Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Film... and a bit about Svankmajer

Unforunately I'm feeling a bit behind in my course as I was ill and had to return home for a week. Just before this happened we began our next modules, Digital Film Production and Fundamentals of 3D Modelling and Animation, which I've already written about.

For Digital Film, the brief is in two parts: for the first part we were meant to create a 1-minute instructional video. The second part, which we just started yesterday, is a live brief which involves creating a film inspired by a poem from the amateur poetry group Stanza Stones.

I decided to instruct how to make cake in a mug, as it's simple, quick, and involves cake. After a failed hurried attempt - I couldn't get a tripod, so I tried to film it all handheld going for the energetic "Jamie Oliver" sort of cooking scene, but it just looked really bad - I'm going to aim to film and edit it by next week (eek).

I wasn't sure exactly what direction to take with this video. Many people in my class opted to go the humorous route but if I tried that it'd probably fall flat...

As this coincided with a seminar on stop motion animation, I'm considering doing something involving pixilation. For the "instructional" part, I'm going to do something with food.

Seeing as these are two subjects favoured by famous surrealist animator Jan Svankmajer, I thought I'd have a look at his work.

I find his films captivating because they are bizarrely funny but have a very disturbing quality. He does this through his use of animation, mix of media and exaggerated sound effects. He's inspiring me to be fearless with my work and stretch it as far as my skills will let me.
Let's just hope I'm not being too ambitious!

The Skillful Huntsman

I found a book in the college's library: The Skillful Hunstman by Design Studio Press. I flicked through and was instantly drawn in by the stylised conceptual drawings, so decided to take it out for a better look.

Inspired by fairytales - in this case a tale from the Brothers Grimm - it follows the design process, from rough silhouette sketching to final rendered visions, of three talented students: Khang Le, Felix Yoon and Mike Yamada. It includes designs for an array of characters, environments, props and vehicles.

I really liked this book, for various reasons.

Firstly, the fact that it follows three artists under the judgement of their tutor, rather than just one artist, shows very interestingly how an artist has their own unique way of working; there are no set "rights" and "wrongs". For instance, some artists started off with very rough sketches that slowly became more refined, and others were quite intricate even early in the process. It also featured them describing their process and why they choose to work like that, which as a student is very helpful for me in showing how I should write my own analyses.

From a design perspective, it was a trove of inspiration and guidance. I'd never fully understood the importance of designing silhouettes, but now I'm aware of how significant an interesting silhouette is in creating a recognisable, unique character. It also emphasised how I should spend more time in the early stages of the design process experimenting with as many different looks as I can think of, as more often than not a more interesting design will pop up in your mind following experimentation. This was an error I made in my last character design project where I settled quite quickly with a look for my character.

For example, for the "vehicle", the artists looked at a wide range of options from motorcycles to great monsters with saddles across their backs, and even then there were many varieties of monsters. It really opened my eyes to delving into my imagination and creating truly unique ideas.

This book is the most helpful documentation of the creative process I've read so far. I'd certainly recommend it to anybody interested in character and concept design.

Graffiti and Street Art

Graffiti comes from the Italian word a graffiare, which means "to scratch"; the term was used to describe drawings found carved into the walls of ancient ruins and sacred locations, but has since evolved to encompass all types of artwork that constitutes vandalism.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Basic animating in Maya

Today we had quite an intensive course on how to animate with Maya. We began with simple experimentation, then were given a couple of exercises to complete. The first one was a swinging pendulum; we had to make the movement more naturalistic by manually editing the animation graph so that the "swing" of the pendulum followed through/overlapped. 

Here is the animation graph, showing the gradual increase then sudden stop and follow through of the pendulum's swing in this film.

As with the modelling I initially found these exercises challenging, mainly down to the fact I kept forgetting to set my key frames so none of my animation would show. However I do feel that towards the end of the day I grew more comfortable with the software and was able to create the desired effects.

The thought of creating an intricate model and rigging it still seems a long, long way off, but these are my first attempts at digital animation and learning each part of the process and noticing my progress is a great experience in itself. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm really striving to work on my digital colouring skills.
I practised today by colouring a self portrait (which turned out really creepy, so I'm not going to upload it here). I then decided to experiment with a different brush style, so opted for the rough-edged, "chalky" brush as opposed to the smooth default one. I really liked the outcome, I thought it gave the overall image a much more lively and animated feel. I've also been working with textures, and spent some time playing with the filter settings until I got the desired effect.

(the drawing is of a character of mine)

And again, trying out textures and seeing what interesting effects they create. This is just a cartoony self-portrait.

Artists: Lois van Baarle

Really beautiful and serene animation from graduate artist Lois van Baarle. She uses simple but stylistic shapes, textures and mellow music to really draw the viewer in to this little alternative world.
She's also posted a video demonstrating the creation process, which will be helpful for any of my future projects involving 2D animation.

Trichrome Progress from Lois van Baarle on Vimeo.

She has an extensive online gallery which showcases her vibrant, colourful style which makes similar use of textures and stylisation to create quite a unique impression.
I'm envious of her colouring skills.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fundamentals of 3D Modelling and Animation - Maya

I've finally been introduced to 3D modelling software! This week we've been learning the basics of Maya. Initially I was quite intimidated by the vast number of tools, boxes, hotkeys, etc. but we were given a tutorial to follow to create a simple truck shape. After nearly losing my temper a few times I managed to complete the tutorial in half an hour or so. Here is the result!

The next part of this module involves creating a short 3D CGI film. I'm really looking forward to grasping the functions of Maya and other software, and learning to create more complex shapes.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Artists: Ben Templesmith

I'm not a regular reader of comics and graphic novels - I am interested in familiarising myself with them but there's simply too many to choose from, I don't know where to begin. But, if something really catches my eye I like to take time to study the artwork and techniques used in visually conveying a story.

One of these was 30 Days of Night: Red Snow, which introduced me to Ben Templesmith. His illustrations are loosely drawn in a eerie, gothic style that perfectly fits the atmosphere of the story. 

Through further research I've become more interested in looking for Templesmith's other work, and I also came across this interview in which he speaks about a variety of topics, including the importance of an education (or lack thereof) in being a successful artist, and a glimpse at the economical side of being an artist. 

His work is partly traditional and partly digital, showing how the two mediums can be combined to create the most effective results. I found some additional info here, in particular an idea of his work process: 

"Templesmith’s artistic process often starts with pens and watercolours to produce a preliminary piece which he then finishes with various Photoshop layering techniques. To explore his process in-depth check out issue 44 of Advanced Photoshop Magazine. He also occasionally provides insights into his process on his personal website where he posts progress shots of various works."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Twining's "Gets You Back To You"

I came across Twining's "Gets You Back To You" advert on the television the other week, and thought it was really beautiful. I'm sure we can all relate to the feeling of being overwhelmed by the world around us, as expressed in this film. This, combined with a well-known emotive song makes for a very touching advert. 

It was created by the company Psyop who have made many other great animated commercials that have certainly made the 5-minute break in my show less tedious. I enjoy seeing adverts that look like they've been created with care and artistry, and not just for the purpose of persuading you to buy a product.