Monday, December 28, 2009

Polly Want A Soliloquy WIP

I was recently contacted by an awesome Prodigy fan site, The Prodigy Fanboy, with the request to create an illustration for a new site-layout banner, after the site's owner had caught wind of an old Prodigy bit of fanart of mine from 2004. A Prodigy fan for ages now, I couldn't help but agree.

The trick therein lie in the fact that, in the past 15 weeks, I haven't inked a single iota, as I've been in the middle of rough animation for Caravan throughout and the backgrounds, as well, have been in pencil. So, I decided to kill two birds with a single proverbial stone - teach myself to draw steadily on a Cyntiq, as well as re-sharpen my inking chops.

The guinea pigs for said practice project? A couple of main characters from a long-standing original concept of mine: Kamikaze's Rook, Reagan and Dymitri.

I picked a bit of the characters' story that always gives me a bit of a giggle: Wherein Reagan realizes, after much prolonged skepticism, that Rook is telling every bit of the truth about the pesky, yellow-eyed Corvid that has been following him around for days... He talks. Vividly, no less. Reagan shrieks. The bird, Dymitri, looks incredibly smug at startling the inferior bipedal specimens. Poor Rook just continues to look wholly disturbed.

Here's the progression on the image so far:

Steps in detail:
  1. The initial rough sketch. Each character, as well as the background are addressed on their own layers.
  2. Fleshing out the sketch a bit more, particularly where Rook is concerned. The bird, Dymitri, is also resized a bit to make the composition hold a little more weight.
  3. Opacity on each layer is brought down to about 40% to help separate them from the line work. Line work is, again, kept of its own character-by-character layer. Here, I've started final inks on Dymitri.
  4. Dymitri's line work completed, I move onto Rook.
  5. Rook is completed as well - Onto Reagan.
  6. All three characters completed in their inks. I also began sketching the background a bit more, teasing the idea, in the bottom right corner, of having a bunsen burner cooking a pot full of some ominous concoction for food. This was considered primarily for the purpose of having a blue flame as a light source in addition to the window. And yes, for the record, my sketching is usually this haywire when I'm not drawing on a clientele basis. It all makes sense to me, at least ;)
  7. Pushed down the characters' opacity tremendously to focus on the background. The backgrounds' lines are kept to a very minimum, as most of it will be built when I flat and color the thing. I also nixed the bunsen for what will be a rickety looking fire-hazard of a space heater, adding an orange light source to the space instead. It seemed more appropriately creepy, given the characters' expressions.
  8. Initial color study/flat layers. This will be a night shot, mostly monochromatic blue, save for the addition of the space heater's fiery glow.
More again from this image soon.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Snow Puppy

I needed something random and cute to draw - and something completely different than anything I've been doing in Caravan for the past few months - so, here's Moxie as a puppy in the snow. Hello, cute overload. ;) This silly quickie is all-digital from sketch to finish, created on Niles 's Cyntiq. It feels so wonderful to create art for FUN! It's been too long!

Also, I'm quite pleased to note that I've been granted some unexpected commercial freelance work over the break - looking forward to it!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

RIP Ron Hayward

News has reached my peers and I that this past Sunday, one of our most talented, dedicated life drawing models, Ron Hayward, passed away. Ron was an amazing person - soft spoken, intelligent, good humored, who took his craft seriously, and genuinely cared about the students who were learning from illustrating his thoughtful, dynamic poses. It was always a pleasure for me to speak with him, and I, as well as the CCS family as a whole, will genuinely miss his presence. RIP, Ron. You will be missed.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Not Chinese: Character 1 Final

Source dialog clip is from Dexter, in a conversation between Vince Masuka (C.S. Lee) and Dexter himself (Michael C. Hall):

"Yo, what's up with you today? You're throwing off my Chi."
"...You're not Chinese."
"I'm not?"

