Saturday, September 18, 2010

Animation Palooza!

Hey Everyone,

I just finished my final critiques for the quarter which went very well. I spent the last week or so working non-stop to get everything together. I will post about those in the next day or two.  For now, here are all of my little animation projects from my first Adobe After Effects class. Please enjoy and let me know what you think if you feel so inclined.

The first homework assignment was to make a flower grow.  I tried to make it a bit more interesting than that.

Flytrap from Michael Schwalm on Vimeo.

In the second homework assignment we were supposed to utilize moving type. Mine turned into a TV intro to my life.

Next up was 3D space. They call After Effects a 2 1/2 D program because there is only so much that you can do 3D-wise.  In this case we were to make a robot dancing "the Robot" This is probably my favorite thing I did all quarter for sheer ridiculousness.

Next up was an i-Pad application that we had to design for NASA. Our teacher gave us all of the designs and images and we just had to make stuff move around. Boring as all get out, but I learned a lot. The circle moving around on the screen is supposed to indicate the movement of a finger as a person explores the app. My class made fun of me 'cause it moved around so slowly but it was the last part of the thing I did and by then I just didn't have the time to go back in and keep tweaking.  There is also a red dotted line that follows the rocket ship at the end but it didn't show up when I rendered stuff. Too bad 'cause it looks way cooler with the dotted line.

Finally, more foolin' around with all of the Villa Tempus stuff.  I had a whole lot more of this that I animated with the camera flying down a hallway looking at different parts of my process framed on the wall.  It was such a massive file that it would have taken forever to render on the school computers so I just rendered the last part of it.

Time Traveler from Michael Schwalm on Vimeo.

That's all for now! I am off to Orlando tomorrow to visit Harry Potter Town.  (Its really called the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure but that is such a mouthful that its not worth dealing with.) I can't wait.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The World is a Theme Park: Part 1

The Italy pavilion at Epcot
An Imagineer's rendering

During my year abroad I had the opportunity to visit all sorts of awesome places only to realize that I had been visiting the theme parkified versions of them for years. Case in point with Venice, Italy.

The clock tower and the Doge's palace in Epcot
Me in Venice
The palace in Venice
The palace in Epcot

When I was a kid, (maybe even up until a few years ago) if I was offered the chance to visit the real Venice OR the Italy pavilion in Epcot's world showcase, I would have chosen Epcot. I think I was somehow more intrigued by the Disneyfied fabrication of reality than the reality itself. Does that make sense?

A new pizzaria in the Italy Pavillion
A rendering of the pizzaria
A similar looking building in Monza, Itlay

Anyway, having the chance to visit all of these places for real changed everything. I know that the Imagineers, when they are designing an experience do as much research as they can. This often means that they get to visit exotic locales to study the architecture and design up close in order to faithfully re-create it in their theme parks. I am sure that they got to go on a tour of Italy before they designed the Italy pavillion.



They have the opportunity to fabricate a reality for enjoyment by the masses based on their experiences within that actual reality. Sounds like the best of both worlds to me. Visiting the cool places then building their own versions of them!

One of the only other pics I have of me in Venice. Too bad my eyes are closed.

Have a good day!


Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Villa Tempus

One thing I would love to see in the future of theme parks is multiple rides or attractions that you move through in succession in order to experience one story.  You wait in line once but have an adventure that lasts two hours instead of two minutes.  Of course this might be a logistical nightmare but I have been mulling it over for I think it could work. Of course this might mean higher ticket prices and you might have to reserve your place in advance.

