A Great Lesson!
Its incredibly refreshing, even a little jarring to hear someone speaking in proper Mandarin (even if its couched in improper English) on Newgrounds.
Its a great lesson you have here and it covers probably the most important and difficult part of teaching Chinese to westerners, ie sounding out tones.
Now, while the lesson is really awesome and to those who already speak Mandarin will find this lesson incredibly rudimentary (though entertaining), there are probably some more things you could do to better help illustrate and more effectively teach the tone concepts to westerners who have no experience with it...mostly cause the tonal part is probably the hardest part for them to pick up. If it were anything else but that, I'd say it was perfect, and perfectly effective.
Stacked and repeated visual reinforcement would help this along...its already awesome that you have the tickmarks indicating the tone that's added to the sound, but those marks themselves are unfamiliar to the beginner - it may help to accompany those those the corresponding arabic numerals (1 2 3 4), and to have those along with the tonal marks accompanying each of the examples you give.
Also the end example sentencese that mix multiple words with different tones go by a little too fast, without any clear visual indication of what tone is going where...and to the untrained ear, this may be a little confusing. Since these end examples are meant to tie the lesson up and apply what's been learned so far, it'd be helpful to see just how the parts of the lesson are applied to these final examples.
That said, what you've got is really entertaining and does a good job of holding the viewers' attention, both with the content and the presentation, which are probably the most important grounds for effective teaching.
Great job and keep it up!
Professional and Clean, But Clashes With the Audio
Kinetic typography is always fun, especially when its done as cleanly and professionally as this. Advertisers and studios would definately find this work very appealing - its crisp and smooth, keeping the pace with very few transitions that seem awkward or jarring without intending to be.
This is all well and good, and kudos for that!
However, and this is a problem I've seen with a lot of the kinetic typography work I've seen floating around YouTube, is that the style and motion of the typography doesn't very effectively present the audio clip. That is to say, there is a really noticable emotional gap between the visuals and the audio.
The visuals are sleek, austere, and contemporary, conveying a feeling of efficiency, reliability and energy and from these things, comfort. Its the stuff of transportation ads and MTV bumpers that advertise what's "coming up next."
The audio, on the other hand, is none of these things. It strange, surreal, dreamlike, almost nightmarish, shot through with the confusion of a feverdream, a feeling helped along by the disquieting delivery of Michael Shapiro's VO.
Both of these pieces are excellent on their own, but they seem to clash heavily when you put them together. Now, sometimes you can do this with surprisingly pleasant results - however, both halves of this audio-visual piece seem to hold unabashedly to their own emotional guns, and the result ends up without cohesion.
I know the focus in kinetic typography is suppose to be....well, the kineticism of the typography, as opposed to how true it is to the source material - and in this, this piece really does very well.
But the disjointedness, along with what few concessions were made to the subject matter- the Lambda symbol, the trains - makes it seem like it could do much better at expressing the audio.
I truly feel that if this went the extra mile to convey the mood of the audio while keeping that smooth dynamicism that it already has, then it would become so much more than the sum of its audio and visual parts.
As is, it currently stands shoulder to shoulder with most of the other good typography videos posted out on the internet - as almost all of them have the same problem - which ends up making this comparitively average at best.
Again, I must stress - it is well done. But if you could take it that extra mile, this could be even better than everything else that's out there.
Good Production Value and Not Much Else
(review contains spoilers)
Joseph Blanchette's long-awaited return to the portal has unfortunately turned out to less than triumphant. Arguably the most well-known out of the trio that produced the Legend of the Black Book, his name recognition and the group's overall production skills arguably are what have carried the viewership of this comedic World-of-Warcraft-inspired short, and in the end are the only things worth noting.
For a comedy short, the laughs are dismally few...the jokes seem to be consistently bland, leaning on tried-and-true (and uninteresting) cliches, funny voices and weak non-sequitur anachronisms to carry the funny. Add to this the droll pacing and a horribly derivative storyline and you're left with a production badly in need of a new scriptwriter, and a new director.
The voice-acting is nothing to phone home about - the voices all feel over-acted to compensate for the script, and feel over-the-top, but in the wrong direction. The except to this is Edwyn Tiong (Omahdon) as the cult leader, which becomes the best and only memorable part of the entire short.
The flash isn't without its good parts of course - as mentioned before, the production values of this short are good. The entire sequence where the lich king is released from the book is visually impressive and a lot of work has clearly gone into the re-design of the characters and the production of the set-pieces.
