Reflections On the Production Process for Jobert and the Crop Circle Warriors

11 06 2014

     Producing an original animation for a television series is anything but easy; this is especially true for independent creators and studios in a third world country – like in our case. It has been my dream to produce the first local 2D animation television series to be marketed and shown abroad. What I never realized was that our production plan was almost doomed from the start. We were extremely under budget, we don’t have the ecosystem for the financing, the education system, adequate talent pool, know-how in production and market of the animation for abroad and finally, I was also not sure of my concept. At first we thought we were adequately prepared having some experience in doing a partial animated television series for the local market;  but we were really unaware of what the challenges we’re up against for a full animated television series for the foreign market; hence the production took a very long time to finish. As we are approaching the final stages of the 2D production for the first season of “Jobert and the Crop Circle Warriors©”, some of the people involved in the project shared their experiences and insights in the production process.

Key People with Some Cartoon Characters

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Left to Right: Grace A. Dimaranan, Edward L. Tan, Alstaire A. Sarthou

The Original “Crop Circle Warriors©”

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Edward L. Tan – Creator and Producer

     I’m a very private person, but as part of my job as creator and producer, I have to be visible and be able to explain my ideas and experiences to future distributors and marketers for our product. There are also many people with my exact name – Edward L. Tan – both locally and abroad if you look at Facebook and LinkedIn. I don’t want anybody with an exact or similar name as mine – now and in the future to even jokingly take the credit for my ideas and project; because this will just confuse the people who want to deal with me.

     The Philippines has a tough economic environment, so most of the time one has to rely on oneself to make and earn a living. Even those with jobs, they have to find ways to earn extra income. Many are opting just to go abroad to look for work or just migrate to another country. There is little government support for social services and more so for businesses as risky and unessential as animation production. So we have to rely on our wits and financial resources to make the animation project a reality. Unlike in other countries such as Malaysia and Singapore; there is an all out government support for the animation industry with all sorts of infrastructures and incentives. So many foreign talents relocate there and animation businesses from all over the world set up offices and production houses in their countries.

     As a novice animation creator and producer, I relied on the production experience of my partner – Top Peg Animation Studio Inc. to handle the production details, while I handled the conceptualizing, financing and marketing of the animation project. From our experiences, we all bit a lot more than we can chew. The task was a tall order for everyone involved, especially for the production side. A number of us had multiple roles in the project. From my professional experience, this was the most difficult thing that I have personally undertaken; writing and publishing real estate books is a far easier task – the facts makes most of the material for the book.  At first I was thinking of making a full series in Tagalog (official local dialect) or even a movie for a local film fest. So years ago, I had commissioned Top Peg to do a minute and a half trailer for “Jobert” in Tagalog. The cost was a bit steep, but I was pleased with the results. We tried to show the trailer in some events but the market response was not there.

      From my experience and experiences of other local television and film producers, the local market is not enough to make any animation project viable. Years ago, I watched a local animation film on a weekday and there less than ten of us in the movie house. A few years later, I watched a new animated film on a weekend and there were about 60 of us in the movie house. Both of these films were included in the Metro Manila Film Festival where every December only local films are shown for a duration of one to two weeks. Both local films were very well made from my point of view but the local market overwhelmingly prefers to watch the comedy, action and/or drama of popular local actors and actresses. Years ago, for my first partially animated children’s television series in Tagalog, there were some advertisers, but it was not enough to recoup my investment. There was even an advertiser who paid us one time in canned goods, this was not in the contract. When I added the cost of the canned goods; it was lower than the advertising rate. What can we do – at least it was better than nothing. After the less than agreeable results, most likely there will be no more future local animation production for the local market in the future.

     When we started our project, I was already sure there is no market locally for our animation product, hence I decided to do the animation in English. A few years back; a foreign broker marketed our animation to two well-known international distributors who were interested in our project but there was no response after three weeks. This was a a good thing because I was not sure of my concept then and we were not prepared to finish the project. A year later in a foreign exhibit, a multi-awarded animation producer and writer from a global producer and distributor also took notice and gave some comments and tips for our project. This time around, I’m making sure with all the improvements we made, there will be a known international distributor for our product.

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Edward L. Tan with Jobert – May 31, 2014

     When I approved the proposed budget for the television series “Jobert” many years ago, I had no idea that the said budget would be seriously under budget, I only realized the problem after we went overboard the projected production time table. The budget was a ‘bargain’ when I computed the whole series compared to the minute and half trailer we did before.  At first, the production went as scheduled and I was confident that we could finish it in at most three years, but it went much longer than that. It has been long enough for me to forget the stories and characters in some of the episodes. My main concern in the early years was how to finance the project, since it was a substantial amount for me, and from my past experience having a co-investor with little patience would spell disaster for an animation project. There is also no guarantee of any return for the investment; I don’t want to be bothered by anyone suing me for fraud, deception or for whatever reason that they didn’t get any profit for their investment. So I had to do it alone and sold some publicly listed shares, a small property, and my first animation project – at cost, as I needed the money right away for the down payment.  I also kept my main job in real estate and wrote, published and marketed six books about real estate. Since it took years to finish the project and the budget was still the same, I was able to finance the project completely. But I did not expect other costs to crop up, such as the collaterals for the project – script and artwork for the next season, intros and others such as fairs, exhibits, seminars, brochures, miscellaneous expenses, new softwares, business taxes and audit fees.

     During the duration of the many years in production; I thought the production was almost finished for a number of times. Since the written reports indicated that we were on our way to completion in a few months and this was confirmed verbally. So I was asking Alstaire to do a lot of extra stuff with payment such as the realistic poster, season two look of the characters, the old and the new introduction, essays for the 2D production, mobile game ideas, story line and character look, the animation cycles for the games, new typography and logo, pitch bible design for seasons one and two, a dance video and character design for the Ultimate Crop Circle Warriors©. All these things took a lot of Alstaire’s time for completing his main role in the production. He did not say he was overwhelmed with work nor was he really aware of the real production status. I only found out this May 2014 the real reasons why the past reports were unreliable as I got hold of an emailed report as against the latest reports. Grace and Alstaire would explain these problems in detail in their own reflections.

     With regard to production, I just describe what I want with regards to some of the looks, story and action and leave the writer/s, artists and director/s to do the execution as they see fit. Unless I have a very specific idea on how it should appear overall (this takes a lot of additional production time) – as in the new introduction; I just leave them alone. But this loose method could backfire like some of the works I don’t like are removed from the production – an example was the transformation scene of the three main characters on episode 4 some of it was to be used in the new introduction;  I felt  it was too bold even for me as an adult. A lot of effort and time were  spent on that complex scene, but when I saw it, there is no way I could allow it to be shown.  Alstaire said the transformation scene was in the story board, but like what I wrote before, I really don’t recall some scenes and characters in some of the episodes. According to Alstaire, these scenes were one of the most complex scenes -if not the most complex that he animated for the series.  With regard to improving inefficiencies in the production, my ideas don’t seem to be applicable in animation production and I can’t do anything about it except just wait for the completion. Shown below is just part of the scenes to illustrate why it was removed from the episode. There are lights covering the revolving body but I can still see much of the body in the video.

Transformation Scene of Jobert

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Transformation Scene of Jessalaine

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     In another rejected scene, Tany was shown wearing Jessalaine’s cyber armour; when Tany who has yet to be transformed was imagining himself to be transformed to be a super hero like Jessalaine. I specifically rejected the scene in the storyboard, but my mistake was I did not clearly specify what I wanted to replace the image with; so the artist did no know what to replace it with. I only learned about this over the phone, when I asked Alstaire  what the audiences’ reaction was when he had shown a short clip of one of the episodes to a group of students in a seminar. He said the audience laughed at the scene with Tany wearing Jessalaine’s cyber armour. I did not find this funny at all, first Tany is a spineless guy, but he is not gay. Secondly, others might be offended with making fun of people with a different gender orientation. In the Philippines and other countries, gay characters and their overtly exaggerated mannerisms are accepted, but for may others it is completely unacceptable.

Tany Girly Armor

     A number of times I wanted to pay the remaining balance to Top Peg, just to facilitate the production, but Grace would have none of it as it would not help in finishing the production in the time I desired. To her credit she did not accept the balance nor did she ask for more money for the project. The signed contract for the budget was respected, but the time extension was more than what I expected, as it was not in the contract. The reason for the extension was Grace had to earn extra income  from the other many numerous projects of hers: from creating and accrediting animation training centers to get new talents to getting numerous projects from here and abroad; so our project was not really a priority for many years. There was a time that Grace also asked me if I could accept the remaining unfinished episodes to be done in Flash animation, as there was no way to finish the 2D project in time and the cost was mounting. I rejected the suggestion since it will be bad for project as the viewers will naturally complain at the look of the latter episodes as it will be simplified compared to the earlier episodes. I asked for the real status of the project last September 2013 and it took them up to the end of January 2014 to come up with the real status. To my relief, the time table for completion is as planned – hopefully. An allowance for two months is given for the musical scoring, sound effects, some re-dubbing, final review and editing of the episodes. I’d like to finish everything completely before marketing the project again.

     At the beginning, I also didn’t realized that my concept for the cartoon was substantially deficient. It was very hard to expand the comic book series to a 13-episode series. I was lucky to have principal writer – Rhonnel W. Ferry and guest writer – Ian Kang for their excellent job in expanding the story. Another problem was the the vagueness of the concept. I was satisfied that the cartoon was just another super hero type of animation without much back story in it. It took me years to improve the concept bit-by-bit from an inspiration here and there; and then injecting those new concepts in the production without adding substantial costs. Some tips and comments from foreign animation industry veterans also helped to finalized the concept substantially. I was not even sure of the title; it was just “Jobert” for the longest time. In a seminar for animation students, an informal survey of the students by Alstaire showed that they still prefer the title as “Jobert” only. I felt there has to be something more for the title, to make it indelible in the minds of the viewers. My foreign broker’s opinion in late 2010 with regard to the title was also the longer version since he replied through email “it covers everything“. Since completing the new introduction for the series in early 2013, I have not had any further ideas to improve the concept, so I’m very sure that the concept is a solid one for the market positioning point of view. The title together with the new introduction says it all – “Jobert and the Crop Circle Warriors©” is clearly differentiated from other superhero cartoons and hopefully it will be recalled by the viewers.

