Jam for Hope 2023

I could not be more proud of my students who offered up an entire weekend to a fellow student with a wish. RIT senior Zach Sheikh is battling cancer for the third time, and wanted to bring the RIT community together to create games and animation that would inspire young adults who are also facing adversity. We spent Saturday and Sunday collaborating and producing an animation that incorporated 2D and 3D assets, and the end result, while still a bit glitchy, shows what can happen when we focus our energies for good!


Voices by Selma PeAr

SO honored to have been asked to be part of RIT MFA student Selma PeAr’s Voices which she managed to complete smack in the middle of the pandemic  shutdown. Directed by Selma and also featuring Komal Ashfaq (who was also the Producer) and Lani Dobson, this film is a beautifully subversive statement about where women stand today. CT Chen was the DP, with Robert Stokes as First AC, Nolan Kearney as Second AC, Zack Stone as Gaffer, and Creighton Yanchar as Sound Mixer. Congratulations on a wonderful, RIT Honors Show-selected film, everyone!

mari jaye blanchard in Voices by Selma PeAr

Komal Ashfaq in Voices by Selma PeAr

Lani Dobson in Voices by Selma PeAr

WIA: working from home

Last month I took part in the Women in Animation #workfromhome Challenge and I managed to make a new drawing/animation for each of the thirty days. It was really important for me as an artist to focus on that structure during the start of the lockdown, and I believe it kept me sharp as all other structure fell away.  I don’t totally know what day it is anymore, but I am working during every single one of them, and weirdly, that feels good!  Today, WIA announced the winner of the challenge, as well as those of us who hung in there for all 30 prompts.  Congrats, America Castillo for winning, and to my fellow thirty-day-ers for completing the challenge!

Creativity in the face of Corona!

Very proud of my freshmen classes’ ability to pivot in the middle of a semester, return home, and continue working in such innovative ways!  They were featured in this RIT article highlighting (only) some of their solutions to continuing their work without any of the hardware on campus!

Below are the instructions I made for them regarding DIY light tables and down-shooters, and they did the rest!

DIY Downshooter Using StopMo Studio App

Taking the High (res) Road

During production of Swing, we anticipated and encountered early the issue of resolution for the over-fifty 2D, alpha-channel videos that needed to be playing for the entire duration of the film. There were two major bottlenecks in regards to optimization, the 2D looping animations and the 2.5 Quill animation, exported as geometry and separated frame by frame in Maya. The “weight” of these assets made playback virtually impossible on certain systems, and even after the most recent and “final” optimization for distribution, I, the director of the film still cannot play Swing on my own personal headset, which is capable of playing most other Oculus downloads.

One of the problems that we ran into was having 54 animated souls spinning around the scene for the entire five minute duration while maintaining a high level of detail. One way to tackle the problem was to create a 4k video file and use that as a texture on a cylinder. The first attempt was to squeeze the aspect ratio into a square. When attached to the cylinder, the animation had a bit of aliasing. While being at 4k, the resolution was not as high quality as we would like. Larger than 4k and the whole animation experience would make the system slow down and stutter. The next option we tried was to make a square format video but have the images in a 16:9 format to then project on the cylinder. This ended up also not having enough resolution as well. The last option that enabled the higher quality while maintaining playability was to use flipbooks. Each soul was converted into a flipbook image using GlueIt2006. In Maya, every other polygon was deleted. Then on each of the remaining faces, we applied an individual shader with a UV space of (0,1). When brought into Unreal each shader was replaced with an animated flipbook. Each image is 3600×4800. We are currently researching how to lower the resolution for lower powered machines to check the frame rate and switch automatically to give the best playability.

(Blanchard/Reisch 2020)

Drawing the Line!

Ever wondered what twenty seconds of animation would look like floating around your head? Mark imported all of my Quill animation into Unreal as geometry!

Every single frame on top of one another, hanging out in space. Quite a way to see an animation!

Here’s a link to a Sketchfab experience where the Quill animation can be viewed from all sorts of angles, just like it could when I was drawing it.  Eventually I want to push this concept of the line in space, because it has a lot of possibilities!


It’s Raining…Yogurt?…

RIT Lecturer Kevin Bauer and I received a PLIG (Provost Learning Innovations Grant) in 2019 for our project “SOFA SLow-Mo”, and when we envisioned bringing students together to explore movement and record it all in slow motion, I am not entirely sure either of us saw Kevin sitting in a turtle themed kiddie pool getting yogurt poured over his head (in my efforts to stay environmentally friendly but also have different liquids to pour and observe fluid dynamics, I opted for eggs, flour, yogurt, milk and water…a veritable raw pancake of material!)  The students who joined us for this session bounced, threw, jumped, ran and spun their way to more reference footage for their peers for years to come!

Thanks, US Embassy in Kosovo!

My VR Workshop this past July was a great success.  HUGE thanks to the US Embassy for sponsoring my visit, as well as the visits of fellow Americans (and Rick and Morty Directors) Bryan Newton and Matt Taylor!

Brief interview of how it all came about here.

VR Workshop at Anibar 2019!

Very excited to say I have been invited back to Kosovo for the 10th annual Anibar Animation Festival this July.  I will be teaching workshops on creating 2D animations in a 3D environment.  I’ve been spending a lot of time in my headset as of late working on my film (posts on that should be coming soon), and I am really excited to share what I’ve been learning with other animators.  If you’re over in Europe in a couple of weeks, stop by Peja and witness the wonder that is Anibar yourself!


(hiking in Peja with the amazing Vullnet Sanaja, Anibar Founder and Director, July 2018, photo credit: Cynthia Chu)