The animation itself never gets above par and Joseph Blanchette's animation skills don't seem to have improved much since his last effort, though that's somewhat forgivable since this is a comedic short, with relatively little action or drama. Taken with everything else though, it actually ends up climbing on top of all of this piece's faults and pushing them down even further.
What you guys have here, ultimately, is well-produced but mediocre. Nothing here is really bad, but almost everything, from the basic concept upwards, is uninteresting and more or less forgettable.
My recommendation would be to pass any future scripts by some other writers with some proven comedy chops, and to think more carefully about the pacing and timing as you're putting together the next iteration.
You guys seem to be a really inspired team, and it sounds like you want to make a lot of cool stuff. But until you brush up your chops in some critical areas, your efforts are in danger of being very quickly forgotten, which would be unfortunate considering all of the work and love you've clearly put into this.
A fair review, but you were mislead in a few places:
1) This is not a "LegendaryFrog" cartoon. (I was kinda annoyed that my name appeared 2nd on the actually) While I did help with the script, it was primarily written by Casey and we all chipped in when we could. One of the weakness, we release, is Casey tends to ramble. We hope to improve this for the next one and have the story move along quicker.
2) LF also did not do the animation. That was handled by Mark. (th1rt3en) In my opinion, its light years of what I'm capable of. Which is why Mark did it! I did the artwork, because it's what I enjoy to do the most.
Most of the criticism against the movie we noticed near the end of production, and it's our own fault for letting it get that far. Things like overlong scenes and sound quality, we all think can be improved on next time.
Regardless, thanks for the honest feedback, and I hope the next part is more to your liking!
A Phenomenal Presentation
Sakupen delivers yet again, tailending an impressive portfolio of work that includes "Walk-Smash-Walk", "MechaDeath", and the infamous "Dad's Home" with a thrilling cinematic battle of mechanized titans.
My weakness has always been immersive and clearly orchestrated fights scenes that are dynamic without being confusing. And to me, that is this work's greatest strength- the action is beautifully shot, cleanly animated and clearly communicated. The audience is never in doubt as to exactly what is going on, and every blow exchanged or step taken logically follows the other, making this a heavensend that stands out in a mire of flashes too often rife with unrealistic fight progressions and confusing camerawork.
The color palette and environements, the artwork in general were well thought-out, and powerfully evocative of a mood of sandblasted desert wonderment, reinforced by the wonderfully picked (and self-composed) music and exotic environments. I have to say, this is a very refreshing change change from flashes that are fond of using "epic" music for fight scenes, whether it be swelling orchestras or screaming metal guitars.
The story here, expository text aside, is non-existent. This is a fight between robots, and while it has the plugs and wires that'll allow it to connect up with future releases to become a fully realized storyline, this flash shouldn't be mistaken for anything but what it is at its heart.
In that sense what story and exposition is there in the flash could have been presented a little more cleanly - much of the exposition could have been cut down without taking away from the flavor and context it adds to the animation. As it is, all the extraneous detail before the movie starts ends up being a little distracting, and seems to suggest an animation with a lot more story than what is actually there. As they say, less is more.
What minor downfalls it possesses, Titanomachina is a brilliant, beautiful and entertaining masterpiece, the worthy and logical progression of Sakupen's work, and deserves every single one of the stars that goes into this 10 rating.
Its really stunning how much storytelling and character development gets developed in this piece even though there is absolutely no dialogue whatsoever. The characters all grow and change and react and develop despite never say anything, and it feels utterly believable and fluid.
The simplistic yet utterly charming style, which has been used with great success since the very first There She Is!! helps this along, since it tends to communicate ideas more quickly and efficently than any style that is close to realism.
The story itself has been told a million times, each with differing degrees of success, and the take on the story in this one isn't exactly new, but its well told, and the visuals are all well delivered. The deviation from the usual cutesy and really lovey-dovey style is somewhat shocking, but not -entirely- unexpected, given the more muted tone of Ep. 3, and of course, in spite of the sudden change in tone, still manages to work.
All in all, the animation may not be "par" for the course for Newgrounds in terms of subject matter, tone and style (but then again, since the success of the Brackenwood series and other serious shorts, the line between "par" and "not par" has been steadily blurring) but it is still a piece worth watching, just for how well made it is.
And there it is.
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