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Revised poster with clenched fists and title not covered

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     Despite all the delays and trouble of producing this animation project, I’m still happy, proud and excited with the project. This is a third world animation project with a third world budget, but it doesn’t look and feel like it. Of course it cannot be compared to the quality of major animation productions of developed economies. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for all those who were involved in the project. We will make Philippine animation history as the first local animation television series if ever it is shown abroad, so all the time and effort is worth it. I have no regrets doing the project, as the rewards (financial or not) are worth much more than the cost.

     I don’t think I will go on into producing other animation projects in the future. Producing different animation projects takes so much time, effort, money and it is very risky at best. I’m no Stan Lee, so I’ll just concentrate to further develop my concept and story lines dealing with the “Crop Circle Warriors©”. Speaking of concepts, I think that is one of my strengths, but even then a good concept is hard to come by and it takes time to improve it. For all the research and readings I’ve done on aliens, UFOs, ancient mysteries of the world, crop circles, mythologies and fairy tales; I estimate I got less that 1% of my ideas for my project from these topics in books, the Internet and Youtube. Its like mining for diamonds or gold, there is so much waste to get those very small precious ideas or concepts. I really like concepts dealing with the cosmos and superheroes like Star Wars, Star Trek, Green Lantern (comics according to wikipedia and the animation specials), Prometheus movie and the X-Men. Movies with heavy concepts such as the Matrix and Inception also interest me. I am really amazed and inspired how the creators and writers can come up with stories with such complex and beautiful concepts. Other cartoons like the Thundercats, Herculoids, Johnny Quest, Voltes-V, Dragon Ball Z, Mazinger Z and others too numerous to mention are also sources of inspiration and wonder.

The Crazy Bunch Traveling the Cosmos to Fulfill Their Destiny

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     My animation is very simple conceptually but it can be made more complex and deeper if the need arises. As far as we know, there is no other local animation project in the works with original content for the foreign market. Aside from being a very risky business, I think the main reason is the concept – with no original good concept, there is no chance for the project to be marketed even for a big budgeted project. Of course, there are other factors to make good animation aside from the concept, like the story, humor, pacing, character, the designs and effects etc.  What is in demand out there is also important,  as our foreign broker did not even respond to my offer of my former children’s television series.

     I went into comics years ago because I needed something creative to do. I’m not really a comic buff, but that was the possible thing for me to do aside from writing about real estate on the side. So I started with a joke book in the vernacular, since many of the popular local comics in the book stores was in the form of a joke book. The said comic books were mainly a collection of the writers and artists work in the daily newspaper comics columns. But I didn’t want to be stuck in only a joke book, I wanted a bigger future for my comic – an action comic -so I thought. I ended book one to be continued in book two but transformed from a joke book to an action comic book. It took me awhile to to come up with a flimsy reason as to why the main character became a superhero that a frustrated reader started texting me when will I come out with book two. From my experience, the local comic book market for unknown writers has low sales, low margin and the joke book is more popular. So going into comic book is not worth the trouble, unless you want to go into animation in the future, where you can test your ideas and market reaction. You can also go into e-comics as comics are the cheaper and less risky way to find out if your idea has some future in animation. In our case, we have to overhaul the concept of the comic: the title, the typography and logos, the language, the story and  the drawings to make the animation work.

     After the comic experiment, I had a property to exploit and Filipinos are known as good 2D animators. So I dove into full animation production, not really knowing what I was getting into. The quality of the trailer was good, so I was naively confident that with quality work, we could easily market our project. I’m also sure that I wouldn’t starve if I failed in the experiment, so I went ahead with the project. But for all the trouble, the project is still worth it. Since nowhere else in my professional experience can I do what I want with my property and have fun. As an independent producer, we have flexible deadlines and together with the director, we have full creative control based on our limited budget, so the creative aspect is fulfilling. This is also a multi-platform project, if there is a positive market response, we could go into new seasons, movie/s, mobile games, merchandising or licensing in several countries – these all depends on the foreign broker/s, international distributors and the co-producers. The goal now is to market it and make some returns for my investment. If there is a signed agreement in co-production for the international market; our experiences in marketing our animation production will be discussed in future articles.

Grace A. Dimaranan – Co-Producer, Managing Director of Top Peg Animation Studio Inc.

In the Beginning…

     I am an animator by heart and a creative person who likes to inspire people about the world of Art, Design & Animation. I love the industry so much that I find ways to boost, promote, support the industry in anyway I can to keep it alive and kicking. I aim for the big picture of my actions and with it there are lots of sacrifices, hard work, failures and successes.

     Top Peg Animation & Creative Studio Inc. was created out of a group of people with a passion for art, design and animation. We were artists and animators who worked with big studios and earned well. Working with other studios motivated us to have our works be seen in international networks like Disney channel, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon or HBO. It also gave us a lot of knowledge and skill to improve our craft as artists and animators. Our works for different international animation shows or studios   is great and its a wonderful portfolio, but sometimes, we were never credited for this work as its in the contract that the studio sign for. We also cannot express our ideas because we need to follow the animation  instructions to the last detail or else it will be revised, removed or given to some other studios for reanimation. In the 80s when I started in the animation industry up to the 90s ; I experienced being an assistant animator, animator, assistant director, creative director, department head, production head and as an animation trainer.  But working for big studios never satisfied the need to create something of our own, where we can come up with our own style, signature or trademark as a Filipino animator or content creator.

     In the late 90s, Top Peg Animation & Creative Studio Inc. was established, and the adventure as an independent animation studio began. Like most small start-up business, it was hard at first, but since the owners are well-known artists, animators and directors from the local animation sector; sub-contracted works came pouring in. These works built the foundation for us to train our own people with the quality, style, the passion and discipline we want them to have. We have sub-contracted works from different local studios for at least 7 years.

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First Top Peg Studio in Mandaluyong (Renting)

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Line test area

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Clean-Up and In-Between Area (CUIB)

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Another look at the CUIB area

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Grace at her first studio in  Mandaluyong City April 2002

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Grace animating April 2002

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First computer room April 2002

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Summer animation class for kids to augment income – 2002

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Animators working on Top Peg tables – 2002

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Computer room at Grace’s house – January 2006

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Computer room at Grace’s house – 2010

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CUIB room at the home studio – 2010

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Outside the home studio -2010

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Computer room at house converted to drawing room (Studio 1) – May 31, 2014

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Computer room at Studio 4 (Renting) – May 31, 2014

    By the year 2000, I started looking for other avenues of income. Having sub-contracted works only gives the studio small margins and the expenses were getting bigger. The Internet became my new friend even though it was a slow dial-up Internet connection then. So I started browsing international animation websites, network with other people in the industry and joined the Animation Council of the Philippines (ACPI), a non-profit organization that is backed and promoted by the Philippine government to promote the skills and services of the country’s animation sector. I became one of its pioneer members, and through the years served as a Board Director or President, and still remain as a committed member, as ACPI is one of the tools that is essential  for the big picture I mentioned earlier.

     By 2002, clients and others are saying, “Wow you animate a lot of international shows which is amazing! But what about your own Filipino content? Do you have something to show us?” Unfortunately, we don’t have anything to show, as we have little savings to produce a  TV series or a short film. Thru the support of ACPI and some government agencies supporting the industry, it helps local animation studios to join exhibits, trade fairs, international conferences and missions to promote the local animation industry. Eventually, we started working on Tutubi Patrol (Dragonfly Patrol), a children’s book published by OMF literature. It has 10 books grounded on values and family. We were sure it will be picked up by local networks as it is good for all audiences and we were starting to look for investors and one of them was Edward.

     The production cost for Tutubi Patrol is a small compared to what we are being paid for our international animated works. But knowing the local climate and investors in the country, we cannot push them to invest in the same amount that we receive from their international counterparts. Most of the local investors are clueless what the international paying standards were during that time and say, “It’s too expensive!” or “Its too risky”. Thus we offer a lower rate but the quality of the work remains the same, since at Top Peg we share the vision of producing quality work. Luis, as one of the animation directors would say, “Quantity meets the demand, but quality keeps you in demand.”

     Tutubi Patrol, the first all-Filipino children’s animated series won an Anak TV seal award for a value oriented show. It was a good acknowledgement for the company, but the return on investment was not good. Edward and I experienced a lot of struggles in showing local content. These are airtime, block time, co-production deals, marketing fees, competition from local telenovelas, sponsors, payment schedules from the network for the commercials aired. We discovered that there is little support for local animation content as it competes with Japanese Anime shows which are what the local audience prefer for cartoon shows. The major networks will not risk their prime time slots for local unknowns, so their available time slot is only at 7am, and we even have to find our own sponsors or advertisers if we want the slot. So we opted for ABC 5, who acknowledged our work and gave us 6pm slot on a Saturday and they looked for the sponsors, but slot was prime time and it was up against top rating foreign shows from other channels.

B005Grace  A. Dimaranan at ABC 5 office with some officials

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The indefatigable Grace promoting the show at a mall – 2003

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Teaching a kid to draw one of the characters in the show  at t a mall – 2003

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Children participating in a drawing workshop at a mall to promote the show  – 2003

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Fun and games at the promo 2003

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Reading stories at a mall 2003

     These past experiences is the foundation for a different level of decision making, production flow and finances for the Jobert animation series. We experienced bigger challenges, struggles, higher costs, more work that tested our beliefs, skills, patience and relationships on a different level.

