Saturday, 22 December 2012

Episode X-mas

Unlike me to go a month without posting an update; perhaps I'm losing my touch OR I have been so productive that I couldn't possibly make time! That's right folks it is the latter and it's all been positive news since FLIP Festival (which was a great opportunity for networking). I have been approached with various project proposals to either work with a team or undertake as a freelance animator (again it is the latter that I am most excited about). But before I divulge into these projects I can finally, and triumphantly, show you the animation I helped with after spending a week in Canterbury with the Animate and Create team. It was for the Shepherd Neame Brewery (Bishops Finger anyone?) as part of their 'Merry Christmas' advertising campaign. I helped cut out the characters and back them with the book text design, although I did design and make the backdrop of trees in the opening sequence (05:00) and the candles/food on the table for the grand feast. I created a mouse run-cycle, which I had only recently noticed was used eighteen seconds into the animation (bottom left by the chaps feet); that really made me smile because I'd forgotten how tiny it was to cut out, thus went unnoticed for the first few viewings.

A slightly more natural source for a 'light box'.
It was great to see the production as a finished piece, especially as there was a tight schedule and masses of scrap paper. But getting involved with Dan Richards and the team was a truly fantastic experience and I am very grateful that they contacted me about the work experience. Becoming involved with productions like this has really given me a positive mental attitude (pma!) for 2013. If I could take on a few more projects for myself and become established as a freelancing animator then I am hoping that the only way is up.
      I have already been asked to help in another Sky Arts funded animation in the New Year, depending on the outcome of the application, which would be great because it would be a fairly local production at the Lighthouse in Wolverhampton. Victoria Fellows is an experienced director, animator and writer of whom I had the pleasure of acquainting at the FLIP Festival back in November. I have kept in contact and luckily (as with many opportunities in this industry) she remembered me, my bobble hat and my animated urge to find a bloody job. I cannot reveal the nature of the project, due to confidentiality and also because of its early development, but I can say that it's a topic I have never been involved in before, in any creative fashion. I am very excited to get stuck in. I wish Vicky all the best for this application, fingers crossed that they recognise a damn good project. 

Myself, Jonathan Wallace, Drew Roper, Laura Morgan and Michael Price with scarves on.

Speaking of damn good projects and the Sky Arts channel, I am delighted to present scarf entrepreneur (and award winning animator/director) Drew Roper. I have mentioned this chap throughout my recent posts but I have decided to dedicate a little more than a few words to such a top bloke. When I first visited Yamination Studios I was, of course, slightly daunted. I had left the University 'bubble' and was now stepping up to the next level of pursuing my animation career. But there was nothing daunting about it. Drew is a very charming, chatty, down to earth guy and made me (and all of the work experience folk I can imagine) feel right at home. My studio is your studio he told us on several occasions, and before long I had already made an organised mess (classic trait of the stop motion animator) and brought in my own supply of Poundland's finest chicken noodle soup.
      Drew's project is something I have admired from the start. Not only for the brilliant and well thought out plot, but also for his vision and the great lengths he goes to achieve this. I have not known anybody to work as hard as Drew Roper does. He travels far and wide, sleeps very little, works extraordinarily long hours in the studio at the Custard Factory and still manages to maintain a strong (social and business) connection with his clients, producer, fellow animators across the globe, work experience minions and his lovely girlfriend Amy. He even has time to make a ParaNorman outfit and take us out for a drink on a Friday evening. This guy!

Hopefully, after all that butt kissing, I will finally be allowed a glass of water ;-) 

I shall hope to return to the Custard Factory very soon to continue work on the sets and props, which are really taking shape with the help of Laura (who has made some damn fine café chairs). But for the present I have undertaken a new animation project. Drew was very kind to give my details to photographer and soundscapist Charlotte Rose, who wanted an animated music video for her new project '55 BPM' and the track when the transient happens. It is incredibly ambient with soft trumpets and beautiful vocals to create quite a powerful and melodic track. So the video must mirror this emotion, with a character we can empathise with and a story/journey that captures Charlotte's music. I have followed an idea that Charlotte had concerning the story, tweaked it slightly, then continued to storyboard for the past week.

These are a few ideas, yet nothing here is a final design. I like to keep sketching out characters until there is a wide range to choose from. It could even be a combination of two or three characters.
      The image on the left shows the general size of the character (as he gazes out of a window) whilst the image on the right captures the simplicity, although with too much of a human element to him.

