Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Ho Ho! Stop-motion Pro! and a spanking new camera

Yes, Christmas does come early for some and for me it wasn't soon enough. I have been struggling with inspiration and/or motivation (as some might know) for the past month and have therefore put a few things on hold. The lack of finances got the better of me and I pursued the only option I had at the time (again, some might know this) which was the role of a caterer in Princethorpe College; i.e. a dinner man. Yes, you heard correctly.

However, the reason I mentioned an early Christmas was because of the new Canon 600D camera I have recently bought due to PAY DAY and also a birthday/Christmas money combo from my Father. So it was basically down to him that I can now really crack on with animating with this amazing HD quality camera. I should be able to afford animating software (namely Stop Motion Pro 7.5) and in the new year I will soon get some home made animations out there. Watch this space!

Here is my newborn. She came with a macro lens and a handy strap-on. Filthy slut that Canon chick.
So I have been out and about in the outrageous weather this country seems to be hosting due to the melting of polar ice caps and the rise in fresh water levels, disrupting the flow of sea salt and giving Leamington a case of bad wind. On the brighter side of these days though I have managed to click away...

Abbey Fields

A curious crow. Using my curious macro lens

I shall hopefully have better days to shoot: darkening skies at 15:30 really doesn't bode well for the budding camera man. So alongside this technological revelation of mine I have also stumbled upon some more random additions to my medieval animation, in the forms of two plastic (Barbie?) horses. I shall take off their heads and use my own!

The spray paint effect on the Barbie castle

My final festive thought comes in the form of my input towards the big day. These are two huge responsibilities of which only a true master could carry out. The first task is the creation of a Christmas soup; the second is painting 17 personalised name labels for the table. So far I have done 5 and they don't look half bad... so have a gander below. Oh and for the record, I am not obsessed with pillaging Barbie related merchandise. They just happen to be available at the opportune moment. That is all. 

Merry Christmas to you all and I shall leave you with a random video. Ho Ho!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Barbie castles and miniature weapons

A strange blog title I have to admit, and yet those who know me won't be surprised at all. I recently went to visit my father in Germany with my brother; a hefty road trip through five countries with a lot of red bull and many psychological challenges along the wrong side of road. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I was walking along a street and saw this old German woman getting rid of some ragtag junk. I spotted a pink and green Barbie castle/house thing and the cogs in my head started to turn. You see, with the animation I do (and many will understand this) you will find yourself picking up so much random stuff wherever you may be; whether this is a car boot sale, a rubbish tip, the park or even on a night out (I swindled some nice beer mats that could make nice paintings for a model lounge). Basically it is a habit that us stop motion animators get in to.

It took me a while to figure out how the damn thing opens up.
So here it is in all its glory: the Barbie house in the middle of revamping and redecorating. I have only spray painted sections and tried out a grey colour on the tower to test the application on to plastic. It seems to bode well and to be honest it shouldn't matter too much as this will be a background prop and won't play a major role in the animation.

I have also started to make some smaller props for the medieval story. I haven't finalised what the ending might be but I have a good idea for the start and main part of the animation, but either way there will be need for swords and shields! I have also made a mace and a cloak for on of the knights and part constructed a helmet for George the knight.

I have used a mixture of super sculpey, fabrics, dowel
and wire to make this range of props.

I have also constructed a crow which has only a very small role in the film. The storyboard somewhere below will show his importance, however, he still has a joint in his beak to allow him to caw to his hearts content.

And on the right is a look at the Barbie house before I set the paint to it. You can imagine the looks I got as I trekked back to my Dads place carrying this under my arm. But this is just part of the job. Another day in the office... pillaging children's toys.

Don't judge me.

The story of this animation is still in the making but it will open up with a peaceful countryside scene with birds singing, clouds in the sky and all that scenic jazz. And here is the tricky part, because I am trying so hard not to mimic the fight scene between the Black Knight and his unworthy adversary (clad in green) from Monty Python's Holy Grail. If you recall, the two have quite a vigorous and animated duel which results in the Black Knight launching his sword through the slit in the other knights helmet, obviously slaying him, right before King Arthur tries to cross the bridge.

The image above of the storyboard is crap. I apologise for the bad lighting but I took a photograph and didn't scan the page in as I perhaps should have done. Anyhow, this will be the general opening of the film where in-between the 'happy shots' (as I shall now call them) you will have a quick shot of the clashing of swords and loud shouting (but no dialogue just yet). This will emphasise that something epic is happening close at hand.