Edward, Alstaire, Jobert Animation and me…

     I remember, Edward, who for the first time walked into our studio on a  visit and asked about our work and company. He looked simple and I did not notice any business attitude in him. He was curious and inquisitive in what we did. I don’t remember what I have told him, but after a week or so, he invested some money as partial down payment for Tutubi Patrol and later added more for the series and much later on for the Jobert series. He is a man of few words and very private in his personal life; I don’t really know his agenda why he is into producing local animation. His real business is far from creatives. He is not a friend or relative of any of our people, yet he is bold enough to invest in in this animation series in our studio which he learned about from my calling card from an exhibit he attended.  I am grateful for him, that he believed in what Top Peg can offer and invested in the skills of our Filipino artists and animators, for being patient in our production flaws and for understanding for some of the things that we cannot deliver. He is also learning at his own pace what the real production is going through and he sometimes is confused and freaked out on why its taking so long for us to finish. He sometimes drives us crazy with his inquiries and other requests which deviates from our production schedule but we learned to adapt with each other. We experienced and learned a lot of process that would drive a company to oblivion…but we endured. We learned to be forgiving, to be understanding, to be patient, to be more trusting and  to believe that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel…

     Alstaire has been part of the company since 1998, he started out as an assistant animator, and moving up to animator, layout artist and is now one of Top Peg’s main animation director. He was chosen to direct Jobert because he likes adventure shows. This is also his debut as an animation director. The Jobert animation series tested Alstaire’s patience, animating skills, computer and technical skills, people relations, health and sanity to keep on going  and offering the best of what he can do for this animation project. He knows the Jobert story by heart, because he is in constant communication with Edward, with the storyboard artists and his time spent in making the series look good. He gives suggestions on how to improve many scenes, researched a lot of effects and action movements that will make the scene look better and he is happy doing other things other than directing for the series look as professionally made as possible. This heroic effort from Alstaire has some good and some bad points. Its good because I can see his passion and determination to make the series look good; its bad because he is overwhelmed by the work he has in his hands. As Manager, I do my best to suggest and give assistance on what he needs and what would actually make the production run faster. But some artists and animators we hired lacked the skill and passion that we have for this show. Budget for Jobert is low, that some artists and animators did bad work just to make money. All revisions came back and Alstaire need to call for revisions, but sad to say, some animators did not bother to come back for revisions. Alstaire and some animators need to give time and effort to revise them all. Its additional cost to have a new batch of animators to revise the previous work of animators.

     To keep costs low and for us to fit the production budget of Jobert in check, we need to double and triple our duties on what we can handle in production. This is how we help each other and work as a team. Alstaire is the director, voice talent, layout checker, animator, storyboard artist, revision artist, compositor and technical person. While I function as the manager, production head, animation checker, creative director; for sometime I also am an animator, clean-up-in-betweener checker, retakes checker accountant and fund sourcer. But we are not superhuman beings that we can handle all these positions at the same time. There are slip-ups, scenes we have forgotten, folders not checked, retakes not done and missing files. To top this all, we have hired production assistants who didn’t perform their monitoring duties properly that resulted in disorganized files. Alstaire and I became production assistants to help organize the scenes and files. This multiple tasks is not limited to just the two of us. There are other artists and animators in the studio who were assigned multiple tasks. The advantage is we learned a lot about the full production process but the disadvantage is we tend to lose some files or folders in the process that were not properly logged in the production.

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     Alstaire A. Sarthou, Moleth and Grace A. Dimaranan

     As the manager of Top Peg, I talked to clients and secure jobs for the studio. The Jobert animation series is more than just a job, its a platform where we can practice our creativity, our ideas, skills and flexibility as artists and animators. Its not the money that attracted us to the project, it aligns the company to one of its visions- to produce or be part of making an original Filipino content. The budget for the series is low and the studio accepted it thinking we can work something out to finish it. But many elements started appearing causing its delay in production. The limiting elements cannot be avoided, but need to be solved to keep us moving forward. No one gave up at any stage; we kept our faith in the project and the many years of effort and money placed to produce it is something to think about.

     We did not ask for a bigger budget because if we asked the budget from our international clients to our local clients, there will be no investors for any local project. One 22-minute show for a TV series with a SIMPLE animation style from abroad (Traditional Animation) costs around $50,000 to $80,000 depending on the character and background design. A foreign producer can outsource the work for either 26 episodes or 52 episodes in one studio. Most – if not all would be local investors are shocked at the production costs. Note: the figures are just production costs; the pre-production and post-production costs are not included, the foreign producers do their own pre and post production in their own countries. Edward was presented a very low-budget for his 13-episode series, and he thought about it and agreed to it after some negotiations. It was an opportunity that we can’t miss out but it also presented a ton of challenges.

     The following were the challenges that we encountered:

1) Lack of manpower with skills that produces an acceptable output. There were lots of retakes, mistakes made by freelancers and newbie animators. Revisions are repeatedly made at Top Peg increasing the cost.

2) Budget is low, we cannot hire 4 or 5 production assistants with the right intelligence and organizational skills to monitor the show. We only have one production assistant who handles all the 13-episodes.

3) Lack of equipment for digital coloring and compositing when we started production. We over used the computers that were still running and available at that time.

4) Filing, monitoring and follow-ups were not done or organized properly by the hired production assistants. Every new production assistant hired needs to redo a whole bunch of logbooks because they can’t understand what the previous production assistant did.

5) To sustain the budget for the series, I needed to find new clients and open up new services for Top Peg Studio. This means artists or animators can choose which shows they want to animate or participate in. Naturally, most if not all animators wanted the higher paying rate of the other projects rather than the Jobert series.

6) The discovery of missing files in the computer; missing folders, storyboard and model sheets that needs to be redone.

     The problems with artists and animators became unmanageable when Alstaire started complaining of re-animating entire scenes he checked for the episodes. He specifically told me not to hire the freelance animators any more, as they were only concerned for the pay and not the quality of work. Since I’m the one paying these freelance animators and their output are not usable, I’m just wasting my money. So a decision has to be made…everything should be done In-house with proper supervision. This inevitably slowed production because there are only few artists and animators at Top Peg. Trainings are on-going and everyone is busy not only in working with the series but with other shows and projects from different overseas clients.

     To continuously fund the series for the coming years, I needed to balance the  funds being paid to working animators and staff for the series and continuously find new sources of income to keep the company afloat. My priority now is to find other work for the animators and artists to sustain them. The Jobert budget is not enough to feed their families. This means that working hours will be reduced to do the Jobert series to accommodate deadlines of other clients whose budget is double or even triple in comparison. This maintained a balance to keep the artists in-house and at the same time have them some support to continuously work for the series.

     I think the budget that Top Peg has placed for the continuous production of Jobert is now more than what Edward has invested for the show. But I try not to think about the profits going into the continuous production because this will just make me be angry or stressed out. Despite this situation, Top Peg never asked for additional funds from Edward for the current production. We promised not to go over the budget, but we did not forsee the manpower problems will be so challenging that added a lot more costs. Hiring some more staff  for monitoring did not make things easier for us. It is our responsibility to do what we can because we gave our word that we will. The producer does not fully understand the problems of production, so we patiently explained to him what’s really happening. We tried to be honest as much as possible but not to the point of stressing him out. He is not in charge of production, Top Peg is. Getting our acts together, being responsible for our actions and decisions, moving forward, finding solutions and being open minded is what drives us. This maybe crazy to some business owners but we are not pure business at Top Peg Studio Inc., we are passionate people with what we do and have integrity in doing things.

     Other than being part of Top Peg Studio Inc., I also network with other associations, attend government meetings about the creative industry, attend exhibits, conferences, trade fairs and seminars in other countries. This constant networking has widened my knowledge and client base for our studio. From time to time, we also promote the Jobert series in some of the exhibits and fairs. This is a free exposure for the show and we do it because we are part of it. Having produced Jobert at a simple budget cost is an extraordinary achievement for a medium size studio.

007 Giving an animation lecture to government animation scholars

009

Some of the local government scholars in Pasay City – October 2005

010

Training of animation scholars in Pasay City

Top Peg assigned 2 animators to teach for 3 months

006

Certificate of completion awarded after 3 months of training

005Some of these graduates will work at Top Peg

Lessons Learned

     Now that we are almost finished with the series, I am already excited to see what the audience reaction will be for this show. Jobert and the Crop Circle Warriors© is one of the more difficult productions that we handled not only because of the low budget, but because there are also things lacking  in production that we should be prepared in advance. What I have learned from handling Jobert improved my handling of other shows from other clients. Here are the realizations that I experienced:

1) Do not start production without a proper and approved storyboard. Enhancing it is not enough.

2) Animatic is essential. Timing should be done well before its put into production.

3) Choose the right people to work in your production.

4) Orient people of their duties and responsibilities properly. Do not assume they have the intelligence to know what to do immediately.

5) Ask for a budget for a few episodes first to deliver so that it can be evaluated further before continuing on the next episodes. In this way, money can be budgeted and adjusted accordingly.

6) Learn to say NO to things that are not important and will add up to work loads instead of helping to unload it.

7) Have the proper equipment ready and servers to backup and contain large files in one place so its easy to access by everyone.

8) Have a centralized logbook system where it is understandable by everyone.

9) You can only do so much, you are not a robot, learn to delegate tasks to the right people.

10) Be mindful of timelines, the longer it takes to finish, the bigger the expenses.

     As we wrap up the Jobert  animation series this year, I can’t help but think…wow, we really did achieve something great here. A feat that most medium size studios in the country can only dream of. I feel excited to go and relax after this project, but its just the beginning of the Jobert series. It will be marketed abroad by Edward with the help of foreign broker/s and I’m sure along the way something will crop up for us to work on; Top Peg Studio will be ready for it.

     Jobert and the Crop Circle Warriors© is an action-comedy adventure show. It involves a lot of twist on alien invasion and humans helping out to solve the problem. It tackles self-awareness, purpose, friendship, romance and courage. Design-wise, it is close to what we call “anime-looking” characters because this kind of style appeals to kids, teenagers and young adults. Even at a low-budget, it measures to the standards of foreign cartoons such as Dragonball Z or Justice League in terms of over-all look and animation movements. But we still have a lot to learn to make it better.

