Wednesday, April 05, 2006

20 Possible Titles

1. The Modern Shadow

Shopaholic Shadow

Fading Semblance
Shadows of Being
Faint Distinctions
Shadow Lost
Lost Projections
The White Shadow
The Lost Shadow
Shade without Shadow
The Light Shadow
Shadow Under Skin
(taken from Courage Under Fire)
The Shadow Girl
Beyond The Shadow
I'm Not Me
Shadow of Me
Diary of The Shadow Girl
Shadow Story
Light vs Shadow
‘In The Shadow’
Light dissolves shadow, west fractures east, the precarious imbalance.

A Modern Shadow ___> I like that one

5 Weeks to Completion

I can't believe that I finally got to this day where I only have exactly five weeks left to complete 'The Modern Shadow'. I am writing this while waiting for the Scene 1 to render, a lot of things I have been through in the last three months. During my break in december I went home to Indonesia and studied the real 'Wayang kulit' performance. I was really fascinated by the movement of the characters and was totally impressed by the skill of the 'Dalang' (Puppetier). I realize it is such a challenge for me to be able to animate my character to mimic the movement of the real shadow play. From the jittery arms when they talk to a real fast action fight, cough and laughter, from leaps to a 360º spin.

Aside from that, I had someone to custom made the traditional frame to ship to the states for my installation. I was pretty happy about that because they managed to make on out of a real antique wooden carving frame and it can be knocked down and ship in a compact box.

I'm really lucky to get a room in Anezka Sebek's studio on this final semester. Anezka has a lot of experience in film and digital motion projects. Most of the people in that class are doing a narrative piece like I do. Anezka also once lived in Indonesia and she grew up watching the shadow play. Therefore I think she is a very good advisor and critique for my project.

It was quite a headache to finally had to put up a production schedule for this project completion. There is still a lot to be done to be able to complete the animation. Before midterm I had to do a talent search for Indonesian actors to read the dialog of the animation. All came out smoothly I didn't have much difficulty as I thought I would to find them in NY and they are very talented people too. After getting the final soundtrack done I worked on a test animation using the 3rd scene of my storyboard where the real transformation is happening.

With the help of my advance digital motion instructor, James Conklin, I could build the characters and the scene in AE 3d world. The characters became very easy to move and having the ability to spin them in 3D world makes their movement much more realistic.

Aside form the animation, I gotta work on the thesis briefcase too, which is a pitch screen-base documentation that is also going to be the online presence (website) of this project.

And.. my scene 1 render is over..

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Animation Screenplay

Two weeks ago I started to write a screenplay for The Modern Shadow. I began by writing it in mixed Indonesian and English language and putting an extra English subtitle underneath. However As I read it out loud in class, most of them seemed to understand the flow just from the English words slipped inside the conversation.

So I went to rework my draft screenplay yesterday because even though it was quite understandable but still it needs a lot of work to balance out the clues to the audience without having the distruptive subtitles.

The Modern Shadow Script

I'm personally not very hapy yet with the script and I'm looking for ways to refine it. One of the ways I thought will be good is to have input from the people I'm trying to portray in my characters. I am currently waiting for feedbacks from these contacts that are mostly in the age and having the same background as my characters.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Andrew's Puppet Vision Blog

This is a blog dedicated for digital puppetry. Andrew writes about puppetry in film, video and digital media. Great reference on digital puppetry. He gave the link to Michael Gagne's Insanely Twisted Shadow Puppets (Flash Animations) that I found very inspiring and strong.

Thanks Drew, for finding my blog and mentioned it in yours :)


Humdrum - Peter Peak

An animation based on a shadow play by Peter Peake. I like the blurry and semi-transparent effect on the characters. Made the characters look like real shadow puppets. However, the fluid movement of the animation overrides it.

