September 2019: I like to move it

Since the last time I posted, I’ve had a few teeny tiny life events happen:

  • I organized nearly the entirety of my LEGO parts collection
  • I got married
  • I moved

Like I said, tiny things. They came at the cost of a few months of animation work, but that’s to be expected. There is good news too: organizing my LEGO parts makes it much easier for me to build new set pieces, and moving into a new home allowed me to create a more useful animation space.

During that time, I managed to film the majority of my upcoming short The Last Mecha and got some post-production done on other projects. Unsorted and The Upgrade-O-Matic are already complete, and Filler Street is currently undergoing post-production (filming is complete, fortunately). With that in mind, here’s my new anticipated release schedule:

  • Oct 2019: Unsorted
  • Nov: The Upgrade-O-Matic (or Filler Street if I complete it early)
  • Dec: Filler Street (or The Upgrade-O-Matic)
  • Jan 2020: THAC XVII if I am able to enter
  • Mar: The Last Mecha

I’ve anything but forgotten Feature Film 2. It has a few related and preceding projects, work on which will begin at the end of October(!) according to my current schedule. Production of the film itself is still several months off from that, but it’s exciting to finally be moving in that direction.

Before then, however, my focus is on finishing up Filler Street completely and finishing production on The Last Mecha. If all goes well, shooting will resume in a couple days. Until next time,

-mysteriouspi

Starstreak Media

May 2019: Let’s recap a bit, shall we?

Hey all,

I’ve been a little more quiet than anticipated. Apologies for that. But for once, it’s not because I haven’t gotten much done. Here’s a few recent highlights.

Let’s get this out of the way: even one video per month is not happening, haha. Stop motion takes an immense amount of time in a world where I have less and less. I can only justify so many projects now. But that’s ok, because it means I can pour my heart and soul into what I create. That being said, I do have three projects filmed and in various states of post-production, one that has just started filming… And one that will start soon. More on that in a moment.

I finally got a new camera: the Canon EOS Rebel T7, which has now replaced my Nikon Coolpix P7000. This upgrade grants me greater resolution, better image quality, interchangeable lenses, live view, and more. It’s been a lot of fun to film with so far. I also picked up two vintage Nikon lenses, a 35mm and a 55mm macro. I haven’t used them near as much as the T7 itself but they already seem better than the kit lens that came with my camera.

And the biggest news: Feature Film 2’s screenplay is complete. Done. Whole. Five drafts in, the details are set in stone and ready to enter production. That isn’t happening immediately because I have another project to finish filming first, but it won’t be too much longer. Give it a month or three.

With these points in mind, I feel comfortable giving a rough outline for the next three-quarters of a year:

  • June: Unsorted LEGO
  • August: Filler Street: Cold Trail and Other Nonsense
  • October: The Upgrade-O-Matic
  • February: The Last Mecha

I know it’s a more sparse calendar than desirable, but this is 100% to get Feature Film 2 off the ground and into production. I’m so excited to get it into a revealable state and show you what I’ve been dreaming up for years. Until next time,

-mysteriouspi

Starstreak Media

March 2019: Goals

Straight to the point, I’d like to accomplish a few goals this year and beyond. Those goals changed in scope after I demoted Filler Street from a regular series, but not in spirit.

  • Grow the YouTube channel: A pretty obvious one. I’d like to primarily work toward increasing average view counts on each video as well as the number of subscribers to the channel.
  • Publish content regularly: My original goal was to publish either weekly or twice per month. But having decided to cut Filler Street’s original plans, that is completely unfeasible now. I do want to publish content regularly still, so maybe once a month? Potentially difficult, but realistic if I’m not constantly working on Filler Street anyway.
  • Present content professionally: You’ll notice all my 2019 videos feature my new logo as well as as a new end screen with cards linking to other videos. I’ve also made new custom thumbnails for all videos to improve first impressions. This should hopefully help with the first goal.
  • Improve my animation skills: I’ve become more than proficient with editing (as The Dust of Ormiin shows wonderfully), but my actual animation skills have plateaued for a while and need improvement. While my number one focus will always be stories themselves, I’d like to improve their presentation as much as reasonably possible.
  • Experiment: Try new animation and editing techniques. Without Filler Street as a regular series, this goal shifts to the shorts I put out this year.
  • Have fun: What’s the point if I don’t enjoy every second of this?

