Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Episode V

Through the settling mists of the explosion, surrounded by falling debris, red hot embers and chaotic sound effects, a gallant figure strode into view. He was tall with a confident step, seemingly heedless to the destruction that had so recently transpired within his secret lair (although, a 'mountain retreat' was his preferred expression). With each step his outline became more prominent and amidst the spiralling smoke a silhouette was formed. But this was no ordinary form of man. Above his brow there was an odd shape, floating freely from the rest of his body; a lightening bolt. Sharing the same head-space was another strange outline that could only be described as a set of antlers. This was no mere man. 

This was Electric Elkboy.

The newly installed blast doors had shielded much of the impact, yet it had not masked the fury that burned in the Elkboy's eyes. He wrenched open one of the bent doors (which was much easier than first considered, toppling the Elkboy off balance). He looked around... nope, nobody saw that he thought with a smug grin as he stepped into the sunlight. 

Chester, his faithful droid, was unable to pass the wreckage due to a poorly equipped front wheel so raised his robotic voice a little louder. 'Sir, we were hit by a homing missile from nearly 2000 miles away. The odds of successfully hitting our front door is approximately three thousand seven hundred and twenty to one!'
     'Never tell me the odds,' replied the Elkboy, cursing his unyielding decision to install Star Wars quotes into Chester's hard drive, but applauding himself for knowing the line that followed.
      'Sir, it was impossible for anybody to know of our location,' Chester was adamant in his investigation. 'I spent weeks hiding our tracks and disguising our transmitter signals. I even initiated a series...'
      'Chester! Calm down my son.' Elkboy liked to pretend that Chester was his illegitimate love child who needed burping now and again (forgetting the fact that he was a droid). 'Have you had your afternoon nap? I think all this excitement has frazzled your circuits, lets charge you up!' Chester's mechanical arms dropped in defeat and followed his master as he sprung back over the rubble.

As the little droid hummed quietly in the corner of the kitchen, the Elkboy scooped dollops of ice cream to join the custard creams he'd already piled into a blender. As it whirred merrily upon the expensive kitchen counter, Elkboy looked across at Chester and pondered over the information he had blurted out earlier. It certainly was incredible odds to target his front door from such a distance. And who could possibly have known about his mountain retreat? The Elkboy forgot about his smoothie and frowned, emphasising his concentration and even extending so far as to scratch an antler. Suddenly his lightening bolt quivered with realisation. He slammed his fist hard onto the kitchen top, knocking over the blender, but too bamboozled with his lackadaisical behaviour to even notice (but secretly he had noticed and was rather miffed at this delicious spillage). 

There was another who knew about his whereabouts. He had let it slip after letting his guard down merely weeks ago. The Elkboy sighed at his weakness. It was the Emerald Minx. 

With the At-Issue project (almost) coming to a close, it has been all Thunderbirds are go in the art department. The sets are coming on amazingly, and some of the props are so bloody realistic that the only possibly explanation to the awesome detail is a shrink ray. The SkyArts documentary was aired a few weeks ago and all of us minions managed to get some face time (or in my case, bobble hat time). It was put together very well and really captured the essence of the studio in under 10 minutes. It was also very handy to finally put some visuals to the hard work we've all been doing, especially to those folk who have no idea what stop motion is. Speaking of which, Sarah and myself were asked to animate on the film itself, which was such a great feeling because Drew trusts us to have a go with Bart (the puppet). My first shot was a flow of coffee being poured over a bowl of corn flakes. This was only 24 frames but it took me so long to literally get into the 'flow' of animating. 

There was another three shots I animated with Bart, including a lot more character movement, and the introduction of a window. And I shall leave you hanging on that one folks... you'll see the film soon enough!

Drew's birthday not only brought about a fine party, but also a
very smart and tidy looking workshop!

Here is something I have 'bin' making for the high street set

I have been working on an E4 'e-sting' animation for the 2013 competition and have just discovered that the deadline is the end of July. So I had better get a bloody move on because I haven't even finished the set. I have gone with a Serengeti scene, after choosing the 'African' themed 10 second music clip from the E4 page; there were about 8 to pick from and this one sounded the grooviest (with respect to African music of course). The main character for the animation short will be a hippo, who wallows quite coolly in a mud hole, whilst in the background a mysterious stork plays a gentle riff on an electric guitar. 

The time lapse was just a trial run through After Effects, and isn't the most fluent of films due to the tripod getting constantly knocked by my big goofy feet. The E4 logo, however, was done with a little more dedication through the same software. I am such a newbie to Adobe After Effects and have followed YouTube tutorials to the letter; it's one of those 'practice makes perfect' scenarios, which incidentally worked with Photoshop for me. I painted the clouds using water-colour and was originally going to animate them over a painted sunset background, similar to the style of card cut-outs used for early South Park episodes. 

After working at Princethorpe College for near enough two years (ridiculous, I know) I have managed to climb the ladder and find myself becoming an 'almost teacher'. Now, I haven't decided whether my career will follow the teaching path just yet but I figured it would be silly to pass up the opportunity. I had already sent a proposal to the heads of faculty and am now in cahoots with the 'extra curriculum activities' folk who organise after school clubs. So once again I shall be donning the padded elbows and tottering off to make gloriously silly films with as much plasticine that can be spared. 

I think it will be a temporary contract to see how it all pans out, but the college seems really excited about the potential these workshops can offer. They have already begun to plan an Oscars evening, where the films made in the art department (primarily live action) will be screened and judged. So I need to teach my budding little animators some serious skills to win this star-studded event. 

Wendy can fix it?

Raa Raa and Ooo Ooo (I haven't made those up,
they are actually their real character names!)

Manchester's Museum of Science & Industry (#MOSI - for you avid tweeters out there) have got a fine exhibition telling the story of Mark Hall and Brian Cosgrove. Click the word Chorlton for more informative information. It was such a wonderful niche of an exhibition, which seemed fitting that within the extensive mass of industrial works at the museum, this one room was dedicated to a forever smaller industry class. Barry Purves also made an appearance on screen, sharing his experiences in the stop motion industry and giving sound advice on the most natural ways to animate a puppet. 

So this concludes another blog post from yours truly. Coming up in episode six...

  • the finished E4 sting animation
  • the next instalment to the thrilling Electric Elkboy saga
  • my ultimate decision whether or not to become a teacher
  • George the Knight revisited 
  • and Tommy's guide to fashion and maintaining a cool image (starting, of course, with the Hawaiian shirt) 

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