Tetsuro Saiki's Walking in a Bamboo Bush

I just found this awesome animation by Tetsuro Saiki in atom film's Star Wars Fan Film Collection. This is very close to the composition I'm trying to to accomplish in this project. Tetsuro used Japanese patterns and symbolism very cleverly to create the scenes from Star Wars.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Story Brainstorming part 2

After talking with Mollie yesterday, she gave me few inputs for my story. What if the girl is a fantasy? She doesn't exist, she's a C / D class celebrity that the guy is desiring of. Then I was reminded by my younger cousin's story bout her classmates (in Jakarta) She said one of her classmate really believes that she looks like Britney Spears. She idolized Britney very much and try to copy her style.. even though physically she's quite different :(

I imagine I can build a story of a guy, a college student who is totally into the west from his style to his values in his daily life. This guy idolize Fergie BEP / J-Lo very much, sets her song as his ringtone, rich, popular and a little cocky when it gets to relationship. Then, first day of the semester, he met a girl in his new class. This girl is relatively conservative, smart, does not care too much about the latest fashion. The guys noticed her but then she turned out to be very different than the typical girl he knows / expect to meet. And because of her realness, he become to realize his fantasies of the west have taken him away from who he is suppose to be.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Project Timeline

This is the projected timeline of this project. My goal for this semester is to finalize the storyboard, create a manual for myself, plan every detail of the scenes and build the installation model.

During the christmas break, I plan to go back to Indonesia to do further study on the topic and wayang kulit performance, including the techniques of movements, conversation, etc from a puppet master.

Next semester will be the making of the installation and final animation.

Scene prototype

While keep on working on the story (which i have a lot of stress finding a good one) I decide to look into some scene creations of my installation. I tried to replicate the scene of a real wayang performance using the digital characters. I think using digital technology is definetaly possible to animate the characters, add sceneries and project the video.

Scene Prototype

However, I read this book called 'World of Shadow - Teaching with Shadow Puppetry' by David Wisniewski and Donna Wisniewski which teach a lot of simple technical ways to build a shadow play mainly for your age. Other than giving the basic technical ways to run a shadow play, it also teaches a lot about manual tricks that we can do with shadow play nowadays such as using the Overhead Projector to replace light source, using transparency and colors, make special effects using light box filled with translucent elements such as water, paint, plexy glass, food coloring, milk and much more to create different effects for our scenes.

Using cooking oil to create special effect [World of Shadows - pg 92]

Dark clouds - by dripping milk into the light box filled with water [World of Shadows - pg 92]

I became interested to actually creates the scene manually with physical items and printed characters on transparencies then record and edit the documentation digitally, because I feel the scenes created physically have much more authentic and artistic effects than if i tried to replicate them digitally.

Introducing transparency to add depth [World of Shadows - pg 128]

But then again, I am still in doubt wether all types of translucent effects will add values into this project because ultimetaly thethe animation should remain recognizable as the original wayang performance. The subtleness of the clash happening inside is really my goal for the artistic concept of the animation.

Story Brainstorming

After reading all three performance scripts, I realized that I need very simple stories to express the cultural traditions happening in that present time. For e.g, In the performance of 'Irawan's Wedding' there's a scene of when Arjuna sends his own son'r wife home to Kingdom Dwarawati after his son failed to be punctual at his presence. This scenario shows how important a man needs to obey his father even sometime leaving his personal life behind.

My goal is to have a message in the story that no matter how strong the western globalization forces are attacking Indonesia, they could change the people's lifestyle but their values should remain the same.

To create a story I asked myself this question: What about the western culture that is harmful to Indonesian Traditional culture?

The 'Ind-glish'

The use of English words in Indonesian languange now are getting more common. Especially with the use of computer and technology, Indonesian has become more familiar with the English words used in computer applications and use it on their daily base situation as well. On the other hand the western movies and music also bring a strong influence into the Indonesian language. People uses 'thank you' instead of 'terimakasih', 'sorry' instead of 'maaf' and many more. The knowledge of English as an international language is good but it is harmful in a way that it has been adapted much into the authentic Indonesian language. Unfortunetaly many of the Indonesians especially the ones live in the big cities use english words within their conversation as part of 'a high-end lifestyle' even a lot of times they would pronounced it wrongly. As language represents origin also the cultural history of somebody it is should not be something to be proud of to speak the 'Ind-glish' language.


Because of the high social discepancies happening in Indonesia and also the high rate of Western currency to trade in, people see the 'western branded' elements as superior. Mc Donalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken are taken as special venues to celebrate or to go on a date. Wearing western labels including the middle class ones means status for most people especially if you can afford the designer's ones. Indonesians need to realize the riches of style of their own country and the uniqueness of its own. Then, they will realize that global brands are in fact generalization of the specials.

