Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Editing and adding sound

With the production side of things now completed it was time to do the post production and the final finishing touches.

The editing was done by Mohammed and myself collaboratively however he edited the visual side and I added onto that the audio.

Although im not to sure as to the details of how the editing was done, I do know that it was put together on Adobe After effects CS4 by simply importing all the individual frames, setting the frame rate to 24 fps and simply arranging everything where it needed to be. When that was done Mohammed then passed it along to me to add the sound.

Rather then using a dope sheet however this time, we simply decided to add the sound on top afterwards so the first thing I did was find a suitable instrumental soundtrack, edit it to the approximate time length of the animation and add some effects. However as it was not fully animated I had to wait till the next day before I could add more sound effects so after a day of animating Mohammed would take the next bit home and put that together. That was then passed on to me where I could add more on top.

To edit the instrumental I used a program called Wavepad Sound Editor which allowed me to edit all sorts such as amplify the sound or soften it, fade in or fade out or simply just cut whole chunks out.

By looking at the timing of the video I could work out where the soundtrack needed to be louder and where it needed to be quieter for example when the bandits look at Trinity after realising who he is, the sound becomes more dominant and louder and also the howling wind in the first few seconds is a LOT louder as he is still outside.

At first I was going to mix the entire thing on a mixing program however me and Mohammed decided it would be easier and more accurate if we just imported the sounds as individual files into After effects which is exactly what we did.

Animating Stop Motion

With the pre production stage complete and a few test shots done it was time to move on to the real deal. We as a group decided that the best way to animate was to do all the bandit scenes in one consistent run and then all of Trinity's scenes in one go and then it could be edited later. Being the only one who has done stop motion before I did most of the animating.

I think that the decisions we made in the planning stage definately helped in this stage as we had put some thought into how practical certain things were for example; The fact that Trinity could be bolted down meant he was an easier character to move however the downside of this was because he was bolted down, after doing the pre production tests I realised that he could not be pivoted and even if he was then the part of his body that was in shot had to appear not to be pivoting.

I think the other major problem I had with animating was that not everything was stuck down properly. Alot of the final product is very jumpy and that is due to accidental nudges and then not being able to put the object back in the same place. So for anyone who is doing stop motion animation, STICK EVERYTHING DOWN THAT DOES NOT NEED TO MOVE! ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING!! However the fact that we had a large group meant that everytime I needed to move the character, I could have 2 - 3 people holding stuff down to prevent me from knocking anything over.

The other problem for our group was the fact that we could not feed our image through a computer and consequently we had no onion skin facility. To make things worse, the SLR camera we were using didnt even show the shot in the screen until we took it. This caused major problems as we could literally not see what we were doing until we had finished.

While animating I was given the chance to improvise and use that to try create a bit of character performance, these were little things such as tapping a table, putting a deck of cards down or even a quick glance over to the other character. I think that the little things like that really do help to give the characters a little edge and can also help to give them a bit of a personality.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Pre Production Tests

With the set completed and the characters in the final stages we were ready to do some tests to see how well we could animate the characters and see how it would look as a piece of animation.

I was given the task of being one of the lead animators so these tests were very neccesary for me to see how the shot worked. The first scene to test was the initial scene where Trinity walks up to the saloon doors.

Test 1

What I like about this test:

- The framing is almost perfect for this shot.
- I like how the background remains out of focus and blurry whilst all the attention is on Trinity.

What I dont like about this test:

- The movement is completely wrong as it looks like he is swaying side to side, due to the legs being firmly bolted down.
- Theres not enough movement with his poncho from the desert wind.

Test 2

What I like about this test:

- I like the idea of having one dead on the floor and the other on the table with his arm slipping off the table as deadweight.
- I like the camera angling.

What I dont like about this test:

- The animation was sloppy in this test.
- The tables need to be strengthened as they can not take the weight of the characters.

Test 3

What I like about this test:

- I like the dominance that Trinity has as he walks into the saloon

What I dont like about this test:

- The composition and framing looks off and it would be better if you couldnt see his legs.
- His animated walk is very sloppy and he looks like he is waltzing. This is due to the bolts in his feet and rather then lifting the leg, I had been pivoting the leg instead. THIS DOES NOT WORK UNLESS THE LEGS ARE OUT OF THE SHOT....

These tests have provided a great insight into how to animate him and maybe I should study the walks of western outlaws depicted in movies to use as reference. The other main issue is to not show the legs when trying to make the character move.

Set Design and Research

What really makes a western is the rugged old wooden saloon doors that creak when they open leading to a dark dingy little saloon with wanted posters plastered all over the walls right????

Apart from really old photographs and movie sets theres not alot to go by so I found abit of historical information about saloons on the net.

'A Western saloon is a kind of bar particular to the Old West. Saloons served such customers as fur trappers, cowboys, soldiers, gold prospectors and miners, and gamblers. The first saloon was established at Brown’s Hole, Wyoming, in 1822, to serve fur trappers. The popularity of saloons in the nineteenth-century American West is attested to by the fact that even a town of 3,000 residents, such as 1883’s Livingston, Montana, boasted 33 saloons.' (www.wikipedia.org)

The batwing saloon doors are most commonly associated with the saloons of the old west and so it looked like that was one feature we were definately going to use on our set design.

