Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Crew: Crocodile Tears

So now that I have officially finished my first semester of my second year, I'm now continuing onto
the second semester, which means I'm exactly 50% way through my degree. Shocking.

Any who, one of our most recent assignments is called 'The Crew', which essentially 
means that we as second years, have to go out and find a third year project for us to work on. 
This can be anything from backgrounds, to animating, foley, or just key framing. Luckily I was
on the ball with this one, as I knew this project was incoming, I sought out  a third year project early on, so that I could get involved asap. That project is called 'Crocodile Tears', directed by Darren Smith.

As you may notice from the poster, it is a flash animation involving a bunch of badass crocs.
I really like the design work that has gone into it, and so far from what I've seen, I think it will have a really successful outcome. I really wanted to find a project that I personally like, as I have worked on a project before just for works sake, and I ended up hating the work I was doing. For this project, I have been assigned animator, doing in-betweens and clean ups. This essentially means someone (namely Darren) will assign a shot in which he has added the essential key frames, which could mean as little as 3 or 4 frames within a 5 - 10 second shot, and its up to me to work out the motion properly, and add in the 'in-between shots'. Its a pretty important role as its not just simply adding in the middle frames, but working out the 'feel' of the motion, and is key to creating solid animation. 

-So far I have worked on two shots, of both I have added the in-betweens for the rough animation.
The next stage for this shot is to go into the clean up stage.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Pre Production Final Post

Production report: Writing On the Wall + Final Animation shot

From the very start, both myself and Harry were excited about this project. We came up with the initial idea of Caroline and Astrid’s love triangle from our cards quickly, and it was clear that we were both thinking along the same lines as to what we thought would be an interesting story. However, unaware that we were at the time, the most difficult and overall most complicated part of out project ended up being just how interesting and in depth of a story we were about to create.

After coming up with an overall theme for our feature film from our cards (our cards being ‘Caroline Hershaw’, ‘Heath Robinson’, ‘Romantic - Comedy’ and ‘Writing on the Wall’) we found that this way of working, being provided with a ‘forced’ starting point, and having to work around that, was extremely useful for us. We had a flurry of ideas, and came to the complicated but seemingly interesting story that this would be a love story, set in the 1800’s, about a love triangle that only involved two ‘real’ people. Caroline Hershaw was to be a reclusive female astronomer who would have a alter ego, or male alias, Carl Hisenburg. Astrid, our other much younger protagonist, was to fall in love with Carl Hisenburg, only to have the real Caroline Hershaw fall in love with Astrid, without Astrid knowing Carl was Caroline. 

Perhaps our main fault early on was getting ahead of ourselves in all the excitement, as we felt as though we had a really solid foundation for an idea that would be interesting. However that was all that we had at that stage, a really nice foundation for a story that was not developed at all. We hadn’t really discussed how any of the story would actually unfold, except for some key points such as Astrid eventually discovering Carl’s real identity, and to have Caroline eventually ‘come out’ and accept the real her, abandoning her alias and accepting her sexuality. I think at the time, we had a really good idea of the story in our heads, but nothing was ever written down on paper properly, which left us to have varying story lines depending on who we spoke to and when we spoke about it, as we found we changed the story occasionally. 

Aside from the story itself, we were always enthusiastic about this project, and sat about designing characters and the in particular the environment. The environment was always a very important aspect to us, as we knew that we wanted to have a go at making this a stop motion from the very start, and had clear images of how, for example, Caroline house would always be in disarray, and would look like a crooked old house. As well as the environment, characters were another huge aspect. As a team, myself and harry normally excel at creating humour within our animation and ideas, and luckily for us our cards involved romantic comedy, so naturally designing stop motion characters for a romantic comedy stop motion set in the 1800’s was very productive to say the least. I think its fair to say we may have indulged slightly too much in the character design area at first, which wasn’t necessarily a terrible thing, but in retrospect it would have been more productive to have spent a bit of time concentrating on a solid story and how aspect of the props would have looked like for example. However we were able to come up with two (or three depending on how you look at it) character visual designs that I think suited our character profiles very well in the end. 

as I addressed earlier, our overall main issue was perhaps how overcomplicated we made our story. I think it was very easy for us to become over-passionate about an idea that we  initially thought seemed flawless, but in hindsight could have worked a lot more. In group presentations in the early stages, we found it incredibly hard to get the audience to completely understand the vision and story we had in our heads. On our own it was easy to discus what we thought would and wouldn’t work, and how characters progressed and overall how the story flowed. But to an audience who knew nothing about this project, I think it came across as messy and ‘not quite there’. One of our main issues was being able to come up with a very short summery of what our production was about without confusing people. We ended up writing paragraphs to try and explain the complicated love triangle situation, when really all we needed was ‘A love triangle story that only involves two people’, for example. 