So, it's official! Not only have I survived a full semester in a rather intense Maya animation course at CCS, I genuinely feel like I've thrived in it, despite my initial devout stubbornness when it came to the program itself

The last day of class, and indeed the last critique, was, to be perfectly blunt, awesome. We had the opportunity to have our work critiqued by a professional animator, a great fellow by the name of Glenn Parsons from Kinetic Post. Knowing how busy ANY animator is professionally and personally, it was wonderful for him to take the time to come out, view, and critique our work, as well as openly answer any questions we had about the industry in general. Thank you, Glenn!

He had some great suggestions on the clip I did for my final piece as well: I will be going in and working on them to help improve the animation, as soon as I've gotten a couple of day's rest (Today is the last day of a very long, very hectic semester) The critique:

  • Show more weight and purpose in the character's step. This could possibly be achieved by having him stepping into the scene from the very first frame.
  • Anticipate more into the "I'm not?" to further emphasize the character's emotions. This could be done with a clearer curve: more emphasis on a reversed curve in his spine.

Over all, I'm very pleased, I have to say. It feels fantastic to now have a base of knowledge in not one but two methods of animation - and knowing I'd love to do either professionally.

Caravan Updates as of 12-17-09

Hi all! Here's a quick-link list to the latest progress on Caravan, via entries over at the Caravan Production blog, including the above completed background from Shot 002:
Happy Holidays,

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Caravan Updates as of 12-06-09

Hi everyone! Here's a quick-link list to the latest progress on Caravan, via entries over at the Caravan Production blog, including the above completed background from Shot 027:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Caravan Updates as of 11-24-09

Hi everyone! Here's a quick-link list to the latest progress on Caravan, via entries over at the Caravan Production blog, including the above completed background from Shot 034:

Just in case I am unable to get to blog updating over the Thanksgiving holiday - Happy Thanksgiving, all! Be safe, have fun, and eat your weight in yams!


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Big Love: First 3D Dialog Test Continued (EDIT)

(UPDATE) Sure enough, I couldn't resist tweaking this thing further! In the above latest edition, I toned down the movement off his hands as he says "Big Love", fixed a rogue middle finger and better aligned an eyebrow to his forehead. LOL, yes, ladies and germs, tedium is our specialty here in the animated world. But what the hell, it makes things pretty. I'm game!

Here's the latest phase of my first dialog test in 3D. At this point, I'm quite enjoying the motion and character acting as a whole - the fellow looks positively up to no good. I'll undoubtedly tweak this more at some point, but for now, it's back to Caravan!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Slew of Caravan Updates!

Nightfall at the Kavenaugh camp site - Background for shot 030!

Hi all! I just wanted to encourage anyone who has not yet visited my Caravan production blog to give it a looksee, as I've posted a slew of recent updates - the film is sailing right along, including rough animation, SFX tests and completed backgrounds! Here are the latest entries:


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Big Love: Dialog Test WIP1

Our latest class exploit in Maya is a dialog test which, when done, will include the character's full range of gesture while speaking to the clip of our individual choice. I was really intrigued withe the stage-by-stage progression our professor showed of his example animation, so I thought I'd post my own progression with the project here. The first pass of the test is to be limited to blocking out of our dialog's mouth movements and the mouth movements only... unfortunate only for the fact that it only took about 10 minutes to accomplish. Hopefully my classmates find keying dialog as simple\fun as I did here as well.

There's something oddly soothing about syncing animation to Hugh Laurie's voice. Ironic, given that House is such a cantankerous bit of a thing.

The line: "Big Love.... have I humiliated you in the last half hour?"

More to come,

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sadiha and Squish (WIP)

I actually started this image many, many months back, just prior to beginning the Caravan project. As a result of being sucked into film production, it's gone nowhere since. I would love to attempt to work on it a bit more soon, just as a slight diversion - everybody needs that little something! That said, above is Sadiha (The Defiance) listening in on a nearby conversation, whilst attempting to keep her little buddy Squish from scrap-diving off of her dinner plate. The image, apart from the view out the window, is only in very simple flats at the moment, but when fully rendered, is meant to be a lighting exercise more then anything. Hopefully I get the chance to work on it some time soon!


