Building Empathy with Virtual Characters

My focus for the past few years has been on creating virtual animated characters. I want to create characters that people love, care for, and empathize with. The constraints and possibilities of characters who live in a digital world are completely different than traditional animated characters. I did this little talk at the World VR Forum in Sweden on the topic. I also did an updated version of the talk in Denmark at the Viborg Animation Festival (which sadly wasn’t filmed). Enjoy the Swedish version of the talk for now! I’ll be doing a video essay version of the talk specifically for YouTube soon with edits and updates.

Orbital Portrait: Eddie Lee

The idea of a spinning video portrait has been burning in my cloud brain for ages. Today, I finally did something about it and made one for my amazing friend from Funktronic Labs named Mr. Eddie Lee.  Turns out Vine is the perfect format for the idea. I'd like to do one of these for everyone I meet! Making the animation customized to their personality. I just don't have time! This one took about 6 hours including making the music, animation, and compositing. Perhaps there's an AR app idea in there somewhere though! Also if you've read this much description of this 6 second video you should probably check out my Vine channel because it's a magical, odd, and fascinating window into my 6 second long imagination.

My Bamboo Standing Desk 竹のスタンディング机

Recently I started working at a new office in Kyoto, Japan. There was plenty of space available, but one problem, no desk. Another problem, no money. Even if I had extra money, I would hate to see the materials wasted in a desk, which is basically impossible to recycle. Also, I have no car to pick up a desk. 

So, what does one do when one needs an item? Make it! And if possible, make it using the things you have available to you locally. I've always been fascinated with bamboo. It's light, strong, modular, and super sustainable. Although actually not so sustainable if it's been covered in formaldahyde and shipped halfway across the planet to your house (click here for more info on that). 

For all these reasons I decided to go with bamboo for my standing desk. I had seen a few natural bamboo forests around the outskirts of Kyoto and figured I could cut some of dem' trees down and use 'em! 

Beforehand I did some research on bamboo rope joints. I wanted to save money and keep it natural by minimizing the use of screws or metal hardware. This rope is commonly available in Japan, extremely cheap, made only of plant fiber, and is designed for bamboo joints. 

All in all 1 day to gather resources, 1 day to assemble, 3500yen (about $35) Most of that was spent on the wood which I purchased from Tokyu Hands. Zero packaging, fuel, or waste. When I'm done with the desk, I will simply dissasemble and return it to the forest. 

Special thanks to Giles at Vitei for letting me use the space and build this crazy thing. 

Song of the Salaryman

Time is the most valuable thing you have. Don't let anyone tell you how to use it. 時間はみんなさんの一番大事な物。誰もがどのようにあなたの時間を使用する方法を教えてはいけません。

The Terminal: Co-Working Space Kyoto

Everytime I need to sit down and get some work done, I head to The Terminal near my home in Kyoto, Japan. I've tried out a lot of different co-working spaces in Kyoto, but this one is by far my favorite. It's quiet, serene, and a good price at 円1295 per day (about $13). They also have an hourly fee, but I always use the daily fee.

Downstairs is a cafe that serves Matcha Tea and Coffee. Both are delicious! The coffee is a custom blend made just for this place and the Matcha Tea is hand prepared.


Now, let's talk about the building. This place is georgeous. It's definitely a place Steve Jobs would have approved for proper Apple product usage. It's totally Japanese style (和室) and it wouldn't be out of place to wear a kimono and a katana around here, but then I would just be a a try-hard foreigner (がんばりすぎる外人) now wouldn't I?


There are many co-working spaces in Kyoto, but I find that at The Terminal I am more comfortable, and therefore more productive, than at any of the others. I also like that I don't have to do a complicated signup process or pay a monthly fee. Also, they let me do pushups in the garden EDIT: Actually I'm not supposed to do pushups in the garden, ooops.

This is an example of what not to do at The Terminal.

This is an example of what not to do at The Terminal.

The Terminal Kyoto only has a Facebook Page at the moment:

There is another Terminal in Tokyo as well! Check it out:


Meishi 名刺

A business card is an incredibly important thing in Japan, it shows other people your professionalism as well as a sense of your personality. Another random fact, my dad used to always say "If your gonna do something, do it well". To be honest, as a kid I completely ignored the advice, but now my engineer genetics are kicking in and I simply cannot make something that I would consider boring if I were on the receiving end. I must create magic, the world needs more of it, Japan needs more of it.

Thanks to my friend Sachiko's recommendation I went to FabCafe in Tokyo which is basically a combined Starbucks / Makerspace. It's awesome. After a few sprints across Tokyo to grab the materials I needed and a few hours of tweeking, magic came out of the glowing beam of lazer light.

5月 24, 2014 20:51.gif

Disneyworld Minetrain Interactive Installation

It seems that every time I explain my job to Japanese people, they have a hard  time understanding what it is that I do. This little blog post from Disney finally makes public the work I've been doing over the past year with Jeffrey Ashbrook of Adventure Works. I worked on the jewel sorter game for Disneyworld's Minetrain animating jewels, bins, water, and magical sparkles of course! All inspired by my favourite princess, Snow White.

3D Totoro

I love Totoro. On a whim I decided to see if I could render a photo real Totoro. This is the result. It's not a story just a collection of random render tests.

All in all I spent 2 days and an all nighter to make this happen!

This is my first time ever rigging characters in cinema 4d as well as doing fur which was quite a challenge. Still a long way to go before I finish this though. I'd like to use the assets I made to tell a tiny story with Totoro in the real world.

made using zbrush, cinema 4d, and after effects


4月 06, 2014 18:01.gif

Considiring that I am possibly the worlds biggest E.T. fan, I feel inspiration every time I see a patch of mysterious plant life. While hiking in a forest near Kyoto I filmed a bunch of random ferny shots with my iPhone using an olloclip telephoto lens. I wanted to see if I could succesfully composite a cinema4d object into the scene in a few hours. The render/composite test was successful I think, but now, what I should I do with this incredible illusionary power?

P.S. I think this video should be in the "random shapes flying in a forest for no reason" category on vimeo


Why do I create?

Are we artists and entertainers completely useless and selfish human beings? This post will atempt to answer these and other questions about life, and will probably fail. 

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