Reviewing the module

toby

Looking towards the start of the module there was a lot of pressure with looking at both the dissertation and this module. At the time I had thought to myself that I had plenty of time and was much more focused on completing my dissertation than doing my final major project. I have used the research within my dissertation towards this project, but now feel as though I neglected the project too much compared to my dissertation. From the dissertation I was able to learn a lot of the theoretical aspects of animation, as well as beginning to understand the emotional and somewhat romantic connotations of animation and how they are used and produced. There was a lot of research into the process as well as the creation of animation that allowed for a smoother transition from theory to implementation. This was also helped through the lessons I had learned from creating the short pieces of animation within the independent practice module. Within that module I had been able to begin to get a grasp of the amount of planning and organization that is needed within any animation. Although the dissertation did not turn out as well as I’d hoped or thought it did, the actual act of learning it and getting the research paid off far more than the grade. I felt as though I had begun to take my education into my own hands and was able to teach myself and understand aspects of animation that I wouldn’t have learnt or researched into had I of asked those questions. It feels as though this last module and the dissertation where a lot more free and less constricted, having being able to develop them both within my own space and developing my own methods of process and application from all that I have learned over the last three years.

The final piece of work that I will be handing in is not the desired final product of hand in, but the reason I use the term hand in piece is due to the realization I had about this short film within the last two weeks before hand in. I knew that the actual animation would not be able to be finished within the hand in date completely. This comes about from some of the threats pointed out earlier at the start of the project when I had looked at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats within the brief I had set myself. It’s clear that certain points had affected the project more than others, these being set around the team and my own organization of the brief. There were several issues that came up when dealing with the various team members.
Ruth Liddell, Level 6 Interior Design, was the first crew member to slowly go off the list of cast. Sadly with Ruth, I had spent a lot of time waiting around for her to come back with references, research and any work to do with the project. At the time of the start of the project she had been incredibly busy with her own work and was travelling around and sadly forgot to inform me of where she was or what she was doing. It was the first minor set back but I had to get the project going so began to work on what I was asking her to help me with. Rachel King, Level 5 Visual Communications, was the second cast member to go off the cast list, as she was too busy to be able to help with any of the colouring or other work. She had informed me that she would try and help where possible, but it was clear to see she had enough work of her own and sadly all the colouring was left to Sacha or myself. This was quite clear at the start of the project as she was unable to attend any meeting although she did come in time to time to check on how we were. There were sadly a few issues here and there with Jade. The issue was she had for some reason not turned up to meetings even though she said she would. Once having done the characters and character sheets, she did complete the character turn around and they looked a lot better.
James Flanagan, Level 6 Graphic Design, was very hard to get hold of throughout the entire project. I could never really find him and waited around for his work a lot, having to ask for help from Liam Rushfirth to find him. When we were able to get the work from James it was very good and interesting. Hannah McCann, Level 5 Visual Communications, was very good at animating and I was pleased to ask her to help me animate, but her own timing and organization of her work has not gone well with the timing of this project. It started off a lot later than I had planned and she had only started animating late, which I had to wait around for once again. Andy and myself had decided to not do the 3D run through, as we didn’t see the need in the end to do so. Andy later is going to hopefully just help with the postproduction again before sending the work off to festivals. Sacha, Abi Sharp, Level 6 Visual Communications, Liam Rushfirth, Level 6 Graphic Design, and Natalie Fyfe, Level 6 Art & Design Interdisciplinary, had all done work on time and as planned otherwise and it was exciting to see the work come together when it did and I was glad about this team coming to together although I would say that they had helped the most. Danny Cooper had come in fairly late due to the animations being completed and laid out fairly late. Although once we had the sound there were just moments when he was only able to do a little bit but he had synced it very well. It was interesting to see the work he had come up with from the descriptions I gave him.

The team management was slow at first but then it developed well and I think I got a better control over what was going on. It did help with all the research but overall it seemed as though there was just too much work to the number of animators more specifically. The animating took a lot longer than expected with only myself on the animating apart from the yeti. I felt as though I could have done the animating and the short film in general, but having to consider directing and the other areas now, I would re-consider the size for the first thing. I don’t believe I fully understood the workload at the time until much later into the project, but I still felt as though I could and wanted to create the animation. Through out the project I tried many times to cut down the animation, but I was only able to lose certain parts of it. I knew that I had to eventually lose more and more but this also meant I could revisit the story and see what did and didn’t work. I knew that I still wanted to tell an interesting story that doesn’t jump too much and has the energy and interest to keep audience watching. I wanted to keep the style and narrative flowing as I had designed in the start, as well as taking and utilizing the points I’ve learnt within other animations. It was slow at points due to the genuine fear I had over the project, thinking I would be unable to produce what was expected or simply for my own skill. But when I was able to get out of that ‘slump’, it was able to open my eyes too much more interesting, fun and experimental work.