OIAF2009 Photo Recap

For the past three years running, I've attended the Ottawa International Animation Festival - every year, it's a positively wonderful experience. The festival, without fail, offers its attendees an absolutely inspiring host of animated films, as well as lectures and meet-and-greets with a number of industry pros and companies. This year was certainly no different - it was a stellar trip, and in all honesty, I'm already looking forward to next year's event!

Of particular excitement for my other half, Niles, was the viewing of his film CodeMonkey (Which I helped work on) at one of the festival's after parties this year to a positive reception. We also had the chance to speak with a number of lovely folks throughout the festival. I thought I'd share some of the experience through a couple of the menagerie of photos I took this year. I hope you enjoy!

Above: (left) The (Rather sweet) retro TV's signifying bus stops this year, as well as (right) a shot of the Bytown Cinema.

Above: Don Hertzfeldt sits down for an interview at the Evening with Don Hertzfeldt event - a wonderfully intriguing and entertaining experience. Below: (left) Don Hertzfeldt (right) and director Henry Selick (Coraline, The Nightmare Before Christmas)

Above: Story Supervisor Ronnie Del Carmen, during "The Making of Pixar's UP" Below: (left) Ronnie Del Carmen (right) and the Cartoon Network Animator's picnic, pumpkin carving contest and all! :)

Above: Last but certainly not least, one of the utmost highlights of my year - the opportunity to meet Mr. Eric Goldberg, whose work and wonderful spirit I both greatly admire.

More artwork to come.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Oldies but Goodies (Take Two)

The things one finds while organizing their hard drives! Here are two drawing of mine that are years old at this point, but ones I'm still, after so long, quite fond of. Both are from my original series concept, TKP.

Grullo and the Blood Pelt (2005)

Grullo, the bulky, witless and undeniably cruel leader of an antagonistic tribe stumbles across what appears to be a lone survivor - young Anathema - of the small tribal campsite his warriors have just raided and demolished.

The Warrior and the Rookie (2004)

Badger, as always, takes a wizened, good-humored approach to speaking with the cocky-self assured Damien.... whether Damien cares for the kinship or not.


KAFI 2009 Clips and more 3D Animation

Hark, a blog update!
Have a swanky photo of a bunch of nerds (made of awesome!)

CCS's Team NerdFighter at the 2009 KAFI Cartoon Challenge (L-R) Kate Burck, Mike Blaszkowski, Steve Stanchfield, Patrick Stannard, Mel Miller (Me) & Niles Bontrager.

Hi everyone - hope you're doing well. I believe I mentioned I was a member of the CCS representative teem at the 2009 Kalamazoo Animation Festival International's Cartoon Challenge - An event wherein each team had 4 days to create a fully animated, fully finished 30 second PSA. I recently finally got ahold of the final clip we, as Team NerdFighter, had created and thought I'd share a bit of it. Below are all clips I had various parts in creating (see the bottom right corner for what's what) I do appologize for the compression of the video here, Blogger's being rather silly this evening.

Mel's Clips from KAFI09

Also up are two more 3D animation tests I've done in Maya over the past couple of weeks. The first was an emotions test - we were to pull an emotion or state of being out of a hat and portray whatever we received. I had "Tired". The second animation was to be our take on a double take. I imagined the character at a rather sophisticate party, having an intellectual conversation with a colleague... before his attention is snagged away entirely by a streaker who, quite frankly, has no business being naked in public - ever!

Tired Guy

The Streaker

More again soon.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dabbling in Maya

I do apologize for the lack of posting as of late, guys. Anyone who has been hip-deep in independent film production knows - it's an insanely busy trip! I've been working tirelessly on my senior thesis film, Caravan, and am making great strides in getting it done. Conversely, however, every inkling of my time has gone towards it. This will pay off, though, in the long run, Lord willing!