Santa Claus and The Roman gods

In an established country like The United States, holidays are celebrated merryly with themes and icons. The tourist attraction places in Europe are decorated with western classical sculpture and paintings, often uses Roman gods for their inspirations. Again since abroad vacation is a luxury for most people in Indonesia, the ones tasted the western often think that by celebrating the holidays with certain decorations, decorating their house with classical statues will make people think of them as superior or have higher taste in the society. Just if these people would recognize the potential of the beauty of Indonesian culture and make that as an element to show off.

Story Idea #1: At one point of time, there are two brothers of a good Indonesian family. One of the brother goes after a girl. This girl is very westernized in the way she talks and carries herself. She does not respect the boy's family custom and the older brother notices that. The older brother tried to tell the younger brother about how he feels about this girl and the younger brother still go after the girl. Finally there is an incident where the younger brother fianlly realizes that this girls' values are very diffrent and she doesn't keep her Indonesian culture very much, so he end up letting her go.

Character Study

I created a prototype for the wayang character I have in mind. The character needs to show subtle alteration of his / her appearance, caused by westernization but still has bo recognizable as an authentic Indonesian shadow puppets.

After reading the full translated scripts of three stories that are often performed in wayang kulit : The Reincarnation of Rama, Irawan's Wedding, and the Death of Karna. [source: On Thrones of Gold] I have come to undestand more about the relation, personalities and dynamics of the Wayang characters.

In a wayang live performances, the same characters are often represented by two or more puppets. The unique instance of each character is called the 'wanda'. The wanda of each characters mostly painted in gold and black. The gold versions normally are used in a calm final scene and the black ones in battle scenes. The gold wanda often has calmer facial expression and on the other hand the black ones carry anger or tensed emotion.

For E.g.:

The two wandas of 'Semar' - clown servant to the Pandawas. [On Thrones of Gold]

Prince Arjuna in his gold wanda. [On Thrones of Gold]

I plan to limit the number of characters for this project to three. I am hoping to build a story on moral issues with the characters and have the characters features and personalities studied from their history. What is intriguing to me is the strong brotherhood of The Pandawas [five brothers of princes] The five brothers of Pandawas are Yudhistira, Bima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sadewa.

Among the five, I studied Bima and Arjuna the most because of their intriguing differences in the story. I learned that Bima is the biggest in their physical appearance but yet, Arjuna is known as the most excellent knight. Bima on one of the dialogs that he says to his other brothers in 'The Reincarnation of Rama'

Prince Bima

Bima: Brother, you're too upset. You know Arjuna. He enjoys running away making us come after him. Besides, if I knew where to search I would. I'd give my life to save him. But to go looking after where he might be anywhere! That's foolish, Brother! [The Reincarnation of Rama]

Bima is a caring older brother of Arjuna and despite all the glory of his younger brother, he respects him very much for Arjuna's bravery and willing to sacrifice himself for Arjuna's safety. Bima is described as "wise on the ways of the world... Travels, alone, accompanied only by the whirlwinds. His path is straight, his stride as broad as the horizon." [The Reincarnation of Rama]

The prototype made for Bima is a character that has a lot of feature to be a biker. I imagine this character to travel alone on his big motorbike with the wind blowing on his hair, outgoing well built and not very neat in terms of fashion.

Arjuna, is know for his rounded excellence, he is very fast in making his decisions, as it was told in the story of 'The Reincarnation of Rama' as there was an abduction of his cousin's sister, princess Sumbadra, Arjuna left right away to rescue her without letting the others including the King (princess Sumbadra's brother) know of his departure. Arjuna also known to be very charming in his appearance, besides that he enjoys challenge and supernaturally very powerful.

Prince Arjuna

In the Wayang stories Arjuna is told to have seven wives. The women in the wayang are mainly well educated pricesses. In the old story women are placed lower than the men. For e.g.: When Princess Sumbadra (at that moment already become Arjuna's first wive) was dissapointed with Arjuna's decision in divorcing his own son Abimanyu's marriage to Siti Sendari, Arjjuna responded to her "Your place is in the kitchen, woman. Leave this to me." [Irawan's Wedding]

However there are some women characters that are intelligent and are also involved in action such as Srikandi, Arjuna's second wive a skilled archer. As the women characters can be pulled from the outside of the 'kingdom'


I am thinking of building a girl character that has a significantly different values than the other two characters. She can have more than just westernized on the outside but also doesn't keep her original custom and values anymore.