Grace_JessGrace A. Dimaranan with Jessalaine – May 31, 2014

     In terms of producing the series at Top Peg and what the people and company went through; it was a big challenge that taught us a lot of lessons. These challenges made us rethink strategies, work as a team and adjust working habits to be able to survive the years and accommodate new work and clients. The mistakes helped us improve ourselves in handling different kinds of projects.

    If there will be a second season for “Jobert and the Crop Circle Warriors”© and the studio will be commissioned to work on it; there would be a lot of major changes and new processes to be implemented. As the Managing Director and the Production Manager, this will be my list for the new season production:

1) Script should be ready and well paced

2) Separate Pre-production work from production. Never mix the two simultaneously.

3) Improve character designs

4) Hire competent animators and artists with quality work in mind

5) Have organized Production Assistants with adequate intelligence for the job

6) Be mindful of the budget, it doesn’t need to be high, it just needs to be fair to all concerned

7) Ecosystem should be ready: Production – manpower and computers, financing, marketing and distribution

8) Build partnership with other studios that have the same skill set as our studio. We don’t need to expand and hire many people. We need to partner with right studios for outsourcing opportunities.

9) Monthly meetings and updates with the producer

10) Meetings every two weeks with production, director and supervisors

11) Plan on expansion of equipment in a production as big as the Jobert series, if not find studios who can assist.

     With this in mind, we will have a better outcome in our production not only for the Jobert series but also for other shows or episodes that might come our way. Producing  “Jobert and the Crop Circle Warriors“© is a feat in itself that will truly leave a mark on the memories of all the people who have worked on it.

Alstair A. Sarthou – Animation Director, All Around Master Animator

Jobert Production

     Way back 2003, with about 8 years in the industry doing subcontracting work for Disney, Warner Bros. and HBO, and having just finished a Filipino children’s animated series, I was thinking of what we will be doing next. I really wanted to do a Filipino animated action series comparable to Dragon Ball Z, Justice League and Naruto. So when Edward – our producer, approached us in adapting his comic book series into a TV trailer, I was extremely excited. When we finished the trailer; we were satisfied on what we made. After more than a year, Grace our Managing Director told us that Edward already gave the green light to do a 13-episode TV series for Jobert. I was excited of the potential for it to become a regular TV series, and I was also excited of using my new found skills in digital compositing and visual effects. I had so many ideas on how to make this series visually come to life, and we were about to start what other local animators dream off…creating a local animated TV series at par with the work done in the US and Japan.

Ep02_ZemAttacksFirst Jobert Trailer in Tagalog (2003) see in Youtube

Pre-Production

     Usually, when doing pre-production for an animated series, everything should start with a script. From this script, a storyboard will be made that would have been the basis for the whole production. For Jobert, there was NO script. Instead, the comic book artist and co-creator, Rhonnel W. Ferry, also with Edward’s input, took the story from the 3 original comic and tried to lengthen it into a 13-episode story. The comic book had 2 story lines that ran 3 issues, first was Balhalya as the main villain, and the second was a different villain altogether, but for the series I had the impression that we were going only with the first storyline. When we were first presented  with a storyboard by Rhonnel, my first reaction was that the story was too short for a 22-minute episode. What was decided was we had to lengthen the story while staying what was written by Rhonnel. Rhonnel also asked for ideas and how production in animation works, so he would understand what we would need from him. We gave Rhonnel some inputs, like we needed the location of the scenes and the specific time of day.

jobert comic page copyJobert Comic Book – 2001 (Ouch! Talk about animal rights)

     At first I expected Luis our Director at Top Peg, was going to do the boards, but Grace and Luis said it will be better if I do it, and they also decided that I should direct it. It will be a good chance for me to learn to do storyboarding, directing and supervise the whole production. I was excited to be doing a show like this, and I had then already envisioned on how I would like this show to turn up.

     My first thought was that we should do pre-production on the designs of the characters, props and backgrounds. I always wanted to do pre-production the way I saw how they did it in Disney films. The problem was, we only have one raw storyboard, and the rest of the 13-episodes was still being done. Grace suggested that the best way to do this is to overlap work. We will start storyboarding, character models, props and backgrounds on episode 1, then continue to production, then when episode 2 comes, we can start on pre-production on that while episode 1 was ongoing production. This will be done throughout the 13-episodes. My reaction was, that wasn’t a good idea. I know that any good story, like the Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, the writers had a “Bible” for those. The Lord of the Rings even has a map for the whole area where the story would take place. We had the comic, and the upcoming retooled story that Rhonnel will be giving us. We knew the back story for Jobert and Jessalaine – two main characters. We didn’t know the stories of the other characters though. Since this was my first foray in supervising, I went with the decision, and I was thinking we would still be able to do this. So game on!

Als_Frogee (1)Alstaire A. Sarthou with Frogee Mercury – May 31, 2014

Storyboarding

    This wasn’t my first time to do a storyboard, but it was my first time to do one for a 22-minute episode. So before I started, I did some research. I watched episodes of different Animés, Justice League Unlimited and even live shows to understand how to pace an episode. While doing the boards, I realized that it was hard for me to visualize certain locations. So I told Grace that we needed Key Backgrounds on where the story will take place. I suggested that we take pictures of existing places that would match what Rhonnel had written. We went out to Taft Avenue and other areas; we took pictures of locations that would match those in the storyboard. With the pictures, I had the necessary tools to complete Episode 1.

     It took me a week or two to finish the first episode, and I was happy on what I have accomplished. I didn’t realize it then, but when I was doing the storyboard, I felt I made it so that the scenes weren’t too complicated for the animators to do. Thus, there was no elaborate fight scenes, and most of the scenes were simple to animate. Maybe subconsciously, I didn’t want to have a hard time when it came to dealing with animators, and I knew I was going to have my hands full when production began.

     I finished the first episode in one or two weeks, but we didn’t get the next episodes right after the other; Rhonnel was still rewriting the comics into a longer version. Since we already have the first board completed and with Edward’s approval, Grace decided to start voice recording and subsequently followed by the  production, while we were waiting for the rest of the story. This made me hesitant because it was contrary to what I know…that we should wait for all the pre-production to finish before we start actual production. Grace had a point though, because it took almost a year before Rhonnel finished the whole 13-episodes. Rhonnel was even asking for inputs while we were voice recording some episodes.  We were delighted about the inputs, because there were certain characteristics and mannerisms that the voice actors lend and add life to the characters. So the voice actors gave inputs which helped build more character to the characters. This was very helpful to the story, it even gave Rhonnel some ideas for the characters. Jei Vencer, the voice for one of the characters – Zem, wanted to give Zem a back story-to show his motivations. Rhonnel soaked up this idea and put it into one of his story lines. I felt we needed more of these kinds of inputs, because I felt we had a lot of characters that we could have developed better. Through all the seminars and conferences about TV and Animation Production; I learned that through character development is where the writers build their stories. This is where they find stories for their next episodes. That is why we see certain episodes focused on certain characters to connect the audience to these characters, so when something happens to the character, the audience will be more involved. Major characters like Zem, Jessalaine and Balhalya had some story but others like Tany and Barto needed more inputs. 

C001Some of the voice talents  with the exception of Grace – November 2005

     Rhonnel said Edward wanted a major story plot that was in the comic book removed, which was Jobert’s Cyber Armour’s evolution. All the voice actors agreed that it should be in the story because we felt that it was what the story was building up to. Following what Rhonnel was writing, we felt that the villains in the series were already evolving into much more powerful characters, so we were  led to believe that Jobert would eventually evolve too. So when Rhonnel said it would be removed, we were all against it. We tried to convince Edward, but he didn’t want it for this season. Since he is the producer, that was final, although throughout the production, we would still bring it up to persuade him, but to no avail. 

     After finishing the storyboard for Episode 3, production has already overlapped with pre-production and I was already feeling the load. Grace suggested that I delegate the storyboarding to someone else. She suggested some freelance artists, I thought that it was a bad idea to give it to an artists that didn’t have the vision for what we had for Jobert. I suggested that Luis do it, so we brought it up with him and he agreed to do Episode 4. That episode turned out to be one of the better episodes. After Episode 4, Luis had a lot of other work to do. Since I was already neck high in production, I reluctantly agreed to give it to another artist.

luis_training

Luis training animators – 2001?

DSC_5873Luis Dimaranan in blue shirt last July 3, 2014

     Episode 6 was given to a freelance artist, a veteran animator, so I thought it was in good hands. When he gave it back for me to check his work, all my fears of what wrong would happen came to reality. The artist didn’t have any connection with the story, and the scenes were all over the place. The art was bad, like he did it hastily. He also had too many angles, which would have been expensive, since more angles would translate to more backgrounds. I told Grace, that this was what I was afraid of. So Grace tried to salvage the episode by taking out and adding some scenes. She was also busy with other production work that she was not able to finish it, so  Ian took over to finish it but  also stopped that I eventually have to finish it myself.

Ep6 - Original Artwork

Episode 6 Storyboard – Veteran Artist (5%)

Ep6 - Grace Artwork

Episode 6 Storyboard – Grace  A. Dimaranan (10%)

Ep6 - Ian Artwork

Episode 6  Storyboard – Ian Kang (5%)

Ep6 - Alstaire Artwork

Episode 6 – Storyboard – Alastaire A. Sarthou (80%)

     After Episode 6, I really didn’t trust any artist any more, and since Episode 6 was an action packed episode, I took it upon myself to do it. Episode 6 was the most fun of all the episodes I did. I researched some fight scenes from the Justice League of America and it inspired me to make Jobert and Barto’s fight scene paced a bit faster. After this though, I knew I didn’t have the time to do the other episodes any more, so we really had to find the right artist for the job.

     Jei Vencer, the voice actor for Zem, was really a big help with the plot points for the Jobert series. He introduced us to a friend of his, Mr. Ian Kang. Ian had some anime looking art style and he had some great ideas for the Jobert series. We gave him Episode 7, and he did an excellent job expanding and improving it. It had a different tone, and I felt it was what the story needed. More anime and more action; Ian did a great job and  he was eventually hired to do all the remaining episodes. As mentioned earlier, I also had Ian do some scenes for episode 6, because I really needed ideas to finish the board. Because of all the rewrites, Episode 6 became longer than the other episodes, so we decided to split it into two episodes.