I understand now at the end of the animation, with the short film being aimed towards a degree, it was too much pressure to do it and be in charge of and do so much work was a bad idea. Being able to learn and develop my skills within all aspects of animation though has only come about from this challenge I had set myself. Having challenged myself with every brief before hand, I knew how much stress and work I was bringing upon myself but still wanted that excitement and task. I was able to apply the old techniques I had learned previously and brought them into developing the new skills I now have. I was also able to explore a piece of software I thought I had already known a lot about (Photoshop) as well as develop skills in new areas and establish my skills in animation and other software.
I’ve been lucky to also had a lot of professional practitioners and other people help me develop my professional practice as well as gaining new contacts through this module using my showreel and development work from the short animation as an area for discussion. The idea of a team as well had helped with not just the workload, but also the ability to have many minds working at once with different ideas and specialisms. It was comforting to have someone with a similar passion I have for animation, as his or her respective area of focus. I had learnt more through leadership and the act of working with others, than any other module within the degree course. Having to show everyone the work and keep people up to date whilst always trying to keep the momentum and excitement was a challenging but very good task.

With this project haven taken the best part of 5 months, it seems I was too crazy with the idea that I could complete it within that time. It was too much to do within such a short time although I am happy with just how much I’ve been able to learn and do. It may not seem like a lot to myself at times, but when I consider how much research and development has taken place and how much animating, just myself, have done with the learning of technology and constant development of my professional practice and contacts, it seems like it’s been worth while. I did ask myself a lot near the end of this module, what was I really aiming to achieve? Was the animation just a piece to show off my skills/as showreel content? I considered these questions and brought it down to, I wanted to tell a story and tell it through a traditionally animated story looking at colour, shape and composition to expressively tell the story.
My aim may have slightly changed and it may have been more of a challenge and fun to create something I have yet to have been able to fully finish, but I feel as though this is the only project I’ve been more than willing to keep working on. One major thing I learnt over the project, over all the software skills, production knowledge and analyzing, is that I’ve only had 2 years to properly develop my animation skills and within those 2 years I’ve leapt forward with lots of help and advice. I can only grow more and more and keep having confidence in my work and my self.

Here, have a bibliography

An insanely large piece of document that will most likely have various pieces of reference and research missing in terms of links, book names, magazines and other such details. There’s around 12 pages of festivals, books, websites, and films written down from this module that aided in the design, implementation and creation of my final major project.

Bibliography

It is a mixture of reference and research that has mixed with previous modules due to their greater impact on my work in general, as well as things that always seem to come back around. If you’re ever interested in the actual links and other areas I have looked in to create my animation, then feel free to download the .pdf link above.

Final Crit

We had our final crit last week and it was great but also incredibly scary at the same time, although it was with just our other class mates it was scary to hear what they had to say. It was interesting to see how the other course mates would react to the work because no one had yet to fully see the work and it was good to know what they think about the style, composition and narrative.

Interestingly the feedback was good and it was great to see the whole course interested in each others work, taking the time to read each others briefs and really analysing the work. The whole course year feels as though it’s stepped up an entire level and was really exciting for me to see everyone elses work as well. But in terms of my feedback it was interesting to see what everyone would think as they have their own specialities even within our course, so it was good to see it from various perspectives.

feedback1

feedback2

Above is the sheet I had used for my feedback which I have scanned in with some good points to consider and change. I think the main issue with the timing of this presentation is that I have a larger project that I had anticipated so the animation isn’t all there. I know now that the animation will not be finished for the hand in, but I will be working on it for festivals and end of year show which will mean I want it finished by the end of this month.
I’ve come to be a little bit more relaxed with the whole thing since the presentation and know that what I have done hasn’t gone to waste, this is not just for the animation itself but all the research and time I’ve taken to build up all the work. The next thing to do with this is to take all this feedback, make some changes to the work I have so far and then finish the rest of the animation.

All Animated

I was able to finally attended a Leeds All Animated meet up session over at the Adelphi. It was nice to see my friends of All Animated once again and get to see what they and others within All Animated are up too, with some new information and things to look at. Below is a scan of some of my notes on the night, perhaps they may not make sense but a lot of the night was spent looking at some lovely work and just sharing cool things.

all_animated

I did get to show my most recent showreel and some of the work that has gone into the short animation so far, but of course there’s still lots to do. I did get some wonderful feedback on them and some great pointers. Something I didn’t realise until the night was the audience range and where I could actually send the animation once it’s complete. I never thought about sending it to Child specific film festivals and the breadth of different areas. Some of the notes include different places to send it off to as well as other areas to look into.