Girl Prototype

Friday, October 21, 2005

Wayang as a Role Model

People in the older generation beliefs in the wisdom carried by the the Wayang Stories. With a mix of the ancient Mahabharata, Ramayana, mixed together with Javanene folklores born the comtemporary stories and comedy of Panokowan (with four clowns named Semar, Gareng, Petruk, and Bagong) There are much morals to learn from these stories and many traditional families still name their children after the characters because of the characters positive features and abilities.

In the modern days, the television screens in Indonesia is filled more and more with western series such as Sex in the City, Bold and Beautiful, and Friends. The screening of Holliwood movies are accessable in every small town and suburbs. The young kids are more excited in watching Star Wars, Disney animation and Spiderman compares to the local folkrores. There is a significant difference in taste, values, preference and diet of the urban people nowadays. They go into the 'mall' and spend 10 - 20x more expensive on Western designer's clothes and fast food. As the role model have shifted to the West, so as the people have changed.

"Sex in the City"

As many of these topics introduced within the modern tv series, divorces, affairs, luxury, violence, drugs, explicit language, sexual exposure, and many more, the lifestyle of the society has been altered too over time. The habit of 'ngafe' (hang out in cafes) 'ke mall' (hanging out in the mall), seperates the individual families even more with the time they spent on the lifestyle. With the increasing traffic in major cities like Jakarta, the working class rather spends the rush hours socializing outside their homes that often leads to love affairs and divorces.

The unavoidable globalization is a good thing to drive forward a developing country like Indonesia. However, it is almost a shame if the modern generation doesn't continue to nurture the good values, traditions and customs.

I am passionate to recreate a role model of lifestyle after globalization in the Wayang forms that hopefully will bring awareness to the audience that no matter how much we have been changed by the globalization, there are timeless values that remains.

I chose wayang as a medium also because of its timeless value. Wayang kulit has been acknowledge to be one of the greatest and oldest form of performing arts internationally. Also, in Indonesia itself, the Wayang still remains as the popular local and tourist attraction. Therefore I see Wayang as a bridge between the two worlds. Between the past and the future, between the traditional and the modern.

The Shadow Within The Society

"Many politicians and successful businessmen are seen as dalang, the skilled men who control the puppets in wayang performances. Life in Indonesia has a way of working much like the plots of all-night wayang performances - slowly and with many unpredictable twists and turns."

Indonesia society is filled with the unseen political shadow wether it is in the government or in the daily business and social relationships. There's always someone behind the major political issues and major corruptions though the same people mihg be seen daily in the country as public political figures and businessmen. This double sides of personalities are often related to the Shadow play phylosophy. The 'dalang' is showing only the image created by the good shadow of the characters, and he also manipulates and role the characters ( the people under his control) to act the way he wants them to.

The shadow play philosophy has colored a big portion of the older generation lifestyle in Indonesia. It is also believed as the philosophy behind the shadowed political dictatorship of General Soeharto (Suharto in English word), Indonesia’s former president. Suharto was awarded to take an emergency control of the nation after his bloody efforts in wiping the communist party. The ruthless action of the wipe out was never acknowledge as truth and the number of the people killed in near after September 30th, 1965 may never be known, but it was estimated between 500,000 – 3,000,000 lives. [source:] Suharto then reigned for 21 years later before he was finally forced to step down in the 1998 revolution movement in Indonesia.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Values of the Shadow

Indonesia is quite known by its traditional attraction, the shadow play or "Wayang Kulit". The performance has taken place over 800 years even before any religions came into the country. The first form of 'wayang' was 'wayang golek' or the doll puppets. They are performed with rituals of the country's animist background. They believed that during a wayang performance they can call for assistance from their ancestor's spirits. Also during these performances they believe the spirit of the ancestors are protecting them from the evil. After the Hinduism came in Indonesia, they changed the 'wayang' performance into a tool to spread their religion through stories such as their epic of Mahabaratha and Ramayana. When Islam started to spread in Indonesia, they abandonned a human-formed (the doll) type of performance, therefore in Java they started to make the leather flat puppets with very stylized exaggerated forms and proportions.