I want Starstreak Media’s 2019 to be great for all of you, and for myself as well. As nice as weekly or twice-monthly content would have been, shifting to monthly at most will ensure the best quality I can give all of us.

-mysteriouspi

Director at Starstreak Media

February 2019: The Sudden Filler Street Problem

This is something that last year I considered possible but shrugged off at the time. Perhaps I should have given it more thought, because here we are. Filler Street already trended low as far as view counts went, but “How to Fight your Dragon” hit a new low. “Not even 24 views in 24 hours” low. It’s made me reconsider a lot of things.

While Filler Street was partly meant to experiment, it was also meant to provide easier-to-produce content that I could put out regularly. The ultimate goal there was to grow Starstreak Media as much as possible before Feature Film 2’s announcement and release. But I’ve seen the opposite response, as the subscriber count stalled for several days around the time both Filler Street episodes went up. I don’t mind that I’m losing some subscribers—it’s expected given my year and a half of inactivity—but it was much more pronounced there. Combined with the lack of views, it became clear people didn’t care about Filler Street. So the question became, did I care about it?

I haven’t mentioned it before but I’m a huge fan of Nintendo’s Metroid franchise. Coincidentally, the day “How to Fight your Dragon” was the same day Nintendo announced that they were restarting *Metroid Prime 4* from scratch. The game wasn’t meeting expectations, so rather than push out a poor or mediocre product, they chose to delay development so they could publish something they were proud of.

I’m not proud of Filler Street the way I am about Last Stand or Knightrise or The Dust of Ormiin. It existed to provide content, but it was content that neither viewers nor myself cared enough about. With that in mind, I think it’s time for Filler Street as it was originally intended to end.

The production I’ve already completed won’t go to waste. My new plan is to film the end of the Cold Trail story arc and then produce all remaining Filler Street content as a single video. That way it’s just one more video for people who don’t care about it to skip over and it doesn’t dominate content on my channel. This does mean that two+ videos per month is no longer feasible. One each month is the best I can see happening at this point. Unfortunate, but…

YouTube channels are defined by the majority of their content. And if the majority of my content is filler, what’s the point? I would rather make every video a quality piece worth clicking on instead of mediocre content worth skipping. And without the pressure and time commitment of a new video every week, I can shift the effort and energy that would have been given to Filler Street into short films and Feature Film 2.

Sorry Paul Brickman, but I have bigger fish to fry.

-mysteriouspi

Director of Starstreak Media

Breakdown: The Dust of Ormiin

This is the short film that I animated just after publishing the finale of Knightrise then burned out on. I sat on it for some time before coming back to finish post-production. This proved beneficial: I put a lot of time and effort into the editing and it really paid off. In fact, I’d argue this is my best work so far. So where did it come from? (Spoilers coming so watch the film first!)

Near the end of Knightrise’s post-production I took an Energy and Society class whose final project included a creative work, intended to accompany and expand on the research paper. My paper was about the positive and negative impacts of nuclear power plants on local communities. Unsurprisingly, I decided to make my creative work a film. I submitted the first draft of the screenplay to my professor and told her I intended to produce it. “You know the script is more than sufficient, yes?” Indeed I did, but what’s the point if I don’t overdo it? On the due date I presented my paper and “The Tarnished World of Oormine,” an early version of the short with minimal special effects and no music or sound effects, only voice lines.

While the short film originally focused on the same topic as my paper, the theme quickly morphed into something else: mishandling any energy source devastates local communities. Settlement 490 was already exposing the nearby Ormian village to harmful radiation. But by pursing profits over safety, Covup enabled disaster for both the Ormians and Settlement 490. Proper management of the situation would have prevented the disaster, but EnCorp should have been more cognizant of the local Ormian village in the first place.