This semester I'm also trying my very first attempts in 3D character animation in Maya. A traditional 2d, entirely hand-drawn animator by trade and training, getting past the software barrier and getting into the immediate coldness of moving objects around in a matte gray digital space has been quite the challenge. Slowly but surely, however, I'm starting to warm up to the medium, and the hard work (and hair pulling) is beginning to show positive results. The above is a playblast of my latest test - the Basic Man rig, created and modeled by our professor, not I - lifting a heavy boulder.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Festival News

CodeMonkey, a short film by my other half for which backgrounds I worked on color render for extensively, has been getting some lovely exposure as of late. It has aired at the Detroit Windsor International Animation Festival (March 2009), the Friday Night Club Saw after party for the 2009 Ottawa International Animation Festival (October 2009). This upcoming Wednesday the 28th, it will be playing in the Psychedelic Film Festival at the Main Art Theater in Royal Oak, MI. The films start at 7PM, admission is $5 a person. If you are able, please come out to support local Michigan filmmakers at this event!


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Koronis Doodle & Ottawa Screening!

... because sometimes a gal gets itching to draw something a little bit more detailed than a cartoon 8 year old. I love Caravan, and animating for the film so far has been a blast, but I needed to do a quick something (entirely) different just to get it out of my system. So, here. Koronis... an ancient ram-wolf... thing.

In other news, Niles' short film Code Monkey (which I worked on environment color renders for) will be showing Friday night at Club Saw for the 2009 Ottawa Animation Festival after party! I will be in attendance at said party as well as the festival as a whole. Looking forward to it, and tremendous thanks to OIAF for the air time!


Monday, September 28, 2009

Chipper Charlie

A quick image of Charlie from my Caravan production blog (Check it out for much more on the film!)

I do love Charlie Kavenaugh - little Kelsey's father. He's the sort of dorky dad who tries to be cool, despite the fact that he, quite implicitly, is not, by any little kid's standards... At the same time, he's too irresistibly adorable not to have a soft spot for.

As a side: I want that hat.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Official Caravan Production Blog

My senior film (which will undoubtedly dominate the next many months of my life) now has its own dedicated blog! In it, I'll be keeping tabs on my progress, thoughts on the project as well as posting images that won't see the light of day on my art blog here. Please feel free to have a gander, follow, and tell me what you think!

The Caravan Archives!


Monday, September 14, 2009

On-Model Mia

If nothing else, life is unpredictable. Shortly after my previous entry, my last surviving grandparent passed away; As one could imagine, the remainder of my summer break was quite the instance of upheaval as a result. I've since begun my senior year at CCS, and the production of Caravan is again underway. While much more art is to come, here, for the moment, is (finally!) a properly on-model orthographic of Mia Talbert. (Greatly improved from the rushed and hilariously off-model ortho previously posted as part of her otherwise acceptable model sheet!)

Stay tuned (And thanks for sticking with me!)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Regrouping after the fallout.

In the span of so few months, I have watched my family lose practically everything, been homeless, nearly lost my grasp on any feasible financial ability to complete my senior year at college, found work, wrangled needed financial aid, found, rented and moved into a home, and took on a summer class, to boot.

Needless to say, I have been ungodly busy. Art has set to the wayside while I simply try to survive, as I haven't the luxury to simply sit on my ass and artistically procreate in the carefree manner some seem to think I should (and to them, I simply have to laugh.)

However, things are finally beginning to calm, at least for the moment. From now until the beginning of my respective senior year classes in the fall, I will be picking back up on the production timeline that was so abruptly yanked out from beneath me on Caravan - I am immensely excited for that. For now, here's a few random tidbits from the Matihao Whenua project - the only two images I've been able to consider properly in weeks.

More to come.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

On the Hunt

Another digital mixed media piece for Matihao Whenua. Grimm, withe her "adopted" little sister Sheol and biological older sister Moxie, on a summer afternoon hunt.

