Pros and Cons of PhD for Expressive Graphics Techniques of Animated Short

Via PhD or a startup, the focus is to take Expressive Graphics techniques to create animated short films.

Here is a list of pros and cons of choosing PhD or directly work on it alongside a full-time Software Engineer job:

Pros of PhD:

  • Resource in the industry of Expressive Graphics
  • Credibility of the capability for turning the research idea into product of the startup. Because investors like to see such training

Cons of PhD:

  • Challenging to find good match in research interests in the USA. (except for University of Cambridge, where it is possible to propose a whole new area. As long as there is a match with advisors, the student could get admitted)
  • Give up the startup in Boston due to visa conflict
  • Challenging to get funding

Pros of working on the startup alongside full-time software engineer job:

  • Access to business / investment resources in Cambridge Innovation Center
  • Finish the ongoing projects
  • Get the startup run in the right direction
  • Don’t have to worry about funding

Cons of working on the startup alongside full-time software engineer job:

  • Challenging to get equal credibility as via a PhD program. How to complement: do the same level of intensity in mentality training as PhD programs
  • Challenging to keep up the productivity before getting green card
  • Challenging to get funding
  • Challenging to acquire a creative team

The Meaning of Deep Understanding

The nature of invention is expressing the same thing in a different manner. This requires deep understanding of the subject. Some people invent purely from their own understanding, other expand their knowledge to gain deep understanding to facilitate the invention.

The better the understanding, the more likely the transformative impact of the invention.

Rhythm for Shape

To form a shape, the heart needs rhythm for guiding, pain for excluding distractions


Gradually slowing down

Like falling asleep


Sense is disappearing



I wanted to clear the mind

To get back fresh


But this relaxing time

Made me feel like falling asleep


Things were not going

It is restricted by reality

I felt frustrated, incapable


The solution

Is to get little progress on everything

Get it moving


The real problem

I was too busy to feel like breathing

Distracted by bad habits, irregular rhythm

Always in a rush


I just need to fix the problem of rhythm!

Getting more time to control my mind to let the heart go

Not letting greedy distract the mind, to control the heart



Then, the point is to not let the heart distracted




The right feeling

Apparently busy, yet not feeling busy

Guided by rhythm

And self restriction


Guided by the restricted frame

Like a machine running


From this minute

Strengthen the machine

Get it run

Run things in the heart


Then the heart would feel like breathing and running

The “Something is Missing” Methodology for Solving Complicated Problem

Over the three-month brainstorming on story development with client, with laughs and frustrations, we eventually approached the expected feeling in an important morning in June, 2018 – “yep, that’s what we want J”.

Looking back, I feel two of the important things we did right are:

  1. Acknowledge that “Something is Missing” when we don’t feel right on the ongoing story
  2. Persistent on the above item to progress

For the first item, it accepts the imperfection of the state of the story, which opens the door for inviting any possible ideas to fix the story. The second item, chains the first item as a series of actions to arrive the destination.

Although the methodology was effective for story development, it may be a good methodology for any complicated problem that is similar to story development. Because story development is a process whose result is difficult to foresee. During this process, a lot new ideas come in, which is unlikely to know in the beginning.


For the first film, I am not going to make it perfect. Instead, focus on deliverables, and fast iteration.

Do research on each stage of animation.

I’m excited on the final stage – production. Because I can do research on rendering!

Real-Time Global Illumination

Path tracing is too expensive, radiosity seems like the right way.

Questions to step forward:

  • Is there a way to transform geometry representation into a different form, so that light hits the geometry in a more computational efficient way to get the energy on that surface?
    • Transform the surface to a different space
    • Get the energy to that surface


  • Do a thorough evaluation of global illumination
  • Understand radiosity
  • Understand geometry representation
    • Check “Geometric Algebra for Computer Science” to find a transformed geometric representation in a different space than in 3D space, so that the energy (light) received by the geometry stays invariant or commutative in both spaces, yet is more computational efficient in the “different space”. if such a transformed geometric representation can be found, computer graphics would not need the expensive path-tracer for global illumination

Empower Hires

For a small animation studio, one efficient way of empowering hires to create the best work is being able to challenge and analyze the kind of work done by hires. This could be approached by doing research on the area, understanding pros and cons. Like a CTO.

Medium in Movies: Alike, Paperman, Forrest Gump


Story is about father discovers his love for his son. Father’s love for his son is demonstrated in the beginning by his color recovered by hugs with his son after work. The son learning writing is the medium on which the diminishment and recovery of love play. Learning writing comes from a common sense of school. Engagement of audience is enhanced by eye touches of father and son, and father’s poses at the end.

It’s very smart that the movie takes advantage of the power of poses to intuitively connect and engage the audience. If the son is able to draw for learning writing at the end, instead of the father do the poses of playing violin, audience would feel less engaged and fulfilled.


Paper is the medium for starting the story. It comes from the guy holding the paper in the begging.

Forrest Gump

Feather has been throughout the story as the medium for untold purpose – it comes from heaven and it follows common sense.

Just Draw

Stuck at storyboarding of animated film n not know how to fix the issue.

Next: just draw. Draw anything you like. Then you’ll come up with the idea

Keep Moving: Storyboard to Animatic

Hit the first issue developing the film: reconcile critics of the storyboard. Exciting!

Problem: my friend, Henry, a professional animator, pointed out that the storyboard is wrong in a lot ways, which my client and I weren’t aware of. Specifically, the order of which the characters appear is wrong – they should all appear in the first place, and go through the entire storyboard. Whereas in the current storyboard, the characters appear at different times.

Discussion: Henry’s criticism makes sense to me, but I don’t understand why all characters should appear in the first place and go through the entire storyboard. For the story we’re developing, is Henry’s opinion better than what we have now?

Solution: answer the following questions:

  • Why should all characters appear in the first place for all types of story?
  • If yes, figure out what’s wrong in the current storyboard, and adjust the storyboard for all characters to appear in the first place
  • If no, stick with the current storyboard, then keep moving to animatic by researching art direction

Edited Solution: it’s reconciled by adding voice on each scene to convey the key message. In the current storyboard, the main characters indeed go across the entire storyboard, but they don’t look obvious to the audience without knowing the key message. Because key message help the audience understand which are the main characters, and which are characters for assisting the story. Example of multi-characters in one story with narratives: It’s So Brill by Animade [1].

Thought: it feels challenged and frustrated and lost when Henry told me that the story is wrong. Because my client and me worked deliberately on every bit of the development of story and storyboard for a month. However, that’s good challenge. The point is to stay calm to figure out the real issue. Henry essentially got lost of the story in front of all the characters, so we need to convey the story to the audience. That way, the audience understand which are the main characters, and which are for assisting the story. The solution is to use voice-over to narrate the key message of each scene, because we do have concrete key messages to back the story.


[1] London animation studio | Animade. It’s So Brill.