Animatic Part 1

Last week we had to present a preliminary animatic. This is mine for the project.

I do apologize for the quality of it, I haven’t forgotten my pitch input from last term, but in the short amount of time given, this is as polished and nice looking as I could get it in the short amount of time…It’s a work in progress though and I’ll be updating it with backgrounds, animation and post production as I go (hopefully)

biggest critique point was that the insanity of the dad due to hunger didn’t transport, so I am thinking to take An’s and Steve’s suggestion and have a mirage during the long walking sequence to establish the gradual decay of the dad’s mind….

also Pete Bishop suggested I should watch “The Turin Horse” and I think I’ll try to do a long shot in the beginning, maybe it’ll help with the desperation of having no food.

And another thing I need to work on is the vision of the food stealing wife, I haven’t quite worked out yet how I am going to show this.

As soon as I am back in front of TVPaint I’ll give all of it an overhaul.

Style definition

I’ve given the look a bit of thought and I think I have it sort of worked out now.
This is a style definition I came up with:

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I was thinking to use food textures for the visual style whilst keeping the basic idea of using the vivid colours and overlaying glass from the stained glass research, but mixing it with the hunger theme.

I was thinking of building the the city/town the couple leaves in the beginning out of dried bread and biscuits and the farm out of salad.
for the background stuff in between, I was thinking of meat textures. I want all of it slightly abstract, like in the study above, the texture of the ground is residue from when I made candied bacon, the juices and fat mixed with the sugar and formed that texture on the backing parchment. The leaves are green cabbage, which according to my grandmother is/was food of the poor.

The Story

after all this blogging about videos I like, it is now time to talk about the content I want to tell.

I am going to do this through an exercise we did with Jan at her workshop, which she called 7-3-1. We had to tell our story using 7 sentences, then 3 and then with a single one.
For now I am calling this project HUNGER for now!
7_sentences
  1. A growing family suffering hunger due to famine moves to the farm of the mother’s family farm in the countryside for food and safety.
  2. On their journey, as they are almost starved, the dad’s hunger starts making him crazy.
  3. When they come across a tree covered in fruit, the situation escalates and the dad misinterprets his wife’s behavior and ends up killing her in a fight.
  4. After realizing, what he has done, he runs away.
  5. His unborn son, gives birth to himself and starts running after his dad, wanting to know what happened and who killed his mother.
  6. After the dad notices his son, he tries to kill him as well, and continues to run towards his in-law’s farm.
  7. Once there, he thinks he has gotten away with it, but when his mother-in-law is confronted with her grandson, who is still running after his dad, the dad gets killed by her as a result of grief and rage over the death of her daughter.
3_sentences
  1. A growing family suffering hunger due to a famine moves to the countryside for food and safety.
  2. On the way hunger makes the dad insane, so much so that he kills his wife over food and runs away pretending nothing happened.
  3. He gets chased by his son, who is proof of the killing, and eventually gets killed himself by his in-laws just when he thought he got away with it.
1_sentences
  1. The Terror of Hunger causes havoc amongst a family and leads to bad decisions and terror in 3 generations

many_sentences

A Family of two (pregnant mum and dad) live in a region of famine. The mum is heavily pregnant and needs food. Whilst splitting up the last food they have, the dad decides his wife needs the last piece of bread more than him, and let’s her have it all, as she eats for two. He thinks about what to do and gets the idea to go to his mother-in-law, who lives on the old family farm, which is covered in green eatable plants and a safe place to be but a very long hike away.
Since they don’t really have a choice, the start walking towards the mother-in-law’s place and after a loooooooooong hike and a growing feeling of hunger, they see a tree in the middle of dried up land, covered in rich, sweet, ripe and juicy fruit. At first the dad thinks it is a mirage, but once he catches on that it isn’t, gathers his last energy and rushes towards the tree.
It is obvious that they need to climb the tree in order to get to the fruit. The dad at the end of his strength orders his wife to climb up and pick a meal,but being heavily pregnant she simply can’t.

