: Barbie Diaries

May 26, 2006

Barbie Diaries Opening Title Card.

The Barbie Diaries was a very influential job in my life. As a company, Curious Pictures grew tremendously durring that production. As a person, I got to test my limits a bit. I can’t recall how long this show went on for. In my mind, start to finish, it took nearly a year to complete. Knowing the studio, and how we operated….I’m guessing the production took less time than that.

I sort of want to write a small book about this movie:) It’s hard to even entertain the thought of expressing all that happened during this show. It felt like a generation of CG artists started their careers in NYC on Barbie Diaries. Lewis Kofsky brought in a handful of ringers so to speak to mange the army of junior artists…..but the majority of us were young excited adults working on their first big project. Everything that happened felt larger than life and important.

Here are some of the highlights of the show for me:

    • Learning to run the new Vicon Motion Capture system, and becoming the lead motion capture artist.
    • Spending several months in India at the DQ animation studio, and building an artist feedback system using Perl and my boss’s favorite program, Microsoft Excel.
    • Writing Perl scripts to package up animation and renders to send from India to NYC.
    • When the renderfarm literally caught fire and melted down. Yea for that.
    • Building my first webserver and installing media wiki.
    • Working 16 hours a day for several months straight while watching Naruto at night trying sleep.
    • The costume designer hired by Mattel having a thriving Dominatrix Clothing line as a side business.
    • Learning Javascript and AE scripting.
    • Compositing a shot in Digital Fusion! Hahah.
    • And many more.

I learned a great deal on this show. I don’t remember having a specific job per/say. I remember there being an endless successions of small problems to solve. Each day I just sat down, looked for issues, and went about finding workflows.

Guess I was 24 going on 25 years old. Felt younger in my mind. Maybe I romanticized the genius of my predecessors and how I felt comparing myself to them? For years I recall feeling like the artists who founded the studio were beyond exceptional, they were hyper-amazing. I felt that in 30 years of hard work, I would never match their creativity, sensitivity, confidence, skills-sets, aptitude, knowledge or IQ. So, I worked crazy hard on this gig trying to fill this needless obstacle that I had invented in my mind. I wanted to do a good job, to be recognized and for someone to tell me I was being useful or important. I came to the studio in a strange moment. Most of the staff artists were 6-25 years older than me. And the new artists were 5-8 years younger. I was in this strange gap of wanting to be on the same level as my 35 year old peers and also being asked to lead people my age or younger.

Also it was exciting making television! It was hard to imagine something more amazing to do with my time! The people/artists were completely nuts, which I adored. It’s not that my colleagues were insane or unbalanced, but it takes a certain amount of courage to be an ‘artist’. I grew up in a emotionally conservative little town. Men didn’t cry or hug or say I love you. Strong, stoic adults didn’t complain. There was a way to go about living life, and that was it, no one appeared to encourage any ambitions or talents overtly. But here, living and working in NYC, my peers were challenging not only my personal ‘values’, but they were displaying commanding authority over sensitive, novel and beautiful artistic pursuits! I worked with people who took documentaries of their bowel movements. Who painted rooms and themselves naked for ‘art’. Folks who animated paperclips filmed with consumer digital cameras breathing live and emotion into everyday objects because they were ‘inspired’. It was enough to melt your heart and make you want to push the limit of everything you’d ever learned. Surrounded by such bright and beautiful people it was impossible to not be curious about what mysteries or treasures might be lurking on the other side of any unvoiced or unresolved prejudice!

This was the Barbie Diaries that I knew. The friends I made are thought of often and fondly. The gig is revisited from time to time in my mind. These memories are a treasure box of invaluable, glittering gems.

Making computer graphics and traveling the world. What better life could there be?!

A smattering of images from the production. To my memory, I only composited the balloon shot at the end of the film. Ray Forziotti and I worked together on that figuring out how to render the effects, the env, and characters as separate passes and have them re-assemble at the end. It was tricky back then.

Making Of.

A little clip from the archives showcasing the process in which the motion capture became the final animation. It’s a little basic but illustrative of the technique more or less.

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