I then have the idea of trying a tracking shot to pan down onto the fight scene and just have the two knights duelling. I realise that choreographing an animated fight will be bloody hard but it's something I've always thought of throughout the years on my stop-mo course. I guess having a home studio has its advantages... you can pretty much do what the hell you want!

Here is a selection of animals that might be hanging around in the vicinity of this story. The crow you already know about; the rabbit just hops away and the cow may be axed even before auditioning. But it is the horse that I have much faith in to help with the storytelling, and I don't mean in a narrative sense but in one simple facial expression.

The two horses that the knights rode in on are standing off screen to the fight and simply watching their masters. To emphasise how pointless the fight is in the first place, one horse will just look at the other in an overly bored manner and then keep munching on the grass he/she would have in his/her mouth. I have clearly chosen the gender for that blasted crow because he looks like a moody chav knob head, yet the horses I have yet to decide. Maybe one of each. So this is some insight into the animation but like I said, it is all a working progress. I essentially wanted to crack on and make things, animate things, and keep my motivational spirits high.. and just having a different idea altogether (in comparison to what I have made before) really is very inspiring.

I lost my camera (as you might know, if I mentioned it in my last post) and yet I am not bothered in the slightest. The reason being is because my new Sony Ericsson has a fantastic HD camera with something in the 8 mega pixels region. I took this photograph of an M24 Chaffee tank from WWII and was blown away with the quality. It's only a bloody phone!

I have now finished my CVD promo package. The DVD covers have been printed out on some fancy matt paper (£24!!!) and all I need for the final touches is the insert, which is pretty much my CV in short. I have gone with a post card idea that can slot inside the DVD case.

I have used vistaprint before and will probably use them again as they seem to have some good deals knocking about. The postcard features an illustration I did, which I thought might be a nice break from all my animation images and perhaps show my drawing skills.

The back of the post card will have a brief synopsis of my education and skills (the image on the left is incomplete by the way) and anything else I can fit on that would be relevant for sucking up to a studio. Coincidentally, the cartoon illustration on the post card is the one I have just sent in to 'The Young Cartoonist of the Year' hosted by the British Cartoonist Association. Fingers crossed people!

The original drawing I was going to send in to the competition. It includes all the 'monstrous' characters I have sketched over the last few years. Cartoon 'me' decided to challenge them...

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

I love it when a plan comes together...

So I have returned, my fellow bloggers, from a galaxy far, far away...


Oh it was a fantastic holiday. I went with a couple of mates and we just mashed up with week beginning with a vodka induced flight from Birmingham, resulting in the loss of my digital camera and my passport. Luckily the latter was found after I stormed the plane as this drunken lunatic and demanded to retrieve it. Unfortunately my camera was no where to be seen.

The rest of the week was very similar in the sense of alcoholic antics and clumsy behaviour that made us look like sunburnt chumps really. I managed to dig myself a nice hole; most productive result of the holiday. My friend Lee was clumsy enough to spill 6 drinks, 2 of which were upon nice looking girls, and also fall over countless times.

I fancied my chances at a bit of pole dancing, lost 80 Euros and went streaking around the hotel only to return to my room and answer the inevitable phone call from front desk. 'Excuse sir? May not you do the naked run again please?' So in an act of defiance (as well as his need to aid his sun stroked mind) Lee robbed a fan from the lobby.

Meanwhile Andy just kept on dancing. We got back to the UK thinking that the holiday was more hard work than is was relaxing. The Booze Cruise was fun though. Although Lee never made it... he was disabled for two days.

But anyway, down to business. I have returned and my fantastic Aunt Sandra had managed to get all my DVD labels printed whilst I was away. I picked them up and have begun to stick them on to the discs, meaning I am one more step to completing this stash of CVD promos and can send the bad boys off out into the big wide world. Fly my pretty's, fly!

So what do you think? I used the Money Tree  movie poster as the label and I think it's come out rather well. So now I have to concentrate on printing all the DVD covers (which I can do when I have the money - birthday soon!!!) and also to resize my general CV so that it can fit as an insert into the DVD case. I would say this plan is most definitely coming together. God-damn!!!

