Hobbies Stories

Letter To Unniyarcha

I suppose,
Somewhere in Heaven,

18 September 2012

Dear Unniyarcha,

I hope you don’t mind the informal salutation. Even though we have never met, somehow, I feel that you would not mind being addressed in this manner. I have heard about you, though I must admit, my knowledge is rather limited.

Last week, I began taking part in the weekly writing challenge. For this week, I decided to write a letter to you. Let me introduce myself. I live in the 21st century. My home is several miles away from where you lived, but both our homes are part of the same country. We no longer have kings and queens, but we still have wars. The conflicts in our society are very similar to the conflicts during your lifetime.

You are a source of great inspiration to me, and over the past several months, I have been busy trying to create something – based on you. I am writing to you, because I wish to share my vision with you.

In your time, there were sculptors and painters who created such wonderful works of art, puppeteers who breathed life into inanimate objects, magicians who created wonderful illusions, actors, dancers and musicians who recreated dramas on stage. In our time, we still have these art forms, but some people have invented new media, and many of these wonderful arts can be performed within something called a ‘computer’.

I am still a student, and trying to learn new things. In my school, I tried to implement what I learnt, to create a character. If you were to be reborn, in our times, this is what I believe you might be. A seemingly ordinary girl – but one who has an extensive knowledge of Kalaripayattu. Simple, confident, friendly, strong and respected.

I had a rather tough time, and at times I felt rather unpleasant, wondering if I could really conquer the challenge I had set for myself. I took up sole responsibility, and in hindsight, I think it was not a very wise thing to do. Nevertheless, I accomplished a part of what I set out to do. The character has her flaws, and will probably always remain a work-in-progress – aren’t all humans! But I am satisfied with what I managed.

I hope someday she gets to meet you, and gets an opportunity to learn something from you. I thank you for patiently reading this letter. I hope it wasn’t much of an inconvenience. I am enclosing some photographs of the girl. I hope you like them.

yours truly,


* * *

Unniyarcha is a popular legendary warrior, believed to have lived in the 16th century. She was an expert at wielding the Urumi.

Urumi is a long sword made of flexible steel, sharp enough to cut into flesh, but flexible enough to be rolled into a tight coil. It is dangerous to the opponents and wielders alike, and requires great agility and skill to master.

Kalaripayattu is one of the oldest fighting systems in existence. It is believed that the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma travelled from the southern part of India and taught martial arts to the monks at Shaolin Temple. The origin of Shaolin Kung Fu is attributed to the ancient Indian martial art systems.

Source : Wikipedia

Hobbies Stories

We Created A Monster!

After months of procrastination, we present to you, our creation. That the topic for this week’s photo challenge happens to be ‘create’, is a lucky coincidence!

The Project:

A 2d animated short film, being made for a student’s competition, on behalf of our institute.

The Concept:

Story Board Extract
Thumbnail story board extract
Story Board Extract
An extract from the story board

Theft of content discourages the the creators of original content. This, in turn, hinders creativity, and ultimately, when creation stops, everything comes to an end.

While this is rather extreme, we used it as the basis for creating our protagonist.

The Protagonist:

Concept Character
In search of our spirit

A formless spirit. People cannot see it, but it watches our every action. It has always existed in some form, but over the years it has grown exponentially. We needed a simple, yet mean creature. After unsuccessfully creating several rather cuddly creatures, we finally managed to locate our spirit.

The Plan:

Putting ideas to paper
Putting ideas to paper

We began with a simple story, with simple line art for presentation. It eventually grew more complicated, with more supplementary characters, and more complicated animation.

The Resources:

A lab – which we shared with five other students, two computers and a pen – tablet.

For the next three months, this room would virtually become our second home. We entered early morning and left late in the evenings – including Sundays. The windows were covered with black paper. The air-conditioning, at times, prevented us from suffocating, and at times made us shiver. The pen tablet came close to becoming my best friend!

The Human Resources:

We searched, and searched, and searched. We knew we needed a character artist. We found none. Eventually, we decided to handle it ourselves.

The Implementation:

Trying out animation
Trying out animation – manually, and digitally

To create one second of an animated clip, we needed 24 frames. A software can make things move smoothly and blend frames, saving a lot of work. But it has its limitations. There are times, when everything must be done manually. For our story, every bit of animation involved manually creating unique frames.

Back when early Walt-Disney animations began appearing, there was no software which could blend and create frames. There was no copy and paste. The artists created each of the frames from scratch. The colours couldn’t be picked from a digital colour palette. They had to mix paints and inks for every frame. Yet they managed to create believable, realistic characters, which had a consistent form, and colour across every frame!

Where We Messed Up:

Testing style
Trying to establish a style
Becoming a little complex
Still trying to establish a style… Becoming a little complex

During the process, we fought. A lot – with each other and with our own teachers. We argued about the best approach towards solving issues. We lost a lot of time, just trying to figure out the style for the film – something that should actually have been a part of the planning stage. While we did do a lot of planning, our paper work was inadequate. It threw our schedule so far away, that our mentors, peers, and even we, began to lose hope of it even being completed. We lacked the foresight, and the skills which, we realised, were essential for taking on a project of this magnitude.