The main thing I wanted to see however was the reaction to the animation so far and the direction it’s heading in. I got some great feedback on that respect and both myself and Hannah were able to see and get to hear the thoughts on how it is going so far with the animating and imagery. We got some great feedback though and feels as though I need to be less harsh on myself when animating, even though I do know I need to learn a lot more.
I’ll be heading down to the next meeting and hopefully by the next one the animation will be done and we’ll be able to show the whole thing in all its glory.

Animate & Duplicate

I’ve mentioned a few times about animating within Photoshop but I haven’t yet spoken too much about the act of animating within Photoshop without any sort of detail. Although I have not used Photoshop for animating before this project, I decided to go on ahead and learn how to animate within it due to its image quality, style and ease of use with other Adobe software. It wasn’t learning a software all over again though due to the amount I use Photoshop already but it definitely taught me more about the software and opened up a whole load of other capabilities.
I had practiced using the animating side before and had a peek at it, but the content that people put up about animating within Photoshop was efficient and didn’t feel as if that was all was capable within the software. The majority of tutorials and other programs that look into animating within Photoshop, look at the timeline as a frame by frame image approach, using each layer as a separate frame. This of course does seem logical but time-consuming as well as confusing as I’d want to work at 24 frames per second. So with Annabeth I looked using the other form of timeline but instead of thinking with just layers, we looked at whether or not you could create a canvas with individual frames. We of course knew this could be possible because in the other timeline layout it gives you the frame number and general timeline bar. The workspace resembled the ones seen within Flash and other animating software, so by looking within layer options it became clear that you could alter and add to this. From there it all started off and we had found the video layer options.

video_layer

From here you can edit the frame options as well as of course creating a new ‘video layer’ which allows you to look at a piece of footage frame by frame. My personal guess is that this layer option would have been created for video footage and being able to do slight editing or any other image based work and looking at footage frame by frame, however what ever it was mainly for, it works very well with the principle of frame by frame animation. Now I knew how I could animate and knowing I could apply everything I’ve learnt within the last modules and dissertation into this animation, I could get on with trying to animate.

Of course this became a big issue and one thing I didn’t realise would be so easy to sort out. It took a few tests with Hannah, Annabeth and Sacha but we worked out simply not to mess with the timeline options for fps. If there was ever a change in frame rate, the frames would not work properly and this was turning out to be a real pain when trying to use other layer features like inserting a blank frame or duplicating. So we needed to find a way to get the canvas to 24 fps or something close, of course there isn’t an option for this that I know of yet. So we had to substitute and use the PAL layout which I could then change the screen size of.

PAL

PAL is a screen format and setting that is close enough to the layout I need to be able to later change the canvas size to fit HD format. The issue that was sorted out though was mainly looking at the fps. PAL setting is luckily 25 fps and although it is only one frame more, it is the closest I can get to the frame size I needed within the animation. From here I could animate just as would do within Flash or work with in terms of traditional practice of paper. I used each frame as if it was paper but utilised Photoshops helpful layer system and economically used the various layer options to help me animate more efficiently and in some cases more effectively.

image_size

25fps

At first I was simply animating the rough lines of the movement, something I had learnt to need to do a lot more of from advice from people such as Joanna Quinn and others, but this helped me get a rough idea of the movement and timing. From there I would then create more defined line but I still liked the rough animated feel to the work, the lines stayed but i took too long on the actual line work and animating still. I thought about my method and decided to take it even further back with general shapes and lines for the movement. I was then able to line everything up and work out all the animating aspect and focus on the movement. Once I had decided that was right I went in and tided up the animation and drew more cleaner line work and filled out the characters ready for Sacha to colour.

outline

Even though the animating is all done within Photoshop, I still feel most comfortable with paper and a pen and this was more prominent when I was trying to test the movements or understand the shot. I always prefer to draw out something on paper before animating or doing any other work on it and I’ve been able to use quite a lot of scrap pieces of paper and notebooks to do so. An example of this is a scan of one of the pages in one of my sketchbooks where I’ve just jotted down notes and tried to break apart different movements. This is something I need to expand and build upon within my own time after the project and observe and learn other movements and try to exaggerate and animate them later.

animating_notes

OCD files

Because I’ve simply just been animating away, I haven’t really had much chance to do anything else apart from organise the team, getting all the separate pieces of work and animate away on Photoshop. So I’ve been very careful with my files within this project with so many people as well as having so much work. I needed to make sure that I knew where everything is and what everything is, this would also help in the editing and post production work.