His eyes twitch and his posture changes, he is angry and on the verge of becoming insane as hunger is creeping up his brain. Never the less he climbs up the tree and threatens his wife that she won’t get anything of of his fruit, as she refused to pick them for him.
As he starts throwing down the fruit from the tree, his wife at first observes how the pieces of fruit hit the ground and either break or get really dirty. Then she can’t take it anymore and starts catching them in her dress, so they both can enjoy them properly.
But the dad doesn’t see the good will/common sensical actions of his wife, in his eyes, she is stealing his fruit and wants him to starve to have more for herself. He comes to this irrational conclusion being so very hungry, he couldn’t think straight.

So he decides to confront his wife, jumps down, he starts pushing her and continues with strangling her. At the end she falls over and hits her head on the tree trunk and dies in a freak accident. The dad doesn’t realize what he did at first, he just shoves the body into a hole in the try and starts happily munching away on the picked fruits.
After a while, after the hunger starts to fade away, it dawns on him that he just killed his wife and he runs away.

Meanwhile, his unborn son is not dead, he gives birth to himself and after having a quick look around starts running after his dad, wanting to know from his dad what had happened to his mum and who had killed her.
At first he doesn’t notice that he is being followed, but gets frantic as he sees he is being followed by a baby with the placenta and umbilical cord still attached. Still traumatized by killing is wife, he picks up a stick, and beats his child unconscious and runs off again.

After the baby regains consciousness, it starts running after his dad again, asking the same questions, it gets beaten up by his dad again, but this time, just to be sure, it gets buried as well. The dad runs off again, thinking this time round he got away with it.

He finally reaches the farm of his mother-in-law, he goes in and has a deep breath, now he is safe, he thinks. But as soon as his mother-in-law starts asking questions about her daughter, she notices something is off. She gets brushed off by her son-in-law, who insists his wife is to pregnant to travel.

Meanwhile the child wasn’t dead, it digs itself out of it’s grave and runs after the dad.
As it comes closer to the farmhouse and his screaming for who killed his mum becomes louder and louder, the mother-in-law goes outside to see where that voice is coming from.
The dad tries to prevent her from doing so, but fails.
The mother-in-law sees the child and instantly knows her daughter is dead and just screams and then jumps the dad. Her and a few passer-byes kill the dad in front of his son, who doesn’t understand what is happening.
After a while, the grandmother leads her grandchild into the house, leaving the dad lying in his own blood outside the house, so she can take care of her child.

 

I’d like to offer some context here, on The Guardian website I found two nice articles about the context of fairytales.

this one and this one

Especially intriguing is one of the sentences:

Once upon a time most people in Europe could not read or write. They got their stories, and their rules for living, from two main sources: Sunday sermons given by men, and tales told round the kitchen fire by women.

Considering that this story is based on an African folktale, in other words, a less romanticized fairytale that is targeted not necessarily targeted towards children (or the idea of the child that came up in the 19th century) these articles give a little bit of insight into what folktales once were in Europe (maybe still are, but hidden away and almost forgotten), what there function for society were and what content they are/were dealing with. When talking to Jan, she was adamant that folktales shouldn’t allow just one reading and one moral to be taken away from this. In my opinion she has got a point, the pleasure of hearing the same story over and over again hopefully has to do with the story you are telling and not because you just want to be talked at by someone.
One of the nicer examples of this probably are Pixar films, as formulaic as they are, they hardly ever fail to give some sort of a moral to children and their parents (Up deals with talking dogs, and scout values and balloons, but also with loss, new beginnings and getting closure, Cars deals with getting older, not being as strong as before and so on, but also opens the magical world of talking cars and them behaving honorably). But I can’t help but think there is also the kind of story, I personally crave as well, where somebody just tells me the moral at the end and I have to think less. So I guess there is different types of stories that move people differently, there is the work out stories, that make people think, and there is the blanket stories, that softly put peoples minds asleep, and a lot in between.

what drew me to this story is the ambivalence of sympathy. In the beginning you get the situation of the dad, which shifts into complete lack of understanding, you can imagine what the mother-in-law goes through, and you feel for the child who doesn’t know his dad did kill his mother. You can empathize with all the characters in the story and know that at some point in the story, you would behave exactly the same, but every decision in that tale has a sour taste to it.

Disclaimer:

Although this animation is quite cruel, explicit and violent (yes I want to animate giving birth and hitting a woman as well as someone getting strangled by a woman), I am quite a happy and well adjusted person, at least that’s how I see myself in my mind….