It seemed like our project had been set up to fail.

The Controversy:

Piracy is a sensitive issue, and a grey area. After all, sales of recorded music hardly account for an artist’s income. They benefit distributors. And artists earn millions from live concerts anyway. The concept seemed irrelevant for the digital age. The internet makes the cost of producing and distributing intellectual property almost negligible. A viral video on a video-sharing site is all it takes to get famous!

Ironically, we used music with creative commons licenses for our film on piracy!

At home, debates and arguments surrounding our project became a regular feature. My spending long hours working, only added to the gloomy atmosphere in the house.

The Final Touches:

With just about 3 weeks left, tension and tempers were rising. We asked Google for help. We analysed footage from videos, and animated clips. We searched for music, and shot footage of ourselves for reference. Desperate to finish what we started, we used videos and images as templates, and traced over them!

With just a couple of days left for the deadline, we had a few animations still left to do, and some of the backgrounds were incomplete. We had not compiled our work even once to check if all the pieces fit the puzzle. In a last ditch effort, we worked for 24 hours straight to complete the little bits. There were some glaring mistakes. But we ignored them. Ultimately, we rendered it – just in time for submission.

The title for our project was decided on the very last day!

Final shot
Final shot – The pen tablet came close to becoming my best friend

The Aftermath:

The consequences of the marathon effort on my health were explained in detail in my previous post.

After nearly six months, we blew the dust from the project to fix some of the major glitches. During the rendering, our ghost showed up in a few frames, where we did not put it, and disappeared from some other frames. What can I say… It was being true to its nature.

The Perfect Monster:

The debate surrounding the definition of what constitutes piracy sparked a debate around our house, and divided the family. Several issues popped up during the planning and animation stage, which put some wonderful friendships in jeopardy. Our ghost didn’t help either. It distorted in unusual ways while animating, which caused a lot of head ache. It skipped frames on rendering, and appeared in places where it clearly didn’t exist. It ensured that we spent months, cooked up inside a sun-proofed room. While we brought packed lunch with us, it did not prevent us from eating out. Our health took a severe beating.

It seemed, that we had created the perfect monster.

The Other Side:

While we were blaming our creation for our troubles, the spirit was subtly doing its part to put us in our place! Working on the project, was a huge learning curve. We bit way more than we could chew, and that made us push our limits. We learnt the importance of pre-production, the importance of paper-work, the limitations of our skills, tricks to overcome it, the long road that lay ahead of us before we could even think about calling ourselves animators, how to work in a team (even if it was just the two of us), and to believe in ourselves, and our vision. Most importantly, we realised that nothing can ever be more important than our health.

We had to use every trick in the book to reel in the spirit which was running amok. I’m happy to report, that it has been caught and placed inside a container. It is on display as a video on Youtube. Its still not perfect, but considering that there were only the two of us, working on our very first animated clip, and practically the whole world betting against it, I think it turned out fine 🙂

Please visit the blog of my partner-in-crime, guilty of creating the monster!

The Disclaimer:

We admit we used a lot of references from the internet world. We have tried our best to give credit to our sources. Further, this project was not made for any commercial purposes. It was just an idea, which we feel extremely proud to be a part of, and hope you too enjoy it!


Festival Season!

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a post… Thanks to some work… Hope to write about the experience soon, for now, here’s a greeting for the upcoming Festival Season

Its been a long time since I’ve paid a visit to the blog. In fact its been a long time since I’ve paid a visit to anybody over the past few months.

It’s the annual competition season and the Creative Minds Competition is around the corner. As usual everything had to be done at the very last moment and as the deadline for sending entries drew nearer, everything took a back seat.

When I say, everything, I mean everything including food and sleep! For the last week we slept a little more than a few hours and food refused to go down out throats as tension and pressure reached its peak. Looking back, I’m struggling to recall all that happened – everything seems blurry.

This project involved two people – myself and my friend Atul. In a way it was a shared dream. We took up the project more as a challenge to ourselves, to stretch ourselves, and to find out how much we could do. At first, we felt it was a small project, and the two of us would be enough. But as things started shaping up, the magnitude of our work multiplied. After initial reluctance, even we realised we needed at least one more person for the job.

Both of us knew who we wanted on the team, but as luck would have it, she was busy. We asked our mentor if there would be anyone who could do the job. Even we tried to look for that elusive third person, but in vain. Finally we decided that the two of us were enough. Everyone around us had doubts about our capability to pull off the project, perhaps even we had our fair share of doubts.

But we had to finish the project. After all, it was our idea, and now that it was out of the bag, we couldn’t let some one else pick it up. And above everything else, it was our reputation on the line. Last year, I had the misfortune of being a part of 2 projects of a similar scale. One that got completed, and one that didn’t. The one that was completed fell short of expectations (and I fervently thank my stars I didn’t play much of a part in it). The one in which I was involved more actively, couldn’t be completed. To be honest, no one could be blamed for the fiasco. The time period allotted for both the projects was simply too short.

We couldn’t afford to repeat last year’s mistakes.