files

Above is a screenshot of just one of the folders within my project file, looking at one of the acts and then the separate parts within that one-act. Each shot is separated into one Photoshop file, similar to the layout within the storyboard, and coloured and animated within that one file to then have them come together in editing. This has made it a lot easier to play with the shots and make any changes necessary, it’s also been a lot easier to pass files to other team mates such as Sacha who has had to colour in the shots. Each shot within the act has its own separate number and name depending on where it fits and what is going on within the shot, and then when I export them they also have a separate folder for outline and colour. The reason for the two separate folders was at first for the change in line colour I had mentioned in an earlier post, but now it’s become a useful part of the editing process and I can later play with the colours and lighting of the characters a little bit more.

It was very important for me to have everything ready, organised and labelled within this project from the start and that goes from my folders, to the actual files themselves. When we started working within Photoshop I had asked the entire team to work on separate layers, so we could play with the depth and multiple layer effects, and make sure everything is labelled accordingly. It was a little slow to start but in the end we became very good at understanding each others habits with the files and using correcting naming orders. It became a lot more easier and more efficient when everything was clear and starting to come together.

layers

Music to my ears

Once I had the first Act sorted out, I could then pass it on to Danny who could then sync the tracks that he had already half made to the animation.

fc

Although realistically this would be done the other way around apart from foley sounds, it felt to me as if I didn’t have all the time I wanted as well as not knowing what sort of music I was going for. Again I wanted Danny to bring something different to the table and he definitely has with this one. It was exciting to hear the sound with the footage and in time. Hopefully it won’t take Danny long to do the other ones but he had already pre-developed the music with all the beats, syncs and other sounds all stored already.

Post Production

I got busy doing some post production from the files I had and started working the backgrounds and character animations within After Effects. I started just putting the separate image sequences into After Effects where I could then use the alpha channelled image sequences, putting them in at 24 fps and putting the background in.

AE

At first I had put the colour and outlines within one image sequence and then put them into after effects with the background, but then there was a mutual decision to change the outline colour. At first I was going to keep the line colour blue in order to try to capture that hand drawn and rough feel that I like about the blue lined test in animations. This however looked unfinished to a lot of people, so myself and Hannah tested out some new colour lines and I decided to go back into the dark maroon colour we once had for the characters. This was easy to do of course because we already had them in separate layers and I could copy and paste the ‘effect’ onto the other layers.

Because of this and the frame cropping, I felt it would be easier to do all the shots within After Effects and edit it all together within Final Cut Pro. This of course was a bad idea with the size of the image sequences and the whole act 1 all together. Apart from Act 1 I began to change the layout of the shots and I have split up the After Effects files and only do any actual editing within Final Cut Pro.

Maurice Noble

Looking at backgrounds and art work, I forgot to blog one man who if I forgot completely, I would be absolutely disgusted with myself.
For those who don’t know who Maurice Noble is,
“Maurice Noble (May 1, 1911 – May 18, 2001) was an American animation background artist and layout designer whose contributions to the industry spanned more than 60 years. He was a long-time associate of animation director Chuck Jones, most notably at Warner Bros. in the 1950s. His work contributed to such cartoon classics as Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century, What’s Opera, Doc?, and the Road Runner series.”

Noble was a man with an incredible skill and eye for composition, light, colour and line. Even though I do tend to go on about people such as Chuck Jones an awful lot, I do understand also that without people like Noble and Mel Blanc, he wouldn’t be what he is known as today. I have definitely found a new understanding and admiration for those teams that work together to create amazing beautiful pieces.

Reference Observation Reference Observation

The one thing that I’ve really missed from this project is the amount of reference I could have used to create some of the animations. I found a few pieces of reference on good old YouTube and had already captured one or two pieces. I did get to re-use a lot of footage and the majority of the reference and observation I used was either acted out by myself whilst animating.

Useful reference,

IMAG0510

Of course there are masters of the art of reference and observation and non other than looking at the classic reference and observation footage of Disney’s classic films.

It’s clear that they knew how to utilize the reference that they could capture and watch and that this was a key point to animating. Something I must develop in my own time is looking at developing my own drawing skills and observation skills. This development of skill will be coming about from more outings and going to travel around to try to understanding and learn about movement. Something exciting to add to this is that I didn’t realise until Sacha had found out with myself and her younger sister about being able to get a ticket that allows you on the platform for only 20p. This could be quite useful in the future in the ability to use it as a means to get reference and study more movement as well as developing my drawing skills.