Mechanical pencil line art and soft-shaded digital colors for the characters, and as with the last piece I played around with a mix of photomanipulation and digital paint for the background. Roughly 12 stock photos were included in total.

Stock imagery credit (and humble thanks) go to the following stellar resources and stock artists:
as well as

As always, thank you for taking the time to look :)


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Moxie in Whenua Forest

Grimm's older sister Moxie (yup, she officially has one!) on the outskirts of the Whenua Forest... and finally with a concrete design. More on her soon - I'm wildly attached to her already.

A piece helping to push me through an utterly intense art block, caused by super busy happenings including but not limited to Animation competitions (what an experience!), having had to fight to the teeth to secure my senior year at college financially (check), find proper summer work (also a success), and searching for a house to rent in this lovely economy (Still on the hunt)

But I digress.

Moxie. I think she's incredibly reflective of my somewhat voracious, pithy, hardened take on things as of late. She's had to work like hell for everything she's got - and she's still fighting.

A digital multimedia piece: pencil line art, digital coloration as well as a photomanipulation/digital paint mix for the background.

Thanks for viewing, guys. You rock. Hope you're well <3

Stock Credits (and humble thank yous) go to:
Deviantart's Moonchilde-Stock, maliniaq-stock, and Momotte2stocks
As well as a number of textures from


Thursday, May 7, 2009

CCS 2009 Year-End Review Reel

At the end of every semester, CCS faculty reviews each student's work and progression throughout the year. Each year, I compile a Review Reel highlighting everything I've done for non-liberal-arts classes. It has, most definitely, been a very busy year.

All visual work seen here is by and copyright of Mel Miller 2008-2008, apart from: Animation assistance on shot four of "Cabin Cat" was provided by Patrick Stannard ( Line art for the Code Monkey backgrounds were dawn by Niles Bontrager (

Music by Kevin McLeod, which he has graciously provided for public use under the Creative Commons License. Check out more of Kevin's wonderful resources at


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Mel Miller Spring 09 Demo Reel

A slightly older version of my current demo reel, the newer of which, having been retimed in areas - images get more air time, for example) will be posted as soon as I get the opportunity and time to sit and render it out in a net-friendly size (It's original to-DVD setting is currently somewhere around 6 gigs!)


Caravan: Mia Ref Sheet & Environment 1

More Caravan concept art! Above is the first official character model sheet for Mia Talbert, and below is the Talbert Farmhouse where she and her father Ethan live. I will be working on the production of this project continually throughout the next four months and beyond, so keep and eye out!


Cabin Cat: 3/4 Clean-Up Animation

Cabin cat, with the first three shots in clean lines. I'll definitely be completing shot four as well, as soon as time permits. This was from our first project from this semester in Tech 3 - which was also, consequently, our first multi-character, multi-shot dialog test. Ted the Trucker faces the harsh truth about his beloved kitty. Dialog clip is from Six Feet Under. My buddy Pat Stannard co-animated the kitty in shot 4.


Caravan: Mia Tie-Down Animation & Code Monkey

On the plus side of things, I genuinely loved the other two of three assignments in Tech 3 this semester. Here is the fully animated, tied-down test for the keyframe test I posted here on 03/27/09. The assignment required us to have a character react to our classmate's plastic pig "MacGyver" which was had to come into the shot from the top left corner, and leave through the top right. Mia here doesn't notice said piggie until he hits the ground behind her, is startled by him at first, but quickly becomes irritated for invading her personal space after she gets up to investigate him. He's promptly punted from the shot. Mia, for the record, is the main character for my Senior Thesis film, "Caravan" which is currenctly in production. This was my first shot at animating Mia in order to further get to know her character.

It is wholly worth noting that Caravan is teh second short film I have had a part in this year. The first was "Code Monkey," which I digitally rendered 30 backgrounds for. The film is now complete, and I'm absolutely thrilled with how it has turned out. When I get the permissionfrom the short's director, I'll post some of those backgrounds here as well.