And finally, yes, Zabrina... my love, the Zebra I am making is still in very slow progress due to all these little obstacles. But together we can get through them and learn from each other. She has taught me some valuable lessons on latex and silicon paint combinations (much too dense for her skinny arms, resulting in very minimal movement) and soon I shall teach her to talk. I have had further design developments with her appearance, one of which being a big fur hat that looks very Russian. I would think that Zabrina could pull off this fashion statement, especially for a snobby African mammal.

So here she is at this very moment of the puppet making stage.

I am going to give her this hat in a gentle shade of pink or violet. Perhaps even venture down the fur scarf option, but I think this would get in the way too much when animating. I have decided against the latex arms and cotton wool method (so so sorry Ray!) but will use another classic method of... wait for it... plasticine!!!

I think it's all I need really for her arms and neck. Seems to work well on previous tests I have done before. And also I have been inspired by a fellow Staffs Uni colleague, my good friend Daniel James, who has had success with his animated series Viv and Mandy (follow the link above). These classy ladies have been animated with wire frames and plasticine built up around them and I think it works beautifully.

So how about it Zabrina? plasticine you up? Lets go!

My random video of the week (something I found from my Art Foundation Year
at Coventry Uni) ...enjoy!

Monday, 3 October 2011


I have entitled this entry 'freelancing' as it seems to sum up the situation I seem to be in at the moment. As well as adding to my show reel and generally polishing up the CV, I have taken on random projects to keep me busy; some of which I have mentioned on here before. My most recent one is for a friend, Taylor, who needed some illustrations for her book. I don't think I will be getting paid for this but I still like the idea that my work will still be somewhere out there....besides, I can't be picky! Maybe she'll buy me some new paintbrushes.

I haven't managed to scan in the drawings but only photographed them, so the quality it a little lax. The basic storyline (as far as I understand) revolves around a school girl named Angela and her rebellious friends as they go about their daily life in an American college.



The bottom left image shows the chosen design for Angela. My client Taylor (as well as my mother actually) really liked this girl and therefore I went ahead with a few more illustrations of her.

The Zebra shall hopefully be finished soon. I am going to build up the arms and neck today in classic Harryhausen style; cotton wool and liquid latex. I just need to make sure it's nice and smooth to match with the rest of the sculpey body. Then I can paint on the stripes and hey ho! all ready to go and animate.

Another project that is still in production (when we have time) is the spoof documentary series my University friends and I have been filming. I have edited Episode 5 of Stoke Force and below is the result of our 'mockumentary' performances. Enjoy.

To see episodes 1-4 follow this link Stoke Force and perhaps the storyline would make a little more sense!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Puppet Making - Zabrina the Zebra

Over the past week I have tried to knuckle down and really go for it with Zabrina the Zebra. I have now finished her sculpey body (which will be stationary compared to the rest of her body) and painted her in classic stripe form. I wanted to keep the legs and body as a solid because it would be a strong base to animate from, but also from listening to the voice over for Zabrina you'll notice, as I have, that there is no extreme movements from the animal as it's just a 'creature comforts' style interview. 

some assembly required...

This is what motivates me in the morning... a messy desk!
If everything  is out then the game is on...

I have just finished sticking the body and legs together and now will concentrate on the 'arms' and head. The neck will also be an important body part as it can really help accentuate the movements that mirror Zabrina's snooty personality. Another reason why I have limited the moving parts is because I can now pay more attention to the arms, neck, head, blinking, mouth pieces and animate them in harmony without worrying about  walk cycles or general body movement. This is always a relief for an animator when you can cheat the walk cycle!

So here is Zabrina the Zebra as of 24th September. I am very ashamed at how long it has taken me to get to this stage, however, I am very positive at the final stages and how she has turned out so far. 

Below is a photo that I have drawn upon (very badly I have to note) to give an idea of the final look of the zebra. I haven't decided this but I may find room for a wire tail that can also be animated.

I apologise for the badly sketched arms. And I have to admit that I took those ears from a Google image!

I have subscribed to a Youtube channel which I am going to throw in here because it covers the raw basics of stop motion animation - anything from the general puppet making process to constructing your very own animating table. The latter is something I need to do if I want to animate from home. You've seen my new desk but this is primarily for model making and prep work, whereas I need a base camp for sole animating. And with this new room there is a lot of potential for a decent size table. Anyway, here is a link to that channel...