I want to keep the focus on the eyes, as they will play a big role in the characters development and communication with the audience. Although this is a music video and there is no dialogue, the eyes can still connect and reveal much of the characters emotion whether he/she can talk or not. This little fellow on the left is aspiring towards the final design, yet I think much more work needs to be done. 
      So I won't give too much away but as you can see 2013 is already looking very busy. I have been asked to run an animation workshop for the Heritage Motor Museum in Gaydon during the May bank holiday (and throughout the summer holidays as part of a drop-in sessions workshop). This is a great opportunity to familiarise the public with the stop motion technique and get them involved in various activities. 
      The workshop would be aimed at a younger generation and would, of course, have to tie in with the motor centre. I have some car related exercises already in motion, just need a little more planning (Jim Parkyn has given me a little advice!).

I was worried, for a time, that becoming tied up with all this work experience and dashing up and down the country would effect my practical skills as a model maker. I have only made the odd sculpt since graduation, so modelling my Aunty's pet dog from a photograph would truly put my skills to the test. It was for my Uncle as a present (sculpted on commission) and only managed to receive the photographs twelve days before Christmas day. Forget the partridge and the rest of those damn birds, I needed a Jack Russell!

So this is Tilly the dog.
This photograph showed a good angle of the animal, so I used this as the basis of the sculpt. I started with the standard wire skeleton base (being a neck, spine and four legs) glues together with the  trusted, albeit smelly, adhesive known as 2-part Epoxy resin. It is incredibly strong when constructing a model using materials such as steel wire, foam resin or light wood; ideal for a 6" tall plasticine model.
And this is also Tilly the dog.
      After sculpting the shape of the dog (as seen in the image below) I had the ridiculous notion to give it hair. Now, with a sculpt like this you can go two ways; a smooth model with little detail, concentrating on the posture of the subject, or the full hog with every bloody hair and freckle. I went full hog and never looked back.
      I think it will look better with the added detail. I just never like to over embellish these models. I did originally plan to use super sculpey, bake it, paint it and it's all hunky-dory but with the copious amount of so called white Newplast (it's grey, it's fucking grey) I decided to crack on with a good bit of plasticine. Jobs a good 'un. 

For those who missed my Alan the Stegosaurus animation, well, here it is.

2013 will be the true beginnings of my freelancing career. There are many more projects on the horizon but with all the Christmas jazz everything seems to go on standstill. But for me, it's been bloody marvellous. I have been in Manchester for the week working on storyboards and doodling (basically I have gatecrashed my girlfriend's flat with boxes of art supplies and sketchbooks). Lucy introduced me to It's a Wonderful Life and I loved it. I constantly feel much guilt at all the great films I should have seen and this was no exception, but now I can tick it off the long list. This link will take you to the full colour version on Youtube but if you are not a Scrooge (unlike me) then I urge you to invest in the DVD. 
      Another great film I have recently seen, and did so as soon as physically possible, was the first of The Hobbit trilogy, An Unexpected Journey. I watched the 24 fps version and got completely lost in the wonders that Middle-earth will always give you. Yes, it was a long film, but who cares? It needed the build up and added scenes to emphasize the enormity of the quest. It was not unlike The Fellowship of the Ring where the quest really begins after the council of Elrond, but I do not like to compare these films to Peter Jacksons first Middle-earth trilogy. I have read many reviews concerning the slow start, the scenes that were clearly extended to pad out the trilogy, the lack of character development and also the bizarre experience of the 48 fps BUT HEAR THIS critical minion... it's not over until the fat Hobbit sings. Unlike The Lord of the Rings (being 6 books), The Hobbit is one book, therefore the act of creating a trilogy of films is to include all of the story elements from one but across three parts. Character development surely begins after you find out more about that person, which might not be until you are half way through the book. So the build up from the first film was necessary as it maintains a good ratio of story structure. I think the second film will focus more on the Dwarves, after Gandalf leaves them to trudge through the dangers of Mirkwood, which could possibly be the character development 'part'. 
      Having said that, Tolkien only gave four or five of the Dwarves a more pivotal role in the book. But I shall not go into the details of the book as I would most certainly get carried away with descriptions of scenes and what didn't happen in the book etc. Ha! I'm doing it already. I need to watch it in 48 fps. I want to see what all the fuss is about. 

I shall take it down a notch and end this merry post now. Here is a painting of the Good King himself.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. 

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