Animations on the Fairytales for Grown-Ups Festival

A few days after I met with Jan Blake, I took a few days off of work and attended a few events at the Fairytales for Grown-Ups Festival Ben Haggerty and the Crick Crack Club organized in the Barge house down at the Thames. They had one room dedicated to animations (mostly University of Bournemouth stuff) and I reached out to Kate Norgate (Programme Manager and Administrator of the Crick Crack Club) and asked if she has the titles of the animations written down somewhere and if she could forward them to me. She did and even sent me the vimeo links to the ones they used and the ones, she wanted to use but couldn’t get hold of the owners in time.

An interesting thing she told me, which rang a little bell in me from what Shelly Page said I think the last time she was here, which was:

As a rule of thumb (to be broken of course), we found that films which used a narrator were weakened by it. We felt that the job of the filmaker/amimator is to make the film itself tell the story.

the films that were used:

 (nice mixture of cutout and 3d, bit like what I want to achieve with mine)
the films they didn’t use, but recommended:

Let’s get this research started Part 2

 

Considering the source of my story, I thought I look more into storytelling and see what is around. I never really thought of what storytelling is and where it can be applied until I did a MOOC (massive open online course) called “The Future of Storytelling” https://iversity.org/courses/the-future-of-storytelling. To me it was sort of a live audiobook or radio play, or sometimes my parents and grandparents telling me a bit of their lives and their expierences. Animation is obviously also a form of storytelling, though I personally find it hard to create a story. For me it feels way easier to adapt a story than come up with one, for now I sort of have a passive brain not an active one in that matter. Never in a million years though would I have thought of advertising and brand strategies as storytelling, of course TV ads tell a story, but I didn’t think they were part of a bigger plan for actively trying to influence the audience on a propaganda level. Stories in my mind should be used to transfer values, highlight wrong doings and entertain, they shouldn’t be used to convince people for anything. What ever moral you get out of a story is your own business, it shouldn’t be “and that’s why you should pick me”.
so here is my best-of of storytelling videos I found relevant…which turned out to be not a lot of quality material and a lot less than I thought….
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-talks about storywars and that marketers and advertising have replaced myths and dont necessarily transport values that are universally good
-dont like the ending and the continuing of the brand thought of it all that you need an ethos as a brand and values to be successful
-I think in animation, me as student who wants to tell the story, i should not strive for a brand or a franchise, I should strive for transporting values, questions and topics people have to deal with
-who cares if nike has prides itself with just do it, in the end it’s just shoes you want for running that either fit or not, it’s not gonna change community for the better (unless they guarantee their shoes are not made in sweatshops and completely environmentally friendly and therefore a role model)
-it’s stories of moral values and problems that help us change ourselves
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-gives an overview of the different media that have been used to tell stories through out the ages
-made by a brand strategy company, so basically an ad agency
-one thing I don’t really agree with though, I think the caveman drawings weren’t necessarily just drawings. I think they had some kind of life in them when you imagine a flickering fire next to them at night when stories were told
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-story is a tool to get something in people moving
-story is a form of abstraction to overcome subjective emotions and form a more objective view
-of course it is something entertaining, but it can do something more
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3 things a story consists of:
-1. Characters
-2. Setting
-3. A Problem
The characters and settings and problems change through out time and from person to person, but the guist of it stays the same.
the idea of the shaman, listening to the tribe and feeding it back to the tribe via story
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-story puts a shell around truth and gets the truth across without sounding to aggressive
-if a story is well told, the audience enters a story trance, where time is percieved differently and the audience is emmersed in the story and thinks everything is happening around them
-the storyteller is like a bus driver, the driver picks you up, drives with you to somewhere and therefore goes on a journey with you together, but at some point, because he/she knows where they are going, takes a turn and slows down and eventually stops the bus again. The passengers are usually waiting to be picked up, like being driven to somewhere they want to be, and when they arrive, they are happy to have solid ground under their feet and hopefully enjoyed the view, company and ride, but are somewhere else than they had been before.
-listener has to focus on the story
-listening to a story is active listening, the audience imagens what the teller tells
-listeners have to trust and suspend the disbelief
-teller and audience have a willingness to change, the information from the story resonates with the everybody and potentially alters the audience
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-we are surrounded by narrative
-a story gives us an objective reference point to a subject matter
-we are the first generation who can see actors perform on a daily basis
-characters make a story believable
-news are basically information, that may become more accessible and more understandable when organiyed in the form of a story
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-story is characters and things that happen
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-story is a journey for the audience
-storyteller proposes a journey and promisses to take them there and savely bring them back
So summing up, storytelling is what we human beings are made for. We care about characters and through story not only knowledge is transfered, but also values and experience, problems can be solved with them and it can be used to influence people into a particular direction.
Most of the videos that I found talk of the effects storytelling has on people, which either means there is a lot of alchemy around and nobody wants to share, or it is a bit like design, there is simply no recipe for getting there. Storytelling is an art that comes in many media, it my be someone like Ben Haggerty or Jan Blake, who tells a story and blows your mind away, or it may be a film or animation that gives you a different insight in another life and therefore a different outlook on your own. If storytelling is an art, spoken and written word and film as well as animation are a vehicle. Those vehicles or let’s call them media are all subject to the same principles like timing (how much time do I want for different parts to be told), setting the scene (how do I describe the scene, so that an audience understands the surroundings) and appealing characters that behave understandably (how do I get the audience to care for the characters). How the thing looks as a film, animation, comic, performed or written piece is up to the artist and what he/she thinks is adequate and capable of.
The fact that I didn’t find more on storytelling probably also means I didn’t find the right sources. I’ll definitely will keep on looking for storytelling literature and other sources on storytelling. For now if anybody reading this has any ideas where to find more, feel free to comment.
PS: Another video that came up through Ellie and another friend is this one, which I will watch later this week, is this one:
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Also I have a special treat for myself for friday, when I’ll be going from King Rollo to London. I downloaded “The Storytelling Animal” by Jonathan Gottschall and will give that some listening on the train.
PPS: Another website I came across and that is a nice summary of why we tell stories is an article on Animator Island: http://www.animatorisland.com/story-101-why-do-we-tell-stories/