Even with the rather lengthy process in making these puppets (probably more on my behalf) , the radio station Signal1 is still showing great interest with our work. My fellow colleague May has finished two puppets of the shows presenters Perry and Louise (who are involved with helping Blackbrooks Zoo) and you can check these caricatures ... HERE!

Random Video of the month...

This is from the Minton road trip to Grimsby. The lads from Minton Movie Productions (myself, David Alexander and Neal Bradley) journeyed to this tasty fish town to meet Steven Cummings especially for an Orphan Boy gig. The final gig to be precise...

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Me, myself and I MEAN BUSINESS

It has been a ridiculous amount of time since my last entry. Something which I am not proud of because I know for a fact that it proves my lack of motivation - in other words being bloody lazy. But this doesn't involve me sitting around at home and playing with myself as I have been rather productive within many aspects of my post University life.

My first priority was of course the CV. It took me a while to adjust to the fact that I may have to work in some real shitty jobs so as to earn my keep, but I have now perfected two types of curriculum vitae. One for the likes of Asda or a random pub and one for the animation world. When I say the animation world, I basically mean anything involving what I've been doing over the past few years; model making, film editing, Foley sound effect work, set construction or, of course, pure animating!

Cover layout for the DVD case. Re-named CVD

I initially didn't know how to present my CV. There is a previous blog post where I had described a comic strip being used for the cover of the 'paper' CV, which I might still use. Then there was issue of the show-reel and how to promote that; whether it would be emailing people the link or just posting a DVD with the animations on. But I want to make the best first impression possible and with the DVD case and design it hopefully gives a little bit more than just a disc on its own. I will also include my paper CV (with the comic strip cover) as an insert for the DVD and then finally include the disc with my show-reel.

These two designs are just a little addition to the DVD case. I wanted to make it look authentic so created my own 'certificate' and 'CVD' (curriculum vitae disc) logo. I have done a summary of myself as a promotion but in the style of a typical movie style synopsis.

So that was one productive aspect of my rather idle approach to promoting myself. I have also been working as a handyman for various people to earn a little cash in hand. This involves painting houses!

So being a little more relaxed about my financial difficulties (which also included a slightly shameful sign on to the Job Seekers Allowance) I could now concentrate on just being myself and carry on with my passion of painting and drawing. The animation aspect is only on hold for a little while but I shall continue with the making of the zebra puppet as soon as possible. But to keep myself inspired, I have been sketching...

Views from Jephson Gardens. Leamington Spa

Views from Jephson Gardens. Leamington Spa

This guy was actually done a few years ago but I uncovered him in an old sketchbook

So amongst all this chaos which is my life, I do feel a little more positive towards the next stage. Moving house sent everything up in the air for a month or two whilst I organised my room and re-routed post and sorted life issues out blah blah. BUT now I have a spanking new desk and that alone will give me the urge to sprawl out and pick up the model making again. I always knew that come September I would still be in the 'educational frame of mind' and think I would be returning to University - so I would use that initiative and convert my room in to my Studio Room from Room. Let's hope it works out...


Monday, 18 July 2011

Graduation and beyond

From left to right: Ashley Lightfoot, Sam Ware, myself, Steven Cummings and Katie Bruce
There is no denying the end now. Graduation has come and gone and it all seems inevitable that I actually do need to grow up and gain some responsibilities about 'real life', not to mention the issue of financial stability. I have to admit that I have not been very pro-active on the job hunting front but I just had to spend the last few weeks in Stoke-on-Trent being a full-time student and tear the place apart!

Graduation itself was a pretty grand day out. Barry Purves took the stage for a terrific and inspiring speech for the next step in a students career once this day is over. Everyone looked very smart in their Hogwarts-esque robes and it was generally such a great feeling to stand up and get cheered on by faculty, friends and family. Barry also recieved his Doctrine and posed with us all for some great photos. Well done to all..!!!

The Stop Motion and Animation group fronted by Barry Purves himself

In the final week we spent time tidying the house for the new tenants, packed up all my art equipment and research models (toys to you and me) and dump it in my car. Luckily for me the damn thing managed to work with the help of the RAC and a desperate push start. So I am now blogging from my home in Leamington Spa and fighting the temptation to not eat all the junk food that the kitchen cupboard has to offer.