DCIM106MEDIARene Jei Vencer – May 2010

     Episodes 1 to 9 were all building up to the eventual confrontation of Jobert and Balhalya, so we were surprised when Rhonnel gave us something different for Episode 10, the whole episode was a flashback scene. If you asked me, it was refreshing, it gave us a break from the action packed episodes, and we learned more about some of the other characters. Another surprise was when Rhonnel gave us Episodes 11,12 and 13 at the same time. Episode 11 was the climax of the story, while episodes 12 and 13 were parts of another story altogether. We felt we just needed to stick to the original story, and we can use Episodes 12 and 13 in the future. One problem was we needed to to expand Episode 11  into 3 episodes, and since  we are already expanding an 80 panel board that Rhonnel initially did, into a 300 to 400 panel storyboard, expanding it into 3 episodes is going to be a tough job for Ian. For this, Ian needed to meet with me, Rhonnel and Edward to discuss and refine what his ideas were for the last 3 episodes. When Ian showed us his idea, we were blown away with what he created. Jobert evolved! Rhonnel and I were happy, although upon further examination, the story has evolved from the power levels of the Avengers  to that of Dragon Ball Z! When Edward agreed with what Ian submitted, we were all excited to finish this.

Jobert Evolved - Ian DesignRejected (for now) cyber armor evolution of Jobert

Cyber Cannon - Ian Design

Over the top cyber weapon -rejected also

       Edward called the next day though and said he still didn’t want the armor of Jobert to evolve. What? How are we then going to do the story? His idea was, Jobert still becomes more powerful but the armour stays the same. Ooookaaaay…was my reaction. Well his concern was from a marketing perspective, he said the audience might get confused with the different looks. Since we are selling a product; he wanted the audience to recognize and be familiar with the product first before any evolution happens. Like Superman, Batman, Spiderman and Goku of Dragonball Z. Their looks stayed the same, little tweaks here and there, but how they look today is still almost the same when they were first introduced. So Edward wanted that and now I understand why he did not want Jobert to evolve. But for me, as long as we were still doing what Ian did, I was fine with that.

003

Ian Kang (Left), Rhonnel W. Ferry (Center), Edward (Right) – January 2006

Ian KangIan Kang now an animation professor at DLSU – College of St. Benilde – July 3, 2014

Character, Props and Background Design

    As the director, I was in charge with the overall look for the show. So I tried to update the designs to look better on TV while still trying to be faithful to the comic. Trying to be too faithful to the comic though had some unintended results. First was the design of the cyber armour – those with spherical shoulder pads. In real life, these were impossible to do, because it wasn’t clear on how they fit the shoulder. We didn’t discuss this that much in the pre-production, and I thought these were alien armors that will just magically fit the wearers, so I just let it go. 

j011_zpsb977bf9b

     Awkward shoulder pad position

      Even though the characters are almost always fully clothed, in animation practice, one has to be able know how to draw the figure of the characters without their clothes on. This practice of character modelling is even done with Mickey Mouse – without clothes on, so that with even  different costumes on; the artists fully know how to do movements of the characters under heavy or light clothing. In the Jobert series, we only did the almost naked modelling for four of the major human characters.

naked jobertJobert Anatomy

jess batingshoot

Jessalaine Anatomy

tany naked

Tany Anatomy

zem naked

Zem Anatomy

posing

         Study of different poses

     1) We have to know the character’s anatomy without clothes or armor. So it will be easier to pose. 2) Details are then added, the animator draws the clothes according to the volume of the character’s anatomy. 3) Usually an animator draws the anatomy with a lighter pencil then finalizes the details with a lead pencil; digitally the sketch of the character’s anatomy is just deleted.

1 - posing the character

Posing the character

2 - add details

Adding the details

3 - finalize character

Finalize the character

        At that time, the Internet wasn’t available to us in our area;  it was also dial-up then and there were no broad band connections yet. So I was really frustrated with some of the designs of the artists, as they were too lazy to do some research. There were times that we missed designing some characters and props, usually those who appeared for only one scene. An example is the nurse in Episode 10, we thought we had a model, but during the production we didn’t find any model. But since there was only one scene with her, we just made the animator follow the storyboard. The animator though had a different vision of what a nurse would look like, he gave her a uniform out from a sexy fashion magazine, which didn’t look anything a nurse would wear in a hospital. Another issue I had was the scrub uniforms of the orderlies, the artists who drew it didn’t really know what scrubs looked like. So when it went into production, the orderlies looked liked they were just wearing plain shirts. It was hard for me to oversee the story, characters and animation all at the same time, so I had to delegate. The difference though, is that when I wasn’t sure of how something would look, I would do research while some artists would just guess and the look of their drawings would have no basis.

Nurse - Artist Design

Rejected sexy nurse uniform

Nurse

Corrected nurse uniform (woman)

Interns

Wrong orderly scrub clothes

photo

Sample of real scrub clothes

jessmotorbikeSome of the other props

     I thought of giving the villains red orbs as a source of their powers, so that it will be distinguished from the good guys. I designed the cyber armours based on the powers and personalities of the character. The good guys were having weapons as energy forms, while the bad guys had more regular weapons not energized except for Krystel, the one with the cyber wings. The villains cyber armours also functioned as regular armours.

     In the comic, Zem was wearing thigh high boots, which I also used for the animated model. But Jei Vencer, who was the voice behind Zem and had some attachments to the character, pointed out Zem looked more feminine with the high boots. So I changed the design to heavy boots. But during animation, it gave us problems, as it was too big, so animating the movement was more difficult and problematic.

zem old cyber armor

Zem’s old boots

zem in cyber armor

Zem’s new boots

    In the backgrounds, I earlier mentioned that we took pictures of the city and streets so the background artist can design the locations based from these pictures. But the artist never used the pictures and just made up all the designs from nothing. What came out of it were buildings and streets without resembling a real city. I had to assign other artists to fix these backgrounds, but we made use of the other backgrounds that were not that bad. Another problem was the design of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), in the comic, Rhonnel used a Chernobyl like design, with two cooling towers. Since we didn’t really have any idea how the BNPP looked like, we went with that design. It was only later on in the production, that we learned that the BNPP didn’t look  like anything we did, but it was only fictional anyway.

PowerPlant_zpsed64c951

  Imagined BNPP

      Since the production didn’t really have a timeline, we employed different background artists. When we hired a veteran artist with comic book art experience  to do the main background designs, it  was more detailed compared to the earlier episodes done by different artists. So a person with an artistic point of view will notice a shift from simple design in the earlier episodes to more detailed backgrounds in the latter episodes.

     Our background artist for Episode 1 and 2 was Joel Orcena, a veteran background artist. Joel’s style was really for animation shows, since he worked for shows like Warner Bros. and Nickelodeon. Unfortunately and to our surprise, he was a licensed mortician  and he needed to go back home to his  province to run the family morgue business when his dad passed away. So we had to hire someone new, what we did was we hired an artist who had a background in traditional painting. Although he was still new to digital painting, he had an eye for depth and color. His initial backgrounds for the Jobert series was a bit crude and simple, but through the years he developed his own style and these would show on the latter episodes.

bg 135 copy

Ep09 BG

bg126

     So if you watch the episodes closely, you will see the series will slowly evolve, in design, in character and in the story.

Voice Recording

     For me, the time we were recording for the dialogue was the most fun we had in doing the Jobert series. The voice talents were all first timers, and it was the group that had many ideas to improve the series. We had a diverse group who came from many areas in Metro Manila and some had jobs till the wee hours of the night. With every completed storyboard, we would schedule the time to record the dialogue somewhere in Las Piñas. We had game designer-Victor Cabazor, who voiced for both Moleth and Balhalya, cosplayer-Catherine delos Santos as Jessalaine, 3D artist-Jei Vencer as Zem, songwriter-Ruben Lopez as Frogee, toy collector- Sonny Alcantara as Tany, Ken Battalones as Barto, Bea Lapa-now a professor with a PhD at St. Benilde as Krystel, and Rhonnel W. Ferry, the co-creator and comic book artist as Jobert. Even as a voice director, I also had to come to voice other characters in the episodes, usually the minor characters.

     We would meet up at 8pm to 10pm at Chet Tiongsons’ home recording studio for the voice recording. And while we were waiting for the other voice actors to arrive, we would brainstorm on the story. Rhonnel found it very conducive as he was looking for new ideas for each episode. We all gave ideas to the characters we were voicing, and suggested to Rhonnel what he could add in the future episodes. some voice actors even got attached to the characters they were doing and they even wanted to do back stories on them. We would finish as late as 2am in the morning, but I could feel that everyone was looking forward to the next episode.

C004Chet Tiongson -composer (L) with Froilan Miras (R) original singer for Jobert theme song – Nov. 2005

     We would notice that some characters had the same tendencies, and we would correct those in recording. We would then establish ground rules on each character. We gave each character some kind of back story to establish each one’s tendencies, attitudes and character. Edward later on noticed that some minor characters names was similar to the other characters. For example, Simeon, Jessalaine’s father sounded similar to Simon -Jessalaine’s brother, so we changed Simon to Mark. We did this in the latter episode, because it became confusing in recording. The problem we encountered was in the earlier episodes where Jessaliane’s brother was mentioned as Simon, then in the latter it was Mark already, so we had to go back tot he older episodes to correct this. 

     We decided what type of voice would fit the character. For Frogee, it would have a cute voice, while Balhalya as the main villain with a mask and helmet on would have a deep voice. The accents of the people working at the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant would have different accents since the power plant was a joint international project.