Wayang kulit (leather puppets shadow play) is often performed in public holidays, religious festivals, weddings, birth celebrations and circumcisions in Java and Bali. The performance takes place for a straight 8-9 hours from dusk till dawn without intermissions. Because of the great challenge to perform a wayang kulit, the Dalang (puppeteer) cannot be just an ordinary people. First he needs to have a very strong physical health and intelligent to be able to sit crossed-legged through out the whole performance and be able to control the action and every detail of elements needed for every scene. The dalang does the whole performance as a one man show for nine successive hours. From narrating sections of expositions and descriptions, speaks the dialouque of each character, sings the mood songs on transitions, directs the 'gamelan' ensemble for the background and has to beat the kechrek (rattle) with his right foot almost continuously. Seriously this dalang is hard core! I don't think many other performing arts can beat what he does.

The dalang in preparation behind the scene

The dalang in action

The wayang mostly presents stories realted to Indian ancient sagas the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. The common sets of wayang characters are called ‘Wayang Purwa’ which means ‘ancient puppets’. The ‘Wayang Purwa’ is a kingdom with two competing forces called ‘The Pandawas’ and ‘The Kurawas’ both born from the same clan of family.

‘The Pandawas’ which is a popular set of characters from the good force consist of five brothers with specific abilities. There are many short stories pulled out from the Mahabharata that tells about these five brothers lives and interactions. The most well known character of these five brothers is Arjuna, the well-rounded, brave and cherished hero with seven wives. The other four brothers are named Bima, Nangkula, Yudistira, and Sadewa. Another popular story to tell is the love affair between Arjuna and Srikandhi, one of Arjuna’s seven wives, a skilled archer.

The Pandawas family tree

This is what I meant by "the disturbance of the Forced" forums/showthread.php?t=6346

Rattan masterpiece for tourism souvenir of our country.

The daily trip to worship in Kuta, Bali.

Christmas in Indonesia.

The urban development broke through traditional residential area.

The star wars generation "rise up!"

The new type of Irian jaya's tribal wood carving.

While starbucks is popping up like mushrooms in every corner in Jakarta CBD area, the traditional dessert seller did his competitive move.

Image courtesy: paul zacharia

An aquarium placed in men's restroom in Denpasar airport.

Image courtesy: paul zacharia

In the tiny island of Batam during our vacation, this cruise-like casino hotel is being built infront of the traditional floating village.

Westernization in Indonesia

Driving down the road in Pondok Indah, the elite residential estate in South Jakarta; A red Indian standing in front of a neo-classic house with a shot gun. As my eyes tried to focus on it I realized that he was just a statue. Around him were placed also his wife and children. Turning on the local TV chanel a country music party program was going on cheered up by Indonesians dancing and singing in cowboy outfits. Hanging out with people I hear English words being slipped in everywhere in conversations as if it is another Indonesian word. With phrases such as “ So what gitu loh? “ and “Please dech!” created a brand new fusion language the ‘Ind-Glish’.

It has been a long observation for me while I was growing up in this country that much part of our culture has been altered by western values. However not until I tasted the west going to college in Sydney and on my summer break from this grad program in NY this year I noticed the changes got so much more radical.

None of the people I know including house' maids and drivers do not carry a cell phone. People meet in starbucks rather than in their private homes. All this turn on an emotional drive in me to express this culture alteration that is more like 'a clash' to me for people to realize what's really happening in Indonesia, especially in the urban areas.

A Project to Start

After two months of spinning my head around Chris's and Mollie's Thesis studio, today I finally got the real initiative to write about my project. This blog is not the early research of this project, but I think I am more of the type that get excited to do something after I really believe in what I am doing.

Remembering what my old designer friend used to learnt from her class, "If you don't like you're design, then who will?" Well, at the same token I felt all this time not worth telling the world about it until I reach this point where I know this lead will take me somewhere worth sharing.

Well here it is... enjoy the journey with me

Michelle Zacharia