Meeting Jan Blake

So now it is time to finally get down to the nitty gritty of my masters, but there is one more thing I need to mention before I get designing and later animating, which is where I got my story from.

One storyteller in particular blew my mind away though, a storyteller called Jan Blake. And I have been stalking her on the internet ever since, re-watching her stories on youtube and looking for gigs that I could attend, which I usually missed or wasn’t in the right town to attend.
When it was time to think of a master project I initially thought I’ll find a fairytale or folktale that I like and perform it and animate it, reality kicked in though, and I figured I need all the help I could get, so I wrote a facebook message, explained who I am, explained what I want to do and proposed a skill swop (a story for some graphic design work of some sort). And after a couple of days I got an answer and in December, after our nice but time consuming project finished I met Jan like a little fanboy at the BFI ready to chat and listen.
To get an idea who that person is, here an interview with her and a storyteller she mentored from Norway called  Sarah Ramin Osmundsen:
and here another interview with her in an interview she did with the British Council, which she works with frequently giving examples of how to breath life into boring english lessons:
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and this is what Jan does, when in action:
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So after a couple of stories, and general chatting, I realized that I really fell in love with the first story she told me. Which was about a growing family living in a region of famine that has to take a long journey to get to the woman’s parents for food, shelter and safety.
Initially Jan voiced some concerns, because not only the story leaves an impression but also who tells them. And since this is an African story about famine, it is easy to fall into cliches, like those donate for poor people in Africa commercials you see on TV. Concerned about that she also came up with a solution as well though, instead of Africa being the place of famine, a post apocalyptic world would also work and universally understandable for the story to work in.
We also talked about the theme of the story, which is the terror of hunger, and the characters and their problems, which ones to empathize with and what needs to be empathized with the main character, the dad, who murders his wife in madness and hunger. She came prepared and definitely had given it some thought of how this story could work in an animation context, in the end we both shook hands and she agreed to have a look at my progress from time to time. And she showed me this little animation, from which point on I knew we would get a long very well:
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Also can’t wait for the workshop next week with her. I think she has a lot to teach about story and is definitely not just thinking in terms of telling a story orally…

Let’s get this research started

There is something primal in folktales, sometimes something in those stories moves me very deeply and creates very strong emotion and I want to tap into that for my animation. From what I have learnt from watching storytellers such as Jan Blake, Nick Hennessy, Ben Haggerty, Sally Pomme Clayton and who ever else I have seen live or on youtube, to set the mood and dramatize the story is very important, when telling it, but then again so it is in animation only we use images instead of words.