Anyway...I took a retail branding class last quarter here at PC (the Portfolio Center) where the challenge was to design our own retail space down to a scale model.  Of course, me being who I am, I wanted to design a theme park ride/retail space.  I thought this would be a good chance to have my concept center around the above idea of multiple attractions to tell one story.  Thus the Villa Tempus was born.
One of the first sketches I did of the exterior
The final design built in Google Sketchup

The Time Traveler done with Corel Painter
The story is based on the Time Machine by H.G. Wells and goes something like this. You have been invited to an old Victorian villa that sits on the mouth of a river. Once there you meet the Time Traveler (a live actor who is with your party through the whole experience) who welcomes you to his home, the Villa Tempus.  It is here that the Time Traveler has discovered the secrets to moving through time and space.  He had invited you to his house for dinner in order to unveil his latest invention but now realizes that he can, in fact, take you anywhere in time and space to have dinner.  And so you are off. The first portion of the attraction takes you on a madcap journey back through time in classic dark ride style and is filled with massive sets and countless animatronics. Your ride vehicle then drops you off in one of four different dining rooms each themed to, and serving fare from, a different historical period.  The dinning room that your party arrives at is pre-determined by questions asked during the reservation process.  After dinner you re-board the time machine for the journey back to the mansion but, thanks to the malfunctioning machine, you find yourself trapped in a dismal future version of the mansion that is dilapidated and overrun by the monstrous Morlocks (a la the Wells novel). Your group must now split up and head off through the mansion on an interactive adventure collecting the pieces to build a new time machine while avoiding the monsters. In the end all is set right,  you are sent back to the present and you exit through the gift shop.

Paper model mock up to see how it would come together
The finished model after my final critique
 An ambitious project to be sure. All I had time to do last quarter is design the logo, do a couple of concept illustrations, and build the model of the exterior (which lights up and has a working water wheel). We have a great photographer and teacher at our school named Peter Hobbes who takes photos of a lot of the students' work.  I didn't have the money to pay for him to take professional pictures of my model so, in exchange,  I have been teaching his kids drawing lessons.

Me and the Hobbes kids during our lesson

Peter's photo that we are still in the process of Photoshopping to clean it up

All in all I have had so much fun working on this project and I hope I have the chance to flesh the whole thing out in future quarters. Here is a little process video put together using i movie. I used After Effects to animate the Time Traveler and the logo at the end.

The Villa Tempus from Michael Schwalm on Vimeo.


The Beginning

My first memory is of the Peter Pan ride in Disneyland. I remember leaning out over the side of the pirate galleon and spreading my arms wide and really believing that I was flying.  As I got older and learned more about the world, I realized that there were people who had the privilege of creating these experiences for others.  In the case of Disney, this elite group is known as the Imagineers. I knew immediately that I wanted to be one.

I spent my youth drawing maps of theme park rides and planning out entire theme parks. I built models of them out of Legos or construction paper. I also loved story boarding out entire attractions as well as copying artwork done by the Imagineers.

A copy of a painting of the Indiana Jones Adventure

My plan for a Mummy attraction long before one opened at Universal Studios

 In college I studied set and lighting design for theater at the University of New Mexico.

Installing a door handle I designed and welded together

I also had the opportunity to participate in the Walt Disney World college program for a few months where I met some Imagineers while I worked at the Rock n Roller Coaster. It was a great experience.

Dance party with Buzz

Once I had graduated from college, I did architectural illustrations and drafting for a small firm in New Mexico. I was only there for a few months before I quit, sold my stuff and spent a year traveling around the world.  I spent the entire time drawing everything I possibly could and did a little free lance illustration along the way to help support myself.

Sketching the Temple of Karnak in Egypt

I eventually realized that if I was ever going to be an Imagineer, I had to get serious. I came back to the U.S. and am now studying illustration and design at the Portfolio Center in Atlanta, GA. I still have theme parks design in mind as my goal.

A theme park teaser poster for a class at the Portfolio Center.

Basically, I love the act of creating whether it is drawing, painting, sculpting, welding, model making, name it. Nothing gets me more excited than the creative process and the ability to tell a story in three dimensional space.

A playset I designed and built  pertaining to the above poster
  I plan to use this blog to share my creative process of projects past, present, and future as well as all of my adventures that I have had on my road to a career in the themed entertainment industry.