     Some of the battle scenes and character designs were also discussed in the voice recording. Our 3D artist-Jei Vencer gave the idea that Frogee Mercury’s ship would be upgraded into an attack vehicle in the latter episodes, giving Frogee a more active role. We also agreed on the kind of weapons the characters can create and how we would distinguish each power from another. The designs for Zem’s evolved armor, Jobert’s cyber weapons, the 3D battle droids, assassin droids, Balhalya’s ship and Jobert’s evolution, all these and other minor designs were discussed, designed and decided in the waiting time at  the voice recording studio.

     There were times that not everyone were able to make it on the assigned date, so we would do an incomplete episode. We would complete it on a latter date. Even I, as voice director, could not make it all the time as there were other ongoing deadlines. In this case,  I would delegate the voice directing to another person. This eventually led to other problems, such as some dialogues not being recorded. As a voice director, I have to make decisions; like if there is an incidental character needed, I would decide who should voice this and what he should sound like. This is to  differentiate it from other characters and also prevent a voice talent to voice two characters at the same time.

IMG_7728Some of the voice talents in a different recording studio – 2010

     One regret is we did all these decisions without the producer’s knowledge, so some of the liberties we took wasn’t approved by him. We were thinking that if Rhonnel approved it, Edward would also approve it since they were co-creators. When Edward first heard Frogee’s voice he didn’t like it, since for him it was difficult to understand. We defended it, bringing up Donald Duck and Stich who had muffled voices, at first he agreed but much later on decided he wants a clearer voice. He also wanted to change Barto’s and Balhalya’s voice as it was difficult for him to understand what the character’s were saying. We still have to do the redubbing for these characters after all the production is finished.

     The problem is the difficulty of finding new talents who had the right diction. The original group had good diction and had a good command of the English language, with minimal Filipino accents. The talents knew we had a small budget and they were doing it for fun. When Catherine, the voice for Jessalaine had to move to Germany with her new German husband, we had a hard time finding a replacement for her. She had a very distinct voice, with good accent and it was hard to redub the scenes we missed. We eventually found a talent with the same pitch, but the diction was all wrong. Hiring an expensive voice talent was out of the question. Auditioning each new talent that had a similar sounding voice was like finding a needle in a haystack. We eventually stayed with the replacement voice, but the voice directing really took  a long time, with all the retakes while trying to fix the diction of the talent. Thankfully it was only for a few scenes in two episodes.

     What I loved about the group was that everyone would get into the character immediately when we started voice recording. When we needed an extra voice, I would come in and it was like we had been together for years. Even Chet, who was at the computer recording each take would be impressed and saw us like we were experts. We were looking forward to the exciting scenes of each performer, and we would give each other pointers on how to capture the essence of the scene. This is one part of the Jobert production that I truly missed. With everyone moving one after finishing all the episode recordings and redubbings, we still look for each other once in a while. These guys became friends through the years. That is why it saddens me that we lost one of our voice talent – Mr. Victor Cabazor last November 1, 2013. He will be missed.

Production

Layout

     When the first 2 storyboards were finished, the first part of production were the layouts. These would be the cinematography part and the background sketches. The camera movements would be place here as well as the different levels of the scene. Since Episode 1 and 2 revolved around the city, we took pictures around Metro Manila to match the backgrounds in the storyboard. These pictures were given to a freelance animator as basis for the backgrounds, sad to say he did not use the pictures. His work was okay, but I was expecting better work. His sketches were enhanced by by the background colorists, and they did their best to make these backgrounds workable. A 3D artist suggested that some scenes be done in 3D, and he was willing to do it. He even rendered some easy ones to replace some of the original backgrounds done that didn’t work well.

     The next backgrounds revolved around Bataan, so some pictures were gathered from books and some were from the Internet (which was slow at that time)…since the location was more of nature, trees and grass fields, the backgrounds were better looking. It was also easier for the colorists. We also hired a veteran artist to do the key backgrounds from the alien ship and power plant designs for one episode. Since there was a key background by the veteran artist, the freelance layout artists had a model or basis to work with and no more guess work,  so the outputs were better than before. The best work came from freelance artist, Ricky Liwanag, sadly he passed away last 2008.

Samples of Veteran Artist’s Key Background Work (guide for layout artists)  for an Alien Ship  – by Mr. Mang Abe

Frogee Ship Armory

Frogee Mercury’s ship armory

Frogee Ship Corridor

Frogee Mercury’s hip corridor

Frogee Ship Medical Room

Frogee Mercury’s ship medical room

BalhalyasLab_zps987a125f

Balhalya’s Laboratory

ControlRoomwithStasisPod_zpsac356253

Frogee Mercury’s control room

Citiesabovewater_zpsbdc7ef1e

Akalan City above water

CityStreet_zps1d21fd13

City below water

Ep3 Angler Battleship

e3_s185_2    

     There were other works done by freelancers, and since they were paid per episode, they submitted by bulk. And since there were hundreds of folders passed per episode, I didn’t have time to check it all. So we hired a veteran layout supervisor from another studio, who worked for us part time. He discovered that not all the scenes were done, even though these were already fully paid. So we had to pay another layout artist to finish the missing scenes.

     Another problem was what we call fly-by-night artists. These were artists who presented fake credentials, saying they worked for animation studios but were really just in-betweeners. The work they submitted was really bad, these were redone again.

a1 - Original StoryBoard

Original storyboard layout

a2 - off model Layout

Off-model and bad layout (rejected)

a3 - Final Animation

Final animation

     By the time we reached Episode 11, I decided that we should just have the backgrounds sketches done and the camera movements just be photocopied from the storyboards. I really don’t know the names of the artists who finished the latter layouts for Jobert, but those were far better than the earlier episodes. The audience will see the  improvements from okay backgrounds and shots from the first episodes to really good backgrounds and camera movements in the latter episodes. The evolution of the background coloring style of Soc who inherited the job from Joel is also noticeable in the latter episodes.

Animation

    When we did Tutubi Patrol, a lot of veteran animators helped in churning out good animations. At that time we had some good in-house animators who worked with us, but when we transferred to our Las Piñas studio, most of our in-house animators transferred to bigger studios and some went abroad or took a different path. Those veteran animators who helped us before also found the new studio location a bit far for them to go to. We saw “Jobert” as a good project to train our resident artists. So my plan was to give the easy scenes to our animation trainees and the harder scenes to some freelance veteran artists.

     As were just starting out in the industry, there were some freelancers who posed as animators and their outputs were not good. Some freelancers also don’t return back for corrections. So we had to have these works redone again by different animators or I would redo it myself. Eventually, I got tired of fixing the work done by the freelancers that we decided to have “Jobert” fully done by in-house. The problem with this though is that out of 10 to 20 trainees, we can only get a few guys with potential. We get some artists for animation and the others for clean-up and in-between. After a few months, some of these artists want to earn more quickly, the number of trainees will dwindle from 10 to 5, then we have to train again. So we’ve been working with different people through the years and its been tough because we have to go through the whole training process and hope that the remaining trainees get better faster. This was the biggest reason why “Jobert”  has taken a long time to finish.

Folders

Hundred of folders of drawings for the “Jobert and the Crop Circle Warriros©” series

     After finishing the first two episodes, we designed an intro for the series. So that when we showed some episode scenes, it would have a complete feel to it. The said intro was just still under the title of “Jobert” and not “Jobert and the Crop Circle Warrirors©”. My problem was showcasing “Jobert” in events and exhibits as the first two episodes were not showcasing what the heroes can do. So when Grace asked what episode we could finish next that was more action packed, I suggested episode 8. It had the most scenes done compared to the other latter episodes and it showcased what some of the characters can do. So we concentrated on finishing episode 8 first before the other earlier episodes before it.

     During an event in China in late 2011, I was able to show “Jobert” to some producers and a speaker at the event from Warner Bros. We showed parts of the episodes and the “Jobert” introduction, although the poster showed the long version of the title with the still tentative typography. They were intrigued with the concept and curious about the story but were puzzled with the intro. One asked some questions, gave some tips and was amazed at the long  time it’s taking us to produce the series. When Edward asked about what transpired in China, I reported to him about many things and their comment on the intro. After this, we started to think of doing a new intro, but it was only after many months before we finally finished the new intro.

     I initially did the “Jobert” action scenes in the storyboards a bit straight forward. I relied more on camera angles than doing animé action shots that required good drawing ability to execute extreme perspectives and angled drawings.  I knew I would need good animators to execute the good drawings but we didn’t have those kind of animators, so I would just rely on upcoming artists and trainees to do the work. So when Ian’s initial storyboards were done, I thought they were really dynamic, but I didn’t have the artists to translate those visuals well. I thought about doing those extreme animations myself, but I already had my hands full in checking work. We hired an animation checker – BJ Cabral to help me with the checking, so I can be free to animate the hard scenes. He wasn’t that good an animator and I felt he let some scenes slide that wouldn’t pass with me. Maybe my standards were too high because I really wanted this series to be at par with other action series like Ben 10 or Justice League of America. Sadly, I maybe just asking for the stars. BJ Cabral worked with us for a year, and we were surprised when we later learned that he passed away.

     The rates for the “Jobert” series was a lot lower than the regular rates for other studios. Because of this, we really had a hard time getting quality animators. And if we did get some, we had a hard time making them stay. This was also one of the reasons why we decided to just train our own animators. We did the training at the office and we also partnered with some schools and the local government in different provinces in training animation students. One training program that produced talented artists was conducted in Pasay City. The One Town One Product project of the national government had Pasay City choosing animation as their product. The trainings started sometime in late 2005 – 2008 lasted about more than two years with 4 batches comprising of about 20 students each batch.  The training was under President Arroyo’s scholarship, so when she was ousted, the program stopped. After the three month trainings, we would have the chance to hire about 5 to 6 artists who graduate. We were able to get very talented artists, one of them was Warly Santiago. He was an artist that I wished I had more of. He learned fast and he had good drawing skills. There was a time that he requested to do all the animations that was available so he could earn enough to get married. We gave him one half  of two espisodes to finish animating and he was able to finish it fast but with quality. He is now an Assistant Director, and he has helped me not only with “Jobert” but with other shows as well. He has learned a lot of new skills then, and he also does compositing as well.

