Catching a few lobsters...
/ JJ’s Week 4 PPJ – An Exciting Week
January 31, 2017

The Website

If you’ve been here before, you’re probably thinking to yourself “Wow! This website is moving a lot quicker than before!” And, if you’ve never been to this site before, you’re probably thinking “Wow! This website loads very quickly! I bet it’s always been this efficient, and the guy who coded it is probably a very skilled web developer.” If you’re in the later group, you can go ahead and skip to the next horizontal rule.

For the rest of y’all, who knew the struggle of waiting those extra few seconds, things on the backend have finally been cleared up. With the help of fellow lobster Matt Mlodzienski, we combed through line after line of javascript and .htaccess files until we realized that the problem all along was that our pictures weren’t compressed for web viewing. Here’s the latest results of a speed test on our website:

While I no longer have pictures of the old metrics, you can trust me when I say that this is a massive improvement. Originally, our page size was over 11MB, there were more than 100 requests, and the load times were much higher. I think we’re all a lot happier with this website.

In the first draft of my PPJ, I didn’t discuss this improvement. Honestly, it’s kind of embarrassing to admit that I forgot to go through the process I had repeated hundreds of times in design and web classes. After all, without the “Save for Web” option in photoshop, how would we have those cute animated gifs that pepper our slack? But I felt there was a lesson here that was more important than displaying a little hurt pride: don’t be afraid to ask your teammates for help. Fixing this website’s speed had brought me to some dark corners of my web server, tearing apart line after line of code trying to figure out why it was so inefficient. Less than a couple of hours with another lobster, and the problem had dramatically improved.

I also got pressKit() working on our website. It was extremely simple and took less than 30 minutes. I intend to go back and make some more changes, but I felt a sense of accomplishment after getting it working.


I got the chance this week to animate two shots for my group, and I now have a deeper appreciation for every frame of animation that we have so far. You know that frustrating thing Maya does when a tangent gets all funky and the program starts giving you some really odd in-between frames? Animating the ship is like that, but worse. The ship has a tendency to want to fishtail heavily after each turn. By the end of just touching up these sequences, I felt I had grown closer to the graph editor. We’re semi-close friends now, and we’ll definitely be getting to know each other better in the coming months.

With an introduction to the material out of the way, here are the two shots I animated:


I can’t take much credit for this shot. The design and layout animation were done by Brendan Brown, and this is just a ship replacement with the newer version of the ship. The only changes I made to the animation was lowering the ship on the y-axis, so the ship isn’t out of frame during the whip-pan. Perhaps that wasn’t an issue in the original, but I noticed it as I was scrubbing through the timeline with the replaced ship.


Low Planet Orbit is a shot which I’ve been kind of worried about. When I edit, I feel the need to cut. It’s primal. And when I see almost 20 seconds of a ship flying in a straight line, that urge gets even stronger. “Why am I still looking at this shot?” I ask myself, each time a perfect moment in the audio comes up to toss in a cut. “What is the marginal benefit of one more frame of this ship flying in a straight line? I have so much cool stuff to show the audience!”

So I decided to spice up the shot with a little animating. Since inter-shot contrast is such a major element of our project, I thought I’d try a little intra-shot contrast. We’d start off with our ship, almost a spec of white against a much larger planet. Then the ship would bank towards the camera and within a few seconds, wow us with its own size. This imagery is also really nostalgic for me — I grew up in a military family, and when we lived near an air force base in Virginia, we went to this annual airshow and this was always a crowd-pleasing maneuver. Just flying directly over the crowd.

It wasn’t well received. Bummer.

Beta Video

I’ve been a little bit long winded, so this’ll be a shorter introduction. Each group needs a short video to play before their project that gives a little information about their video. You may remember our previous intro– a playful homage to The Office. Sticking with our theme of “Sitcoms that ran on NBC on Thursday nights between the years 2008-2013,” here’s our tribute to Parks and Recreations–

LOBSTER FACT: Keith Richards once tried to purchase Marvel Comics in an attempt to force the company into publishing his rejected graphic novel The Adventures of Lobster Man. Marvel originally turned down the comic book due to its obscene portrayal of lobsters, blatant racism, and the slanderous remarks about other members of the Rolling Stones.

About the author:

I'm an animator, illustrator, and all around artsy guy. You'd want me on your Pictionary team.

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