Zabrina the Zebra
Hand stitched puppet for the Theatre Production

I have managed to keep busy, as I have mentioned before, with random projects throughout the past month or so and I plan on keeping this up from home. The Blackbrooks Zoo project for Signal 1 radio station is really hitting off; our group managed to get a free trip to the zoo and mingle with the animals for research and talk to the zoo keepers about any characteristics we could implement into our animation. We were even allowed into the penguin enclosure and get pretty close to the friendly little critters! The picture above shows my plasticene mock-up of the model zebra which will be the basis of the puppet for this animation.

We also were lucky enough to have an interview with the two presenters from Signal 1, Perry and Louise, about the project and was aired on their breakfast show the following morning (I shall try and find this interview and post it up on here). But they were very happy with the animal models we had to show them and are in full support. May Jay, Alex Young, Jon Colenso and myself are carrying on with this project and will keep the progress photographed and recorded.

The second photograph is flyer of a theatre production called The Shadow of your Hand and next to it is the puppet I constructed for the show. My friend Benjamin Barry Watkins is involved with this production and basically needed three of these puppets as props; I have also been asked to make more props for other productions (for a cheeky fee ofcourse!)

So this is essentially what I shall be doing for the next stage in my life - small projects that will culminate to not only help my CV and show reel, but also to keep up my practice of this fantastic subject.

I hope you have not forgotten the Mortal Kombat animation that is in the pipeline...
Picture courtesy of Steven Cummings

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Episode V The Projects Strike Back

Yes... so it's time to return to the drawing board and crack on with some more projects. The most recent one being a 'creature comforts' style animation for the radio station here in Stoke-on-Trent, Signal Radio, who are setting up a charity to save the local Zoo "Blackbrook". They had recorded interviews with the 'animals' which include a penguin, peacock, stork and a zebra. I was very pleased to take control of the zebra although it was a quick decision from us all (the group behind the Money Tree film) and we have no begun the production stages of making puppets and sets once again.

I really do like to keep busy, and this new project has definately kept me on my toes and will be great practice so as to maintain skills and the mental attitude to freelance work. After getting my final results I have had a few days of doing just nothing (which I felt I quite deserved with a First Class Honours!!) but now it's back into the animating zone.

These will eventually be the fence for the Zebras enclosure - just needs a lick of paint

I really haven't done much with the Zebra itself yet. Just concentrating on getting the shape of the head right. The front of the animals 'snout' will have magnetic mouth pieces to replace for various lip movements when talking.

 I have also been keeping busy with the painting. The canvas has slowly taken shape into the rest of sky but needs some more detail. But I also found a few old videos from College and the end of High School - these were part of a 'Year Video' I filmed and edited for the students. Essentially it was a huge group effort as I filmed everyone in and out of the school in the form of interviews, funny sketches, parties or just general school life. A year book that moves... that's how I saw it anyway. So here's the trailer below (which I showed at the last 6th Form assembly and it seem to go down rather well!)...enjoy

I will keep posting up these random videos because I enjoy watching them as much (I hope) as you do because I literally have lost track with the amount I have made so it still baffles me when I stumble across one - and just think perhaps the world needs to see it!

Monday, 20 June 2011

The Degree Show

The finale of the year has now been and gone with the success of the Degree Show. This took place last week after the opening show with talks from the faculty and the prestigious Barry Purves. After the speeches everyone looked around the show and took full advantage of the free wine and beer. These were located in to prime areas... photography and graphics.

So the show continued with many guests and family members arriving to see the work put up. The Money Tree Project was put on display in the centre of the animation room. We had to disassemble from the studio and remake sections as we put it back together on a couple of tables.

We managed to recreate the lighting effect similar to that from the studio

I was lucky enough to get involved with the show all week and help out by taking school children around as part of a tour through each department. It gave me a chance to see peoples work more closely and talk to the students behind it all.

We also included models made from other projects. It was all to promote the Stop Motion and Puppet making course.

The last few who managed to survive the three years of University on our course.

When the week had finished we had some really good feedback from the kids and teachers, but also from members of the public. There will be a winner for the best presented room and we perhaps have hinted to the kids that the animation room should be their favourite. We weren't biased at all though, ofcourse! I didn't mind too much, I got paid a handsome £150 for working the week.... bring on the new camera!