But even more important than that is, in my opinion, to switch on the campfire mode in my brain when listening to a story, there is something mysterious and fascinating about sitting around a fire, may it be in your head or physically in front of you, that strikes a cord within me and completely disconnects me from the modern world. It helps to bridge time and space of when the tale was conceived to when it is told with the common currency through out, which is human behavior.

So my to big challenges for this project are:
1. To find and tell a good story
2. To find a way of getting that campfire mood

The first challenge I sort of outsourced to Jan Blake, who kindly took some time out of her schedule and told me a couple of very interesting stories.

The second challenge is gonna be my overall goal for the look. I want to recreate this campfire feeling and combine it with something more detailed than shadows and within a look that resonates with the story. Also this challenge is more or less overcome if everything else in the animation works and just the sum of a loooooong journey squeezed into half a year.

I did some digging online, and there are a few animations that came up that I admire deeply and that are stuck in my brain.

the first one deals with the retelling of the tale as well is from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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I like the depth and the campfire feel it oozes

It is made in 3D and although trying to emulate shadow puppetry, and with that combination creates a lot of depth of field, with a lot of blurriness and a lighter shadow being displayed if things are further away from the camera.

In terms of context it works well in the film, being sandwiched inbetween live-action footage but on it’s own it falls a bit flat because it just illustrates what is being narrated. There is really nice movement in the characters, but I feel because we don’t see the faces, there is a bigger distance and detachment from the characters than we might have if they had them.

Another animation that roughly goes into the same direction would be Kirk Hendry’s two films “Junk” and “Round” (Junk more than Round).

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In “Junk” I think Kirk did a good job at using 2D Character Animation with 3D surroundings. Although the 3D stuff is not what I am aiming for in my piece, as it is far to detailed and realistic for my taste right now, but it works really well with it.

It also basically is at the complete other side of the “Deathly Hallows” piece. The Harry Potter piece uses 3D animation but due to the shadow puppet theater look flattens it out. And “Junk” uses 2D cut-out puppets in a 3D environment to flesh it out. If I can land anywhere inbetween, I’ll be fine I think.

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In “Round” Kirk Hendry uses shadows of hands to create the shadow puppetry world by comping different hands into objects and animals and humans to tell his story. I don’t think this piece is as relevant as “Junk” to my research but deserves a mention because to me it poses a really interesting experiment. It uses 3D objects (hands) to create a 2D picture, which in it’s self isn’t anything too special, but as soon as I (as the audience) become aware of it being hands and 3D objects, any movement in 3D space destroys the illusion to me and pulls me out of the animated illusion.

Another source of inspiration for me has to be Jon Klassen’s “I Want My Hat Back”.

I totally dig the simplicity of the backgrounds and the characters. The dark colours and the rough textures are great and make it feel homemade and not as polished as other children’s books. Also one page in particular made an impression on me and I am hoping to incorporate this into my animation:

dsc_0014

An animation I found when looking into CelAction and cutout animation.
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I never knew Lotte Reiniger did coloured animations as well, which is great and comes the closest to having an animated stain glass window, but again, falls very flat and the eye is dragged away from the front, with their black characters, to the background, which is colourful and has much more depth than the flat movement of the characters.

Her other work is of course groundwork work folktale animation. When looking for fairytale illustration, a lot of cut-out silhouette surfaced and it keeps me wondering, if she tapped into this because it had been around for ever and a day or if she more or less introduced Europe to this type of illustration for this kind of stories, which ever way she definitely inspired decades of illustration.