We also decided as a group we could cut down our time by not creating full sets as we could take advantage of the type of shots that are shown in westerns. Looking from the storyboard we only need 2 backgrounds and a floor for one of the scenes so rather then spending time on the full set we decided to only do what was neccesary.

Exterior of a saloon

These are a few pictures I took when I visited Universal studios in Los Angeles and saw some of the sets used in the movies. The detail on these sets are amazingly accurate and they really give a sense of the old west. This is the kind of look we wanted to approach. The front of the saloon was created by Mohammed of which he took his inspiration from Back to the Future 3.

This would create the background for the first scene of which we used the same piece of set and all I did was simply stain it and we could use it as the inside part as well as the outside.

The set itself was also designed to be practical in terms of the animation. As the character of Trinity had holes drilled into his feet, and the floor of the set was an elevated piece of plastic, that meant we could drill holes into the set and bolt down the character in order to animate him walking alot easier.

This helped keep the character bolted down and as the legs are not seen in the shot, this means that we could focus more on the upper body when animating and not have to worry about holding the character down from the legs or feet.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Character Design

Character design is always an interesting part of the production and yet I found this one of the most difficult tasks of this project. At first it sounds easy to create a cowboy named Trinity but as I progresses I realised that no matter what I drew, I still ended up with a Clint Eastwood lookalike.

I wanted to move away from the cliche cowboy gunslinger character and look more deeply into the personality and traits of the characters as individuals. I tried to think alot about the performance I could portray with different characters. I thought back to Ed Hooks' masterclass and tried to show that the characters had a goal and constantly changing their actions to reach their objective. I wanted to create characters that we as the audience could empathise with, regardless of them being 'good' or 'bad characters.

Again I give Clint Eastwood as an example to how a character with a certain personality can be portrayed.

He has a cigarillo constantly in his mouth while he works, he generally has a very mysterious personality as someone 'new in town'. Very rugged clothing, a warm sheep skin vest to keep him warm shows he spends alot of time outdoors as he needs to stay warm at night in the desert. His poncho can be used to conceal his pistol which he never goes anywhere without showing that he is someone who is always followed by or goes looking for trouble. In the days of the old west people could tell where a cowboy was from simply by his hat, if the brim was wide that often meant that he came from somewhere where the sun is very strong and constant.

Instead of looking at Trinity as Jonathan was already doing the designs for him, I decided to look at one of the bounty hunters and thought of a personality to give him. I thought of of using a real person as a basis of my characters personality and this is what I came up with.

Using the personality of one of my friends I took some of his qualities:

- Often drunk and abit out of control
- Never EVER takes anything serious
- Enjoys pushing the situation to the limit
- Doesn't take jokes as well as he can hand them out

I thought this would be an interesting approach to a character and did a few sketches however we as a group decided our characters and mine was not picked.

The character of Trinity was eventually decided to be created by Mohammed. I really like this character as he really does have a no nonsense look about him. Again the influences of Clint Eastwoods character can be seen in this character with hat and the use of a poncho.

The idea for the bounty hunters was to have one big who was really the muscle and one small who was the brains of the two, much like the characters of Rocky & Mugsy from Looney Toons.

For these bounty hunters, money making is their objective. They notice Trinity has the traits of someone running away from whoever and see it as a way of making a couple of bucks. When they find out who he actually is they realise they are in danger and as a response to their need for survival they try to shoot him.


As always the first thing to do once there was is a clear idea outlined is to create a storyboard. In terms of storyboarding with this particular script is the fact that because it is a western, we have the advantage of the cinematography style typical to this genre. This includes many close ups, medium shots and long establishing shots. This is something I personally believe we should exploit and so discussing this with my group, we have decided that not only will the typical shots that are seen in westerns help establish a mood, it will also make our life as animators easier as we do not have to show the legs in the shots.

I couldn't find a storyboard from any westerns however this is a storyboard style compilation of stills from Fistful of Dollars. However you can see the shots that are commonly used in the western genre....

- Close ups of the face to show the tension and emotion in the characters face, particularly in a scene of confrontation.

- Medium shots, mainly with two characters showing the relationship between both characters

- Establishing long shots which set the scene or mood or simply letting us know that we are in a dusty old western town.

I think though one of the most effective shots is when the camera is behind the character and we only see his legs in the foreground and in the background we see the other character. These two characters usually have large importance in the narrative and this conflict usually effects the whole outcome of the narrative.

Bearing all this in mind I went on to create my own storyboard (this can be seen in my RVJ) trying to take advantage of the cinematography and apply it as much as possible. As a group though, we all did our own storyboards and there were very interesting ideas coming from all directions. In the end we decided to go with Mohammed's storyboard which was the simplest yet it still retained the important qualities to creating the mood.