 Final Animation Test Shot

Overall Im relatively happy with the end result, and the animation that we were able to achieve. I think we have created a great starting point for a story, that has a real potential of being a very entertaining and most importantly an original production. Our biggest flaw was not developing our ideas and story far enough, providing an creative and clear explanation for our story, and perhaps even our designs. I feel as though we have set up a great foundation for this project, and I am very pleased with the final animation shots that we were able to produce. 

11 Second Club Final Animation

As I decided to go with the December sound clip, there was no dialogue of any kind. Even though I was looking forward to animating lip sync, I found the December sound clip interesting as it was so incredibly open ended. My initial thoughts of this sound clip, which includes lots of deep, wooden sounding bangs and crashes, footsteps and more loud bangs, revolved around simple ideas of doors breaking, things that involved wooden objects falling, or a general sense of disarray. However after some careful thought and lots of listening, it sounded to me that this was action was taking place inside somewhere, and definitely somewhere which involved plenty of wood. This for whatever reason, became a recipe a lumber yard and a pesky beaver or two. 

I initially had drawn up the idea of a beaver that was hiding from an angry, rampaging lumberjack, who was crashing his way through logs to get to this beaver for whatever reason. However after some feedback from several meetings and peers alike, it seemed that this idea wasn't as clear to others as I had in mind. Deciding that it was vital for this 11 second to have a very simple and snappy story, I went back to the drawing board and decided that It would involved two beavers; one that would initially be running with a stolen pile of lumber who trips, falls, and hears loud, seemingly scary footsteps above. The footsteps would then stop, and another thieving beaver would fall through the ceiling, revealing to the other beaver that it was just his friend all along, not the lumberjack, and they would have a little giggle together. 

After deciding on my story, I decided animation would be most productive through use of Flash. I am confident in using Flash, and did not think it was worth learning a different medium to animate for such a short piece. I was also confident that I could create some fluid, snappy animation within Flash that would be suitable for the time frame. As my character was a beaver, my main issue was working out how this beaver would run, jump, fall, and move in general. After many animation tests, and a few live actions shots that helped me decide how he moved, it started to became slightly clearer. However, because I decided to make this character very furry, I was able to easily manipulate the character into different positions by hiding certain parts of the body in fur, making for a reasonably fluid animation. I particularly enjoyed marrying up the animation of the logs to the sound of crashing wood, as well as the falls that we hear as the beavers fall to the ground. 

Overall I am pleased with the end result from my 11 seconds of animation. I feel as though my characters and story are simple enough to be understood in the short amount of time I have to portray them. The design of the beaver character himself could have had slightly more work done to him, as I feel he is slightly on the simple side. However, as for the animation itself there are several aspects which I am quite pleased with. Most notably I feel as though I had successfully provided an adequate sense of weight throughout the animation, especially within the first half with the run and the way in which the beaver falls, squashes, and stretches out. The timing of the logs falling is slightly off on the initial fall, but I am pleased with the way I managed to get the logs to fall individually to the ground, rolling of the beaver in sync with the wooden sounds. I am also fairly pleased with the way I have attempted to create a sense of anticipation when the beaver (and audience) is waiting to find out what it is that is creating those heavy footsteps above, however I think I could have empathised the footsteps by bending the floorboards above the beaver. Lastly, I would add that I think that I saved a fair amount of time by simplifying the scene by making it all one shot, centred within he middle of the screen. By doing so, it makes the whole scene easier to read for the audience, and allows for snappier animation.

FINAL 11 second animation

11 second club assignment

The 11 second club pretty famous and non-exclusive club, which has been running for years. Its basically a competition, where a sound clip is uploaded once a month, which could be anything from sound effects or a speech from a film which is 11 seconds. You then have to animate to the sound without editing the sound file at all.

So we have been assigned essentially that task, however we have been given around 6 weeks rather than a month to complete it.

We are using the december sound file, which has no dialogue in at all (unfortunately, would have liked to have done some lip syncing!) The video below is a random example of animation linked the sound file we are using. (its not mine!)

So I have had to come up with a short (11 second) story and animate to this sound file. My original idea sparked from the familiar sounds of wood within the clip. So naturally I thought of  a beaver (?) and a lumberjack; perhaps the beaver had stolen wood from the lumberjack and he was chasing / looking for him. I ended up completely removing the lumberjack aspect and instead replaced him with another beaver friend. Its a very simple idea but I think it needs to be to fit the time frame.