sales would be way lower. So to be extra scientific about it, I was going test that first with peck 2, and then add new store features one at a time, coinciding with each new release. But peck 2 took way too long to make for me to justify testing each variable individually like that. Besides, as a newfound greedy money man, I'm a little more into playing all my cards at once! Sorry science!
Peck bundle profits per thousand views vs. youtube CPM
As you can see, I'm making WAY more off these stupid bundles than I ever would off ad money! I wish I knew what ad rates were like before all of this "the algorithm" stuff happened, but I'd imagine it was something like three dollars, which is pretty close to bonus content sales plus current ad rates.
When I went to put that data together just now, I had always assumed the youtube CPM (Cost Per Mthousand) was currently 3 to 5 dollars because that's what it says on my analytics page. BUT that number isn't based off 1000 views or even 1000 ad impressions- it's based off of 1000 "monetized playbacks," a very small fraction of your total views! Probably has something to do with adblock. Pretty sneaky youtube!
The CPM is based on those 1,700 monetized views, not all 6,800 views. Schemesters!
Anyway, my point is this idea is genius and if any of these big youtube animators adopted it they'd rake in a whole ton of money. In fact...
Whoa thanks for reading all that! As a last little note, if you bought this package or the last one, PLEASE let me know what you think of them! There's only like 30 of you out there, so really consider leaving some feedback! I want to make it worth buying again!
Also, thanks to all the people who reviewed Peck 2! I didn't respond to all of them or even any of them, but I've read every single one. Your thoughts are always appreciated! And if you want to have a real discussion about the cartoon, I'd be happy to have it here.
Thanks and peace out!
- Big dog
We're selling the source file again, too! This time it's really loaded with good shit:
- .Fla file
- Bonus video (1h14m)
- Peck 1+2 sketchbook featuring some of the first drawings of the characters
- At least THREE other things!
Plus an amazing surprise ending on the bonus vid! No one sees it coming, and it gets CRINGE. It's TWO DOLLARS. BUY IT.
The last one got around 30 sales which has been just enough to keep my store on the web! Was it a fluke? Will I make another 60 dollars minus paypal fees on this one? That's up to you! Buy it now, 'cause if I start losing money on this stupid sales service it's GOING DOWN and you'll NEVER see all this sweet bonus ish!
What did peck get on his paper? Will coach make an appearance? Watch peck! Find out!
but THIS GUY's 74!
Happy birthday Al Jardine! Let it be known that I am a lot taller than him
Because I am now a professional businessman and money-guy we've been selling the source file online for 2 bucks american. It comes with a recording of Bob and me breaking everything down shot for shot, so if you're into that sort of thing maybe buy it!
For some reason a lot of people don't like to talk about how much money they make. What's that about? You hiding something? I am not a hider or liar so here's exactly how much we've sold in the week Peck's been up:
So far we've gotten something like 9200 views between newgrounds and youtube, so about 1 in 550 people who watched the movie bought the source file. Now that might sound pretty shitty, but that's $3.31 for every thousand views, which really isn't too far from a normal ad-based CPM. If you're double dipping with ads AND bonus content (which I am,) you're almost doubling your income.
Now that isn't a totally honest statistic because the first people who see your movie are already your fans, and they're a lot more likely to buy shit (actually three of those payments are friends and family), but I don't have a big following so I'm assuming at least some of these buyers hadn't seen any of my work prior. And I only recognize a couple of the names (that's right, I have your names), so I don't think I'm being patronized.
So obviously I'm not going to make a killing off of 9000 views, but if you're one of these guys who gets 100k-10m views a video, that could be some serious $$$$ ka-ching!!!! And even though it's harder now than ever to break into the big leagues, I still have faith that if you just make something good enough you'll go viral. A prank time just recently got half a million views off a prior following of I think under 10,000 people, so it can still be done. Don't know if I'll ever get there, but I haven't lost faith just yet.
Will I ever do this again? Maybe! But there are a couple of kinks I'd like to work out:
- Paypal takes a huge cut. I think it's 33 cents off every purchase, which if you're selling a product for a dollar is 1/3rd of the profits. Literally the only reason it's 2$ is because that's three times as much money under paypal's dumb rules
- We originally wanted to do minimum 1$ name your price. The hosting guys (Sendowl) have a "name your price" option and I ticked it on the form, but I think paypal fucks it up and you can only ever pay the two dollars even if you wanted to pay more
- Paying with debit/credit cards is weird sometimes and doesn't always work. Once again probably paypal's fault. I wish there was an alternative but almost everyone uses paypal for this stuff so we might be taking a bigger hit by using something else
If you want to get around these paypal scamsters you can send the money directly to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you the code directly. Then I'll get more at no extra cost to you (you'll have to wait for me to send the file, though.)
The one other thing is that if you're regularly putting out these bonus things for a few dollars each, people will be able to go back and buy the old ones, too. I don't think it's too unreasonable for someone to "discover" you and then buy every bundle at once. PLUS it was only like two extra hours of work to put the deal together, so there's really no reason this couldn't be a good chunk of your income as a webtoons guy.
So try it! (and buy it!) and watch peck!
For those of you who bought the Peck package, what'd you think? Would you buy another one? Would you pay more if you could?
I just posted this a minute ago but I forgot to check "front page" so oops!!!!
Brewster and I made this cartoon all by ourselves. Isn't that cool?
I'm trying out something new on this one - we're selling the source file on paypal for two dollars (or more if you want to donate.) It comes with a cool hour-long recording of bob and I breaking down the cartoon shot-for-shot. I'm not on patreon or anything like that so if you've ever wanted to buy something or support me now you can!
Get it now or we'll start selling dopey-looking shirts that say "it's me peck" on it! Gotta pay those bills somehow! And if that isn't incentive enough, the second I start losing money on that I'm taking it down, so get it while you can. It only costs nine a month to keep it up, but have you seen how many twitter followers I have? It's not gonna last!
In other news I'm going to school still. I like it!