This is the final storyboard that was used for the animation although a few shots were improvised, where Trinity turns around when he hears the gun click we have a close up that cuts straight to a medium shot of him shooting the 2 bandits. This idea was inspired by a scene from the matrix when we first meet morpheus. I thought the use of a seamless cut would add to the tension of that moment.

Unfortunately I cant find a video to embed however im sure we all remember it.

Code of the West

Just for research purposes I thought I would look into what is known as the code of the west. A new code of behavior was becoming acceptable in the West. People no longer had a duty to retreat when threatened. This was a departure from British common law that said you must have your back to the wall before you could protect yourself with deadly force. In 1876 an Ohio court held if attacked you were not “obligated to fly”. The Indiana Supreme Court upheld the legality of ‘no duty to retreat”. The code of the West dictated that a man did not have to back away from a fight. He could also pursue an adversary even if it resulted in death. He needed to retreat no further than “the air at his back”.

This probably led to alot of show down style gun fights and consequently possible deaths yet in this era, it was seen as justice. An eye for an eye was something that was literally followed to the letter yet this was society for the people of this era and it was seen as a norm.

Not quite an exact re-enactment of the code of the west but hilarious nonetheless.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

The Wild Wild West!

When we think of the Wild Wild West the first thing that comes into our mind is cowboys, gunslinging bandits, open plains and Clint Eastwood Movies. But how was the real wild wild west??? I decided to look into that time period to see the truths behind it all and how different it may possibly have been to what is depicted by the entertainment industry.

The character Trinity is considered to be....

- The fastest gun in the west
- A wanted man (not specified whether by the law or criminals)
- Someone who does the work of the devil
- A laid back character without a care in the world, much like the roaming cowboys of the west
- Someone who goes with the flow and takes him wherever life takes him.

Sounds alot like a cliche outlaw of the west.... or does it???

I looked into many of the considered legendary outlaws of the wild west, outlaws such as Billy the Kid, Jesse James, the Dalton gang and various other 'considered' outlaws of the west.

Billy the kid was seen as a notorious outlaw yet he was also considered as a folk hero which means he couldn't possibly have been too bad of a person right???? Like many gunfighters of the "Old West", Billy the Kid enjoyed a reputation built partly on exaggerated accounts of his exploits. He was credited with killing atleast 20 people however the actual figure is said to be closer to 4. A majority of his crimes were armed robberies and escaping from jail. He was also considered to be very popular amongst the hispanic community and seen as a helper of the poor, much like Robin Hood from english folklore.

The settings of the Wild west diminished as the rest of the newly formed United States of America began to move in with the help of the railways and much of the Old West became legend later to be depicted in Hollywood Classics, many of these known to be in the spaghetti western genre.

Clint Eastwood from Fistful of Dollars, an iconic figure in the Western Genre. I can see alot of the character design for our own characters portraying the characters played by Clint Eastwood. How different it is from what was the reality of the West is hard to tell but looking to connect with the audience, this may be a great way of showing that.

HOWEVER it is also important to try and depict the reality to as closely as possible even for the animation. As a group we discussed certain elements we felt would be important to include in the animation.

To depict the reality we had a few points:

- Common among most men of the West, particularly in the saloons was the passtime of playing poker in which we would really like to include, although its not in the script, we decided we would make the bandits play poker as Trinity walks into the saloon.

- We discussed and came to the conclusion that the clothing had to really give the feel of the old west, PARTICULARLY the Strepson hat which is the very thing that defines a western.

- We would have to reference real pictures from the era to try re-create and match that.

These were just a few points we discussed as a group before we all went off to do our character designs.

They Call Me Trinity

For this project it was simple (if only). 3 scripts, pick one.... One group of our choice and the aim to produce a stop motion animation for the script. We decided to go with 'They Call Me Trinity', A western spoof. I found that this script had a lot of potential and so we decided to go with that.

We analysed the script and looked at how we could possibly break the script down and so we added and took slight bits away. We ended up with 2 possible ways of doing it. The start when he is being pulled through the dessert by his horse and the saloon part. Realistically I could not see us ready to build and animate a horse so we went with the saloon scene. First thing however was to do the research and look into the old west for inspiration....

The old west refers to western america during the late 18th to the early 20th century. It was a time of great myth and legend where infamous gunslinging cowboys roamed the plains of the west. This genre has inspired many people throughout the entertainment industry in later years and has produced many classic films, actors and in more recent years, games.

A classic shot from the western 'Once upon a time in the West' showing the 3 bandits awaiting the arrival of Harmonica

Legendary actor Clint Eastwood that set standards for the entire Western genre... Everything to do with the western genre has in some way been influenced by the performances of Eastwood.

The video game 'Gun' which took its inspiration from the western genre. This game really makes you feel like you are there in the old west and the feeling of being able to control a gunslinging cowboy is awesome. This game was made for the Xbox and Ps2 covering that generation of consoles. It also went on to be released on the Xbox 360.

Red Dead Redemption (Releasing 21st May 2010 on the Xbox 360 and PS3).

As a group we all decided to go away and do our own research and start character designing. We set ourselves the target of having a storyboard finalised and character designs done by the 1st week.