When looking into Lotte Reiniger, I found this interview:

lotte-reiniger-11

I love how she says that she adores folktales and doesn’t like the fluffy fairytales.
Also what ever she animated, she always looked for something fantastic to animate, to really facilitate the medium as well as satisfying her imagination.
It’s funny that she started out making paper silhouettes of actors, she was very aware of her lack of actor qualities like her voice, and turned it around and used her silhouette cutting and all she knew about acting and making them move and started doing animations. Kind of sounds like the typical story of animators, who are camera shy but still want to perform. :-) Glad that in almost 100 years this hasn’t changed

So hopefully through my research and looking into the different styles, I can channel my inner Lotte Reiniger and find a successful way of telling a folktale.

And now for some research stuff:

In December, before I was totally set on the story, I looked into how to do “The Mother Who Turns To Dust”, a grown-up fairytale written by Kasiya Makaka Phiri. The main underlying theme for the visuals in that story is light, at least to me. The story is about the daughter of the sun, coming to earth, where everything is green and blue, and after her children turn wild and start killing each other the atmosphere gets dark, cold and depressing for the main character, until she becomes the moon. So I my mind, the only thing to realizes that story with is stained glass.

As first part of my broad research I started looking at stained glass and how it was animated so far, how it’s made and who worked and still works with it. To me it would be an adequate way of displaying the story, because of its themes of lightness and darkness in a physical sense and also in the sense of being kind and not being kind. Stained glass always belonged in churches for me, they have the authority of the church embedded and a lot of tradition, but so do stories. And if anything the church and the bible are nothing more than storytellers and their collection of stories they want to tell, so I am concluding that this look will hopefully work for non religious stories as well.

A little addition to that, after my meeting with Jan Blake, I put “The Mother Who Turns To Dust” on hold to do another folktale. But I think I still can in-cooperate the stained glass idea, with a slight twist to it though. If anything it definitely helped me defining how textured my characters should be.

STAINED GLASS ANIMATION
 
  • too flat colour scheme
  • too blocky movement
  • no depth perception
  • lines too much alike
  • same texture for all the glass parts
  • I like the roughness of the piece
  • I think the animation is a bit shit
  • the watercolour and translucent other paints convey the feeling of stained glass windows well
  • dont like the stopmotion parts, the charcoal bits are ok
  • also the way the colours mix into each other gives a nice tiffany look
  • a good ideo for the beginning and the end to incorporate 3D and would proof that 3D and stained glass works
  • this is probably how a stained glass storyboard would look like
  • the stained glass is to even for me
  • I like the variation in tone though
  • again colour scheme and vividness is something I like
  • the kaleidoscope effect, might be a nice transition
  • also the gittering is something I will consider when working with the backgrounds
  • I like the look and it being close to a lino block print
  • I like the framing and layout of this piece
  • clever idea to convey more than one plot line in one scene
  • experimental film might be worth a bit more research
  • tampered filmstock, another good source for the stained glass look
  • if computers could make stained glass, this is what it would look like
  • I like the bits at the end that are more uneven
  • oil on glass is a really nice medium for stained glass as well
  • it flickers too much though and could possibly distract from a story
  • tiffany glass lamps again
  • they look like little story lamps to me, containing a mood in them due to the light and the colours
  • interesting mood studies
  • i need to read into colour theory and application more to make this work
  • like the vagueness of shapes in that one
  • this process seems so familiar and yet so completely different, it’s basically a huge lightbox with colour on top not paper and blue pencil
  • again I love the vagueness of shapes
  • bit to long for my taste
MAKING STAINED GLASS WINDOWS
 
  • process seems comparable to watercolours and ink drawings, colour on the glass is translucent
  • difference to watercolour is that the paper is replaced with a light source
  • long live the V&A for this video
  • insightful video on making stained glass windows
JUST STAINED GLASS VIDEOS
 
