Sunday, 21 October 2012

Episode XV

A relatively speedy follow up to my previous post, but with the end of the world approaching I felt impelled to write some more. It has been 16 months since graduation, 34 months of being single (I now have a beautiful girlfriend, Lucy) and within 8 months the release of three stop motion films. I have got three major animation projects under my wing, another feature film in development with my colleague John Fox, a music video to direct and edit and also the work experience Drew Roper has so kindly offered me. It is all happening now, in such a short space of time. I had almost a year of doing nothing! Excitement like this can send a guy over the edge.

For one thing I need to move out of my legendary attic studio. Living in this house with my older female room mate (who incidentally shares the same surname as me) is fine, but I feel that this low-rent bubble is hindering my motivation. I had decided many years ago that I would never live and work in Warwickshire, so I'm worried that if I remain in this comfort zone of the Shire I would lose my inspiration to animate, regardless of the sizeable room I have.

So in retrospect to the fleeting string of events occurring in these last few months, it has actually been very healthy for my animated life style. For instance, finding out that The Money Tree was part of the FLIP Festival programme was yet another step up this ladder of career-seeking mayhem. I am volunteering at this festival so I'm not sure whether I can see our film on the big screen again, but that's what Encounters was all about. I feel like a (Z-listed) celebrity now; the premier and after (boat) party was in Bristol. In fact, I wouldn't have even known of our films inclusion in FLIP had it not been for Daniel James. He swooped in with a heroic text to inform me of such crucial information (he really is a top bloke, follow him I urge you).

I have been recently working on my own project (one of the three majors I mentioned earlier) with the working title 'Barney gets a virus', where our hero loses his temper via the everyday disruptions that a computer has to offer. I have added to the set used in The Money Tree animation (mainly the inclusion of a computer desk) and moved things around to give Barney a slightly more expanded universe. I have been storyboarding and animating various scenes, finally compiling them and adding SFX to produce an animatic of which helps create visual meaning to this story I wanted to tell. It is a very simple idea, but applying the accentuation of animation with a bit of slapstick has always been a winning combination for even the most basic of story lines. I have posted a video of the animatic (part one) below for an exclusive screening that cannot be found anywhere else online. The question is; are you worthy?

As it states above, this is only part one. Well, I wasn't going to reveal the entire story now, was I? However, I have left the story open for possibilities. Even I am unsure what Barney might do to get his computer performing again. Immediately I had thought of a mixture of styles involving hints of Wile E. Coyote (and his Acme supplies), Pib & Pog and a brilliant CG animated short called Fly; the overreacting actions of the man is how I picture Barney behaving towards his malfunctioning computer. 

The Mortal Kombat animation, I have introduced on various occasions, was something that began around 18 months ago back in Stoke-on-Trent. My house mate, Steven Cummings, and I wanted to create a masterpiece of a film. We had already directed the Stoke Force series but wanted to establish something using the artistic skills we possess; animation, illustration, visual effects and concept art. So here we are after all this time, training and preparation, (perhaps slacking in places on my behalf) and ready for the next stage. As this animation is based on our actual selves (in jazzy shorts and head bands) we needed to bulk up. And this is where I feel the slacking has occurred, unfortunately, for me. 

Alas, this is another project I can reveal very little about at this stage. I can give a few sneak previews to what might go down in the animation. We have just recently photographed the next catalogue of moves for the animation. Each move sequence is made up of 4-6 frames (simulating the animation style associated with the original Mortal Kombat game) and there were approximately 30 moves. Not only that, but we had to repeat the photographing process for three levels of blood and bruises, i.e. apply scars and wounds to our bodies and photograph all 30 moves again. The final count was over 1000 photographs each. And now we both have the monotonous procedure of cutting around each character, save as a PNG file and store them as individual frames to eventually piece together as an animation. The things we do eh?

My character is represented with the blue stick man; Steve as
the red. This is a trial storyboard to see the basic layout of
move combinations and where the other character needs to be.

We only had red and black acrylic paint as our make up supplies but we didn't think we did a bad job. But, visually, this was not our major concern because the animation will be so fast paced that noticing the shoddy paint job would hopefully be unnoticeable. Our major concern was making sure that we had every 'move' photographed, labelled and sorted into folders so that when our character needs to walk forward, jump and kick then we can go straight into the folders marked walking, jumping and kicking and find the frames we need. It did get a little tedious but when you think about the final product then it will always motivate you.

Besides, it is always fun painting all this on yourself. A word of warning though; don't actually use acrylic paint. It takes bloody ages to scrub off and I am convinced there are still red patches upon my back (not from the scrubbing, but paint I could not reach!).

So here is a lovely little trinket I found in a charity shop. It will, of course, be a minor prop in the upcoming George the Knight film (of which I am currently storyboarding). This medieval trunk may get a face time of only 5 seconds but for three pounds Stirling, it was quite the find. I was thinking it might hold George's armour before he suits up to hunt the Dragon.

I have made full use of my expensive Ikea table and set it at a 45 degree angle; thus propelling my drawings up into my face. This does not only look more professional but will also prevent that blasted gay cat from walking all over my work. Although, this resulted in him scrambling for balance and scratching through one of the pages. I was furious and threw a box at him.

George is the third of the major projects at hand. I have been waltzing about from one animation to the next when really I ought to finish one and then concentrate on the next. But then again, I like this ongoing chaotic approach to creativity. It not only reflects the 'organised mess' that is my room, but also allows for spontaneous adjustments. For example, I was hesitating on a sequence with Barney and his computer, so instead of forcing the idea I left it and continued with the plot synopsis for George (bearing in mind I had Barney's story aloof in my mind). Five minutes later the solution came to me. Keeping all these projects open and accessible lets my mind wander for a while and eventually finds a conclusion. I'm not suggesting that I should prolong every animation just to wait for an answer (blimey, I feel like a Jedi artist). Okay, I have just discovered the point where I should stop typing. It's now.

P.s. Want to know what really annoyed me this week? Check this out HERE

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