Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Episode VII

George the Knight - pilot episode

The grand opening of my blinds (for the first time in three weeks) was a short lived novelty as I am now preparing to animate episode II of George the Knight, forcing me to deny any source of natural light whatsoever. Thus completes my journey towards the dark side of animation. In relation to my puppets (i.e. George) I recall some enlightening words from a Chinese boy; 'First of all, keep him out of the light, he hates bright light, especially sunlight, it'll kill him'. Now, we all know what happened to Gizmo, and that is why the environment I create in my studio needs to stay absolute. Rule number one: you do not change anything on set, hence my compulsive necessity to block out the sun. Rule number two: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club.

However, before I could begin animating today there was a slight incident with George. I speak for most animators when I describe this armature problem as possibly the most frustrating of all: the loss of a hand. Depending on the puppet and what sort of performance is required, I would say an animators attention to detail is spent on the two most important aspects, the hands and eyes. And lo! the characters coordination is born.

So when something like this happens moments before a shoot, it doesn't leave a frightful amount of options other than close for the day until a new hand is constructed. I am trying to give this regular occurrence a title (obviously Star Wars related). Something like 'sabered it useless' or a 'Skywalker-righty'.

Either way, George is having yet another night off...

...and he's not too happy about that.

I have been adding to the set for the next episode. The scenery has already multiplied from that random boulder the puppet was perched upon, to the ominous castle and a polystyrene wall (a huge leap in my eyes). I have also conformed to the haberdashery that is my local Hobbycraft for more supplies including a very expensive roll of cobbled effect paper. I am very disappointed with Warwickshire and its lack of decent art stores, which reminds me, I was going to peruse the art shop at Coventry University and see what I can pillage from that old chestnut. 

Wiring up lighting for the castle's interior.

Balsa wood is our friend. The perfect miniature 'timber' effect.

The general process of constructing a puppet and a set can easily take up 75% of the entire production. Animating is laborious and requires a level of patience that rivals a spider with a really shit web, yet would take up perhaps 20% of the production. A surprisingly small 4% goes to editing (which is a common misconception in the world of stop motion. Our 'post-production' is the 'pre-production'. We spend all this time making props and sets so that we don't need to add any effects afterwards. All the lighting and atmosphere of each shot is captured there in the moment). So essentially the time we spend editing is just cutting the shots, adding sound effects and rendering/exporting the final film. 

And finally 1% is dedicated to freaking out and getting irrationally angry with how hot the studio is and why in God's name you decided to make the walk cycle last 7 seconds. Trust me, if the outcome wasn't worth all this mayhem then I would welcome a job in some sort of catering company... serving food... with the reluctant title of 'dinner man'. 
**Tommy Grainger experiences a dreaded case of deja vu**

So the extra hand has been made and is currently drying after being smothered in flesh coloured liquid silicon. Animation should commence soon. As for the collection of limbs and bandages on the other image below... well if you can't guess what it is by now then you truly deserve a slap. 

The accident left him turtley mangled. 

So after some assembly I am pretty confident that this fellow will look on top form as part of my ninja phase. He needs his weapon of choice, a Bo Staff, and will be leaping magnificently in a still pose very shortly. I am going to wrap up this session with some interesting articles I found via Twitter. This is mainly for the die hard stop motioners who either need inspiration or just something cool to look at (in fact, if you are feeling rather despondent about this post-University stage in your life then read this article HERE because it really does sum up the WTF and FUBAR moments that really do need some inspiration to jazz things up). I have also been reading a lot of stories surrounding Barry Purves and his amazing career. This article found on Skwigly is a great insight into Barry's breathtaking portfolio. 

And to end this on an Aardman high, I have to congratulate the studio for making one hell of a film. The Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists! is everything that Aardman stands for and no feeble words of mine can describe the magnitude of its awesomeness. Actually, in the words of film critic Jeremy Jahns, I rate it AWESOMETACULAR!!! What? it is a word.

Now, recognise this guy?

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Episode VI

George the Knight episode one is on the brink of achievement. It is only a short animation but will hopefully capture the style and attitude of the character so that you guys can empathise with him. It is worth mentioning at this point that George is rather a bitter chap, true at heart but also lazy in nature. He really doesn't like the fact that I have to animate him, and that he cannot move by his own accord. And this is the reality of being a stop motion animator; when the puppets do not cooperate it can jeopardise the entire production.

Luckily for me, George held together until the very end (apart from one hand snapping from the wire 'wrist'; one of the most annoying re-occurrence in animating history). I have released a promotional poster of George the Knight  which is just something to set the mood before I upload the final film. As soon as my camera has recharged I can complete this last sequence and thus give George his pilot episode. 

Coming soon to a stage near you...

So the idea of this animation is to generate some constructive feedback and also to motivate inspiration for future episodes. I am still on trial runs of the Dragonframe software but should be able to afford the actual package now. I just need to be wise in where I locate said package (could I still pass off as a student?). Because it is bloody expensive. And I know people tell me to download it or torrent it but for some reason I can never put my trust in to that. Especially for something as important to me as a stop motion package.

Call me old fashioned, but I would rather save up and purchase something that is 100% legitimate and includes every function and aspect. There will be somebody out there screaming bloody murder to such a conformist approach to media investment. 

But the use I would get out of the Dragonframe software would be phenomenal. And that would, of course, complete my journey towards the confined side of society. I may even start calling my room 'the cooler'.

I am in the midst of editing this animation and will take this opportunity to share a couple of links to some fantastic free sound effects. The first one is a list of general SFX panning over a basic (albeit useful) spectrum: FREE SOUND EFFECTS. The second link is no doubt the best collection of Star Wars sound effects (sorry, Skywalker sound) ever to be assembled: STAR WARS SOUNDBOARD. It even allows you to mix your own quotes and sounds over two tracks, giving you the option of generating one hell of an anachronistic conversation. For example, Lando Calrission suddenly exclaims, 'this deal is getting worse all the time'. Qui-Gon Jinn looks at him and says, 'I don't sense anything.' Meanwhile the beautiful sounds of the Mos Eisley Cantina wallow in the background. 

There was supposed to be more content within this video blog but the software conversion website (WMV to MOV) I normally use was deemed unworthy and I had to re-shoot a couple of shorter videos. This is one of them (the other involves me talking about a pair of plastic horses, which is just ridiculous).

And finally, two more images of ongoing projects. The Wolverine painting you are already familiar with (mark the progress) but the second image shall be on your head to guess what it is I am sculpting. What could it possibly be? Some may guess because I told them I was going through a teenage phase. And if you are still stumped after that tremendous clue then I will fight you, that's no lie.

Hugh Jackman or Jack Hughman?
Clue #2 ...  Bō staff

Monday, 2 April 2012

Episode V ... Animation video blog

So I'm going to try out a couple of videos to spice up these blogs (which essentially means I am getting far too lazy to type). But it also means I can make them in quick succession, even if there is little to report on. At the moment I am directing all my power back to animating, therefore, I ought to show samples of any that I have done. I have decided against this; if I use the next few days to bosh out 30 more seconds of animation then I deem the first episode finished and then you may see it in full. For now, check this little video out...

So aside from whatever it is I am talking about, you get the general idea of what my 'home studio' looks like. I think I have made it sound much more professional than what it actually is (especially when attempting to impress a lady). In fact, my insane devotion to staying in my room and working has become a social problemo. So much so that I may have forgotten how to woo a girl and even found this very arousing when I went to the post office one morning...

She would definitely make my day