  • stained glass used to be and still is a storytelling medium, depicting scenes from the bible
  • I love the colour variation in these and the uneven lines.
  • the faces and bodys are not just defined by the outline, the bodys are  randomly split into different coloured parts it seems
  • Although not stained glass, it conveys the same feeling of it
  • i love the roughness of it (possible tool for dramatization)
  • not as closed and crafted as the previous one
  • embodies the feeling of wildness to me
  • Idea for backgrounds to use depth of field to create the illusion of depth
  • also generates a feeling of uncertainty
  • the lamps seem to have a different glass, than church windows
  • some of them are also the kind of uneven I want
  • must look into Tiffany Glass stuff
  • stained glass windows, weren’t only used for I moral
  • not directly stained glass, but gets the point across and is just as mesmerizing
  • leaving something blacked out and then revealing it by having light behind it, might be worth using in animation
  • more crafty video about glass making
  • I like the window he has behind him, looks like a glass comic
  • coming to think of it, stained glass windows in churches were probably something like comics when printing wasn’t affordable to the masses
  • interesting artist, who works with stained glass
  • his pieces of work look a bit like a potential AfterEffects composition from the side

 

PS: A video I found that tries to resemble a screen printing look, that also has the quint essence of stained glass as well, by using vivid colour and dark spaces…

Along with this one, a national filmboard of canada animation, having a similar screen printed look to it, that also, if the colours were more saturated, could be interpreted as a stained glass window animation.

http://www.nfb.ca/getanimated/gloria_victoria/

The First Day Project

Now that this project is finished, I finally find the time to write about it :-)

But first some stills from the animation:
So as the title suggests, my ideas didn’t get picked, which I am not too unhappy about. That way I had to less concentrate on the content and research right from the start of the project and could deal more with the technical side of things, like thinking about the way we are going to show, what Paul wanted to happen and I made sure I chipped in my to cents of wisdom here and there. I took a lot of notes during that time and we talked through what happens on screen over and over and over, so that everybody had a clear mind and the same vision of what will happen, and what shots we need.

After Callie, Angus, Paul and me hat roughly worked out the storyboards, we started building the assets we needed for the animation. Callie and me dealt with the characters, cleaning up the designs we were given by Paul and Callie moved on to draw a lot of angles of the bus and I moved on to rigging the characters in CelAction. The process of rigging in CelAction is fairly easy, if you know what you are doing, if you just had a day of workshop and worked through the tutorials that come with the software, it turns out to be a bit more tricky. But after a few days and about 7 characters with 3 iterations each, I think I got the hang of it at least a bit. (rigging tutorial will follow soon, I think)

After the hand-in, I started shelving in our library at CSM again and found this book, and had to smile a lot. Basically rigging a cut-out character in CelAction is nothing more and nothing less than a digital version of an analogue shadow puppet…

Whilst the rigging was going on, Callie, Angus and Paul where the busy drawing bees, drawing and incorporating a lot of the LTM poster stuff on the bus and in the pictures.

After I was fairly through with most of the character, I started setting up the shots, by loading in the characters, breaking up the backgrounds into the layers needed in CelAction (most of the times though I just imported the psd), made sure, that I had arranged everything in one folder, that could be shared between all of us, and made sure I had a system of naming files and a folder structure in place.

It turned out to be really helpful to have a shot list for tracking our progress, so that we could kind of see when we were a third of the way, half-way through, or 4 shots from finishing animating.  I never thought I’d say this, but at some point a spreadsheet was the source of motivation that kept me marching on.

After I finally set up all the shots, Callie, Paul and Angus where already half-way through animating them, so I split my time between troubleshooting whatever problem or overlooked mistake surfaced and animating a few shots myself and then started polishing a few others and started rendering out the shots with the bus first and then the others. Callie did a great job in fixing the wheels on the bus shots by using the animated footage from C2D and adding perspectively correct wheels on them with the 3D camera.

Once I was done with animating my last shot and rendering out the last shot too, I picked up Paul’s AfterEffects work and helped out with assembling all the shots, grading them a bit with Colorista (part of the Trapcode Suite, that is awesome and the college kindly enough bought for all the PCs in the 4D Lab), and then went on adding a bit of glow to it.

A thing that 2D people are apparently not aware of is the workflow with TIFF, JPEG and TGA-Sequences. I was told and taught by a few good film friends of mine and of course through Maya anyways to always try and use TIFF or TGA sequences if I am rendering something out and use it in a different software. Only in rare cases jpeg sequences due to the compression built into that format, because everytime you safe a jpeg again, it compresses the image even more than before. So in theory if you save it enough times, you have hardly any data left. TIFF is a good format to save a video in, if you have live action footage, because it hardly compresses the picture, but TGA would be the best if you know you need an alpha channel down the line when you are going to post production with it and it is an animation.