I gave this film my all, especially in post-production. Color correction and dust clouds transformed Ormiin into an unforgiving world. Light placement granted life to Settlement 490 and the Ormian village, illuminating them in the darkness. Moving Covup’s space shuttle with LEGO rigs wasn’t exactly smooth, but careful masking of the rigs made the shuttle fit seamlessly into its environments. And for the first time I experimented with balancing my audio between stereo speakers.

A clearer look at Covup trying to reach Settlement 490.

Here Covup is standing on the same pair of baseplates as the miniature version of Settlement 490 seen when Covup lands on Ormiin and after the explosion. To make Settlement 490 look large far away, I adjusted the depth of field so the settlement was blurry and placed some big ugly rock pieces between it and Covup. Darkening the set and adding special effects sold the illusion, though in my opinion I overdid the lighting.

Settlement 490 looks convincingly distant, if a bit too dark.

With the time and effort required to produce The Dust of Ormiin, it is unlikely I will produce more than a couple more films of this caliber (or at least, of both this caliber and length) this year. But it is a new standard that I will strive to meet and exceed as often as possible. I love telling impactful stories such as this and I hope you enjoy watching them just as much. Until next time,

-mysteriouspi

Director of Starstreak Media

THAC XVI: The Brickfilming Sprint

The Twenty-Four Hour Animation Contest (THAC) has a long history—so long that this January saw the 16th such event. It’s exactly what it sounds like: participants have the same 24 consecutive hours to write, build for, film, voice, edit, score, and publish their brickfilms.

Despite this history, I had never attempted THAC in previous years. One of my goals this year is to interact more with the brickfilming community, so I preemptively set aside the 24 hours, woke up way too early in the morning, and proceeded to produce the day away.

Wow.

It was a ton of fun. Not just the project itself, but checking in on other participants on the forums and Twitter to see their progress (and their likewise-deteriorating mental states). It was a sprint, but rather than anyone trying to pull ahead of everyone else, we were all merely trying and helping each other reach the finish line.

It was also taxing. Limiting yourself to a 1-2 minute film with only a couple set pieces is the best idea, so naturally I wrote a 3-minute film with 4 different sets. I only started animation over 6 hours in and with only half the sets built and felt like I was falling behind, but pushed through and got everything built and filmed. By 20 hours in the caffeine I consumed to stay awake left me shaky (unfortunate because I was still animating a final scene). By 23 hours in I was rendering the final product but was falling asleep at my desk. With only 16 minutes left I submitted my film, waited until the deadline to make sure everything went smoothly, then jumped into bed to scavenge what sleep I could.

THAC XVI was awesome, and finally interacting with the brickfilm community at large was a great experience. You’ll definitely see me hanging around BricksInMotion more, something I now realize I should have been doing for years.

Next update will be in February. Until then, look out for Filler Street Episodes 3 and 4, and an awesome new short film after…

-mysteriouspi

Owner of Starstreak Media

January 2019: We’re Back, Baby!

It’s like those multiple other times I said Starstreak Media would relaunch, except it’s actually happening. But of course it’s early in the year and only one video is up yet. So what’s the difference this time?

There’s actual material ready. Lots of videos and lots of WIP videos. Of course that raises another question: why make you wait? Why not release the currently ready videos now?

My major goal for Starstreak Media this year is to build momentum: I really want to try a regular upload schedule for once. In general it’s a better growth strategy than releasing videos sporadically, and I want to see where that takes us this year. I’m starting with a video each week (yikes) for a while and will eventually transition to 2/month once 1/week is no longer feasible. Videos will release Fridays 2:00 PM EST, and only on the first and third Friday of each month once uploads slow down. I’m “guaranteeing” (outside of something catastrophic happening) 1/week videos through March. Whether that will continue past this depends on how many videos I have ready and my rate of production during the first quarter of this year.

So what can you look forward to in the coming weeks?

  • Jan 4: New channel trailer (already online, check it out below!)
  • Jan 11: My THAC XVI entry, made in only 24 hours
  • Jan 18: Filler Street Episode 3
  • Jan 25: Filler Street Episode 4
  • Feb 1: A brand-new short film (teased in the new channel trailer…)

I’m very excited about the last of these as I believe it’s my best work yet. Hope that gets you anywhere near as excited as I am! See you again soon,

-mysteriouspi