     Our studio needs to find other projects to keep the new artist from transferring to greener pastures. Because of the other contract jobs we had, we were able to buy more computers to do coloring and compositing. Through the advancement of the softwares and the Internet, we were able to learn new techniques that would help us produce better visual effects. This all helped make the “Jobert and the Crop Circle Warriors©” series look a whole lot better.

     We did other projects together with “Jobert”, and this made the artists happy. But then the artists started choosing the jobs with the higher rates, and ignored “Jobert” altogether. This was more the fault of the Production Coordinator at that time because he wasn’t able to balance the workloads of the artists. Since I was busy in checking the finished animations, voice directing and doing designs for new episodes (all these were overlapping); I didn’t want the problems of managing production affect me. This was really a big problem and we eventually changed Project Coordinators through the years, but the problem was that the first reports were really a big mess and whoever inherited the work would have a hard time understanding it. So the system in managing production changed with one coordinator to another. And the thing is, we really didn’t know where everything was. It was when I was looking for each scene that I saw their locations were dependent on the production coordinators. I really didn’t know where the finished scenes were in the Production Coordinator’s computer files nor the hard copies; so I told Edward that we needed an external drive to place all the “Jobert” files in to better manage the production.

     Another training program that helped us get more artists was the partnership we had with Foundation University in Dumaguete. The Dean of the University wanted to partner with our studio sometime in 2005 – 2006 for training. We would train them and at the same time they would put a group from this training to set up a studio of their own. The training would be around 3 to 6 months per batch. We saw this as an opportunity to have a tie-up with a group with computer resources that would help us finish “Jobert.” The program lasted about a year with 3 batches of 25 in the first and about 10 each in the 2nd and 3rd batch. The school closed due to lack of projects after doing some work for the “Jobert” series; the one project from Guam never came so the graduates left the school.  Some groups of graduates were able to do clean-up and in-between as well as digital painting in some episodes only after 2006. When they closed down, four artists went to Manila to apply at our studio. One artist – Anthro Katipunan, was a good animator who had an animé feel. I assigned him to do the action scenes in the final two episodes. His work on these were really good. Even his suggestions to change some angles and add some effects were really appreciated. It made the climax really over the top. Anthro is back in Dumaguete for a few years already and is doing some design jobs and computer work. He recently called that he missed doing the action scenes of “Jobert” and he is asking me if there are new jobs for “Jobert” as he gets bored with his current work. I try to give him some work for a trailer for the “Crop Circle Warriors©” mobile game.

Dumaguete Artist

Trainees at Foundation University with Top Peg trainors

     During the production work on “Jobert“, we’ve also done other projects. It was when we were offered to do Game Art back in 2009 that we were able to use Digitizing Tablets for the first time. As first we used Adobe Flash to do animations, clean-up and coloring but we switched to their preferred software which was Toon Boom Studio. Toon Boom was made for animators so it was user friendly and we were able to learn it within a week. This prompted us to invest in more computers and tablets. Sometime in 2012, we have since incorporated digital animation, clean-up, in-between and coloring in the final episodes of “Jobert‘ and for some animations that were lost or lacking as most of the drawings were already done.

Artists using Tablets

Warly compositing

Animators using tablets

Clean-Up and In-between

    Problems in Clean-up and In-between (CUIB) were more on checking. We’ve got a lot of talented artists in this department but most of them wanted to do CUIB rather than check and supervise. We had to assign our best artists to check but at the same time sacrifice their CUIB output for the production of “Jobert“. One of those artist was Melvin Beto who was with us since 2006 but have to leave last year to work with his sister in Philippine Airlines where he works at the cargo area. He says he will come back, he just needs some extra earnings. Another checker, was freelancer Allan Martin, who stayed with us for  a year, but he eventually had to shift jobs to earn more. He now works as a tour guide in Taal Lake.

Digital Ink and Paint

     This job was given to on-the-job trainees or interns and those without creative backgrounds. It was a straight forward job, since all one has to do is to point and click the color to the scenes based on the model. It was also the easiest to learn, it gave an extra source of income for some of our production coordinators, messengers and staff. When we transitioned to digital animation, we just had the artists who did the clean-up and in-between also do the coloring, it makes the production faster because we eliminated the time to scan the drawings before coloring it.

Visual Effects

    When we started “Jobert“, I was thinking of doing the effects traditionally (hand drawn), but after seeing both Western and Japanese animation adapt digital effects on their traditional (2D) series, I applied it on “Jobert” too. Through the years, I and my team have learned better techniques for visual effects for 2D and 3D animation that were applied more in the latter part of the series. 

3D

     We were fortunate that we had Jei Vencer as our resident 3D artist, as he had inputs in the character designs as well as ideas of what we can do in 3D for Jobert. He designed the various alien ships, the droids and the cars that were used in the earlier episodes. He also designed the cyber wings for a character in a latter episode. But he eventually moved to another company and the designs he did were needed to be animated in other episodes. But Jei promised that he would be available when we needed his help.

Ep2 Frogee Mother Ship

Ep2 Frogee Mother Ship 2

Ep3 3D Jellyfish Satellite Cannon

Ep1 3D Cars

   Ep1 3D Car 2

     We eventually hired Gary Bayani, he was the 3D artist who designed the city scenes in the first episode. But he was really a freelancer and wasn’t always available because he had many extra activities. Mark Dones, while still a student wanted to polish his 3D skills with us so we got him. He transformed one tadpole ship and did some orbs, cloaking effects of some ships and machines. He was also  a compositor for episode 3.  A problem arose when Mark accidentally damaged the compositing files for episode 3; we needed to recomposite everything and this caused tension between him and the production coordinator at that time. He eventually left and continued with his studies.  A new graduate, Gerardo Brusas help design the assassin and battle droids, but he wasn’t an animator – he only did models and textures. He also left and worked in another studio.

Ep1 3D Jeepney

City scene

Ep4 3D Tadpole Ship 2

Tadpole ship 1

Ep4 3D Tadpole Ship - Cloaked

Cloaking effect

Ep9 Redesigned Battle Droids 1-1

      Redesigned Droid model

     Our producer noticed that the Manta ship designed by Jei was similar to the spaceships of other animated shows like the Ultimate Avengers and Justice League Unlimited. To avoid any problems in copyright designs, we redesigned Balhalya’s Manta ship to look like an Angler ship. Jei was still available to redesign the ship and animate the new one in episode 3 while he was already working with a game company in the country. Jei also polished the tadpole ship that Mark designed earlier. Mark’s design was more mechanical, while Jei’s design was more slick and futuristic. Jei wanted to change all the tadpole scenes using his design, but Edward and I decided to keep both designs and just incorporate it in the story. We made the new design as an upgraded version of the original tadpole ship built better for combat. Jei still helped us in some limited capacity in 3D works even when he was working in Japan already. He also redesigned and animated the battle droids for a majority of the scenes in one latter episode. After a short stint in Japan, Jei eventually transferred to a 3D software company in Singapore.

Ep2 Manta Ship

Manta ship

Ep3 Angler SHip Model

Model of Angler ship

003 Ep 8 Angler Ship

Cloaked Angler ship

Ep9 Tadpole Ship Upgrade 2

Model of Tadpole ship 2

TadpoleShip Ep9 2

Tadpole ship temporary texture

Tadpole ship 2 temporary texture

 

Ep9 Final Design Battle Droids 2

Battle droids

       We were able to get help from another CGI artist in Judiel Pascual, who rigged the Angler ship and assassin droids (which Gerard modelled) to prepare for animation; he also did the animations for the scenes which these machines appear. He now works for another company but is always on call during the weekends to help do any scenes that require any 3D. When there was a free training by the University of Makati for Maya, we had two of our animators to train for 6 months. Now we have two 3D in-house artist who helps if there are more CGI needed to finish the series. 

Ep12 Assassin Droid 2

     Assassin droids

Some studies of the ships and droids

FroggeesMotherShip_zpse153a572

FroggeesShip_zps17c91133

SpaceShip_zps0e4c779b

BalhalyasShipruffs_zps3d156b6f

BalhalyasShip_zps684a902e

p6_zpscb642fd2

 Post Production

Compositing

    When we started compositing, we began with Standard Definition (SD) output (720 x 480), as High Definition (HD) (1920 x 1080) wasn’t the standard then. So for the first 8 episodes it was rendered on Standard Definition, but as High Definition became more the standard as discussed in a seminar in China last 2011, we decided to do the latter episodes to HD . The problem is converting the earlier episodes to HD, which means going back to the Digital Paint and rendering the colored drawing to higher resolution. If the drawings are too pixelated, we would need to redraw those scenes again to accommodate the higher resolution. I use a television connected to the computer to review the episodes, as the color and small details sometimes appear differently from the computer compared to the TV.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Alstaire A. Sarthou  with Balhalya – May 31, 2014

Editing

    When we showed the first two episodes one critic said the pace was a bit slow. So we decided to speed up and combine some parts of the episodes to another, anyway we had an extra episode. So we are making sure the pace is not slow for the other episodes, when we edited it.  

Musical Scoring and Sound Effects

    We had three different people who worked on the musical scoring and sound effects for different episodes. They all have different styles and have submitted great work. One problem though was the final output lacks sound effects. Most of them had their studios in their homes and their specialty was for music and not sound effects. One said that it would really be hard to recreate sounds without a sound effects booth. This is called sound design where sound effects people would use different objects to recreate sounds like walking steps or dog barks. Two of them suggested that instead of sound effects, we just use music to replace the some sounds. At first I thought of some movies that did this, and it might just work. The problem is that I can’t really place music on all the scenes that needed sound effects, as it would really look and sound strange. So even though they added some sound effects on all the episodes they did, I still added some sound effects that I have gathered from different sources to the final output. I even added some beats to make some scenes a bit more exciting. Because of the Internet, I have learned and developed my craft to include visual effects and sound effects to my knowledge of animation.

     Despite of all the challenges through the years, with all the different artists that have come and go, I am still proud of what we have achieved with the budget we had. The table below shows the lack of manpower we had in the production due to the low budget. 

