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Theatrical Blocking Shorthand Code for Actors and Directors

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Click here to download my cheat sheet in PDF format.The first page is the cheat sheet itself and the second page is examples. You can print the examples on the back of the cheat sheet if you like. It's designed to be somewhat intuitive, so reading the explanations in this post is optional. Use and modify the code to your personal taste. The code itself only uses six letters, which frees up the rest of the alphabet to be used as code letters for specific things or people. You should be familiar with what these letters mean, but here they are just in case: X means cross, C means center stage, D means downstage, U means upstage, L means stage left, and R means stage right.
Fixed crosses: These are what you should all be familiar with. They're probably the most universal blocking shorthand, and I think for most actors they're the only real code they use at all. They're called fixed crosses because they're for when you're supposed to cross to one of 15 specific spots…

Some Choices in Life are Hard, Some are Easy

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Yesterday I dropped out of a paid acting gig. For an actor who's just starting out, that's a very bold move. An elderly man and his wife offered me a role in an old-fashioned musical melodrama they were writing in St. Louis and on Saturday they let me move into their house with them. I walked away five days later. They seemed eccentric but harmless at first. The first morning there, I was eating honey puffs or something and one of them fell on the floor while I was pouring them. But before I could pick it up to throw it away, the old man was bending over to pick it up for me. I was too late I guess. But then without a word he plopped the honey puff right back into my bowl. I guess that's just sort of a funny thing I could live with. He later told me he was a little OCD. He also told me with a laugh and a smile that he had quite a temper. This seemed like less of a joke when I was in my room one time and I heard him shouting at his wife. It sounded like spousal abuse. The …

Animation Tips From a Programmer: How to Avoid Sliding Walk Cycles

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This is for Flash animators, but the concepts should apply to other animation tools as well.

How do you avoid sliding walk cycles? Short answer: figure out your cycle's walk speed, and apply that to the tween.

What is a walk cycle? I'm sure you know it's an animation loop of a character walking in place. In Flash it's likely to be in a movie clip or graphic symbol. There are two ways to make it look like the character is actually walking rather than just walking in place.

1. The whole walk cycle symbol can be moved gradually to a new location, perhaps by having its coordinates "tweened."
2. The background can be scrolled while the walk cycle symbol stays in place.

Both methods can be used simultaneously, although that's slightly more complicated. Again, this shouldn't be anything new to any animators who are reading this.

So what is sliding? Sliding is when the character's feet (or foot substitutes in the case of some characters, perhaps non-huma…

I'm trippin' space balls!

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A few thoughts on the movie Interstellar. The title itself should indicate the target audience of this movie, seeing as it's a misnomer. Interstellar refers to traveling between stars and is of a smaller scale than intergalactic, which might be a more accurate title. Nolan films typically feature low-key acting, but this seems to have reached a new low. There are a lot of non-characters that I can't really describe. Wes Bentley plays an astronaut who dies on a planet because giant waves are crashing in a knee-deep ocean and he waits too long at the door of the space shuttle before getting inside, which is reminiscent of the scene in Galaxy Quest when Tim Allen is captured by the miners. But before his death, his character never does anything that might indicate who he is or how he feels. Our avenue of comic relief is a wise-cracking rectangular robot with an uncannily perfect human voice, but every one of the movie's attempts at humor from the robot fell flat, and was rece…

Buzzy body

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When I recently got my hair cut at Cut It Again Sam, the Vietnamese woman there gave me possibly the worst haircut of my life. It stuck up awkwardly on the sides like I had cowlicks over my ears, and it also stood out from the crown of my head. I didn't know how bad it was until later because it's really hard for me to tell what a haircut actually looks like until it's been showered and dried off, etc. The woman didn't speak very good English so I don't know if it was a matter of just communicating badly or if it was just a lack of skill or if she was trying to punish me for telling her to go shorter every time she asked because she was sick of cutting my hair for so long.

After a few days I decided to see if I could fix it by cutting off the parts that stuck out. It didn't turn out well at all, since cutting my own hair apparently requires a lot more skill than I have. So I resorted to plan B and just buzzed my entire head.

I have one of those trimmers where you…

What are you doing? Rescue the president!

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I recently saw Olympus Has Fallen. I wish I hadn't. It's not just a bad movie, it's promoting ideas that I consider to be harmful.

One of these ideas is that the president's life is worth more than the life of any other citizen. At first, this may seem true or even obvious on some level. You may think, "He's the most powerful man in the world because he's in charge of the most powerful country in the world. Surely this makes his life more important somehow." But for one thing, the president's power has been greatly exaggerated over the years. He's not really our leader so much as the head of one third of the federal government, but I'm sure you all know all about that. Perhaps we're meant to think of him as in control of everything to draw attention away from the people who are really in charge. Or maybe the idea of a strong leader who's in control of everything is an image we're supposed to have. But for another thing, if someo…

Join the army or not

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I wanted to be a soldier in Afghanistan for many reasons. People seemed to have difficulty grasping the many reasons part. They'd offer alternatives like being a journalist in Afghanistan, even though I'm no good at that and wouldn't get the training and benefits and prestige. For every reason I'd give, they'd offer an alternative that addresses just that one reason and leaves out everything else.

Previously I decided not to join the army and then changed my mind again and decided to join after all. Since making that decision, it seems the army has been trying to stop me for some reason.

I knew there would be a waiting period before I could get shipped to basic training, which is usually about 4 to 5 months these days, and it would take 28 weeks to finish my training, which would include both basic and health specialist training. I was told by a few sources that I might be able to influence the people in charge of human resources to make sure I get shipped to Afgh…