Our deadline was the 30th of September, and somehow, we scraped out something. Its all over (at least officially), and it has been a very adventurous journey, filled with ups and downs, and last minute patches. I do not know when we started it (not the precise date anyway) but we had a rough storyline in the third week of June (my email puts it to 19 June).

Over the past 3 months we have learnt a lot. In many ways it was a crash course in project management, as well as time management. We realised how much effort professionals have to put in to produce quality results. As a lay person, it is easy to criticise what we see, but it is only when we try to achieve the same, we begin to appreciate what it takes to be there, and do it. At a student level, theoretically things seem simple and logical. But when it comes to doing things, especially with a deadline at hand, it is an entirely different ball game.

As I mentioned before, we managed to complete the project. But honestly, it was way below what we had expected. Perhaps we bit off more than we could chew, perhaps it was because it was our first attempt, perhaps we were one person short, maybe it was the lack of time, or perhaps a salad of everything, with a pinch of technical glitches (not according to taste)!

So after all that’s said and done, we’ve mutually decided not to share our adventure till we can safely make it public without embarrassment. Now that there is no deadline hanging over us, it is hard to tell when that time will come, but I sure hope its sooner rather than later.

For now, we’re enjoying a little break (spent the past 2 days sleeping :P)

Since the festival season has already begun, I decided to share something I made last year. It is a Diwali card I made for display. I had presented it to our mentor but Atul managed to pull out a photograph he took of it. So here it is…

Happy Navratri and Happy Diwali in advance 🙂



Getting the monkey off my back!

For almost a whole year, I have had a tough time trying to negotiate my way around a project that I was very enthusiastic about. It began in the month of April last year, and I had rather grand plans for it. Now, looking back to what I had planned, I think I ended up trying to bite off more than I could chew. Perhaps it was too ambitious.

Being the superstitious person I am, I wanted to keep the project a closely guarded secret, and then reveal everything later on. For I am of the opinion that you should never divulge your plans before executing them. Otherwise, the plans never materialise. But, as luck would have it, that did not happen.

Due to unavoidable circumstances, word got out that I was working on a short video. And very soon, what was supposed to be a month’s work just kept getting delayed and delayed and delayed… I began losing interest.

With great difficulty I managed to get the footage together. But by that time, I had begun my freelance project. Once I was done with it, I thought, well, time to finish what I had started. Even as I was thinking about getting to work, the annual creative minds competition was announced, and I was selected to work on a small 2D movie. Unfortunately, it couldn’t be completed on time, and ended up being shelved. It was quite a setback, even though I was shortlisted for the finals in another category.

Soon after things had settled a little, I decided to get back to my project.

But this time, technology let me down. Not once, but thrice. Something or the other just kept cropping up. Finally, when things did work out, over six months had gone by and I was getting frustrated. I thought I would quickly finish it and get it off my back. But, when I took my finished project for evaluation, it received a very negative reaction. One after another, people came up with flaws and suggestions to fine-tune it.

I did the video-editing from scratch and created animated footsteps. That again took a lot of time. The next time I got it reviewed, I was told the audio was not good enough. And that there should have at least been some sort of an interview in it. That really threw me into a fit of rage. I had given up.

Then one day, my uncle paid us a visit, and saw the project. Not bad, he said. Just add one interview. That should make it complete. I was severely dejected. But he told me to complete it. He made a few suggestions, and they were very good ones too. But I was mentally tired. The very thought of looking for an interview, editing the video again, and changing the whole story, was too daunting.

The video was now haunting me. I felt like I had let myself down and I was severely disappointed.

It took me a few more months to actually think about touching it again. I kept thinking every morning about doing something about it, but it never happened.

There are times when you plan for things, and they never work out. And there are times when you don’t consciously plan for something, but its there, lurking quietly at the back of your mind, without you realising its there. It was just one of those days, I just mechanically opened the file and started editing the audio. What I had feared would take me weeks, I ended up doing in a day. Well, not exactly a day. But the major part was accomplished on that day, and some fine-tuning the next day.

And today, I feel that I have done it. For a major part of the process, I felt I could not accept the outcome. It was a failure. It failed to impress anyone.

But over the last few months, I have come to accept it for what it is. Partly because I have little choice, and partly to get over the setback. Unless I learn to accept it, with all its flaws, no one else will. It still does not have the interview, and the audio is yet to be evaluated. But unlike the other times when I was scared of a negative review, I can say right now, that I am satisfied with the outcome.

I have finally realised that I was looking at it through a completely wrong perspective. I was trying to impress others. Ideally, whatever we do, we must always strive to do it for ourselves. If there is an external benefit we are seeking, it will never make us happy. But if we are satisfied, no one else matters. It was not for others that I took on the project. But for myself.

It was not exactly what I had imagined it to be. There are perhaps a million flaws in it, some of which I am aware, others, which I am yet to be told about.

Perhaps sometime in the future I will look back and say, that’s crap! But right now, I would say its done. I know its not yet got the final nod, but no matter what will be said about it, I’m not changing it. It may not be complete, or perfect for someone else, but to me, its just right!