Capture

2

3

 Lessons Learned

 1. If you take too long to finish a project, chances are somebody else will be able to have the same idea and showcase it before you. We encountered this with design and story ideas. We were able to fix some similarities for some designs but not for all, especially the story in some episodes. It just goes to show that people can have eerily the same ideas across the globe.

2. If the production takes too long, some ideas also get outdated. With the fast technology changes, some props that we placed in the series are rarely used anymore. For example, cellphones easily becomes outdated. Product specifications also become outdated, such as Standard Definition television was a standard a few years ago, now its High Definition television, which is slowly being replaced by 4k definition, but I believe this resolution will still take another decade before it becomes a standard for TV.

3. An efficient Production Manager/Coordinator is needed if you want everything to be organized. The artists can concentrate on their work while the coordinator’s job is to make sure that the project stays on track and everything falls into place. This job should not be taken for granted. He is equivalent of a producer in a TV show. In fact, a production coordinator is also called a Coordinating Producer. He manages the show’s schedule and arranges the staff into teams. A producer is also in-charge with the research of ideas, auditioning of people for voice dubbing and even suggesting ideas to the director. He produces everything needed for the production.

4. Pre-production should be finished first before starting anything in production. Overlapping pre-production, production and post-production is a big mistake. Everything from the storyboard, character models, visual effects and voice dubbing should be done and approved before starting production. This is to prevent changes during production, which would cause time delays and affect the overall budget.

5. Finalize the storyboard and timing first before starting animation. An Animatic would have helped tremendously for the Producer, the Director, the artists to understand the story more. Any changes would have been done here, rather than in production where it costs more.

6. Work with people that have the same vision as yours. Working with people that don’t have the same passion as yours can lead your production to disappointing work.

7. Delegate work as much as possible, don’t try to do everything yourself. See the potential of other people and you might find some diamonds in the rough that would help you in the end.

8. The final budget and timeline should really be studied first before starting on any production. Include costs for retakes, equipment upgrades, utilities and artists salaries to make sure you don’t lose valuable resources while working on production, not taking these into account eventually cause delays.

9. Don’t be afraid to learn something new, we should strive to upgrade our knowledge for the latest techniques, technologies and tools to improve our craft.

 

Warlito P. Santiago – Assistant Director, Animator

    “World Class Animator” Bubuoin sa Pasay (will be set up in Pasay), was the title for an advertisement in the newspaper that I read 8 years ago. My dream was to become one of the finest animators in the Philippines, so I prayed and said to myself that this is the chance to reach my goal. I was excited and nervous to go to the Pasay City Hall Cooperative Department to submit my resumé and drawing portfolio for “Assistant Animator Training”. I passed the evaluation, however, upon screening my resumé, they told me that I’m not qualified because their priority are the ones residing in Pasay City, while I lived in Quezon City…kwangkk!!! Epic fail.

     After a few months, I received a phone call from Miss Melody Granado from the Pasay City Hall Cooperative Department and she told me that I’m qualified for the second batch of trainees for Assistant Animator. I thanked God for that opportunity and the next day I went to city hall for the contract signing for the training. There were 20 trainees in our batch and we were handled by two animators from Top Peg Animation Studios Inc. – namely Mr. Edwin de Vera and Mr. Randy de la Rosa. The training lasted for 3 months and we did clean-up and in-between exercises for the “Jobert” series for the whole duration.

     During the training, our trainor talked about the realities of the animation salary we are about to receive for our services. But despite the low starting salary, I chose to excel in my passion and I was awarded as one of the most outstanding trainees, getting second place overall. After the training, I started to work for Top Peg as an Assistant Animator for the “Jobert” series. I went to the office for only twice a week because of the expensive transportation fare from Quezon City to Las Piñas City. I always took home my work and submitted all what I’ve done with the fix-ups. The difficult situation tested my motivation in doing the work and it forced me to always think about how I could make my work more efficiently so I can earn sufficiently for my daily needs. I decided to talk to our manager if she could allow me to stay-in the studio for one week like some other artists. I thanked God that she allowed me to stay-in and it helped me work better.

Tany_Warly

Warlito P. Santiago with Tany – May 31, 2014

     Top Peg Animation and the “Jobert” series helped me improve my drawing skills qualitatively and quantitatively. I avoided having fix-ups and I always aimed for better work output. After awhile, I was promoted as supervisor for the Clean-up and In-between department. After a year, the management of Top Peg trained me as an Animator. They taught me a lot of things and techniques in doing animation, which was a lot harder than just doing clean-up and in-between work. I had to become more focused in learning the many principles and technicalities of the job. The “Jobert” series enamored me to it and it enabled me to do multi-tasking work. Wow! I love my job, the show gave me satisfaction I craved as an artist. After another year, they trained me as a junior director for “Jobert” and allowed me to handle some other projects.

     Sometime ago, I asked our director Alstaire if I can animate one episode of  “Jobert“. Alstaire agreed to my proposal and gave me one half of episode 6 and one half of episode 12. From that moment, I needed to be consistent with my output, I animated 200 hundred feet per cut off and and I was able to do it. Thanks to the “Jobert” series, it helped a lot in improving my drawing skills and finances. It helped me earn sufficiently to marry my girlfriend then and now my lovely wife – Elizabeth Dumo Santiago.

Rhonnel W. Ferry – Co-Creator, Writer

     The long overdue project is frustrating at times, but not totally unexpected. Edward and I are new to this field, and so are many of the people involve in the production. It would be unrealistic to get things right the first time around. Honestly, I wrote some things down in the series that I would never even dream of writing now that I’m a little wiser. Hahaha! The characters and costumes were Japanese anime inspired. I grew up on Dragonball Z and I am a very big fan of Akira Toriyama’s character and Saiyan armour designs.

     I am relieved and nervous at the same time, now that the Jobert series is almost finished. We can only hope for the best in the future. Hopefully people will enjoy it. Maybe they’ll appreciate the silliness of the characters. We’ve made some mistakes, learned a lot and still learning; I hope to use what I’ve learned in future projects – if I can. It will be a very rewarding feeling to see our characters in animation. I am very impressed with what the people at Top Peg  Animation had done. I had provided them with rubbish and they did their best to turn it into gold. Hahaha!

     The most difficult part was all of it! Everything we do for the first time is difficult, especially without a mentor, guide or road map. We only realized there was a guide to doing the right thing half way through the project. But it was an  amazing experience that had its fair share of fun, and I would love to do something like this again, even if it takes another decade to finish – joke only. Hahaha!

     The picture below shows the first and only time that the writers Rhonnel W. Ferry, Ian Kang, the director – Alstaire  and producer – Edward met together sometime in January 2006 at a food court in a mall. We didn’t eat, the food court was our office – we discussed the problems and solutions to make the story longer.

002Rhonnel W. Ferry (center), Ian Kang (left) Alstaire (right) – 2006

IMG_7714

Rhonnel W. Ferry doing the voice redubbing  for Jobert with voice director Alstaire A. Sarthou – 2010

     Below are some of Rhonnel W. Ferry’s works which were improved by Top peg for animation. The old files are from Top peg and some are partially eaten by termites already.

Jobertsuit_zps79f5758a

JobertFacialExpressions_zps04980435

SmallBalhayaampMoleth_zps7394c486

Gantoz_zps6947e6a9

Droids_zps623d4733

boss_zps61fcd431

GirlSecurityOfficer_zpsed7fb127

Barto_zps152de232

Toughie3_zps9a91d64f

Toughie2_zps90546402

Tanysecurity_zps31c769f3

Zemcasual_zpsd2af9188

ZemsCyberGlove_zpsbe663d9a

Final Thoughts

     I am very glad and grateful that I asked some of the people involved in the production of “Jobert and the Crop Circle Warriors©” to write their own experiences in the project. It forced the participants to remember mistakes long forgotten and present it systematically  as a lesson to improve the overall animation production process from the beginning up to the end in the future. There were some who were asked to write about their experiences also, but unfortunately they declined. This is especially true for the artists and animators who are not as seasoned; for some reason they are not inclined to write as it takes some effort or they cannot express themselves well even in Tagalog. Maybe this has something to do with the Filipino trait of being shy or mahiyain. But if you asked them to pose for a picture, many of them are not shy at all. But I cannot post their pictures as these will not be relevant to the blog. Anyway, those who contributed their reflections helped open our eyes to the many different aspects and realities of producing animation.

     I’m actually amazed and awed just reading Grace’s and Alstaire’s reflections, even if I worked with them for some years.  I actually forgot many of the events that happened in the production process with Alstaire or Grace, since it has been many years ago. We also lost the original drawing for the Jobert character made by Rhonnel and files for some of our pictures.  Back then, I was not even aware of the most basic standards of producing good animation from the start. I even have read some books on producing animation, but it was kind of remote or far different from our experience.  I remember the first trailer we did; we didn’t even know where to locate the scene. There were suggestions to locate it in the city or an empty area in the province; until I finally decided just to based it on the comic book. I just wished I knew way back then what was required before we even started the full production. Nevertheless, I think the output would have turned out more or less the same, only our route is more costly and it took a longer time to finish. But could the output been a lot better – maybe, but I think not by much because of our limited budget.

     Looking at the big picture, it was a realization of our own myopic and simplistic views of what we thought we were capable of. It was not due to foolish pride but due to the limited experience; we all thought we could tackle a big project with our current knowledge, ideas and excitement. We all learned the hard way; we really have lot more to learn. Producing an original animation in this country is no joke, everyone had to crawl (gapang in Tagalog) from the beginning all the way up to the end. And I would not be surprised that will be also true for the international marketing aspect.

     I’m sure that all the lessons learned in this blog will help current and future writers, animators, directors, producers, creators, game designers, film makers, production managers and dreamers in their future animation related projects. Learning from our experience is just the start of your own adventure; you too will have your own set of problems for your work or  projects. We all just hope for the best; whether successful or not, I hope to see more new original Filipino animation content in the future.

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