Scotty Gets Punchy: Tied-down Animation

One of our more, shall we say, "repeat-offender pain in the butt" assignments this semester was for the class to create multiple 30-second animated commercials. Given how ungodly busy CCS students are at any given moment, the assignment and how it was run ended up being a total snafu (as I knew it would from the get go.) I'm tremendously glad it is over. That said, here's the tie-down animation for one of the commercials' characters, Scotty. Scotty is a very angry 10-year-old boy. In this particular scene, his imaginary friend Samson swoops down, lands on his head and flies off. Scotty attemps to punch him but misses. Samson animation was by Kate Burck - if/when I get the two composited together from her, I'll post that here as well.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Caravan: Secondary Cast & Mia Key Test

Hello everyone! Here's some of the latest progress work on Caravan. Up top is the character line-up for secondary and background characters in the story, and below is a quick first jab at roughing out movement for Mia Talbert in keys. Our current assignment in Tech 3 has us having a character react to our classmate's plastic pig "MacGyver" which is required to come into the shot from the top left corner, and leave through the top right. This is my initial pose reel for the assignment - clearly lacking mister piggie himself just yet. Needless to say though, Mia doesn't notice him until he hits the ground behind her, is startled by him at first, but quickly becomes irritated for invading her personal space after she gets up to investigate him. He's promptly punted from the shot. This key test will eventually be animated in full: I'll post the finished result once it's completed.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Caravan Main Character Lineup & Sketches

More initial concept work for my senior thesis film project, Caravan. Thanks for viewing! There will definitely be more to come.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

"TKP" Concept Art

Update: I received comments from a couple of people telling me that they were unable to full view these images - sure enough, the HTML was quirked beyond repair. You should be able to view them now, however. Thanks! ♥

My latest portfolio pieces, created for the first half of the semester for my "Advanced Environments and Characters" class. Below is concept art for my original personal project, "TKP." All images and characters are copyright 2009 of Mel Miller, and are part of a pitch for an in-depth animated or graphic novel series.

Environment: Trias

Character: Anathema

Character: Damien

Character: Bellicose

Monday, February 23, 2009

Caravan: First Completed Concept Piece

Long time no see! Over a month, in fact. I must apologize for the slow-going updating here the past couple of weeks. Between two jobs and 15 credit hours of classes each week, this semester has quiet feverishly eaten me alive. The closer I near to spring break, though, the more updates will be coming. I've got animation and concept work alike to share with you all, and although in all actuality my spring break will hardly be a "break" (I've got a large project for my current traditional animation class, backgrounds to render for my other half's senior thesis film, as well as concept art to do for a thesis of my own) I am very much looking forward to getting the opportunity to sit back and post it all.

That said, have some concept art! As a Junior, I'm currently in the midst of building the groundwork for what will be my senior film production throughout the following school year. So far, the story, characters and underlying motivation for my project have come with surprising grace, and I'm incredibly excited for the project as it stands, so early in its creation.

Thus far titled "Caravan," the film is projected to follow a young girl's efforts, be it physical or psychological, to escape the cycle of abuse that had permeated her family for generations. Above is my first fully rendered piece of concept art for "Caravan," sporting the story's main characters, Mia and Kelsey.

More to come! I hope you all are doing well.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Grimm and Cravencro

In spite of all of the rush and scuffle of the Christmas and New Years holidays, I was determined to at least get one decent piece done for my own amusement before classes started back up - thankfully, I did indeed manage! This is actually an older piece of linework of Grimm and Cravencro I'd drawn in 2007 that I have since been wanting to color at length but have not had the time. I'm rather glad I waited, however - I definitely would not have gotten results I'd have been so pleased with had I colored it when it was drawn a couple of years back.

The far background is a photo I snapped myself. Texture credits go to Also used were a couple of grass brushes provided by DeviantArt's ~anaRasha-stock and ~LightArtist.