The image sequence workflow has a few nice benefits, you basically store every frame in the animation as a single file, so if one frame is corrupted, has a fragment in it or unwanted due to other reasons, you just delete or edit it, rather than having a whole video file to edit and look for the frame. Also since the museum was leaving us in the dark for a long time what format to render out in, it was important to keep it as uncompressed as possible for as long as possible. If you are dealing with HD material, sometimes you cross the 4GB maximum of file transfers to hard drives, because due to the age of the FAT32 codec, it only allows bigger files to be transferred, if you formatted it correctly before hand, image sequences are a good way to work on different platforms as well.

All in all I can say that this was the least stressful project we worked on. We had our work cut out for us, but it didn’t end in a complete panic and to lower our standards, it felt a bit like going to work everyday but not like we where sprinting all the way. So thank you Paul, Callie and Angus. Also thank you Mari Saino and her musicians for the lovely lovely score she did.

And now I am off into my Xmas break filled with research and working. I’m getting a bit sentimental now, since this will be the last christmas I have to wade through college stuff in order to be prepared for january. But at least this time around, I can work on a project of my own with no client to please.

Pitch: London Transport Museum

And now for the London Transport Museum pitch. I felt a bit overwhelmed by the amount of pages they initially sent us and how little they where actually saying. There was no clear brief and no direction what so ever, so I went for the first best thing I could come up with and relate to, which was the “Old Bill” bus. I listened to the audio interviews provided and took some facts from them but, couldn’t think of anything interesting to do with them, so I cherry picked and made up my own story.

The basic idea of the story is that of a bus volunteering for the military service, getting injured, getting repaired and volunteers again. I thought having a bus, an inanimate object, come alive plays towards the strong points of animation, plus since the museum already as a B-Type bus in their exhibition, it might be a nice for children to have a real exhibit come to life in an animation and creates a bigger value for the visitor.
In terms of style I wanted this piece to lean a lot on German expressionism, the prominent art direction in Germany before the First World War, to gently have a bit of German influence in the visuals as well. Here is some pieces of art that I grabbed off of books in the library and the internet…
Also during the concept art workshop I tried to get a bit better at drawing in Photoshop and was working on this as a style definition of sorts.
And here is the presentation slides I pitched the project with
Looking back at the pitch with a bit of distance now, I still like my idea and wouldn’t have changed the story much. I’d probably change camera angles to make them more CelAction friendly.
I learnt from Steve during my assessment that the client explicitly didn’t want antropomorphisms after they heard the pitches. It also became clear afterwards, the client wanted more of a documentary style animation, which I wished I’d known or figured out before hand. Then again you live and you learn….

Pitch: Liquid Architecture

Pitches, Pitches, Pitches. I couldn’t stop thinking about pitches and what to do for 2 projects at the same time. I think it was a bit much to pitch for two projects equally good, but then again you could argue that this is a proper real life situation with more than one project at the same time.

for my liquid architecture pitch I was thinking of different people/animals living in a city and finding their niche and living space and getting along. But looking at the time frame of the project decided to discard the animal part of it, just because it would take for ever to animate and build more than one type of animal. So after some thinking and a bit of desperation with the ever closer moving deadline, I came up with the Rubick’s Cube City.
I wanted to show the complexity of a modern city and it’s liquidity to accommodate different functions through out the day. A building in the city center has to cater to different kinds of purposes during the day, it can be an office building during the day and a bar or place to meet at night and a sleeping place in the morning.
So I ended up with living buildings, which, like humans, have different personalities and different functions and different emotions during a 24-hour period. My storyboards where quite rough, but here they are.
Visually I wanted it to be a complete 3D project, but in a storyboard crit mentioned Steve mentioned that having 2D drawings on top of the geometry might look more compelling than just “plain” 3D. So this would’ve been the first thing I would have had to try out if the project was green lit.
Looking back at what projects were picked and what message the clients wanted. I probably missed the topic by a lot, my idea was more based around documenting status quo of a modern city, rather than regarding the concept of open city as a tool to improve on not only the appearance but also the function of a city. Ah well you live and you learn I guess.